Sweater Troubles

This is all the fault of Ravelry designer Caitlin Hunter. I’m busy knitting away on her Tegna sweater (for the second time… I made one of these last month and I discovered that I needed another) and I have gotten above the lace section at the bottom and am now cruising through the plain knitting section.

Lace detail on knitting.
See. Cruising through the simple stockinette rounds. Easy-peasy, but kind of boring…

I have really picked up speed now that I am above the lace. Woohoo! I may have this done in another week depending on how much I wander off to knit other things like socks because, well, it is just a tad boring… my mind wanders. I start to dream of other projects and about things that I want to do. I think about books I want to read. I think about mowing the lawn. I think about what I want to cook for dinner. I start to plan the next sweater and then I go on a mental wander of yarn stash. Hmm… what is in there? What should I knit next?

I take knitting breaks to drag out yarn in the colors and weights that I think might work for my next project. I go back to knitting, and then on the next break I head back to the stash to pull out another couple skeins that I just remembered. I have literally woken up in the morning thinking of another possible yarn/color combination. The yarn, stored in plastic lock-top bins, starts to stack up next to my knitting chair. My mind wanders more…

Today I dragged out 4 skeins of wild fuchsia painted yarn that my BKB Deb convinced me to buy a few months ago out to the back deck to look at it in the sun with different contrasting yarn combinations. I’m thinking of colorwork here…

Yarn.
Choice #1
Yarn
Choice #2
Yarn
Choice #3

I fussed and worried about my choice, kept looking at how the yarns played with each other, and finally decided on choice #2 as it calmed down the wild colors a little and blended better with the dark undertones in the main color fuchsia yarn. So, what will this be? You are looking at my next project, a Sipila (by Caitlin Hunter) long sleeved sweater that should be done just in time for late summer/early fall.

Kitted up sweater waiting to be knit.
Here is the sweater all packed up and ready to be taken out later when I start knitting.

But wait… I also found this fabulous Uncommon Thread yarn in the colorway Brasselthwaite lurking in the back of the stash.

Yarn.
Look at this yarn! This is dying to get knit up into a sweater. Look at those shades of blue.

At first I though that this yarn wanted to be a Zweig (by Caitlin Hunter) sweater and I matched it up with a yummy gold cashmere blend yarn that I bought from Western Sky Knits to make the lace yoke for the sweater.

Yarn
See, won’t this look great? I love how these colors go together.

Here’s the problem… I have all of this yarn that I’ve dragged down to the knitting arena to go through during knitting breaks. I keep finding colors that I really liked. I kept thinking of different combinations of colors. I had my heart set on some colorwork. Gee, Caitlin Hunter has some really nice colorwork sweaters…

Yarn
Seriously, doesn’t this look like the makings of a kick-ass Sunset Highway sweater? All of these yarns are part cashmere and the same yardage in each 100 gram skein. It’s a sign. I have to make the Sunset Highway!

If I knitted a Sunset Highway I could use the Uncommon Thread for the body and the other three colors would make the colorwork yoke. I really like these colors… I really liked the idea of making the Zweig… I have a lot of skeins of grey yarns with little flecks of color… can I maybe fade them together to make the Zweig, but if I do that , what will I use for the lace section? Hmm… I wonder what is in the stash?

I am knitting like the wind now on the Tegna, and as I stitch I mull over my sweater options. So many sweaters, so much yarn. My goal is to use as much yarn as I can from the stash without heading off to the LYS to buy more. I’m trying. Really, I am. I am determined to have a stash that has shrunk by the end of summer.

So, I have gone down the Caitlin Hunter sweater rabbit hole. Just a little bit…

I am having sweater troubles for sure. May you all have the same. 🙂

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MacKenzie Speaks: Another Tegna?! (The Mother of Cats is out of control…)

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Hot Cat
It is still hot here. 

The Mother of Cats and I are still staying inside every day because of the heat. You’d think that she would devote herself to helping me cope with the unacceptable weather, wouldn’t you? I mean, look at this fur! Nope. She just turned on a ceiling fan for me and went about her business. I’m not sure she really loves me… She spends more time babying her plants outside then she does me. How could I come in second to a rose? Ridiculous!!

