Posts Tagged ‘Knitting’

The Cat Mat

January 2, 2013

I have a knitting and felting project that I call a “Cat Mat”.  It’s a simple concept.  I knitted a large rectangle using 100% wool yarn, the kind that shrinks (not the superwash kind), and then felted it, for the cats to sit on.

Cats love wool.  If you’ve ever had a cat and any wooly items in the same room, the cat is instantly attracted to the wooliness, and proceeds to knead their paws on the item (that action is called “making biscuits”), and perhaps even nursing the item.  If you sleep in wool socks or under wool blankets, that will definitely wake you up.

So if I give them their own mat, they should love it, right?  And if I use leftover yarn, that’s a good way to be un-wasteful, yes?  It would seem so, but then I stopped being certain about most things a few years ago, after (it seemed) I was always wrong about the thing I was most adamant about.  I’m like anyone else.  I like to be right.  I’m just not very good at it some days.

This cat mat thingy was taken to the grooming business, where the BabyBoy is the groomer, and there are three resident cats.  Perhaps you’ve met them before here on the blog, but if not, the three are Errol, Gerald, and Car-E.  They were going to be the focus group for this project.  (I learned the term “focus group” in one of my business classes.  Glad to know I didn’t spend all that money on university classes for nothing.)

Errol is first as usual.

Errol is first as usual.

Car-E is usually last when it doesn't involve food, but not today.

Car-E is usually last when it doesn’t involve food, but not today.

Gerald is a scaredy cat, but if Car-E thinks it is safe, Gerald is in.

Gerald is a scaredy cat, but if Car-E thinks it is safe, Gerald is in.

First in, first out.

First in, first out.

What is that delicious odor?

What is that delicious odor?

Car-E has her very own parking pad.

Car-E has her very own parking pad.

Full of ennui.

Full of ennui.

The finished product is about 17″ x 14.5″ x 3/8″ high.

Finished mat, felted and dried, and it's not nearly as cute without a cat attached to it.

Finished mat, felted and dried, and it’s not nearly as cute without a cat attached to it.

If you are interested in looking at the Cat Mat in my Etsy Shop, try clicking on this.  If someone buys the Cat Mat, I’m guessing that the link will be inactive (notice how I didn’t say “I’m *sure* the link will be inactive”??).

And if I could figure it out, I’d put an Etsy button in the sidebar for you to click onto to get to the Etsy shop easily.  But then, I’d have no reason to live.

(Etsy.  Sidebar.  Bucket List.)

Cool cats of the world, enjoy the Cat Mat!

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag, Part Two

December 27, 2012

A few years ago I knitted a drawstring bag in cotton.  In my mind, it took large amounts of planning and executing.  I found an image of a sailboat design that I knitted into each side.  The final product would be awesome.

The final product was awful.

It looked like a drawstring sad sack.

Sometimes things just don’t work out.

One day I was admiring a bookbag.  And suddenly I realized what my sad sack bag was lacking.  I redesigned the strap, in my mind, and I knew that it could work.

I gathered 3 skeins of 100% wool, and I cast on with 2 strands, with ever-so-large circular needles, 20 stitches, and knitted in garter stitch for 21 ridges.  I picked up 20 stitches on each side, making a total of 80 stitches on the circular.  I added a strand of novelty eyelash yarn and knitted round and round until I ran out of eyelash yarn.  When I ran out of the main wool, I added in another skein and knitted until the whole contraption was as long as the length from my elbow to my fingertips, about 18 inches.  I knitted the next round with 8 buttonholes spaced evenly, knitted 2 more rounds, and bound off.

I knitted an I-cord with two double-pointed needles until the I-cord was about 3 yards long.



Then I put both into an old pillowcase, tied it shut, and ran it through two cycles in the washing machine.

I threaded the cord through the buttonholes, and here’s the part that made the backpack part workable.  I poked a hole with a knitting needle through two corners of the base, and threaded an end of the I-cord through each hole, and tied the cord off inside in a supersized overhand knot.  You’ve seen a backpack before.  You know what I’m talking about.



On the front, I tied an overhand knot to keep the cord from sliding out of place.

And there you have it.  Some of the gray parts are really gray, and maybe I’ll get better pictures someday.

Until then, use your imagination.

