Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

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Review: The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons; and, a Giveaway!

Filed under: Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 3:28 pm on Friday, August 24, 2007

yg knitting seasons.jpgThe other book I’ve been sent a review copy of recently is The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons, by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs.

I have heard of the Yarn Girls before, but this is my first exposure to their books. As I understand them, their designs are targeted at new knitters, with each book introducing somewhat more ambitious projects than those before.

Knits for All Seasons contains a lot of classic designs. Nothing here is going to turn the fashion world on its head, but there are many timeless styles that you can knit today, and still wear in twenty years. Or keep the book around, and knit them twenty years from now.

What doesnt’ work

Of course, this only works if the patterns fit you, or if you’re skilled enough to size them up. I mentioned yesterday that I am a large sized woman. Clearly, Knits for All Seasons didn’t have me in mind when creating their patterns – most of the women’s garments only knit to 42″ or less at the chest. When you consider that’s the finished measurement of the garment, and you must allow for ease as well….we’re talking about projects that, at best, I would have to size up by over fifty percent to wear. Might as well design my own from scratch at that point!

Of course, you can only figure out those measurements by taking the one number they give you – the finished width of the garment at the chest, not the circumference of the chest – and doubling it. Why, if you’re a book for less experienced knitters, would you require that your readers take that extra step? No pattern tells you what real body bust measurements each size is intended for, and in fact, the only size references given are XS, S, M, and L for women, and S, M, L, and XL for men.

Yarns for each pattern are specified by brand, which is good. But what if you want to make substitutions – or are forced to because your LYS doesn’t carry a yarn, or because it’s discontinued? No guidance other than gauge is given for the weight of the yarns needed, and in many cases the yarns are knit doubled, which would have to be accounted for in estimating the weight used. I searched the introduction, and couldn’t even find a suggestion that you ask your LYS owner or an experienced knitting friend for help with substituting yarns.

While the instructions are generally okay, there are places where the reader is left hanging. Zippered cardigans have good finishing instructions (with good step-by-step illustrations in the back of the book), but then end with a simple statement to “Sew in zipper.” No suggestions about how and where to place the zipper in relationship to the edge of the sweater front. No help regarding what thread to sew it in with, or a preferred stitch to use.

What does work

Each pattern has a schematic drawing of the main pieces, showing all the important measurements – an essential guide to making sure the piece you’re knitting meets the expectations of the pattern. As for putting your sweaters together, there’s a well-illustrated, step-by-step guide in the Finishing Techniques section at the back which covers most of the needed procedures. (Sadly, though, not sewing in zippers.)

The garments are all photographed on real people, and those photos are clearly unretouched – freckles and imperfections on the models are all intact. Some of the garments fit the models better than others – there is at least one sweater where you can see the model’s chest was a bit larger than the size knit, and the sweater pulls and stretches badly at the corners of the v-neck. Mostly, however, the sweaters look reasonably good, if sometimes a little frumpy, on the bodies wearing them.

All that being said, there are, as I mentioned before, many designs that will stay classic for years. Here are some of my favorites:

Nancy's Knit
Nancy’s Knit

This is the very first project in the book, in the Spring section. The yarn is Alchemy Synchronicity, a 50/50 silk/wool blend. The color they chose, Waterlily, may be my reason for liking this one, at least as much as the 3/4 sleeves, the diagonal rib, and the boat neck. The only shaping required is for the set-in sleeves, which would make this an easy knit for a beginner.

Suzanne's Bright Idea
Suzanne’s Bright Idea

This may be the cutest pattern in the whole book. Found, of course, in the Summer section, this great little dress is knit from Tahki Dream, an 80/20 wool/nylon blend, held doubled. Minimal shaping makes it an easy knit, and the contrasting hem is even folded to the inside to give a more finished look, and a little weight for better drape.

Olivia's Sweatshirt
Olivia’s Sweatshirt

This actually struck me as a good, attractive, yet functional garment. The yarn is Crystal Palace Merino Frappe. There are lined pockets, and a hood. Minimal shaping again, only the set-in sleeves. Still an easy knit, just more pieces to make. I can see this becoming a comfy, everyday jacket.

