Harsh Words, Soft Beehive Hat

Yesterday was a hard day.  I won’t call it a bad day, because in the end we accomplished what was necessary, but it was hard. 

We made some decisions yesterday, as a family, about a direction for our near future.  We set out to put those decisions into action.  In the process, I walked a long way in stifling heat, waited patiently for service, and explained the circumstances that led to us being there.  Then I tried to ask the questions that would educate us about necessary procedures and what we could expect in the future.  In return, someone half my age greeted me with disdain and told me I should be “nice”.  I contemplated that for a moment, then asked the person if they were saying I had not been “nice”.  The reply was that I wanted a special service and should “at least be grateful”.   

I am being deliberately obtuse about the particulars of this encounter, but trust me when I say that the “special service” I requested was only the lifting of a deadline, and I was asking to pay my own money for something that should be available to everyone in Tennessee.  I am afraid to be more specific in this public forum.

I was shaken by this encounter.  It was humiliating.  Degrading.  It made me go home and question myself, look in the mirror to see what about me was so offensive that I could engender a negative reaction just by being there.  I saw a short, fat, light brown-skinned woman with close-cropped hair and glasses.  In private, I cried.  I didn’t know that I am still so vulnerable to that kind of ugliness.

In my teen years, I would have hurt myself after that experience – literally beating myself up for not being “acceptable”.  In my 20s I would have made a long, loud, eloquent rejoinder and demanded to see the person in charge.  In my 30s I learned tact, and my response would have been modulated, but still extremely voluble.  Yesterday I was at a loss, because I have not dealt with such a blatant approach in a long time.  My guard was down, so I met it with puzzlement and quiet.  I returned to my home and quietly did housework. 

Last night I knit until my hands hurt.  I worked out my hurt with my needles, relishing the solid metallic clash of one against the other, making something that I love out of the hatred that I met. 

I just learned an Estonian cast-on that is very stretchy and decorative.  The video where I learned (Nancy Bush teaches the technique) is here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc5_9AIVy0.  It is very similar to traditional long-tail cast-on, and it didn’t take me long.  I used it as the brim for a hat.  Having extra stretch at the forehead edge is always nice.    DSC04325

This is the “wrong” side.  Still pretty.  DSC04326

The hat is a new design, my Beehive.  The yarn is Karabella Supercashmere, about 110 yards (a little less than one and one-half balls).  I cast on a purple one this morning, to repeat the pattern.  DSC04327  I plan to do a couple more in organic cotton.  I love the design, and it feels and looks soft, very flattering. 

Design and knit – my dose of healing.



Hiding Bodies

I started a post and stored it away after the first paragraph.  That’s unusual for me.  There are some topics that cannot be approached here.  Recently I had a discussion with a friend who encouraged me to write fiction.  I had mentioned my reluctance to write about one area of my life, and she reminded me that, with disclaimers, all of your people can appear in your writing.  It is hard for me to consider that, because my life has been an open book, but not hiding things or lying about them is not the same as putting them in print.  It doesn’t matter if it was me or a fictional Sally Ann.  If I witnessed a murder, and write about it, the guilty guy is gonna come looking for me. 

Okay, that was a little dramatic.  I’ve never witnessed a murder.  I’ve never even come across a dead body in the woods.  All through my teens and early twenties, bolstered by the piles of mysteries I read, I was sure I’d stumble across a corpse.  I felt that it was in my future, and I tried to steel myself for it.  If I hiked, I peered beneath the brush for the exposed purple toes or mangled face that I had imagined.  I looked in the corners of elevators and under trains for bodies, too.  I couldn’t understand how Agatha Christie’s characters could experience multiple murders in a small hamlet in England, or the psychiatrists in Jonathan Kellerman and Stephen White’s books could have repeated encounters with terrible crimes-way more than their fair share!-and I had no bodies to trip over. 

You can see this fascination in my choice of television.  Mysteries far outweigh all my other viewing hours, including Criminal Minds, NCIS, CSI in all its cities, Monk, Psyche, Law and Order, Bones, the Mentalist, and those wonderful reruns of Matlock and Murder She Wrote.  And yes, I still read mysteries, just more gory and complicated.  Think Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner series, and Pearl’s The Dante Club.