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag

December 17, 2012

After all the hat fun while making the hat for Reader Sharon, I set out to make a knitted-and-felted purse.

Here’s the before.

It's about twentyish inches long plus the handles.

It’s about twentyish inches long plus the handles.


And about 16″ wide. I spread the backside of a quilt on the top of a gigantic dog crate for this photo shoot. The dog crate was the only thing that I had that was big enough and easily portable to take advantage of the winter sunshine. The cats are still using the picnic table for the picnic table wars.

IMG_2580 IMG_2582

And then after…

IMG_2660 IMG_2661

Now the dimensions are about 14″ x 14″, after a few sessions of felting in the washing machine.  These last two photos are taken inside the RV under artificial light, which accounts for the color difference.  I assure you that you can step outside and the colors increase their vibrancy.

Just imagine what your woolen sweaters will look like if they accidentally go through a wash cycle.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  When I’m knitting these bags and don’t have a tape measure handy, because it’s probably wherever the safety pins are, I knit the bag about as long as the length from the tip of my fingers to my elbow.  That length is about 18″, not the 20″ in the before photos.  I knitted the green about 18″ long, then switched over to the hot pink, and knitted that color about 2″ before I bound off the bottom.

Did you know that it’s easy to knit while watching TV online?  So easy that you might not stop to measure your project.

In Which I Use My Head For A Hat Rack. Sorry, Mom.

November 17, 2012

Reader Sharon wants a hat.

Specifically a red hat with a black band.

This means that said hat must be knitted, then felted, which means it must be made of 100% wool yarn.  More specifically, not the 100% WASHABLE wool that some yarn labels proclaim.

Don’t get me wrong, I love washable wool, although I’m a little bit confused as to how wool, a fiber that felts naturally and willingly, can be made washable.  Perhaps it is a trade secret.  Perhaps not, but it doesn’t bother me so much that I’m actually going to look it up, although looking things up is so easy with my friend Ms. Google.  (Notice I called her a Ms. not a Mr., because she is so helpful and accomodating.)

Colors in yarns follow cycles and trends, just like other fashion products.  Sometimes you can find exactly what you need, other times not.  Fortunately, I found this Paton’s Classic Wool for this project, cleverly named “Bright Red”.  (If anyone knows where I can get hot pink, give me a shout.)

When you knit something that will be purposely felted, it is made giant sized.

Don’t think I don’t hear you laughing.


First one that says they like this style on me gets a smack on the head.


Nice stitch definition, don’t you think?

Next, the same hat after two rounds of felting in the washing machine.

Same hat, I swear it is.


And if you thought that wasn’t fun enough, keep in mind that I’m taking photos of my head.  I’m not using the timer on the camera.  Umm, I *think* there’s a timer on the camera, but I haven’t learned how to use it.  I’m from the generation that uses the microwave to heat water and make popcorn.  No complete meals EVER were made in my microwave, even though my first microwave was a Sears countertop model that was big enough to put a whole turkey in, and the recipe book (yeah, right, like I’m going to use a recipe book for popping corn.) had complete meals with directions on how to arrange the cooking racks and the cooking pans and when to add dishes that needed less time and how long to nuke everything.  Anyway, forget the timer.  I have arms.

Nice foliage.


Try again.




View from the space station.


I’m clearly off-center with this project.


Shows promise, but needs to try harder (straight from the high school teacher’s handbook).


Insert smug smile.

Today, hat model.  Tomorrow, the world.

You!  Over there!  Stop laughing.



A New YARN Shop! (Which was not new. AT. ALL.)

November 12, 2012

A week ago I went in search of more yarn to finish a project.  While I was at the craft store, I met a woman there who asked me to read the label on a skein of yarn for her because she had forgotten her glasses.

I could have offered her one of several pairs of glasses that were in my purse, or I could have suggested that she get a pair off the sales display to use temporarily, but those things never occurred to me.  I suppose I was secretly pleased that someone thought I knew how to read, but most probably I was most pleased to be able to help someone.

(Yes, I’m *that* person with *that* face.  People stop me and ask for directions, like I know something.)

I explained to her that the directions for knitting the garment on the label said that she would need 2 balls of yarn if she were knitting a small.  The secret code said “2 (3,3)”, and she didn’t know that the first number indicates how many skeins or balls of yarn needed for a small size, the next for a medium, and the last (see a pattern emerging here?) for a large.  It’s a bit alarming that this woman was driving.

