About a Doll, a Baby, and a Naughty Kitty

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been a bit lacking in my blogging mojo lately… but I HAVE been saving up some photos of some finished projects that I’ve had fun making during the last couple of months:

1. About a Doll.
For my niece’s Pixie Doll, I made a few accessories: a combination flannel/knitted nightgown, a crocheted ballet tutu, a flower crown (I made a big version for her as well) and a pet bunny.

knitted doll accessories

I probably should have shared this bunny pattern before Easter, because I think it’s way too cute…

knitted bunny

2. About a Baby.
I finally got the chance to make something for a baby again! I was excited to be invited to my Cousin’s baby shower… and even more excited that he is expecting a girl, because I’ve wanted to make this sweet dress ever since I bought this book, Easy Baby Knits by Claire Montgomerie. I love this book so much… I’ve made many of the items in here, but not this one yet. It was a joy to knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.

knitted baby dress

Her nursery theme has elephants in it, so of course I had to make her a crocheted baby elephant as well. This pattern was very quick and easy… relatively.

crochet baby elephant

3. About a Naughty Kitty.
From the very first moment we brought our kittens home, I knew that under NO circumstances could I ever let them play with yarn, because then it would be GAME OVER for my knitting. And they’ve actually done admirably well with leaving it alone. Every once in awhile they will bat at a strand as I’m knitting, and have even bit through it a time or two… but I always quickly break up the game, and I’ve had very little issues. However, ever since I started spinning and bringing home fiber, it’s been a different story. I’m not really sure why… I think it started when Butterfly got her paws on a roving braid… cashmere mix of course, (she has good taste) and it responded a bit like one of their cat toys, so she started dragging it around. It could also be that raw fiber is SO soft, and they are drawn to anything soft and warm like a magnet. Whatever the cause, the result is that now I can’t leave ANY fiber out EVER, or both cats (but especially Butterfly) will be tearing into it. And I mean literally TEARING. I started keeping it in ziplock bags, but they quickly figured out how to tear those open and it’s become part of the game. I then got a big tupperware box to keep it in, but Butterfly figured out how to push open the edge enough to get her claws in and pull it out. So now it has to be in the laundry room… the only room they aren’t allowed in… unless I am currently spinning it. Even then, I can’t step out of the room for even a minute or they will be all over it. So annoying!!! At least they can’t completely destroy it… usually nothing a little carding can’t fix. Here is the bandit (or should I say vandal), caught in the act:

naughty kitty

This is some lovely kid mohair. She’s almost as obsessed with it as I am! If I can keep her out of the fiber long enough to share about my latest spinning experiments, I plan to post about that next. I’ve been doing some fun things with silk… blending it and plying it with woolen spun singles of other fibers, and I’m really enjoying working with it. Worms really don’t get enough respect!

pixie’s knitted heidi dress and cat

Mae’s surprise knitted birthday doll’s wardrobe is expanding. I absolutely LOVE this pattern: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pixies-favourite-heidi-dress-and-little-red-winter-hood

Claire Garland is a knitting genius, even if she does have quite a few small errors in her patterns, I don’t care, geniuses are like that sometimes… they can’t be bothered with the details.

And now Pixie has a friend as well… modeled after our sweet Lola cat. This pattern can be found in this book (I borrowed it from the library) : Knit and Purl Pets

The cats love her too, and the white pillow they are sitting against in the photos was made by Mae. 🙂

In chicken land (was that what this blog was supposed to be all about?) we are all loving the warmer weather and longer days. It still surprises me how much the hens enjoy sitting with us on the hammock. They really can’t stand more than a quick pet when they’re running around the yard, but on the hammock they let us pet and hug them to the contentment of all. Cleo almost fell asleep the other evening while Mae was rocking us, cuddled up against my side. I wonder why the difference? Is it perhaps because we are at eye level, instead of descending from above… like a potential predator? And maybe because it feels like we are roosting with them, fellow chickens swaying together in the branches of a tree?

free range easter eggs

This was our first year making Easter eggs from our backyard chicken eggs. Since they are fresh, we steam cooked them, hearing that this makes them easier to peel. We shall see.

