It’s a Wrap!

I have finally finished the Suburban Wrap for my totally Knitworthy niece and popped it into the mail today. Check out this piece of wonderfulness!

I am so happy with the looks and drape of this wrap. 
The knitworthy niece showing off her fabulous mitts!!
Do you remember the Knitworthy niece? Here she is flashing the fabulous mitts that I made her last winter. Yep, that it winter in California in the background there. Green grass… how odd! We won’t even talk about that tree trunk next to her!

My niece saw the Suburban Wrap by Joji Locatelli on her facebook feed, shared the post with me, and the rest was history. As soon as I saw it I knew that this was a knit that was calling my name. I dug in the stash, sent her some yarn choices, and after finishing up some works in progress I cast on and got to work several weeks ago.

My niece loves color (did you notice her hair?), and as soon as I showed her this yarn combo it was the one. All of these yarns were already in the stash… win!

This project was just one chunk of fun knitting after another. So much fun, in fact, that I got into a little tendonitis trouble because I knit too long at a time as I raced along to get to the next color section.  Lace. Stripes. Textured knitting. An interesting shape and rows that were a manageable stitch count. In other words, everything that a knitter’s heart could want. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

This afternoon I popped the wrap into a box and mailed it off to California where I hope it will be useful in the cool evenings to come. It made my heart happy to send it off. I can’t wait to hear that it has arrived safely.

Then I hit the yarn stash hunting for some yarn, in more sedate colors, to make one for myself.

Knitting Speed Bump

A few weeks ago I went to see my primary care physician for help with shortness of breath and joint pain. I totally scored! I walked out of there with a tetanus shot (fail), inhaled steroids to control my small airway disease (win) and an anti-inflammatory gel to put on my swollen, painful joints (huge win). What a difference to my life these new medications have made. I can breath! I can walk without pain! I can sleep through the night! This is huge, people. Take that Sjogren’s and scleroderma! Feeling so much better I began to spend more hours up and about, and there was a lot more knitting happening too.

I got some socks finished right up. Here are my project notes.
I made a lot of progress on my Suburban wrap and was lured into knitting more than usual because I just had to get into the next section of the wrap. This is such a fun project with lots of color, texture and lace interest. So addictive. So hard to walk away from…

Oops. Then this happened.

Tendonitis!

One of the problems of getting better is that swelling is going down and the tissue is tightening up on some of my joints. My knees are really tight. My wrists are stiff. When I knit my joints loosen, so I thought I was helping them stay flexible. That is probably true to a certain point, but I guess I now need to be careful to not overdo things. Sigh. I am using the tendons in my left hand the most since I knit continental, and I push the yarn over the needle with my middle finger for each purl stitch. I’m really fast that way, but my tendons have totally rebelled in my left hand and wrist.  To make things worse I can’t take NSAIDS or any other anti-inflammatory drug because of my scleroderma-battered kidneys and stomach. Sigh. My doctor ordered a knitting hiatus.

I want to be a compliant patient, really I do. I read a couple of books, managed to get through a couple of days without knitting, and then I snapped. I must knit!! Want knit now!! Knit, knit, knit. Why go on if I can’t knit? Sniff. Obviously this is totally unacceptable and I am going to figure out how to knit in spite of this bad boy wrist. Really, my left hand is the one having trouble, so maybe I can work around that. I tried to tension the yarn in lots of creative ways before I remembered that lots of people on the planet hold the yarn in their right hands. English knitting. I have never mastered purling English style, but now I’m really motivated!

I was in the last striped section of the wrap when disaster struck; stockinette means I have to purl back every other row. 
I managed to continental knit with the brace on (okay, it is a little loose) and am moving my left hand very little by working slowly and relying on my right hand.
Working very slowly I am also managing to purl back English style. So slow. So awkward. So much safer for babying rebellious tentons.

Last night I finished the stripes and am ready to enter the last section of garter eyelet. Yay. Knit all the way! I can do this! Then it is into the last, ribbed section of the wrap.

Ribbing. That is going to be slow going. I think that I will check out Norwegian purling. Somehow I need to do this without moving my fingers too much. Yay. A new stitch to learn.

I’m on it!

Take that, scleroderma. You are messing with the wrong knitter!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Snapshots From My Garden

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The catmint is re-growing after taking a beating in the July heat. Perfect for a little cat nap! This is one of my favorite spots in the garden.

August is here and the days have settled into a nice little pattern. Mornings in the garden with the Mother of Cats. Afternoons inside with little Miss Pitty Pat. Evenings knitting and knitting and knitting. It’s hard to say what my favorite time of day is, but today I want to show you what has been going on outside in my garden.

