Tuesday, January 29, 2008


No, not that kind....

Just a little blog post catch up. There have been knitting and things going on here at the Minion Ranch, but I've just not been in the mood to take and edit pictures and actually blog something (read: lazy). I guess I could partially blame it on the evil Enablry Ravelry, which has become an incredible time suck and procrastination device for me lately. It seems I sometimes spend more time looking at knitting (other peoples') and reading about knitting (other peoples') than working on my own WIP's....

Anyway, on to the ketchup. Here's a nifty item that I've been wanting for a long time, and cute husband got it for me for Christmas...

Living in the PNW, trying to find the right time and place to take pictures can be challenging, especially in the winter. With this lovely little tent, external light of any kind can be aimed from the outside, allowing you to concentrate the light and take pictures of even the darkest objects on the darkest days.
(Minions provided for scale---must be purchased separately.) Simply remove optional minions, place your object inside, provide some lighting or place near a bright window, and you can take pics of your most objects without color change or much loss of color (depending on the lights you provide). The folded-up flaps provide a way to leave just a small hole for your camera while taking the picture, or you can use it with the front open as well. This particular light tent came with 2 drapes for the inside, white and black. It also collapses down to go into a small, portable soft case.

It will take a little practice to get things perfect, but here's my first couple of test shots with some beautiful Noro sock yarn...

Not perfect yet, but I love the way it was so easy to capture the colors of the yarns. The colors as portrayed are pretty close to the original with no color editing applied. (Also need to figure out what to do about those wrinkes in the backdrop cloth...). I'm so excited about being able to take pictures on any day, no matter what the light level outside, and at night---no more waiting!

I also got a set of Knitpicks wood knitting needles for Christmas, which I absolutely love! I'm usually not big on wooden needles because of the drag factor, but these are slick with much less drag than bamboo---just a little bit grabbier than turbos or Denise. I'm using them for the first time on my Secret of the Stole-ii. Progress on that is very slow, but it's not because of the needles....they are working out great.

I also completed a scarf for my hubby as a Christmas gift. Even though it was only a scarf, it was not without it's complications. Cute hubby is many things: Cute (of course), smart, lovable.... and picky as hell about some things. It had to be just the right yarn, just the right softness, just the right length in just the right stitch pattern to reduce chance of polite rejection. After much trial and error, I ended up with this...

I'm happy to report it was a smashing success all around and he loves it! The color is actually a more deep Merlot-red than I could capture in the pics. Rowan Cashsoft DK held double-stranded in a nice, manly-looking Mistake Rib.

I have never knit anything in Mistake Rib before, and I have to say I really like it! It makes nice, deep rib channels with a nice stretch, without bunching up together like regular rib. It's more interesting to knit than a normal 2x2 rib, and it also has a slightly more complicated and attractive appearance on the finished scarf than a regular rib, in my opinion. I like any stitch pattern that makes me look like a far more clever knitter than I really am, without giving me a headache. Hey, I did say I'm lazy, after all...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Now, THIS can't be good!

So, imagine the picture here if you will:

After a successful mission that day to find the perfect yarn in the perfect quantity (1,500 yards) for the upcoming Secret of the Stole ii KAL, and have the yarn ready in time to start in just a couple of days, the knitter sits at her table, happily winding her four fresh, new hanks of mmmmmm-Malabrigo Laceweight (in the Roanoke colorway) into luscious little cakes. She is reveling in the yarny goodness as she winds, thinking how much the softness and scrumptious chocolate color of the yarn makes it look good enough to eat!

She winds the first two cakes with no problem. While winding the third hank, she spies an unsightly knot in the yarn (grrrrr----knots!). But undaunted, she considers herself lucky that she saw it then, rather than happening upon it while knitting. She cuts the yarn at the knot like a good knitter should, and winds the remainder into an extra baby cake. Knots are always irritating, but no big deal.

She's in the home stretch now, and reaches for the final hank of yarn to finish her winding. As she gently untwists the hank and places it onto the swift, she spies two little ends pop out from amongst the strands. Hmmm.... A little unusual, but maybe the knot holding the ends of the hank together simply came untied.

