Well the powers-that-be seem to  be  listening to me. In keeping with their wicked sense of humor, last night around 2 am I met face to face with a real mountain lion in my own yard. It is a unique stomach-dropping sensation that occurs when you go from top of the food chain to the bottom rapidly.

What was I doing in the yard at 2 am? Remember if you will, Yarn Rascal is nocturnal. He lays siege all night to the yarn vault and in between plays with his toys and chews his bones or, if it’s been a particularly  good night in the yarn vault, he chews up the paper yarn ball bands. A busy dog, he drinks a bowlful or more of water at night. Therefore, he needs to go outside at all hours.

The mountain lion seemed to be passing through. We have a distinct animal trail that runs through our property. Lucky us. This morning I called the local DEP and the nature preserve to alert them but they already knew the lion was around. They said they “think” it is moving north back into areas that would be more suitable.

This is my first face to face with a mountain lion and I can say I do hope it is my last. It didn’t stop to acknowledge me or anything but you could tell by the way it moved it considered itself top of the list.

I am not looking forward to nightfall.

I don’t know why it is true but it is: Each time The Skipper steps out of the house things go south in a big way. Yesterday afternoon The Skipper was out and I thought I’d sit down to some quiet knitting on the SIL shawl. What with 20 rows left I was feeling pretty good about my knitting progress and I was careful not to say that aloud for fear the knitting gods would hear. I only thought it. Still I paid the price.

I had found a cozy position in the chair with the 500 plus stitch shawl in my lap. The television was on my regular news channel which I now watch with the sound off. It is so much better if you can’t hear what they are saying. Yarn Rascal was upstairs  breaching the yarn vault, banging on the doors to pop them open to gain entrance. All was well.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement out the picture window down by the pond. My knitting was in the middle of a lacey motif that I had to finish or else lose my place. But I just couldn’t keep my eyes from the pond where Hank had landed and was now stalking fish and frogs. A yelp of glee floated down the stairs letting me know Yarn Rascal had gained access to the yarn vault and just in that quick moment I lost count and my place in the lace motif.

Taking a deep breath, I put aside the knitting, got up and opened the sliding door to extend my hand and shake the handful of keys to move Hank out of the pond. Of course anytime a door to the outside opens Yarn Rascal is immediately there to add to the confusion. I shook the keys with one hand and kept Yarn Rascal inside by blocking all his attempts of escape with my leg.

When it was clear Hank was not going to move from the pond I opened the sliding door a little wider to step out. As I stepped out in rushed a chipmunk. He went between my feet and under Yarn Rascal racing for the living room. For Yarn Rascal, the next best thing to a cake of Shetland yarn is to have some live animal, other than himself, running around the house. In short, he was delighted beyond all reason that we now had a chipmunk in the house, while I was wishing The Skipper had never left.

Naturally, as all chipmunks probably do, the little creature headed straight for the knitting. It’s a big shawl. Lots of little places to hide in when placed in a heap. With the chipmunk under the shawl and Yarn Rascal on top of it digging, I could see disaster. I captured Yarn Rascal, detangled him and his nails from the shawl and fought the squiggling monster into another room and closed the door. While he yelped, barked, howled and hurled himself repeatedly at the door I took a moment to catch my breath. Next I decided to go back into the living room, grab up the shawl with the chipmunk in it and trying not to get bit, take it outside where I would unravel chipmunk and shawl.

I did just that. Got the shawl outside and viola! no chipmunk. The chipmunk was still somewhere in the house. How does one get a chipmunk out of the house? Darn if the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel didn’t pop into my head. A food trail might entice him back out the door. Thankfully The Skipper loves nuts. All kinds of nuts, so we keep a lot on hand. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, you name it we have it. I made a big, wide trail of most of the nuts we had. It went from the living room out the sliding glass door.

It took awhile, but along came the chipmunk and followed the nut trail. Of course The Skipper was now without any nuts. But as I told him it was the choice of having nuts and a chipmunk in the house or having no nuts and no chipmunk.

The shawl came out of the ordeal pretty well. A few snags that I can ease back into place and a loss of 10 rows, but no major damage. Yarn Rascal is no worse for the wear. He just loves a good adventure. As for The Skipper, he says he’s not going anywhere for a long while. That’s okay by me.

All Is Normal

Things are moving along.

Hank, the Great Blue Heron, is back in our pond. The heron statutes I thought were deterrents are no longer working. I hate to think I might have to go the alligator route. Percy, the osprey is also back. I am constantly picking up the fish parts he discards. As if this weren’t enough, two new players have emerged. A young buck that seems to think the area belongs to him. He stomps, snorts and rushes at me to claim his ground. It’s rutting time and bucks get a little crazy. I explained to him that if he continues in this manner he’s going to be chasing his teeth down the hill after I smack them out of his mouth. I can’t have him being aggressive when I am walking Yarn Rascal, though I must say whenever he sees Yarn Rascal he doesn’t charge. This leads me to believe this is the buck that as a baby, repeatedly played and touched noses with Yarn Rascal.

