FO Friday: The What the Fade?! is done.

Gosh, I just love a good shawl. I like them to add as an accessory, or to wrap up in to stay warm. I’ve been making them in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but last winter I realized that I wanted one that would cover me up to keep me warm while I was reading or knitting. I wanted it to hug my shoulders and stay where I put it, and I didn’t want to have to fuss around with a shawl pin. Something beautiful, but very warm, snuggly, and useful. Brioche would be a plus.

I hunted on Ravelry and decided that I would give What the Fade?! a spin on the old knitting needles. Into the stash I dived, and with MacKenzie’s help I found 6 skeins of yarns that made a smooth fade that would go with almost everything that I wear.

Yarn for the shawl.
Ta-daa! Don’t these look like they would make a great fade?

I’ve been knitting and blogging about this shawl for a whole month. MacKenzie has been exceptionally helpful along the way, and a couple of weeks of cold and rain really hurried things along. Yesterday I finished weaving in all of the ends and steam blocked the final product. Doesn’t this look great?

What’s not to love? This baby is big, and exceptionally squishy. Project notes are here
Knitted fabric.
Here’s a close-up of the details. This shawl scores really high on my happy knitter scale.

Now that it is done, let me sing the praises of this shawl’s design. It is hard to see in the picture, but there is an I-cord edge along the top of the shawl which made it really easy to make the color changes and to weave in the ends. What is even less obvious is how that I-cord edge stabilizes the brioche and garter stitches to make the shawl stay put while wearing it. The bind off is also an I-cord edging, which was tedious to do but so worth it in the finished product.  To maintain the squish factor the final shawl is gently steamed and tugged into shape, which was really easy to do. There are supposed to be tassels, but since I live with ill-behaved cats and want to wear this while sitting around knitting I have decided to leave them off.

Car on new shawl.
MacKenzie is totally in love with the shawl, of course. I found him sleeping on it where I had left it folded up ON THE TABLE!! He must have special wool seeking cat radar or something…

I’ve started two more projects to keep me busy that are more for spring/summer wearing. Look at how cute these are going to be…

Knitting
Behold the start of a Close to You shawl that will be a nice little item to drape around my neck on cool evenings to go with summer tops.  Here are the project notes on Ravelry. The yarn is Magnolia sock from Western Sky Knits. I bought it during my feeding frenzy at their booth when I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest this spring; there was no name on the yarn label, so it is a mystery color.
Knitting.
My newest summer top will be this powder blue Tegna sweater that I’m making out of some soya cotton that I found hanging out in the stash. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

I fussed over the yarn for the Tegna for quite a while. The pattern sample was knitted with a fingering weight yarn that had some mohair in it, and the gauge called for 22 stitches in 4″ (and 28 rows). I fixated on the fingering weight. I was confused by the size 2 needles that the designer used. Finally I realized that this dk weight cotton yarn had exactly the same gauge on size 6 needles. Okay. This is a nice color, I told myself, and I should do it! I fearlessly cast on and started knitting away with total faith in the label (reckless is my middle name…) and I am happy to report that after 3 inches of knitting I am able to check that gauge and I am spot on!!! Clean living, good attitude, and lucky, lucky stars. I hope that I have enough yarn to make it a little longer than the pattern calls for, but I got so lucky with the stash yarn I really can’t complain.

I found some plum colored cotton/tencel yarn that might work too. It’s slightly heavier in weight, but what the heck. This is a sweater with lots of ease. What could go wrong?

Reckless!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Scleroderma Chronicles: The cardiac test results have arrived…

Spoiler Alert: there’s a happy ending!

It has really been kind of a rocky month. Following several episodes of shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and blue lips my doctors decided that I was due for a full round of testing. My primary care physician ordered up a battery of cardiac testing and sent me off to see my specialists.

Cookies
First up: the pulmonologist. I made these cute little sheep cookies to take to the office staff when I went in for my appointment.

I really like my pulmonologist. She is thorough, direct, and answers all of my questions without sugar coating things. I had chest pain in her office and while I was talking to her my lips turned blue right on cue. Wow. It’s like having a trick pony that performs for the audience! We talked about the possible causes, all of which were pretty serious heart conditions, and she decided that I needed to complete my cardiac testing before I did her pulmonary function tests.

