Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Another Project: The Knitted Cat Tunnel

When visiting a friend, I observed her cats diving in and out of a polyester / nylon cat tunnel. Our cats can also be found playing in enclosed spaces, especially underneath duvets and  blankets. When I saw how much her cats enjoyed playing in the tunnel, I contemplated purchasing one for ours, but on second thoughts I found  the material of the so-called cat caves, which are either made from nylon or polyester, somewhat off - putting. Given the choice, I knew that Pickle et al. would prefer hiding and resting in a cozy, knitted object. After all, they choose to fall asleep on my knitting projects. And so the idea for a knitted cat tunnel was born.

Cat Tunnel in Sirdar Big Softie

The following is not so much a knitting pattern, rather a description of my project in stages. It is suitable for the beginner knitter, as it only requires knowledge of a few knitting basics:
  • You will need to be able to cast on and off.
  • You should feel reasonably comfortable knitting on circular needles.
  • You need to be familar with the knit stitch.


Cat Tunnel in progress.


I used the following materials:

  • Bulky yarn of your choice. For my project I used approximately 10 skeins of Sirdar Big Softie. This included the yarn needed to sew in the plastic tubing at either end of the tunnel. As this project is a great exercise in stash busting, you could use yarn leftovers, provided they are of similar thickness.


    Knitted Cat Tunnel in Sirdar Big Softie

  • 10mm circular knitting needles (US size 15).

  • 10mm crochet hook (US size N/15) for finishing, sewing in yarn ends and incorporating the plastic tubing. (This can also be done with a large darning needle.)

  • Plastic tubing approximately as thick as a standard garden hose (see picture below), available at hardware stores. The length of the tubing is dependent on the circumference at the openings of the tunnel, and I would recommend buying the tubing, once you have completed knitting the tunnel and taken actual measurements of the openings.

  • Tape measure, scissors and a Stanley knife (for cutting the plastic tubing).

  • Two wooden plugs or sturdy parcel tape to join the plastic tubing

  • At least one playful feline, who will appreciate your crafting efforts.


    Pebble checking on progress


Instructions for a giant slouchy cat tunnel (40cm wide and 70cm long):

Begin by casting on 90 stitches using whichever method you prefer. (I used the cable cast on.) If you want a wider tunnel, cast on more stitches. If you want a smaller tunnel, reduce the amount of cast on stitches accordingly.

Place marker to mark the beginning of the round and join. 

Knit mindlessly until the tunnel has the desired length. My tunnel is approximately 70cm long and 40cm wide.

Proceed to bind off all stitches and weave in ends.

After you have finished knitting, you may wish to block the piece in order to stretch and straighten the material. I skipped this part.

Measure the circumference of the tunnel openings at either end to determine the required length of the plastic tubing. The plastic tubing I have chosen has the thickness of a domestic garden hose. 

Once you have cut the tubing to size with a Stanley knife, the ends of the tube have to be joined to form a circle. This can be achieved by glueing the ends together with sturdy parcel tape. Alternatively, you can join the ends with the help of a wooden plug, which will ensure a snug fit. (See picture below.) Before fitting the plug, briefly insert the tubes into hot water. This will cause the plastic to expand and the plug can be inserted easily. When the plastic has cooled down, the plug should fit tightly.






When the ends of the tube have been joined, proceed to sew the tube circles into the edges of the knitted tube, using the rolled up edges of the fabric as a guide.  








Having followed these steps, your cat tunnel is ready to be enjoyed destroyed (for your cats' safety obviously only under the supervision of a responsible human).


And here are a few impressions of how the tunnel was received by Pickle, Mietze and Pebble: 


Mietze enjoyed it as a seating facility until she was disturbed by Pebble.














    Saturday, 22 October 2011

    Pebble's Parasites

    In my last post I introduced Pebble, our kitten of approximately fifteen weeks. Here she is again, because a blog of any kind can never have enough pictures of cute kittens:




    Pebble went to the Vet's this week for her  vaccinations, chipping and a general check - up, which includes treatment against potential parasites such as fleas, mites and worms.