The second newcomer who wants to claim territory is a coyote. This is not good and I keep him moving whenever I see him. I’ve looked up coyote deterrents on Google and it seems that mountain lion urine is the suggested method. I have a few thoughts on this. How does one safely get urine from a mountain lion? Here kitty, kitty, urinate in the bottle just isn’t the right approach. On the other hand, luring a mountain lion onto your property so it can freely relieve itself doesn’t seem the correct approach either.

Nevertheless, the internet has tons of mountain lion urine for sale. We have 2 acres to cover, that’s a lot of mountain lion urine. Of course, how does one know if the mountain lion urine purchased is true mountain lion urine? Again, how does one acquire mountain lion urine and live to tell about it much less sell it in large quantities?

All this might lead you to think not much knitting is getting done. Untrue. The SIL shawl is about 30 long rows from being complete and I have designed a new baby sweater and hat set which I am tentatively calling Anastasia. I need to grade the outfit and then I’ll photograph it and look for test knitters.

In the meantime, the Shetland wool for my next project has arrived, much to Yarn Rascal’s delight. True Shetland wool is Yarn Rascal’s most favorite. I haven’t unpacked the wool yet because it would not be safe from Yarn Rascal. Instead I have hung the package from the ceiling of the yarn vault, sort of like a piñata, but high enough that Yarn Rascal can’t get it in his nightly forays into the vault. Still, he knows that it is there and he spends his evenings trying to reach it.

In summation, everything here is progressing normally.

The rip back of the sister-in-law shawl went quite well by masochistic standards. In the end, the farm table surface was too slick so I used an old door that I laid on the top of one of the couches and covered it with terry cloth towels. The towels helped hold the shawl in place, whereas it slid around too much on the farm table surface. The Skipper and Yarn Rascal were seated in their chair watching football. It was a terribly humid day so the yarn, which doesn’t normally stick to itself, was sticking to itself. But again, the towels helped hold the shawl in place so I could work out those areas of stickiness.

I had figured to rip about 15 to 17 rows of lace work and put a removable stitch marker on the center stitch two rows below where I wanted to stop. About 7 rows into the massive rip back I encountered a real sticking point. I had forgotten that I had joined another ball of yarn at that junction and in the manner of anyone with a good obsessive compulsive disorder over yarn ends hanging off projects I had woven in those suckers. Because I was terrorized in my youthful knitting days by an expert knitter–another story entirely–I have learned to weave in ends so that 1) you can’t see them and 2) they are locked in and won’t come out, thanks to a little trick I learned from that expert knitter. A strong spotlight and magnifying glass were employed as I tried to find those woven in ends and the point at which they were locked so I could carefully snip them loose and continue with the rip back. It was delicate surgery, the kind that rates right up there with brain surgery. Pull, snip or otherwise disturb the wrong bit of yarn and you’ve botched it.

I had followed one woven end to the lock point and was trying to decide which particular yarn needed snipping when the cricket showed up. One second I am bending over a shawl, the next I am face to face with a cricket that looks much larger than it is thanks to the magnifying glass. The folklore about crickets is that if they are in your house and alive that means good luck. If you kill it or it is dead that means bad luck. The cricket under the magnifying glass was clearly alive and did what crickets do: it chirped. This caused me to snip and the two sounds together drew a rather excited Yarn Rascal to the area. He trampled over the shawl chasing the cricket which had jumped onto the floor. My main concern now was not the shawl, but that Yarn Rascal not eat the cricket. As Yarn Rascal and the cricket and I chased each other, The Skipper lamented over not being able to watch one football game in peace. To snap The Skipper out of his lament I quickly pointed out that if Yarn Rascal ate the cricket it would mean a trip to the emergency vet and he would miss not only this game but the next one coming on too. This mobilized The Skipper into action and we finally caught Yarn Rascal. The cricket had escaped into a corner and disappeared.

With peace now restored, the football game blaring in the backround and The Skipper and Yarn Rascal seated once more in their chair, I returned to the delicate operation of ripping back the shawl. I picked up the shawl from the floor and carefully laid it back out. It was immediately clear that the rip back point had to be moved a few rows further down due to snags and a large hole that now replaced the area I had so carefully snipped. In addition, I had now lost count of the number of rows that had been ripped back and therefore lost my place on the seven charts that make up the pattern. In short, it was no longer a methodical, brain surgery kind of operation. It had become a rip the %&$!@*% thing back, pick up the stitches, find where I was in the charts and get on with it.

This attitude change made all the difference. I am now once again knitting on the shawl. The Skipper has watched two entire football games without being interrupted. The cricket still lives, chirping in the corner of the living room. Yarn Rascal is madly digging in the rug near the chirping sound. Peace has been restored.