I’m not going to lie, it was sounding pretty serious. She thought that I either was developing heart failure, pulmonary hypertension (a fatal complication of scleroderma), or my heart was being starved due to blood vessel constriction.

Next up: my rheumatologist. We discussed increasing my immunosuppressant dosage to crush my Sjogren’s, which has been pretty active, into submission. She hated to up the dosage unless there was no other choice due to the risk of infection, especially since she thought that it was probable that I was experiencing pulmonary hypertension symptoms, and that meant that the pulmonologist should be the lead on treatment.

What was needed, clearly, was some test results to clarify the situation. And knitting. Lots of knitting.

Knitted fabric.
I knitting like crazy all month on the What the Fade?! shawl and finished it yesterday. There has been research that shows that knitting has calming benefits greater than yoga. Since yoga is out of the question right now, I knit.

Are you familiar with Holter monitors? That’s the test where you are hooked up to sensors and wires that go to a device that records your heart’s electrical activity for 72 hours. 72 long, itchy, forced to sleep on your back, OMG, how did this sensor get attached to my hair, hours. Whew. It was done. The results: my heart was normal. Still short of breath and feeling dizzy, I went back to knitting.

Next up was the echocardiogram.  Dizzy and feeling faint, I went for the test one morning last week and then headed on over to my LYS for some knitting action. Following my BKB Deb around the store looking for the yarn to knit a Tegna sweater I felt faint and ended up sitting on the floor at one point. This was getting ridiculous! Especially since the technician who did the echocardiogram test told me that she thought I would be very happy with the result…

I began to wonder if the problem could be my blood pressure. After years of battling hypertension that was hard to control I was posting some really low numbers at my checks. Maybe I was getting too low?

I did a little searching on the internet, and discovered that there was some research that suggested that it was important to keep diastolic pressure above the 60s. Oh. I was often in the 60s. Maybe I was sending my pressure down too low every time I took my morning medication. My doctors were so happy with the current numbers, but maybe things had changed. Maybe I didn’t have hypertension any more… maybe the pulmonologist was right about the blood starved heart, but it was due to low blood pressure. I decided that I should check my pressure every morning before taking my meds.

Blood pressure.
Tbis was my blood pressure reading the next morning before my medication.

I skipped my meds and started recording my pressure readings several times a day. The chest pain and dizziness disappeared. I sent an email to my primary physician with the BP log attached and we set an appointment to talk yesterday as she had just received the echocardiogram results.

Surprise!! My heart is in better shape now than it was at the time of my diagnosis. My pulmonary hypertension is gone and my heart is now pumping normally. She agreed that my high blood pressure seems to have reversed and that the medications that I have been taking are too much for me now. We agreed to try a quarter dose for a few weeks to see what happens.

The immunosuppressant drug that I am taking has been shown to reverse scarring in lungs, and the high blood pressure drug that I was taking (in too high a dose) also may have positively impacted my heart. My skin isn’t as tight as it was a couple of years ago; it looks like my blood vessels are also now in better shape. Less stiff blood vessels means lower blood pressure. Yay!!

My doctor thinks that the drugs have caused these improvements.

My neighbor, who mows my lawn and prays for a miraculous cure, is sure that God has intervened.

I’m convinced that it was the knitting. 🙂

Next week: the lung testing begins.

Dreaming and Fading…

I’ve been just cranking on my What the Fade?! shawl for the last week or so since I last wrote about it. Once I had bid the brioche section at the top of the shawl goodbye it was garter time… lots of garter. This is really easy knitting even with the fun of the fading, and MacKenzie and I have just settled in to binge watch Netflix and crank out the rows of changing colors.

Knitting
The shawl is now so big that I can’t get it open for a picture, but you can still get an idea of how it looks. I just finished fading in that light blue speckle, and there are two more colors to go before I’m done. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

Here’s the thing… I’m doing a lot of dreaming about yarn colors and projects while I’m knitting. It makes things worse that I still have the fabulous Western Sky Knits yarns that I bought at the Interweave Yarn Fest last month still out on display to encourage my dreaming. I already blogged about this yarn: check this out if you want to see my fabulous dream-inducing colors! I’ve been reorganizing the yarn stash and going through my patterns between bouts of knitting, and then I kind of slip into a garter stitch, color-induced waking dream state where I match color/yarn ideas with patterns to decide on projects.

