Catching Up

Hey, I have energy!  It sneaked up on me.  When I was a kid, we said “snuck” but I don’t think that’s a word.  Anyway, somehow this week has been a big improvement and I’m feeling better in spite of the tapering of prednisone, with the exception of those sacroiliac joints.  The sacroiliac joints (SI joints) go down your buttocks on either side of the spine, and when they are inflammed they can sure sure make you know you’ve got a rear, but only when you are walking or standing.  (Truthfully, I think Stevie Wonder could see that I have a rear…)  So I’m sitting…but with great energy!  I love it when better health sneaks up on me!

Yesterday a big Barnes and Noble box landed on my front porch and I was delighted to see my copy of Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Crazy Aunt Purl herself, Laurie Perry.  Speaking Southern with a vengeance, Laurie has me laughing my a– off (a possible cure for sacroiliitis?) and hollering in recognition at her journey from pitiful to powerful.  The last portion of the book is a nice selection of fairly easy knitting patterns.  I’m halfway through the book and loving it, but if you want a preview of Laurie’s writing before your copy comes, go to her blog at www.CrazyAuntPurl.com.  It’s the antidote to what ails you.

Hmmm, next catch up item is that lilac block in Dayna’s blanket.  Hang on while I get a photo-oh, wait, I’ll have to add that later.  It’s too dark to throw it on the deck and shoot a couple of views.  I tried out a new stitch for this block. 

daynas-blanket2nd-stripe.jpg 

The bottom of the block is the traditional bamboo stitch:  on the right side you (yarn over, knit two stitches, then pull the yarn-over stitch over the two knitted stitches) repeating to the end of the row.  On the back you just purl across.  It has the effect of dividing your fabric into vertical bundles like stalks of bamboo, but I had one worry:  it was using yarn faster than my patterns in other blocks.  I didn’t want this block to turn out too short to fit in the blanket, so at the top half I changed to a partial bamboo stitch.  You won’t find that in a stitch guide because I made it up, but what I did was (yarn over, knit 2, pull yarn-over stitch over the two stitches, then knit 2, then yarn over, knit 2, pull yarn-over stitch over the two stitches, knit 2) repeating to the end of the row…this has the effect of only bundling every other pair of knit stitches, so it uses less yarn for bundling.  I also added a couple of rows of garter stitch in between every eight rows of the bamboo pattern.  That allowed me to get to the end of the block without undue shortening of the piece.  Here’s a closeup, with two sections of partial bamboo at the top, and two sections of bamboo stitch at the bottom:

daynas-blanket2nd-stripf.jpgYou can really see the little horizontal wrappers that those yarnovers make in this photo.  Many thanks to our expert photographer, EssieWB…rinkydink one-woman show!

People ask me how I do this design stuff, and frankly I’m kind of backwards about it.  Sometimes I have a detailed idea of how a piece will be made before I start, but usually I just put the yarn on the needles and start knitting.  It kind of evolves from there as my fingers feel the yarn and I see it developing a character.  I think very three dimensionally, so I can put in shaping elements and predict how they will work.  I don’t write patterns down unless I’m designing a piece for a contest and know that I’ll need to duplicate it stitch-for-stitch.  I can look at most of my work after the fact and write down details so that I can lead someone else in making it.  If this doesn’t make any sense, remember that my undergraduate degree was in Biomedical Engineering, so I was trained in problem solving and I’m used to looking at problems on a number of different levels (materials, structure, cost-benefit, ecological impact…).  This applies in knitting, and it helped me tremendously in medicine. 

This is a lovely morning.  I have frittered away two hours talking to two of my sisters, one out of town and one across town.  I got to do catching up with them, too.  It’s now late enough and bright enough to make a photo of that lilac block and paste it in.  Hold on.  I’m gonna get my camera.  Don’t you love it when I talk to you like you’re here? 

Well, I’m as caught up as I’m gonna be for now.  Go out and enjoy.  Make some peace.

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All Knitting, All the Time

Hehehe, I am laughing at the lie in the title.  I used that because I thought that was what I would be writing about today-knitting, only knitting.  I certainly was prepared for it!  I read Crazy Aunt Purl (www.crazyauntpurl.com) yesterday and I was all excited.  I even registered for her sweepstakes   (http://www.authorschannel.com/).  How could I resist a trip called the Book-Readin’ Wine-Drinkin’ Meet-Me-in-California Sweepstakes?!  Hope I win!!  I followed it up with 45 minutes of Knitting Daily (www.knittingdaily.com), from Interweave Press, where I marvelled over the Gallery photos of women of different sizes and shapes trying on the same handknit sweater and commentary on how to fit yourself, deciding on ease and length and details.  Kind of dovetails with one of my favorite knitting books, Big Girl Knits: 30 Big, Bold Projects Shaped for Real Women with Real Curves by Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer.  From both sources I love the frank discussion of our curves and which to accentuate and how to fit them in a flattering way.  I also love Moreno and Singer’s note that our yarn stores should love big girls, since when we want to make a sweater we buy LOTS of yarn.  Last year I designed and knit two sweaters for my plus-sized sister after reading that book, and they were far nicer than they would have been before I read it.  I paid attention to details such as the weight of all that yarn, picking fibers that were not as heavy but still had great warmth, since she lives in a very cold climate.  On one sweater I accentuated the waist with anterior ribbing (oops, a medical terminology slip)-that is, ribbing in the front from under the bust to high hip, creating a waist visually. 

