The Habit of Angora, or Making Art with a Lupus Brain

People always tell me that I’m easy to entertain.  I’m also easy to satisfy.  This morning I got up at 5 and ate a granola bar so I could take some meds.  After the drugs took hold, I bathed, put on my big girl panties, and went to town.  By the time I walked into knitting group, my pain level had decreased and I was ready for fun. 


I had a bag of stuff to show.  Franklin Habit’s brand new book of knitting cartoons, “It Itches” just arrived, and with it a cool black knitting bag sporting one of his cartoons.  In addition, I had one of the balls of Kimono Angora that I was panting for, and one of the 20 balls of Bazic Wool.  I ordered the latter in about seven colors, knowing that I’ll enjoy using the tightly spun superwash.  My bag also held the cream-coloured Bazic Wool hat, green Karabella Supercashmere mitt (the second one isn’t done yet), and the black Debbie Bliss cashmere hat.  People helped me with hat opinions (yes, the diagonal twist in the Bazic Wool is due to the tight spin, no, don’t block the black hat). 


While we chatted I worked on the Kimono Angora scarf I cast on last night.  When I pulled that yarn from the bag, I knew I had to use it right away.  Louisa Harding Kimono Angora is soft as a feather and light as air.  It’s ball band recommends size 6 needles, but you know I knit loosely, and I’m doing just that on size 3.25 mm (size 3).  It really knits itself.  It is 70% angora, 25% wool, 5% nylon, with a twist firm enough to not split as your needles work it.  Handling this is all pleasure.  I was in love with a photo when I first discovered this yarn.  Now I’m in loove for real!  I’m not doing anything fancy with the scarf-stockinette mostly, with random purl rows.  The colour is fabulously subdued, with that angora halo.  Okay, maybe wordpress has picky taste in yarn, too.  It allowed me to upload this photo of the Kimono Angora, but not the hats I mentioned earlier.  Another day.  I do want to show the hats, because they are unique, both designs that I just made and haven’t used before. 


Some cretin in my neighborhood is discharging fireworks and making my dog crazy.  My back has done all it can do today, and I cannot bend to pick her up and put her on my bed for some calming.  Her legs are short, a definite disadvantage in this circumstance.  I speak to her as softly and calmly as I can. 


A few days ago, I saw some photos of a painting by Makoto Fujimura.  One click led to another and I ended at his blog,  Refractions (  If you are interested in what a modern artist who practices an ancient Japanese painting technique has to say about creating and art and religion, he’s your guy.  I’m working my way through his blog, looking forward to reading his book by the same name.  If I haven’t said so before, know that I am an art freak.  I am also obsessed with process.  Anyone who can explain what he/she is doing-and how and why-has my attention.  And if you can tie it in with your purpose and world view, even better. 


Actually, that explains my fascination with medicine.  When I was a kid I wanted to know everything about human bodies.  I wanted to know how they worked, what went wrong with them, and how it went wrong, and how to fix it.  The processes were the thing, not just the descriptive words.  I had to have the processes, step by step, reaction by reaction.  I had forgotten this obsession when I saw down with my daughter to work on inorganic chemistry this week.  Working on various kinds of reactions (redox, substitution, combination, etc.) and going back to the valences and proper ratios, balancing the equations…something in my brain woke up and took notice.  It was the antidote to reading this:  “Impaired Cognitive Function Seen Early in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus”.  Basically, the article described a recently published study which documented (pretty universally) mental functional changes in newly diagnosed lupus patients.  Frankly, I think my brain is doing what is necessary.  After all, 35 year-old chemistry? 


If you’ve noticed the new emblem on the blog, it’s because I’ve been certified as a member of Healthcare Blogger.  The group encompasses a large number of medical blogs which have to maintain a certain ethical standard.  My blog has been under review for several months, and I was notified last week that we were in.  A major encouragement for me.  A cool thing, like the other side of the pillow.


My cheeks have been warm for days.  I’m revved up with this flare.  Only a few weeks until my next big IV therapy. 



2008 and Still Knitting

geniuscashmerehat.jpgIt’s a new year and I’m not talking about resolutions.  I brought in the new year with my daughter, watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model.  I never thought that show would become a favorite, but I’m fascinated by any accounting of how someone learns their trade.  Whether someone tells me they wait tables or hand out books at the library, I want to know how they got there.  I’m not sure where this fascination comes from, but I love seeing the building blocks to a particular occupation or craft.  I also like to know how a person in that area is evaluated, what makes one better than another, and how people in associated fields find them. 

It was an unusual midnight celebration for me.  No ball dropping.  No calling around to say “Happy New Year” to random people in the family, relishing the teasing that I would do if I found them sleeping.  Just quiet time with Dayna, who hadn’t opened a new year with me in ages. 

Yesterday, I finished the cashmere hat and took it apart.  It was ugly.  My choice of soft lavender with harsh black was ill-considered.  The shaping of the hat was clumsy and unflattering.  Did I lose my mind?  No, I just tried something.  It didn’t work.  That happens.  The only way to design is to make that last step and try out your idea.  Yarn is not like glass.  It’s not stuck the way you put it.  You can undo anything you knitted.  Um, there are some important caveats to this.  If you split a lot of strands of yarn with your needles, it will look crummy the next time around.  If you knit tighter than a chastity belt and stretch your yarn extensively, it will look crummy the next time around.  If  you weave your ends with a needle and weave them through the body of other strands, you’ll have trouble getting them loose and it will look crummy the next time around.  I started at the end of the lavender and black monstrosity, unweaved my ends, and with Dayna’s help rewound all the yarn into loose balls.  Which we put away.  For a long time. 

Then, I did my thing with some leftover green and muted blue Karabella supercashmere.  I didn’t worry that the green balls were slightly different colors.  I thought the three looked great together and I will advertise it as such.  I got my needles out and I started another hat.  The pattern is below.  If you can make a knit stitch, cast on and bind off you can make this hat.  Ignore the fact that I used two yarns and put in random narrow stripes.  It doesn’t matter a bit.  I call this the Genius Hat.

You need:  About 200 yards of chunky weight yarn, a pair of size 4.5 mm (US 7) straight knitting needles, a yarn needle.  The sample I knit is in Karabella supercashmere.  You may want to use a size larger knitting needles if you knit very tightly. 

Making the hat:  Cast on 32 stitches loosely.  If loosely is a foreign word to you, hold both knitting needles together and cast on your stitches.  Remove one when you are finished and begin to knit.  Knit every stitch of every row.  My gauge was 15 stitches in 4 inches, but don’t obsess about it.  Just try to keep your stitches consistent.  Knit until you have 20 inches completed.  I know it looks like you have started a scarf, but I promise it isn’t a scarf.  Bind off. 

Finishing:  Put the two ends of the rectangle together (the short ends, not the long sides!).  Turn so your right side (if you’ve picked one-that really doesn’t matter, either) is on the inside.  Sew the ends together.  Place your seem in the middle (it’s the midback of the hat), then sew across the top.  Now your piece looks like an inside-out bag.  I promise it isn’t a bag.  Turn it right side out.  Take the upper two corners (the ones that are closed) and bring them together.  Use about six long stitches to sew them together from underneath with their points just touching (see the photos).  Turn up the brim about an inch and a half, or leave it down to cover your ears.  Your hat is finished.  Bringing the points together on top has added an interesting detail and provides some shaping for the crown of the head. 



I love this hat.  Maybe I will make a zillion more.  After all, I’ve got a whole new year for knitting!