The Catwalk Cable
The Catwalk Cable

Preppy style all the way! I think this may have been a little large for the model – what looks like drop shoulders are actually set-in sleeves, suggesting the shoulders of the sweater are a little too broad for the girl wearing it. Otherwise, there’s a lot of nice texture, and though there are three types of cables, they’re all of the simple rope variety – just crossed in different directions and widths.

Other Projects

There are 8 sweaters for men in this book as well. Some of them are nice, comfy-looking, bumming around types. None of them stood out to me as “nice enough to wear to the office on Casual Friday,” however. And I felt all were a bit lacking in imagination when it came to colors and textures.

There are also 8 different accessory projects. None of them impressed me much – one was a garter-stitch belt so simple, the instructions were nothing more than how many stitches to cast on, and a directive to knit to the desired length. Oh, and how to add fringe to each end. Your mileage may vary, of course – there is a beach tote in the Summer section that almost twinges my knitting fingers, but not quite.

All things considered

The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons is a flawed book, and may trip up the apparently intended audience of less experienced knitters. On the other hand, if readers can remember to ask for help from a more experienced knitter if they need it, there are many classic designs here that can be worn – and knitted – for years to come.

Keep in mind the sizing, though. This is not for the zaftig, or even the reubenesque. If you’re among the fortunate who have kept their size down, or if you often knit for teenage girls, this book may be worth picking up, but if you or your target recipient is built like the Venus of Willendorf, as I am, I’d pass it by.

I really wanted to like this book more than I do. I’m just not who it’s meant for.

Giveaway time!

That being said, I don’t have a need for this book in my library – no teenagers around here to knit for! But maybe there is one among you who would like to have it? If so, just leave a comment on this post before noon, Eastern time, on Monday, August 27th, and I’ll enter you into the random drawing. The winner will receive The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons absolutely free.

Mention this giveaway and link to this post from your own blog, and I’ll enter your name in the hat a second time. Just be sure to tell me you did!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and good luck!

Ack! I’ve been Meme-tagged!

Filed under: Blogfriends — folkcat at 10:30 pm on Thursday, August 23, 2007

Elspeth caught me, she did. I don’t normally care for memes, but this one is pretty simple, and actually a bit fun. So here goes!

The game is SCATTERGORIES … and it’s harder than it looks! Here are the rules:
* Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the questions.
* They MUST be real places, names, things … NOTHING made up!
* If you can’t think of anything, skip it.
* You CAN’T use your name for the boy/girl name question.
* If your name happens to start with the same letter as mine, sorry, but you can’t use my answers!

My name:Jenny

  1. Famous Singer/Band: Jewel
  2. Four letter word: jazz
  3. Street: Jump (For real – three of them, in Bucyrus, OH, and in Pasco and Collier, FL)
  4. Color: Jonquil
  5. Gifts/Presents: Jewelry
  6. Vehicle: Jetta
  7. Things in a Souvenir Shop: Jelly (or Jam)
  8. Boy Name: Jonathon
  9. Girl Name: Jessica
  10. Movie Title: Jumanji
  11. Drink: Juice
  12. Occupation: Jazz singer
  13. Celebrity: Jennifer Anniston
  14. Magazine: Jet
  15. U.S. City: Juneau, Alaska
  16. Pro Sports Teams: Utah Jazz (Jazz is a useful J-word!)
  17. Fruit: Jamun Berry
  18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Just Because
  19. Something You Throw Away: Junk
  20. Things You Shout: Jumpin’ Jehosephat!
  21. Cartoon Character: Samurai Jack

Okay, I’ll admit to using my Google-fu in places. Could never have come up with a fruit starting with “J” otherwise, and I’m clueless about sports teams!

I’m not going to tag anyone – this is making the rounds pretty well. But if you feel like playing along, go for it!

Review: Romantic Hand Knits

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 1:27 pm on Thursday, August 23, 2007

Romantic Hand Knits by Annie ModesittLet’s just start by saying that I’m always going to have a built-in bias when I review knitting books that mostly contain garment patterns.