She even said that she didn’t know what she was doing there.  She lived in B-fort, about 45 minutes away.  If she didn’t know what she was doing there, I surely didn’t either, and then she mentioned something that caused me to pay better attention.

There is a yarn shop in B-fort.  Not a craft store, but an honest-to-goodness yarn store.  I’d never heard of it.

Last Friday, Old Yeller and I tooled on over to B-fort on the bay.  I found parking nearby, and actually had change for the meter for about 50 minutes, which was good, because that gave me a time limit to get out of the store.  If you are a guy and you could wander through Home Depot for hours, then you’ll know the problem of going into a yarn shop.

It’s called Coastal Knitting, and here’s the link to their webpage.  I found everything I needed.  They’ve been there for three years already.

On the way home I had to drive by the bay, and I could see out my driver’s window that the afternoon sun was shining just so on the water, and I turned the car around and parked by the bay.  Just to make a few photos out the passenger window for you people.





It was such a nice day, that I further attempted to take more photos out the passenger window as I drove over the Broad River.

Very little river, but lots of concrete. The dump truck driver behind me was not impressed with my driving skills.





Pictures of yarns should come later.

In Which There is Knitting and Unknitting

November 8, 2012

I’ve been working on a knitted cap design.  No, I’m not misspelling “cat”.  Really, I’m knitting caps.

My design consists of a doubleknit brim, and alternating bands of purl and knit, with a finishing crown of 7 sections of decrease which makes a decorative swirl on top.  That knitted decrease swirly thing – that’s courtesy of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s brilliance.  Google her.

I knitted the first cap, or at least I started knitting it, and halfway through, I noticed a misstep, a hiccup, a mistake, on my part.  It was a small, knitterly mistake in which I must have become distracted (oh look!  Shiny thing!), and I slipped a stitch without knitting it.  I have never, ever, done that before, which is a clear indication of my advancing age.  (Look!  Over there!)

I tried to ignore the mistake.  Really, I did, but I have the ability to spot a misspelled word without reading for comprehension, and that singular ability translates into a similar ability to glare at a knitting mistake.  I couldn’t stop looking at it.  I’d twirl the half-finished cap around, daring myself to not find the mistake, and I’d find it every time.  Crap.  I was going to have to unknit the sucker, and reknit.

So I tinked the fabric, which is the opposite of knit, and started again.  I got to within seven rows of finishing the crown, thus finishing the cap, and I encountered a knitter’s nightmare.

I ran out of yarn, and the nearest store with the matching yarn is 35 miles away.  Heavy sigh.  Do I unknit and reknit the sucker ONE MORE TIME, cheating a little by shortening the brim, which will gain me extra yarn, enough yarn to finish the cap with one skein?

I do not.  I instead drive the 35 miles, hoping that they have the matching dye lot.  And they do.  So I bought an additional 2 skeins.

With one skein I finish the cap in question.

BabyGirl loans her head for a photo opportunity.

With the second skein, I knit another cap, shortening the brim a bit to gain enough yarn to make the project a one skein cap.


Aerial view showing the decreases, the only time I use math in real life.

And just to show you how closely I live life to the edge, here’s all the yarn I had left from the one-skein cap…

Less than 12 inches.


And that, my friends, is living life on the edge.


A Lost Pattern

December 13, 2011

A knitted afghan square contrasts beautifully against Ole Yeller's windshield and hood.

My friend Maria grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York state.  (Digression #1:  It’s like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.  New York.  Again.  Oh, hello, my three fans from NY!)

Maria’s grandmother was a knitter, and Maria inherited some of her grandmother’s stash, including these knitted diamonds and a boatload of yarn to finish the project.  It seems that her grandmother was mid-project on an afghan, and Maria seemed to think that I could help her out by deciphering the pattern and knitting a test swatch.  (Digression #2:  CATskill. Really?  Does every post I write really need to have the word “cats” in it?)

I’m an idiot, but mostly I just can’t say no, except in that area that my mother told me about, and then yes, I could say no, but mostly I just. can’t. say. no.  And I’m a knitting antiquities hoarder, because knitting can be stuffed in crannies and crevices, and I like genealogy.  (Digression #3:  That didn’t make sense to you?  Welcome to my mind.)

