Sunday, May 4, 2008

From Canada, with love

Last week proved to be one filled with all sorts of goodness coming from north of the border. On Friday, a dreary, rainy day here in Indiana, I received my Spring Swap box from Meg. Before I get into the box, let me note that she had already sent along a dozen balls of Angora Soft - enough for a sweater (part of the theme of the swap was to encourage some spring cleaning of items that were nice, but didn't necessarily need to stay nice in your home - isn't Meg generous??).

The box had this lovely, happy sketch on the outside:


Open it up to find this:


(Nope, she didn't send Sunny to me - Sunny just comes running at the faintest scent/sound of tissue paper)

Here's layer one of generosity:


And layer two:


All told, Meg sent along four(!) skeins of yarn she dyed herself. She has a fabulous eye for color - everything is very happy and spring-y, and it brought a smile to my face. She also included a ladybug tape measure, a water bottle with a Northwest Territories logo (yep, my package came a long way!), some little monkey key tags, a plush/velour flower, a lovely bookmark, a set of chibi darning needles, and two adorable pots to start some flowers.


Here's the yarn (and yes, I've already asked her to please open an etsy shop):


And some closeups:





The other Canadian to spread sunshine in Indy last week was the Harlot. I don't think I can add anything that hasn't already been blogged. She was charming and funny and great.


ZEN was supposed to attend, and represent the Indiana babies, but she threw up, in the car, on her way to the bookstore. ZEN's lovely father was bringing her to me at the store and had to turn around and clean her up and put her to bed - and miss his baseball practice. To put that in perspective, baseball is to him as knitting is to me. Except he can't do it year-round, so it was wonderful of him to miss practice for this!

And finally, a few FOs, just to show that I do occassionally finish something I start:

This is the blanket for my friend Gina's son-to-be. She is doing a knights and dragons theme in his room. I am going to hire out the finishing (putting a flannel backing on it to keep his little fingers from getting entangled in the intarsia mess. I am not good at intarsia. I do not like intarsia. I will continue to do intarsia only when I need to make a gift for a baby, toddler or child.

Ah, this is what I am calling my Oh Crap!-otis. I was working from a 759-yard hank of yarn. If you know the Clapotis pattern, you know that Kate Gilbert initially made it with 3 skeins of Lion & Lamb. Lion and Lamb has 205 yards per skein. The pattern was later modified to call for 4 skeins, but most people didn't use much of the fourth. Math is not my forte, but one would think 759 yards would suffice. Uh, no. Not so much. I did only 12 straight rows, rather than 13, and I still ran out of yarn, so this is a rare 5-sided Clapotis. But, it's not that noticeable if I wrap it around my neck, so I suppose it's OK. And I did love the Makalu Lambgora yarn.

I knit these mitts with some handspun I got at the Fiber Event. The pattern is from Tangle, and is called Nancy K. I really enjoyed these - a quick knit, and I like the button detail. I will knit them again, but I will probably use an even yarn, and I would not do the picot bind-off with the bulkier yarn.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Does the kindness and generosity of others just catch you by surprise sometimes? Awhile back, I participated in the Not So Secret Scarf Swap. The basic premise was that you sent a skein (or two) of yarn from your stash to your upstream, and they knit a scarf for you from your stash. I knit a scarf for Bev, using Paton's SWS, a nice bulky yarn - it knit up quickly (and nicely) into My So Called Scarf. Well, my upstream was Mel. When we received our upstreams, I emailed her to ask if she'd mind using a DK weight yarn - I told her she could hold it doubled (and let her know it was cashmere, so that's always a benefit). She was excited about the yarn, and even said I could send along two colors. So yes, in exchange for knitting up a bulky yarn, I had someone knit me a DK fair isle scarf. The time and kindness she poured into this is overwhelming, and I can't thank her enough.


My poor photography skills do not do this scarf justice. It is really just so lovely, and it is a design of Mel's own making - she is a talented one! Here's a closer view of the snowflake motif.


