Sunday, March 29, 2020

Kittens and Cats and Girls

Our litter of beautiful kittens has all moved on to their new homes. In this difficult and unpredictable time we are living in, these kittens are a welcome diversion and loving addition to the four families that have brought them into their homes and lives. Here is a photo of our neighbor Debbie who adopted one of the kittens to be a sister to her cat Hamish (who came from a litter last summer). Her name is Greta and I saw her today outside watching Debbie rake and Hamish chase leaves. So nice we will be able to see her frequently. Greta is filling a void in Debbie's family's life as their old dog Blue just passed away. So glad we could help.

I must admit, I was not much of a cat lover as a kid. My family always had a dog and it had primo status in the eyes of the family. Mostly I think this was the case because neither my Mom or Dad had grown up with cats. We did have a cat that my sister Lynn brought home one day and after many days of begging, my parents let the cat -- which we named Tabby -- stay. I was always a little fearful of Tabby because of her claws. (What did I know?) Tabby lived to be 23. When she passed away, the mice moved into our house and they have been there ever since. 

I never fully understood the psyche or beauty of cats until we adopted our first cat when we moved into our first house. Her name was Sophie and she was a beautiful brownish grey tortoiseshell cat. 

Sophie wasn't particularly loving and she had a real mind of her own. She frequently stayed out all night hunting and I had to get over the fact that I couldn't control her like I could do with our dogs. Once I got used to having a cat, I wanted another who might be more friendly and sweet. One of my co-workers had a litter of kittens with double paws. Willie was a funny guy but he loved his cats more than life. I asked if I could adopt one of his kittens and he said okay. Madeline was a beautiful tuxedo cat who was actually a Mister so we called him Mr. Madeline. He was a real love and sweetheart of a big boy.  

The Farmer was always a cat lover and his tales of Stubby the cat who had her own stool at the family's table was one of the things that endeared him to me in the beginning. How couldn't you like a family who let the cat sit next to them at dinner? 

Since we have lived at this farm, we have had many cats. Ours are indoor outdoor cats who we count on to help with the vermin. All of them have their own personalities and quirks. 

As a little thing, Julia was always attracted to our cats. I think because of her early motor delays, cats were easier for her to hold and not nearly as jumpy as a Border Collie who could knock her down so easily. There she is with one of her kittens Zoe Sophia. 

Our first Mama Cat was Vera (shown in the painting I did of her above). She was the Mama of Charlie who just passed away last year at 18. That's Charlie and Julia in the photo (by Rikki Snyder) below. 

The Farmer came home one day many years ago and told me that one of our neighbors had a litter of kittens and there was a beautiful medium haired calico. Me, being a color person, I had always wanted a colorful tri-color cat. He knew that. We went to see the kitten but she was spoken for. I put my name on the list if there were ever any more like her. Marilyn called us a couple months later and told us the home had fallen through and if we wanted her, we could have her. She had named her Lily Pons after the opera singer because the kitten was very vocal and loud. 

Lily Pons was a wild one with super intelligent cat instincts. She was a great hunter and would disappear for weeks at a time and I would worry. She would eventually come home and all would be fine. She was a great mama and raised many beautiful kittens. We still have two of her kittens - Tommy and Mittens - who are quite old now. Rosie who is the mama of the current litter is the great grand daughter of Lily Pons. Obviously cat genealogy is a thing here. 

With this latest litter, I thought it would be fun to photograph each of the adoptive families with their kittens. I got as far as two families and then the virus interrupted and I forgot about the task at hand. 

Our friends from Northampton have had their names on the kitten list for several months. The two little girls were so excited when Julia told them their kittens had been born. They came one day - the whole family in kitten headbands. Each girl picked out her own kitten when they were very small. There was such anticipation in their household for their new kitties. They visited once more to see the kittens in a new growth stage. The weeks went by. I think the girls thought the day would never come. 

The two girls had hand drawn kitten count-down calendars in their rooms and sent us photos as the days were X-ed off. They named them Sparky and Jade. As the days counted down, I got more pictures. Here is the series. Can you see the anticipation and excitement building? 

THE DAY FINALLY ARRIVED as you can see in the picture above. I love children's art and was so happy when Laz gifted me with her pictures. 

Here's a photo of Julia with two of our current cats Daisy and Charlotte and Laz and Simone with their new kittens. Precious, aren't they all? Kitten girls for life. Hopefully we will get to see the kittens as they grow up. We know they will all be loved in their 4 new homes. Thanks everyone for putting up with the cat stories. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Paul's Moroccan Fedora

Melissa is a longtime friend of mine from New Jersey. She now lives in Maine with her husband Paul. They are both musicians. Melissa's Mom Peggy (now in her late 80's) is a dear friend of mine. For years, she knit many samples for the different leaflets and books. Here's a photo of Julia, Mom and Peggy taken here at our farm back in 2006 when this blog was rather newish.  

Not many years ago, Paul taught himself to knit and he is really killing it these days. He is a pianist and I'm thinking those talented fingers were just itching to learn to knit. He sent me photos of his granddaughter wearing one of the hats he made from my Moroccan Fedora pattern. He kindly has let me share them here on the blog. 

