Writing Projects Gone Weird: or, Saturday, I Knit A Cat

KnitCat Stares at Nothing

KnitCat Stares at Nothing

The migraines and vertigo are back with a vengeance, and I’m stuck in horizontal mode (laptop propped on lap and lying down as I write this, in fact).

KnitCat Naps

KnitCat Naps

So Saturday, I dragged out some cotton string (a very nice German variegated yarn), and needles, and did one of the few things that doesn’t make me feel worse when this gets as bad as it is right now.

I knitted.

I’m doing this odd secret project on my day off—a writing project so weird when I first explained why I was knitting sweaters for balls of yarn, my husband got this look in his eyes that asked “do I commit her, or grab the kid and run for the hills?”

And this project calls for a cat.

KnitCat watches Mad Men

KnitCat watches Mad Men

A tiny, agile, clever cat.

So I got out light-gauge florist wire and narrow green florist tape and built an armature. And then I knit around the armature, ripping back when anything happened that didn’t look like a cat, filling with yarn stuffing as I went.

KnitCat looks Regal

KnitCat looks Regal

No pattern, no picture, no guidelines—I remembered my various cats over the years and worked from that. It took me about ten hours over the course of the day to finish him.

KnitCat hears food hit a bowl

KnitCat hears food hit a bowl

When I was done, I showed him to my husband and son, who had seen me knitting around green armature all day, and who hadn’t seen anything particularly catlike in the blob I was making. Both of them were a little creeped out by how much of a cat he became when I started posing him.

I was a bit, too. I hadn’t expected scrap yarn and wire to turn out quite so well—and now that I see him, I’m getting a feel for his character and the role he’s going to play in my secret project.

KnitCat fights the Mighty Husband

KnitCat fights the Mighty Husband

So what’s this project? Well, it’s fiction, but it’s about writers and writing. And KnitCat is a good representative for what I’m doing. Beyond that, I’m not ready to say anything, except this project will be available for free—it’s my playtime—and should be a nice complement to other things I’ve created to help writers.

KnitCat leaves to search for adventure

KnitCat leaves to search for adventure

As for other things, even though I’m currently bedridden (well, couch-ridden) I did manage to get work done on both TalysMana and the HTTS Walkthrough. I’m doing the plot outline for The Emerald Sun.

And I’m hoping I’ll at least be able to sit up at some point this week, so that I’ll be able to do the Hotseat interview for the Walkthrough.

Anyway… have you ever done anything as weird as knitting a cat to get to the heart of a story?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

148 comments… add one
  • Lauren Jun 13, 2011 @ 23:08

    Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone in my insanity… LOL!

    KnitCat is beautiful, and eerily catlike. Magnificent!

  • Sandra Jun 13, 2011 @ 23:01

    KnitCat is awesome! I knit as well but I need a pattern. You did a fantastic job!

    I hope you start feeling better soon. πŸ™‚

  • Susan Geci Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:45

    I always said, writers were very creative people, no matter what they did! Very cool!

  • Lynnette Labelle Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:44

    Sooo cute! I’ve never seen anything like it. And so tiny. Wow! I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pic of your hubby’s finger. Hope you feel better soon.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://www.labelleseditorialservices.com
    http://www.lynnettelabelle.com
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

  • Robert Eilers Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:37

    Very cute cat and amazing what you did without a pattern to go from.

    My wife was having migraines and vertigo as well. After seeing a nerve doctor she got put on Topamax (sp?) and is 100 times better. Her doctor said there is a nerve that runs down your forehead towards your nose that causes many people to have migraines. Has your doctor tried that for you?

  • Bud Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:33

    Instead of a yarn cat, you are going to make a cat yarn. I know, it’s bad, but somebody was bound to say it.

  • Gary Speer Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:07

    Wow, hope that vertigo/migraine stuff clears up. And I loved the cat.

    You and I have at least two things in common — I knit and I have bouts of extreme vertigo. (Taught myself to knit when I was passing some boring hours as an overnight security guard years ago; the vertigo was came naturally.)

  • Shannon Kelly Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:55

    I completely agree with everyone else. KnitCat is KewtCat. If you do feel up to posting on Instructables.com, I will most assuredly be making myself a KnitCat MonitorKitty.

  • Ruthanne Lyons Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:47

    You are so funny. I just love finding your note on my computer. i read every word. Tomorrow is just around the corner. AFTER we win the hockey game. A die hard Bruins fan from Boston..

    • Holly Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:46

      Go, Bruins. My team is the Rangers. Streak of masochism there.