There is a bunny hanging out in the front yard! It ate some of the Mother of Cats flowers, but she still won’t let me out to show it what’s what. Why is she so mean to me? I’m just positive that she doesn’t love me at all!
Luckily the bunny can’t get into the back yard to eat the flowers growing in my garden.
There are a lot of young squirrels racing along the fence and fighting in the trees in the back yard, and some of them are getting a little too pushy about my outdoor water dish. I told this squirrel to STAY OUT OF MY YARD but he didn’t listen to me. Bad squirrel.
I spend a lot of time hanging around next to the water dish waiting for squirrels, but I still haven’t caught one. Hey, they are pretty fast!
The wasp nest is still growing. Where do all of these wasps come from? These guys make me nervous and I stay away from them.

Yesterday while we were outside a dragonfly landed on the Mother of Cats’ book. Wow! She was as stealthy as a cat a she tried to ease her camera out to take a picture of him; I was almost impressed by her skill. Nope! Even I can’t catch a dragonfly, Mother of Cats. What made you think that you could do it? You don’t even have claws, and your reflexes are really inferior…

In the afternoons I hang out with Miss Pitty Pat. She is kind of my best friend these days. Last night she broke her hamster wheel, so the Mother of Cat is heading out this afternoon to get her more toys. I can’t wait to see what she gets us.

Well, it is getting close to the evening so the Mother of Cats will be knitting soon. Woohoo! Yarn chomping time!

I’m such  good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

    • The cottontail bunny has been in my yard for weeks now. She sleeps in the grass, explores the flowerbed, and somehow has avoided the cats who roam my neighborhood unsupervised. Very sweet, and evocative of the days when I used a photo of a bunny like this to anchor my online biology course.
    • Sadly, the wasps began to chase MacKenzie and me, so I finally sprayed the nest with insecticide this week. Intrepid wasps, they have started a new nest in a safer location.
    • There are many dragonflies in the yard now, and the butterfly bush is heavy with blooms waiting to open. Yay! I’m looking forward to more airborne visitors that won’t threaten to sting me.

Tool Talk

This morning I woke up and found a post by nothingbutknit2 with a  “Tool Talk”  in Q ans A format with questions about the tools that we use. She gave us her answers about the tools that she uses and loves, and then invited us to comment about our own tool love/use or to blog about it ourselves.

Oh, I had to do this. I love my knitting tools. I am in terror of losing some of my knitting tools… I’m more afraid of losing my stitch markers than I am of wool moths! Before I show off some of my treasures I should share nothingbutknit2’s questions:

    1. Is there a tool that you own that is your absolute favorite? Which is it? What did you use before you had that tool?
    2. Is there a tool that you bought that is way less useful than you hoped? Does it detract from your crafting?
    3. Is there a tool that other people think is necessary and you just don’t use it? How do you get around it?
    4. How do you store your tools? Do they have their own special space?

Here are my answers:

  1. I love my tools so much it is just impossible to pick just one. I dumped out my zippered pouch stuffed with my treasures and pulled out the ones that I absolutely, positively cannot live without.  Oh. It was kind of a big pile. I looked at all of the things I had on the floor and settled on the one item that was most essential to my knitting existence.
I love my ChiaoGoo knitting needles the most. I have the needles with the lace points, and the interchangable set has lots of extra tips and cables stuffed into the holder. I also hacve lots of sets of 2 16″ cables in almost any size I need for socks and handwarmers. No matter what I am knitting, I can put together the exact circular needle that I need. The metal points fit exactly right into my scleroderma hands (I push the needle with the back of my hands because my fingers are ill-behaved) and the tips dig with absolute precision into my stitches. I love these needles!!

Before I bought the two sets of needles I used a whole drawer full of cable needles that had cables that fought with me, required dips into boiling water before they would behave themselves, and had joins that caught on the yarn. I had to keep buying new needles because I needed a cable with a longer/shorter length, or a second needle in the same size because I was casting on a new project, or any of a number of nonsense reasons.  I had lots and lots of bamboo and square double-pointed needles. Hunting down lost needles has become a hobby all of its own. Ugh!! All of that is replaced with these cool needle sets.

2. I don’t buy that many tools, so there really isn’t one that I am unhappy with. Some certainly get used more than others.

3. Okay, this may not be a tool in many knitter’s minds, but I have never used a lifeline. I took me a long time to figure out what everyone was talking about, and then when I saw some I did understand the potential, but having laughed in the face of knitting disaster for so many years, I continue to do so.

4. Tool storage is something that is big with me. I have a fabulous zipper pouch (with a llama on it!) that I carry the majority of my knitting tools in, and then I have a little plastic case with the neatest little compartments that I use for the small essentials like stitch markers.

Before I decided on the ChiaoGoo needles as my favorite tool I took a picture of the other items that I find essential to my knitting life. I mean, look at this collection: stitch markers, little scissors, needles with bent tips for seaming, instructions for Kitchener stitch, and the case for all the small things…
Look at my little case! It folds open to allow access to all of those little compartments that hold stitchmarkers, needles and safety pins. I think that there is a little crochet hook in there, too. Isn’t this just the best little case?