Isn't she the cutest? The yarn Paul used is Malabrigo and he said it was the worsted weight. Here is the top of the hat. 

Now he is working on another project from the World Knits Collection. Can't wait to see how that turns out. Well done Paul! 

If you have made any projects from the World Knits Collection, I would love to see what you have done. You can send them to me via email or facebook. 

You can purchase the Moroccan Fedora Pattern here on Ravelry or on my website here. Thanks so much Paul for sharing. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Spring Snow and Beau

It's officially spring and Monday afternoon into the evening, we got a good 7 inches of spring snow. It is supposed to warm up some this week so I am hoping it will melt. We haven't had much snow this past winter and the moisture is much needed. Good thing those frogs didn't lay their eggs because the little pond is frozen again. Here are some pretty photos from the day after the storm. 

Here's Beau - one of our two Great Pyrenees Guard Dogs. Isn't he a handsome boy? He and his sister Sadie are quite camera shy but I got this nice photo of him in the snow. Both of them sleep outdoors and they have the thickest, long coats now. When it got warm for a few days, they were really minding the heat. I get them sheared usually in April or May because they really hate the heat. Hopefully I will be able to get an appointment for them. When their coats are removed, they look like Yellow Labs. 

If you haven't seen this, check it out. Pluto (a Schnauzer from Canada) has a YouTube channel HERE and it sure is a good diversion. 

Hope you are all surviving and are well. Thinking of you all. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Farmer + Sheep + Lamb

Here's my Farmer working hard feeding hay to the sheep and lambs in the pole barn. This is a never ending job two to three times a day. It's good he doesn't mind repetition because this is a daily physical grind. 

Here are some more lamb and sheep photos from the barn. Lambs in all sizes!

I put up a second post earlier today with more process photos of my Knitted Farm Project from my World Knits PDF Collection's Ethnic Gift Collection. Check it out if you are interested in watching the progress. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Knitted Farm Progress

Last week, I shared the progress on my knitted Farmer and then told you about how he disappeared. After then re-knitting another farmer, the first knitted Farmer miraculously reappeared this week. So now there are two knitted Farmers. 

I've been knitting the animals for the Knitted Farm from the Ethnic Gift Collection PDF Pattern. Here are some process shots. In each photo, you can see all the pieces that need to be knit. The projects are done on double pointed needles. Once you get the hang of them, they are actually quite fun to work with. 

I used a worsted weight yarn but it doesn't matter what weight you use. The heavier the yarn, the bigger your Farm.

Here is the pig. 

Here is the sheep. It is the same as the pig but it is turned inside out part way through so the purl bumps simulate the texture of wool. 

Here is the cow. It is about twice as big as the sheep and pig. 

I spent an evening stuffing and sewing them together. Here's how the whole set looks right now. 

If you want to give these a try, you can purchase the pattern on my website HERE or on Ravelry HERE. It also includes a Christmas Stocking, Teddy Bear Sweater and a dog sweater. 

LIfe Goes On - Lambs Still Coming

It's a very foggy day here in western Massachusetts but it is supposed to be a nice sunny weekend. The geraniums I overwintered in my studio are starting to look more lively and beginning to put out blooms. I took a walk down into our pastures to check on the grass growth (nothing yet - still rather brown) and what life is there. The dogs loved it. My big takeaway was the lack of moisture in the fields. Usually I have to avoid certain places when I don't have boots on but not yesterday. Must be the lack of heavy snow this year. 

One of the things I look forward to so much in the spring is discovering the frog's eggs in the little ponds that the sheep drink out of during the summer. Each time I walk in the field, I wonder if they have been laid yet. Julia thinks I am nuts and has no interest in looking for frog spawn so I do it by myself. No spawn yet.

Yesterday I joined two conference calls with CISA, our local agriculture support organization which supports local food and farming. It was good to hear other voices and listen to how other farmers in our area are dealing with the Covid-19 situation. It's all a little overwhelming and there is so much uncertainty in every community throughout the world. The farming community is creative and good at boot strapping. Today, we are writing our legislators to let our voices be heard because honestly, our farm and family needs the farmers markets to open this year - once it is safe for customers and vendors. It's all very early and we will see how it will play out. Every day, I think of another way this crisis is effecting our country and world. I try not to think too much about it but I can't help it. 

Yesterday, I got back in my pottery studio and did some pottery decoration. I have a lot of already made pots to decorate and need to get busy with it. I turn on NEPR and listen to classical music all day long. If you like classical music, you can stream it here. They just started doing news updates at 10, noon, and 2. Before that, I didn't have to listen to what was going on in the world which was a bit of a respite to the news. 

Here are some photos of the sheep and lambs for you all. Enjoy. I'll be back with another update tomorrow.  Isn't this the sweetest brand new lamb?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

I've Made Some Moroccan Fedoras

I'm back again. I hope I can be of some distraction to you all in this time of uncertainty. Perhaps I can inspire you to pick up your knitting needles again, sit down in a cozy chair, turn off the news, put on a good movie or two and experiment with some colorful knitting.

