Houston, We have a Koivua…

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! I have been listening to some amazing science fiction books and knitting away thinking about space and different forms of learning and intelligence. This is a sweater that will be forever linked with evolution, creativity, space ships, and human struggle, hence the title of this post. I am please to announce the arrival of my Koivua, a sweater that has been an adventure from start to finish. Yep, this has been a journey, but I feel that I really learned a lot along the way. Before I go into all of the detail of this misadventure I guess I’d better show off the final product.  Ta-daa… and here’s….Koivua!!

Hot off the knitting needles, here is my finished Koivua.

I fussed and worried a lot about the yarns that I used for this sweater, and finally bought some lovely DK weight natural yarn (Scout by Kelbourne Woolens) to go with my beautiful DK weight superwash yarn from Stitch Together Studio.

The Scout yarn is not superwash and the rose colored yarn is. NOT a problem, right? Houston, we have a PROBLEM!!

After looking at the two yarns carefully I decided to knit with the cream yarn in my right hand and the rose superwash yarn in my left. I loved the rose and wanted it to show well in the sweater. Since the cream was fluffier I was pretty sure I would get a balanced fabric after blocking the Fair Isle knitted colorwork.

Not that balanced after all. The cream yarn is just getting eaten alive by the rose that seems to be much bulkier after blocking. Maybe it can’t compete with the superwash, but it didn’t emerge the way I expected it to after blocking. Crap!! I should have done a swatch trying out both versions of handling the yarn. I love the vein details in the leaves, but you’d never know they were there with this pathetic showing of the cream yarn. 

Now that the sweater is done I am very sad that I didn’t knit it with the white in my left hand, but such is life. I wanted the rose to be dominant, and it is doing that, so I should focus on that. Lesson learned. Let’s move on to the bottom of the sweater where I had more of a success.

Isn’t this corrugated ribbing the best?!

I added a repeat of the textured block at the bottom of the sweater to get some more length and discovered that it really wanted to blouse out. The ribbing at the top of the sweater drew in quite a bit, so I decided to add corrugated ribbing to balance the colors in the sweater and to keep the drape of the sweater open. This was a huge win!! Since I knew that an I-cord bind off was going to be used on the sleeves I just went ahead and added one here to put more weight at the hem. Cool. This kind of makes up for the wimpy veins on the leaves. On to the sleeves!

A sleeve to be proud of!

The original design as charted by the author (Caitlin Hunter) created belled sleeves by increasing the stitch count at the end of the first colorwork section and again at the top of the second colorwork section. I counted stitches, did some math, decreased 2 stitches after finishing the first colorwork block, redistributed my stitch markers and I now had decreased the sleeve from 12 repeats of the pattern to 10 repeats. Yay! By the end of the sleeve I had chopped 16 stitches out of the stitch count, which is still kind of full, but not as belled as originally written. I had to make some adjustments as I did the decreases at the bottom of the sleeve, but managed to get the stitches back to the correct number before the final I-cord bind off. Pretty good, huh!

Once I had the sweater all blocked and finished I decided that I wanted some color right at the top of the neck to balance everything and to give it that last little shot of the rose yarn that I loved so much. Yep. I picked up stitches around the neck and added an I-cord bind off to complete the look.

The I-cord actually helped put the ribbing at the neck down around my shoulders as it wanted to try to do a little turtleneck action. The I-cord put a stop to that and gave me the color balance that I wanted in the sweater. It is also stretchy enough to allow the sweater to be easily pulled over my head. Win!

The only thing that I have failed to mention is the heart-stopping worry that I had that perhaps the rose yarn might run a little when I blocked the sweater. I had already made a sweater from this yarn and didn’t remember any problems, but still, I worried.

I did make a swatch to test this. No problems!! Notice that the cream seems slightly larger than the rose yarn. Why is my Fair Isle misbehaving? So unexpected and unfair. Okay, I’m moving on now….