I’m a large woman. No, I mean it – really large. Let’s just say that my bust measurement is 57 inches, and the waist and hip measurements aren’t far off that. I’m the definitive example of the apple-shaped physique.

How’s that for an honest beginning? Not many people would admit to those dimensions, but they’re mine, and they are a significant factor if I’m going to consider a book of garment patterns. Not many designers create for much larger than a 40″ chest. Which puts them over two feet short of hitting a home run with me.

And so, it’s a size-biased eye that I turn to the first of this week’s knitting book reviews: Annie Modesitt’s Romantic Hand Knits. The burning question is: how does it measure up to my needs?

The answer is surprisingly well! A cursory glance through the patterns revealed that a fair number of them are sized up to at least a 56 inch bust, meaning that modifications for an extra inch would either be easy, or completely unnecessary, depending on the ease of the fit. There are even a number of sweaters I might consider knitting for myself.

As other reviews I’ve seen have mentioned, Annie does a magnificent job of both designing an attractive, complex-looking knit, and writing a pattern that explains it so clearly you feel like you could, actually, knit it.

Full sizing information is given, making it easy to see how much ease is designed in, and what the end results should be. Materials call out specific yarns by brand and color, giving exact quantities in both English and metric measurements, but they also specify the weight of the yarn if you want to substitute (and we all do that!).

Where there are fancy stitch patterns, both text and chart instructions are given. Some like one, some like the other – I prefer to have both, because the text can serve as a proof for the chart, and vice-versa.

Special techniques, such as embroidery or millinery, are described in sections near their first use in the book, making them easy to find and reference.

All of this adds up to making this a good book for either experienced knitters, or adventurous beginners who aren’t afraid to trust the instructions. Either would find they could create awe-inspiring projects from this book with little trouble.

But on to the projects I liked, the ones I might actually consider knitting. Please forgive the slightly elongated look of the photos. I find it easier to take a picture of the pages, rather than scanning them.

Romantic Hand Knits - The Heiress
The Heiress

This one comes in sizes up to a 56″ bust (58 3/4″ finished measurement). Fairly tight ease, but adjusting up for a 57″ bust should be easy – just the slightest change in gauge, and I’m golden. I don’t normally wear anything this frilly, but at it’s roots, this is a very nice ribbed cardigan. I could leave off the lacy edgings and embroidery and have a good everyday sweater. Or I could do the lace in the same color as the sweater, adding a slight, but less obvious, frill. Or I could go for broke, and make the fully frilled version as shown, which would help me bust down a few walls in my usual style choices.

Two For The Road
Two For The Road

This one’s a little short-waisted for me, but it should be easier to just knit the body longer. The pattern sizes up to a 54″ bust, with a 60″ finished measurement. If I don’t mind less ease than designed, I could knit it as is, or, again, it should be easy to size up just a skootch.

The really clever thing about this pattern is that the sweater is knit with two sportweight yarns held together – a solid, and a handpaint. Then, when you get to the collar, each is used separately to create a lacy, ruffly, layered effect, with the solid highlighting the neck and face nicely.

There’s a lot of potential in this idea, even if I don’t knit this sweater.

The Bishop's Wife
The Bishop’s Wife

Here’s one that I don’t think I’d wind up knitting, but I think it’s beautiful and classic. (I just don’t wear dresses often enough to justify the time involved.) Not many people think in terms of knitting such a dress these days, but I hope Annie convinces some of them otherwise with The Bishop’s Wife.

There are many nice accessories in the book, too. Scarves, shawls, hats, mitts.

Gigi
Gigi

Gigi looks like a lovely, quick to knit scarf. Lightly lacy, with an undulating wide rib, this looks like it has a nice drape. Sadly, the photo above is the only one in the book – I would love to have seen this all stretched out to display the pattern better.

The Wavy Lace stitch that’s used, as with all other stitch patterns in the book, is given in both text and chart instructions. As well, Annie promises that “after the first few rows you’ll memorize the pattern and find it much easier than you might think!” Looks like this would be a great project for a beginner who wants to dip their toes in the lace pool, or a quick knit for anyone to give as a gift.