As she continues to straighten the yarn on the swift, she suddenly sees two...no, three! more ends come popping out from amongst the strands. Cr*p! THIS certainly can't be good! Now feeling the uneasiness of an impending disaster but still living in hopeful denial, she thinks, "don't panic, just see where the ends are coming from---maybe some extra strands got mixed in...." Her hopes began to fade as two more ends popped out, then another, then another.....Well, now you get the picture.

The disaster continued to unfold in full, as the knitter realized that to her horror, this particular little hank of Malabrigo was a mutant of some kind, or had been attacked by a group of selectively-chewing aliens who only attack skeins of yarn of which there are limited quantities, and which were purchased at a store the longest possible distance from the knitter's home.

As the knitter continued to search the yarn on the winder, she found a total of twelve cut or broken ends within the skein!! CRAP! (did I say that already?) Obviously the yarn was unsalvagable. In the words of Bart Simpson, "Wow, that both sucks and blows!"

Here's a live shot of the ugliness, only shown here because proof of tragedies must be preserved for posterity. I'll understand if you must turn away at the sight of it:

(The little pieces of tape are to mark the ends as they emerged. The two little butterflies sitting on the center of the swift are four of the ends which I managed to match with their opposite ends before I gave up the rescusitation efforts.)

Very sad. What a horrible fate to befall such a young, beautiful hank of Malabrigo at such a young age, before it had time to reach it's potential as part of a lovely stole.

However, In a happy turn to the story, victory rises from the ashes! The only remaining hank of the same dye lot family was located, and was exchanged for the lifeless clump of strings. In loving memory of it's unfortunate, savaged sibling, the new hank of Malabrigo will step in to fulfill it's destiny as part of the new stole.

(And the knitter's sanity was preserved. Since the ruined hank of yarn was the last one wound, she would be unable to return the remaining yarn because she had already wound it all. She would then have to purchase new yarn in sufficient quantity to knit the stole....phew!)

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Defeat the Winter Doldrums" swap questionnaire

Just joined the winter swap that I mentioned in my last post. I need something fun to look forward to this winter, since it seems like it's never going to end this year!

Here are my anwers to the questionnaire:

1. Do you knit, crochet, or do both?

I knit almost exclusively these days. I know how to crochet and enjoy it, but can't do it without flaring up the tendinitis...

2. What types of needles do you enjoy using for making dishcloths?

I use all circulars, for everything, all the time! For dishcloths, I usually use my Denise needles--nice and sharp and not too slippery.

3. What types of cotton do you enjoy using for making dishcloths? Is there any that you've been wanting to try?

I usually make mine out of the old standby Sugar 'n' Creme, since it's the easiest to get around here. I also make face cloths out of Crystal Palace cotton chenille. I'd love to try any soft cotton yarns, and I've heard bamboo makes nice cloths as well, so I'd love to try that, too.

4. What color(s) are your kitchen and bath decorated in (if any)?

Don't really have any particular colors in my kitchen, though I usually tend to be attracted to bright red and white dishtowels lately, probably because I have plain white, boring kitchen counters. As for dishcloth colors, love all bright colors! My bathrooms are not really, um, decorated exactly, but I do sort of have a ocean/beach/tropical fish thing going on there....not much help, I know. I tend to like beach glass colors in the bathroom--blues and greens.

5. What are your favorite colors for yarns? Least favorite?

I don't think I really have a favorite yarn color, but I do tend to gravitate toward deep color tones, such as charcoal grey, purple, deep green, indigo blue. I also love bright colors together when blended well, such as Noro yarns. I'd have to say the only color of yarn I don't like would be yellow.

6. Do you like Winter, or do you count the days until it ends?

I hate winter and can't wait for it to go.away.! Is it April yet?