So, with no further ado, let me introduce you to the line-up of May and June projects:

Yarn for sweater
The blue tonal Posh Fingering yarn from the Uncommon Thread has been hanging out in my stash for about a year waiting for the right project. I just love this golden brown from WSK, and it also is 10% cashmere. Perfect match! I’m going to make a Zweig sweater from them, and the golden brown will be the lace yoke in the sweater. I can’t wait to get going on this, and every time I think of how cool this sweater will be the garter stitch pace in my Fade shawl picks up.
Yarn and pattern.
I absolutely love this skein of painted cashmere blend yarn from WSK. Don’t you think that it will look great with the Zweig sweater? I love the look of this little shawl, and I’m thinking that I should transform some of the handpainted Christmas yarn in my stash into scarfs like these for gifts. But not now. Now I have to knit all of this fabulous yarn that is calling to me.
Yarn.
These two yarns are my absolute favorites. I want to make a shawl that shows the two off really well, but not too crazy in the pattern. I’m not completely committed to it yet, but I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make Albuquerque Sunset by Casapinka with this yarn. Did I mention that I just bought a light pink summer top? Perfect!
Yarn and pattern.
Last but not least, how about a simple summer tee that will use up some of the cotton yarn in the stash and show off the colors of the shawls? Yep! I’m hoping that these Throwback Tees will just fly off of my needles, because I’m going to need them to go with these shawls!

See why I’m knitting so fast? Look at these fabulous yarns and great patterns! Actually there is a lot more where this came from. I just checked, and I have 25 items in my knitting Queue on Raverly, 1,122 patterns in my library, another 159 patterns in my Ravelry shopping basket, and a world class yarn stash. This is all kind of overwhelming if you think about it too much, which is why it is hard to finalize decisions. The last couple of days things just fell into place and I made a list of knitting decisions and kitted up the yarn with the appropriate pattern.

Then I went back to knitting my fade and dreaming of what to do with the colors I have left over. Dreaming of yarn and the beautiful, useful objects that I can make from them.

What can be better than that?

In case you’re wondering… I am still in the middle of testing to clarify the cause of my worsening scleroderma-related symptoms. This week I head in to see another doctor and will get my echocardiogram done; after my heart is sorted out I can get the pulmonary testing that I need. Right now the discussion is mostly about my heart, but they are still gathering data so no definitive diagnosis yet. Through all of this I’m just rocking my knitting and refusing to worry about what I can’t change. Tomorrow I’m planting more flowers in my garden! Peace on, everyone!

Yellow Boy Speaks: Trials of Spring

Hi. I’m Yellow Boy.

Yellow cat.
I’m hanging out with the Mother of Cats while she types on her computer.

The weather is really changing around here. It rained (and thundered!) all week, but then suddenly the sun came back out and things began hopping around here. The birds are singing like crazy, the squirrels are running through the trees, and there are flowers and leaves on the trees again. It is like magic. Let me show you what has been going on.

Crabapple blooms
The tree has flowers!
Squirrel eating flowers.
This crazy squirrel was eating the flowers on the tree by the Mother of Cat’s son’s apartment. I guess no one gives him kitty cookies…
Goose.
…and when the Mother of Cats and her son went to the movies they found a goose who had set up shop by the stairs. The mate of this goose is sitting on a nest in a nearby flower bed. Crazy goose. He should have gone in to see the Avengers movie with the Mother of Cats! I bet that the Hulk could give him some good tips on how to handle the movie crowds.

It’s like the world has come back to life after a long cold and snowy winter. The Mother of Cats never lets us go outside in the winter, and this year she is still making us stay indoors even though I’m pretty sure that the garter snakes and bugs are waking up and waiting for me to come chase them.

Nope. We are still trapped indoors.

Cat and knitting.
MacKenzie is helping the Mother of Cats with her knitting. Doesn’t he look good? NOT!! The reason he is eye balling that ball of yarn is because he is getting ready to chomp on it!
Cat paws in the knitting.
When he is not chomping yarn he is trying to put his claws into the knitting. She has gotten pretty cranky with him, but one thing about MacKenzie , he just keeps attacking the knitting in the hopes that she will become exhausted and give up. My money is on MacKenzie!

Friday the Mother of Cats packed up all of the knitting and worked around the house. MacKenzie and I spent the morning snoozing at the foot of her bed.

