blankets time

I love blankets and nearly always have one on my lap (as I do right now). Dot loves this as she’s my blanket lap cat. I’ve been working on several blankets for around the house, one for over five years.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about them and I recently figured out a fundamental flaw to my method, one that’s been hindering my progress. I want to share in the hope that it may help you get unstuck.

My favorite method for working on large blanket projects is to create them modularly. This means the blanket is worked in sections and joined. The joining can happen right away or later, or even a combination of the two.

This allows me to work on them in spurts and often to snuggle with them long before they’re complete.

This is true of the Garden as Safe Space blanket. Dot and I snuggle together with it every night when I sit on the couch to read or watch TV. This blanket has been ignored of late as it’s one where I join in each module (a hexagon) as I work it. It makes the blanket a bit unwieldy and strange at the current stage. For a while I felt overwhelmed by it, so I put away most of the yarn and only have the next hexagon in a small project bag on table next to where I sit. My hope is that is all I need to knit, I will plan and think of the next hexagon only after this one is complete. So far, the yarn has been sitting there for a few weeks. Next time Dot has enough of me for the evening and leaves for her favorite box, hopefully I’ll work on it. I’ve finished 5 complete rows and am about a third of the way through the 6th. The plan is for 18 columns of 11 hexagons each, there’s a long way to go!

tuxedo cat curled up on a handknit blanket

The blanket I’ve worked on for over five years, the Hexies for Always has had several hexagons knit while I’m working on Literary Fragments (see below), I haven’t added them … or woven in any of the ends. There’s no reason for this other than it hasn’t been a priority. At the moment it looks pretty much the same as it has for a year. Dot and I still use it whenever I sit on my studio couch.

Both the Library blanket for E and my Literary Fragments Blanket are suffering from my flawed modular methodology. The major flaw?

I keep each blanket in a large project bag with whatever is queued up for the next motif.

That means I need to schlep everything each time I work on it. As I’ve only finished 3.3 stripes of E’s blanket that’s not too overwhelming at the moment, but it means it never gets taken anywhere and this fourth stripe is neglected. My plan is to finish it this afternoon and to keep a project “go bag” so I will work on the next stripe more easily. That can fit in my everyday bag and will ensure project progress, I hope.

The Literary Fragments blanket is a little more complicated. Each round is a different color, I try to work on a batch of motif centers at once, then the second round, then the third. But it also requires me to organize the scrap yarns differently (another work in progress) and think about what I bring when and where. E’s blanket is my current priority and once I feel better about its progress, I’ll improve my workflow.

You can find progress updates for these blankets and more at my digital creative notebook at notebook.pennyshima.com. Can you guess the current theme – it is also a work in progress. I still maintain my account at Ravelry, however I like having more control over how things look. It also will allow me to eventually share some of the other projects I work on that aren’t strictly knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving … and then let me write differently about them here.

Happy Rainbow Socks

Without fail when I finish knitting a new pair of socks I’m in a good mood. Hand knit socks make me happy; I love that I’m able to create what I need and customize the fit.

Finished rainbow socks, shown on owner's size 35 feet.

This pair is knit with 1.75mm needles in Lion Brand Mani-Pedi, Crew colorway with the heel in Anzula Haiku, Mariana colorway. They follow a cuff-down construction with a french heel.

If you would like to see more photos, you can check out this project in my notebook. I’m slowly working on this new site, please let me know what you’d like to see, beyond more frequent updates.

My hope is that the yarn will wear as well as a another pair worked in Lion Brand’s Sock-Ease (sadly, both of these Lion Brand yarns are discontinued). I knit this pair in late 2009 and I wear them weekly! They weren’t taken out just for the photo shoot.

Two different socks worn modelled while the toe of the second Rainbow sock is knitted. the person is sitting on a light brown and green rug.

Now on my sock needles are E’s annual birthday socks. He chose Oink Pigments Targee Sock, Size of the Boat colorway.

Socks! (& Shadow … Dot too)

All the driving to and from Conneticut for Shadow’s appointments and waiting allowed me to finally finish E’s birthday socks. Don’t worry, I wasn’t the one behind the wheel!

pair of handknit socks, in blues with grey toes. shown laid flat on metal sock blockers

I knit these in Old Rusted Chair Tough Sock. They are in the Diminutive colorway, a gorgeous mix of variegated blues, teals, and plums with speckles. The toe is in Overcast, a semi solid medium grey. I absolutely loved knitting this yarn and I hope to knit more Tough Sock in the future. If I ever decide on a colorway.

