Knitting Obsession #1 (Because There Will Be More)

So this is how it works to be obsessed.  You reread an old post and realize that you promised a simple hat, not a simple ear warmer.  Right after breakfast you get your cashmere (sigh, moan, weak feeling in legs) and choose two colors and cast on the simple hat.  There is no exact design in mind, but you know you can put some stitches on the needle and start it, and the pleasure of working the cashmere will bring inspiration. 

Then, you’re knitting along and realize that it’s Monday morning, and you need to talk to your accounts person.  You call his cell phone and find that he’s not in the office, he’s in upstate New York.  (Duh, it’s the holidays!)  That sets off a frenzy of wondering how close he is to your favorite yarn store, Flying Fingers, in Irvington, New York.  You put down your knitting and log on to Mapquest.com to find the exact location of Irvington and your accounts person.  There’s not a chance in hell of putting the accounts person in your yarn store, but you have to know this information. 

Ten minutes later you realize that you have engaged your accounts person in a long conversation about knitting needles on planes and the radical knitting movement.  Fortunately, the accounts person is an old friend and is not charging for the minutes.   Nor is he thinking that you might soon need to do that Power of Attorney thingy to have a saner person  making the calls (or at least he doesn’t say those things out loud). 

Next, you’ve logged on to the computer and raced to your weblog to tell the whole world how sweet it is to be touching cashmere again.   The Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere comes in these cute little 45 yard twists.  They are so smooth that you don’t have to ball them before you use them-you can just lay out the loop of yarn and pull from it.  If it gets tangled, you can prod them with your needle and pull and the offending snags fall apart.  Every few minutes you stop knitting and stroke the fabric that is coming off your needles.  It’s incredible.  I recently read the Knitter’s Review (www.knittersreview.com) forum on cashmere, and I think most felt that with cashmere you get what you pay for.  I agree completely.  I have sampled across the price range, and the less expensive cashmeres have a sort of fuzzy halo around them and are not as soft and smooth.  However, I must say that I still enjoyed working with them, and wouldn’t let that keep me from sampling the cashmere I could afford. 

Oh yeah, you also email one of your best friends to get the details about a knitting group she mentioned.  This could totally revitalize your social life. 

Finally, you rush to end your weblog because the cashmere fix is sitting right next to you, calling your name.  There’s an idea in your mind for how to form the top of the cap and it can’t wait any longer.  No matter if everyone in the world knows you are dorky.  Time to go knit!

Peace.

End of Day Data

And for the evening assessment we have:

Pain (still sacroiliac, plus a headache partially cured by coffee)  ********

Stiffness (wow, really not so bad today!)                                        ****

Knitting desire  (uh-oh, cashmere is rising again!)                        *************

Travel desire                                                                                       ********

Sense of humor                                                                                   ************

Appetite (ok, ordering pizza didn’t help)                                        ******

Energy (enough to pay a gazillion bills today)                               *********

Overall, a good day.  That’s my science and I’m sticking to it.

Peace.

Scientific Experiment, NOT

Mornin’!  This is how I am right now: 

 Knitting desire                    ************

Pain (doggone sacroiliac!)    *********

Appetite (yippee!)                ****

Stiffness                                 ******

Energy                                   ******

Sense of humor                    **********

Thought I would start off today with the post-breakfast inventory, then repeat it this afternoon.  This is my unscientific but pretty effective way of comparing pre- and post-medicine and pre- and post-movement condition.  

Someone once told me that if one bad thing happened in my day, I let it color the entire day and called the day “bad”.  He was right, and for the last decade I have been working on that.  Part of the task has been to not let my physical condition be the only feature by which my day is judged.   I’ve been successful at that to the point that I won’t even do an assessment without including other factors.  It is impossible to live well with a chronic illness if you are only concerned with your physical abilities.  You have to come to recognize your worth outside of what your body controls-your worth as a friend, as a thinking person, as someone with skills that can be used when you are not able to climb mountains and ford streams, but maybe just drive a few miles and sit in a chair.   

If you have been living a very physical life, perhaps you have to take inventory of the other things you can do or skills you’d like to develop, and then work on them.  Or maybe it requires adjusting your focus in the same area that you’ve pursued in the past.  For instance, if volunteering had you wielding a hammer on a home building site, consider whether the same organization could also use your accounting skills or your ability to recruit others. 

Another part of judging my day is remembering accurately  and then letting go.  I used to mentally escalate small events into epics, running over and over them in my mind.  Now I might give some unpleasant occurence one opportunity to be reviewed mentally, focusing on what I could have done better, and then I deliberately put it away.  If my mind tries to wander back to it, I pick up a task that requires some concentration and fill my brain with the new chore.  At the end of the day, that one difficult stretch hasn’t had the chance to override all the good that may have surrounded it. 

