Archive | 2014

Last Yarn of 2014

We spent yesterday out in Lawrence, Kansas, braving the wind to wander around Massachusetts Street. Of course we visited the Dusty Bookshelf and Brits (where the kids drooled over all the Doctor Who stuff for ages) but for me the highlight was the Yarn Barn. I found a few skeins to help me end the year on a high note.

I found a big selection of Malabrigo Worsted and fell in love. The colors are gorgeous, rich and deep, and they make such fabulous combinations. I restrained myself to just two skeins, Intenso and Wales Road. Aren’t they stunning?IMG_3600 IMG_3601I also found the Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande. Now, I can get this yarn at my LYS, but I’ve never seen this lovely pink before. And I like it.IMG_3602In the sale section, I found some Classic Elite Inca Alpaca, which is one of my favorite yarns, and there were two shades of green. Alpaca on sale? Who can resist?IMG_3603 IMG_3604When I got home, I put them together with these two skeins of purple and my oh my, I think this is beautiful. I have no idea what to make with them, though I’d like it to be something for me. Maybe a shawl? A loose, lacy scarf? Not sure yet, so they’re going on the shelf while I ponder.IMG_3605Tonight I will be knitting up some boot cuffs while I ring in the new year at home with my family. I’m looking ahead to 2015 with great optimism, and I wish you all the same. Happy New Year!

Samson: A Special Dog

Many moons ago (in 2001) my parents moved from Missouri, where I live, to Arizona. A couple of years after they moved there, they found a dog running around and managed to catch him. They were able to contact the owner and somehow it was agreed that my parents would keep him. He was a big, beautiful brown-red husky mix that looked rather wolf-like, and he and my dad became best buddies. My mom loved the dog too, but she’s more of a cat person, and plus the dog was just…Dad’s dog. His name was Samson.img293The vet estimated he was around 2 or 3, and he was extremely well-behaved. My dad did a training class with him but didn’t need to work hard. Samson somehow knew what Dad wanted him to do and then did it. His one fault was that he loved to run, and would escape in a flash given the opportunity. I’ve since learned that’s very common with huskies. It made for a few traumatic experiences, but somehow Dad and Samson always got reunited.img215Several years later, in 2011, Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went through several months of chemo and radiation and we were all optimistic for a while. But by early 2012, it was clear that he wasn’t going to get better. It took all his energy to get through each day, and he had nothing left for Samson. My mom was the same: she wanted and needed to focus on Dad, and she loved Samson enough that she wanted him to have a happy home and get some loving attention again. I didn’t want a dog really, but neither of my siblings could take him, and I couldn’t bear the thought of Dad’s dog going to strangers. And I think there was a tiny part of me that wanted the dog as a part of Dad. I knew I’d be losing him soon and at least I could hang on to Samson.

He traveled well on the two-day road trip back to Missouri, curled up in his bed in the back of the minivan. He wasn’t eager to leave Dad, but wasn’t opposed either. The worst part was when he got home and Samson wouldn’t eat. I tried dry food and moist food. I tried people food I knew he liked. He just didn’t want to eat. He never had a huge appetite, but it worried me. After two long days, he finally started eating again, and seemed to start settling in to the family.IMG_0841I think he was happy with us. He loved the back yard where he could run around freely. He loved the big tree with all the squirrels. He loved the patches of dirt where he could dig big nests to lie in. Within a few months, he was acting much younger. He’d play outside, running after a ball or playing tug with a toy. When we went on walks, he’d get so excited, jumping and bouncing like I’d never seen before, and he pulled on the leash like he never had with Dad. I know part of it was that I wasn’t truly his person, his boss, but I think part of it was that he knew he could let loose now. He was careful and sedate with Dad because he sensed the fragility in Dad, especially toward the end. Instinctively, he knew we could handle more from him.IMG_0994 IMG_9509The kids adored him, and he loved them too. He was so patient with them, letting them do whatever they wanted to him. I sent happy updates to my parents so they’d know Samson was doing well, and I like to think it brought my dad a little bit of peace. And when Dad died in April of 2012, I was grateful to have Samson there to hug. I couldn’t take care of Dad, but I could take care of his dog.IMG_8433IMG_8503One of my favorite things was to watch Samson in the snow. Being from Arizona, he wasn’t familiar with snow, and the first time we got a big snowfall he didn’t even want to go outside. We lured him out on his leash and within moments he was bounding around the yard joyfully. It was wonderful to see. He was in his element and he was beautiful.IMG_9520Last year we got a big snow, and my daughter took him out for a long walk on Christmas Eve. He loved it, but the next day he seemed extremely tired. He slept a lot, moved slowly and with discomfort, and just seemed…not right. We chalked it up to him being an older dog, almost 11, and worn out and sore from the extra exertion. Within a day or so, he’d mostly recovered, though he still seemed to tire easily.