I should mention that it is not a good plan to drink red colored vitamin water while knitting a white sweater. Sometimes, I am stupid. There is a tiny amount of additional pink in places where it shouldn’t be, but I’m not going to show that off, and you really don’t need to see it. Just remember this little gem of good advice and don’t be stupid like me…

So that’s it. My Koivua is done, it makes me happy to look at it and I can’t wait for colder weather to arrive so I can show it off. Yay. Meanwhile I am battling MacKenzie for control of the sweater and dreaming of a new project to cast on. I think that it is time for dark blue yarn, don’t you?

Because bossy cats need their knitting to sleep on.

If you would like to see my Ravelry notes on this project after all of this you can find them here. If you are wondering about the books that I’ve been reading/listening to they are the two book set by Adrian Tchaikovsky called Children of Time and Children of Ruin. I’m trying to think of how to write about these two books…

MacKenzie Speaks: Climb Every Mountain is Done!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats for weeks now on her sweater knitting. Last week, finally, she got one of them done.

The weather turned nasty and I didn’t get to go outside for days. Seriously, look at how nasty it got…

The garden became covered in snow. Look at what happened to the hydrangeas!! I forgot that this stuff existed, but here it is again making my life miserable. Why does the Mother of Cats let this kind of thing happen?! She should care more about me!

Because we couldn’t go outside for a few days and there wasn’t any watering to do outside the Mother of Cats settled down and got some serious knitting done.

She finished my sweater and PUT IT ON!! How can I take a nap on this sweater if she is going to wear it?
Do you see how this sweater is the perfect shape for me to take a nap on it?

The Mother of Cats says that this sweater is really comfy and fun to wear; something like a swancho, whatever that is. All I know is that she is wearing my new, most favorite cat blankie. I need more attention. I need to have more cookies. I want to go outside!!

Sigh. The backyard has been kind of ruined for the year.

Laters. It is time for my dinner and I am going to demand extra cookies on the side.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have those cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Climb Every Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier. This is a seriously comfy sweater that is going to be a workhorse layering piece for me this fall into the winter. My project notes are here.
  • I altered the pattern to put I-cord trim on the sleeves (instead of ribbing) and then added more I-cord to the top of the neckline ribbing as the sweater was a little loose and sloppy on me, probably because of the fabulous soft yarn that I used. Anyway, all was fixed once the I-cord was added and I’m really happy with the fit.
The I-cord as added by picking up the original cast on stitches and then binding off right away in I-cord. The stability added by the edge pulled the whole sweater back up off my shoulders. 
  • The yarn is from Western Sky Knits and I scored it from their booth last spring when I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest. This yarn is seriously yummy!
  • Koivua is also done, but I still have some finishing to do with it. Next post!
  • Oh, yeah. I had a birthday last month and in a moment of weakness (it’s my birthday…. I get to have what I want!!) I bought some yarn. Okay, maybe a lot of yarn. It is really nice, however. I should probably write about how I’m doing on the yarn destash project… That will be another post!!
  • The weather change was really abrupt and dramatic. One day we were almost 80°F here in the Denver area, and then we dropped into the 20’s the next day and the drop just kept going overnight taking us into the single digits by the next morning. Crazy, huh. I moved plants and covered what I could, but the garden is basically gone now. Poor flowers!

MacKenzie Speaks: Crutches, Mountains, and Squirrels

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this ball of yarn? This is my most favorite yarn at the moment. So soft. So nice to cuddle with. The little flecks of color are my favorite.

The Mother of Cats has been somewhat difficult to work with lately. She has been limping all around the house, and yesterday her physical therapist finally told her she needs to use crutches for the next few weeks. HER CRUTCHES KEEP GETTING IN MY WAY!!! What is up with that? She doesn’t go outside as much as she used to, and she started knitting this simple sweater with just one color of yarn instead of the Koivua sweater that I just love.  There are more colors to chomp in the Koivua, and it is now so big she can’t keep me off of it while she knits. Is she working on the sweater that I can sleep on while she works? No! She is not!! She says knitting with the one color is easier to stuff into a bag to haul around with crutches. Whatever. What is up with the Mother of Cats? A little adversity and she totally folds: I’m so disappointed with her!

