Blocking a Shawl and Unblocking Health Care

I start every day with breakfast and pills.  While I am waiting for the pills to do their thing, I get my first look at morning email.   My method of attack is to first scan the whole list and wipe out the junk – solicitations, sale notices, friending notes from Facebook, spam that the filter missed, and group conversation comments that I don’t want to read.  Next I attack the urgent mail – Etsy orders (woefully infrequent), real messages from family and friends (as opposed to the ever-present and quickly deleted forwards), and notifications from companies I pay on line.  Finally, I open the mail that takes a bit longer and requires more focus – Alternet mail with timely and informative articles on political and social matters, the New York Times headlines, new information on craft shows and markets, and comments on threads in my groups that I’d like to follow and perhaps contribute to. 

This morning, an interesting notice caught my attention.  It was a request to join hundreds of thousands of Americans in a petition from the Stand with Dr. Dean organization.  It has a very common sense argument for a public health plan.  If you’ve been following the issue, you know that huge numbers of our population (43 to 47 million Americans) have no health insurance, and thus miss out on most of the nonemergency health care that they should be getting.  There’s a lot of hoopla in Congress over whether we can afford to have a public insurance program, paid for by the government, to cover all of those people and perhaps any others who want to ditch their employer-sponsored plan.  The Dean organization points out that this is the only route for true health care reform, that any other option (involving just private insurers) is only insurance reform, and doesn’t address the real need for improved health care in this country.  They have a concise overview of the situation, comparing our vital health care statistics (life expectancy, survival of acute illnesses, etc.) with those of other developed nations.  The site includes a petition that you can fill out in one minute to join other public health option supporters.  Check it out: .

This week I’ve found time to admire someone else’s handknitting.  A friend brought me a gorgeous shawl to block, and I had a wonderful time working on it.  Knitted lace doesn’t look very special when you’re working on it.  It is the subsequent stretching that reveals the beautiful patterns and makes it hang with appropriate drape.  That is achieved by using wires and pins strategically placed to pull out the piece to its limits and accent the proper areas of the design.   I don’t think she will mind me showing you:  DSC04084 As you can see, I have pinned out the shawl on a queen-size bed (thanks, Dayna).  The pins go through the comforter and into the mattress, as they have to be securely anchored.  I prefer to pin it dry, then spray it with water using a perfume atomizer.  You can buy atomizers for a few bucks.  Never spray with a bottle that has held perfume, as it may discolor your piece.  I spray until the entire piece is damp, smoothing over the whole shawl with my hand to make sure I haven’t missed a corner. 

DSC04083  The shawl instructions gave only one dimension – about 68 inches from side to side.  You can see that it takes most of the bed length.  I put in the blocking wires at the top straight edges, and adjusted the fabric to achieve the proper width.  Then, working first the bottom corners, then bottom center, then filling in the sides and bottom spikes, I stretched until the pattern was clear and pulled to symmetrical dimensions.  The pins are placed at the very tip of the scalloped edge, emphasizing the diamond row above it.  DSC04088 Just another view of pretty!  This shawl takes my breath away.  Mary Z did a fantastic job! 

I gave it another spraying down with water today, because I removed a pin and found that it wasn’t holding its shape as well as I wanted.  I will give it another 48 hours of drying time, then remove all the pins and present it to its rightful owner (sigh). 

I have to apologize for the previous post, Rockstar.  I wrote it two nights ago and forgot to push the publish button.  Don’t neglect it, there’s some fun involved. 




Every now and then I find myself in a group of folks who lament the income and respect disparity between celebrities and more essential pros like teachers.  We talk about how nurses are underpaid relative to football players, and the value of a good social worker versus a good television evangelist. 

During these conversations I inevitably hit that wall that comes from knowing all the celebrities, and not knowing who to credit on the side of the little guys.  The rockstar faces are all over the papers and television screen and jump out from my internet news.  Even if I’m not a fan, their latest productions, their lifestyles, their children are all thrust into my consciousness.  I may remember that Joseph Anglin was the most fantastic middle school teacher of my experience, but there is no one famous teacher on our screens that we can all applaud and discuss. 

Now Intel is airing a commercial that totally rocks.  They show a man of Indian heritage walking through his workplace, followed by adoring stares and swooning colleagues.  He is identified as Ajay Bhatt, co-inventor of the USB.  The commercial absolutely thrills me!  It portrays a smart guy (read “geek”) as attractive, sexy, and valuable in the community.  Aside from the fact that this guy is my ideal man is the supercool vibe of the whole segment that keeps me watching it over and over.  Here, see for yourself: .