    The vet confirmed that everything was as it should be; and she is a healthy little kitten. So far, so good.


    Roundworm


    When I cleaned her litter tray the morning after the vet visit, I was greeted by the usual presents. However, over night the worm treatment got to work and she also released the above. 

    I do appreciate that not everyone wants to look at poo, but, let's face it, every cat owner will have to do it to ensure that everything is in order with their furry friend.

    Without confirmation from the vet, we believe this was a roundworm, which she must have picked up from her mum, as our two other cats don't go out and are routinely treated for / against parasites.

    According to our research on the matter, roundworm in kittens is quite common, but also highlights the importance of getting your cat checked out and routinely treated, even if everything appears to be ok and there are no symptoms of infestation. 

    Wednesday, 19 October 2011

    Not Knitting (due to Pebble)


    Not much has happened on the knitting front recently. This is mainly due to one factor: Pebble.


    Pebble 


    Pebble is the most recent addition to the feline division of the household. She joined Pickle and Mietze on 1st September 2011 and ever since we have been busy “managing” her gradual integration. I guess the last few weeks taught us that the introduction of a new kitten into a household with established cats is a slow and gradual process, requiring constant human supervision and, at times, intervention. Whilst there may be examples of instant acceptance of the newcomer by the senior cats, this rarely, if ever, happens.

    What’s more, there is no failsafe method and cat owners’ experiences and methods facilitating the integration of the newcomer vary greatly.

    Pebble disrupting the weekly clean

    Just in case anyone is interested, here is what we did:

    Pebble spent her first twenty four hours locked away in our bedroom. (We obviously spent the night with her and paid her numerous visits during the day.) She was equipped with food, water, her very own litter tray and an eclectic selection of toys. Knowing that there was another cat somewhere in the house, both Pickle and Mietze occasionally came up to the bedroom door and a had a good sniff. In the evening of the second day, when we were still living in hope that Pickle and Mietze might just accept the newcomer, we decided to let the cats encounter each other briefly.

    Mietze
    Mietze hissed, growled, ran away in fear, jumped onto the fridge and spent the best part of the next week sitting on the highest surfaces she could reach. Pickle, though slightly more confident, did much the same. Oblivious to all this, the kitten was just eager to meet both of them. Following the first meeting, we stopped all further face – to – face encounters and only showed the kitten to the adults when it was safely sitting on our arms and only for very short periods.

    Whilst I was swapping blankets and toys from room to room to disperse Pebble's smell across the house, Steve built a cat cage (which the cats are now using a a new seating facility). Every evening, we inserted Pebble together with a ping pong ball and let her run wild in her pen for twenty minutes or until she grew tired of being confined. The cage enabled the others to take a closer look without being directly exposed to Pebble; and it gave us piece of mind. If Pickle or Mietze really wanted to take a swipe at Pebble, she was at least not in danger of being injured. Thankfully, the adults only hissed and growled at her but refrained from swiping.

    Pickle (during a rare quiet moment)
    Another week passed and it was time to abandon the cage and open the bedroom again. This time, one of us sat and played with Pebble whilst the other remained with the adult cats, who were by then interested in watching the little one from a safe distance. A few more sessions of this kind and Pickle eventually ventured towards the kitten. She still hissed at Pebble, but she didn’t overtly threaten her. At this point, we decided to introduce a cardboard box and see whether Pebble and Pickle would start playing with it together. As hoped for, the cardboard box was an ice breaker.

    Fast forward a further seven days and the kitten is now spending longer stretches with the big cats. Being the more social of our two senior cats, Pickle is naturally more involved with Pebble, but Mietze is slowly coming to terms with the presence of the kitten. Whilst Mietze makes it abundantly clear that she doesn’t wish to engage in play of any sort, she now seems interested in watching the interaction between Pebble and Pickle.

    Pickle and Pebble sharing the coveted kitchen sink
    When we are not at home we continue to keep Pebble in the bedroom as she is still quite boisterous. Over a prolonged period of time and without us there to intervene if need be, it might come to clashes, which we are keen to avoid. However, when human company is at hand, Pebble is now roaming freely throughout the house.