One place where Annie really stretches the knitting envelope is with hats. Yes, hats! She gives two patterns for lovely, tea party dressy hats. I liked Gone With The Wind, with its wide brim and classic black and white striping, combined with a lacy brim.

Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind

It’s another project I’m not likely to make for myself. Though I must remember that it’s only last year I was hoping to find a knitting pattern for a sunhat to give to a friend! Something like Gone With The Wind, combined with Annie’s excellent millinery instructions, would have answered that call brilliantly.

Romantic Hand Knits is my first significant exposure to Annie’s design sensibility (I don’t read the magazines), and I have to say, I’m thoroughly impressed with the woman’s eye. And her talent at writing a good pattern, too. It’s one thing to be able to create a jaw-dropping sweater or dress, it’s another altogether to be able to explain how you did it in a way that any brave knitter can replicate. Kudos to Annie!

Coming Tomorrow:

My review of The Yarn Girls Guide to Knits for All Seasons. How do they measure up to my standards? I’ll let you know.

I’ll also announce the giveaway – what’s at stake, and how you can enter. Be sure to come back!

Finally, a Good Start; and, New Toy!

Filed under: Blog Admin,Knitting,Rats!,Video Clips — folkcat at 3:43 pm on Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Last night I made a fresh attempt at my latest socks – Socks for Folkcat, Pair Three, Sock One (SF:P3S1), and actually got somewhere!

SF:P3S1; Toe Done

The yarn is Fortissima Socka Mexiko Country Colors, #14 (Serengeti). I’m loving how this knits up! The background colors run long enough that even on my extra-wide foot, the stripes are wide enough to count. And I adore how the other blotches of color come into play, creating splashes and dashes here and there. I think there may be more yarn from this product line in my future.

New Toy!

We love the gadgets here, both me and Gryphon. Our cellphone carrier is Verizon Wireless, and every two years, they let you get a new phone (from a specified list) for free! Our two years were up recently, and here’s what I got:
Jen's enV
LG enV

From what I can gather, this is one of the cool phones from last year. (The iPhone, of course, has blown all other cool phones out of the water. Ask my brother!) It’s not just a phone with a qwerty keyboard, it’s also a 2-megapixel camera.

That’s as much power as the Olympus camera I bought myself about 9 years ago, for over $900. (It was a bargain at the time!) Okay, the Olympus still takes higher quality pictures, and will still be the go-to camera for most blog purposes. The phone, on the other hand, is more likely to be with me almost all the time, and it will let me do something the Olympus won’t – e-mail or message the pictures to flickr, direct to the blog, or to friends.

One of the coolest features about this phone – I can take videos with it, up to an hour long! The image quality isn’t the best, but it’s a chance to at least occasionally show you cute Ratties in motion! (I promise, I won’t abuse the opportunity by inundating the blog with rat videos!)

Here, then, is your first chance to see the new girl, Lola, in all her hyperactive glory:

Notice, at about the 1-minute to go mark, how I say “Go see Daddy!”, and Lola takes off like a shot to get back to Gryphon! Our girlies are smart!

As you can imagine, I’m having fun learning all the features of this new toy. Like browsing the web while we’re out doing errands, checking the weather, etc. I’ve only just scratched the surface of what the enV will be able to do for me, I’m sure.

Review Blog In The Works!

Yup – I finally had an “a-ha!” moment earlier today, and came up with a name for a review blog: Shopping Jen.

I know, I know – fairly obvious, isn’t it? Also, per my checks with multiple search engines, not already being used, and the .com domain was available. We snapped that up this afternoon.

Gryphon and I will be working together the next couple of weeks to get Shopping Jen up and running. Once that happens, any non-crafty product reviews will have a home – and they won’t be clogging up this blog. Don’t worry – reviews of knitting or other craft-related books and items will be cross-posted here. After all, they do fit the Crafting Jen theme!