This pair helps me reach a special milestone, E now has 7 pairs of socks! This has been my goal for years and I’m thrilled to finally reach it.

stack tower of 7 pairs of handknit socks in a variety of mostly bright colors

Shadow Update

Shadow is recovering very well. His stitches came out yesterday and he needs to wear Cone until Saturday to make sure the incision heals completely.

Black cat with a cone looking through an open cat door

He’s become very adept and navigating his life with Cone.

Black cat wearing cone on a dining table, with meal in progress. There is gazpacho & baguette

We’ve spoken more with his oncologist and have a better idea of the prognosis. I hope how we choose to approach chemotherapy can help both him and all cats.

Dot has been amazing since his diagnosis in May.

Tuxedo cat asleep on a grey couch.

She’s incredibly patient with him and us. Her routine has changed and she’s rolled with it. Ok, all the extra treats haven’t hurt.

Self-Care

Sometimes self-care looks like this:

Mirror selfie of woman wearing hospital top & mask in front of poster reading \"early detection is key\". Woman is holding a handknit sock in progress.

I postponed my mammogram until I was fully vaccinated, then procrastinated making the appointment until earlier this week.

Read More about Self-Care

a new knit cardigan

Over the years, we’ve worked to improve the energy efficiency of our old house. My basement studio was once one of the coldest spaces. It’s now much warmer, however, I still face a unique challenge when I sit at my desk for hours. The solid wood work surface and metal supports underneath tend to retain cool overnight temperatures. This means that if I rest my arms on the desk while I’m working, they end up chilled pretty quickly and then my entire body feels cold.

I have a favourite cardigan I love and have worn for years. I adore almost almost everything about it — the body length, it has pockets, and it’s a Penny neutral colour (tabby browns). However, the sleeves are bracelet length. That leaves quite a bit of arm and wrist open to my desk’s frigid surface.

I thought about knitting fingerless mitts with a long cuff or simple arm warmers but I wasn’t excited by the idea. For most of December, I used my “watercolor washcloth” as a layer of protection. This is what I use instead of a paper towel to clean my brush for years now. It worked well, unless I had just used my paints. The cats enjoyed knocking it off my desk, it became a fun game for them!

wooden desk with part of keyboard and mouse on a worn mouse pad visible. There is a washcloth covered in pants and ink between the bottom of the mouse pad to the edge of the desk. An open tin of watercolors with water brush, a closed notebook with ballpoint pen, and an uneaten cat treat are also visible on the desk.

I knew a better solution was a garment with long sleeves that I could toss on top of everything when I’m cold at my desk. So I decided to work a top-down raglan cardigan. While I prefer set-in sleeves for most sweaters, raglan construction allows for a greater range of motion which makes sense if I’m wearing it over multiple layers.

The next question was yarn choice, I wanted something warm. So, I wound up two skeins of Oink Pigments Helix (discontinued fingering weight blend of alpaca, merino, and silk) in the bruised blueberry colorway (available on other yarns & fiber).

However, I only had two skeins, or 800 yards. Combining the garment oversize I knit and my tension, I knew I was going to play yarn chicken. After the I finished the first ball of yarn I worked the sleeves. This was because having them the correct length was more important to me than the body or hems.

Knit sweater in progress on a black cat napping on his person's lap while a tuxedo cat watches.

It worked out, I had enough yarn to knit the sweater to the correct length, a sweater that was to my minimum length, and enough In the end it was yarn chicken. This small amount is all I had leftover!

Tuxedo cat sitting on a person's lap examining small amount of the yarn held in an open palm. The ball of about 1 inch, it is loosely wound.
Dot is curious how it is yarn chicken? It smells like alpaca and wool!

I’ve worn it almost daily at my desk since I wove in the ends. The sleeves are long enough to provide warmth when I rest my arm on my desk. It’s loose enough that it fits comfortably over anything I’m wearing. I wish it was an inch or two longer, it lands exactly at my hip, but it’s not something I often think about which means it works.

Woman sitting at desk wearing a handknit cardigan in a variegated yarn of deep grape, denim blue-grey, and vibrant blueberry cerulean. The background shown on the monitors is of M33, The Triangulum Galaxy from the Subaru telescope (NAOJ) and image data assembly/processing by Robert Gendler

When I posted the project to instagram, a friend pointed out my sweater matched my desktop wallpaper. The image is of M33, The Triangulum Galaxy. The image was taken from the Subaru telescope (NAOJ) with image data assembly/processing by Robert Gendler.

Haircut is by my trusted partner E; after I started snipping and needed help with the parts that were hard to manage by mirror reverse. He won’t let me go near his hair!