March 1990-May 2012

The days of the past two weeks have blurred together, obscured by life’s busy-ness, and it’s unfortunate because I never thought the passing of my dear 22-year old cat, Olivia, would be so lost in daily life.  I’ve discovered that having young children in my life causes things to way things to go that way.  Between you and me and Olivia, I’ve often said that Olivia saved my life, and maybe to you that sounds too overblown, but it’s not too far from the truth.

I adopted a wee 6-week old kitten from the county animal rescue, thinking I’d saved her from the fate of being put to death, but really her entry into my life at that time gave me someone to come to home to when I was very lonely, my life lacked direction, and I didn’t know what potential my life held.  She, and the second kitten I’d adopt one month later, Phinney, were little balls of delight to come home to after work.  Doing temp work to pay bills, I found a roommate to help with the rent, and who tolerated the cats, and would eventually go on to her own home and adopt a cat or two, and who has ended-up a lifetime friend.  My kitties saw me through poor choices in boyfriends, the death of my father to AIDS, my bout with thyroid cancer, marriage to my husband Alex, the addition of a stray cat who adopted us all and blended well with Olivia and Phinney, the arrival of our two children, and the passing of Phinney almost two years ago.  Olivia loved the crinkle of paper, and it shocked to me to discover the loss of her hearing at age 5 due to an adverse reaction to a routine vaccine, but we weathered it and her super-loud deaf-kitty meowing for 17 years nonetheless.

In her younger days, she had a habit of sleeping in unladylike positions.

Over the last few years Olivia and Phinney didn’t get as much attention as they would have liked, although we cared for them, doted on them and loved them.  For Olivia that meant that I overcame my fears and gave her weekly fluid injections at home, and she enjoyed the pleasure of going out on the enclosed deck to for fresh air, some kitty grass and a bowl of water.  She became rather crotchety in her old age, but when your the equivalent of about 104 in human years, have kidney disease, can’t see well, and deaf, I think you have the right to have some attitude.  Still, every evening she looked forward to our watching TV on the sofa next to her after the kids went to be, in fact she would wait for us, and if we didn’t come, she would come and demand our presence.

In her last two days it became apparent that she wasn’t doing well, wasn’t feeling well and that the end was near, and we all had the opportunity to spend a little time with her.  But she is gone, and we miss her; her body was small, her presence was huge.

Asleep in her basket.


The sun came out today…

And suddenly, everything seemed more doable.  I feel like I’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks.  Normally, January doesn’t hit me like that since the days start getting longer; rather it’s December that affects me that way.  Even Zephyr was happier and today seemed a good day to post.

Feeling good, despite the beginnings of what may be the flu, it just seemed like a good time to throw my knitting down on the floor and take a picture.

I dropped a teaser in my last post, way back on December 25th (sorry!), saying that I’d begun work on something that isn’t another My So-Called Scarf (which I personally find borders on addictive) and is from the first knitting book I bought in 1984. I have long categorized it as one of my dream projects, you know “the one that got away”, or almost got away. When I first saw it in the pages of Amy Carroll’s The Sweater Book (Copyright 1983), I said, “Wow! That would be nice to make. If only…” But being new to knitting and living on a college student budget at the time, it was not the time to delve into such a project. Happily, now is the time.

Photo Copyright Amy Carroll (1983)

The kick-off was not without its set-backs. There were four re-dos of the first cuff (it’s knit vertically from cuff to cuff) alone because I couldn’t decide if I liked close-fitting cuffs for a coat (decided to leave the pattern alone), especially since the edging for the rest of the coat isn’t fitted, and then I totally messed-up on the original yarn selection and was way, way off on the gauge.  So I ended-up with good ole’ Lamb’s Pride.

I present the team for my dream coat:

Lamb's Pride Worsted by Brown Sheep

Then I discovered a typo, in which the pattern calls for no more than two colors per row in the Fair Isle tradition, and suddenly there was the odd appearance of a third color at the seam ends of the row.  Caught that before I was too far along.

And then there is the inconsistency (or is it another typo?) of one of the striping sequences that doesn’t match-up with the photo in the book.  Both striping sequences call for white/natural but in the photo one of the sequences shows brown where white is indicated, so I caught that one too.

Despite these little speed bumps, the project is now under way and I hope to see it done before it gets too warm to wear it.

So that’s what I’ve been doing, knit wise.  In between waiting for yarn orders (I tried to buy locally, but the yarn selection wasn’t good for a project like this), picked-up Birds Eye Shawl and finally made it to the end of the first skein.  Almost 4 years after I started it.