So I took in the knitting and the yarn, and stuffed it in the storage compartment under my bed in the RV.  And mentally I stuffed the project to the back of my mind, because I simply did not have time to focus on the project, what with being a college student and all.  I knew that one day I would graduate, and lie down in a dark room for a bit just breathing in the silence, and then I would get up and work on the project.  (Digression #4:  A room would be necessary for the lying-down part, and I *so* don’t have a room.  No, the shed does not count.)

One day Maria called me and asked for her grandmother’s knitting project.  The she showed up at my work to pick it up and announced that she was moving.  Now, mind you, Maria had been telling me for the entire five years since I met her that she was moving, so this was a bit of a surprise.  (Digression #5:  Foreshadowing?  I think not.)  And I had not touched the project at all.  In actuality, I was a bit daunted by the difficulty of the project and wasn’t even sure if I could re-create the pattern.

So I draped the squares across the car and Maria and took pictures because really?  Someday I am going to figure it out.  (Digression #6:  The pattern.  I’m talking about figuring out *the pattern*.)

No twist to the yarn at all. Bizarre.


You knit a bunch of these, then sew them together for a superafghan.

Still no twist to the yarn. Still bizarre.

(Digression #7:  Maria said that her grandmother could knit a pair of slippers – or was it socks, which doesn’t sound possible – in ONE day.  She was like some super-speed-demon knitter, which could be where Maria gets her caffeine addiction.)

This is the draping-over-Maria part. Lordy, they grow 'em big in the Catskills. (Whoops. Double entendre.)

So enjoy the photos.  And if you already have the pattern, please give me a clue.  I need all the help I can get.





Ruth Gamble Collins

April 3, 2011

My great-great-grandmother Ruth Gamble Collins ran a boarding house in Knoxville, Tennessee, for UT students.  The following photo comes to me from cousin Harry Coker via email about 10 years ago.  When I printed this, the printer was apparently low on ink, so the photo has these wonky horizontal lines on it which are not part of the original photo. 

This is an unidentified man on the steps, an unidentified woman on the left, Ivy Collin (Coker) in the center, and her mother Ruth Gamble Collins on the right.  This building looks to be the same one in yesterday’s post.  Was this the boarding house?  And where exactly was it? 

The next photo is simply a section of the above photo, zoomed in a bit closer.

My favorite part about the above photo?  Ruth is *KNITTING*!

Hello! And Thank You for Calling Slipper Central!

January 4, 2011

In years past, right before Christmas, I would get seized with a fever to make stuff.  Christmas stockings, clothes, sweaters, hats, scarves, accessories, draperies, pillows, and table-settings, you name it, I would decide to take on projects of mammoth proportions with a deadline of Christmas morning.  Most of the time I succeeded.  It seemed to be a congenital obsession to procrastinate until the very last minute and then try to make something out of near-nothing, all the while hearing a combination of the drumbeat of doom and the trumpets of triumph.  Can she finish that last placemat in a set of four?  Can she?  Drat, broke a needle!!  Not to worry, there’s another needle to be had.

(Insert heavy sigh)

A few years back, I had a little financial setback that caused me to seek additional employment, and I found myself working about 60 hours a week.  There wasn’t time for Christmas anxiety, at least not the kind I’d enjoyed in the past.  After a few years of working that kind of bone-crushing schedule, I reached a place where I just didn’t care about Christmas any more.  Because Christmas was not about a “holy day” of celebration, it was about mass consumerism.  I was of the opinion that the holiday needed to be taken back a notch, or three, and that we should live all year with the pleasure we afforded ourselves at Christmastime.  That theory runs parallel to my theory that we need to enjoy every day like we are on vacation, which is not altogether coincidental as to why I live in an RV. 

Two years ago before Christmas, I purchased and downloaded an amazing little knitting pattern for felted slippers.  The photos of the slippers were adorable, whimsical, comfortable, too good to be true.  They looked like a modified version of a simple ballet flat with a toe strap.  The online reviews got high marks.  I waded into deep water, and I made approximately 3.5 pairs of which ALL were disasters.  The toe shaping was wrong on this one, there were holes in the seams over there, the yarn didn’t felt on that one, and then the one where I modified the pattern, we won’t even discuss that one.  That project went back on the shelf. 