Mel, you've outdone yourself. If you are interested in keeping up with Mel's designs, check out her new website, Stick Chick Knits. She's still working to get her patterns all up, but you can get a feel for her work by looking at her free patterns.

In addition to the scarf, Mel also sent a skein of lovely yarn.


It's Hazel Knits sock yarn, in a gorgeous blue. It is a soy merino blend, and it is just beautiful. It will knit up nicely into Violeta. Sorry for the Ravelry link, if you can't get there, just know that Violeta is a pattern for fingerless mitts, designed by Mel. Very pretty!

Mel also sent along some really pretty stitchmarkers, which I neglected to photograph. They are just lovely, though, and she made them herself using some stunning stones!

Thanks, Mel, for a wonderful swap.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book meme and one other, too

This comes from Mel and I am, of course, late.

Here are the rules:
1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So, 7 random facts:

1) I am a really crappy singer/musician of any sort (so bad, in fact, that the high school band director told me to just "pretend play" my clarinet during a concert. I told him I would do so, but then proceeded to intentionally squeak throughout the concert. He couldn't blame me, right, I wasn't even supposed to be playing) I quit band by the time I was a sophomore. It really was the best choice for all involved.
2) I have been very down lately - down on my job, down on myself. I am trying to work through it and find some positive in what really is a decent life.
3) I love to try to garden. I really stink at it, but it's fun trying. The hope that spring brings is so irresistible. By the end of the summer, all that's usually alive are tomatoes (love those hardy guys).
4) I used to live in South Carolina, and I am missing it more and more.
5) Nobody in my family, except my husband knows about my blog. I just like it that way.
6) I am currently working my way through the entire running of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. I'm in season three now. It came on at a time when I really just didn't watch much TV, and ran throughout law school, when I really didn't watch much TV. It's a great show, and I'm happy I'm discovering it, even if I am 10 years behind.
7) I really need a pedicure

Now the hard part, time to tag folks, so here goes:
1) Eryn
2) Weezalana
3) Soo
4) Jill (in case you ever blog again!)
5) Georgiann
6) Jo
7) Annie

Have fun!


Eryn blogged this awhile back, and I liked it, so I thought I would offer my perspective.

1. What book are you currently reading?

The Secret Servant, Daniel Silva - Silva is one of my favorite authors. He writes spy novels about protagonist Gabriel Allon, who is an art restorer/spy and assassin for the Israeli Secret Service. This book was published in 2007, so I am a little behind. He has a new one coming out this year.

Twelve Bags Full, Leonie Swann - this is a sheep detective story that Nat found and got for me for Christmas. I am just getting started, but it's pretty cute - a flock of sheep work together to discover who is responsible for the death of their shepherd.

2. When you think of a good story, what are the first 3 books that come to mind?

A Widow for One Year, John Irving - I am a big fan of Irving. I find this story particularly compelling. It is a tale of severe family dysfunction, written with the usual dark-comic flair that Irving does so well.

The Black Echo, Michael Connelly – I love Connelly's series about Detective Harry Bosch. I chose The Black Echo because it is the first in the series - I don't know if it was the best, but they're all pretty good. Bosch is a Vietnam Vet (a "tunnel rat") and an LAPD cop or detective (depends on where you pick up the series). He has a rebellious spirit, but a thirst for truth and justice.

Emma, Jane Austen - I have been listening to this from Of course, my ipod died last week, so I haven't gotten too far. Listening is a reminder of the wonderful story-telling ability of Austen. It also is interesting to know how relevant the themes continue to be. But, I'm not going to pretend that I have anything to say about Jane Austen that is new.

3. Which 3 books would you recommend for summer 2008 beach reading?

Good In Bed, Jennifer Weiner – this book goes off the rails a bit toward the end, but it's a fine escapist romp.

Knit One, Kill Two, Maggie Sefton – no reason not to combine beach reading and knitting, right?

Any of Carl Hiaasen's goofy stories.

4. Any knitting books you would care to share?

Knitting in Plain English, Maggie Righetti - a wonderfully straightforward reference book.