I recognize that I have some control over the events of my day, and I place good things in my day with regularity.  I plan breaks and phone calls and trips out of the house and other treats, rather than just hoping that something good will happen.  I know the things that please and sooth me, and I use them.  They aren’t all big-maybe I will read a chapter in a book I particularly enjoy or take an evening bubble bath.  Whatever I do, I’ve helped tilt the overall day towards the “good” side. 

Finally, I take time to appreciate all the good in my life.  I am blessed in so many ways, and I would be a total ingrate if I didn’t thank the ones responsible.  I say “thank you” a lot-to my children, my friends, my other family, and to God.  I try to note smaller things and say “thank you” for them-someone doesn’t have to donate a kidney to get your notice!  I acknowledge good jokes, phone calls, errands to the kitchen and back, chores performed well, chores just performed…you get the idea.  It’s all good.

In that vein, a “thank you” to you for reading my stuff.  That lifts my day, too!

Peace.

13 Stars

 Ever since the first treatment three days ago, everyone is asking “How do you feel?”  I will attempt to answer that for today.  I have to be up a few hours before I can take a good inventory.  This one is shaping up pretty well.  Here’s the rundown:

Energy                          ********

Pain                               *********

Stiffness                       ******

Sense of humor           *************

Knitting desire            *************

Travel desire               ********

Appetite                       ******

Okay, totally unscientific, but 13 stars is the best for the good stuff like knitting and the worst for the bad stuff like appetite and pain.  I definitely don’t feel as bad as that listless day after the treatment.  I’ve been up for a while, knitting on the mohair wonder and having that healthy oatmeal and an apple and turkey slices breakfast with my daughter.  I’ve just realized that my stiffness is definitely better.  My hands and fingers are very limber, and my hips didn’t feel as stiff this morning.  How about that?!

I am watching Stigmata for the first time.  I am jealous of the young women in Frankie’s shop, the hip hair stylists and body piercers.  Some days I wouldn’t mind a couple of purple streaks in my hair and a small loft apartment in the artsy section of a large city.  But I wouldn’t want to be the star, Frankie (Patricia Arquette), who is being inflicted with excruciating pain that she doesn’t understand, from a belief system that isn’t hers.  It makes me think of the pain inflicted on some people by the extremely religious, judgmental, “right Christians”.  Yes, I know that in this country they’ve been dubbed the “Christian right”, but I think that most of them believe they are both right and right.  Attacking people with harsh judgments and unrestrained criticisms, insisting on unquestioning stewardship, moving the religious into the political realm…I am a Christian, but I cannot be “right” like that.

I am looking forward to the end of the holidays.  Does that sound crazy?  I kind of want the regular stuff to be available again, like I want Yarn Works to reopen and all the online places to be back to regular business.  I haven’t really been tending my store like I should.  I have cashmere pieces to photograph and list, and things that I no longer like to remove from the display.  But the holidays hold me back, give me this lethargy toward work, make me feel like I am wasting precious holiday time when there will be plenty of work, work, work soon enough.  There has to be something perverted about this kind of thinking in a person who is no longer officially employed. 

In the movie, Frankie is now at the arch diocese being cared for by the nuns.  I want to jump into the screen and warn her.  In the eighth grade I started Catholic school.  A non-Catholic, I was submerged in the culture of religious teachers and daily mass.  My teacher, Sister __, was the principal of the school.  When children were sent to her for discipline, she would take them into the cloakroom at the front of our classroom and spank them.  Afterward, the little kids would come out crying and she would return to our lesson, smiling.  Yikes!  Run, Frankie, run! 

I am horrible to go to the regular movie theatre and talk to the characters on the screen when there is danger involved.  Ever since my first scarey movie, The Wizard of Oz, when I tried to warn Dorothy about the wicked witch and the flying monkeys, I have gotten seriously involved with the action and talked to the characters.  As a kid I didn’t see many scary movies, but I do remember The Birds, and then The Exorcist.  Now I watch horror movies only when there’s someone in the house with me, although Dayna fell asleep during Stigmata and left me gasping alone.  I doubt that I’m going to make any further progress in this watch-scarey-stuff-alone thing.  I’m proud just to be able to see Friday night TV by myself. 