  • Jennifer Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:32

    Sorry about your migraines. Sounds horrible. Myself, I get down in my back quite often, so I kind of understand where you are coming from. I too love the cat you knitted. I am deathly allergic to the real ones, but that one would not bother me. πŸ™‚
    A couple years ago I started knitting. I was working on the world’s longest scarf. LOL
    Then, I put it down and two years later I got it out and cannot figure out where I was.
    Wow! Aha moment. I am right handed so the needle with the yarn will go in my left hand. Wierd how I couldn’t figure that out before this moment.
    Hang in there, Holly! Hope things get better soon.

  • Dawn Hall Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:20

    That is very cute! I may try that some time, only, I want a KnitDawg! πŸ˜‰

  • Kari Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:06

    Aww….. he’s so cute! πŸ™‚ I agree with Zette–I want one too πŸ™‚

  • John Iovine Jun 13, 2011 @ 21:00

    Hi Holly,

    Really loved the cat. I can understand not want to go commercial with it, but I have an idea. If you want you can post the instructions for making your kitty on http://www.instructables.com/ This is a hugh website with a large following. If publishes a large variety of “how-to” homemade projects every day from knitting to building integrated electronics.

    Best regards,

    J.Iovine

  • Dee Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:52

    I think you win on the Weird-O-Meter. I have not yet knitted kittens with fully-formed personalities. I’m still trying to get characters with fully-formed personalities…heh. Of course I can’t knit so there will be no string kittening for me. (Does chainmail armor count? Perhaps a steel kitten might be in the works.) Nope, the closest I’ve gotten to weird writing prompts is going down to McDonald’s for a salad and diet Coke during the high school lunch hour. Not so much weird as daring, I guess.
    Loving the kitten, though!
    Grins!

  • Cora Zane Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:38

    I love the knitty kitty! His regal pose is very…regal. Great job!
    I use Second Life to help build and visualize characters from time to time. I take pictures of them, and post them in this writing journal I keep near my desk.

  • Jen Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:10

    I’ve been making my own locksmithing tools and picking locks this month for a new novel I am writing.
    I’ve also done things like eat nothing but rice for a week, lock myself in the trunk of a car (with a spotter in case I panicked), and duct tapped myself to a chair…

  • TJ Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:08

    That is funny. No. I guess my need to work on my imagination and inspiration.
    Be well soon.

  • Bryan McMillin Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:03

    Love the Knitty Kitty. What really caught my eye in this article is that Holly is working on a project with a small, agile, clever cat. I’m working on a project with similar type of character.
    “At almost a year old Cat was quite a bit smaller than other cats his age. What he lacked in size he more than made up for in agility.” Yeah, I’m looking real original right about now lol

  • zette Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:58

    The kitty is an obvious success. And I hope he really does help you with the story. He’s great! (Yeah, yeah, cat person. Crazed cat person. I know.)

    I wasn’t looking for a new story the other day when I was playing around with some 3D graphic models to get ideas for a newsletter I do for the company who makes them. But suddenly, I found myself staring at a new character and I almost immediately found myself with an opening, a lot of backstory and about half the plot. I wrote the opening. The rest, I think, is going to wait until NaNo this year. I’m just too busy to tackle yet another project right now.

    It’s amazing what sorts of things can get us motivated, though.

    (Here is the picture and the opening, if you would like to see it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zettepics/5806880366/in/photostream/)

    • Holly Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:43

      Awesome picture and terrific story start. Poor Bunny…

      • zette Jun 13, 2011 @ 22:50

        Thank you! I’m looking forward to working with her and the rest of her eccentric family. This will be an urban fantasy. Should be fun. When I get the time.

        Rest. Get better.

    • Texanne Jun 13, 2011 @ 23:19

      Love the picture and story snippet. “Turns out he’s really vicious.” Mwahahaha.

    • Danzier Jun 14, 2011 @ 0:32

      …Bunny on leash, hanging from her bag… 😯 Wow.

      • zette Jun 14, 2011 @ 0:44

        The bunny stuff was part of the models I had to write about. Cute set, but I needed to really look at them to get an idea of what to say about them. Fun set, though!

    • Kit Russell Jun 14, 2011 @ 6:14

      Fun pic and story start!

  • Willena Flewelling Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:57

    You are one awesomely talented lady, Ms Holly! And a real inspiration to me. A perfect example of what to do during the ebb times.

    I love your attitude — and I love your KnitCat! Feel better soon, and bring him to life.