free-range-eggs-steam

I was also uncertain how their brown color would look with the Easter egg dyes applied. We totally LOVED the colors we got. Such rich jewel tones, I’m never going back to plain old pastel white eggs. The kids didn’t even want to add any extra decorations to them (ie. stickers) they liked how they turned out so much. We did get our colors leftover from our neighbors, who had put a bit of glitter in, and lot’s of vinegar, so that helped as well.

brown free range colored easter eggs

Then, while the kids weren’t watching, I sneaked all of the tiny knitted animals I made for them into the basket to see how they looked. I really like how they turned out. I made chickens and baby bunnies, but then I had to branch out to a few more exotic animals: a lion, penguin & polar bear.

easter-basket-knitted-animals

Of course, Lola always gets a sneak peek of everything I make for the kids.

cat peeking in easter basket

It was such a gorgeous day today… 75 degrees, sunny and warm. This never happens here on Easter weekend. Usually it’s cold and rainy. So we had to celebrate by breaking out the hammock in the backyard. The hens even enjoyed sitting on it with us.

hammock-hens

Happy Easter To All!!!

mama hen egg cosy… free pattern

What I originally set out to make before I became thoroughly distracted by the tiny chicken pattern was an egg cosy for my kids’ Easter eggs. I couldn’t find exactly what I was envisioning, nothing nearly cute enough to match the cuteness of the tiny chickens, so I looked to some of the other patterns for inspiration and then created my own. Of course I had to match the style of my tiny chickens as closely as possible. I’m now planning to put the tiny chickens in plastic easter eggs under the egg cosies, so the kids can let them hatch again and again.

knitted egg cosy

egg-cosies5

I’ve never publicly published a pattern I’ve created before, so this will probably not come across as completely professional, but it was so fun to make and I liked how it turned out, so I wanted to share it.

Yarn: A small amount of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (or similar) 100% wool in whatever colors you want for body, comb & beak (I used a pale yellow & light turquoise for the bodies, deep red for the combs, and dark orange for the beaks, with a bit of black silk/alpaca mix yarn for the eyes)
Needles: size 2 (2.75 mm) double points or long circular using magic loop method (my personal preference)

Body:
CO 40 stitches with the main color.
K4, P4 (5 times) and join in the round.
Continue pattern for 8 rows.
Change to K all the way around for 16 rows (I did 12 rows here for the yellow hen, but I found I liked a little more egg coverage).
Bind off 24 stitches
.
K 16 stitches and join these in the round for neck
.
K 8 rows.
K2tog 8 times (8 stitches)
.
K2tog 4 times (4 stitches)
.
Break yarn and thread through 4 stitches, pull closed.

Finishing body:
Mattress stitch at base of neck along the back for 8 stitches with edges tucked in, then pull edges up to be visible and lightly close by sewing a running stitch back and forth underneath the edges. This gives a slightly raised look to the tail.

Wings: (make 2)
With the main color, starting 5 stitches down from the top of the back, and 6 stitches from the tail end, pick up and knit 8 stitches.
Row 2: Knit (starting a garter stitch).
Row 3: K2tog, K 4, K2tog (6 stitches).
Row 4: Knit.
Row 5: K2tog, K 2, K2tog (4 stitches.)
Row 6: Knit
Break yarn and thread through 4 stitches and pull closed. Weave in loose ends.

Comb:
Pick up and knit 4 stitches along the top of head with red yarn.

comb1

Row 2: Knit
.
Row 3: Knit
.
Bind off.

On one side of the head there will be stitches of the body color showing through, so cover these with the red yarn by looping over them when you weave the ends in.

comb2

Eyes:
About 3 stitches from comb and 4 stitches from front of head, wrap one stitch with black yarn 3 times. Repeat on the other side of the head.

Beak:
With orange yarn, starting 1 stitch below eyes at the front of the head, pick up and knit 2 stitches down vertically.

beak1

Using iCord method knit 3 rows.

beak
Break yarn, thread through 2 stitches and pull closed.
Weave in loose ends back toward head, and weave a couple more times around the base of the beak to make it a bit triangular.

Wattle:
Just below beak, pick up and knit 2 stitches down vertically.
Using iCord method, Knit 2 rows.
Break yarn, thread through 2 stitches and weave in loose ends back to head.

wattle

Finish head by lightly stuffing it, and weave some of the loose ends from the embroidery underneath the stuffing back and forth lightly to secure it.