On the 30th, I let Samson outside and left to run a few errands. He often spent most of the day outside, happily curled up in his nest watching the squirrels, so when I got home and he wasn’t inside, I wasn’t too worried. But when I went outside and called him and got no response, I started to wonder. I called him again, going out further in the yard, and didn’t see him or hear him. I knew he liked the narrow alley between the garage and the fence so I walked back there and found him curled up. He looked up at me when I called his name again and slowly, carefully stood up. I coaxed him out to the yard, scared at how slowly he was walking. It was clearly a lot of effort for him, and I couldn’t figure out why the front of his paws kept getting folded up. I got him inside and called for my husband. We watched as Samson stood there, glassy-eyed and swaying, and agreed he needed to go to the vet. Stupidly, I said I could do it alone.

I got Sam to the car and struggled a bit to help him step inside. He was a big dog, probably at least 75 pounds, so I couldn’t carry him. By the time we got to the vet, he was lying on the seat and had no interest in getting out. I still don’t know how I got him out, but I did, and we made it inside. I signed in and sat down to wait, petting Samson and hoping against hope that he’d be all right. I kept thinking, “But this is my Dad’s dog. He has to be okay. This is my Dad’s dog.”

The vet called us back a few minutes later, but Samson was lying on the floor and nothing I did or said could coax him to stand. I looked at the vet, helpless, and she asked, “Is he sedated?” I shook my head and burst into tears. She came forward to help him stand, and suddenly one of my brother’s friends was there helping. Jake was there with his family and their dogs, and he had his wife hold their dogs so he could help me get Samson into the exam room. I’d always liked Jake and somehow it was comforting to have a familiar face there. He offered to stay with me, but I said I’d be okay, even though obviously I wasn’t.

The exam was quick. The vet noticed his paws immediately and said it was a sign of a stroke, that normally animals know exactly what their paws are doing at all times. He had a heart murmur, was anemic and had poor circulation. She took some fluid from his abdomen, and the blood that came out indicated cancer. By then, Samson was struggling to breathe. She offered surgery as an option, but we both knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.

I called Alex and sat on the floor with Samson while I waited for him to come up with the kids. We all sat around Sam, petting him and telling him we loved him, and then it was time. And even though I knew it was the right thing to do, I hated doing it.

The next day I got rid of every sign of him. It hurt too much to see the bowls, the leash, the food. I donated some of it and gave some of it to my brother for his animals. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting another dog. I hadn’t wanted a dog in the first place, I’d wanted Samson, and I’d lost him too soon. It was horrible. It was like losing my dad all over again, and I was lost in the grief yet again. I missed Samson terribly, so much more than I thought I would. I’d gotten so used to his easy company, his big body leaning against my legs. I regretted all the times I told him to get off the couch, and all the days I didn’t take him for walks. I wished I’d bought him more toys, more pig ears, more rawhides. I wondered if I loved him enough, and concluded that surely I hadn’t. But that’s always how it goes, isn’t it? You never know how much you love someone until they’re gone.

Within four months, I was ready for another dog. I knew we wouldn’t find one as good as Samson. He was smart, sensitive, playful, gentle, intuitive, loving. Samson was everything good and nothing bad, and there are so few dogs out there truly like that. But there are a lot of dogs out there that come awfully close, and I needed that special brand of puppy love again. By the end of June this year, we’d found our new baby, Captain Jack. He’s not perfect, but he’s close, and he’s getting better with every bit of love and training we give him. Jack is my dog in a way that Samson never was. I am his person, and I love that feeling. Thanks to Sam, I know the special joy that comes from loving a dog, and I imagine I’ll be a dog person forever now.