In the past two weeks I’ve completed, packaged, and mailed three custom orders.  I have one more pending, to be knit while I continue my baby blanket series.  I’ve started a small idea notebook, as I want to keep future knits in mind, including the yarns that I foresee for specific projects.  One of my baby blankets that is in progress is a crochet blanket in Queensland Soft Wave, a sweet DK cotton that gets softer as you work with it.  This particular one is blue and cream stripes, moving quickly on a size F hook.  It began on a whim, fueled by a need to rest my shoulders and hands from knitting movements.  It’s going to be lovely. 

I took knitting to the movies tonight, but was spellbound by Julie and Julia, which moved quickly and kept me laughing, with no need for distraction.  You’ve probably already read a review.  The acting was splendid, reason enough for going.  The story (all true) was also good, and I empathized with the women longing for an endeavour that was useful and fulfilling.  I reached that point after retiring from medicine, and was extremely fortunate to reach for the craft that now keeps me busy and happy. 

Now I am tired.  This day is finished.


Luck and Simple Progress

I am due for another round of rituximab next week and then two weeks later.  I must cancel.  I am not sick.  I mean, there is no indication that a flare is coming soon.  I am cheering very quietly, trying not to disrupt the natural flow of good luck here.  Speaking of luck, it may be affecting my real estate situation, too.  I’m all set to occupy my next home, and the not-yet-sold house has been getting more attention lately.  I am whispering when I say that someone liked it enough to take a bunch of photos this week.  Don’t want to put any pressure on that luck thing, but an offer would be great…

I am light-years beyond the state of mind that says we can bargain for luck.  I can be as good as gold and not be lucky.  I appreciate it when I see it, but I know I don’t deserve it and that it could trickle away at any time, without explanation.  In spite of this, my recent days have been filled with fortuitous occurrences.  For example, despite a delay in making our trip to Athens, my daughter and I moved her things without difficulty and were back just in time to catch a visit from my Minneapolis sister.  Tied to that was my recent good health, which allowed me to be at IHOP before 8:30 a.m. today, to enjoy pancakes and see her off. 

I can think of so many “lucky” things that I’m aware of an undercurrent of anxiety today.  When I start seeing lucky occurrences, it is my nature to accept and enjoy them, but to leave a small piece of consciousness focused on waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I start trying to work out things in my head, things that aren’t yet at the working out stage.  I ponder the nature of my luck and try to predict the duration of it.   I poke it and prod it and wonder where it came from, and if I can send it away.  I blow it up to mythic proportions, embuing things with luck even when they aren’t particularly lucky, by calling myself lucky to have avoided the opposite.  For instance, I might say to myself that I’m lucky to not have a boyfriend, because it means that at least I don’t have a bad boyfriend.

Okay, now I’ve spooked myself.  I can’t stay on the topic of luck any longer without losing sleep over whether I’ve  interrupted this good spell by talking about it.  Instead, a summary of recent projects.  The Chattanooga Market seems to be full of folks who want items of clothing for babies and children.  Since that has been the greatest interest, I’ve knitted and crocheted a pile of  small hats, most of them cotton.  I’m still working on cotton baby blankets, too.  I’ve been reveling in the use of Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Organic Cotton.  It is ridiculously soft and cuddly, the stuff to wrap your little ones in.  Dayna’s chicken is finished, and it’s a lovely overstuffed creature.  She wanted it to be very full and round, rather than the slimmer silhouettes shown on the pattern, so it is well-filled.  The body is purple, crown and wattles are lime green, and beak and tail feathers are neon pink.  I had big fun making it.  I finished it in Athens and it hasn’t been unpacked, so I have no photos yet. 

I am actually contemplating staying home when my daughter returns to school.  She has recruited a couple of boys and her dad to help move her things into the new apartment.  I am not needed for hauling (thank God!).  I may go along later to help unpack things, if it looks like she will be busy with recruitment for her sorority.  We are doing this separation thing nicely, thank you very much.  It makes me feel like a better mom, backing off until I am summoned. 

A confession:  Tonight, after I prepared the house for a late showing, I put on my turtle necklace.  A friend gave it to me yesterday, a beautiful pendant with a dragonfly on the turtle shell, made by a Lakota woman.  I have come to appreciate the slow, steady progress of the turtle, and the density and strength of its simple shell.  Having a chronic illness like lupus requires a long view and a steady pace.  Nothing happens quickly, but I look back and see my tremendous improvement from last year. 


Organic Cotton Wrapped Hat – Free Pattern

A few days ago I posted a photo of this hat:  DSC04235  I promised to add the pattern, and it’s a bit late but here goes:


Organic Cotton Wrapped Hat  by Essie Bruell


The hat is knitted back and forth without joining.  The entire hat should be knitted loosely.  A relatively small needle is used because of rapid increases that make the beginning of the hat.  If this hat seems a bit big while knitting, remember that cotton shrinks up to 10% on washing.  I would advise washing in cold water and drying flat to keep that to a minimum.   