Place cozy over plastic egg or hard-boiled egg. It looks best with the pointy end toward the tail. This would also work well to keep a cooked egg warm and cozy.

egg-cosies2

egg-cosies3

egg-cosies4

Hopefully they will make it to Easter. My cats seem to have adopted them:

cosies-butterfly cosies-lola

hexipuff madness

I went a little crazy designing and embroidering hexipuffs for my Beekeeper’s Quilt this week, so I wanted to add these patterns to my growing collection. Feel free to use them and customize them as desired! First off, the bees. I couldn’t decide which pattern I liked best, and the kids had differing opinions, so I did up both of them, and put them on my yummiest looking hand-painted lavender yarn puffs. These were inspired by Laura Rittenhouse’s bee photos, so there you go Laura.. your bees have now been immortalized into my quilt!

bee hexipuff pattern

Then I had to do our chickens how they looked as chicks:

hexipuff pattern chicks

Then I did one of our cockerels, how they would have looked as full grown barred rock roosters, and added him to my chicken collection. I used thinner black yarn on top of a white background to achieve the speckled look.

hexipuff patterns chickens

Then I did the guinea pigs:

guinea pigs hexipuff

and the kids:

kids hexipuff pattern

and our chocolate lab of 11 years:

hexipuff pattern dog chocolate lab puppy

and Mae really wanted me to do her hibernating wooly bear caterpillar (at least we hope it’s hibernating).

catepillar

So here are all of the hexipuffs I’ve embroidered so far:

all-embroidered

And when I tie them all together I’ll probably scatter them around like this. I’m up to 63 hexipuffs now!

beekeeper quilt hexipuffs

Here are the embroidery charts for anyone interested. Notes: I added my ideal Cleo chick pattern, with an additional medium brown shade, which I didn’t have at the time. And the larger bee should be embroidered with the hexipuff upside down if you want it to come out centered:

hexipuff hens

A few months ago I started working on the Beekeeper’s Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits. Normally I shy away from huge knitting projects like blankets, but this was way too cute and interesting not to attempt it. You just knit these little hexagon shaped pillows with whatever spare sock yarn you have on hand, then you get a nice sense of completion and you can tuck them away until you get enough to tie them together into a patchwork quilt, no lining necessary, since you stuff them as you go. So far I have just over 50 finished, and the pattern estimates around 400 are needed for a lap quilt, so… it’s going to take some time. But that’s OK, the joy is definitely in the journey for this project, and I have the feeling it’s going to end up being a sort of family heirloom. There are many people around the world working on it and coming up with interesting ways to embellish and embroider them, and this gave me the idea to make it even more personal by embroidering things into them that mean something to our family. I started with our hens, of course, and I even included Fluffy, our pullet that we lost to a predator. It was fun to imagine what she’d look like all grown up with Gloria and Cleo:

hexipuff-hens

Then I made a couple for our cats as well. Butterfly turned out more like a Tiger, but my husband says that’s appropriate:

hexipuff-cats

Here they are all piled together:

hexipuff-animals-pile

And here’s what they’ll start looking like when it’s all put together:

beekeepers-quilt-animals

beekeepers-quilt-hexipuff-animals

Just like a beehive! So I’ll probably have to include a bee or two, and our guinea pigs, and now the kids say they want to be included, so that should be interesting. I’m having a lot of fun making up these embroidery patterns, so I thought I’d share them in case anyone else would like to use them for this project or a different one. I think they would also work well for cross-stitch. I’ll add more as I go!