I’m so grateful that I was able to take care of Samson until he could join Dad. I think of them often, picturing them together in the great big dog park in the sky. I’m grateful that this year, I get to ring in a new year loving a dog instead of grieving a dog. When the clock turns midnight, I’ll kiss my husband…and then hug my puppy. And I’ll send a little mental hug out to Samson too, to thank him for being part of our family.IMG_9553

I’m not a Dog Person

I was never a Dog Person. We had tons of pets when I was growing up, but I always preferred the cats to the dogs. Cats were soft and fluffy, cuddly and cute. Dogs were big and messy, noisy and smelly. When my husband and I got married and rented our first house, I was so happy to bring my cats from home to live with us. After that last year of college, they moved with us to an apartment, then to our family home. I liked cats. I was a cat person.

But I tried to be a dog person. After we bought our house, my parents gave us their dog. They were moving and didn’t have a fenced yard, which we did. So we got a big white husky-type mix named Quincy. He was sweet, if stupid, but he had a habit of pooping inside, and he loved to escape. We tolerated it. But then our first baby was born, and suddenly I had a dog following me around as I tried to take care of this fussy, colicky, screaming child. My patience was limited. I couldn’t deal with both, and I confess we gave the dog back to my parents after they’d fenced their yard. Life was simpler with just the cats.

Then my favorite cat died, poor Sasha. I was pregnant with my second child at the time, and the hormones got the best of me. We quickly adopted another Himalayan who we named George. Several months later, we found out our firstborn is allergic to cats. We helped George find a good new home, but the other cat, Beeper, was old. He was my cat. Katie’s allergies weren’t severe enough to warrant rehoming him immediately, so we decided to make it work, and we just wouldn’t get any more cats once Beeper was gone. He made it to 17 years old, poor thing, before his body started giving out in all sorts of ways. I hated to say goodbye but had to do it.

We were pet-free. Somehow we never even considered getting a dog, even though nobody was allergic. We weren’t dog people. Since we couldn’t be cat people, we’d be pet-free people. And in some ways, it was really nice. The house stayed cleaner and smelled better. We could have leather couches without worrying about claws. We didn’t have to clean litter boxes. We had a bit of extra money. We could travel without care. Yes, I could do this just fine!

Then my dad, who was living in Arizona, got sick. After a few months, it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to keep taking care of his dog. Samson was a huge red husky mix around nine years old. He was docile, gentle, and friendly. I liked him. I didn’t love him, but I liked him. Enough that I didn’t want to see him go to strangers. Maybe more importantly, I loved my dad enough that I wanted to take care of his beloved dog. So Samson came home with us.IMG_8381We had Samson for almost two years. Tomorrow it will be a year since we lost him, and tomorrow I’ll tell you his story. That’s what I started to do today, but this post is already too long. I guess the point today is that Samson turned me into a Dog Person. After we lost him, I really thought we would go back to being pet-free people. I donated or gave away all the dog supplies immediately. Samson was special and irreplaceable, and the only reason we had him was to to please my dad. Why would we ever get another animal?

But the house seemed so quiet and empty. I would come home and look in the kitchen door expecting to see a furry smile. I got up in the morning and the kitchen was colder without a soft dog to welcome me. The squirrels ran around our yard happily without a big brown dog chasing them. The snow fell and I couldn’t watch him frolic in it. I didn’t like it.

I lasted four months. It probably only took so long because I had to convince my husband he was ready for another dog. The kids were always ready, of course. So we scoured the animal shelters until we found our dog. We’ve had some struggles and some issues, but they’re worth it. Now I’ve got a sweet dog who snuggles on the couch with me, who plays with my son, who goes on walks with my daughter and on runs with my husband. He fills different needs for all of us, except one: that need to share unconditional love. And there’s no animal better at that than dogs.IMG_0272Yes, I’m a Dog Person now. Thanks, Samson, and thanks, Daddy.

I’ve said it before and will keep saying it: if you’re wanting a new furry friend, please be sure to visit your local animals shelter(s). There are so many wonderful animals needing homes!

