Cozy Cables Organic Cotton Hat

Yesterday I sketched out directions for my organic cotton hat.  Since I hadn’t finished it, there were some details that I didn’t describe.  I decided that the fabric of the hat was too soft to sew buttons directly to it.  It needed a button band to have a secure base for them.  I took a strip of cotton fabric and cut it about 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches longer than the width of the hat band.  I placed this under the band beneath where I wanted to stitch the buttons, turning the ends under.  My buttons are now sewn on very securely.  Here’s the final product:


and the button band:  blueskyorganiccottonhat-006

Overall, this is one of my favorite hats that I’ve designed and made.  It’s in my store now ( 



Essie’s Cable Brim Hat: A Year-End Freebie

What I did this year:

1.  Got out of the house.  I stopped hibernating and went to knitting group, family get-togethers, my daughter’s place, the grocery store.  Nothing remarkable to you, but a definite increase in activity, especially the last quarter of the year. 

2.  Renewed some acquaintances.  Got in touch with some old friends and made more effort with my neighbors. 

3.  Made some decisions about my store.  Decided to treat it more seriously, and to open the children’s store.  Started more intense marketing, including carrying some finished products around with me to show off.

4.  Started to deal with my weight.  Joined Weight Watchers two weeks ago.  Increased my activity at home to an average of 40 minutes per day.  Lost seven pounds in the first two weeks. 

5.  Realized that I had been making decisions like a dying person.  This led to some major changes in how I handle finances.

6.  Decided to put my house on the market.  It’s that or take in boarders.  I don’t want stranger-boarders.  I’m too picky. 

7.  Cut off my hair.  Who needs hair?  Seriously, we hang on to dead hair like the person underneath isn’t beautiful in their own right. 

8.  Put extra effort into continuing education.  Got my 20 hours and then some, in areas that are important to me. 

9.  Took a different approach to pain control.  Pain limits activity, thus I need to take at least enough medicine to get me moving every day.

10.  Started cleaning out the clutter.  Even sent boxes of books to the secondhand bookstore.  Not that there isn’t enough stuff left to fill an eighteen-wheeler.

11.  Got more serious about herbal medicine.  See 12/24/2008 post.

12.  What?  I need more?  Hell, I was busy!


Aside from taking stock of my year (which took all of five minutes) I am knitting today.  (I know that comes as an immense surprise.)  I’m halfway through a pink lace scarf in my favorite Breeze (the cashmere and silk wonder that Karabella is discontinuing in spite of my objections). 


I’m more than halfway through a cabled hat in Blue Sky Alpaca organic, undyed cotton.  I was thumbing through a cable book today and saw something similar, only with a narrower band and plain top.  Of course, I’m obsessed enough that my top has to have teeny cables all around it, too.  When I put buttons on it, it will be a fashion statement.  I actually knitted in buttonholes so it will have a functional tab. 


My cousin’s black cashmere mittens aren’t done.  I let them rest while I waited for my portable craft light (Mighty Bright, $13 at to be delivered.  My eyes really needed the help. 


Joining the etsyknitters team has opened my eyes to some of the devious things people do to make their shops more successful.  Boo.  My experience has been that most knitters are wonderful, honest people.  I can’t get focused on the bad and ugly.  In that vein, I will now tell you how I made the cable hat.  This is a “how to”, not a pattern.  It will work for pretty much any button-banded hat. 

1.  Decide what design you want on the band.  Since you’re going to the trouble of making a band, instead of just knitting in the round from the forehead up, make it count.  It should be a design that lends itself to vertical display, like cables or ribbing or other vertical stitchwork.  It can be like the random-brim hat.   

2.  Cast on enough stitches for the width of the band.  In the case of the cabled hat, I used a chunky yarn and size 8 needles and loosely cast on 18 stitches:  4 each for the cables (8), 2 for each purl section surrounding and between the cables (6), and 2 each for the knit stitch bands at top and bottom (4). 

3.  Proceed to knit your desired pattern for 20 (if stretchy) or 21.5  (not so stretchy) inches.  The next row, knit in the desired number of buttonholes like this:  Follow your pattern to where you want the button hole.  Yarnover for the next stitch.  Knit (or purl-whatever works with your pattern) the next two stitches together.  Knit over to the next button hole location and repeat the process. 

4.  Work two more rows in your pattern, then bind off. 

5.  Turn your band on its side.  Use two circs or four double points that are at least one size smaller than the previous needles.  Starting two rows past the buttonholes, pick up and knit one stitch for every row of band.  Connect to work in the round. 