I haven’t talked about Lucy much because she tends to dominate things.  Dachshunds are very stubborn and when they want to be the center of attention, they do a damn good job of it.  She’s sitting here staring at me, hoping I will pick her up and put her in her chair.  I suggested that she jump, something she’s perfectly capable of doing, or take the stairs that I so kindly provided, or rest on her cushions that I placed under my desk.  Her gaze is compelling, but I will not give in.  She is a dog and she can jump.  This morning she gazed me out of a couple large slices of deli turkey.  I am so weak.  Aha!  She jumped!  We’re 1 and 1. 

Peace, people, enjoy this day.

How Do I Look?

The old theme was a little sedate and dreary.  I wanted more light and the ability to incorporate my favorite colour, purple.  I also needed to be able to use more widgets so I could add convenient, cool stuff like links and the calendar.  WordPress provides a number of possible templates and you can change at will, so this is the way we’ll start the new year.  I JUST DISCOVERED THAT THIS FORMAT DOESN’T ALWAYS SHOW THE WHOLE WIDTH OF THE PHOTO, SO CLICK ON THE PHOTO AND IT WILL EXPAND TO ITS FULL SIZE.

Mo’ peace, people!

Mohair-Need I Say Mo’?

I crack myself up.  People who know me will vouch for that.  I frequently make a dumb joke, like today’s title, and then laugh so loudly the neighbors can hear it.  When I moved into my last mountain house, my neighbor heard me laugh and came out of her house and across the street to talk to me and my dad.  The first thing she said was that she knew the new people had moved in because she heard the laugh.  My ex-husband is a master of puns.  You can guess how we have warped my daughter’s sense of humor.  She knows that she is the world’s funniest person.  When the three of us are together, it’s not unusual for someone to come across a restaurant to ask what we’re up to and comment that we are having entirely too much fun.

I also lie.  You may remember that I bragged about having willpower, then started the mohair creation in the middle of the night.  I needed an excuse, the diminished capacity defense.  But I also said that our decisions in the middle of the night might not be wise.  This is to say that after two days I decided I didn’t want the wrap to just be a long, plain rectangle with vertically striped patterning.  I wanted a shaped capelet with the pattern wrapping around in long swooshes of colour, and I wanted to break up some of the front with eyelets formed by yarnovers.
Okay, hold up a minute.  Had to get up and slip on my Crocs quickly and dance with Ellen Degeneres.  She has not taped a show that I didn’t love.  If I can’t get up and dance I dance sitting down.  (I learned chair-dancing from Bill Cosby.)   The Crocs are the most wonderful shoes my sore feet have ever worn.  I can bear to put my feet on the floor with their squishy cushioning.  This is my dog, Lucy, watching me dance.
lucywatchingmedance.jpg
Back to mohair.  I took the old piece off the needles and unraveled it with difficulty.  Mohair that is spun with the little curliques does not like being pulled apart, no matter how loosely you knit it.  When I finished I had a pile of pathetic yarn, rather ragged looking, and I knew I’d have to start fresh with the yarn in the ball to do my capelet.  Dayna made a fantastic suggestion.  She said to go ahead and knit the ragged yarn and make a small felted piece.  Those small felted pieces (things the sizes of a swatch, 4×4 inches and larger) can always be used for potholders or coasters, or folded in half and stitched up for coin purses or iPod holders or cell phone cases.  You can cut out smaller pieces and paste them onto collages or use them to decorate your bigger knitted accessories…endless possibilities.  Thanks, Dayna, you saved a big handful of beautifully-coloured yarn from being trashed.
mohaircapelet.jpg
For the capelet, I’m using Knitpicks Options circular needles size 5.  (Remember me, the loose knitter?  You may want to go to a size 6 if you knit tightly.  But still try to keep from choking up on the mohair too much.  You can tear it up dragging it through very tightly knit stitches.)  Any length from 20 inches up is fine.  I’m using a 32 inch because that’s the first cable I took out of the case.  I cast on 90 stitches for the neck edge.  I made one knit row, then started increasing 10 stitches every other row:
  • Row 1:  Knit.
  • Row 2: Knit 3, (yarn over, knit 9) repeat 9 times, then yarn over and knit to end of row.
  • Row 3:  Knit.
  • Row 4:  Knit 3, (yarn over, knit 10) repeat 9 times, then yarn over and knit to end of row.
  • Row 5:  Knit.
  • Row 6:  Knit 3 (yarn over, knit 11) repeat 9 times, then yarn over and knit to end of row.
  • Row 7: Knit.
  • Row 8:  Knit 3 (yarn over, knit 12) repeat 9 times, then yarn over and knit to end of row.
  • Row 9:  Knit, placing 1 yarn over any place you desire in the row.  (131 stitches)