Well it’s happened. In my last post I was bragging about how well the sister-in-law shawl was going and I ended by saying something foolish like the knitting would roll on smoothly like a steamboat on a river. I guess that last line really pushed the knitting powers-that-be over their edge.

Instead of easily knitting away today I am ripping back a full 17 rows of 500 plus stitches. If that’s not ouch worthy enough, the 17 rows are beyond the life line. Yep, I am flying without a net on this one. When I realized my mistake last night I did the only thing a respectable knitter could do: I took myself off to bed and wept for 15 minutes. Then I got up and paced the room for 20 more minutes. Once the hysteria settled down, I sat on the edge of the bed and felt drained. The end of the shawl had been in sight, I just needed to navigate two more pages of charts. Ye gods! I say it is unfair. But knitting, like life, is seldom fair.

At the deepest part of night, with Yarn Rascal running up and down the hall with yet another skein of yarn stolen from the yarn vault, I came up with a plan. I needed to find a large flat surface that is high enough to prevent Yarn Rascal from getting on it to help me, but at a comfortable height for me to work. We have a farmhouse table that we use for eating on. If I remove all the chairs so the little darling can’t jump from floor to chair to table this might work. The plan is to lay the shawl out flat on the table and slowly rip out the offending rows. The life line will be threaded on the yarn needle ready to catch all the little stitches at the correct row. The correct row will be marked with a removable stitch marker. This is my dream, at least.

Before I attempt this operation I am going to meditate and do some deep breathing exercises. I want to be in the proper frame of mind and relaxed. In the meantime, Yarn Rascal has been stalking the area where the shawl resides in its crumbled mess. He senses something big is going to happen. Wish me luck.

I say this, not to antagonize the knitting-gods-that-be, but my current lace shawl project is not as masochistic as it could be and I am instead constantly thinking about undertaking a real Shetland Shawl project. Hence the next debacle project on my needles will be the Cameron Shawl by Susan Miller created on US 3 needles in lace weight Shetland yarn. It’s the kind of yarn that doesn’t rip back at all.


Let me clarify what I mean by “not as masochistic as it could be”. I still have three full lace charts to work in which anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong. I have, for instance, ripped out the current row of 500 plus stitches three times, only to make yet another mistake so it’s up to four rip backs. I have been so tense relaxed while knitting this particular chart that I have gotten lymphedema in my left arm (the mastectomy side) which has made me lose three days of knitting in order to lessen the swelling. Those days were given over to specific arm exercises, lymphedema massage to help drain the fluid, and wearing a lymphedema sleeve that fits so tight that it activates my claustrophobia and sends me into a panic state. Still, I am determined to take on the Cameron Shawl.

Why? Because I want to move out of my comfort zone in knitting. I want to test and expand my lace knitting skills and I have always thought a Shetland Lace Shawl is a true test of one’s knitting prowess. The only way for me to grow as a knitter is to keep moving beyond what I am comfortable with and know about. Yes there will be mistakes, perhaps even tears and a lot of frustration, but I think it will all be worth it (in a kind of nervous breakdown way) to learn something new and challenge my skills to step it up a notch.

I don’t knit to be bored. I like to be excited with what is being produced by my yarn and needles. I think this Cameron Shawl will shake things up a bit. For now, the work is on the current shawl which needs a few rows ripped back because I really don’t know what happened on the left hand side of the spine but it doesn’t look like the right hand side. After I get that figured out, I’ll be rolling like a steamboat on a river.

MIL Shawl Done

Knitted lace looks so much better after it is blocked. The MIL stole is done and was sent to her just in time for her birthday.

estonian garden shawl knit 1

She loves the Estonian Garden Shawl. This was knit with MadelineTosh Lace in the Antique Lace colorway.

estonian garden shawl knit 2

As always with MadelineTosh yarns I loved working with it. While it looked like a hot mess before blocking and I wasn’t sure I’d chosen the right color, all that uncertainty faded away when blocked.

estonian garden shawl knit 3

The nupps were not difficult at all. The key to nupp making is when wrapping the yarn around the needle wrap it gently by just laying it over the needle. Then on the reverse side when it comes to purl 5 together it is easy to slip the needle into the stitches and accomplish the nupp. This way the nupp is neither too tight nor too loose.

I am currently working on my sister-in-law’s shawl. I am using MadelineTosh Light, a heavier yarn weight than the lace in the Happiness colorway which is exclusive to Happy Knits yarn shop in Portland Oregon.

pothos knit shawl

This is the third project I’ve used this colorway on and I just love it. If happiness were a color this would be it.

Although the project looks like a hot mess it is just in need of a blocking. The shawl is Pothos by Anne Hanson.

I know I have been quiet lately, but a lot has been going on in the background with the health of my parents.

Anyway…today’s masochistic knitting question: When is a lifeline not a lifeline? Answer: When it’s holding the incorrect number of stitches due to missed yarnovers and decreases. How to prevent this? Always count your stitches before you move your lifeline.

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