In fact, be watching Thursday and/or Friday for my review of the two knitting books I mentioned yesterday, Romantic Hand Knits and The Yarn Girls Guide to Knits for All Seasons. And I think there will be a giveaway involved, too, so be sure to check in!

Good Sock Finishes, Bad Sock Starts, and Reviewing a Big, Big Bag

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Reviews — folkcat at 2:29 pm on Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fifteen Minutes of Rattie Fame

First things first – LOLRats did, indeed, post the “dat ticklz!” picture of Sable and Lola this morning. You can check it out here. And while you’re at it, look around at the other posts if you haven’t already, you’re sure to get a good giggle. Thanks, LOLRats!

FOs and Frogs

Beyond that, I spent a lot of time knitting yesterday. I mean, a lot of time. But unless you like pictures of empty dpns, I haven’t got a thing to show you.

Why? The first thing I worked on was Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2). Which is now completely finished. And presented to the recipient last night. And he loves them – in fact, is really, really in love with the “faux isle” variety of self-striping sock yarns. Which gives us a good direction for choosing more yarns for him in the future.

But with Gryphon working two jobs, we haven’t had a chance to get a photo of the finished socks on his actual feet yet. We’ll do it when we can, but I’m not sure when that will be.

After finishing SG:P3, I started in on Socks for Folkcat, Pair 3, Sock 1 (SF:P3S1). And I spent several hours knitting away at this last night, but to no avail.

To begin with, I had decided to once again try for a tighter gauge on smaller needles – size 0 instead of my usual 1.5. Naturally, I began with a small stockinette swatch, and measured a gauge of 10 stitches to the inch. Great!

So I cast on with confidence for my short-row toe. And knit for several rows. That’s when I looked down at the work on the needles and said, “Dang! I know I have big feet, but that’s ridiculous!” At which, I pulled out my ruler and found that my gauge, on the same needles, knitting in basically the same way as my swatch, was now 9 stitches to the inch.

Frog 1!

I let the yarn cool for a few moments before deciding to go for a Charlene Schurch Easy Toe instead of the short-row. But I got a few rows into that and decided, no, I really, like the short-row toe better.

Frog 2!

I cast on for a short-row toe immediately, and knit about 5 rows. And realized that, on the previous purl-side short-row, I’d actually shorted the short-row – I’d stopped a stitch sooner than I should have. That threw off the entire balance of the toe, so it was…

Frog 3!

Since it was completely user-error on the last attempt, I cast on again, and managed to knit about ten rows before discovering a knot in the yarn. Foo! I considered leaving ends to weave in, but quickly decided that such an artifact right on top of my toe would be a bad thing. That’s what I get for not re-winding the ball of yarn (Fortissima Socka Mexiko Country Colors, Serengeti (14) colorway) before starting.

Frog 4!

So now, I got out the ball winder, and dutifully wound the entire thing into a cake, checking for additional knots as I went. Finding none, I divided the yarn into two equal (approximately) cakes. Since the knot was still a short way in from the center pull of one, I pulled it out, cut it off, and tied it to the outside of the same cake. In the event I need it to complete the sock, the ends will now be in the leg ribbing, where they’ll be much more tolerable.

It was at that point that Gryphon came home from work – midnight. No time for more knitting last night, so it’s left for me to make a new attempt today.

Product Reviews? Here?

Somewhere along the way, I got on a mailing list of – I think the term is “reputable influencers.” Which means that someone out there has the notion that I write things that people actually read. I don’t know how true that is, but someone believes it.

This means that I’ve started getting the occasional offer of a product to review. Now, I know that product reviews aren’t what you come here for. But some of these items are actually things I have an interest in, like DVDs and knitting books. So I’m inclined to selectively accept the offers, write a little review, and post it to the blog.

My promise to you is that this won’t become a commercial blog. No advertising, though I will in the course of the reviews occasionally mention an associated promotion or special. I don’t expect the reviews to happen very often, either, though I suppose there’s no telling where this could go if the marketing companies like what I say. If it ever seems to be too much, please, tell me.