Sleeping cats.
Don’t we look innocent? Check out how long the fur is on the back of my legs. The Mother of Cats calls this fur my butt feathers. I love my butt feathers. They are almost as long as the fur on my chest. Don’t you think that I am a handsome boy?

Well, I was just innocently sleeping along when the Mother of Cats scooped me up and carried me off to the craft room where she had the clippers all plugged in and ready to go. SHE SHAVED ALL OF MY BUTT FEATHERS OFF!! And my fur matts, too. I was too stunned to wail, but I’m pretty sure I got a few squeaks off. MacKenzie didn’t even come to check on me. How could she do this to me?

Clipped cat.
See. No more butt feathers.

Oh, right. This happens every spring, now that I think about it. I shed like crazy, I get a lots of matted fur, and she cuts all of it off with the clippers. She also tried to shave the fur off of my tummy, but after a brief discussion that involved some claw and teeth demonstrations she gave up. She told me that we would get back to this latter, but I don’t think so. Good luck with that, Mother of Cats!

So, this is spring. The outside comes back to life with lots of singing birds and crazy squirrels, but some clean-up operations start happening around the house that I could definitely do without. I wonder when she is going to let me start going outside again. I wonder why she said we were going to have a bath next week?

Never mind that. MacKenzie says it is time for cookies now. He’s such a good brother.

Bye.

It’s cookie time!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Brioche Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Talking Cat.
The Mother of Cats has been very unfair to me lately…

To be frank, the Mother of Cats has been out of control for days. She has been working on this shawl that is using a stitch that she calls “brioche”. Lots of brioche. Brioche in color after color.

Yarn for shawl.
All of these colors to be exact. Why does she have to use sooo many colors. Okay, I did help her wind these yarns, which was a lot of fun, but now she won’t let me touch them. She keeps them in a plastic container with a LOCKING LID! What is up with that?
Claws in the knitting.
The second I get a paw into the brioche she goes all crazy on me and makes me stop. She even YELLED at me!

I cannot believe that she is acting this way. This brioche is the yummiest knitting that she has done in quite a while. So squishy. So wonderful under my paws. So perfect for a new cat blanket…

Brioche section of "What the Fade?!" shawl.
See what I mean? There is an ocean of this brioche so far, and if she would just give it to me I would certainly put it to good use.

Nope. She is refusing to let me take a nice nap on this blanket. She let the smelly starfish touch the blanket, but me, her most devoted kitty, not a chance! I am concerned about her priorities. I’m not sure that she still loves me the way that she used to.

Cat being petted.
Okay. Maybe she does love me a little bit.

Last night she finally finished the brioche portion of the shawl and started on the garter stitch section. Garter stitch! I like garter stitch too. The way this shawl is growing there is no way she will be able to keep me off of it. Ha! Take that Mother of Cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: This shawl is the What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry. My project notes are here on Ravelry. I am proud to announce that I found every single one of these yarns in the stash (with my sidekick MacKenzie helping me dig through bins…) and didn’t have to resort to any shopping to close color gaps in the fade. Yay, stash!!

FO Friday: Baby, Baby

My blog post that has had the most traffic in my four years of blogging has been the one where I posted my family’s baby booties pattern. My mom, aunt and grandmother churned out these booties for every infant that they came into contact with. Kick proof booties, they were treasured by all, and eventually I also began to knit up these cuties for all babies near and far.  I first wrote about the baby booties in a post I called Swedish Knitting Genes, and then put up a tutorial showing how the booties are knitted in a follow up post, Swedish Family Bootie Pattern. I’m still making these booties and have begun casually selling them to people who ask for them.

I get kind of bored knitting the same old booties, though, so I tend to mess around with the pattern each time I make a pair. When Misty, the office manager at the shop where I take my car for its routine maintenance, contacted me for booties and a hat for a new niece on-the-way, I  decided to make a set with lace.

Pink yarn.
First task: a dive into the stash to find some baby girl yarn. Why look at this… Hedgehog Fibres pink yarn just waiting to become pink lace booties.

Misty approved the color of this yarn, so I cast on and got started.

Finished baby booties.
I used a simple 6 stitch lace repeat for the top of the booties. Cute, huh. My Ravelry project notes are here. I have the pattern for the lace and the modifications to the original booties pattern in the notes.