Except I do really like this new yarn so I’m starting to forgive her for putting the Koivua into time out. This sweater is called “Climb Every Mountain.”  What is a mountain?

Today the Mother of Cats finally let me go outside while she took pictures of all of her knitting and we watered all of the outside flowers.

Look at what happened to the blooms on the hydrangea plant over the last few days of cool weather. The flowers have turned pink again! The Mother of Cats was really happy to see the flowers. I was like… meh… laters… I have to go have a chat with that squirrel…

While I was chasing the squirrel around the yard she took these pictures of the new sweater. It is starting to look pretty good, isn’t it? It is kind of nice to sleep on…

She is now below the sleeves and getting ready to use her last ball of yarn.
Oh, yeah. Look at the new stitch markers that she made to use while making this sweater. How cute are these? She should use these to play with me!!

Now it is late in the afternoon, the squirrel has left to do whatever squirrels do, and the Mother of Cats, the crutches,  and I are back in the house. I just got some yummy salmon to eat and the Mother of Cats is getting ready to knit again. Hmm… that new sweater is getting pretty big now. Maybe I can sleep on part of it while she is working. I’m so handsome and the yarn really looks nice next to my fur. Maybe she will be reasonable for once and will let me do that. IF she loves me I will get a quality nap on yummy yarn.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Climb Every Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier. That yarn that MacKenzie loves is Tweed DK by Western Sky Knits, and it really is nice to work with. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • How ironic is it that I’m knitting a sweater called “Climb Every Mountain” while trying to master walking with one crutch?
  • The hip has become even more challenging. I met with the physical therapist yesterday who had printed out the notes from the hip specialist that I met with last month. Things are worse than I realized. I have IT band syndrome, inflamed tendons associated with my hip adductors, and then there is the severe hip bursitis.  I need to rest the tendons as much as possible as I stretch the IT band and use the topical anti-inflammatory gel that we hope will get the swelling down. Since I can’t walk without limping and the adductors need a rest I’m on crutches for the next three weeks at a minimum. I’m truly a mess as I can’t use a cane (bad wrists), ice (thank you, Raynaud’s), or work in a pool (Sjogren’s, I really hate you right now), so things are challenging, but I’m really motivated since I want to stay mobile as long as possible and I’m a poor candidate for a hip replacement.
  • MacKenzie is learning to stay out of the way of the crutches, but he is taking the whole thing personally. Poor thing. I have started giving him more cookies… I have NOT surrendered any of the sweaters to him.
  • Koivua  is waiting for the first snow fall as I rush to finish two transitional sweaters. Winter, take your time…

    Napping MacKenzie_web
    Finally!!

MacKenzie Speaks: First Day of Fall

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats says that the seasons changed today and that fall has arrived. Whatever. Is that a type of cookies?

The Mother of Cats and I went outside to water all of the plants today and I must say that the flowers all look the same to me, and the squirrels are as frisky as ever, but there IS something going on with the trees…

The leaves are starting to look funny!! 

I’m not sure why fall is a big deal, but the Mother of Cats is knitting faster then ever. She says crazy stuff like Winter is Coming! and I need more sweaters! The Mother of Cats can be really confusing sometimes… Anyway, she worked like crazy over the weekend and look at what she got finished:

That’s right. Soft fluffy cashmere blend mash-up socks. 

If the Mother of Cats loved me she would let me have these socks to put in my bed, but NOPE! she won’t take them off her feet. Why is the Mother of Cats so very selfish? She says that they are for her to sleep in on cold nights, but it isn’t even a little cold and she is wearing them right now. Selfish Mother of Cats!! I want my own cashmere sleeping socks, too!! Well, I want them to sleep on, but you get the idea.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

These socks are a mash up of three other socks patterns. The details are on my Ravelry project page.