A few months back I resurrected the project.  I don’t what was wrong with the other slippers, and why there should be such bad karma hanging over them, but this time, the project grabbed hold and *took*.  I gave that pair to the girlfriend of the BabyBoy.  Which then caused consternation at her house because her mother was trying to steal her slippers.  Can you imagine, at Christmas time no less, coveting and stealing and plotting to overthrow the slipper queen.  So in an attempt to restore peace throughout my slipper kingdom, I cast on another pair, this one a peachy-pink called “water chestnut” (What’s up with that name?  What color IS a water chestnut?  I should know these things.  I studied interior design).

I made the first slipper and its accompanying strap, and felted the hound out of them (translation:  felted it a lot).  It was awesome and beautiful, and I only hoped I could make a mate to match. 

I knitted up the next slipper and strap, and, before felting, laid them out in a little before-and-after photo session, and discovered that a thief in the night had stolen the felted strap. 

I am so easily waylaid.  Now what to do?  If I knit another strap, I will find the first one, AFTER I have felted the replacement strap.  Then I’ll have an extra strap that I cannot use, and that will be a waste of perfectly good yarn.  If I do not knit another strap, I will never, ever find the first strap, even though I’m sure that Alice the cat has hidden it somewhere in the RV, perhaps up in the dashboard even though she is too large to hide in there any more.  That’s just the way things work in crazyland. 

So last night I sat musing over the cruel fate of the strap and the part I played in finishing these stinkin’ slippers.  For at least two hours, people.  That is sad.  I went to bed, and this morning when I shook out the bedcovers, what did I find?  Yup.  THE missing strap.  I have defeated the powers that control missing car keys, lost buttons, and best laid plans.  I.  Win.

Alice: "I cannot tell a lie...."


Alice: "Jopty did it."

A Christmas Sweater for Keebler

December 23, 2010

About two months ago, the authorities removed 179 Chihuahuas from a home in Marion County, SC.

Maranatha Farm ended up with several of them.  One, a small, terrified male named Keebler, was at the most recent adoption event at Petco on Saturday, December 17, 2010.  He spent most of the day hiding under a towel in his crate, trying to keep warm even though he was wearing a sweater.  When he wasn’t in the crate, someone, like YoursTruly, was carrying him around.

I decided on Sunday that the Keebler elf needed a new sweater.  I had just the perfect yarn for it, given to me for my birthday as part of a larger yarn stash in a beautiful market basket, by the BabyGirl.  Sugar and I were in PetSmart and I measured little doggie sweaters with my hand, using the middle section of my middle finger, which is about 1″ long (yours should be about the same).  I studied the design of the sweaters for sale, noting that the leg openings and the overall lengths of the sweaters take into accomodating the special design of a dog’s body. 

Later that evening, I cast on 56 stitches on a #5 circular needle, joined to make a circle, and went to town.  The sweater just poured off the needles, it was so easy.  The next day I saw Keebler’s foster mom, and we fitted the sweater to his scrawny body.  It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it was darn good, and I noted where I needed to make the adjustments. 

That night I started another sweater for Keebler.  It was in a bright Christmasy red, and I made small adjustments to the design, making the ribbed collar longer for better warmth, and the leg openings a bit wider, and the overall length a bit longer with a nice tapered back.  It took two nights to finish this one, and this morning I wove in the ends and took it to work, hoping to make time to see Keebler and give him his new sweater, perfect for future adoption events.  Who wouldn’t want to adopt a wee darling in a handknit sweater??

Mid-morning, a client called to make an appointment for a nail trim for his Chihuahua.  He’s a wheelchair-bound veteran, legally blind, and a double amputee.  He relies on a community of helpers to transport him, and he enlisted the aid of a relative who brought him and Jellybean to the clinic.  When he got there, he was his friendly old self, and Jellybean was her typical frightened shaking self, and NOT WEARING A SWEATER…

When she left, she was wearing Keebler’s new red sweater, a perfect fit and a perfect color for her.  I couldn’t resist.  I had to give it to her.  She needed it more than he did.

And Keebler?  His new sweater is already on the needles tonight.  The yarn?  A nice, nubbly mix of brown and turquoise that I received last Christmas and haven’t had the time nor the project for it.