There’s a Cat In My House!

December 19, 2008


Earlier this week I quickly warped up my rigid heddle loom for one last scarf.  The days have been dark, so I wasn’t able to get good pictures before I put it in the mail; it is a Christmas present for my father’s mother, the grandma who compulsively throws valuable things away.

It gave me a little lurch to send it to her because I don’t like to think of it in the trash.


However, the real gift is the experience of opening it up, stroking it, and most importantly wearing it to lunch a few times and getting to brag on it.



Scarf: Gelassenheit

Plainweave on rigid heddle loom

Warp: partial (3/4?) skein of Manos del Uruguay handspun 70% merino wool/ 30% silk singles

Weft: quite old Oregon Worsted wool yarn, Maypole “Nehalem” a fine 3 ply in olive–nice stuff, I wish it were still being made!

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit epi

Picks per inch: 5 3/4

Ends: 52

Woven length (excluding fringe): 49 3/4″

Woven width: 5 1/4″

Finished length (excluding fringe): 41″

Finished width: 4 1/4″

Finishing: Warm hand wash, plenty of agitation, 7 minute soak, dry flat, light iron with press cloths.

Fringe: Hemstitched then plied.

Conclusions:  Manos del Uruguay wool/silk is an ideal warp yarn for this heddle size.  The strong silk keeps it from overstretching during weaving.  At this ppi it has room to get soft, a little curly, and to bury scratchier warp yarn when fulled, without making the cloth inflexible.

For kicks, I was able to calculate my rigid heddle scarf-making hourly wage.  If this scarf sold for the maximum (too much really) it could command in the crafts marketplace? $2.91 an hour.  Then I realized I had forgotten to include the cost of materials.  Or self-employment tax.  Let’s just call it good at 50 cents.

Did I say something about a cat?  Oh, yes…

Yesterday my half-sister stopped by our house after 13 hours en route to my parents’.  She and her grad student husband had been in the car with their 2-month-old baby, their two-year-old daughter, and their adolescent cat since 3 o’ clock in the morning!

“You’ll get to meet Robert!” (the cat), my sister said on the phone, and I had pictured meeting a miserable creature through the bars of a pet carrier.  If they let him out he would only make a bee-line for some inaccessible cranny or streak out the front door and never be seen again.  This is exactly how the cats we grew up with would have behaved.

There was no pet carrier!  Robert rides loose in the car.  “Is it all right if the he comes inside?”  Everyone piled out of the mini-van and into the house without bothering about the open doors.  I asked my brother-in-law whether the cat wouldn’t run away and he said, “Oh, he’s easy to catch.”  Robert and little E started roaming the house.  Robert’s litter box and food and water dishes came in with the diaper bag.

Distracted by the miniature human, at first I didn’t pay much attention to the toddler and the cat.  I guessed they would calm down when they had seen everything.  The toddler did, but not the cat.  Imagine a cross between a grey Maine coon cat and a ferret, with ENORMOUS green headlamp eyes.  Robert dusted the whole house for me, which is to say he covered every patch of floor under every piece of furniture in the first 10 minutes.

Der Mann’s cat allergy is only the hay-fever-like kind, so I wasn’t too worried.  I didn’t think a cat could leave much of himself around our apartment on such a short visit.  Cats just look around and lie down, right?  When I realized my mistake and decided to shut the bedroom door, Robert decided that he needed to explore the bedroom for the twelfth time.  I blocked him with my foot and a big, scary “no.”

He jumped over my foot.  At least our neighbor’s cat Dobo had the grace to look guilty when she was caught, and to argue about her sentence; Robert has the temperament of a commando rather than a petty criminal.  “Verbal commands, feet–pfft!  Shoot first, ask questions later.”  My sister had to haul him out by the scruff of his neck.  The naughtiness only escalated after that.  Robert tried to get back into the bedroom the moment his scolding was over and his neck was released.  Failing that, he stretched himself out in front of the bedroom door like a guardian lion, tail flicking, waiting for it to open again.  He was similarly attracted to the cupboard under the kitchen sink, which does not latch.