    Considering that Pebble’s integration into the household has taken us nearly two months and is technically still ongoing, it’s no surprise that my knitting time has been severely curtailed. When I get a precious moment to sit down with a pair of needles and a skein, Pebble excels at disrupting the process. Being a kitten, this was to be expected.

    Having said that, I have managed to continue my work on two projects. Both of these are my own designs: a bulky Raglan cardigan and a shawlette. As regards the shawlette, this project only exists as a rough sketch on paper accompanied with a few notes. I am hoping to begin swatching during the upcoming weekend. The Raglan cardigan has progressed a bit further and I am hoping to be able to wear it by mid – November....Pebble permitting.

    Raglan Cardigan in Wendy Zena

    Monday, 13 June 2011

    Meandering Vines

    It's off the needles, it's finished blocking and here it is....

    Meandering Vines in Paton's UK Vintage











    For further blog entries about the project, please look here (on blocking 


    P.S. Now that I am the proud owner of a shawl, I will need to source a shawl pin.


    Sunday, 12 June 2011

    Meandering Vines by Susanna IC - Almost Finished...

    According to an earlier blog entry, I began to work on "Meandering Vines" back in March 2011. It seems so long ago and I started several other projects whilst knitting the shawl.  

    Meandering Vines


    Finally, after three months of knitting on and off, it is finished. Well, ... almost finished. It's currently blocking. The shawl is knitted in a relatively thick cotton / acrylic yarn (Paton's UK Vintage) and blocking was an absolute must on this project.

    The pattern is simple and straightforward, and, as promised by the designer, it can be knit in pretty much every type of yarn.  -   An easy knit for the beginner lace knitter.

    My blocking method is a little quirky (see below). I neither own a blocking board, which would accommodate the full length of the shawl, nor do I have blocking pins, which would be strong enough to hold the fabric in place.

    Meandering Vines in Patons UK Vintage - Blocking in Progress


    Meandering Vines in Patons UK Vintage - Blocking in Progress


    After some deliberation I decided to suspend the shawl with the help of two pegged coat - hangers from the top shelf of the wardrobe. The triangular corners on either side of the shawl are fastened to both sides of the wardrobe with the help of some scrap yarn (inserted in the eyelet stitches and then tied to the sides of the wardrobe). A further two coat hangers keep the garment in place at the bottom of the wardrobe.

    Once this arrangement was in place, I lightly misted the garment with cold water.

    Pictures of the blocked garment can be found here.

    Sunday, 5 June 2011

    The Big Knit 2011...is back



    The waiting is over. 

    Innocent Smoothies have just announced that the big knit is back for 2011

    • This year's deadline is 14th October 2011.


    • The campaign goal is 650000 hats, equalling a donation of £162,500 to Age UK 

    (£0.25 for every knitted hat)


    Two of my hats that didn't make it in 2010

    I suppose I better go, sort my yarns and start knitting...only 131 days left until 14th October 2011.


    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    Substituting Rowan Kidsilk Haze



    Kidsilk Haze must be one of Rowan's bestselling yarns. As I am writing this entry, Kidsilk Haze has been stashed 11813 times on Ravelry, knitters have produced 14396 garments with the yarn and it's a consistent favourite amongst designers. I have personally met the yarn in my local yarn store, I have touched it, my eyes have feasted on the fantastic colourways in which it is produced and I regularly drool over photos of Kidsilk Haze and other yarns in the Kidsilk family when browsing through online yarn shops. Yes, there are several members in the Kidsilk family: Kidsilk Spray, Kidsilk Night and Kidsilk Aura, which I believe has now been discontinued. I love them all.