    Willena Flewelling

  • PolarBear Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:57

    Lady will be happy to show Knit Cat more naughty things to do — but will be absolutely adorable while doing so. Knit Cat is uncannily good.

    • Holly Jun 14, 2011 @ 3:22

      I did one of him licking his…errr….

      Didn’t get a picture, but the guys laughed their asses off.

  • groovyoldlady Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:54

    That is amazing! I love how a tiny what’s-it can catapult a story into overdrive. I know Marvin, the dust bunny, did that for me – even though he didn’t require any actual talent on my part. In fact, he kinda made himself…

  • Michelle Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:53

    Vertigo & migraines, at the same time? You poor thing, I thought I was the only one that suffered with those two things simultaneously.

    I LUV your cat, it really, really looks like a cat. I hope it helps you with your project, it seems to have provided a great deal of comments from your loyal followers.

    BTW: Have you ever tried acupuncture for either vertigo or migraines?

  • Paul Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:48

    I worked with an artist acquaintance and designed a full size poster of my project to serve as a constant visual reminder of what’s in store. On a different, sci-fi project, I sewed a uniform I designed for the main character – complete with rank insignia. On another I built the full scale prop journal that served as a touchstone between two generational main characters. I do like the tangible incentives. πŸ™‚

    And KnitCat is absolutely marvelous! So much character in the tiny thing!

  • Tracy Riva Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:43

    Holly,

    You are my hero. That’s all I can say, other than I want a cat too. You’ve made my day.

  • Diana Halstead Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:42

    That’s great! I wish I could knit like that. I do, however, get migraines and vertigo. (Ugh.)
    I work through my stories while I work in the vineyard or clean stalls.
    At the moment, my house has been taken over by six Siamese kittens. I will trade you one for one like yours!

  • Dawn Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:36

    Love it! πŸ™‚

  • Jeanette Raleigh Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:32

    Adorable cat! I never thought a knit-cat could have so much of a personality. I’m imagining a knit-mation video with Knit-cat as the star.

  • Lucy Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:29

    Very creative poses!

  • Lyyda Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:22

    KnitCat is cute, unique and he likes being one of a kind. Nice to know I’m not the only one to write while laying in bed. Hang in there.
    Lyyda

  • DocOutlands Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:15

    >Anyway… have you ever done anything as weird as knitting a cat to
    >get to the heart of a story?

    I make customized action figures from Star Wars and GI Joe fig’s to help with mine.

    (The cat is beyond awesome, by the way!)

    • Danzier Jun 14, 2011 @ 0:29

      I’ve used the little guys in a Risk game to outline formations of soldiers one-for-one, to get an idea of army sizes. It’s fun to write armies of ten thousand foot soldiers clashing, but in a valley of certain parameters, you can’t get four hundred soldiers to actually fit there, let alone fight there. πŸ˜€

      • Holly Jun 14, 2011 @ 3:17

        Nice thinking.

  • Athena Grayson Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:13

    It is absolutely eerie how much…cattitude…is in that li’l thing. I want one. I want one with the passion of a thousand burning suns. KnitCat reminds me very very much of sacred statues of Bastet (of the Egyptian pantheon) and I would be not at all surprised to discover that Goddess might be slumming it a bit in such a wonderful host. Leave a thimble of milk if you get the urge.

    I’m more of a hooker (crochet) myself, although I do clothing more than the little amigurumi critters I see everywhere. But crochet motifs actually have played a big part in my Thinking Sideways where I let the Muse play a little. I don’t always remember to ask the questions, though, and end up getting muse-bombed by really random things…that always seem to have some purpose. Half the fun, I think, is figuring out how to fit them into the story, and finding out that they do fit, better than I ever could have dreamed.

  • Nina Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:12

    Wow, what a way to break through that writer’s block, and they are so cute. I’m still looking for ways to combat my writer’s block. I’m not a knitter so I have to ask, doesn’t knitting so small like that cramp up your fingers?

  • McKenna Darby Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:12

    I once asked my ex-police officer husband to help me choreograph a particularly difficult fight scene, so the two of us squared off in our front hall and acted out the entire thing. Was a lot of fun and we nailed the scene.

    I don’t think that comes anywhere close to your sweet little cat as a writing curiosity, but I couldn’t knit a cat (or even a placemat) if I tried.

    Hope the migraines clear up soon. Feel better!

    • Amy Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:01

      @McKenna Darby: Now THAT sounds like fun!