Check out the garter stitch heel on these babies. They aren’t sturdy, but boy are they soft, comfy, and warm! Look at that cashmere halo on them!

To MacKenzie’s disgust I haven’t started knitting the second sleeve on my Koivua sweater. I went crazy and cast on another sweater. It’s too soon to talk about it, but here’s a teaser showing off the knitted fabric and one of the stitch markers I made to go with it.

I had to start this sweater right away because it kind of screams “Fall!” Seriously. I need this sweater immediately. I’ll get that other sleeve finished before the end of the month…

Happy Fall, everyone!

MacKenzie Speaks: A Sleeve and a Sock

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

To you see how hard I am working?

I have been really helping the Mother of Cats with her knitting this week. Look at how carefully I am inspecting this sock that she is working on. We have been listening to an audiobook every evening while she stitches away on the sock, with lots of breaks to give me attention, of course. I think that she would get bored and fall asleep if I didn’t keep standing on her and head butting her work. It is a hard job, but someone needs to do it.

See how much progress she has made? This is what you get when you have an attention-to-detail cat helping you out.

The Mother of Cats is calling this another Mash-Up sock that combines elements of three other socks that she has made in the past. Whatever. Like I would remember details like that?! What I do remember is that I sent her to the store to buy me tuna flavored cookies and she came back with some kind of substandard chicken flavored ones. This is just typical of the Mother of Cats. So thoughtless. I don’t know why I exhaust myself helping her when she doesn’t treat me the way she should…

Especially when I helped her knit this sleeve this week too!!

I can’t believe how exhausting all this knitting supervision has been. Luckily the sweater is now so big the Mother of Cats can’t keep me off of it any longer. Which is pretty nice since I need a nice place to nap after all of this work.

The Mother of Cats needs to share her things more often!!

Last night the Mother of Cats started ANOTHER SWEATER before she was done with this one. Something about the second sleeve syndrome… Whatever. I think that she just wanted to let me nap a little longer. I deserve it after all. Maybe the Mother of Cats does think a little about my needs after all.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is a Koivua by Caitlin Hunter. My project notes are here. I made modifications to the sleeve to make it less bell shaped at the bottom and am pretty happy with how it came out. I put the details into my project notes if you want to see what I did.
  • Oh, yeah. That sock is a total mashup masterpiece. The top is the edging from the Geology socks. The ribbing is kind of an Emily’s Favorite socks deal, and the garter stitch heel and toe are inspired by the Om Shanti Bed Socks.
  • Yep. I did cast on another sweater last night. I also had to made a new set of stitch markers to use with it because a) they had to all be different from each other, and, b) they had to coordinate with the sweater.  What?! Doesn’t everyone do this? There’s no problem here, people. There is, however, another post brewing…
  • The book that MacKenzie and I are listening to is A Better Man by Louise Penny. I love these books!!

Have a great (knitting) weekend, everyone!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Getting My Mojo Back!

This post is going to be something of a mess as I’m having trouble distilling all of the issues I’m having with my disease(s) into specific themes. I’ve been pondering and trying to make sense of everything for the last couple of days (while knitting, of course!) and here are the main threads of thought.

    • When you are chronically ill it is hard to be assertive with medical professionals upon whom you depend.
    • In a life with constant symptoms and annoyances, when is it time to insist that something must be done to help you?
    • How should I respond when medical professionals insist that test results prove that the symptoms I’m experiencing aren’t really happening?
But before I start whining about all my woes I would like to offer up this picture of the bee party going on in my garden. I definitely need to plant more of these plants!!

I’d like to set the stage for the little adventure I’ve been on for the last 6 months. Actually, I need to go back farther in my odyssey for this to make any sense. It has been 5 years since I was first diagnosed with systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), Sjogren’s Disease, and fibromyalgia. For the last 3 years I’ve been experiencing painful and burning muscles, joint pain, and swollen bursa. I am just miserable and struggle to walk on some days, and I’ve noticed that I have many other symptoms on these bad days: fatigue, brain fog, edema, eczema, GI woes, hair loss, and shortness of breath. I keep checking to see if I’m running a fever, and I feel so sore and sick it feels like I must be coming down with influenza. I call these surges of symptoms “flares”.