A few days ago Discontinued Brand-name Yarns ( began to advertise hand-dyed hanks of worsted weight cotton.  I checked them out and found gorgeous colors.  I’ve been looking for affordable yarns for baby blankets, and ordered a pile of these.  They came today and they do not disappoint, at least not in quality of colourwork or softness of the boucle yarn.  I have already balled one hank and knitted several rows of a baby blanket panel.  The one annoyance I have is the amount of debris in the yarn.  I have picked out tiny pieces at least two or three times each row.  Hopefully, this attention now, coupled with a vigorous washing, will make this a wonderful finished product.  While you are waiting for photos, check out this selection:

It’s just after midnight.   It’s not too late to make cake mix cookies.  I feel a sweet coming on. 


Riverbend and Early Rising

It is the end of Riverbend Festival week in Chattanooga.  The festival lasts 10 days, and attracts tens of thousands to its varied musical performances.  Even in years when I choose to avoid the heat and crowds, I can feel the excitement in the air.  Traffic patterns change, new faces appear in familiar places, television coverage and personal reports abound.  

My daughter made her first appearance at the festival at age three, dancing in the street with the community at the Bessie Smith Strut.  She still attends regularly, and I eagerly await her reports.  Last night we stayed up until 3 a.m. talking about the events of the week, the excitement still present.  She showed me her loot from the last night:  a necklace with a real scorpion embedded in glass, a six-pack of Coke Zero, jeans purchased in her pre-concert shopping.  Her descriptions of the Little Richard concert, with his unexpected presentation of his young nieces and nephew-tiny children standing on his piano to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider-kept me spellbound.  Attendance by proxy, as dictated by the current state of my lupus. 

In spite of the late late bedtime, I rose early to appreciate the glorious, bright day.  I have always been an early riser, eagerly waiting for morning to come, happy for summer when it is marked by bright light streaming into my bedroom.  As a child, I felt that I was missing something if I lay in bed late.  It was intolerable to hear activity in the rest of the house and not be a part of it.  Now, when the agenda of the day is dictated by me, I still feel the urge to jump into the day early.  I come by this honestly.  My father always rose early, his farm upbringing and Army career reinforcing the habit.  As an infant and small child, I woke to be with him and start the day. 

My son appeared unexpectedly at the front door yesterday.  He rang the bell and I interrupted a phone conversation to answer it.  My shrieks of pleasure greeting Julian probably frightened my friend on the phone.  A nice long spell of catch-up conversation ensued.  Meanwhile, a knitting friend showed up for an extended visit.  We began the evening with conversation, ended with pizza and a viewing of The Secret Life of Bees

So much to awake to, so many reasons to get out of bed.  That’s a good life.


Inflammatory Knitting

I’ve been smiling since noon yesterday.  I feel wickedly happy, because I outsmarted the lupus and recognized that my terrible pain last week was unresolved inflammation.  I began the week with bad foot and back pain, and nothing was improving it.  I had my mind fixed on the recent rheumatology visit, where my doc noted all the signs of osteoarthritis.  The pain was so severe I stayed in most of the week.  It finally hit me Friday that this pain was not osteo but my old buddy lupus, in its familiar nesting place:  sacroiliac joints and feet.  I increased my teeny prednisone dose from 5 to 15 mg, and at 24 hours I was greatly relieved.  All day Saturday I continued to improve.  Sunday (today) was the day to start a gradual taper.  Only inflammation gets better that quickly with steroids.

Like I said, yesterday was good.  Midway through knitting group, I decided to take a friend and go yarn shopping in a town south of here.  I enjoyed driving the 30 minutes through the low mountains of north Georgia, and our foray into town took me way off my beaten path.  I had not been out of view of the interstate in this city, and it actually has a nice town area, and – more important – a great yarn shop.  Krazy Knits is in a converted house, and has several rooms of yarn, neatly shelved and organized.  I cruised all the rooms, gradually adding to my pile on the counter by the cash register. 

I could bore you with an account of each yarn I purchased.  Suffice it to say that I have lots of pretty, soft, colorful stuff.  If this is titillating, call for details.  More importantly, I already knit a cutie-pie toddler poncho and have started a scarf. 

I haven’t shown anything I made in a long time.  I’ve been knitting and crocheting daily, so here’s a sample:

DSC04071   DSC04073



Upper left is a pair of fingerless mitts from undyed organic cotton.  They are waiting for buttons.  Crocheted, of course.  The knitted swirl hat is small child-size, from Knit Picks sock yarn (cotton, merino, nylon).  The lower hat is 9 mos to toddler size, also organic cotton, crochet.   To the side you can see the edge of a baby blanket that is being blocked, blue, red and brown, diagonal garter stitch with yarnover eyelets up the edges.  Better photo when it’s off the wires.  Matching booties and hat are here, too. 

I promise, not everything is cream coloured.  More soon.