Tea Rose
She has managed to get one of her tea roses to bloom.
Hydrangea
Her hydrangea that she bought this spring really got cooked by the heat (check out those crispy leaves…), but it has put out some new blooms too. Yep, you guessed it. She fusses over this plant more than me too!

When she isn’t outside ignoring me and feeding her plants she spends her time downstairs knitting away on new projects. She started two new ones this week, and would you believe that she started another Tegna sweater?

Swatch
She even made a swatch this time. This yarn is cotton and linen and she wasn’t sure about the gauge (whatever that is… Yellow Boy wants to know if it is a kind of bug…), so she had to try out different needle sizes.
Paw on yarn.
I helped her with that!
Cat and Knitting.
I closely supervised her work, and after a week look at what we have accomplished!
Lace detail on knitting.
Ta-da! Looking good, huh.

She took a break from the sweater over the weekend and made a sock. So cool. So perfect to sleep in my bed with me. Did she put cat nip into it and let me have it? Nope! I’ve discussed this before, but with the Mother of Cats it is always NOPE!!

Yarn
This is the yarn that she started with…
Sock.
…and here is her sock. She plans to make the second one this coming weekend.

So that was the whole week. She did go off and leave us from time to time, and there was some reading, but whatever. What is important is that she spends her time with me.

Cat and Knitting.
Tonight we are back to knitting the sweater.  Finally I am getting the attention that I deserve: grooming, petting, cookies. Lots of cookies!

I’m such a good boy. Do you see how much I am helping the Mother of Cats?

Can I have some cooking now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I bought this cotton/linen yarn to make a cute lacy summer top but I was not able to get the gauge that I needed, and because of the lace it was going to be hard to adapt the pattern, and knitting tightly on small needles hurt my hands. Total fail. The solution? Another Tegna! I am so happy with the first one I knit and I think that this one will be a nice layering piece as fall arrives with the longer sleeves I’m going to put on it. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • Poor garden. Even though the heat goes on it is more humid now and plants are doing better. I feed everything in the hopes that roses will bloom again; so far only the tea roses in pots are responding well. That hydrangea is in a pot as I can’t decide where to plant it. I think that it is going to need shade at least part of the day. Poor thing; it really got fried in the first location I tried out. I’m wondering if it can winter indoors in the pot with a grow light on it. Hmmm…
  • The socks are another of the vanilla sock pattern Dave. I’m having fun playing with the colors. My Ravelry project notes are here.

MacKenzie Speaks: So Much Knitting!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats has been staying inside for days and never lets me sit by an open window. When she does open the window smoke comes in from outside. It’s because there are lots of fires burning in Colorado right now.  I don’t like smoke all that much, either, but it is so boring when the window is shut.

Hot cat.
Do you see how hot and bored I am?

It is also hot. Really hot. You would think that the Mother of Cats would devote all of her time to helping me stay cool, but she has spent the last week sitting downstairs, watching Netflix, and getting lots of knitting done. Today she went outside WITHOUT ME and took all the pictures of what she has been making.

Socks
She finished both of her new socks. 
Sweater
and a new sweater…
Close to You Shawl.
a little shawl to go on the sweater…
Close to You Shawl
and even another little shawl to go on sweaters that are blue or pink.

During all of this knitting did the Mother of Cats remember to feed me cookies and to play with me EVERY hour on the hour? No, she did not!

Hot Cat
so I made sure that she had to take knitting breaks on a regular basis. Try to knit now, Mother of Cats, and I will chomp your yarn!!

This afternoon the Mother of Cats is getting ready to start another pair of socks and we are all sitting downstairs watching the weather radar on television because there is a big thunderstorm right over us. Rain! Thunder! Hail! What is next? This is completely unacceptable. Maybe she will open a window once the rain is over.

Cat
after I get my cookies, that is…

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have my cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The wildfires in Colorado have been just stunning in their intensity and unpredictable behavior. We need rain very badly; today it arrived in such intensity that we are now under a flash flood watch, and the new weather brought a tornado to one of the fire zones. Truly, we need a break here in the western part of the United States. This picture arrived in my Facebook feed last night showing a fire in the southern part of Colorado. Just heartbreaking. I hope that the rain coming down now helps them.