Yesterday evening Dayna helped me finish posting the remainder of the scarves (and one belt and one wrap-jeez, I feel so compulsive about the details today) that I had photographed over the past two days.  I felt pretty good about the photographs, using my mannequin and trying to get at least three different angles and a good closeup for each product.  Since people are buying these things online and can’t see or touch them, I try to give them several good views and an accurate written description, including mentioning colours that don’t photograph true and fibers with some itchy qualities. 

I finished the night with a good bit of knitting on Dayna’s afghan.  I’ll be finished with the second strip (four more colour blocks) by tomorrow evening, and I’ll show you the progress.  I enjoy using this particular cotton yarn (Cozy Cotton).  Some cottons, especially the mercerized ones, are harsher to handle, and I’ve heard of them making blisters on the fingers as you knit with them.  I’m not a tight knitter, so I don’t usually have that problem, but I do appreciate the lanolin that is released from wool as you handle it, and the elastic nature of the wool that makes it a bit easier on my crazy lupus joints. 

Well, there it is, the lupus word.  The reason that I can’t just be all knitting, all the time, and talk to you about the pretty patterns I’m making and be done with it.  A few days ago I mentioned waking up without pain.  Now I’m at the other end of the spectrum.  This morning I woke with one of my worst symptoms:  foot pain.  When I am in a lupus flare, this is one of the first symptoms for me.  My feet feel stiff (a sign of inflammation) and they hurt all over.  Sometimes I have to talk myself into rising from a chair, because I know that it will mean instant intense pain.  Sometimes I just jump up quickly before I can consider it.  I think twice about grocery shopping and other errands that require me being on my feet, because the pain will diminish a bit while I’m walking but return with increased severity once I sit again. 

I first started to experience this pain in 1992.  My daughter was 4 years old, I had been in private practice since she was 4 months old, and over about 6 months time my level of activity had diminished.  I had stopped playing tennis and going running because my feet hurt and I tired quickly.  As a matter of fact, I cut back my exercise so much that I gained 15 or 20 pounds from my baseline of a normal weight.  My feet looked normal and I couldn’t see anything wrong with them when I examined them, so I decided to take a survey.  I thought maybe the weight gain and sore feet were related, so I began to ask every overweight woman in my practice if her feet hurt.  When you study obesity in medical school, they concentrate on the diseases caused by it, but not the physical perceptions of the obese patient, so I thought it was worth asking.  What I found (and this is by no means scientific) was that healthy overweight women with no underlying disease (like diabetes or arthritis or bunions, things that make feet hurt) didn’t have foot pain.  Hmmmm.  So that meant something must be wrong with me. 

My next step was a quest from doctor to doctor, symptoms worsening and spreading as time went on, to try and find out why I was falling apart at the ripe old age of 35.  These doctors were not strangers.  They were my friends and colleagues.  Some had known me since high school.  They were all men.  I heard multiple verses of the old “you’re just stressed” song.  I worked long, hard hours, I was mom to a little child and wife to a busy husband, and I had gained weight.  I needed to exercise, destress and not worry my little head about some aches and pains and shortness of breath and skin rashes.  I looked robust and healthy and I damn well must be. 

When the joint pains eclipsed everything else, I went to a young rheumatologist.  He thought I looked pretty normal, but he did the labwork anyway.  One week later I had to use crutches to make rounds, and I limped into his office without an appointment to beg for another look.  We dug up the labwork (done through my office for expenses’ sake) and I cried my way through an entire box of tissues when it confirmed that I had lupus.  Since then, other diagnoses have been added, but none with the impact of that first time announcement of my body’s imperfection.

Some of the things I learned from this:

  • Don’t blame symptoms on being overweight.  Find the cause.
  • When you know something is wrong, trust your instincts and keep looking.
  • Men docs really do treat women differently than women docs.  That Venus-Mars thing exists outside of love relationships.  We speak a different language, thus we have to work harder at the doctor-patient communication.  Many studies have confirmed this and today I’m too tired to dig one up.
  • It’s good to have a doctor who splurges for boxes of tissues in the exam rooms. 
  • It’s better to know what’s wrong and have a plan than to wonder.  Some of those tears were relief that I knew what was wrong and could move on to a plan for dealing with it.

So, today I am dealing with it.  I’ve got a warm bath and some knitting waiting for me.  Peace.