I may even consider setting up a separate blog just for reviews, and use it for those occasions where I spontaneously wind up gushing about something I bought, or a new game I found, or whatever. The only thing stopping me is I don’t know what I’d call the review blog yet.

By chance this week, I have three items for review. A coincidence of timing, I think – it’s been ages since the last product I got, the DVD of The Loop, and it may be ages again before I get anything else.

Another likely result of doing reviews – where I have no interest in keeping the product or book myself, they’ll become prizes on the blog. Later this week, I’ll be reviewing two new knitting books: Romantic Hand Knits by Annie Modesitt, and The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons, and at least one of them may be a candidate for a giveaway.

Today, however, I’m taking a look at a large new backpack from JanSport. And so far, I’m inclined to keep this one!

All About a Big, Big Bag

I was sent a Big Student Pack. Me, with no kids? What do I need with a backpack? I don’t even camp! So let’s start by admitting to my bias in this review. My evaluation will be entirely based on a single question – how does the pack measure up as a knitting bag?

JanSport Big Student Pack

The Big Student Pack is sturdily built. Lots of pockets. Almost every zipper has a wide flap covering it to keep out rain. There’s a large mesh pocket on the side for a water bottle – I like that it’s got elastic in the top edge.

Utility Pocket

Inside one of the front zippers, you’ll find a well-configured utility pocket, with a keychain clip, secure pouch for a cellphone, a spot that could hold a paperback book, and pen pockets. Or, think box of stitch markers, scissors, sets of double point knitting needles…you get the idea!

Now, I have plenty of knitting bags – I even make my own. But I sometimes have a very large project that’s hard to carry. The Big Student Pack is a big, big, bag – 13″ w X 10″ d X 17.25″ h – how would it hold up to my largest project in waiting?

Large Project Test

On the left, you see the yarn and all charts and supplies for a large double-knit afghan – a kit I bought from Herrschners earlier in the year. We’re looking at 10 skeins of Red Heart SuperSaver yarn. That’s not something that will fit in my average knitting bag.

It’s been living in the flimsy plastic bag that it was shipped in, and I’ve wished for something better – especially if it made it easier to carry the project around. With the Big Student Pack in the house now, I opened the large main compartment, and began stuffing.

And it all fit. All ten skeins of SuperSaver yarn, along with the needles on which I’d begun casting on (Addi Turbo circulars).

Ten SuperSaver Skeins Fit!

Then I opened the next compartment over, and put in the clipboard that holds the patternbook – essential for following the charted design. Plenty of room to spare in this pocket!

Clipboard with Chart

Finally, I put my little tackle box full of stitch markers in the utility pocket. I’ll probably add scissors to keep with the project, too, and maybe a couple pens and pencils.

Stitch Markers in the Utility Pocket

I was even able to close all the zippers comfortably around the contents.

Stuffed Pack

I like this! The supplies and materials for this large afghan are now all securely stored in a bag that makes it easy to carry along for knitting in public, and there’s even extra room to add pouches of notions and anything else I might need to bring along. Given how easily the Big Student Pack took all this stuff, I can only imagine how well it would work for the student in your life, too.

JanSport has teamed with Facebook to create a sweepstakes. There’s a prize of a Big Student Pack being given away every day until September 19th, and then there’s a grand prize of a trip for four to the Grand Canyon. All you have to do is create – or log in to – your Facebook account, then join the JanSport: Go Big group.

As for my Big Student Pack, I think Gryphon is hoping to inherit it someday – he likes it a lot, too. But, gosh – it’s already stuffed full of yarn, you know! He might have a chance to stake a claim when the afghan is done, but that could be a while…

Breathing Again

Filed under: Blogfriends,Rats! — folkcat at 1:05 pm on Monday, August 20, 2007

What a week we had last week. Let me start by saying how very grateful both Gryphon and I were for the massive outpouring of sympathy, condolences, virtual hugs, and love you all sent in comments and e-mail. I didn’t even try to answer anyone until today, but I think I’ve gotten all the individual responses out now. My sincere apologies if I’ve overlooked someone.

