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.

Finishing the Organic Cotton Baby Sweater

I did it, and it’s adorable, and I’m going to cry when someone buys it.  I absolutely love how this sweater turned out.  I’ll show it to you first, talk later.organiccottonbabysweater-frontcomplete.jpgTo knit the neckband and front bands, I used my circular needles to pick up and knit stitches from the right front bottom around the neck to the left front bottom, picking up all the garter bumps on the fronts, and then each stitch along the back of the neck.  I knit them LOOSELY for that pickup row, then followed that with a wrong side row consisting of (purl, purl, knit) all the way around.  The following row (right side) I did (knit, knit, purl) to continue that ribbing.  This was followed by one knit row, and at the end of that row we’re back at the right side bottom.  I wanted my button holes to be on the right placket, so on the following row I knit the whole row but evenly spaced four yarn-overs (each followed by knitting 2 together) on the placket.   On the return row I knitted every stitch and bound off all of the stitches on the left front and neckline.  When I reached a few stitches above the first yarnover I stopped binding off and knitted to the bottom of the placket.  I knitted one more row of placket, then turned and came down, binding off.  This gives a buttonhole side that protrudes and conveniently overlaps the other front.  You can see that in the large photo above. organiccottonbabysweater-backcomplete.jpg   Here is a shot of the back. 

Here’s a photo of the neckline, which is knitted loosely enough to not chafe the back of the baby’s neck.                               organiccottonbabysweater-neckcomplete.jpg

I seamed the sleeves, underarms and sides with the right sides together.  The last issue was choice of buttons.  I wanted something in a color that occurs in nature in conjunction with this nice brown, and a texture that was also natural-looking.  I almost settled on the seafoam buttons, but I found the small squares that seemed to be a perfect fit-more subtle coloring and a wood-like appearance. organiccottonbabysweater-buttonchoice.jpg

I’ve measured the chest size of the sweater and compared it to my handy chart and it is a size 18 months.  The only thing left is to list it in my Etsy store.  If you’d like to make the sweater yourself but want to make a different size, I will rework the pattern for you for a small fee.  If you are adventurous, you can do the resizing yourself by checking measurements against your gauge.  Infants and toddlers don’t have many curves so you can make proportional changes very confidently.

This has been a lovely weekend.  I’ve had a visit from my college girl, who needed to be home for an appointment tomorrow.  The friend who carted away my goods to sell at the religious convention came home with a small check and shared our dinner.  She’s a friendly, gregarious salesperson and I’ve no doubt that my business cards are all over the state now.  I’ve survived this few days of terribly painful feet without either of them falling off, and with hardly a thought of the axe treatment.  (My friend was right, it’s such a messy way of dealing with them!)  I have a plan for continuing with a little exercise.  I’ve started to amass pieces of paper to take to my tax people.  Only a few more days of cellulitis antibiotics, and I’m still seeing improvement.  Prednisone is finally down to 10 mg. per day.  Goodness, what more could a woman want?


Organic Cotton Baby Sweater, Fast Becoming a Sweet New Favorite

January 22nd, I started the explanation of the organic cotton baby sweater which is knit from bottom back to bottom fronts, including sleeves, in one piece.  I don’t think I mentioned that my favorite source of Pakucho organic cotton is, one of my favorite knitting stores.  I’ve gotten to know the owners and staff and love their selection, prices and service.  This isn’t the first thing I’ve knit from the Pakucho, but I think it’s going to be my favorite.  Here we continue. 

When we left it, we were on row 55.  We had finished casting on 20 stitches on either side for the sleeves, and were knitting up the sleeves and body continuing our knit 2/purl 2 pattern stitch.  We had about 40 rows of back, then started the sleeves.  When we reach row 68, we need to bind off the center 14 stitches for the back neck. 

organiccottonbabysweaterneckline.jpgAttach a second ball of yarn to the second side so that you can continue to keep all your stitches on one needle (one circular in my case) and knit the rows from both sides together.  On the neck edge of each of the next two rows, knit two together.  Continue to knit in pattern for 28 rows after the back neck bind-off.  At rows 74 and 96(counting from bottom of back) K2tog at the last two neck edge stitches on each side, adding a total of eight stitches to the front edges.  At rows 96 and 97, you also loosely bind off the outer 20 stitches of each side, as your sleeves are complete.  Continue to knit in pattern for 40 more rows, loosely binding off both fronts at about row 136.  This is what you have:


