Tracy Chapman and the Red Sweater

Yesterday I got my exercise by pushing a shopping cart around a huge grocery store.  I was out there in the late morning at prime little old people time, and many of the elderly were out-pacing me by strides.  I wasn’t worried, as I’m just beginning my conditioning.  Soon I’ll be winning the race to the discounted produce, and toting those cartons of fizzy water without grunting.  I was excited to be able to stock up my freezer again.  For a while I didn’t have the energy and strength for hauling a lot of heavy frozen stuff, but yesterday I felt like I was winning a prize as I loaded up a 10-pound bag of skinless chicken breasts and a huge bag of pears that won’t ripen for a while.  Those B-cells must have been lazy little buggers, impeding me from doing the work I need.  Death to the B-cells!  This increase in energy and strength alone is cause to take the next treatments in June.


I’ve been noting my travel music, and while the errands yesterday barely totalled 15 miles, I still had notable music:  Tracy Chapman.  Several years ago she performed at the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga.  If you’re not hip to Riverbend you should become enlightened:  Anyway, I was sitting in the crowd in the heat and humidity (what we call weather in June in Chattanooga, Tennessee), and I was enchanted.  Most of the time she performed with her acoustic guitar as the major accompaniment.  Her lyrics were stark and sometimes hard, telling of experience and age, sometimes ironic, never cute.  These were tales I had followed since her debut with Fast Car.  My eyes couldn’t leave her as she performed.  She had a strong, solid presence, a beauty that was simple, uncolored.  Her arms were shapely, perfect, as if carved-well-muscled and sleek, unusual for a woman, but not masculine.  I don’t recall ever focusing on arms the way I did that night; I wanted my sketchbook and a charcoal pencil.  Here is a sample of the deep, resonant voice:


I’ve had my professional v. amateur question answered by Think Outside the Sox.  Because I have knit for pay, I am considered a pro.  The contest is primarily for amateurs (25 of 26 categories) but I am still IN.  I’m gonna put on my big-girl needles and be a pro!  For the rest of the year, I’ll be muttering in my sleep about innovative techniques-”socks made from feathers”, no “anti-tickle socks”, or maybe “socks knit from rubber bands”…hey, I can innovate with the best of them! 


Speaking of innovating, I’m going to show you where I am with the Berroca cardigan.  Remember, the one I started back in the 5th century BC, knit in mistake rib?  These are the fronts:mistakeribcardiganfrontsa.jpg 


Here is the stepped shoulder, sloping down from the neck to the sleeve edge:

mistakeribcardiganfrontsshoulder.jpgIt looks as though there may be curves shaped at the sides and upper neckline, but there are no curves – it’s just the flexibility that the loose mistake rib makes in the fabric.  I’m a few inches up the back, and I’ll show you again when I bind off the back neck. 


I couldn’t get to the latest knitting group, and I miss my friends.




Today I am Rambling…Be Forewarned

Poopies!  I woke this morning with a leg that looked just like yesterday’s leg:  just a little bit back from the border, the red spot in my cellulitis hadn’t budged.  The tenderness was the same.  And there was ominous swelling around my knee.  My heart sunk.  It sunk deep into my abdominal cavity, while I thought about cellulitis spreading upward into my knee joint and causing a septic joint, which is much more serious than cellulitis.  The knee was tender when I prodded it.  Double poopies!!  Big hypochondria attack coming!  Sepsis, coma, death. 

I got up and hobbled to the potty and then back to the side of the bed, where I did a thorough knee exam.  The swelling was in the soft tissue above my knee, probably an aggravation of the falling injury, just from my walking in the house, doing chores yesterday.  There was no extra fluid in the joint, and the knee wasn’t warm.  Range of motion didn’t hurt.  There was no redness or tenderness or streaking between the cellulitis and the knee.  Okay, hypochondria attack subsiding.  I still needed to treat the cellulitis more effectively if I wanted to get off leg elevation by Christmas.  I called in a prescription for the next line up of antibiotics. 

Today it is cold and rainy, one of those days that would feel dreary even if I was more mobile.  I ignored the knee and drove the whole mile and a half to the pharmacy drive-through and got my medicine ($118 was my co-pay, I’m sure there’s a miracle cure coming!), then treated myself to an Arby’s deli sandwich.  Back at home I tried putting Reddi-Whip on my black coffee.  It was yummy but I was still bored.  I knitted while I distracted myself with a funny movie, Guru

I just wandered into my kitchen to see what to do about dinner.  Know anyone who gets excited to find dried beans in the pantry?  Here I am.  I was raised on beans by a mom who cooked them the Southern way, with lots of fat meat.  For the uninitiated, that means lots of pork, usually the fatter the better, cuts like streak o’ lean, fatback, hamhocks…Basically it was a pot of nutritious fiber served with a heart attack.  I disliked beans until I could cook them my way.  In my pantry I found pintos, navy beans, and garbanzos.  I chose pintos, loaded a pound into my crock-pot, picked out the few little clumps of dirt, and added water, a tablespoon of *Pasolivo’s tangerine oil, and the juice left in a can of **Big Franks.  I sliced a fresh onion into the pot…no fresh garlic-a travesty in my kitchen!  The crock-pot is on high and I’ll have tender beans this evening. 

The other day I promised to show the organic, undyed cotton baby sweater as it progresses.  organiccottondemosweater1.jpgYou can see that I started it at the bottom right corner.  This is the back of the sweater.  I’ve knitted about 2/3 of the back, enough to be up to the sleeves.  The sleeves are now on the needles at the top of the piece, added on in subsequent rows.  Basically, the pattern so far is this: 

I’m using  Pakucho, which was reviewed in Knitters Review(, and I selected my needles to give a gauge of about 4.5 stitches per inch.

