Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wildlife (Pet) Tip of the Week: Owning a Hedgehog

Today's pet tip of the week is owning a hedgehog. I've had Gizmo for 4 1/2  years and he is very low maintenance. Below is a checklist of what you need in order to have a happy and healthy hedgehog.

Domesticated hedgehogs have a life span of 8-10 years, so this is something to think about before committing to one. My husband and I have an African Pygmy Hedgehog, these are a bit smaller than your average European hedgehog. This means they require less room, but it is recommended that their cage be no less than 5 sq ft.

Their ideal climate is 22 C or 72 F, so you need to make sure they have a warm place to stay before bringing them home. The average length of the African Pygmy Hedgehog is 15-25 cm (5.9-9.8 inches) and their weight should be between 250-600 g (8.8-21 oz). They have short tails and legs with a long snout. The Pygmy is also called the four-toe hedgehog because they have four toes on each foot.

Below is a basic checklist of what you need for your hedgehog.

Note: I use these exact items, with the exception of the cage. However, I'm debating on getting it now that I found it.

Cage: at least 5 sq ft and no wires

Midwest Expandable Guinea Habitat It is 9 sq ft. Plus, this cheaper than most commercial cages.

Midwest Guinea Habitat Top Panel
-You can purchase the top panel separately if yo have other animals.

Water Bottle-Hedgehogs have very small mouths, so make sure you get a water bottle that has a small mouth piece.

Food Bowl-Food bowls need to be heavy because hedgehogs have a tendency to knock them over.

Bedding-Besides fleece/Velour, Carefresh is the only bedding I recommend. Hedgehog's can not be exposed to cedar pine oils.

Cage Cleaner-You need to make sure you have safe cage cleaner, do not use Lysol wipes or any other cleaning agents with harmful chemicals.

Exercise Wheel-I would recommend a 12 inch wheel and you need to make sure it is does not have a wired bottom. Hedgehogs have small feet and they can easily get stuck in the gaps of wired wheels.

Carrier-I don't really use a carrier unless we move or I take Gizmo to the vet. I've only taken him to the vet once due to an infection.

Food-Gizmo was raised on Purina One Kitten chow. This has enough protein and fat for your hedgehog. The fat content and iron is too high for them in regular cat food. Ideal snacks for hedgehogs mealworms, crickets, waxworms, vegetables and fruits. These are not to be substituted as their regular meal, just use these for treats.

Avoid milk products, avocados, nuts, onions grapes, raisins, chocolates, raw meat, egg yolk, and any processed food.

Shampoo-Sadly, Gizmo doesn't like to get off the wheel when he uses the bathroom, so this requires us to give him weekly baths. We tend to give him a bath at least once a week and we only use baby shampoo because its safe enough to use on their skin.

Toothbrush-These can be used as quill brushes. We use toothbrushes to rub in the shampoo in between the quills. Also, it's great for cleaning those dirty feet.

Nail Clippers-As with any animal and human, hedgehogs still need to get their nails trimmed. We trim Gizmo's nails on bath day.

Total Cost: Between $145-$165

Remember, you will only need to buy the cage, water bottle, dish bowl, carrier once. I've had 3 wheels and 2 shampoo bottles in 4 1/2 years.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review: Knit Step by Step

I bought Knit Step by Step a few months after I bought I Taught Myself Knitting Beginners Kit book. Although it didn't come with any knitting accessories, it did have very thorough pictures. I chose this book because I noticed the detailed pictures and the variety of different ways to knit. Another plus was that they had 10 free projects in the back of the book.

Beginning of the Book
Knit Step by Step has a contents page (very good impression because the other book didn't have a table of contents). It is broken into different sections: Introduction, Tools and Materials, Techniques, Projects, Stitch Patterns, Glossary, Index, and Acknowledgements. It's a fairly thick book with 223 pages. Most of it is pictures with a description under it.

Tools and Materials
This section talks about different types of yarn, yarn labels, choosing yarn colors, yarn weights, knitting needles, other equipment (accessories), specialized equipment, embellishments, and garment care. That is a lot to cover but it is very well organized. For example, the yarn section describes the different types of fibers and blends. They go into great detail showing you a picture of what the specific yarn looks like and showing a swatch with the yarn. Another interesting topic was the garment care because a lot of new knitters don't know how to take care of their finished projects. Other equipment is where you will learn what accessories you need, which includes a knitting needle gauge, scissors, pins, stitch holders, row counter, needle organizer, tape measure, stitch markers, and knitting bags. Overall this a very in depth approach to learning your yarn, needles and accessories.

