Fall is Here: Armwarmers and Mitts

This really snuck up on me fast; one day I’m kicking myself for planting cold weather pansies that immediately died in a September heat wave, and the next I’m bringing in all of the outdoor potted plants to protect them from an overnight frost. Here in Colorado there weren’t many transition days and the heat pretty much kept up until the first snowflake arrived. Last week the dreaded word SNOW first appeared in the nightly weather forecast and I immediately dragged out a couple of projects that had been languishing over the summer.

Fimgerless mitts.
Little handwarmers made from a yak blend yarn.

These fingerless mitts were made for an old student who was badly injured last month in a accident on her way to work. She is still on crutches, the cold weather is on the way, and I simply didn’t quite know what to do for her other than contributing to her Go Fund Me campaign. Oh yeah. I knit! I was able to produce some soft comfy mitts from some Yakity Yak yarn (Greenwood Fiberworks) in the stash. The mitts are now hers, and I hope so much that she continues to make an amazing recovery.  The project notes can be found here, and I wrote up the pattern that I used for these simple mitts in an earlier project’s notes that you can access if you want to make some of these too.

I really love mitts, but sometimes I just need more: arm warmers!! I’ve been adapting the Ärmelitas pattern from knitcats Design and for the latest version I decided to try tubular cast on. Oh, my. It can be a little confusing, but with some great help from the great tutorial on Purl Soho‘s site I was up and running fairly quickly. Look at all these tutorials that Purl Soho has posted! Knitting gold!! I bookmarked this right away, and maybe you will want to also.

Tubular bind off.
The tubular cast on was so nice and tidy I decided to look for tubular bind off. Back to YouTube I went and the one that worked for me was this tidy sewn version that I found at New Stitch A Day. I was befuddled at the start, but after 3 or 4 repeats of the steps I was up and running. 
Finished arm warmers.
Here are the finished arm warmers. See how nice the edges are? Tubular, totally tubular.

 

Warmers on my arm.
I wanted to warmers to be a little loose on my arm (comfy and warm) and long enough to stay put on my upper forearm. Check. Theses guys work.
MacKenzie and the arm warmer.
And these arm warmers are cat approved. There, what more would a knitter want?

I’m really happy with these arm warmers, but I’m thinking that I want to make the ribbing a little longer at the top of the warmer to help it stay in place at the top of my arm. I wrote my pattern adjustments and you can find them on my project notes here.

Sunday the forecast is for SNOW, and this time it will probably be more than a few flakes. I am knitting like crazy on my latest sweater and I wound more yarn for another set of arm warmers. I’m starting to like tubular cast on. Someday I may be able to do it without staring at a computer screen while I work.

Have a good weekend everyone and don’t forget to knit!

p.s. I’m knitting a Zweig sweater from these yarns. I absolutely can’t wait to show it off!!

Yarn
See, won’t this look great? I love how these colors go together.
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The Scleroderma Chronicles: The Fourth Year Report

Wow. It is hard to believe it, but it has been more than 4 years since my diagnosis: Limited systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and Sjogren’s disease. Time just flies when you are having fun, right? Seriously, I have been reflecting for a few weeks about what to write to mark the end of the fourth year. Should I write about how strange a dichotomy scleroderma is: people tell me that I look good, but what they can’t see is how my entire life is organized around accommodating my illnesses. Maybe I should write about how I have developed a Zen-like patience as I hit each roadblock; why worry about things you can’t change when in the course of time all will become more clear? Maybe I should talk about growth. Personal growth in the face of a heartless disease as I came to terms with my own ability to become an active member of my treatment team and to assert myself in the face of medical experts.

Done! Personal growth it is!

Author wearing an hand knit shawl.
Even in the worst of times it is possible to create items of beauty that provide comfort and are therapeutic. I knit this shawl last spring while my doctors were determining if I had developed potentially fatal complications of systemic sclerosis: pulmonary hypertension or heart failure were the candidates. There was nothing to do but to knit on as I waited for test results.