  • The socks are another one of the vanilla pattern Dave by Rachel Coopey. I measured the little ball of bright pink contrast yarn and I think that I will have enough to do the band at the top of the sock too. Casting on another pair this evening…
  • The sweater is the Throwback Tee by Wanda Eichler. My project notes are here.
  • Both of the shawls are Close to You by Justyna Lorkowska, a free pattern on Ravelry.
  • I am really, really bad at finishing items once I get them off my needles. Last night I finally sat down and took care of all the loose ends to finish a small stack of items and this afternoon I got the pictures before the rain arrived. Now it is raining hard outside: knitting time!

MacKenzie Speaks: Knitting in the Time of Thunder

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Once again the Mother of Cats has been disappointing in her priorities…

It has been horrible here for days and days. The days have been dark, there are huge booms, and so much water has fallen out of the sky it makes my tail curl. Seriously, Yellow Boy has been hiding in the closet for days, and I have to admit that I’ve been going to ground there myself.

Does the Mother of Cats come to comfort me the way she should? Does she double up the number of cookies to help me deal with all of this stress? No, she does not. She has been a big disappointment for days!

Yarn and knitting.
She found all of this yarn in the yarn playground (she calls it a stash…) that she decided to make into a sweater.
Cat and Knitting.
She has been knitting away on the sweater for days and days…

Normally I would love to hang out with the Mother of Cats while she is knitting, but this yarn is made of cotton and tencel. It is boring. It tastes terrible when I chomp it. The Mother of Cats did give me some pieces to play with, but why bother? Now if she would just take a few minutes to knit me a cute little mouse stuffed with catnip out of this yarn… I would even share it with Yellow Boy. Really, the Mother of Cats needs to be more caring of others, don’t you think?

Growing sweater.
Just as the sweater was getting to an interesting length she became bored with it…
Sock yarns.
…and pulled out these sock kits that she bought one day when she left me alone to go play with sheep and other funny smelling things up in the mountains.  

She struggled with her decision, but finally she picked the yarns in the middle of the picture and I helped her get them all wound up into cat toy cakes. What would the Mother of Cats do without my help?

Sock knitting
Before you knew it she was making a sock!

That sock yarn is superwash wool, but did she let me chomp it? No, she did not! It thundered and rained again this weekend so I hid out with Yellow Boy in our safe zone in the closet for just hours and hours, and when we came out…

Sock
The first sock was done!

Yay! I think that the sock would be fun to play with too; a little catnip seasoning would make it perfect! Did she give it to me? Nope! Always, with the Mother of Cats, it is nope, nope, nope. I even ask nicely, too!

Cat sleeping on bed.
Tonight it is nice and calm outside and it is even cool.

This evening the thunder has stopped and it is nice outside. The birds are singing like crazy and Yellow Boy has come out of the closet and is standing by the back door hoping to see a bug. Not me. I’m just exhausted by all the thunder excitement and the knitting. I’m taking advantage of the break in the weather to catch a little cat nap.

Maybe when I wake up the Mother of Cats will give me some cookies.

I’m such a good boy!

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is the Throwback Tee on Ravelry, and my project notes are here.
  • That wonderful sock yarn is from Western Sky Knits, and I bought it all when I lost control in her booth at the Estes Park Wool Market.
  • The sock pattern is a vanilla sock called Dave from Rachel Coopey. I am going with a really simple sock to show off the yarn, because, hello! It is so gorgeous!
  • Today should be the last day in a cycle of thunderstorms and rain. Starting tomorrow the sun will be back out and the heat machine is back on! Welcome to summer, kitties.

Science and the Scleroderma Girl: Get Ready for the Rants!

Yep. This has all been about me needing to vent about all the alternative medicine and false information out there that is directed at people who are seeking to manage chronic conditions, lower their cancer risk, improve their lives, boost their immune systems, or just be more healthy.

There is so much coming at me that I would be a total victim if I didn’t have a way to sort through things. It is all presented as “scientific”, backed by “studies”, and supported by numerous testimonials. Often I am pressured by other people to adopt their products, treatment plans, or dietary guidelines, sometimes to an unacceptable degree.  The message “it’s your fault that you’re sick because you won’t do what I say” is out there, and I am surely not the only person to have been targeted by this.