So, there are my answers to the tool talk questions shared by nothingbutknit2 this morning. Jump in and give your own answers as a comment below, or feel free to write your own post that you share with a link on my blog. I’m heading off to NothingButKnit right now to post this link in her comment sections.

Happy knitting everyone, and treat your tools with the love that they deserve. 🙂

MacKenzie Speaks: We finished the WTF?! Shawl!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats and I have been hard at work this week trying to get her new shawl done.
I’ve been doing quality control as much as possible…
which is just exhausting so I have to admit that there have been some naps. Just a couple. Okay, it has been hot, so I spend most of my day napping. But I carefully check the Mother of Cats’ work every time I wake up to make sure she hasn’t slipped any stitches. There may be also s0me requests for cookies while I’m up. What? I’m working hard, and I need COOKIES!!

Yesterday the Mother of Cats finally finished the bind off of the shawl (an I-cord bind off that made her grumpy because it took so long) and we took it outside to get some pictures. By the time we got out there it was getting ready to rain, so we had to work fast. I don’t like rain. If you had fur like mine you wouldn’t like rain either!

Do you see that she hasn’t even woven in the ends yet? The Mother of Cats can be so lazy. She also needs to steam block the shawl so that the edges are smooth. Still, it is really nice and cushy for kitties to lie on.
I, MacKenzie the Magnificent, claim this shawl for my very own!!

The Mother of Cats likes to take pictures of shawl hanging on the fence, but we were running the sprinkler while this picture was being taken, so that will have to wait for another day. Still, can you see how nicely these colors show off my fur? Obviously, this shawl needs to become my new blankie! The Mother of Cats would give it to me if she loved me, right?

I’m such a good boy. She never could have made this shawl without me!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • This shawl is the What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry. I was having some trouble getting Ravelry to update my project page this afternoon, but if you want to peak at the yarn that I got into the data base my project notes are here.
  • I cut MacKenzie’s claws right before this photoshoot… no shawls were harmed by cats in the production of this blog post!
  • The upper portion of the shawl is brioche (slow, but so squishy and rewarding) and the lower portion is garter, garter, garter. All of the border, CO and BO are I-cord, and that stabilizes the shape of the shawl and keeps the squishness under control.
  • MacKenzie will not be getting this shawl for his bed!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Endless Fade…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see how hot I am? I collapsed on the Mother of Cats’ knitting as it was too hard to even yarn chomp…

Yesterday while the Mother of Cats was driving around in the car (she went to the yarn store… she tried to sneak in some yarn, but I saw her and I’m absolutely certain that she has SLIPPED again…) she glanced at the dash and noticed that it was 101° F outside. I believe it. It is so hot I can’t go outside without burning my paws, and I barely have enough energy to put a claw into the Mother of Cats knitting. Barely. It is so much effort, but when you are a cat of superior personality and strength of will, you persevere and grab yarn anyway. It shows character in the face of adversity…

The Mother of Cats CUT MY CLAWS again!!!

I don’t know why she hates me so much. I’m just trying to do my part in this endless fade project that just keeps going and going and going… Seriously, I don’t know when this project is going to get done. It just keeps getting bigger and hotter and the Mother of Cats whaps me with it every time she turns it. It would be different if she would let me sleep on it, but nope. The Mother of Cats never lets me have fun!!

But we are making some progress with all of that knitting and whapping. Look at where we are!
Brioche section of What the Fade?! shawl.
We have completed the endless sea of brioche stitch that we did for the first couple of weeks of knitting. 
Now we are working our way through the endless garter stich section at the bottom of the shawl. Today we finally got started on one of the lighter colors of yarn.

The Mother of Cats and I do go out into the garden in the evenings so she can water and I can look for bugs and squirrels. It is so hot outside that even the bugs are hiding.

So I just hang out in my favorite cool spots in the garden after she waters.
The lavender is now blooming in the yarrow garden so that is my favorite spot right now. Do you see any bees buzzing around? No, you don’t! Even the bees have gone home in this heat!
Ha. Now that my claws are cut the Mother of Cats is letting me sleep on the end of the shawl while she works. Maybe she does care about me a little. 

Since we are hanging out in the house during the afternoons I think that the Mother of Cats and I may get the shawl done in the next week or so. I can’t wait to show it off. The Mother of Cats could never get things like this done without my help.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The shawl is What the Fade by Andrea Mowry. My project notes are here.

Yarns for shawl.
Here are the yarns. 

