Fall is Here: Armwarmers and Mitts

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi. I’m Yellow Boy.

Cat
Don’t you think I’m a handsome boy?

That’s right. I’m exceedingly handsome. Not very brave, but handsome.

Vampire Kitty
Except on Halloween. Then I am VAMPIRE KITTY!!!

I should be getting lots and lots of Halloween cookies tonight. I just love this time of year.

Bwahaha!!!

Happy Halloween everyone!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Year 3.0

My, how the time flies. Not that I’m having a good time here, but it is hard to believe that it has already been three years since my diagnosis of limited systemic sclerosis (AKA scleroderma). I’ve been reflecting on the last year while planning this post, and decided that I should start out with a little info about my disease, share the highlights of my three years, and then give unpack this year a little.

Butterfly
But first, a butterfly picture! Butterflies have hard skin, and they are doing OK. Be like a butterfly, I tell myself. This little lady was part of a massive migration of butterflies that came through our state in the fall. Seriously, there were so many of them that they showed up on the weather radar and the NWS put out a bulletin asking the public to identify the bird species: not birds, but butterflies.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that is chronic (no cure), progressive, disabling and possibly fatal. It is rare, which is why you probably never heard of it. The name itself means “hard skin”, and that is one of the most distinctive features of the condition. The widespread scarring and buildup of collagen protein that causes the hardening of skin also occurs in internal organs in patients with the “systemic” form of the disease like me. Most of the damage is hitting my intestinal tract, but my lungs, kidneys and heart are also sustaining damage. In the background, hard to see, but never to be ignored, is damage occurring in blood vessels that can cause blood pressure to soar and places me at risk for blood clots.

I have collected several doctors over the last three years as damage continues to slowly accrue in my lungs, kidneys and intestinal tract.

Here are the highlights of my first three years:

  1. My first year was one of shock and horror. I was so worried about tightening skin and the use of my hands that I didn’t ever think about the bigger picture. I was started on drugs, stabilized, and felt much better by the end of the year.
  2. The bottom fell out my second year. I was using my hands okay, but I developed breathing problems, had to be placed on oxygen, and my heart started to misbehave. Adjustments were made to my medications to compensate for my lowering lung volume and to slow the rate of lung damage. At the lowest point I was sent to palliative care and told to make final decisions.
  3. This year, the third, has been one of highs and lows. The new medications kicked in, I came off oxygen and my chest pain stopped. I was discharged from palliative care. I developed gastroparesis and had to move to a very stomach-friendly diet. I stabilized and sailed through the first rounds of appointments in the spring only to develop kidney problems in the summer along with higher pressure in the artery that goes from my heart to my lungs. This blood pressure, which is called pulmonary arterial hypertension, is extremely damaging to the heart and will need to be addressed if it gets any higher. Fabulous. Another doctor.

My summer this year was really hard. I got very dizzy, developed joint pain and sore muscles, and eventually got so brain fogged that I was afraid to drive. My knees were swollen and developed sharp, shooting pains; I will need to buy a new car if this keeps up as I can’t manage the clutch much longer. I struggled on the stairs and my face turned blue on a regular basis. My neighbors stepped in and took over the yard work for me, and my knitting buddies began to drive me to all fiber related adventures as I wasn’t sure I should be trusted on the road. See, highs and lows. My illness is kicking my butt, and the people around me are stepping in to make sure I’m OK.

Early this month I met with my new internist to see if there wasn’t something that I could take to beat some of these symptoms back. OK, I’m going to be honest here. I cried. We agreed that I would start the tart cherry extract again, but at a much lower dose than I took previously in the spring. (Tart cherry has anti-inflammatory properties and is easier on my stomach than NSAIDs. Unfortunately, my kidneys were damaged the first time I tried to take it.) I’m going to have my kidney function checked every month, but I’m already so much better (brain fog, goodbye!) that I’m really hoping that I can tolerate it OK. In the meantime I’m getting lots of chores done in this golden period while I feel so much better. I’ve moved furniture, completed some projects, and have driven to many, many stores that were ignored last summer.

Wizard Hat
And I made a crocheted had for my niece to wear this Halloween. Really, I’ve been a bundle of energy the last couple of weeks.

So, this is the end of the third year. I feel pretty good, I’m getting things done and making plans, and I am making hay while the (tart cherry) sun shines. Next week I get my blood drawn for the kidney function test and after that I see the rheumatologist.

I’ve been thinking about butterflies again. The day after I took that picture of the butterfly it snowed. A lot.  It took a couple of days for it to melt as the temperatures climbed back up into the 60’s and 70’s. I wondered if the butterflies would make it. As I walked out of the office building after seeing my internist (and still recovering from my crying fit in her office…) I found butterflies swarming around one of the shrubs by the parking lot.