If I break down and take an NSAID (ibuprofen) , a drug I’m forbidden to use as it might damage my kidneys, I can buy myself 2 good days as my flare symptoms fade into the background. Other supplements and medications that I’ve taken also make my symptoms subside, and when I checked they all had anti-inflammatory properties (doxycycline and tart cherry extract, I’m talking to you!). Hmmm… it’s almost like I’m struggling with inflammation, huh.

Because of my observations I’ve been suspecting that I’m in the grips of some type of systemic inflammatory event, and for three years I’ve been consistently reporting to my rheumatologist and others that I’m struggling and that I need help. Mostly I’m told that I have a chronic illness and that there is nothing that can be given to me that will not cause damage to my stomach or kidneys. I’ve cried. I’ve been bounced between doctors. I finally got a referral to physical therapy but I continued to struggle. Mostly I just maintained and accepted my fate, trying to make the best of things. My world closed in as I retreated to my “safe house” to manage my symptoms.

Time for another trip to my garden, don’t you think? One of my mini-roses, attacked by spider mites and reduced to a couple of twigs, has recovered and started blooming this week. It just goes to show, it is not unreasonable to wish for improvement!

In February I tried to raise the pain issue with my rheumatologist again, and she just snapped at me that I was on the best medications available, I didn’t have inflammation because my C-reactive protein was normal, and that I was always complaining, and that maybe she should prescribe me some anti-depressants! Simultaneously outraged and heartbroken, I refused. I got out of there and cried in the car. I clearly needed a new doctor, but I didn’t know of a better one, and I needed more than my own observations to press my case.

Here’s the deal: I used to do medical research on, ironically, scleroderma. I’ve sat through lots and lots of presentations by physicians struggling to treat patients with rheumatic conditions. I know to be skeptical of cookie-cutter treatment plans, and to always follow the data wherever it takes you, even if it seems to be unreasonable at first. I know to remember that even if 90% of patients respond to specific medications and treatment plans, there are still the others who need something different.

Struggling to walk, in pain, and short of sleep, I made appointments with other doctors in my care team. I also began to collect data to support my inflammation hypothesis. I also began to hunt for another rheumatologist.

    • My physical therapist told me my joints were too swollen for me to go to the gym. Or to do yoga. Maybe I could do a stationary bike… carefully.
    • The dermatologist, shocked by my swollen face, immediately prescribed an anti-inflammatory ointment and doxycycline, an antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties. Wow! Big improvement. Better than ibuprofen!
    • My internist stepped in and prescribed inhaled steroids and another anti-inflammatory gel to put on my hip. Wow, wow, wow!!! Huge improvement. I can breathe again!! Brain fog went out the door, energy came up, and I had less joint and muscle pain. My hair started to grow back in and my stomach pain stopped. This was just darn thrilling, people!
    • This week an orthopedic hip specialist that my internist referred me to told me that I have IT band syndrome and bursitis.  I now need to double down on the anti-inflammatory gel, there is more physical therapy in my future, and injections of steroids into that hip bursa will happen if my immune system, already suppressed, can handle it. Because I’m on high risk medications to crush my immune system into submission these things have to go slowly, but the process is now in motion.

I don’t know about you, but it sure seems crystal clear that I’m dealing with inflammation, right? Imagine my shock (NOT) to read a research study last night that showed that C-reactive protein, the inflammatory marker that my rheumatologist uses to assess my disease, does not become elevated in scleroderma’s fibrotic process. You know, the process that made my IT band become so thickened and inflamed that it is clearly visible on my x-rays and responsible for causing my bursitis. “We can’t be sure that scleroderma caused this,” said the orthopedic specialist. “Well, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get this from knitting,” I snarkily replied. We also discussed if I might have bursitis on the inside of my hip joint. “Well, that would be unusual,” he said. “Please, you’re talking to someone with a rare disease,” I replied. He acknowledged the point. This is how normal doctors talk with to their patients.