When I was first diagnosed I really did go through a time of sadness and grief.  It just came in waves for me as I began to figure out that systemic sclerosis and Sjogren’s are both incurable and difficult to manage. Then I realized that they might be disabling. Then it finally dawned on me that they might be fatal.  To my horror I discovered that the 10-year survival rate was 60%. There would never, ever, be a “better”, I thought. The best I can hope for is becoming stable and maybe getting some softening of my skin.

The great unknowns of scleroderma really wore me down. Doctors kind of dodged my questions or referred me to another doctor on the team. I was afraid, and I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss because I was dependent on the medical specialists and I didn’t want to alienate them. I was struggling, weak, and truly a victim of my disease.

Flash forward 4 years. Things have changed. I began to keep a food log and journal and I worked out dietary changes that helped me. I participated in a self-management study, and I attended a couple of conferences. I remembered that I was trained to be a scientist, and I employed logic and reason in my scleroderma life. I spent a lot of time with Doctor Google and reading research papers at PubMed. I fired a rheumatologist, found another one, and convinced my primary care physician to meet with me regularly and to filter all the test results and doctors notes into a cohesive action plan. My care improved as I communicated better with my doctors and they developed a good sense of me and the other doctors on the team. My power over scleroderma grew as I faced down crisis after crisis. I may not conquer this disease, but by golly I will be brave and give it a good whacking!

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I have to get routine blood testing to make sure that I am tolerating the drugs that I’m on well. I went for the blood draw two weeks ago, and a couple of days later I got a phone call. There was a problem: a liver enzyme was suddenly elevated above normal ranges. I was told to head on over to urgent care to get checked out. I’m a compliant patient, so that is what I did. This is what happened when I met with the doctor in urgent care.

Doc: You’re fine. It’s just a bad test result.

Me: I have been experiencing worse (crushing) fatigue for the last two weeks as I’ve been fighting a cold and my muscle pain is pretty bad. I have been staying in bed two days recovering for every day up.

Doc: I think that we should put you on prednisone.

Me: I am very nervous about that. I’m already pretty immunosuppressed, and my pulmonologist has specifically told me to refuse steroids if I hit the ER.

Doc: Then we should start you on Cymbalta for the fibromyalgia pain.

Me: That is a drug that I’ve seen advertised that seems to have a lot of side effects. I just came through a rough patch because I was overmedicated this spring, and I’m nervous about adding another drug due to possible kidney or liver complications.

Doc: Can I at least offer you some antidepressants since you say you have trouble getting out of bed?

Me: I have fatigue not depression. It’s part of my illness.

Doc: Most chronically ill people have depression…

Me: Yep. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression in the past. This isn’t depression.

Doc: But you will feel better.

Me: Hey, I’m not here seeking help with my illness this afternoon. I got sent here by rheumatology because of a high liver enzyme result, which you feel we should ignore, and I have chronic kidney disease. You want to prescribe a drug that will be cleared by one of those two organs? I’m not comfortable with any more medications without talking to my other doctors first. (I start edging towards the door to escape this frustrated pill pusher… maybe he just is excited to have a patient with a rare disease and wants to contribute, but I am out of here!)

Seriously, I do feel like I am living in a soap opera half the time that is being directed by my bossy cat. A soap opera staring yarn, of course!

Cat being petted.
But he is also a great source of comfort. Here he is hanging out while I was knitting the shawl that I’m wearing in my picture.

That little episode put me back into bed for another day, but I was strong, I felt informed about my illnesses, and I didn’t allow a strange doctor who was dismissive of test results to prescribe me new medications. I have grown. My thinking about what is acceptable medical care has crystalized, and I feel empowered. I will talk about these drugs with my current team, and there will be a consensus decision before I start anything new.