A cat of a different color.

Photo from Wikipedia

I live in a wooded area outside of Seattle, and it’s fairly common to see some of the local fauna pass through, particularly deer, coyote, and the occasional bobcat. However, it was quite a shock when I drove down our street on Monday and came across a wild cat that is not listed among the members of the feline family native to North America. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but I was able to scare it off by blasting the car horn and aiming the car toward it (I just wanted to scare it), finally causing it to jump into the woods as I opened the door and shouted at it. It was disconcerting that a wild cat had been among the houses in the middle of the day and that it didn’t quickly scare off, but moreover, I was puzzled by what nature of animal I had seen. And yet…I had seen this type of animal before, but what was it? I expanded my search of the Internet from “wild cats North America” to “wild cats of the world” and perused the myriad of photos available, and found my animal: a caracal, a feline native to parts of the Middle East and Africa.

I’ve found that reporting a free-roaming exotic cat is not very easy. Phone conversations have gone something like this—
“I’d like to report a wild cat in my neighborhood.”
“I’m sorry. We have no way of tracking lost cats.”
“No, I mean an exotic wild cat—a predator that is native to the African savannah and can weigh 25-40 lbs. (11-18 kilograms).”
“Oh, um…”
“It’s not a cougar, not a lynx and not a bobcat, but it’s about the size of a lynx; it’s a caracal. I looked it up on Wikipedia.”
“Oh… Call fish and wildlife.”

I was bounced back and forth between county animal control and the state fish and wildlife department a bit, and finally ended-up back at animal control, leaving a message for the field operations people.

It must be someone’s cat, and I hope it doesn’t get hurt, but I also hope that no one, or their pet, doesn’t also get hurt. It certainly has me looking over my shoulder when I take my son to the bus stop in the early morning hours.

Here kitty, kitty…



Hello My Name is Amineko (left), Amineko no iru Seikatsu (right)

The latest issue of Twist Collective came out this week and on page three I stopped short when I spotted an ad for a new book, Hello My Name is Amineko (ISBN: 9781589235717) by Nekoyama, a book published in English about crocheting amigurumi cats. Without hesitation I ordered a copy, for it is the same book as Amineko no iru Seikatsu (ISBN: 4391130122) which I bought in Tokyo in 2005, not knowing any Japanese, but enamored nonetheless by the pictures of the cutest crocheted cats. It was that book that completely blasted me into the modern age of crochet from the dark ages of the ’60s and ’70s when my grandmother would crochet toiletpaper roll covers in the guise of doll dresses (the doll would stand inside the roll and the dress would wrap around the roll) or brown, orange and white granny square vests that gave me chills every time I found one lovingly placed under the Christmas tree for me (sorry Nana!). In fact, I would hazard a guess that this little book from Japan was instrumental in really changing how a lot of people viewed crocheting toys. Within a few weeks of arriving home from my trip to Japan I was on my way to making my very own crocheted cats using the charts and photos in the book, despite the fact the much of the book remained a mystery to me due to my Japanese language deficiency.

My copy of Hello My Name is Amineko has arrived and now I know that the cat pattern has a name, Amineko. The softcover book is in essence the same as the Japanese version, but with more color photos and a little formatting change in the charts. It is such a treat to pour over it’s pages and finally know what all funny captions for the cats “in action” say and to have the English instructions for all the extras, like making a fish-shaped pillow or a dried cuttlefish pillow for amineko. Aside from the complete translation of the original edition, I am very pleased that the original photos haven’t been omitted or changed to “appeal” to readers not in Japan, such as myself, and like the original it is filled with photos. Throughout the book there are still photos of aminekos clustered around a cup of green tea on a tatami mat, playing with a sushi roll, divvying-up a satsuma orange, contemplating eating a bowl of miso soup, and getting hit by a futon beating tool. This is a great book to have both for the pattern and for its fun photos, and I think it would make a great gift to accompany the gift of an amineko, especially for kids because it is 104 pages of fun. Thank you, Nekoyama and Quayside Publishing Group for making this English version.

I might just have to break-out the old crochet hook again and make a couple amineko to celebrate.

New – Not So New

I have a confession:  I’ve been working on a new cardigan since early July and haven’t posted about it until now. In fact, I’m close to finishing with just the buttonband left. The project?  Oriel Lace Cardigan by Kirsten Hipsky.  There I was, paging through the Summer 2010 issue of Interweave Knits and spotted a Webs ad (page 39) featuring this cardigan; within the span of a few hours I’d purchased the pattern, downloaded it, and cast on.  I’ve decided to make my version with 3/4-length sleeves, versus the cap sleeves of the pattern.  I love the cap-sleeved version, but I have to be honest, I just don’t see myself wearing a cardigan with cap sleeves these days.  And why make something that would be destined not to be worn and enjoyed?