Shame on my rheumatologist who doesn’t let me talk to her, who used inappropriate data to dismiss my symptoms, and then finally disparaged me as I pressed for acknowledgement and help. I don’t know if an earlier intervention could have saved me from bursitis and scarred tendons, but now I have a clearly established track record that documents inflammation and I feel empowered to move on to another doctor. I talked to some patients active in our local Scleroderma Foundation chapter, and I have the name of a rheumatologist who is treating several other patients with my battery of conditions.

Which takes me back to my original points that I have been pondering for weeks:

  • When you are chronically ill it is hard to be assertive with medical professionals upon whom you depend. Yes, it is. I forgive myself for crying in the car. I was blindsided and ill-prepared to argue with a specialist who deliberately places patients on the defensive to fend off requests for help. Who could have imagined such a thing? I now recognize that this is a defensive tactic by the physician, it is inappropriate, and I will no longer tolerate it. She took advantage of my dependence upon her to victimize me. If her test results do not account for my observed symptoms, then we need other tests and different thinking. That’s what I learned as a scientist, it is valid, and I will stick to my guns if this happens again. But not with this doctor: I’m moving on!
  • In a life with constant symptoms and annoyances, when is it time to insist that something must be done to help you? Sadly, things are not rosy when living with a chronic disease that has no direct treatment and piecemeal strategies for symptoms. When you can no longer tolerate the life you are living it is time to speak up!!
  • How should I respond when medical professionals insist that test results prove that the symptoms I’m experiencing aren’t really happening? Well, that is poppycock, right? If you are vomiting blood, so to speak, it doesn’t matter what their little image is showing them on the computer! I responded by going to other members of my medical team  and securing medical interventions from them (and thereby building a cascade of supporting evidence), getting full copies of all my test results, doing a literature search on the drugs and tests the rheumatologist was relying on, and activating my network to get the name of a doctor more appropriate for my medical circumstances.
Another rose break.

Today I am 5 days into the increased dose of anti-inflammatory gel to get my bursitis under control and I’ve started my physical therapy again. I am better: I actually lifted my leg to get into the car without assistance! Once again I need to wait a few weeks/months to make sure my kidneys and cell counts are stable before adding another drug like a cortisone injection into that bad-boy hip bursa, but I am making progress and am comfortable with what is happening now.

Believe it or not, after all of this I still don’t have a title for this post. Ugh. What was this about?

Refusing to be a victim!

Manipulating the health care system for fun and (pain-reducing) profit?

Fighting for your mojo when no one else can?

That’s it. Fighting for my mojo. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what I did, and my mojo is back!!

 

Return to my Kiovua

Days are good, my hip is starting to feel better (but I’m still taking it easy), and the cat has calmed down. Okay, I had to give him several of my little knitted projects to sleep on, but the cat trap worked and I’m knitting in peace.

Socks and some knitted mitts make an effective cat trap as it turns out.

With two evenings of peaceful knitting I’ve made a lot of progress on the Koivua sweater that I’m knitting. Check it out!

Now that I’m working my way down a sleeve I’m starting to get excited about the sweater!! My project notes are here.

I did an additional repeat of the knit/purl textured section at the bottom of the sweater and then decided to do corrugated ribbing and an I-cord bind off instead of the all white ribbing that the pattern called for. The ribbing at the top of the sweater really pulled in, and I decided that I didn’t want that going on in my sweater since the patterned section is going to try to balloon out and misbehave as it is. Hopefully the corrugated ribbing will tame things once I’m wearing this baby.

I’m now tacking some sleeve modifications as I’m not sure that I want them to bell out as much as the pattern has. Stay tuned for more pattern trickery!

Have a great weekend everyone!