Over the weekend I decided to double my dose of krill oil and to eat a banana every single day. 10 days later I am over the cold, I feel much better, my muscle pain is almost gone, and it seems I am through the flare. Yippee!

So, four years into this ugly disease where am I at? I am stable! The drugs that I am on have greatly increased survival rates for systemic sclerosis patients. My skin has softened some and I have pretty good function. My Raynaud’s is well controlled. My lungs, heart and kidneys have improved and my hypertension has vanished. My GI tract continues to rule my life, but I have gotten better control with a careful diet. Fatigue and pain stalk me continually, but I was thrilled to hear this week that my eyes have also improved since my ophthalmologist started me on krill oil. Hug a krill, everyone!

I have grown, and I am stronger for it. There will be many more adventures and bumps along the scleroderma road, but I am good. My priorities have shifted, and my values have clarified. I value the small things,  have lost interest in making money, and budget my time ruthlessly. Scleroderma as a personal growth plan. Who knew?

Tomorrow I go in for the repeat blood tests to see if that enzyme is now back into normal ranges.

Whatever happens, I am good.

MacKenzie Speaks: We made a Sipila!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

This has been going on for far too long, and I certainly haven’t been getting all of the attention that I deserve, but I am happy to announce that the Mother of Cats and I have finally finished her Sipila sweater.

Cat and knitting.
Do you see how nice her stitches are? That is what superior feline support can do for you!
Sipila Sweater
and here is her finished sweater. 

The picture would have been better if she had included me in the shot, but sometimes the Mother of Cats can be so selfish.

Sleeping Cat.
But she is letting me sleep with one of the left over balls of yarn. Maybe she isn’t too bad after all.

It’s late, so we are heading back to bed as soon as I get my cookies.

I’m such a good boy.

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • This sweater is Sipila by Caitlin Hunter. You can find my project notes on Ravelry here.
  • I was concerned about the floats early on in the knitting so I switched to catching all of the floats while knitting. It slowed me down, but I think that the fabric has more even stitches and I won’t have to worry about snagging floats while wearing the sweater. You can see how nice the fabric is in the picture of MacKenzie above. That was before blocking.
  • Yarn
    The Orchid yard was knitted in order with the skein on the left used as #1 and the one on the far right used at the bottom of the sweater.
  • I opened all the skeins and organized them in the order of brightest to darkest. I started the sweater using the brightest skein in the yoke, and then faded the skeins together using helix knitting.
  • I knit 6” of stockinette on the sleeve, and then another 32 rounds instead of starting the chart with the repeats of rounds 1-8. The chart was started with round 9 and the sleeve was finished following the directions. The length is perfect!!
  • The 4th skein was too bright at one end of the skein, and too dark at the other for the 2nd sleeve, so I had to helix knit all the stockinette section with the remains of the other three skeins to make the sleeve match.
  • I finished the sweater at the length suggested in the pattern, but I was unhappy with the length. I went back and ripped out that ribbing and then added another 2.5 inches to the body of the sweater using the ripped back yarn and the dark end of the last skein blended  together with more helix knitting. The final ribbing was done with the darkest skein of yarn.
  • The finished sweater is exactly as long as my sleeves. How cool is that?
  • I absolutely love the fit of this sweater!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Sipila Progress

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat.
Do you see what I’m sitting on? The Mother of Cats and I have been working on the Sipila sweater.

I’m not going to mince words here… I lost my brother Yellow Boy and I can’t find him anywhere. I can’t believe it! I’ve checked everywhere: the closets, under the bed, all the corners downstairs, and in the garage. The Mother of Cats has been really nice and patient with me, but I don’t understand why she hasn’t brought him home yet. I’ve been so upset about losing him that I can’t even eat cookies anymore!