    Rowan Kidsilk Haze


    And yet, I have resisted buying Kidsilk Haze. I first came across Kidsilk Haze in a pattern book by Laura Harding. I had been knitting for a mere few months then and didn't know anything about yarn and the price tag that comes (quite rightly) with certain materials - Kidsilk Haze is a blend of Super Kid Mohair (70%) and Silk (30%). Blissfully ignorant, I looked it up on the internet and was quite simply taken aback by the price. Just about having completed my first fingerless glove in an awfully cheap acrylic yarn, I was after a yarn that was a bit more luxurious, yet affordable, a yarn with a purchase price, which I, an absolute beginner, could justify in case my project went horribly wrong. Therefore, I was unable to buy Kidsilk Haze. I didn't think my level of skill would do the expense and the beauty of the yarn justice.

    Nevertheless, if I didn't allow myself Kidsilk Haze, I at least wanted something like Kidsilk Haze. And so the endless quest for a substitute had begun - alongside the perennial search for Kidsilk Haze at a knockdown price: That illusive skein of Kidsilk somewhere on sale for less than £3.50. (Yeah, I know...it's never going to happen.) Considering that 25g currently retail at just over £8.00, you are lucky if you are able to locate a skein for £5.95, and that would be in a discontinued colour, of which probably only one skein is held in stock. It has crossed my mind that instead of buying gold bullions for investment purposes, it might be just as prudent to have a few skeins of Kidsilk in your vault. I don't think prices for the stuff are about to drop any time soon and it might be a good hedge against inflation.



    Patons UK Misty


    In the light of all this praise, I need to make absolutely clear that I don't think any substitute not equivalent in materials will ever come close to Kidsilk, but this is not necessarily the task a cheaper alternative is supposed to fulfil. When substituting yarn in this particular case, I am aware that a cheaper alternative will produce an approximation in texture and look. I am perfectly happy with this - for the time being.

    Patons UK Misty

    After months of searching for this alternative, I found a possible candidate: Patons UK Misty, a blend of Mohair (70%) and Polyamide (30%) with a recommended needle size of 3.25 - 5.00mm (US: 3 - 8). Due to the Polyamide replacing the Silk content, Misty is a lot shinier than Kidsilk Haze. I haven't started to knit with Misty in earnest, but as far as first impressions go, I think Misty could be a frugal alternative. The yarn looks and feels luxurious. Whether it can live up to my expectations will soon be put to the test.




    I have ten skeins of Misty in my stash and a few suitable patterns in mind. I will probably start swatching next weekend.  Ice Queen by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, which is available free on Knitty's website, or Branching Out by Susan Lawrence, a pattern which was the subject of a previous article and which is also available on Knitty's website, are two possible candidates.

    Update: I decided to use Patons (UK) Misty for Citron by Hilary Smith Callis. For more on this, please have a look at my Citron blogpost.

    Another update: I have used Misty for another project. This time, it was a stole designed by Cheryl Niamath. Project notes are now available on the blog. For a preview picture, please see below.

    Wisp by Cheryl Niamath

    Wednesday, 23 March 2011

    Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week



    Just came across this:


    Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Banner Blue


    And more information on the event is available here.

    Sounds interesting and it's not too late to sign up for it.

    Tuesday, 22 March 2011

    Kemp's Wool Shop

    I am excited, truly excited and cannot wait to get home. Yesterday, my latest yarn order from Kemp's Wool Shop arrived and I have to admit, I ordered a little too much... and, yes, I have a guilty conscience. This is partially offset by the warm, fuzzy feeling I get every time I look at the yarn though.


    • About Kemp's
    According to their homepage, E.Kemp have been selling wool, patterns and knitting yarns in the North-East of England since 1947 and they "aim to supply [their] customers with quality branded wool and knitting products at the most competetive prices."

    • The Website and the Range
    The website itself is straightforward and there is nothing particularly stylish about its appearance. Kemp's stock most of the staple yarn brands well known to the British knitter. Amongst others, you will find Sirdar, Patons, Wendy, Twilley's, Debbie Bliss and Rowan. If you are looking for something more exotic, such as US brands or smaller producers, Kemp's selection will probably bore you. The same applies to the accessories on sale: no beads, a fair selection of needles (both bamboo and metal) and two pages full of the most uninspiring buttons you could imagine. Sounds all a bit disappointing, doesn't it?

