Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Knitting Updates and Queries

Last Friday, my friend Katharine came over for movie night. She's been knitting for a long time, and she said very nice things about my shawl: that the stitches were remarkably consistent and that it didn't look like a beginner's project. That made me feel good, of course!

Saturday at the health club, I ran into Katharine's daughter-in-law, Maura, who just had her second baby and is also in the process of finishing a doctoral dissertation and going on the job market. She is, as one might expect, very tired. But when I mentioned knitting, she perked up and said, "We should have a knitting night at Katharine's!"

Saturday evening, I saw Katharine at a concert and mentioned the kitting night possibility, and she liked the idea. So we'll be having knitting night this Thursday, and regularly thereafter, I hope. Knitting night on Thursday and movie night on Friday: that's a nice way to wind down the week!

Patricia McKillip's lovely Solstice Wood, which won the Mythopoeic Award this year, features a group of women who get together regularly to knit, crochet, sew, and do needlepoint. They call themselves the Fiber Guild, and it turns out that their needlework is magic that helps protect the world against intrusions of dangerous forces from Faerie (although, of course, it turns out to be more nuanced and complicated than that).

Berni mentioned on her blog, I think, that she wants her own Fiber Guild. Now I feel like I'll be part of one. Yay!

I now have about forty inches of Sharon's shawl and four inches of Lee's -- which will become the home project and get more attention when I've finished Sharon's -- and I'm happily planning out enough projects for the next ten years. Wheeee!

Meanwhile, two questions:

1. The tips of my thumbs and index fingers have gotten sore from pushing the points of the needles, a problem that will probably worsen when I get my Christmas circular set, which have sharp points. I have a fuzzy, pink-fur finger puppet I'm using as a thimble on my right thumb, and that's working well -- in addition to being pleasantly eccentric -- but has anyone else had this problem? And if so, what have you done about it? Is it just a matter of developing knitting callouses?

2. When we were at PetSmart last night, I was looking at the ridiculously overpriced catnip toys and thought, "Hey! I could knit little pillows and put catnip in them!" That would be a great use for odd scraps of yarn, and would also make for nice treats for the various cats in my life. However, I know some cats have a tendency to eat yarn, which is very bad for them, and I'm concerned that if a kitty became sufficiently excited by the catnip to shred the toy, disaster might ensue. Does anyone have guidance in this area? Should knitted cat toys not include catnip? Should I make simple little pillows with bells, which would still be fun toys but might be less prone to shredding?

All insights welcome! Thanks!


  1. It should just be a matter of developing calluses. You've got two options: if you keep wearing the thimble, it'll hurt less right now but it'll take longer to develop the calluses, or you can suffer the pain of it for a little longer until they build up.

  2. I knit obsessively, and while I don't have calluses, I suspect that it has to do with pulling the stitch rather than pushing. Not that I could tell you how I do it, so calluses sound fine.

    As to the cat toys, I would felt them, so that they're harder to destroy, and harder to ingest if they are destroyed. But what fun- embed a bell or rattle in the mouse with the catnip for an extreme cat toy. I may have to try this...

  3. I don't knit often, so I'm coming out of left field with this one, but would those little rubber finger covers (like the "Swingline gripeez" brand) work?

    As for cat toys, as far as I know the real danger for cats is if they can pull longer pieces of string off the toy (or any swallowable bit). So if you knit something really tightly/fine gauge/etc, out of a durable material (can you get burlap thread?), I doubt you'd have a problem. That said, there's always a risk, just not a very big one. If you think your cats are shredders by nature you could maybe make a test catnip pillow and watch them, intervening as necessary, and judge from there. Our cats have little cloth "cigars" stuffed with catnip, and they tend to sit there chewing happily on the end rather than getting shred-happy.

  4. I think felting is a great idea for cat toys. This is the tutorial I used the first time I felted.

  5. I like the felt idea for cat toys too. But, being the tightwad I am I'd go and see if WalMart or some other fabric store didn't have some bright but inexpensive ends of canvas which can easily become a toy, pillow or any other shape you care to cut it into. I think it would be very sturdy and you could even put the catnip in it and feel safe about your kitties.

    Hope your fingers get better. I always end up with hurting finger tips when I pick up the guitar after a while.

    The knitting group sounds wonderful! Congratulations! :)


  6. I would just like to know how Maura handles 2 babies, working on the PhD and STILL has time for knitting! My needles are growing cobwebs.

  7. As for the cat toys, that would be a great felting project. Just be sure to felt anything by putting it in a pillow case and securing the top with a rubber band. This will catch all the fibers that are thrown off and ensure you don't have to buy a new pump for your washing machine!

    As for the callouses, do what works for you. I suspect you're knitting tightly, if you have to push the needles through, and you'll probably loosen up with time and practice.

    I hope your mother is doing better?


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