7. What's your favorite way to brighten your day when you're down in the dumps?

I usually cheer myself up by starting up the fireplace, pulling out some simple knitting and having a big cup of Oregon Chai tea with a ridiculously large pouff of real whipped cream on top, and shave some dark chocolate on top of the whole thing! What's not cheerful about that? If the home remedies don't work, I go out and about and run errands....to the yarn store....or the Daiso store....or anyplace else I can shop for luxuries or frivolous, fun stuff!

8. What is your favorite treat to indulge in and when your down in the dumps?

See #7 above, with the occasional hot chocolate thrown in. I also like to eat good dark chocolate and shortbread cookies when I'm down in the dumps....and when I'm not...and in between...Oh, and caramel with nuts, too!

9. Do you drink coffee? Tea? Cocoa?

I'm mostly a tea drinker---preferably black tea varieties with the caffeine intact. I also like Japanese green toasted rice tea and a good chai tea latte. I drink the occasional coffee latte when out, but don't make coffee at home. I love cocoa, but don't have it at home very often either.

10. If you could take a vacation starting tomorrow and go anywhere for one week and money were no object, where would you go and what would you do?

A beach....any beach! As long as it has some crashing waves, tide pools, ocean breezes, a few palm trees thrown in for some shade. I'd set up my umbrella and watch the waves while knitting, take a dip in the water once in a while and enjoy the sounds and scent of the ocean. If there's a cute cabana boy involved bringing drinks with little umbrellas, and oh, a masseuse hanging around, I'd take that too. And since money is no object, if I were at a fancy beach resort and spa, how about gettin' that private chef over here to do my bidding for a great dinner as well...And there also needs to be a scenic town nearby with lots of cute shops and great restaurants with a view to choose from---a girl can't lie around on the beach all the time!

11. Do you have any allergies or aversions your pal should be aware of?

No allergies that I know of (thank goodness---I'd hate to have to give up something I like!). My main aversions are to housework and finding a new job, so not really a worry for my pal unless they want me to clean their house or work for them...:)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Just a quickie!

For those of you who feel the luvs for the dishcloths and washcloths like I do, found a new swap you might be interested in. "Defeat the Winter Doldrums" Dishcloth Swap is starting up soon. I know I'm having some major winter doldrums this year, so the swap sounds like fun!

Registration opens January 11th, and if you want to enter their first contest, go leave a comment by Thursday (tomorrow) at midnight!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A New Year, and our first installment of "Ask Ms. Kitty!"

Happy New Year, everyone! Toe-cat and Technocat had a little party, and of course the paparazzi captured the following candid drunken picture (I know they had to be drunk when this was taken, because no self-respecting minion would ever be caught on film with a bow on his head unless he was crocked)...

Intervention followed when they recovered from their hangovers and they have promised to go into rehab in 2008, as well as get a job to replace my fine wine stash. I mean, those boxes of wine with the spigots on them were vintage and we got them on sale---very hard to replace!

I know it's been a while since I've posted---lots of gift shopping and cookie baking, as well as socializing and just general laziness has been occupying my time over the holidays. There was also some knitting, but due to the above-mentioned laziness, the pictures are still in my camera awaiting uploading and editing. So I'll save the knitting and received Christmas gift bragging until next time.

Since it's a fresh new year, I thought I'd introduce something new here on Knotty Kitty Knits. This new feature was brought about by a lovely reader, Carlene, who dared to ask moi, a well-claimed non-expert, for some knitting advice. I have been asked for advice before by the unwitting who come here and believe I have any good advice to offer, but on those occasions I have chosen to answer in private, so as not to expose my lack of expertise to public scrutiny. But hey, it's a new year and why not throw caution to the wind and offer help to those who solicit it in my own public forum. [And there is also the fact that Carlene is blogless and left no email address, thus forcing me to answer in public because I want to help (yep, I'm a giver) and she left me no other choice!]

That being said, I bring to you the first (and possibly only) episode of "Ask Ms. Kitty!" The feature where you can ask Ms. Kitty for advice on any subject in which she is not an expert, which covers everything, including and especially knitting, and she will give you an answer, utilizing her many years of non-expertise! Advice not guaranteed and to be taken at your own risk, don't try this at home and usual disclaimers, blah, blah, blah....