    Well, if you manage to look beyond the above - mentioned negatives, Kemp's is anything but a disappointment. Having trawled through quite a number of online yarn shops over the last few months, Kemp's come out on top as regards their pricing - every time, without fail. So, if you see a yarn you like the look of somewhere else, it makes sense to check out whether Kemp's have got it in stock, as it might be cheaper. This applies to all yarns and I have found that the majority of the yarns are priced quite considerably below the recommended retail price.


    • Kemp's Discounts
    I tend to regularly visit the clearance wool section, which, in my humble opinion, constitutes the most impressive part of the shop. If a yarn is discounted here, we are talking big discounts. I managed to pick up Rowan Bamboo Soft for £1.79 (50g) and Rowan Kid Silk Aura for £3.19 (25g).


    • Shipping Policy
    As with all online outlets you have to take shipping into consideration. Kemp's do not rely on Royal Mail, instead they use a courier. Postage depends on weight and the postal zone you have your order delivered to. Unfortunately, Kemp's do not offer free delivery on orders over a certain amount, but if you order between 1,5kg and 5kg of wool and happen to live in postal zone zero (most of the UK), your delivery will cost you just £5.00. Delivery is usually rather swift. I placed my last order on Thursday and received my yarns by Monday. The only downside is that you are unable to track your order online, and if you have a query regarding the delivery, you will have to phone Kemp's as the courier details are usually not divulged.

    • Overall Verdict
    All in all, Kemp's is a hidden gem. It's a no - thrills online outlet, that delivers where it matters most : on price. And this is after all exactly what Kemp's promise their customers.

    If you fancy having a look at the shop yourself, please find the link below.
    (Please note, I am not affiliated to Kemp's and just share my enthusiasm for the shop and its bargains with fellow knitters / crocheters.)

    Kemps Wool Shop
    Web's best value quality knitting and crochet yarns & patterns.

    Meandering Vines - Update

    Just a brief update on Meandering Vines by Susanna IC (please see my previous blog entry for details on the pattern). The picture below shows what the shawl looks like in Paton's UK Vintage after three full pattern repeats on No 4 (UK) knitting needles, unblocked.



    I am not sure whether the photo does it justice, as this was taken last night in fairly bad light. So far, I am happy with the outcome. Knitted with quite a bulky, textured yarn (70% Acrylic / 30% Cotton), the shawl has acquired a somewhat interesting texture, which almost has the appearance of a cabled pattern. I wonder to which degree this will be altered after the blocking is finished.

    This brings me to another subject, I don't have the right blocking equipment at home. In fact, I have no proper blocking equipment at home and this project definitely requires blocking. I will either have to buy blocking pins or look around for some home - made alternatives. We shall see...

    I haven't nearly progressed as much as I wanted to in respect of the shawl. I can excuse this partly as I was occupied with another side project: unravelling my first sweater and recycling the yarn. I didn't realise how time-consuming this was going to be, but all good fun and a post on the matter will follow shortly.

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    Lost in Lace - A Lace Knitting Newbie's Quest for a Suitable Project

    ...the Highs and Lows of my Weekend Lace Knitting Quest

    Sitting on the bus late Friday evening after work, I thought about my weekend knitting. I have a habit of starting new projects during the weekend, as I am able to source patterns and I have enough time to engage in all the preparatory work (choosing yarn, knitting swatches etc.). During the week, I like to return to the project, pick up the needles and simply enjoy the process.

    As of late and in my quest to find new challenges, I got increasingly attracted to lace knitting. Once I arrived home and after saying "hello" to the cats, I started to sift through my pattern library and dug out Susan Pierce Lawrence's scarf pattern for "Branching Out", which was featured in Knitty's spring 2005 edition.

    Susan's  design, though relatively straightforward, incorporates the most common increases and decreases the lace knitter is likely to encounter. Once you have gotten to grips with these, you will have gained confidence and are likely to master more complex lace patterns.

    To have a look at the scarf, please click on the the link to Knitty below:



    That it  looked like the ideal project for the beginner lace knitter, is exactly what I thought. I started a trial with some cheap acrylic yarn. Owing to the yarn, my swatch didn't look great, but I wasn't prepared to waste posh(er) yarn during the first stages of my lace experiment.