The source of the yarn for the project is my 10-year old On the Border pullover, just another example of a sweater I made and never wore.  I loved On the Border, but it turned out to be a sweater that didn’t look good on me. The yarn I used for it, Cleckheaton Nature (70% cotton, 30% wool), I love even more.  I love the yarn so much that I couldn’t part with the sweater, no many how many times I held it tentatively over a pile of clothes destined for charity over the years. I can’t wait to wear this yarn knitted-up into Oriel Lace.

On a sadder note, my poor 20-year old kitty died last week.  It was a rough decision to make to have her put to sleep, but in the last photos I took that day, her eyes said quite clearly, to the point it shocked me, “I feel awful and I’m nearing the end.”  All the weeks we’d spent deliberating, but when she’d come to a point where she was dropping weight quickly, among other health issues, our options were obvious:  have her go quickly and with some dignity left, or have her go slowly and more painfully.  I feel a bit guilty that we’d let her prolong her suffering so long due to my husband’s and my indecision.  I adopted her as a 6-week old kitten through my vet, after someone had rescued her whole family, including her mother, from a vacant lot, which was mowed the next day; they were all slightly feral and she hissed the instant I picked her up. She used to stand on her hind legs and beg for attention and her fur was as soft as a rabbit. She saw me through so much over the past 20 years and she was a good little furry friend and member of my family. She’s left quite a hole in my days, but I know that she is in a better place now.

Cornflower Tudora

My first finished object of the new year is Tudora.

I like Tudora’s design because it provides good neck coverage and doesn’t have long, scarf ends getting in the way when bending over.  Bending over may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re in a public bathroom helping your young child do what he needs to do, bending over and having scarf ends dangling precariously over a toilet is something you just don’t want.  Am I right?

Tudora is an easy pattern, and I made it while watching, appropriately enough, the movie Elizabeth I starring the fabulous Dame Helen Mirren in installments.  Speaking of Helen Mirren, I hope I look that amazing in a bikini at 62.  Anyway, back to my knitting:  it’s a good thing that I made it in installments because it’s meant to be tightly knit, and using Manos del Uruguay probably made it even tighter, so I knit it in mostly 2-row increments at a time, and then gave my fingers, hands and wrists a good shake and stretch afterward. Manos is probably not the best-suited yarn for Tudora, perhaps just a tad too thick and lumpy.

Brass button from the collection of vintage buttons I inherited from my grandmother.

Pattern:  Tudora by Cheryl Marling, from Knitty, Winter 2007
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay in Cornflower (stash collection)
Needles: 2.75 mm / US 2 circular
Button: personal vintage button collection
Modification: instead of the garter stitch buttonhole band, I added one more stitch and made it a seed stitch buttonhole band.

The yarn, by the way, was another skein of the four skeins of stashed Manos from a few years ago, and that leaves me with enough to make mittens with. I’m thinking Yellow Harvest Mittens (Ravelry link) from Vogue Knitting, Fall 2008.  I’m a bit excited, because if I make the mittens out of the remaining Manos, then combined with the Esme hat I made at the end of December and Tudora, I’ll have a full matching set to wear for those rare times when it actually gets cold enough to wear a full set!  I know it sounds rather silly coming from a knitter, but I’ve never had a full matching set of hat, scarf and mittens, just bits and pieces, so whenever I needed to bundle up, I looked rather mismatched: red scarf, blue hat and dark brown driving gloves.  It’s the little things in life.  You know?

Along with my first finished object of the new year, and refusing to be out-done, Zephyr, went out and caught his first mouse of the new year, and delightfully decapitated it on the deck off of the dining room (at least he knows where to dine), leaving the body for our, er, enjoyment.  As much as I would love to share the object of my revulsion, I’ll spare you the picture.

Zephyr looking too logy to look up after his New Year kill.

Why they don’t make canned food for cats out of mice, rats and goldfish?  You laugh, I know you are, but I’m serious!  Okay, it wouldn’t be that bad, I mean they already kill something to make canned cat food.  Right?  So why not have a whole farm of these little rodents instead?  The kitties would thank us for it.  I really don’t think kitties have a taste for something out of their food chain.  Can you see a kitty taking down a cow?  Think about it:  Mouse & Oat Grass Buffet with Catnip Coulis in a can, coming to a pet grocer near you.