morning walks

I love my morning walks. I also hate getting out of bed in the morning 30 minutes earlier than absolutely necessary. I always have to give myself a pep talk: “Don’t think about it, just get out of bed”, “You’ll be glad you did it later in the day”, etc… but once I’m up and out the door, I really do love it. Even if it’s dark and rainy and cold, it’s worth it. It helps me keep my sanity, clear my head, improve my posture, which saves my back, and it keeps me healthy… physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s also a rare time I can separate from my children and their constant needs, as well as my working life, and just BE. But lately my 5 going on 15 year old daughter has been begging me to take her with her. This is not new, but it’s getting more persistent, and she’s finally getting to the age where she could possibly keep up, so I thought we could give it a try (grudgingly releasing my hold on the alone time part of it). So, last Saturday we took a test walk. She almost immediately asked if we could make a stop at a coffee shop. “Not this time, we need to keep walking and get our heart rates up.” “But I’m SO thirsty for hot chocolate,” she complains. “When we get home, I’ll make you some,” I say. Then she asks to stop at the playground in the park. I say, “I told you, if you want to do these kinds of walks with me, we can’t stop, we need to keep walking.” She starts dragging her feet, and I’m nowhere close to getting my heart rate up. “What about running?” I say. “You like to run.” So she starts running. This is more like it. Now I’m trying to keep up with her and getting a fast walk going. She even turns it into a game by racing me to the end of each block (I always let her win), and we make it all the way home like that. Cool! This is maybe going to work after all, I think. On Monday, I get up to walk again. It is a school day, it’s pouring down rain and super dark, and I really hate to wake her up when her days are so long already, so I sneak out without her. When I get home, she meets me at the door with tears pouring down her cheeks. “Mom, I thought you were going to let me walk with you!” she sobs. We cuddle on the couch for awhile as I tell her my reasons for not waking her up early, and I show her how soaking wet I am, which of course she already knows from throwing her arms around me as soon as I walked in the door. “Are you really sure you want to go with me next time? Even though it’s dark and wet and cold and super early?” “Yes”, she says stubbornly. So we make a plan to lay out warm clothes the night before, and I tell her she’ll have to get dressed quickly, etc. Then, the following day, I wake her up and she quickly hops out of bed and gets dressed. We walk out the door and get 1/2 block away before she says,”Is it the middle of the night?” “No, it’s just really early in the morning, the sun won’t come up for another 1 1/2 hours.” Then we get about 3 blocks, and she says, “I think I want to go back to bed now.” “Really?” I ask. “Sometimes I need to go a little bit further before I really wake up.” “No, I’m sure,” she says. So I walk her back home, telling her that it’s probably better that we take our walks together on the weekends, when it’s light out, and we can maybe stop at a coffee shop, or the playground. Then I head back out to finish the walk on my own. She hasn’t asked to go with me again in the mornings, realizing that I was right about the early hour, and I’m proud of my parenting decision to let her discover this on her own. But I can’t help feeling a little bit smug, getting my alone time back and walking at my own pace again. At least during the weekdays.

how could I say no???

how could I say no to this supergirl???

The hens have also been quite anxious for their morning walks around the mud pit that used to be our backyard. Like Mae, they would not prefer to come out while it is still dark, but at the crack of dawn, they’ve been squawking their little heads off to be let out of their coop. I swear, it’s almost like we have a rooster, and I really hope the neighbors don’t start complaining.

hens-mud

The cats are quite sympathetic to their desires, especially as we’ve been getting some nice February “spring-tease” weather here these last few days. They’ve been sitting in the windows, soaking up as much of the flighty sun as possible, and probably daydreaming about getting out there and chasing after those lucky chooks!

butterfly-sun

lola-sun

Favorite Fellow Bloggers!!!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been keeping a list of my favorite blogs on the sidebar of my home page. I’ve just updated to include some new favorites, so check it out! I’m so grateful to all of you for your fabulous posts, as well as your conversations on my posts. They’ve been so helpful, interesting, inspiring, and funny. You’ve all kept me entertained and supported on this crazy journey of raising my kids and animals and trying to enjoy life in general! I never thought I’d find such a great community of friends from around the world when I started this blog. I thought it would just be a fun way to journal about keeping chickens, and maybe update a few friends along the way, but it’s become so much more!!! Thanks again to all of you fellow bloggers and to all of my faithful readers as well! xo

poncho progress

Thanks to all of you who helped me decide on a pattern! I ended up choosing #2 with yarn that’s fuzzy like #5, and it’s going pretty well, and VERY quickly. Using doubled yarn on size 11 needles really helps. I’m almost ready to bind off and attach the fringe:

poncho-progress

Lola seems to approve, so if my fickle daughter doesn’t like it, I guess I can make a cat blanket out of it. 🙂

lola-poncho