Bonus post: Crochet Beanie

Two posts in one day? Craziness. Don’t get used to it; it may never happen again. Or if you’re one of my followers and you’re like “Another email? Jeez, enough already!”, don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of it. But I finished a hat today that I find quite appealing and I wanted to share it. (Okay, truth time: I needed to be alone so I am hiding in my craft room and this is as good a use of the time as anything else.) Anyway, this is the Bellisfaire Beanie from the book Crochet One Skein Wonders. It’s a delightful book and a delightful hat.IMG_3593 IMG_3594 IMG_3595 IMG_3597This is my first crochet beanie. I haven’t done a lot of crochet hats, aside from character hats for kids, because I like the stretch and flexibility of a knit ribbed brim. But this was so cute, and I got new crochet hooks for Christmas that I wanted to try out. (I got the Clover Amour Hook set with the colorful cushioned handles. They worked wonderfully. I love them.) The brim is snug on me with my relatively small head, but I know it’ll stretch, so I’m optimistic that it’s an average woman’s size. It’s got a lot of slouch too, which mean it’s trendy…right? Right. I put it on and my daughter laughed, but I think it was more at me than the hat.

The yarn is Classic Elite Yarns Premiere, which is 50% Pima cotton and 50% tencel, and I used all of two skeins (216 yards). It’s soft and lightweight and should be a marvelous spring hat.

Bring on the Hats (and Headbands)

Okay, so if you’ve been following along at all (and Thank You to those who have!!) you know I love to make hats. There are so many variations: color, yarn weight, style, size, decorations. They’re fast to make. They keep people warm and make them look cute. They’re just so darn fun to make. But I don’t wear many hats, so I have to find other homes for them, and my kids can only wear so many.

To go along with that, for the coming year I’ve challenged myself to build my bonny knits business. I want to do more craft shows throughout the year and have inquired about a big one in March. I want to grow the audience on my bonny knits Facebook page. I want to add to my Etsy shop. I’m encouraged on that front because I got my very first Etsy sale this week, and it felt GREAT. I sold my Wonder Woman knitted headband, so now I want/need to get some more unusual headbands up for sale. My head is spinning with ideas: superheroes, minions, TMNT, Doctor Who…all those cool pop culture fandoms. What would you want to see?

I want to improve my photography and show off my pieces with better photos. I’m better than I was a year ago, but I’ve got so far to go. I want to start using models (i.e. my family) and take them outside. If I take it seriously and be professional about every aspect of it, I believe the customers will be more likely to see it as worth the money.

Whoops, got distracted there. My point is, I want to focus mainly on hats. I like them and they sell well. I’ve got a lot of yarn and three books devoted to hats. I think what I’d like to do is pick a book and just work my way through it, making each hat in there. Not only would I end up with a large, varied inventory of hats, but I think I’d end up learning a lot of new techniques too. So watch for that; I think it’ll be a fun new regular feature on my blog starting next year.

Until then, you can look at my two newest hats, one from yesterday and one from the day before. The first is another Super Soft Merino Hat. It was supposed to be for me, but I really think I want one with lavender instead of royal purple, so this will go into my inventory. This is my third from this pattern but the first I’ve made with the size 11 needles (which I got for Christmas) and it came out a bit bigger than expected.IMG_3586IMG_3579Yesterday I pulled out my one and only skein of Noro yarn, a pretty rainbow blend of Kureyon. It’s a hugely popular brand and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I decided to do a spiral hat, choosing this one by Brittany Tyler. It was a fast, easy pattern and I loved watching the different colors emerge as I knit. But I was surprised by the yarn: it’s not really soft at all. It knit wonderfully; the slight stiffness made it easy to work with, and will help it hold its shape for ages. I just don’t think I could wear it, because I have a very low prickle tolerance. For those who like the warmth and look of wool, this is the hat for you!IMG_3588 IMG_1046My good-natured son, who has a bigger head than I, was kind enough to model for me. But I think I need to stop posing things in front of the bookshelves. Surely I’m not the only one who gets distracted by looking at the titles in the background?

Today I’ve got a slouchy beanie on my hook. Yes, that’s right, I’m switching it up and making a crochet hat. Don’t worry, I’ll still be making other things, so it won’t be all hats all the time. Just most of the time!