I can, however, eat the special soft food that he left here. The Mother of Cats is letting me eat a can of food every day. She put out all of my favorite toys and even found me some new ones. She bought new catnip and I have a pile of crunchy papers to play in too! Usually she ignores my needs, but lately she has been fairly attentive. I worry about how things have changed, and I’m sticking to the Mother of Cats like a wet hair ball these days. I’m not going to lose her too!! For the last two weeks we have been hanging out together and knitting away on her new Sipila sweater.

Cat chomping yarn.
Okay, there has been some yarn chomping…
Cat and knitting.
… and extremely attentive feline support. Can you see how neat those stitches are? That’s what superior cat supervision can do for you!
Sweater in progress.
Look at far we have gotten!! 

The Mother of Cats really likes this kind of knitting: two colors at once. I’m a fan too as there is twice as much yarn to chase while she’s working. We are making good progress and should have this sweater done in another week; the Mother of Cats is already talking about winding some yarn for the next sweater. Woohoo! I love yarn winding time.

Sleeping Cat.
But that is tomorrow. Right now I’m just going to grab a nap with the little ball of yarn that the Mother of Cats gave me for my own. She says she will make me a mouse out of it. Huh. If she really loved me she would have knitted it already. Strange priorities, Mother of Cats. Cat needs come first!!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies… err… canned kitty food, now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I just made it down to the colorwork section of the second sleeve. This sweater is a joy to knit and I am thrilled with the fit. I’m going to have half a skein of the magenta yarn left over so I’m considering ripping out the ribbing of the body and adding a few inches to the body. My project notes are here.
  • The next sweater will be Zweig. What a shock: another Caitlin Hunter sweater. This is definitely the year of the Caitlin Hunter sweater for me.
  • I’m debating the wisdom of getting a kitten for MacKenzie. (He is an Ocicat, and in general they need a lot of stimulation; the vet advised me to get him a kitten or puppy right away.) He is pretty needy, but he is also 15 years old. I’ve decided to give things more time.
  • Cat and author.
    Life has been a little sad the last two weeks,  but good cuddles and the zen of knitting are getting us through it.

    Have a great (knitting) weekend everyone!

If there are garter snakes in heaven…

Let this be their warning: BobMorgan (AKA Yellow Boy), my sweet boy, constant companion, feline clown, and bug hunter extraordinaire, is on his way to get you!!

Cat
There were few things that Yellow Boy loved more than a good garter snake chase!
Cat Portrait
BobMorgan
12/30/05 – 8/29/18

Safe journey, sweet boy, and may your snake chases and bug hunts be happy and endless.

MacKenzie and I will miss you always.

MacKenzie Speaks: Smokey Sipila Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Handsome and unbelievably self-absorbed cat.
The Mother of Cats and I are staying inside because of the smoky air. 

The Mother of Cats has been a little grumpy lately because she is between projects, whatever that means. She has been reading books and just neglecting me something terrible. Yellow Boy has been sick, so he get special food, and do I get any of that? NO!!! She is just cruel to me. Why does she play favorites like this?

Yarn
Oh. Look at this. She made me a yarn bed!

I was so happy when she finally got up and put all of these yarns out for me on the table. I tried to sleep on this cushy new bed, but she kept chasing me off. Why does she act this way? She played with the red yarns and put them into some order of light to dark; the brightest yarn is now labeled #1, and the darkest one is #4. The Mother of Cats is really strange, don’t you think? She should probably chill out and eat more cookies…

Yarn winding cat.
Then I helped her wind all of the yarns into cakes. Why does she do these things? The yarns were perfect the way they were as my bed, but nope! She was compelled to put my yarns onto this contraption that kept hitting my ears. The Mother of Cats can be so thoughtless!

Finally the yarn was all wound and I helped myself to some chomps while she was putting the yarn onto her needles. I really had to assert myself to get the quality attention that I deserve, but she did give me the petting breaks and cookies that I’m entitled to. Because she was acceptably attentive I only chomped a little bit on the yarn and we spent the afternoon knitting on the new sweater.