Cast on 50 stitches (need a multiple of 4, plus 2). 

Row 1:  (K2, P2) and repeat to end of row.

Row 2:  Knit the knit stitches and purl the purls stitches to the end of the row.  (That amounts to (P2, K2) and repeat to end of row.

Row 3:  (P2, K2) and repeat to end of row. 

Row 4:  Purl the purls and knit the knits to the end of the row, or (K2, P2) to end of row.

Repeat rows 1-4 until you have finished 39 rows.

Row 40:  (K2, P2) repeat to end of row, then cast on 20 stitches by using the wrap cast-on (  Turn to work row 41.

Row 41:  You now have 70 stitches, still a multiple of 4 + 2, so you can continue by staying in your same pattern (a repeat of row 1).  At the end of the row, use wrap cast-on to add 20 more stitches. 

Row 42:  You now have 90 stitches, still a multiple of 4 + 2, and you continue by staying in your pattern stitch (repeat row 2). 

This is a closeup of the stitching:organiccottondemosweater2.jpgThis is what I meant when I noted that the organic cotton needed some stitch-work.  This makes a beautiful pattern, really giving life to this basic, rustic yarn. 

I’m on row 55 right now, still working the stitch pattern.  Next I’ll figure out how I want to put in the neck opening, so bear with me if you are nipping at my heels.  I’ll get it out in a day or two.   

Oh yeah, my little references:

*Pasolivo is the fabulous brand of olive oil that I order from the Willow Creek Olive Ranch in Paso Robles, California.  It is a family business that makes award-winning olive oils, well worth the shipping cost.  A tasty oil can completely refresh a dish and make the simplest ingredients (like my beans) heavenly.  (

**Every vegetarian is familiar with a dozen different frankfurter substitutes.  My favorites come in a can, and at  more than 3 ounces apiece, they are appropriately named Big Franks.  They are a Worthington product. 

Alright, it’s really time to go.  What do you want?  I’ve taught you medicine, cooking and knitting today.  Gimme a break!

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.
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.
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!

Momentary panic, people.  I just called the office where I’m supposed to get my big treatment next Wednesday and the receptionist sounded so nonchalant and couldn’t pin down anything about what to expect, even whether I’d definitely get treated that day or just see the doc who’s in charge of the infusion center.  I’m just going to sit here and knit for a minute and regain my composure. 

Fat chance I sat and knitted!  I went straight to and read some more articles on the treatment, reinforcing my belief that I really need it.  Okay, calm again.  I’m on the right path, I have great trust in my docs and one dizzy receptionist isn’t going to ruin my day.  Wednesday I’m going to get out of bed, drink my coffee and go kick some B-cell butt!  Oh yeah, I’m gonna have breakfast too, because breakfast is The Most Important Meal of the Day and I never miss it.  These are some of the best things my mom did for me when I was a kid:

1.  Made me eat breakfast every day.

2.  Kept new coloring books and games hidden away for days when I was sick and had to stay home from school.

3.  Didn’t censor my reading.

4.  Believed me when I said it wasn’t my fault I got in trouble yelling during a break in the second grade.  And went to see the teacher to defend me!

5.  Taught me all the stuff about periods and body parts at an early age and in plain English, and made discussion of sex a normal and comfortable thing in the household.

6.  Taught me how to find a compliment for anyone, just to make that person feel better about themselves.

7.  Put my hair in pretty french braids and made up names for different hair-styles.

8.  Taught me etiquette.

9.  Made me aware of how I spoke and proper pronunciation.  (“May-on-naise” not “man-naise”.)

10. Taught me to clean house, saying “even if you can afford a maid you’ve got to be able to tell her what to do”. 

11. Bought me piles of underwear and made sure that I knew to wear clean, intact ones in case “they have to be cut off in the emergency room.”

Okidoke, just to show you I don’t have brain damage from lupus, I’m remembering that I promised an easy-peasy pattern for the cashmere.  Still working with the Karabella Supercashmere (ultrasoft and bulky, 13 stitches to 4 inches is their published gauge) I cast on 70 stitches loosely on size 6 bamboo (fairly blunt) needles.  Remember, if you are a tight knitter, go up a size.  I worked the following:

row 1:  (knit 2, purl 3) repeat to end of row

row 2: (knit 3, purl 2) repeat to end of row

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until band is as wide as you desire, about 20 rows or 4 inches.  You can make it wider if you have absolutely gigantohumongous ears.  Bind off loosely.  Sew the two ends together.  Voila!  You have just made a nice warm, soft, unisex ear warmer with a sophisticated looking rib stitch. 

If you are totally knitting impaired, cast on 65 stitches and knit every row until you have 4 inches.  A garter stitch ear warmer in a beautiful yarn is still a beautiful, cozy accessory.  I believe in using great yarns that speak for themselves, and not going crazy on the stitchwork.

cashmereearwarmer.jpg    Below you can see the details of the ribbing.  The ear warmer is knit from one side to the other (lots of stitches, not so many rows), and you can see the knit 3-purl 2 ribbing.  Ribbing tends to give a piece elasticity, a nice thing when you want a band to stay snugly on your head.        cashmereearwarmerb.jpg

This is how it looks on a human.  In some households, this pose would require first combing one’s hair.  With me, not so much:


But hey, I am smiling!  Peace!

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  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. 


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.