Christmas Presents Unveiled

I don’t know about all of you, but I was very tired yesterday. Christmas can wear a person out, what with all the shopping & wrapping & cooking & eating & cleaning & unwrapping & cleaning. But we had a wonderful two days of family time, so it was all worth it. And now that gifts have been given, I can share a few things I couldn’t share before.

The first is the Bumble Hat. He’s the Abominable Snowman from the Rudolph TV special and I found the link on Facebook. I was tempted to make one for myself but ended up making it for my aunt, who commented how much she liked it. I used some fuzzy white yarn from Joann (lost the ball band so I don’t know what it was, but not fun fur) and random acrylic from the stash for the face. He was so fun to make.IMG_0212I made a Jayne hat (from Firefly, I think. Or something like that.) for my sister and I think she liked it. I used Knit Picks Bulky, and the orange wasn’t quite as orange as it should be, but she assured me it was still acceptable. Our mother couldn’t figure out why she would want something like this, or how she could wear it out in public. Some things just can’t be explained.IMG_3548I made the hubby some fingerless gloves. He doesn’t wear gloves often but I figured maybe his hands get cold sometimes, and this way his fingers would be free. By some miracle, they actually fit! The pattern for these is called Maize, by Tin Can Knits, and there’s also a variation for a full mitten. I made them with Plymouth Baby Alpaca.IMG_3504Isn’t he cute? 🙂  You know who else is cute? My girl. I’d knit up another Super Soft Merino Hat for her in pink and gray but I knit it in front of her and told her it was for me. She was quite happy when she opened it Christmas morning. IMG_3542The experience of the boy’s hat did not go so well. I needed a box to wrap it in and in our box of boxes found one a good size. Without thinking, I reused it. The boy pulled off the paper and saw a box for a Doctor Who mug and got all excited, and I had to tell him it was a reused box. There were tears and I felt horrible. But after a few minutes, he recovered and didn’t seem to hold a grudge against the hat. IMG_3531Hmm, anything else? I think that might be all the gifty knitty things that I couldn’t share before. It was lovely because all the things I made were well-received and fit well. And I even managed to finish something new for myself just in time for the holidays: I bound off maybe five minutes before we left the house.IMG_0314That’s the Cupido Cowl knit in Knit Picks Reverie in Wine. I did not enjoy the knitting of it; too much knitting into purls which is not my favorite thing. But I do enjoy the finished project so much. It’s so soft and cozy, and not itchy at all. I have two more balls of the Reverie and I’ll make something else with it, but it’s going to be a very simple pattern next time!

I do hope the holidays went well for the rest of you too. I’m looking ahead to the new year with a lot of hope and optimism, and I’ll be sharing my goals, big and small, with you soon. (hint: there is yarn involved.)

No Willpower = Swirly Knitted Cowl

I failed. Those gorgeous skeins of yarn I wound yesterday? The ones that were supposed to be for after the holidays? I couldn’t wait to start playing with them. So I pulled out the Nerd Girl Yarns Foxy in #nofilter and cast on the Later, Gator! cowl. After maybe three hours’ knitting (super fast for me) I had a new cowl, and I love it.IMG_3409 IMG_3415 IMG_3416I made it with the girl in mind, and it looks lovely on her, but I was kind of sad to let it go. These aren’t colors I wear much, but I like how it turned out so much I kind of wanted to keep it. At least this way I’ll get to see it often, and even borrow it if I want. The blue reminds a bit of TARDIS blue, so I picked a pattern with a bit of wibbly-wobbly swirl to it. And the really cool thing is that this pattern only used around 95 yards, so I’ve still got around 180 yards left! So I’ve cast on a swirly hat, and the boy (also a Whovian) will get first crack at it. Merry Christmas Eve Eve, and happy knitting to all!

I’m Dreaming of Life After Christmas

This morning, I spent some time in my craft room. I missed my yarn stash. I admired my beautiful yarns and wished I had time to knit all the things right now. Since that’s not possible, I settled for pulling out a few of the skeins I want to knit with soon after Christmas and getting them wound and ready. I’m picking based on the yarns, not the projects or the people. Just the yarns that are calling to me. I can’t wait.IMG_3406I’ve got some Berroco Borealis in there, some Manos del Uruguay Maxima, some Skacel Simpliworsted, and two Nerd Girls Yarns. See that blue and green back in the corner? Yep, that’ll be first.