Knitting.
Mostly I just ignore them and knit on. What do you think about my newest Close to You shawl? This yarn is from Western Sky Knits, and the colorway is called Nova.

Here’s the advice that comes my way:

  • Stop taking your drugs. The doctors don’t know what they are doing, and the side effects are unacceptable. (Really… this happens a lot!)
  • You can get well if you:
    • Follow the AP Protocol by going to an alternative medicine doctor
    • Never eat any processed or artificial foods
    • Only use natural products and eat organic
    • Only eat alkaline foods
  • You cannot consume any:
    • Salt
    • Sugar
    • Alcohol
    • Gluten
    • Dairy
    • Processed foods
    • Transfats
    • Seeds
  • You have to supplement your diet every day with :
    • Probiotics
    • Prebiotics
    • Turmeric
    • Cinnamon
    • Fish Oil
    • Vitamin D
    • Alkaline water
    • Tart cherry
    • Natural cider vinegar
  • You can treat your symptoms with:
    • Essential oils
    • Reflexology
    • Exercise
    • High fiber foods
    • Heat
    • Cold
    • Amber beads
    • Magnetic bracelets
    • Herbal tea
    • Aloe vera
  • Your disease was caused by:
    • A chemical exposure
    • Vaccines
    • That viral illness that you had sometime in the past
    • Leaky gut

Truly, if I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by the fatigue, brain fog and all the other things that I deal with, having this all come my way is way over the top. Ugh. It is a lot of information, some reliable, some not so reliable, and some just plain false, for me to sort through.

Get ready!! The mini-rants are just ahead as I unpack as much of this as I can for you in the days ahead.

Rockin’ the Wool Market

What a great day I had Saturday at the Estes Park Wool Market with my BKB Deb. I have gone almost every year to this event for at least 20 years. I sat at my first spinning wheel here, bought my first fleece here, met friends, networked, and enjoyed close encounters with a lot of the critters that produce the wool/fiber that I play with as I spin, knit, dye and weave.

Girl kissing goat.
I don’t recommend kissing the animals, but sometimes it is so darn hard to not want to hug them and scratch behind their ears. Look at what happened while I was lining up this shot of a pigmy angora goat. A little girl leaned in and I had the shot.

Okay, to be honest, it is hard to ever have a bad day up in the Colorado Mountains, especially when the temperature down on the plains is a scorching mid 90’s °F. Estes Park is located in the Colorado Mountains right at the door of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a great 90 minute drive for me from my home in Aurora.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Deb and I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park after finishing up at the Wool Market where I got this shot. It was a prefect, perfect, blue sky day.

Deb and I arrived early in the morning at the Wool Market with a definite agenda… buy yarn from Western Sky Knits! Seriously, we made a beeline for that booth as soon as we arrived. The call of fabulous yarn is pretty hard to ignore.

WSK yarn.
See this? A seriously ambitious yarn haul.

I had gone online the night before and made myself a shopping list. I wanted the black, grey, and raspberry yarns as stables for the stash. I had my heart set on more sock kits (cute yarn with the perfect little coordinating skein for the heel and toe) and some brightly colored yarn that would be stripy when knitted for arm warmers and socks. I wanted another speckled yarn to finish putting together a Speckle and Pop shawl. I desperately needed some more painted yarn for another Close to You shawl; one is not enough of these babies. July is right around the corner and I have the Christmas knitting list already fleshed out. I’ve been off the sock knitting pace, but with the right yarn I’m pretty sure that the afterburners will fire and I’ll be mass producing a stack of them before the first snow flake flies. Then there was the yarn kit to make a Faraway, So Close shawl in colors that I know several members of my family will love.

Anyway, some serious yarn shopping occurred. We actually went to the booth twice as I thought it might be a good idea to make one last call there just in case I was missing something… I’m not being defensive, really I’m not. I need all of this yarn desperately, and I’m not apologizing for my addiction one little, tiny, bit. I don’t have a problem, there is no problem here, move along…

Picture
Then there was this picture. You know that this came home with me too. The title is “High Strung”

After touring all of the other vendors it was out for yummy food (lamb kibbe salad and funnel cake!!) that was eaten up on the bleachers in one of the animal barns. As soon as lunch was over we stashed stuff in Deb’s car and then toured the animal pens.