Round 1:  (knit 1, yo, knit 1, yo) repeat all the way around

Round 2:  It’s your choice!  You can make the top of this hat whatever you want it to be.  In the case of my cable hat, I picked up and knitted 40 stitches, so round 1 gave me a total of 80.  For round 2, I did (knit 4, purl 1, knit 2, purl 1) all the way around, to set up my mini-cable pattern.

Round 3 (my cable hat):  (knit 4, purl 1, 1×1 left cable, purl 1) all the way around. 

Row 4 and beyond:  I repeated rounds 2 and 3 up to where I decreased to make the top.  Okay, actually I’m not up there yet, but when I have about 7.5 inches total I will.  At that point, I’ll probably knit 2 together for a couple of rounds, get it down to something manageable, thread the yarn through the remaining stitches and pull tight.  You know the drill.  I want my hat to be kind of flat on top, so that means rapid decrease, instead of gradually decreasing towards a more pointy top. 


Okay, I guess that’s a pattern after all.  It’s copyrighted, folks.  Don’t sell it, just make it for yourself and your cold friends and family.  I do so love sharing!


Fa La La and Rhodiola

I don’t need a single ‘nother Christmas present.  It’s already my best holiday season in years. 

It was hard to enjoy things to the fullest when I had to sit down and rest after each small activity.  I could barely wrap gifts when the effort of carrying one or two took all my energy for a quarter-hour.  Several years I wasn’t able to leave my house to go to grandparent visits with my daughter. 


The difference is two things.  One is the wonderful B-cell killing therapy I’ve been on for a year.  The other is an herb.  I’ve been taking it for two months, but I was reluctant to sing its praises so loudly here, because I can’t give medical advice on any kind of individual basis.  I will, however, tell you what I know and what my experience is. 


I learned of the existence of Rhodiola rosea when Dr. Andrew Weil discussed agents that can improve energy (Energizing the Elderly?).  I researched the literature as much as possible and couldn’t find any reason for not taking it.  I ordered it from CVS pharmacy online.  It’s over-the-counter, not at all expensive.  By the time it was delivered, I had forgotten about it.  It stayed in the box with an assortment of dental floss, lotion, lip gloss, and other apothecary treasures for two weeks. 


On a day when I was at the end of my rope with pain and fatigue, I remembered the Rhodiola.  I took one and continued to struggle through one small chore at a time.  A few hours later, I realized that I was no longer struggling, and had worked through a long list of chores and errands without even thinking of a rest, and that I was feeling fresh and energetic.  That occurred a few weeks before my last round of IV therapy, when I was at my worst.  I continued to take the herb once daily after breakfast, and the effects have not waned.  I missed a day recently, and found that after some moderate activity I was extremely fatigued, and could barely get undressed and fall into bed. 


None of this is scientific.  I am one person with one experience; another person could feel no effect at all.  My good results are just an anecdote, and they can’t constitute a recommendation to the rest of the world.  I do, however, want to let people know that there is a possibility here, one that has been very easy to take, compared with adding another prescription drug.  Fatigue is one of the most debilitating symptoms you can experience, and it goes hand in hand with lupus.  I have truly been blessed by having some relief from it.  I could not take a gift like this and keep it all to myself.


Fa la la!


Happy Holidays, Citizens!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…and in my house there were virtually no visual cues.  The daughter slept on the couch, recovering  from pneumonia.  The mom knitted on the last Christmas gift and organized one political get-together and one family health initiative.  And yet…


deep in all the hearts of the family there was anticipation of a wonderful Christmas.  The family was happy.  There was a  joy in all the conversations, people were making extra phone calls to one another, mother and child were preparing food and doing one-minute exercise breaks, and the tree decorating and gift wrapping were only hours away. 


This has to be the strangest holiday season we’ve seen in years.  In my house, we are suffering from economitis, trying to ride out problems that we thought  we would never endure, and yet with more hope and excitement for this country than we’ve ever had.  It’s the Obama phenomenon.  I have no illusions that he can step into office and instantly fix the woes of the world, but his beginning is distinctly different from our past administrations.  I’ve received several emails inviting me to participate in the process.  I decided to respond to one, and-like hundreds of citizens across the country-I’m hosting a health care discussion to share opinions, suggestions, and wants for the system in this country.  Our group report will go to the administration.  Obama has been elected, he doesn’t “need” us any more, and he’s still asking for input and giving us the opportunity to contribute to the change our country needs.  I’m flabbergasted.  Who knew that government “by the people” would come to mean something tangible? 


