Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cat quilt completed

This goes to Carm today - just the right size for her cat carrier. The happy little cat print, I hope, will make a cheery backdrop for some kitties in need of a loving new home.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A simple project for furry friends

Our friend Carm volunteers most every weekend with the Chemung County SPCA. She takes shelter animals to community festivals and retail stores, and chats with folks about the joys of animal companionship. Everyone always enjoys seeing the sweet cats and lovable dogs the Carm takes on these community appearances, and many a homeless pet has gone to a loving home as a result of her outreach efforts.

For some time I've been wanting to make Carm some sturdy quilted cushions for the animal cages she takes on her weekend tours, and for the pets awaiting homes at the shelter as well. I took the day before Thanksgiving as a vacation day, and found myself with a little time to make these:

Nobody wants to think of these animals as merchandise -- but the fact is, they do catch the eye of a potential new family if their cages are somewhat dressed up and not just lined with a newspaper or an old towel. So I had a lot of fun sewing these 5-inch squares together and thinking about the families that might be welcoming new pets into their homes.

The SPCA likes 18-inch-square cushions for their cages at the shelter, so that's what I made. The cage Carm takes on her weekly road shows is a bit wider and deeper than that, but we stacked the the cushions up yesterday and little Charlie and Jimmy didn't mind one bit. Their sister Lily watched from a distance, but soon all three of them were snuggled into a comfy corner for a nap.

Carm's cage measures 20 x 30, and we both liked the idea of the cushion curling up on the sides, like a padded bumper in a baby's crib. So I'll make her a 24 x 34 cushion and her little fuzzy friends will have a cozy place to nap. Of course, these cushions will stand up to many machine washings, too.

If you'd like to make cage cushions for your local shelter, be sure and call to check their preferred sizes. Some shelters will accept knitted or crocheted blankets, but the fabric seems to make a tidier liner with no potential for snagging on little claws. The five-inch scrap squares work very well for a simple patchwork. I used a high-loft batting I had on hand, but you can use old towels or worn mattress covers, too, as long as they're clean.

I backed the cushions with some leftover home dec fabric for extra sturdiness. For the edges, you can do the right-sides-together, stitch-around-the-edges-leaving-an-opening-and-turn thing. Or, leave your backing about an inch larger than the top, and fold it over to make a binding, machine-stitching on the top side. Make machine bar-tacks at each corner of the patchwork - no handwork at all.

A quick and easy project -- and one that can really help some deserving animals feel cozy as they get a whole new lease on life.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We can all knit for peace

I was in Barnes & Noble's last weekend, looking for a good book on felted knits. While I was hunting through the amply-stocked shelf of knitting books, another little jewel jumped into my hands instead:. "Knitting for Peace" by Betty Christiansen. Published just this year, it's a lovely compilation of ideas for community service crafting.

Not only does the author share wonderful profiles of many terrific organizations devoted to service projects -- she also includes all the sensible patterns we'll ever need. Simple, warm sweaters, vests, socks and classic hat patterns are all beautifully presented. I was happy to see The Ships Project featured, along with Warm Up America - accurately described as "the mother of all knitting charities."

"Knitting for Peace" is great reading and great inspiration at the same time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Some warm November knitting

Since the silent auction in September, I've mostly been making small gifts for various wonderful folks. An enjoyable-rib scarf in red Lamb's Pride for my friend Judith, who bravely left the security of her agency job and to go to graduate school. Another in black Paton's Brilliant for my daughter, who bravely teaches 21 first-graders in Brooklyn each day. Warm wool socks for my husband's mother, who at 84 still braves the Colorado snow to help her ailing friends get to the doctor and the grocery store. Some slippers for my nephew David, an Army medic recently returned to Baghdad, who's got all of us beat when it comes to bravery and honor.

With those projects caught up, I wanted to make a few children's hats for Maureen's classroom stash. I've slightly adapted Norma's Dulaan hat for more shaping at the top, and I really like the results. You won't believe how quickly these things whip up! And they're so thick and cushy, they trap a lot of air and will make little ears feel so snuggly and warm on a cold day. Here's how to make one for a middle-sized child:

Use two strands of any acrylic or acrylic/wool blend worsted weight yarn. On a 16-inch circular needle (size 13), cast on 42 stitches, place a marker, and join. Knit in stockinette stitch until piece measures about 8 inches long. Start your decrease rows, switching to DPNs as needed: K5, K2tog around; knit one row even; K4, K2tog around; knit one row even; K3, K2tog around, etc. etc. Continue decreasing until you've K2tog around, then break yarn and thread your tail through the remaining stitches, drawing tight to close.

Now you've got half a hat - and you'll pick up 42 stitches around your cast-on edge and make the same hat all over over again, letting it "grow" in the opposite direction. You'll end up with a weird-looking thing like this (about 21 inches long):

Then just punch one end in to fit inside the other. Tack the tops together if you want. Fold up a cuff, and you're done! (I did end up making a pom-pom for this one later, which was good mindless activity while watching the finals of Dancing With the Stars this week - way to go, Emmitt!!)

The interior of this hat measures about 19 inches around, but it's really stretchy - so it should fit almost any grade-school child or small adult with ease. Just add or subtract a few stitches to adjust the size. My gauge was 2.5 stitches per inch.

This hat is a great way to use up stash yarn in a hurry, and the results will warm your heart.