Now and then I get an email from someone who has taken one of my workshops. It's always a pleasure to see photos of the work they have completed (remember my motto: Finished is Beautiful!).
Well, talented knitter Karen Hust from Vashon Island, Washington, sent me a photo that blew me away! (And please note that I do not in any way claim credit for inspiring this work.)
"Sweater Girl" by Karen Hust, using motifs and colors from "Autumn Tam" by Sandy Blue
I knew that you would want details about this marvelous Fair Isle cat, so I asked Karen to describe her process. Here is what she generously shared:
"Sweater Girl" was my offering to an annual group effort at decorating fiberglass cats and dogs to sell at our local shelter's fundraiser. Some people paint theirs, some cover them in mosaic tile or other objects, but mine just *had* to be covered in yarn. This was our third year for these Art Pets. My first cat had handspun yarn fur hooked into a knitted body-stocking, and my second was a puppy "painted" with yarn.
The third year I thought, "Gee, hooking all that fur on the cat and laying down all those lines of yarn on the puppy was a lot of work. Why don't I just knit this cat a skin? It will be so easy!" Famous last words.
I had the leftover yarn from Sandy Blue's "Autumn Tam", and since I love Fair Isle, I decided to try adapting her patterns to the cat's shape.
Sandy Blue's Autumn Tam pattern (available at Feral Knitter)
I held my tam up to the cat form to judge where the different bands would look best. But what about the head? Hmmm. Since the cat's face is basically round, with a nose sticking out of it, I put the middle of the crown on her nose to see what would happen. Lo and behold, I found that I could use the crown pattern there if I deleted 2 points, making it into a cone.
With reckless abandon, I just began improvising.
I started with the easy parts, casting on 3 stitches for the bottoms of the paws and increasing upwards to fit the legs as I went. How fun to discover that corrugated ribbing can look like kitty toes!
I made all 4 legs and the tail first, ending them where I thought they would meet up with the body, adding extra repeats of the peerie to get me there when necessary. I say this was the easy part, but in truth it was a challenge to knit such tiny tubes in a complex pattern. Such a lot of color-changing when the piece is only a few inches around! The body was comparatively calming. It began as a circle, with flaps knitted back and forth for under the belly and over the top. I mattress-stitched the body together on the cat and then stitched the legs and tail to the body.
Not all that easy. But fortunately the really clumsy-looking bits are hidden "where the sun don't shine."
The face was tricky and had to be reknit at smaller gauge to fit properly, but I was delighted to see that the points of the crown matched up perfectly with the ears!
I was puzzled as to how to do the back of the head, but ended up knitting a rectangle to stretch across, then extended the ears upwards. Every so often I clipped the pieces together over the form to test for fit.
I seamed the face to the back of the head (leaving enough open to fit it onto the form once I was done), then picked up stitches around the neck and knit a corrugated rib collar downwards. I did the seaming on the body as before, and embroidered eyes and a small mouth.
There were moments when I almost despaired of figuring out a solution to fitting the odd shapes, but there was always a way -- tho not always the first way I tried. Sweater Girl showed me that if I observe carefully what a shape does, I can match it in knitting. I may even try it again sometime.