The hat to match these booties was something of a problem for me. I had made a bootie/hat set for this baby girl’s older brother a couple of years ago, and that hat was too small! I then adapted and panic knit a new hat using the Easy Peasy Newborn Sock Hat pattern to make it a little larger and with a ribbed brim, which fit the baby much better. Whew. Here’s the set that I made for that baby boy.

Knowing that this new baby sister would probably have a larger head I wanted to make a hat that matched the lace topped booties and would also have some slight adjustment to the brim size.

Baby hat.
Here it is! What do you think?

I adapted the Easy Peasy hat by moving up to 2.5mm needles and casting on more stitches (102). I used the same lace as the booties on the brim of the hat, and then added a row of eyelets to accommodate the I-cord tie. Easy, peasy girlie hat. Here are the project notes on Ravelry, and I put into the notes my modifications to the original pattern. I can’t wait to hear back from Misty how this fits the baby.

By the way, last weekend was a little rough; my younger son was hospitalized with complications of diabetes. Once again, knitting saved the day as I sat with him that first night in the hospital.

Knitting at the hospital.
Knitting through all crisis…

It is so good to be a knitter. Calming, portable, and always ready to go.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Watercolor Days

A couple of weeks ago I had trouble breathing, called my doctor’s office, and the nurse there called 911 for me. Wow. What an experience that was. Okay, it was a little surreal to be frank. One of the things that happened was the paramedic, after he had placed a needle in my arm vein, attached me to heart monitors and then placed me on oxygen, told me how much he liked my watercolor paintings of cats. What? This is really happening? Panting for air, I struggled for a moment to think of what he was talking about.

Cat Quilts
Oh. These cat pictures.

Those aren’t really watercolor paintings, but they sure do look like it, I suppose. They are actually art quilts made with handpainted fabrics that give them their “watercolor” look.

Siamese Cat quilt.
Here’s a close-up of one of the quilts. You can see that the picture is made by fusing down lots of painted and stenciled fabric pieces that were then sewn and quilted. 

The patterns for the quilts came from McKenna Ryan and I bought them at a local quilt store years ago. Over months I slowly assembled the fabric stash to get the colors that I wanted, and then I created the quilts in my own colors to make them show cats that I have known and loved over my life. These three cats are Morgan (the yellow sunflower cat), Zach (the tuxedo cat) and Teak (my beloved Siamese cat).  I love these quilts, especially because of the quality of the dyes on the fabric and the way the colors work together.

So, do you think that I am a sucker for handpainted yarn? Oh, my lord, that would be a huge YES!

The week after the exciting and exhausting ambulance ride my BKB (best knitting bud) Deb and I went up to the Interweave Yarn Fest to do some quality shopping.

Yarn booth.
The first booth in the door was this one by Western Sky Knits. Look at those yarns!! Look at those handpainted yarns in amazing colors! Look! Look!

Don’t those yarns look a lot like the colors that are in the quilts?

Yarns
Take a closer look. See what I’m talking about?

I saw these yarns and I was gone. I didn’t even do my usual pass through the entire yarn show before buying anything. I just started piling up the yarn that I wanted and that was that. I bought 11 skeins of fabulous, water-colorish yarns and wanted more. Let me show you what I got.

Yarn
I am a complete sucker for a good gold yarn. That was the first skein to jump into my arms. I love this gold. I bought two speckles to go with the first gold skein, and then had to get another skein of gold just in case. You know. Who can tell what I’ll need in the future? The stash cries for gold yarn. I’m on the hunt for the right shawl pattern now, but I’m also dreaming of socks and arm warmers.
Yarn
Then there was this. I needed these colors in my stash.  These yarns are the missing pieces that I needed to make some shawls that I’ve been organizing from the stash. Just like I did with the quilts, I have been assembling colors for projects that I dream of from a number of sources and putting them into my stash. These yarns, and these colors, filled the final gaps and made my vision come together.

Here’s the thing. Looking at these yarns, I realized that they are the colors of the quilts. Watercolors. Colors that make me smile inside. The colors of sunshine, flowers in the garden, cats, and summer days. I look at these yarns, I imagine the projects that they will make shine, and I begin plotting the knitting. And the flowers that I will plant in the garden next month. And the people that I will gift the knitting to. Some projects that will last as long and give me (and hopefully others) as much joy as the watercolor quilts that I have on the wall.

Watercolor days.

May you all have many of the same.