Paco-Vicunas
Not only were there sheep and goats, but also more exotic animals like these paco-vicunas…
Bunny
…and this English angora bunny. Doesn’t he look like he wants all that fur off right away so I can spin it? 

After looking at all the animals we were drawn to some pens of alpacas with fleeces and yarn for sale. Oh, my goodness. There was a perfect, perfect rose grey alpaca fleece that was really nice (but not perfect: it was a second year fleece and grade 2, but really clean) that I just couldn’t resist. My spinning wheel has really been whining lately for some attention. I should just give it some of what it needs. MacKenzie loves fleeces…

Alpaca fleece.
The yarn from this fleece will be just amazing. I can’t wait to get going on it.

I wonder how well this fleece will take dye? I’m thinking sport/DK weight yarn that will be natural, pink, gold, and purple that can be used for colorwork mitts, hats, cowls…

and a little blanket for MacKenzie too, maybe… I know that he will be helping me do all of this.

Have a great week everyone. You can probably guess what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Scleroderma Awareness Month: Hard Word. Harder Disease.

Every year I get a note from the Scleroderma Foundation about Scleroderma Awareness Month. Take the pledge! Tell at least one person about scleroderma! Coerce your friends into joining the walk for the cure later this month.

Piece of cake. I can do that. Hand on to your phones, because here we go.

Scleroderma is a crazy sounding word, isn’t it. It is actually descriptive of the most obvious symptom of the disease:  based on Greek words, “sclero” means hard and “derma” means skin. Hard skin. My skin is interesting to say the least. Hard, shiny, speckled with white patches of scaring, tight across my cheekbones and knuckles: kind of typical for the disease.

“It’s just your skin”, I was told by my ex not long after my diagnosis. “It’s not a big deal, right?”

As it turns out, this actually is a big deal. The tissue under attack by the immune system is the connective layer just under the skin. You know, the layer of the skin that produces the collagen that gives skin its stretchiness and cohesiveness. Imagine what would happen if this tissue grew really thick, stiff, and then tightened down so badly that blood circulation was cut off and it became impossible to move correctly at the joints. The skin around your mouth can be too tight for you to open wide at the dentist, you can’t bend over to tie your shoes, and forget turning your neck. If your skin won’t stretch, you are in a fix for sure! Finger tip ulcers are a constant worry, and physical therapy to maintain flexibility becomes part of the daily routine. Or you can knit. Knitting is good for blood circulation and flexibility. 🙂

Best advice ever for the scleroderma girl.

This same connective tissue is also found throughout the intestinal tract, and in many other organs of the body. The lining of blood vessels also is impacted, and there is a lot of smooth muscle (like the muscles that work in your stomach) damage.  Some people with scleroderma will only experience it in their skin, but others will have damage occurring in organ systems of their body. None of this is nice; some people will lose the function of their hands, while others suffer kidney, heart, and lung damage. Intestinal tract damage is almost universal, and some of these complications can be severe. Check out this neat interactive chart of symptoms.

So, what causes scleroderma? The actual answer is… nobody knows. It is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by unknown causes, has no cure, and if left untreated in the systemic form is fatal 50% of the time. Right now there is no drug to directly treat the disease, but there are treatments to help with symptoms and to modify the course of the disease by impairing the immune system. With these drugs survival rates are way up. Seriously, hug the next scientist you come across. I personally plan to throw a bar-b-que for the next one I get my hands on.

As it turns out, this year the month of June arrives at a pivotal time in my scleroderma life. There is so much going on, and so much that I’m thinking about, that I’m gearing up to post a whole series of articles about the complexities of navigating through the world as a chronically ill patient. Seriously. I could write a blog post for each day of the month. My little notebook that I jot ideas for posts in is filling up quickly.

I need a catchy title for the series. It will be about science, biology, medical decisions, and navigating through a world of alternative medicine and treatments. You know, like fake news, but instead we are dealing with fake medicine.

Whatever is a scleroderma girl to do?

Stay tuned. I’m seriously gearing up for this. June is going to be a great month.

Hey, if you want to walk with me for a scleroderma cure, just let me know. 🙂