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!


Kicking B-cell Butt!

I did it!  I did it!  I did it!  The big, goofy smile is still on my face!  I spent six hours in a cancer treatment infusion center today-because oncologists are the guys who are set up to give this medicine, even though the recipients are partially rheumatology patients like me.  It was a nice facility, connected to a hospital, well-equipped and comfortably furnished.  I had my own super-padded recliner and table and infusion pump on a handy rolling pole (the good kind that doesn’t tip over when you try to walk and push it around).  There was ample seating for patients and their significant others, a snack area, convenient bathrooms, and friendly nurses. 

The only thing lacking was a sense of patient impowerment.  The attitude that I got over the phone, that things were casually moved along without forewarning for patients, persisted through the day.  There didn’t seem to be a definite time for anything, and no one made an attempt to orient or enlighten me.  After being signed in and going through the usual new patient routine (giving up my insurance cards, handing over a sheaf of medical information, getting weighed and measured) they led me to the treatment area and abandoned me.  I tried out several recliners, settled on one and took out my knitting.  I worked on it for a while, then worked on it some more.  I was close enough to the glassed-in nursing area to hear them say they were waiting on a response from my insurance company to get started.  I waited some more.  After an hour of too much thinking, I started to blubber.  I found another recliner in a more secluded corner and looked out the window and wiped tears.  Eventually the nurse approached with another patient, an elderly woman and her daughter.  I sniffed up the tears and put my tissues away.  Pretty soon a nurse came and drew blood and started my IV. 

Alright!  The show was on the road…NOT!  This was just the premedication with Benadryl.  Slow, slow, slow IV drip…getting sleepier and stupider by the minute…until time to see the doctor.  Walk back to the exam room feeling like i’m walking in Karo Syrup.  I was stiff when I came, now I’m stiff and mushy.  We talk a few minutes, catching up, ”Essie, I knew it was you, Essie, and you cannot work any more?” and plan out some testing and further treatments.  I’m to take this again in two weeks, then repeat in six months.  Discussion of demyelinating disease (kind of like multiple sclerosis) occuring in a few treated lupus patients.  Mushy brain zhoooms past that.  Back to my recliner.

Most of the recliners have filled up in the partitioned room.  Chemotherapy seems to be a popular thing to do on the day after Christmas.  The people are all being nice.  Perhaps they are in the bargaining phase:  “Cure my cancer, God, I’ll be good!”  Some talk a lot, some brought things to do like books and puzzles.  Only one little partitioned group watches TV.  In the background I hear their CNN Headlines, reviewing the tiger maulings in San Francisco and the little found girl from the airplane crash in Panama again and again.   There is lots of cancer talk.  My pod mates and I prefer to discuss construction and home building and the lukewarm coffee, although once we are a bit acquainted, the man closest to me admits that he has cancer in the lining of his lung and his bones.  He is afraid after having reactions to the first two chemotherapy meds they tried.  He doesn’t know the names of them, or what he is getting now.  He hears that the Canadians have a cure for this.  I enjoy our conversation.  To think that I considered moving when he came because he smelled so strongly of cigarette smoke, bless his heart.

Finally my medication is started at a slow drip.  They set a timer and increase the speed of the drip every 30 minutes.  Intermittently playing with my mohair, I watch the drip chamber as if with a stern glance I could will it to drip faster.  I take frequent mental inventories of my body to see if I am dying.  More inventories to see if I can detect the B cells throwing down their auto-antibodies and heading for the hills.  For a while nothing happens.  Two trips to the bathroom, a pack of peanutbutter crackers, a cup of coffee and 4 inches of mohair later, my lips and scalp start to itch.  I request more Benadryl, no problem, two lovely pink capsules.  The itching goes away. 

At the end, my medication infused, the nurse removed my IV and said “Good-bye.”  I went out to the billing person and turned over a credit card to pay the sizeable 20% that my insurance doesn’t cover.  No Wii for me.  No Wii for Essie.  Now that’s when I should have cried!  And no surprise:  I had to go back and ask for the appointment for two weeks from now, because evidently that hasn’t been communicated to the nurses or they haven’t passed it on to me.  Oh well.  I’ll know what to expect next time.  The B-cell battle is the important thing.

I did it! 


In Which She Succumbs to the Allure of the Mohair

The middle of the night is not the best time to make decisions.  Yesterday I went to bed at a sensible 10 p.m.  I awakened at 1 a.m., thirsty.  I walked to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Perrier.  I like mine fizzy.  On the way back to the bedroom, I was accosted by a large ball of mohair which surrounded me with its fuzzy fibers, forced me to the sheath of knitting needles, and dragged me back to my room with a pair of US 5 aluminums in hand.  Before I knew what was happening, I had cast on 60 stitches and was knitting a wrap.  I couldn’t sleep until the first four inches were complete.
Somehow, in my middle of the night haze, I had sense enough to not try a fancy stitch pattern.  It would have been lost in the fuzz.  I managed some minor shaping on the beginning end of the wrap, but kept it simple with a garter stitch body.  So now, on my needles, I have this: mohairwrap1.jpg  Up close, you can see the extreme fuzziness of these wiry little fibers.  They form a wonderfully thick, bouncy fabric that is very lightweight. mohairwrap1b.jpg
You can see that I am knitting the wrap from end to end, so the stripes will run vertically when it is worn.  I’m using aluminum needles for this, my choice for a yarn that is going to cling excessively to bamboo and other woods.  I am knitting very loosely, letting the yarn dictate how tightly I pull, and respecting the built-in loops and their tendency to slip onto the active needle unbidden.  It is knitting that requires attention, so the middle of the night angels must have been with me!
Other stuff is happening here.  Yesterday I made broccoli casserole.  I did some improvising and I like this better than any recipe I’ve used.
Ingredients:  2 10-oz bags of frozen broccoli florets, 12 oz. of finely shredded 4-cheese mix, 1 box of soft Mori-Nu silken tofu, 1 c. Veganaise (you can substitute mayonnaise, but not sweet tasting salad dressing), 1/2-3/4 c. vegetable broth