Cat and knitting.
See what a good helper I am?
Knitting.
By this morning you could start to see the pattern emerging. Good job, Mother of Cats!!

Today the smoke was really thick so we battened down the hatches (the Mother of Cats has been reading all of this books about sailing…) and spent the afternoon knitting away. This evening I wolfed down Yellow Boy’s special food (Hey… she had neglected to give me my cookies! What am I supposed to do?), went upstairs to sleep it off, and the Mother of Cats got a lot more knitting done.

Knitting
Look at how far she’s gotten!! Not bad, but she should have left the yarn in my new bed…

Now I’m up from my nap and the Mother of Cats and I are going to cuddle and read a book. It is good to be a cat. I’m so glad that the Mother of Cats is finally paying enough attention to me.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • Today the smoke was pretty bad in Denver; we have an air quality action alert until tomorrow evening. Good thing I have great knitting projects going.
  • Yellow Boy is losing weight and off his feed; we suspect diabetes. Right now he is on a special formula for diabetic cats, and we’ll see how he does. Sad days.
  • This sweater is Sipila from Caitlin Hunter. My project notes are here.
  • I’m knitting the orchid yarns as a gradient with the brightest skein at the top of the sweater in the colorwork and the darker skeins at the bottom; I numbered the cakes to keep it organized.

FO: Western Sky Socks

Last June I went a little crazy at the Western Sky Knits booth at the Estes Park Wool Market. I made two passes, dropped a lot of cash, and hauled away a big bag of yarn. I love this yarn. I love the colors, the feel, the way I can coordinate it with other things in my stash.  The yarn I scored that day filled the gaps to let me put together several other projects that are now lined up in my queue. Altogether, it was a prime event in the summer knitting season. If you don’t know Western Sky Knits, here is their web site.

Sock yarns.
Along with the several skeins of great yarn were there three sock kits. I totally didn’t need more socks, but how can these be resisted? Just look at them!!
Socks
Here are the finished socks!

Each of the socks is made using the Dave pattern by Rachel Coopey; I played around a little with the pattern for each of them so I wouldn’t get bored. Hey, I like knitting vanilla socks. The simple pattern shows off the yarn, and they are easy to cart around in little project bags and present mindless knitting when stuck in a waiting room somewhere. These three have been the socks of summer, and have carried me through all my medical testing and down time.

Cake Socks
This set was made with a yarn called “Cake.” I added 6 rows of stockinette to the top of the ribbing to get the rolled edge. I love how the colors of the main yarn look like a Monet paining. 🙂 My project notes are here.
Sock
This was the first sock that I knit. I wasn’t sure how much mileage I would get from the contrast skein, so I weighed if before and after knitting the heels. I soon realized that I could do a cuff, toe and heel all with that little skein. Woohoo! Lots of room for creativity! Do you like that color? I have no idea what it is called… such is life when buying at a wool market! My project notes are here.
Socks
This week I finished off the third pair of socks. This pair has an afterthought heel, which I found intriguing, but not as well fitting on my foot as the usual flap and gusset model. So cute… maybe after they are washed they will stay put on my foot better? I think that the problem is my foot, which is short and fat with high arches, and not the design of the sock. That lovely colorway is called “Fairy Dust,” and my project notes are here.

I have to admit, I am mourning the end of the sock kits. I do, however, have lots of other yarn that could become socks, and there are several sock yarns that are tonal: perfect for texture!! I dived into Ravelry and my pattern stash this morning to kit up several more socks projects; I need socks as they are a great break from the big sweater projects. None of these new socks will be vanilla socks, though. It is time for some color play, lace, and cable action. I get all tingly just thinking about it. These socks will be just great!

Today is cool and rainy in the Denver area. I know that the heat machine will fire up again in a few days, but right now I can feel the call of cooler weather and fall. Pumpkin Spice lattes are right around the corner, and the geese will be on the move before I know it.

Fall is coming people! Get your sock needles flashing!