I’ve tried to gather a diverse group of people, regardless of political persuasion, who have different views of the health care system to bring to the table.  There will be health care providers and patients, employees and employers, self-employed, parents of children, children of elderly parents, chronically sick and perfectly healthy…Not only do I have a number of positive responses, people are asking to bring their friends! 


I was so excited about this opportunity (which was not directed at me, but at any and all citizens of this country!), that I responded immediately, without considering how messy my house is or the ordeal of providing snacks for everyone or the need for more seating in my family room.  I’d like to extend this opportunity to readers of my blog.  I will publish every comment I receive regarding your experiences with health care.  I’d like to hear:

1.  The biggest problem you see in the American health care system.

2.  The most important change you would like to see implemented.

3.  The effect that the current economic situation is having on your health care, if any.

Please try to answer in 100 words or less.  Thanks for your input.  Just in case you need a refresher, here is what the Obama administration plans to do:  Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need | Health Care.


Other things are happening.  I’ve joined the EtsyKnitters team, and looking at the work of my colleagues is inspiring me to go ahead with my plans to open my childrens shop.  I want to get my items photographed and posted by the end of January. 


You know that I joined Weight Watchers last week.  My first weigh-in was great.  I lost 6 pounds.  That makes me more inspired to do this.  My next step is to try and recruit some family members.  Ultimately, you’ll see us grinning from a couch on the Today Show, talking about how we lost a ton! 

Happy Holidays everyone!  and the Peace which we all deserve.

Breathing and Eating


No, I am not a crazy, overprotective mother who can’t sleep when her child is three hours away at college.  My daughter has been sick for a week, and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  She was too sick to travel, so her dad (who lives just an hour from her) went and took care of her.  I stayed on the phone and did the long distance worrying.  Every day I debated whether I should jump in the car and run down there, and every day they told me “No” and I had to go on trusting that she was okay.  After her dad left, friends looked after her.  Today, feeling considerably better, she jumped in her car after evening rush hour and pedalled home. 

I am breathing much better now, thank you. 


Bigger miracle, perhaps, is that I have followed my Weight Watchers instructions during this week’s ordeal.  I haven’t snacked, resorted to nervous eating, or excused myself from faithful participation.  I’ve cooked and planned my meals and even though my daughter’s cookies are right next to me I’m not touching them.  It has struck me that I deserve this.  I knew that intellectually, but lately it seems to be understood by some essential, deeper element in me.  ‘Bout time.


Now I can decorate for Christmas.  I couldn’t do anything until my girl could be home, at least watching and giving orders.  Maybe we’ll do that tomorrow. 


‘Sox’ Rears Its Beautiful Head

I am in an absolute, cold sweat panic.  Way back in the spring, when the Think Outside the Sox ( contest was announced, I was gungho.  I started thinking about original designs, wanting to make new sock structure.  One idea stuck in my head, and I began to work it, but as soon as I knew (with the help of a knitting group member) how to solve the mechanical problem, I lost interest.  Oh well.  By mid-May I was saying “In my mind, I am letting go of some projects.  While I want to complete my design for Think Outside the Sox, I’m not feeling as determined to enter it in competition.  I’ll let the end-of-the-year events decide that for me.”  (see May 16, 2008 post) 


Famous last words.  I am as busy as a cat covering up s— on a hot tin roof, as my mom would say in her younger, bawdier days.  (She taught us the English language in all its best and worst incarnations.  She is the reason I say “may-onnaise” instead of “man-aise”, but she’s also the reason I know the term “frosty-carted bastard”.)  In the midst of all this busy-ness, the powers that be at XRX decided to extend the deadline for the Sox contest.  Instead of December 31, it’s January 31.  Once this fact hit me, my brain clicked back into sock design gear and I have two (not one!), two designs in my head.  This time, the designs are just killing me.  They want to be made.  They need to be made.  The world cannot go on without Essie’s Turtlefat socks.  Damn.


You know what that leads to.  At midnight, I was on the computer at Jimmy Beans Wool, ordering sock yarn.  I can only enter in the Pros category, which means at most I can win $500.  I’ll be up against people who have been knitting daily for longer than I’ve been wearing panties.  I will be tired from all the knitting I’ve done before Christmas.  NOT!  Okay, maybe my joints will be a little stressed, but I really don’t tire of knitting.  I’m going to start taking a couple of fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) capsules for the inflammation anyway.  Regardless of the negatives, I want to do this.  I will show the wool when it comes.  I’m so excited I can’t stand it.