  • Amanda Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:10

    Oh my! how adorable! and I think I need to copy you right away. I don’t have any florist wire or tape, but I think I’ll pull the wire out of some wired ribbon I have. I love this idea, I don’t think you are weird, and now I want to completely dive into a whole world of knitted creatures. I’m so glad you emailed us about this! I don’t usually follow your blog. Now that I know you’re a knitter too, I think I’ll have to!

  • Kaelin Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:09

    I love knitting, sculpture, and writing. Plus I get migraines. This has got to be the best way of turning lemons into lemonade I’ve seen in a long time.

    Best knit project I did was to knit a wire apple blossom branch with forged copper blossoms one afternoon when nothing else was going right. But I never thought of yarn over wire- wonderful!

    If your secret project would allow, maybe this little guy could get an auctionable cousin?

  • laline Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:09

    Never done anything that “weird” but I did join an online gaming community once, which was plenty weird for me. I also carried a plastic hamster on some of my travels and tried to see the sights through his eyes. My family thought that was pretty weird.

  • Holly Lisle Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:07

    10-ish hours of armature-building and knitting with tiny needles and tiny yarn equals one 3″ inch cat. I’m afraid he’s going to be the only one of his kind—well, I might make him a mate at some point if the story calls for it.

    But knitting to sell? Nononono.

  • Kelly G in ATX Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:07

    I totally want one too! and I think I see where this is going. I can’t wait!

  • Bill Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:06

    It’s so tiny. How did you manage to knit something so tiny? The first pictures made me think it was much bigger. The one with the finger gave me perspective… and shocked me. That is excellent detail for something that small.

    Being a cat person myself, I’d have to say that’s a cute cat. 8P

  • jan Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:04

    I’m trying to knit lace. But I keep frickin up. Sort of like trying to work out some plot snarls. I’ll keep at it. Knitting helps keep me ‘right some calm’ (pronounced cam).
    hope you feel better soon or at least for good old stretches of time.

  • Angela Knight Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:03

    I LOVE KnitCat! At least you made something FUN instead of just stewing in frustration.

  • Julee Adams Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:03

    Love, love, love it!
    I do counted cross-stitch, but can’t knit or crochet to save my life. I just bought $50 in yarn on clearance for a buddy of mine to work up an afghan for me!
    Feel better soon and grateful you can still be creative!

  • Diane Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:03

    Whew! Thought you were going to knit a real kitty! The yarn one’s are really cute, and easier to knit, too. I don’t knit, but admire those that do.

  • Nora Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:02

    You managed to get the essence of cat which is a very nice trick. It’s amazing how few people can capture that.

    That story should be a doozy.

  • Texanne Jun 13, 2011 @ 19:01

    Well, Holly, that is cute, and also a tad weird. And tiny. Never knew that making a cat was so much like writing a book: armature, tape, stuffing, ripping anything not like a cat.

    When I was helping to develop movie scripts I’d break up all the linear thought by making paper jewelry. No jewels, but very heavy watercolor paper. For a voodoo/zombie flick I made a choker–drew around my hands to make two halves of a necklace. Certainly got the producer’s attention, for about ten minutes.

    Hope you feel better very soon. And my Monday is better than Sunday was. So that’s good.:)TX

  • Jay Gordon Jun 13, 2011 @ 18:59

    This is a whole new twist on making the best of a bad situation.

    You should auction off the cats. Cute! Your fans would have a nice souvenir and a story to tell.

    • Suzanne Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:07

      First, I am sorry you are laid out. I have been there (lupus). Second, is the cat really that small or his your husband a giant? His finger looks huge against the cat’s belly.

      Finally, I TOO want one. He is adorable. I think it is amazing you did this without a pattern. That is mighty talented. My cat (only one now, my older two passed on me 15 & 17 years old), would go crazy attacking that cute little devil. BUT, if he were my new kitty I would not let Theo near him/her.

      This could be a new profession for you. I’d line up to buy one. I hope you are feeling better soon. Until then, let those two guys pamper you. πŸ™‚

  • Thea Jun 13, 2011 @ 18:58

    Will you knit more cats? And can I buy one? That’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen! πŸ˜€

  • zette Jun 13, 2011 @ 18:57

    OMG! I WANT ONE!

    LOL

    That is so cute and funny! And a great little adventure there with him!

    I hope you start feeling better soon. That has to suck. I’m thinking good thoughts your way.

  • Julia Rachel Barrett Jun 13, 2011 @ 18:56

    I’m picturing knitted swans as centerpieces for my daughter’s wedding. Can you do that???

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