5. What is next on your reading list?

I ordered the Harlot's new book since her trip to Indianapolis is coming up. I have been watching Bones on Fox, so I am reading the original series by Kathy Reichs. I just finished Deja Dead, and while it was a little disappointing, I do think I'll pick up the next book in the series.

6. Tag three other knitters for this meme:

If you got tagged above, and haven't already done this, consider yourself tagged!

I know I promised finished object photos, and I actually took them. However, I am not in the mood to mess around with uploading photos to flickr right now. I will have another update before next week.

I will, however, leave you with this (ZEN's trip to the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum):

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tales from the Fiber Event

I had the pleasure of attending The Fiber Event in Greencastle, Indiana, yesterady. ZEN and Nat came along, which made it even more fun.

I started the day helping to attend to the booth for the Northside Knitting Guild. We were selling felted bags, with the proceeds going to Prevail of Noblesville. Prevail supports the victims of violence and abuse. It's a wonderful program. The final numbers weren't in when I left, but it looked like we were well on our way to raising a pretty good sum for Prevail. Incidentally, the bag I made sold first. I was worried it wouldn't sell at all. I made the Carie Lynn Bag from She Knits (pictured, in a not-great photo, at left). There were a lot of really gorgeous bags, though, so I just got lucky! Thanks to Sharon for allowing me to sell the bag made from her pattern!

After I was done at the booth, I had the chance to look around and shop. Here's the loot!

Handspun, from an unknown vendor. Yes, I am kicking myself because I either didn't pick up, or lost their card. I went back to the vendor map, and I couldn't figure out who it was. It's a lovely camel, merino blend. It was so soft that I had to use it immediately, so it became a pair of fingerless mitts. I had 111 yards, and I was worried I would run out. I only used a little more than half, though. I don't think I have enough left for a hat, so any ideas for leftover handspun is much appreciated. I love this stuff, and will try to find this vendor again next year.

More handspun! This is a blend with some angora in it, I believe. The vendor was Little Acres (in Michigan, near Mackinaw Bridge). I don't think she has a website. She also had an adorable angora rabbit in her booth. He was quite friendly.

And check out these guys! They were right across from the Guild's booth, so I got to keep an eye on them while I was working. They were so cute, and quite friendly. ZEN seemed to think they were pretty neat, but I didn't manage to get any pictures of her with them.

OK, back to yarn...

This is a lovely wool/bamboo/nylon blend. I love the color and the sheen, and I think it will make lovely socks. I picked this up at the Maple Creek Farm booth. Their booth also was right by the guild booth, so I was forced to eye the lovely yarn for a couple hours before I could go pet it. As we were getting ready to leave, we decided to check our tickets to see if we'd won doorprizes (my first thought was, why bother - I never win!). I won! And of all things, I won the prize donated by the lovely Maple Creek Farm folks. They had a lovely skein of their superwash merino as a doorprize.
How cool to not only win, but to win from a vendor you had stalked for a large part of the day!

There were so many other wonderful booths. I think I did a pretty good job controlling myself, though. It was hard! Going to an event like this also really inspires my desire to spin. I caught the Knitty Gritty drop spindle episode on my TiVo, so I can use that to learn with the awesome drop spindle Eryn sent me. I need to go visit my friend who spins, because I know she'll be a great teacher - it's just hard to find the time.

Jo asked about the colorway on the red socks - it's called Dragon Dance - Socks That Rock lightweight.

See you all next time...

Coming up next on ZenCatsYarn: Holly reviews her trip to the SPAM Museum, and shows off a few FOs. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 31, 2008

One F.O.

I had the pleasure of test knitting for Huan-Hua, a designer who lives south of me here in Indiana. She put the word out on Ravelry that she needed some test knitters for a baby sweater. Who am I to resist yet another sweater for ZEN? The pattern is just adorable. It's not yet available for sale, but Huan-Hua is orata on Ravelry, and you should be able to get the pattern that way soon. You can also check her blog for details, I expect.