In other knitting, I’ve done three scarves, a pair of mitts, and about a third of my mom’s afghan in the past week.  I have some custom orders to deliver.  The black cashmere mittens are progressing and are stunning (to me, anyway).  That’s all that’s really due before Christmas.  My sock yarn should arrive about the time I’m finishing this stuff.


Yes, yes, yes, I went to the Weight Watchers meeting.  Thanks for all the encouraging comments.  I’m channeling Obama “Yes, I can.  Yes, I can.”  When I went in, I got a special treat.  One of my best old friends that I hadn’t been in touch with in years is in the group!  We ’bout hugged each other to death, and whispered through the meeting.  The talk from the trainer?  teacher?  facilitator?  was informative and interactive and quite fun.  Two days into this program, I’m not finding either the diet or the recording burdensome.  All the things I’m eating are in my regular diet, with little to count or measure.  Painless, so far.



Uncovering the Elephant

Yesterday a friend announced that she had received her emblem for losing 10% of her body weight in the Weight Watchers program.  First thought, congratulations!  Second thought, why haven’t I been going?  Last summer I looked for a local program and found one a mile from my house.  I checked the meeting times, thought about it, and then dismissed it.  I couldn’t see myself feeling well enough to get to the meeting every week.  It was too early.  It was at a gym where I’d have to pass by millions of fit, trim people.  Blah, blah, blah. 


Summer is over, I’ve gained weight since then, and I’m still not doing anything substantive about my obesity.  You hear me glossing over the side effects of prednisone (slow metabolism, weight gain), talking about my valiant efforts to exercise (awful damn rare), and discussing my cooking (but not the overeating part).  In almost 300 posts, I have not had a real discussion about my weight. 


Obesity is truly the elephant in my living room.  Since my diagnosis with lupus I have gained a whole person.  I have a BMI of about 50.  I need to lose half my body weight.  At least a part of my pain and morbidity has to be due to this weight.  Yes, it’s a by-product of therapy, disease, and genetics, but that isn’t an excuse for not dealing with it. 


Well, wait.  I have dealt with it, to some extent.  I’ve Nutrisystemed.  I’ve purchased exercise equipment.  I’ve walked.  I’ve counted calories.  I’ve made intake journals.  I’ve Atkins’d.  A couple of these things have actually produced weight loss, but not sustained.  Mostly because I haven’t endured.  And I haven’t gotten out there and stood up with other fat people and said “Hello, my name is Essie, and I am fat.”  


This morning I did three and a quarter hours of continuing medical education on fat, exercise, and diabetes.  It is a miracle that I’m not a diabetic, but knowing more about current treatments can only help.  There were some concrete, brief lessons that I can share with you from my morning work:

1.  It takes more exercise than we thought to help maintain weight loss.  If you lose 10% of your body weight and want to keep it off, you probably need 275 minutes/week of exercise – not the 30 minutes 5 days a week that we used to recommend, but 55 minutes per day, 5 days per week. 

2.  Losing 20% of your body weight usually puts diabetes into remission.  Imagine that:  If you weigh 200 lb, and lose 40, you can make your diabetes go away.  No more medicines.  No complications. 

3.  48 hours of cutting back on your calories will make a huge change in fatty liver.  Two days (!!!) of eating reasonable calories can turn your fatty liver around-talk about baby steps. 

4.  There are newer diabetes medicines in use that have huge advantages over the old stuff:  improved GI function, weight loss instead of weight gain, fewer side effects.


I figure going to a group program will be good for me.  First, I’ll burn more calories just by getting dressed and getting in the car and walking into the building than if I was still sitting at home.  Second, I’m very competitive, and  I should be using that to my advantage.  I will cut calories all day long to beat out Mary Sue by a quarter pound weight loss.  Third, I need the help.  Clearly, tackling this alone hasn’t worked.


Since last summer the weight loss program down the street has closed.  Now I have to drive 10 miles.  I am going to put on my big girl panties and stop being a whiney baby and go.  Isn’t that what the tiny little 8 lb 6 oz baby Jesus would do?  (Please refer to the Book of Talladega Nights, Chapter 3, Song of Ricky Bobby)