So far you have started at the neck and used the yarnover stitches to increase gradually so that the capelet flares to accommodate shoulders.  At this point you want to knit until the total piece measures about 4 inches.  During this phase of the knitting, I wanted to have a random eyelet pattern around the front edges of the capelet.  I made yarn overs at the beginning and end of the row, not really counting how many or choosing any specific pattern to put them in, but always making sure to follow the yarnover with a k2tog so that the total number of stitches didn’t change.  I also made sure that I had at least 3 knit stitches at the beginning and end of the row, so that there is an effective band down the front of the capelet.  That means if you want an eyelet close to the end of the row, you might have to make your knit 2 together, then the yarnover, then knit 3 to end the row. 

Okay, now we’re at a total length of 4 inches, and we want to add a little more width, give the capelet some flare.  At the beginning and end of the row, work in 7 more yarnovers on each side.  You could, for instance, make a row like this:

Knit 3, yarn over, knit 2, (yarn over, knit 1) 3 times, yo, k2,yo,k1,yo,knit until you have 15 stitches left, then (yo,k1)4 times, yo, k2, yo, k3,yo, knit to end of row.  Now you have a total of 145 stitches.  Don’t count.  There’s nothing we’re going to do in this capelet that can’t be done just as well with 143 or 146 stitches.  Not only am I a loose knitter, I do not obsess about the details unless they are crucial. After the increases, keep knitting.  Add some (yo, k2tog) if you like, but not so many that your piece looks like swiss cheese.  Remember, this is a lightweight capelet that is designed to keep you covered and a little warmer.  We’ll pick up at this point when I have knit some more.  Don’t worry that your piece currently looks like it will only wrap around a 3 year-old.  Blocking is going to really stretch it out and make it cover the wider you.  Not that you are very wide.  But if you happen to be a bit larger than a runway model, this will fit.  You will block it to the size you want. mohaircapeletb.jpg

One more note before I peace-out.  One of my nephews is the same age as Dayna, and he is also a college sophomore.  He is leaving the country today for Kenya where he will live for the next month and help out in a medical clinic.  He is a very directed, hard-working, talented young man, and I admire his resolve in taking on this volunteer task in a difficult new environment.  We talked yesterday.  I wish him Godspeed and a great experience. Peace!

Tired

I am so tired today.  My mother sometimes says “I feel like death warmed over” or “You look like death eating a cracker.”  Those are the statements that describe me today.  I am so drained, perhaps from the long visit yesterday, perhaps from my current active lupus, or maybe it’s the death of all those little B cells.  Losing thousands of cells must have some effect on your body.  I keep thinking I’ll hear them screaming.  Maybe they are clinging together in little islands of cells, pushing their brothers towards the big, bad drug and trying not to be touched by it.  Or maybe I’ll reach in my ear and pull out a big clump of teeny B-cells, looking like little smiley faces with their eyes closed (because they are dead, duh!). 

Anyway, I am tired.  In this part of Tennessee they say “tarred”, so tired rhymes with hard.  Maybe it should.  It’s hard to be this tired.  I don’t want to hold a book up long enough to read a page.  I don’t want to type with capitals because it’s extra effort to hold that shift key down.  I’ve asked Dayna to go fetch things for me half a dozen times because my legs are not only stiff but tired.  She has her facebook page open and I’m too tired to try and peak over her shoulder and see what other people’s children are doing.  I am too tired for conversation so I let the calls go to voicemail and then listen to the messages to see if it’s important enough to make me talk. 

daynasblanket3rdstrip.jpg

Notably, I am not too tired to knit.  I just finished the last strip on Dayna’s blanket, and it is going to be beautiful.  The very last deep rose block is simple:  on the right side, I knit across the row.  On the wrong side, I do knit 1, purl 1 across the row.  Occasionally I slip in a couple or three garter rows. 

daynasblanket3rdstripc.jpg

The pale pink block is all garter stitch.  That was my resting point after doing the fancy stitching in the other rose block.  I made the hexagons by seeing them in my mind and figuring out how to outline them with purl stitches.  Maybe another day I will look at it and count the stitches and write it down.  This is too tired a day for that, but I will show you: 

hexagonblock.jpg   hexagonblockb.jpg

Okay, hang on.  I’m going to take this tired body to the deck and shoot a couple pictures of the fabled mohair.  Oops, NOT.  The body says “sit down” and I am complying.  We’ll do mohair tomorrow. 

Thanks everyone, for hanging in there with me through this journey.  Your nice notes and calls are really holding me together.  And Dayna, you are a star. 

Peace.