Techniques are broken down even further into sections. A few examples are key techniques, preparing and repairing, following a stitch pattern, increase and decrease, short rows, circular knitting, finishing details and the i-cord. I think this is very detailed, however, it can get a little confusing. It does start out showing you how to make the slip not, then how to hold your yarn for both English and Continental styles. But after that it teaches you how to make the knit stitch the Continental style before learning how to cast on. So this is not a book where you have lessons that go in order. If you didn't know that the cast on came before the knit stitch, then this could be somewhat confusing. I think they just threw that Continental style knit and purl stitch in there without thinking where it should go. However, after the cast On and cast off (bind off) methods, they do show you how to work the knit and purl stitch English style.

As I look back I can tell why I was a little overwhelmed with information because it gives you 22 different cast on methods and 13 cast off (bind off) methods. You really only need to know one type, so don't try to learn all of them at once. Just pick one that your most comfortable with. They show you how to make the knit and purl stitch and then the basic knit and purl stitches. You learn what the garter, stockinette, reverse stockinette, and single ribbing stitch. These are explained in 4 pages, where as the casting on and casting off are 24 pages. So my advice is to pick one cast on method, one cast off (bind off) method, and follow the directions on the basic knit and purl stitches.

Preparing and repairing section describes how to prepare the yarn (meaning roll the yarn), learn how to join yarn, correct mistakes, and pick up dropped stitches. I believe preparing the yarn is a little out of place because I feel like you should prepare the yarn before you knit, but that's just my opinion. Once you learn how to prepare and repair, you will move on to learn how to follow stitch patterns. This section shows you knitting abbreviations (I think it should have been in the beginning), slipping stitches understand the symbol chart, and knitting terminology. Next up is learning how to read a written pattern. This is book is how I learned what the instructions meant, it gives you a detailed example of how to read instructions.

The increase and decrease section was a little like the casting on and casting off section. It gives you 13 increase methods and 6 decrease methods. However, I believe these are all beneficial to you because some projects are specific on how you need to increase/decrease. Each method will have an impact on your design, so you need to make sure that if the instructions tell you to do a yarn over then do the yarn over increase, not a make one increase.  It does go on to show you how to do paired increases and decreases, but so far I haven't had to use these methods, so I would skip them for now. You also learn to shape patterns using the increase and decrease method, again I wouldn't worry too much about that until your more familiar with the basics.

Cables and i-cords are the next two sections you work on. Cables was something I learned pretty early on and I believe it easy enough for a beginner to learn. You can make a lot of nice projects out of the cables design. For some reason, the i-cord was very tricky for me. I just couldn't get the concept of it and I had to watch YouTube videos to learn. You use i-cords for purse handles and headbands.

The colorwork section shows you how to add colors to your knitting. I have to say that I did not read this section at all because it looked a little confusing. Again, I used YouTube videos to learn how to add colors. I haven't worked to much with stripes yet, so I can't tell you if this is easy to read. They do show you how to read charts with colorworks. I am more of a line by line reader, so the charts didn't really affect me. The two color techniques are the he Fair Isle method and the Intarsia method. The book gives detailed information on how to knit and purl both.

Before I finish with this section, I would like to go over circular knitting. There is a nice detailed picture of how to knit with circular needles and  this is something a new knitter can understand. They have also added a few ways you can use circular needles, such as knitting a mobius loop and knitting two tubular items at once.

There is so much in this section that it is almost impossible to cover. A few other topics that are discussed are blocking, adding buttonholes, ruffles, making pockets, hems, seaming fabric together, adding embellishments, and embroidery techniques. Again, there is so much information in the book that it can be a little confusing to understand. It is not setup with lessons, so you have to search what you are looking for.

The book comes with 10 free projects which include: a striped scarf, hat, arm warmers, blanket, baby's cardigan (solid color), baby's first hat, baby's booties, men's gloves, ankle socks, and a sweater. I have not knitted any of these but I have looked at the directions and they are easy to read. Plus everything you need to know is in the book.