This shawl uses 6 skeins of yarn, which explains why I am still knitting and knitting on it. This morning I started the 4th color used at the bottom of the shawl, so the end is now in sight. Yay! This weekend the heat should break, the afternoon storms will return, and my Fade will be finally finished. Stay tuned for the final update!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Safe House

You know, I kind of view myself as a happy camper. I have more things (ahem… knitting projects) going then I can get finished on any given day or week, books lined up to read, and a “to-do” list that I’m slowly working my way through. Hey, people, I fixed the loose tiles on my kitchen floor last week!! My cat MacKenzie is my constant sidekick throughout the day as I knit, work in the garden, read in bed, and even with me (underfoot, demanding cookies) while I’m cooking. Even on the bad days when I’m pretty much down for the count, I manage small victories. There is just one problem with this picture.

Look at these beautiful coneflowers I just added to the garden. I’m hoping to lure some butterflies into the yard. Every garden should have butterflies, don’t you think?

I just don’t fit in the world all that well anymore. In my home, living the life that I’ve created for myself, it is really easy to forget how much I have adapted to accommodate the limitations of my scleroderma, Sjogren’s, and fibromyalgia. Once I go anywhere else reality hits me hard. Every trip out of my house is going to come at a cost. Here are the worst of the offenders that will lay me low.

Air Conditioning I know that almost everyone in the world is grateful for air conditioning in the summertime, but for me it is a royal nightmare. The shock of walking into a refrigerated building on a hot summer day will trigger an immediate Raynaud’s attack. I pull on long sleeves and fingerless mitts as soon as I get into the building, but my lungs know what’s up and I have trouble breathing. The airflow makes my eyes burn; I’ve been reduced to wearing my sunglasses indoors to protect my eyes. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerated cases churning out cold air; you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull up the hood of your sweatshirt and the sleeves down over your hands so you can score some butter and eggs.  If that wasn’t enough, there are also usually…

Scented Products Almost all buildings use scented cleaning products and sells additional items with scents. Candles. Lotions. Laundry soap. The scented bathrooms are a nightmare. If I’m not already in trouble with my breathing I will be if I have to walk down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store: I also start to itch and my face swells. Why do these chemicals even exist? They can’t be good for anyone!

Restaurants These are a special kind of hell for me. All the drinks come cold and with ice, and the entrees are served piping hot. There are other landmines that I need to avoid: salt, lactose, fiber.  I have to carefully select something that is very soft and that will behave itself in my gastroparesis stomach. I can’t have spicy food. I can’t eat fresh veggies. Actually, to be safe, some of this food should go through a blender… I actually once soaked a cut up sandwich in soup so I could eat it…

Walking I am trying really hard to meet my walking goals every day, but I stretch those steps out over the day. A trip to run errands can be just exhausting if I’m on my feet for a couple of hours at a time. I need to always carry water, be aware of the location of bathrooms, and have places where I can sit down if I need to.

Sunshine It makes me sick! Enough said.

Ready for another picture? These paper wasps are building a nest right on the edge of my deck! MacKenzie and I are not amused. Still, it kind of shows how the outside world is full of dangers…

Recently I had a tough talk with myself about pruning down my outings and being more strategic about how I expend my energy. I need fewer outings, and my destinations need to be closer to home. I need to live online. I need to in a safe environment as much as I can to manage my diseases.

My home is my safe house. I have no air conditioning and I minimize air flow. I keep the temperature in the mid 70’s in the day so that my joints and lungs will be happy. I cook all of my own food, I don’t own any salt at all, and everything that I drink is room temperature. Fruits and veggies go through the blender to become smoothies. Every product that comes into the house is scent free. I’m always close to a bathroom or a soft surface to crash onto for a quick recovery if I get dizzy. My stairs have wrought iron rails that I use effectively on bad joint days. Flourishing in my safe house I sometimes forget how sick I am because, well, I have fewer problems.

I planted this yarrow last year in a flowerbed that has killed almost everything planted into it. Not this yarrow!! The secret of gardening, and living with serious chronic illness, is to keep on trying new things, and to match your needs to your environment. Or, in my case, make your environment match your needs.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment so I listed up some symptoms and issues that I need to ask her about. It is quite a list now that I look at it, and it kind of underscores how chronic illness can trick you into thinking that things that would normally send you screaming into urgent care are “just another day of scleroderma.” Shortness of breath is an almost daily thing. When I glance into the mirror these days I sometimes notice that my face is blue. One hip keeps failing me; okay, I actually have to lift that leg to get into the car. My joints swell so much that I can’t sleep at night.

But I am good, here in my little safe house with my gardens and cat.

Tomorrow my doctor and I will attack some of these scleroderma/Sjogren’s issues. I kind of think that lung testing and a MRI of my hip are in the future, and that there may be follow-up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been gathering up my energy in preparation for these outings into a world that is dangerous for me, knowing that after each outing my garden swing, knitting and latest book will be waiting for me. With a room temperature ice tea.

And a cat!

It is good to have a safe house.