Those butterflies. You can kick them, but they come back. Be like a butterfly, I tell myself.

And the fourth year begins.

Rare Disease Day

Today was Rare Disease Day. Rather than write a new post I decided to repost this one from last year. Please read on if you would like to know more about this day created to raise awareness about rare diseases and what it is like to live with them.

2/28/16: I woke up with notes in my email box reminding me that this was the big day. Oh, yeah. I guess I should say something about it on the blog, but what? I mean, I do have a…

Source: Rare Disease Day

Update from Hell: Still Knitting

A couple of weeks ago the bottom fell out from under the Midnight Knitter family: health emergencies, rushes to the emergency room, surgery, a life altering diagnosis of colon cancer for my older son, and the death of a beloved dog. A terrible 10 days.

A week after returning home from the hospital my older son developed complications and once again ended up in the emergency room. Blood clots! Holy smokes, this is not something that I would wish on anyone! Once again we took turns at the hospital and knitted through the wee hours of the morning. It was days before he could go home again.

Buttons on sweater
I finished knitting the drijfhout sweater before I got sick. What do you think of these buttons? I still haven’t attached them or done the finishing work. Soon. Very soon. Then there will be a picture for sure. Project notes are here.

Then the next shoe dropped: even before my older son was out of the hospital again I came down with the plague. Seriously, it had to be plague. It couldn’t have been flu, since I had that shot earlier this year. <snark> Whatever, I got sick. Really sick. Too sick to knit. Ugh. It was bound to happen since I was burning the candle at both ends for days on end and taking chances walking into hospitals with a seriously drugged up immune system, but still … I think that we are due a break here!! After a week in bed I dragged myself up to my younger son’s place and have been recovering with him since then. Now it’s a whole week later and I’m still struggling to get around with a dizzy head and shaky legs, but I am definitely starting to feel more like myself, and I am back to knitting every evening.

Shawl
I’m knitting like crazy on my Find Your Fade shawl. Look!! I’m four colors in and have three to go. I’m still obsessing about making some color changes…. My project notes on Ravelry are here

Tomorrow I will head on home again. Poor MacKenzie! He and Yellow Boy were pretty much abandoned this whole week with only a couple of checks to make sure they had food and water. I know I will be getting an earful from them once I’m back.

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: What? An earful you say? Just because you ABANDONED us for an ENTIRE week?

Tomorrow my oldest son starts chemo.

I think of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s quote from Knitting Without Tears a lot in times like these. “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crisis.”

Knit on indeed.

MacKenzie Speaks: drijfhout Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat with knitting.
I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats every evening with the knitting. 

The Mother of Cats and I have been knitting up a beautiful new sweater for her to wear when she goes out into the snow. It really is nice and light weight knitting; perfect for me to snuggle under while she works.  Look at this yarn that she bought.

Yarn
This yarn goes perfectly with my coat; I especially like the red color. If she would make me a little cat sweater I could go outside with her on the snowy days. Does the Mother of Cats ever think of things like this? No, not so much. Humans can be so self-absorbed…
Sweater design.
She especially liked the red color and wanted to use it to highlight parts of the sweater. She is such a silly human she had to print pages of the cover picture to color with different ideas until she made her decisions. She should have just asked me! This is what she finally decided to knit. It’s OK, but I would have opted for more red on the upper parts of the sleeves.
Sweater
and this is what the sweater looks like with the first red stripe in it. Nice, huh.
Knitting detail.
Look at how great these yarns are knitted together. The envy of every cat, let me tell you.
Cat on sweater
Now we’re working on the sleeves. Hey, this sweater is exactly the right size to make me a cat bed… That would be even better than a cat sweater!!

We have been knitting this sweater for over two weeks. It’s a little boring if I have to be honest. As soon as she get going nicely she has to switch colors which means twisting the balls around each other.  I try to yarn chomp help her with the color changes, but she seems determined to thwart my every need. Still, we are making good progress and it should be done in plenty of time for the next big snow storm.

When she isn’t wearing it I’m pretty sure that I can sneak in some cat naps on it.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

This pattern is drijfhout by Isabelle Kraemer. The proect notes of gukineru were especially inspiring and my sweater is basically based on hers. The yarn that I am using is Brooklyn Tweed Loft, which is a woolen spun yarn that creates an exceptionally warm but lightweight fabric, which probably explains why I can’t keep the cats away from it while I’m knitting. As soon as MacKenzie leaves the other cat moves in.

My Ravelry project notes are here.