    After an hour or so, it clicked and I really got going. Mastering the stitch sequence wasn't all too hard and I went to bed with a great sense of achievement. sl2-k1-p2sso isn't scaring me anymore! Result.

    I continued my lace experiment on Saturday, sorting through my stash and trying to locate a yarn that was going to be suitable, but I was in the end unable to find anything...I am sure a lot of knitters must be familiar with this scenario. You want to knit a pattern, you have a huge stash and not a single resident yarn is up to the job or would do the pattern justice. Oh, it is so frustrating!!! Friday's euphoria was followed by complete and utter frustration on Saturday.

    Adamant that at least one yarn in my stash might be suitable for lace knitting, I decided to go on  another pattern search and finally I succeeded. By now it was Sunday morning and I was close to giving up, when I remembered a pattern by designer Susanna IC  -  http://artqualia.com/. The pattern is called "Meandering Vines" (http://artqualia.com/patterns%205.html) and Susanna states in her introduction to the pattern that it's possible to knit the stole with just about any yarn, provided suitable needles are chosen.

    It has to be said that Susanna's "Meandering Vines" is far less intricate than "Branching Out", but by now I just wanted to knit and get a project onto my needles.

    I decided to trust Susanna and started a trial swatch with some of my Paton's Vintage (30% cotton and 70% Acrylic). I originally bought it in bulk from Kemp's as it was an absolute steal at £0.59, but never quite succeeded in finding a suitable pattern for it.



    I am pleased to report that after Saturday's ordeal, Sunday turned out to be a success. Meandering Vines (in Patons Vintage - Burnished)  is now  firmly installed on my needles and I can return to my  new  project over the next few evenings. It is easy to memorise the pattern and I am anticipating a relaxed and enjoyable knit. Once I have used my stash of Paton's Vintage, I will go on a hunt for yarns to be used when knitting Susan Pierce Lawrence's "Branching Out".

    For all those who wish to have a little venture into lace knitting, I strongly recommend you  have a look at Susanna IC's website:  http://artqualia.com/. There you will find Meandering Vines, a pattern every beginner can knit with virtually any yarn, alongside various other (sometimes free) lace patterns. It will be worth a visit...or maybe two!






    Friday, 11 March 2011

    Urchin is coming to get you...

    For this Urchin I used Sirdar Click (two strands held together to achieve added bulk).

    So far, 2393 Urchins were knitted by Ravelers and here is one of mine...


    The garter stitch mitts are the perfect companion to your Urchin.
    So far, Ravelers have knitted up 1098 pairs of mitts.

    For my Garter Stitch Mitts I used Wendy Zena, again two strands of yarn held together to achieve an all-in-all bulkier appearance.






    For links to the free patterns, please see my previous blogpost -

    http://makedoandmendnovice.blogspot.com/2011/03/everybody-loves-urchin-or-can-one-get.html

    Everybody loves Urchin ... or Can one get addicted to a knitting pattern?

    Ysolda Teague is one of Ravelry's best known independent designers and deservedly so.

    Apart from the fact that I consider her patterns well written, intelligent, well - presented and stylish, I also think that her career to date is both mind - blowing and utterly inspirational.


    Strangely enough, I first came across Miss Teague in a Times Article whilst browsing the web and not, as one would expect, on Ravelry.



    Outside Ravelry, Miss Teague can be found on her own website / blog, which is available here:



    Amongst her free patterns are the (by now) famous "Urchin" beret, which was featured in Knitty's Fall 2007 issue and the garter stitch mittens (both are available here: http://ysolda.com/patterns/patterns/ ).

    Even though I don't think that there are many knitters left, who haven't yet knitted one or the other, I urge anyone, who hasn't, to give Ysolda's patterns a try. If there is such a thing as "getting addicted to a pattern", then Urchin had that effect on me.
    I am sure I speak for many others, who feel the same.

    All in all, I have knitted 4 Urchins so far, and I am sure there will be more...

    Pictures will be following shortly...


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