What about you? What are you looking forward to making after the holidays?

This is why I’m not a knitted glove specialist

Six months. That’s how long it took me to make this one pair of fingerless gloves. That’s ridiculous. And it might also explain all the problems I had. See, I started these in early July and the first one went quickly and smoothly, like it always does. And then I got bored with the project and put it away, like I always do. A few days ago, I decided to finish them. I pulled out the bag and realized I had actually started the second glove (wonder of wonders); I had about two inches already knitted. No problem, I thought. I pulled the pattern up on my iPad and got to work.IMG_0273It wasn’t until I had all the thumb stitches on waste yarn that I thought to hold it up against the completed glove. I’m glad I did: the second glove was significantly bigger. What the heck had I done? Thank goodness for Ravelry. Because I was using slightly bigger yarn than the pattern called for, I’d modified row counts the first time around. The good news was that I’d made note of my modifications. The bad news was that I had to rip back all the way before the thumb gusset.

I got that done, saved all my tiny stitches, and knit the gusset again, and this time when I measured against the first glove, they matched. Whew! I sped through the next 12 rows, had maybe 4 left, and checked size again…only to discover I’d gone wrong again. I have no idea how I managed it, but again I had too many rows on the second glove. Again I had to rip back, but at least it was only around 6 rows. I finally got the second glove finished and I think they match top to bottom. But a couple of little things don’t match up, like the seed stitch panels on the sides. And I think one thumb might be one row longer than the other.IMG_3401But I’m still quite tickled with them. I like how they’re fraternal twins, not identical. I love the seed stitch portions and the snug fit. And I especially love the lovely little dark green buttons I found to sew onto the sides.IMG_3402I think this is why I continue to knit gloves. Despite all the problems (you have to make two things that match exactly!!) they’re so delightful when they’re done. It’s like childbirth in that way. The end result is so charming that it makes you forget all the pain you endured to get there.

Details, for those who care: The yarn is a mystery yarn that I believe is a DK weight. I used this Seeded Mitts pattern and I do like it. Any problems I had were due to my own inability to count. (Yes, I have a digital row counter. Yes, I used it.) I’ve Raveled them here if you’d like to see my modifications. I’d like to knit them again, but a bit shorter and with the seed stitch panel all the way up the side.

Now, with these silly things done, I’m down to only five WIPs! That’s exciting. I wonder how long it will last…

Santa Claus is coming to town!

There’s not much exciting knitting going on in my house right now, sadly. I have now made 7 of those little treasure pouches and am done with them. I mean, I don’t need any more, but I’m also tired of them. Needing a break from them, the other day I decided to make the knit Santa gift card holder from Petals to PicotIMG_0231So cute, right?? I love it. I made two for my own gifts and another for a friend, and they’re another project that works up super quickly. I didn’t have any furry white yarn for the top, or gold crochet thread for a belt buckle, but I think it’s okay without them. Though next year I’m totally going to be prepared to make them as written!

Yesterday I finished a lingering present. That means I lied the other day, when I said I’d finished all my must-knit projects. This teddy bear had been knit for a couple of months, and I was just waiting for the motivation to give him some kind of clothing or accessories. I think the gift card sock inspired me to make a Santa bear.IMG_3395 IMG_3396The hat and scarf really took him from boring bear to snazzy Santa! The scarf is just a 5-stitch stockinette strip. The hat I improvised. I started at the top with nine stitches and increased every other row until it seemed big enough, then I knit around until it was tall enough. Add 4 purl rows of white and cast off and boom, you have a hat. Bear was knit from the Simple Medium Size Bear, which is in the book The Best Dressed Knitted Bear by Emma King. I used one skein of KnitPicks Brava Bulky in Sienna. That hat and scarf were also done in Brava Bulky.

Today the kids have a snow day. We have maybe two inches right now with the promise of another inch or so. The puppy, who is now 11 months old, is in love with the snow and was gallivanting around in it early this morning. I’ll have to try to get some photos of him. Maybe I can even get the boy to play with him. And later we’ll be having hot cocoa and playing some games, and I’m sure I’ll have my yarn handy too. Hope you’re all warm and cozy today too!