There! Now that I've covered myself legally, on to our very special first (and possibly only) installment of "Ask Ms. Kitty!"

Carlene writes:

Hey Knottykitty,
I stumbled across your blog while looking for some help with a crochet bowl I made. The yarn is 75% wool and 25% soy and I am struggling to get this stuff to felt. I have tried hand felting in the sink and using the washing machine. So far the bowl hasn't shrunk at all and merely looks slightly fuzzy on the outside. Do I need to try different soap? More washes? (I think it's been washed 10 times so far.) Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Dear Carlene,

Without seeing your yarn and your actual bowl, I can only offer some suggestions that I hope might help. I don't know if you've done any felting before, so excuse me if I offer any suggestions that are too basic. Of course, Ms. Kitty is not an expert, so these suggestions come only from my own haphazard felting experiences:

1. Are you positive that your yarn is only wool and soy? I'm not sure if the percentage of soy might prevent it from felting, or make it take longer to felt. Sometimes yarns are treated in such a way that can delay or prevent felting. Have you seen any other felted projects from the yarn you used?

2. Is the yarn white or off-white? Sometimes these colors of yarn, even if 100% wool, are treated chemically in such a way that they will not felt.

3. Did you crochet the bowl on a large enough hook to leave some "air space" between the stitches? I know crochet can be very dense, so if there isn't at least a tiny bit of room for the fibers to move about and attach to each other, there will be less felting, or felting that goes very slowly. I always try to use a larger needle or hook size than would look good for an unfelted project, so the stitch fibers have plenty of room to move about and felt.

4. How long did you actually felt the bowl? Some fibers are just plain stubborn! For instance, I made a felted bag out of 100% wool called Donegal Tweed, which took, literally, over three hours to felt. I thought I had gone insane (that day) because I was doing everything the usual way and couldn't figure out why it wasn't felting. Found out later (of course) that they treat this particular wool in a way that makes it very slow to felt (Thank you LYS who suggested this yarn and left out that little bit of info until afterward--teehee).

5. Are you using at least warm water, and adding a couple of towels or pairs of jeans, or tennis balls to add friction? Felting needs friction to move along well. It also needs a softening agent, like a few drops of dish soap, or better yet, some non-rinse wool wash added to the felting water. This helps the yarn soften and release the fibers to tangle with each other! I think warmth of the water counts too, though some experts say that's not as important as the friction. Without one of these three---friction, warmth and softening agent, felting may be more difficult or take much longer to complete.

Hmmmm.....that's about all I can think of to help you right now. I hope something I've mentioned helps! If you can tell me what yarn you used, and tell me exactly what you did when you tried to felt it, perhaps I can give a little more non-expert advice! (i.e., Did'ya wash it 10 separate times, or 10timesallatonce?) There is the possibility that you might just have to process the bowl for a longer period of time in one session for the felting to get going. Or worse (and I hope this isn't the case) there may be unlabeled ingredients in your yarn or manufacturing treatment that will cause it to be unfeltable. If in doubt in the future, try felting a swatch first. (Of course, I never swatch because I like to learn the hard way).

There is one one wool/soy yarn that I use frequently for felted projects that I absolutely love---Paton's SWS. It felts beautifully with a solid structure and a nice, bumpy texture throughout, probably from the soy part of the yarn.

Please let me know---I'm really curious to hear how things turn out for you, and if any of the suggestions help! Good luck, Carlene!

And that ends our episode of "Ask Ms Kitty!" If you have any questions about anything about which Ms. Kitty is not an expert, which is everything, please post them here on my blog as a comment, or send by email to twominionsatyahoodotcom.

Oh, and by the way---for any future episodes: Ms. Kitty prefers to be addressed in polite inquiry as "Dear Ms. Kitty,..." "HEY Knottykitty" will do, but may not get you an official response in a future episode. The advice won't be any more reliable, but I'm just sayin' is all....