I couldn’t help but think, as I saw your comments come in, back to the days when I used to work in offices. I can’t imagine the kind of co-workers I had in those gruntwork data-entry places understanding what Star’s loss meant to us at all. “It was just a rat, for crissakes! Get ovah it!” I am so glad that I don’t have to deal with that sort of clueless person anymore.

No, instead, I have my blog, and I have you, my wonderful blog friends, who rose to the occasion brilliantly with a full understanding of how even a rat can touch our hearts, and rip a little piece away with them when they leave us.

Tuesday was a day that was already so over-full of errands, doctor’s appointments, and other urgent matters, that I even had to ask a friend stay at my house most of the day to receive a package that required a signature. On top of that, when we went to bed on Monday night, we had decided that Star was having too much difficulty feeding herself, and getting about, and that it was time.

The veterinarian was able to fit us in on her lunch hour on Tuesday. She assessed Star’s condition and agreed that we were making the right decision for her, reassuring us in our choice. Gryphon and I cradled Star in our hands. It was over quickly.

We curled Star, as if sleeping, in a fabric travel water bowl for pets that the girls loved snoozing in, along with a couple of her well-chewed plastic frogs, and a whole walnut. Having no outdoor space of our own, a good friend allowed us to bury Star in a small patch of trees in her backyard.

I was shocked by how much losing Star impacted me. I’ve lost pets before, but apparently rats have touched my heart in a way that dogs and cats, as much as I loved them, never could. It’s taken until today before I felt I could get a grip, get my focus back, and try to move on.

As for Sable and Lola, we feel blessed that Lola came into our lives when she did. Sable, while she clearly understands that Star is gone, has made a good transition, having Lola there already to sleep with. And I think this photo I took last Monday shows that she’s accepted Lola as a grooming partner.

Sable grooming Lola

Yes, it’s been submitted to the most excellent blog, LOLRats. Don’t know if they’ll post it, but at least you get to see it here. If you like cute pictures of ratties, do click through to LOLRats and browse the photos there, you’ll have a good laugh!

Thank you for riding through the blog silence of the past week with me. I’m back now, and actually have some different sorts of things to offer you this week. It’s going to be a Reviews Week, I guess, since I’ve recently been sent a backpack to look over (goodness knows how I get on these lists!), and even a couple of knitting books to talk about. I’m thinking there might even be a give-away posted by next weekend. Oh, and I did some knitting last week, in spite of my funk, so you’ll get to see the latest pair of finished socks. As soon as I’ve finished them, that is, but I’m only two rows away from binding off …

Stay tuned, it should be interesting!

Star Rattie

Filed under: Announcements,Rats! — folkcat at 2:16 pm on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Star Loves Yogurt
Yogurt Lover

Star Snuggles ina Blanket
Blanket Snuggler

Star Sleeps
Sleep peacefully, sweet baby.

Star
Star Rattie
Feb. 18, 2006 – Aug. 14, 2007

I’ll be taking the rest of the week away from the blog.

Another Birthday Surprise

Filed under: Blogfriends — folkcat at 11:00 am on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I didn’t forget to mention this on Monday, but that post was long enough, and had other things to deal with. So here I am today, with my public Thank You to Leesa, a blogless blogfriend.

Leesa surprised me big time when this arrived in the mail on Saturday:

Wristlet Bag, Made by Midnight Creations, Gifted by Leesa

That’s a handmade “Wristlet” bag, made by Midnight Creations, an Etsy shop (www.midnightcreations.etsy.com). Leesa said (in the beautiful card pictured behind the bag), “So there I was, browsing on Etsy…It was fibery, fun, functional, full of color, fabricated by hand, feline-oriented, and just screamed “FOLKCAT”!”

She was oh, so right – and so very sweet to buy it and send it to me! If you look closely, you can see it even has a beaded zipper pull, with the focal bead being a nice purple one. And the zipper pull is on a lobster claw, so it could even be taken off and used as a row marker for knitting!

I already have the perfect use for the bag. When I go out with my knitting, my notions travel in a couple of cheap, plastic pencil pouches I got in the (former) $1 Spot at Target. How much classier to put them in this wonderful bag, especially when the tote I’m carrying everything in is a felted piece handknit of Noro Kureyon. At last, a notions pouch worthy of the knitting bag!