Here are pictures of the sweater.


And a closeup of the leaf-edge button band detail:


I used Merlin the Cat superwash sock yarn. It comes in a very generous 560 yard hank. I used about 410 yards, I believe. It was a fun knit, and many thanks to Huan-Hua for giving me the chance to test knit. I found the test knitting experience to be mostly enjoyable, but it did involve a deadline. I don't play well with deadlines, so that stressed me out some. I did finish on time, though, so all was well.

In other crafting news (and since it's on this blog, it's a month old!), I learned some crochet. My first project was a hat for ZEN.


I want to crochet her a dress, but I think I need to work on a few more starter projects so I can get my tension down. I am using the Candy Babies book by Candie Jensen - there are many fun patterns in there.

I also finished the January Rockin' Sock Club socks.


They ended up being a little roomy for me, but I've washed and (gasp!) dried them to fit my foot. I am knitting the medium size for March's shipment, but those are looking large, too. That seems to be a common issue with the March socks, though. I am not going to rip back. I will just use them as comfy house or sleeping socks if they're too loose.

And finally I leave you with one last ZEN photo, because everyone needs to see how the pretty baby really looks when she wakes up in the morning:


Ah! The horror!

I'll check back in soon. Sooner than a month, at least. We are heading out on a trip to see my parents, so there should be much knitting time available. Hopefully I'll be able to make progress on Tomato, the March RSC socks, a stuffed rabbit for Zoey, and Mystic Lights shawl. We'll see though.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lucky girl!

I have been terribly remiss in not posting all the goodies that have been arriving at my door, thanks to some lovely knitty swaps/secret pals!

Let's start with SP10. I received my February package February 9. I have an AWESOME secret pal. Here is a picture of the luscious Malabrigo laceweight she sent...

I will post again later with a picture of everything. For some reason the one I took didn't download to flickr. Even though you can't see it just yet, I want to tell you about the happiness in my package....

1. The malabrigo laceweight - isn't it pretty? I'm not sure how I'm going to use it - I want to find a pattern that will really favor the variegation - any thoughts? I have 880 yards total. I have a mohair that is similarly painted. I'm considering holding it doubled with the malabrigo, and making a garter stitch wrap on 13s or 15s, but I'm also really tempted to use it for a traditional lace pattern.

2. Harmony DPNs!!!!! Harmony DPNs!!!! They are soooo pretty! Size 0, so I think I'm going to use them to cast on for some Tofutsies socks - maybe use the Monkey pattern. Can't wait to try these needles.

3. Stitch markers that she made herself - how cool and thoughtful is that?!

4. Chocolotes - Reese Whipped and Smarties.

5. Treats for the kitties (and my obnoxious cats ripped the package open before I could open it for them - they loved them!)

6. A gorgeous card - it's so neat I really can't describe it. I will post a picture of it, too, once I get those to upload to flickr.

Thanks so much, secret pal! You've been amazing. It's driving me a little nuts trying to figure you out who you are, but I have a few guesses.... I can't wait for the reveal!

I also received a special Valentine's pacakge from the lovely Eryn! Again, I was overwhelmed by the bounty!


Eryn hand-dyed two skeins of wool in a bulky weight in lovely pink, raspberry and light purples. She also sent more yarn! One skein of Lush and one skein of Miracle - both by Classic Elite and so yummy! I think one will become Fetching, but I'm not certain just yet.

I was further spoiled by Eryn, with a gorgeous drop spindle with ZEN carved into it, and a stunning batt. Now I'm trying to find a good website or book or blog to help me learn to use a drop spindle. Or, I suppose I can wait for Knitty Gritty to rerun that episode, too. I'm excited to give it a shot! The box was bursting with more goodies, too - chocolates (some that are local to Florida - chocolate covered coconut - yum! - and some tasty Dove hearts, and my faves - Reeses PB hearts). I also got some gorgeous glass bead stitch markers from Merlin The Cat yarns (on etsy), and a nice lavendar sachet from loop (on etsy).