Today, I want to share my newest Moroccan Fedora from the new World Knits PDF Collection available on my website here or on Ravelry here

This hat is one of the four different featured designs from this creative and colorful pattern. It is called the "Pillbox Cap" and it is a rather quick knit. Here is my reticent model Julia wearing it.

Here's another view.

And a closeup of the embroidery I added. 

You can see a short video of me steaming it here

I have been going through some of my textile books recently looking for inspiration for some new tea towel fabric designs. One of my most favorite books is called Silk and Cotton Textiles from the Central Asia That Was by Susan Meller (2013, Abrams). It is available on Amazon now for a very good price if this kind of book is your jazz. 

Susan Meller is an amazingly accomplished textile collector and author. I have all three of her inspiring books in my library and turn to them constantly for inspiration. You can check out her website hereThe riches of Silk and Cotton Textiles is astounding. There are essays by collectors, beautiful photos of embroidered, handwoven fabrics including ikats, a large selection of period photos from the early 1900's and so much more. I purchased this book when it was first published at $60. Now, as with all "old" books, the price has diminished into paperback pricing. If you are inspired by these kinds of fabrics and books and color ranges, I highly suggest you add it to your library. 

In my last pass through this tome, I stumbled upon pages of incredible handmade, embroidered hats worn by tribes in Central Asia. I couldn't believe the similarity in shape of many of these children's hats to my Pillbox Hat design. The intricacy of the embroidery on the hats was amazing and many could be used as your own inspiration for a Fedora or two using my Moroccan Fedora PDF Pattern as a base for your own design. 

In all of The World Knits Collection PDF Downloads, I include empty charts so that you can design your own project. There are also extra charts to try out which are not featured on any of the sample projects. 

My goal has always been to inspire knitters to create their very own designs. I really enjoy seeing what others have done using my patterns as "jumping off" points for their own color combinations, motifs, charts and designs. That is one of the most rewarding parts of being an author and teacher. For me, there is no right or wrong way to do things and I love to see how folks turn an idea into their own. 

So, here's what I challenge you to do during this crazy time in history... step out of your comfort zone and try a new pattern. Draw your own chart. Combine new and different colors. And send me photos of your successes or failures! As I see it, there are NO FAILURES - ONLY LEARNING EXPERIENCES FOR A FUTURE SUCCESS.  

Thank you Susan Meller for all the work you have put into your books and collections. They are priceless. 

The Moroccan Fedora PDF Pattern is available 
on my website here or 
on Ravelry here
Stay safe and well everyone and as Elizabeth said.... Knit On!

BTW, Meg Swansen emailed me recently to let me know that she has gotten her hands on 10 copies of Anatolian Knitting that I recently blogged about HERE. You can purchase on the Schoolhouse Press Website. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

What to do in this time of uncertainty? OMG - Knit a Farmer...

Hello all you fine folks! What a few weeks it has been and more to come. I don't have any sound advice to give you all in the wake of the coronavirus hitting our shores. No one knows how it will affect their families and friends and communities. It's all a bit crazy and out of the ordinary. I wish you and yours all the best as we struggle our way through the unknown. 

When all else fails, I say knit! I have been knitting a lot this winter. A few weeks ago, I wrote this hilarious post and then followed it up with this post. If you haven't read this blog in a while there is a lot to catch up on. I've been introducing the 15 patterns from World Knits Collection. I've been giving back-story to the different patterns and designs. All of the patterns are available by PDF Download on my website or over on Ravelry

These designs were all made almost 25 years ago over the span of 4 years. Unfortunately I have very few of the original designs. I've been going over the patterns and knitting some up. I'll post a few this week. Right now, I'm knitting a Farmer from The Ethnic Gift Collection. I found the original Farmwoman but could not find her mate. Here she is.....

She was a bit moth ravaged but I patched her up. Her apron lifts up to reveal a pocket and she can be used as a small purse or carrying bag. 

I looked high and low for her mate and could not find him anywhere. Here he is in progress. Sorry about some of the poorly lit photos. 

Two legs ready to be joined

Legs joined and hips knit

Belt knit

Chest begun

Neck shaped and head and hat begun. He has to be stuffed as you go because the knitting closes in on the pieces. I added some French knot buttons before doing the neck. 

The head is finished here and has been stuffed

The purl ridge is picked up and a brim is knitted for the hat

The arms are finished and ready to attach. A few ends to weave in. 

Here is my Farmer with facial features, laces, hair that needs to be trimmed. 

I took him down into my studio to my steamer to give him a little plump up and a hair trim. Guess what! He has disappeared. I cannot find him anywhere! Once again - I have looked high and low and he is in the miss. I'm wondering if one of the cats took him away. That is all I can think of. 

And so I began again. I knit another farmer. Here's what I have so far.......

The second one went much quicker than the first. I'm in a groove now. I'm going to keep knitting the Farm. 

To Be Continued........

Purchase the Eclectic Gift Collection on my website here or on Ravelry here

More tomorrow! 

Kittens and Cats and Girls

Our litter of beautiful kittens has all moved on to their new homes. In this difficult and unpredictable time we are living in, these kitte...