Prep:  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix together all ingredients except broccoli.  Using spoon or fork, crush any larger lumps of tofu.  Use as much vegetable broth as needed to keep mixture from being too thick.  Drop in broccoli florets (still frozen) and mix to coat all of them with sauce.  Spoon into medium casserole pan (10×10 inch, 2 inch deep worked well).  Cook approximately 1 hour or until top is browned and entire casserole is bubbly.  If desired, you can take out the casserole a little early and add crushed crackers to the top, then replace it for another 10 minutes.  (My family prefers Cheez-Its.)

The kids ate this greedily.  Getting broccoli into college students is not always easy.  Of course, if they read this and find out there was tofu in it, there may not be a second round. 

While I was up last night I took a peek at my email.  I was happy to see that Spirit Trail Fiberworks has returned from a round of shows and listed all their beautiful, hand-dyed yarns.  I made some selections but waited until this morning to finalize the deal.  Can’t wait until this shipment comes!  There will be some beauties in there.  I discovered Spirit Trail Fiberworks ( )  when I was following leads in an article on a fiber show. 

The Spirit Trail Fiberworks experience illustrates one of the ways to expand your knitting (or any other craft or hobby, for that matter).  Read newsletters or articles on your craft.  You can find them by putting the name of your craft and the word “newsletter” into any search engine.  When I do this for knitting on Google, it brings up more than 200 thousand references.  You can easily sort through the first few pages and pick out a couple to review.  You will find that each newsletter has its own slant.  It may be aimed toward selling a particular product, or toward teaching beginners in the craft, or toward reviews of books about the craft…whatever it is, choose a few that are interesting to you and that you feel will help you grow in your craft.  I’ve always felt that learning the history of your craft, being familiar with the lingo of your craft, and having a reading knowledge of the breadth of your craft-how it’s being practiced in the world today, the trends in it, the materials possibilities for it, etc. make you much more grounded in the work.  This kind of knowledge is part of what holds you to a particular area and helps you to stay there while you grow and develop, producing more satisfying, better quality work. 

So much for Christmas Eve brevity.  Merry Merry!

and of course Peace!


Three days until Christmas and I am in a crisis.  I am having difficulty concentrating, I am losing interest in my current knitting projects, and I’ve had recurrent episodes of palpitations and anxiety.  The source of all this angst?  Not the upcoming lupus therapy.  Not the fast-approaching Christmas and my lack of decorations.  Not the thought of my precious child returning to college three hours away in less than three weeks.  No, I’m having a mohair craving.  Suddenly and without explanation, that huge, purple and blue ball of mohair that I have been walking by for a year is calling to me, saying “Knit me!  Knit me!” 

This is how it goes, folks.  I’m happily knitting along on a couple of projects (or three or five), perfectly satisfied with the progress they are making.  After all, I am a fast knitter, and it doesn’t take me months or even weeks to complete a project.  What with all the time I have to knit, I can finish most things in a matter of days.  The problem is that there’s a race from the time I start, all starry-eyed and in love with the current piece, to the time I drag into the finish line and bind off, tired of looking at the same color and handling the same needles, with my eye already on the next prize. 

But this jump, from cotton and cashmere to mohair?  This is startling and unprecedented.  I didn’t even think I liked mohair.  I didn’t buy this stuff, it was a generous gift from a friend.  Oh Lordy, she is gonna read this and know I haven’t touched it since I got it.  I am in so much trouble.  But now that I pick up this ball, already neatly wound on my spiffy ball winder, I see that it has a lovely soft feel, and the colours–heck, no wonder they called to me even from their dark, lowly bottom shelf!  Deep violets, teals, feathery soft grays…just incredible.  Well, look for yourself:


Are you feeling mohair palpitations?  Or am I just a nut.  I keep telling myself that mohair comes from goats–can you say “Yuck!” or are you with Clara Parkes, author of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn , who says she finds “the inquisitive, friendly goat such a charmer.”  As a matter of fact, her book, which is my fiber bible (and I’m sure I’ll post on that at length at another time), notes that the angora goat is the source of this “flame-retardant, soil-resistant” fiber which is very strong and can take up lots of moisture without getting soggy.  Ok, now I’m feeling a little guilty.  As a person who advocates for natural fibers in a very vocal way, I should have given mohair more of a chance. 

So far, I haven’t given in to my craving.  On my needles I currently have half of a black cashmere cap, half of the last strip of Dayna’s blanket (and this current block is a doozy of a pattern straight from my muddled brain), two-thirds of a washable wool toddler sweater, and half of a bamboo scarf.  Umm, don’t by any means think these are the only incomplete projects in my house.  These are just the ones that I can see from where I’m sitting, and the ones that will get some action right now.  If you inventoried my house, you’d find enough projects to keep a small prison ward occupied.  I think I can keep busy without casting on the mohair. 

Frequent visitors to my home will be happy to hear that the long-awaited storage ottoman has arrived.  When you have a house full of yarn and knitting projects, you are constantly looking for new ways to store (and hide!) them.  There will be a little more sitting and walking space in the living room now that the storage ottoman is here.  It is big enough for my dachshund to live in, and we can prop our feet and coffee cups on the huge vinyl top when it’s closed.  Thanks, Target!  Especially for the free shipping, without which this lovely piece wouldn’t have been purchased.  Note to self for future post:  take photos of your yarn stash and projects; be sure to mark “Hazardous, may exacerbate yarn addiction.”