So Leesa, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! I LOVE IT!

Our Own Version of MASH

Filed under: Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 3:24 pm on Monday, August 13, 2007

Star continues to appreciate the separation from the teenage punker rat, Lola. On the other hand, her health is still declining. She’s started having seizures in her sleep, whole body spasms that make her jump.

I’m guessing they’re leaving her even weaker than before, because it’s harder for her to eat, too. Dry foods just stick in her mouth, and she seems to have trouble swallowing them. She’s still eager to eat, and chows down as enthusiastically as she can on minced up cooked sweet potato, beans, and broccoli.

Her main diet of rolled grains and mashed up pellets started to be a problem over the weekend, though. I’m also not sure how well she’s drinking from the water bottle. In an attempt to solve two problems at once, I decided today to make her grains and pellets into a cooked mash, kind of like oatmeal.

The wet mash smelled good enough to attract her immediately, and she started eating.

Star Eating Mash
Star Eats Her MASH

She practically has to lay her face right down in the food to get a bite, she’s that weak. I have since thinned the mash down even more, making a thin oatmeal consistency. It’s my hope that it will be even easier for her to get a mouthful, and that it will provide better hydration as well.

I fear that we’re starting to count the days with Star. By the end of the day, she is so tired out from simple eating, and moving from nest box to food dish, that she wobbles as if she’s super-drunk. I try to comfort her as best I can, but there’s not a lot to do for her except make her comfortable, see that she keeps eating, and make sure we’re paying attention so we can spot the moment when it’s just not working for her anymore.

And each night, when we go to bed, I’m going to Star now and telling her that we love her, and she’s always been a good rat, and that if she needs to let go, it’s okay, that she has nothing to regret, and we’ll always remember her. Just in case. Then I go into my room, and cry.

On a Happier Note:

I’ve ordered some goodies with my birthday gift money. They haven’t arrived yet, but I expect them in just another day or two.

What did I get? More of the 1/2″ Quilt Patis, so that I can work even better on this:

QIP - Four Columns
Mini-hex Table Mat

More Patis means I can get more hexes ready before I have to stop and stitch them together! I also ordered the second package of 1″ Patis I’ll need if I want to make my queen-size bed quilt. Which I have all the fabric for, I just need to plan a layout now…

As for the table mat, you can see from the picture above that I’ve finished the fourth column. If you’ve been here a bit, you may remember that the two leftmost columns are randomly selected fabrics, and only with the third column did I begin incorporating an all-over floral pattern. When I get to the other end, I’ll do two more columns of random to finish the mat.

Of course, it will be a little while before I get there. Here’s the table mat so far, in place on the table it’s meant to cover:

QIP - About 1/5, 1/6 done

I think that’s, what?…a fifth, a sixth done? And really, only half of that – I’m planning to make the mat reversible, which means there will be a different pattern on the back. Of course, by the time I get there, I may decide I’ve had enough of tiny little hexagons, and just stitch it all to a solid backing just to be done with it! Only time will tell!

The other thing I’ve done with my birthday money is pay for a new game from Reflexive.com. I’ve fallen in love with what they call seek-and-find games – a sort of hidden object puzzle, with images of rooms filled with things, and you have to find those on a specific list. It got so bad, that I was downloading one or two demos of this game type every single day, and playing out the entire sixty minutes they give you for free. With my birthday money, I was able to just outright pay for one, and that’s been occupying much of my spare time in the last 24 hours since I did that.

Hmm…I’m feeling a need to do a little more seeking-and-finding now….think I’ll sign off until tomorrow!

Take care!

This Just In…

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 5:22 pm on Friday, August 10, 2007

Sable has finally decided to stay in Star’s cage for a longer visit. Right this very minute, she’s curled up on top of Star on the second floor, chirping her happy little throat out, and stopping now and then to wash her sister.

Star and Sable, Together Again

I seriously wish you could hear her, she’s just singing non-stop. It makes me so happy!

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