Robert scratched the chair, jumped up on the side table, paced and eyed the countertops with feverish intensity; each time it looked like he was finally going to settle down, he switched mischiefs.  It was almost as if he were “acting out,” because he has been trained never to do these things at home.  Can cats act out?  His constant snaky, sneaky monitoring of his surroundings made him look like he was always on the verge of doing something bad. “Scratch?  No, no, not here.  Keep it cool.  Keep them guessing.  Eat a little.  Sit down for a minute.  Play with the string.  Yeah that looks good.”

I jumped up when I spotted him in a pre-scratching crouch inside my loom.  By then my sister and her husband wanted to put him back in the car.  I told them it was okay because really, our place is so small that there was nothing he could do without us catching him at it immediately, and he was mesmerizing, in a way.  I love watching cats.  Even naughty ones.

While we were discussing the question whether Robert could stay inside he started clawing the curtains, so out he went.  My toddler niece cried a little in sympathy.

She was good as gold.  The toy box with the My Little Pony Pretty Parlor is always a hit.  The baby, while much less entertaining than the cat, was much easier to hold and much sweeter-tempered.  The baby has headlamp eyes too, but no fur–you can’t have everything.

We fed them all Mexican take-out.  When they were back on the road der Mann laughed and said, “They’re such a unit!  And they’re all so cool!  E is even a cool toddler!”  He was trying to express something we both found really funny, which is they just sort of function together.  After 13 hours in the car!  Nobody was crabby, nobody was tyrannical or placatory.  Things got done without a fuss.  Diapers got changed, E got to tie a jump rope around her dad’s neck and pretend he was a sheep, the baby got fed, cat litter got swept up . . . and then back into the gypsy wagon; cat, kids, and all.



6 Responses to “There’s a Cat In My House!”

  1. Geodyne Says:

    I gasped when I saw the stretched-out length of the scarf – the fractals from the striping yarn are truly stunning!

    I’m still giggling your head off at your description of the cat. I grew up with one of those. We moved a lot when I was a child; and he’d travel in the trailer and be taken for a walk on a light leash when we stopped for a break. By contrast though, he was always a consumate gentleman! Robert is clearly going to get there, he’s just in the teenage rebellion phase.

  2. Cally Says:

    Oh I love bad cats! They are so funny when they know exactly what you want them not to do and are goading you by almost doing it.

  3. Trapunto Says:

    No one was more surprised by the fractals than me. I hadn’t planned the warp that way. With my partial skein I just went for the shortest scarf that could be functional, and wound the warp around the legs of my weaving bench in near a very dark living room. It was a fun discovery when it was finished.

    A trailer cat sounds awesome!

    I love bad cats too, but I think it would be very tiring to own one. Der Mann and I have mock arguments that start with him him saying innocently, “When we have a cat…” and me saying, “We’re not going to get a cat! You’d be miserable!” And him saying, “We could close off part of the house…”

    So, after Robert left I pressed my advantage, “See? If we got a cat it could turn out to be a Robert. (Robert looked like a short-hair when they picked him out as a kitten.) You’d be making the sacrifice of being sneezy all the time for twenty years, he would always be into things, and he wouldn’t even let you pet him. Our one shot at a lap-cat would be ruined.”

    And he said, “One cat! Of course you can’t just have ONE cat!”

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. The scarf is really lovely and you have a great gift with words.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I love how you put your best into making such a lovely scarf, even if you suspect it won’t be kept.

    The cat is such a riot! And your family too. I can imagine them swooping in like a cyclone, then sweeping out with no traces except for the cat hairs. There are simple ways to detect what kind of personality a puppy will grow into. I wonder if there is such a thing for cats as well…

  6. Leigh Says:

    *Lol* loved the story about Robert!

    And the scarf is absolutely lovely. I understand your concern about giving it to someone who throws stuff out. My mother was like that but it didn’t stop me. These were my works of love and I always hoped that someday I’d hit on the thing she’d love too.

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