Finally, Eryn very sweetly knit me some Fuzzy Feet in a happy valentine's red. She felted them a bit, but left them large enough for me to felt to my size - how thoughtful!

Thank you, both, for your extreme showings of kindness and generosity. I'm not worthy!

I hope everyone eles is getting good spoiling! Have a great day, and I'm really going to try to check back in this weekend.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Weekly update

After grousing about not updating enough because of Ravelry, I've decided to aim for a weekly update, at least. It is cmoforting to know that I am not the only one struggling with the blog/Ravelry balance (and wouldn't it be nice if all of our dilemmas were this satisfying?)

Wicked was off the needles as of Tuesday. I don't have any good pictures because my husband is not a cooperative fella. However, I'm not thrilled with it. It's a little roomy, so right now it's in the dryer after a soak in the sink. I'm hoping it will shrink just enough... fingers crossed. If it improves/cooperates, I'll have a more reliable adult (or heck, even ZEN, take some pictures).

Having finished Wicked, I encountered an intense reluctance to work on another project. No, I was itching to start something new. Trying to be disciplined, I simply didn't knit on Wednesday night. But the call was too strong on Thursday. I was thinking of knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket, but instead I made a bulky jumper for ZEN. It was a good choice, because it knit up in one evening!


This is the Baby Jumper from Blue Sky Alpacas, knit in Size 2. In the spirit of stash busting, I knit it from some Naturwolle that I had on hand. I ended up holding it tripled, and used about 4 skeins. Here are a couple of pictures of ZEN modeling. She sends her apologies, because she's not feeling that well and has been too tired to smile properly as of late (and yes, you are absolutely right to chastise the mean mom for putting her in this, anyway!).



It should fit her a little better next winter!

On another note, it seems that so many knitting blogs enable with shoutouts to great etsy stores, where you can oogle yarn, stitchmarkers, cool patterns, and other notions. I'm not going to pretend to have my fingers on the pulse of that - I just enjoy following the links other people provide. However, I do have some etsy faves that sell items that aren't yarn/knitting related, and I thought I'd share those with you, in case anyone is hunting for fun stuff.

Let's start with some stunning handcrafted jewelry, made by Linda at Trillium. Her work is stunning. It feels solid, even the delicate pieces. Her customer service is excellent. I have had a couple occasions to ask for something not listed, and she accommodated so quickly (even one order the week before Christmas shipped in time for Christmas!). I've not met her in person, but she just strikes me as someone who I would really like. Check out her store if you're in the market for some jewelry. Her prices are beyond fair and the packaging is really lovely, too.

My dear friend Jill pours candles for Starstruck Cat Design. In all fairness, I do know Jill in real life, but I wouldn't mention her here if I didn't adore her product. Her candles are made with soy wax, rather than parrafin. It's a healthier burning candle. If you want more information, check out her website. Oh, and her packaging is really adorable, too. My favorite scent is the White Tea and Ginger, but I purchased a Gardenia candle for a swap partner recently, and that was heavenly, too. If you have a scent you'd like, but don't see it on there, ask Jill, she will do her best to accommodate. Her prices are very reasonable, too.

Last, but certainly not least, Eryn is making soaps at Turtle Cove Soaps. I have used the almond biscotti kitchen soap, and it does exactly as it says - it cuts right through some of the tough kitchen scents (no more onion-scented hands!). I also have used the Oceanus Salt Scrub. It's really nice. I haven't tried her other soaps - yet - but I would fully expect them to be just as lovely as the ones I've purchased. I gifted some of her soaps for Christmas, and the feedback on those has been very positive, too. Each soap or pair of soaps is individually paper wrapped and tied.

You might know Eryn from Ravelry or knittyboard. And you can find Jill on Ravelry, too. So they both have the knitting creds! Support your fellow knitters!
Go buy some soap or candles so Jill and Eryn can buy some yarn, OK? But don't forget Trillium!

Have a great week, everyone!