You can see that I added a cream colored ball and striped the fronts of the sweater; this was done because I was getting low on the light brown color, but you could make this change (or not) in any way you desired.  You can see the increases at the top front of the neck (right at the shoulder level) and just before the top cream stripe, right at the level of the sleeve bind-off.  Here is the sweater folded over but with no seams done (and on the wrong side): 


Okay, at this point we have a choice.  Remember how we bound off 14 stitches to form the back neck?  Well, we only put back 8 stitches with our increases, not enough to make the front edges meet.  Depending on our method of closing the front, we may need some overlap.  My plan is to pick up stitches along the front and neck edges using my circular needle, and knit a band that is narrow at the neck side and wider at the fronts.  You could also use your crochet hook and whip through three or four rows of single crochet, or whatever stitch you desired.  Or you could get very, very creative and stitch on some grosgrain ribbon or some other cute trim (although I kind of dislike turning a soft, organic cotton creation into something with artificial trim). 

Anyway, I’m going to work on it as I envision it, and get back to you.

At 10 mg of prednisone, some joints are hurting and stiff and I’m hoping more B-cells will die or at least quit fighting their immunological fight in the next week or two.  Meanwhile, I can knit. 


Patience, Girl, Patience

I think my leg is making tiny improvements!  The redness has backed away from the line a little bit, and it doesn’t hurt near as much as a couple of days ago.  This is the creeping resolution of a cellulitis.  I don’t think any changes in treatment are needed, just patience, which I have more of now that I’ve lived with lupus for almost 16 years.  I don’t recommend getting a chronic disease as the way to develop patience, but it can be very effective.  A friend sent me an article today that reminded me to talk about some issues in the treatment of lupus.  I realize that I’ve talked alot about medications, because those are the things that are changing in my treatment right now.  Traditional prescription medications are the mainstay of treatment, since they stop inflammation quickly and prevent damage to organs and subsequent disability, but they can be supplemented with a number of measures.  Some of these are preventive, some are additive:


1.  Avoid sun exposure.  UV light can cause lupus to flare.  High-SPF sunscreen is essential for the exposures you can’t avoid, and that means year-round, whether your skin is light or dark.  If you are allergic to chemical sunscreens, like me, you can wear sun protective clothing and brush on a mineral makeup or a sun block like zinc oxide.

2.  Cut down on protein intake, and make as much of it as possible nonanimal sources. 

3.  Take anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin(tumeric) and ginger.

4.  Eat onions and garlic for their anti-infective properties. 

5.  Use alternative pain control methods like acupuncture. 

6.  Increase Omega-3 fatty acid intake by using olive oil as your only cooking oil.  “Lite” flavored olive oils can work fine for baking or where you don’t want the heavy flavor.  Spreads like Smart Balance have no trans-fats and provide the proper Omega 3:6 ratio. 

7.  Follow all American Heart Association guidelines regarding reducing risk factors for heart disease, since lupus causes early atherosclerosis and a significant increase in cardiac and cerebrovascular events.

All of these measures are things that I have personally tried, and most are part of my daily habits now.  Many are things that I have learned through my own research.  As you would expect, when you go to a traditional rheumatologist, you may not be given the whole spectrum of treatment options.  You owe it to yourself to be as informed about your disease as possible.  That does NOT include believing every paragraph that you read on the internet.  When someone sends you something they read about lupus, take the time to verify the source and the validity of the information.  It just takes 5 minutes to go to and type in the title or a few key words to see if that information is good.  Another route is to stick with information you find on valid medical websites, not information that consists of purely anecdotal reports.  The Lupus Foundation,, is a good place to start.


On a whole different note, after I wrote my environmental post last week, I grabbed a ball of undyed organic cotton off the shelf and decided to turn it into an infant sweater.  I started to knit with it but realized that it was just too plain-jane and drab.  I tried both stockinette and garter stitches with the same result–it just wasn’t pretty enough for a baby.  With the oatmeal color and unremarkable texture, that yarn needs dressing up.  I finally tried making little 2×2 squares:  knit 2 purl 2 for two rows, then reversing it to purl 2 knit 2 for 2 rows, and so on.  It is beautiful on this yarn, giving just the right texture and some depth to the color.  I’m trying a technique that is new to me, designing it from the bottom of the back, knitting up to the armhole level, adding sleeves on both sides, and going on to the front, all in one piece.  I’ll start photos when it’s a little more developed.  This should be fun!

Okay, so thanks for the prayers and good wishes.  They are working.  I won’t be borrowing my sister’s hatchet to amputate the leg (under the influence of plenty of morphine of course).