Stitch Patterns
The last section of the book show you swatches of different knitting techniques. A few examples are the seed stitch, moss stitch, diagonal rib, diamond cable, and garter stitch cable. They also have different colorwork patterns, such as a heart, duck and cat motif.

Overall Review
My review would be a 4 out of 5 because this a very put together book. The only negative point is that it can kind of be an information overload if you don't know what you are looking for. You may not know that you only need one cast on method and one bind off method, and it can be frustrating to learn all of these techniques at once. Plus if you want to find anything specific, you will have to use the index because there is just so much information in this book, you wouldn't be able to find what your looking for just by flipping through the pages.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: I Taught Myself Knitting

I have several knitting books, so I thought I would help you out by sharing my opinions on some of the knitting books I have. In this post, I'll be reviewing, "I Taught Myself Knitting", by Boye. My Knitting Kits for Beginners post has a picture at the bottom of all my accessories; I got them from this book I'm going to review.

NOTE: This is my first book review, so feel free to share your thoughts. My book that I have is older, I couldn't find the exact one, but this one seems to be better because it came with needle pointers.

This was my first knitting book that I ever purchased. I went to my local craft store to find a book that teaches me how to knit. The reason this particular book grabbed my attention was that it had knitting tools. The only thing I knew about knitting was that you needed knitting needles and yarn. The knitting kit was definitely a plus for me.

Beginning of Book
The first 7-8 pages describes what your tools are going to be used for, basic knitting terminology, and general information about yarn and needle sizes. *Also, I must mention, in my book they wrote in different languages. All pages on the left side are English and the right sides are divided into French and Spanish. This can be a little confusing at first, but you'll learn to ignore the other pages if you are reading in English.* Ok, back to the review. I didn't read the first pages when I got the book because I was to eager to start knitting. But I would suggest to glance over the abbreviations and the knitting tools before start on your lessons.

The book is divided into 16 lessons. Your first lesson is to learn how to cast on. They show you two different methods to try. One is the long tail method and the other is the knit on method. To be honest, this was very confusing. They do show pictures and have directions on the side, however, I thought the pictures were a little confusing to me. As I look back on it now, I can understand how the did it, but as a beginner this was very difficult to grasp. I ended up going on YouTube to find a better method.

Each lesson comes with pictures and directions. Once you learn the cast on method, you will move on to lesson 2, which the knit stitch. Lesson 3 covers the purl stitch and lesson 4 teaches you how to bind off. *I just now noticed something odd in the book, they have Lessons 1-4 in there twice! Pgs. 8-17 have lesson 1-4 and then when you turn to page 18, it has Lesson 1 again. Very odd. I'm wondering if one section was meant for right-handers and the other us for left handers.*

Lesson 5 teaches you the slip stitch, I look at this now and it looks confusing. The slip stitch is fairly easy (just transferring one stitch from the left needle to the right needle). Anyways, they wasted a whole page for this one lesson. Two-thirds of the page is blank. The lessons go on to teach you how to decrease, increase, gauge, yarn over, garter stitch, stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, picking up dropped stitches, and so on. I think I got about half way and stopped because I just couldn't understand the drawings. I ended up learning most of my knitting through YouTube channels and blogs.

This particular book has 10 patterns. The best part is that they gave you the needles and tools needed to complete these projects. I did notice in the updated version of, "I Taught Myself Knitting Beginners Kit" they  had 3 new patterns. They do look better than the ones that I had. I think these are great started patterns, because they are simple to follow it will give you practice. I can't really say that they are my style but I did like making the dog sweater and the sweaters.

Overall Review
I would give this a 3.5/5 just because of the "double lessons" and the pictures were a bit confusing to understand. However, I think this is great if you are a complete beginner, meaning you've never picked up any knitting needles. My favorite part was the accessories, I still use them to this day. I love the row counter and the stitch holders. The needles are good enough quality, I prefer bamboo though. I would definitely recommend this to new knitters for a starter kit, but if you want something more advanced then I would pass it up.

Hope this helps! Again, feel free to comment on the book reviews.

Here's some other Knitting Beginner Kits