Materials:  1 skein Blue Sky Dyed Cotton (150 yards), size 5 circular needle at least 24 inches long, 5.5 mm (US I/9) crochet hook, yarn needle.

The hat is knitted back and forth without joining.  The entire hat should be knitted loosely.  A relatively small needle is used because of rapid increases that make the beginning of the hat. 

Gauge:  16 stitches = 4 inches


Begin:  Leaving 12 inch tail for sewing, cast on 5 stitches.

Row 1:  K1 *yo, k1.  Repeat from * for remainder of row (9 stitches)

Row 2 and all wrong side rows:  Purl all stitches

Row 3:  K1 *yo, k1. Repeat from * for remainder of row (17 stitches)

Row 5:  Same as row 3 (33 stitches)

Row 7:  Same as row 3 (66 stitches)

Row 9 and 11:  Knit all stitches.

Row 13:  Same as row 3 (131)

Row 15-35 right sides:  Knit all stitches.

Row 37:  Knit to last 10 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 39:  Knit to last 19 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 41:  Knit to last 10 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 43:  Bind off.



Using crochet hook, start at top of hat, single crochet down under-flap edge, around brim, around point of flared edge placing 3 single crochets in the point stitch, and up to beginning point at top of hat.  Cut yarn leaving 15 inch tail for sewing.  

Overlap brim of hat to desired size.  Pin and try on to make sure.  Underflap should extend about 1 cm below the overflap, so that crochet edge shows.  Turn up pointed edge to join upper side of overflap, making semicircular end to overflap.  Stitch invisibly along edge of overflap, joining overflap and underflap from row 13 (last full row of increases) down overflap, around semicircle, and across bottom.  Making sure to leave a little slack for stretching, stitch inner edge of underflap to inside of cap.  Weave and trim ends. 



This pattern is copyrighted.  For personal use only, do not reproduce for sale or sell products made from pattern.

Diamonds, Health and Houses

The word is out.  The Congressional Budget Office has scored the complete health care reform bill and it definitely looks affordable, hundreds of billions less than previous estimates.  Ezra Klein has summarized the results for WashingtonPost.com (Ezra Klein – Primary Documents: The Congressional Budget Office’s Score of the HELP Bill).  Definitely worth reading his brief post.  Here’s a bit more info on Alternet today:  The Results Are In: A Public Health Plan Saves Big Money | Health and Wellness | AlterNet.  The Congressional Budget Office is nonpartisan, has no political agenda.  Their role was to look at the provisions of the bill and tell members of Congress what it would cost and what they could expect as a result of passing it. 

Yesterday we shopped for houses.  I fell in love with a small house on a hill in a new subdivision.  It eclipsed everything I’ve seen before now.  I want to pack my bags, put my yarn in the car, and move across town.  The only hold-up is the home I’m living in, the perfectly lovely suburban house that I cannot keep and have not sold.  I climbed the stairs to the upper level four times last week.  My back and legs have been sending me nasty messages ever since.  Of course, cleaning out the garage may have also contributed.  I am trying to make it look less of a disaster zone.  One carload to Samaritan Center, one carload to the recycle center…the repeated litany of our debulking. 

I am up to the neckline and armhole ribbing on my father’s vest.  Can’t wait to show it.  I’m pleased with how it’s come along, and he will be happy, I think.  I have listed several new items in my stores-two pairs of fingerless mitts in the adult store (http://turtlefat.com) and several infant and child hats in the children’s store (http://turtletots.etsy.com). I decided to empty all the super-warm winter items from the adult store, streamlining the inventory to things that are seasonally appropriate.  I think it makes it much more shoppable. 

A last note for the day.  Rob Thomas performed at a Today Show concert today.  He sang Her Diamonds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQgaGS4BL6I&feature=related), and it was explained that the title refers to his wife’s tears.  She has an autoimmune disease.  In the song, she says that she cannot take it any more, and she cries.  He feels unable to help her, but stays by and cries with her.  A mate that understands having the disease – out of my realm of experience.  I will download the album and imagine having that relationship.


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:  http://standwithdrdean.com/ .

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:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqLPHrCQr2I .

A few days ago Discontinued Brand-name Yarns (http://discontinuedbrandnameyarn.com) 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:  http://tinyurl.com/nw2q43.

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