FO Friday: One Christmas Gift Done!

Ok, I have a lot of knitted Christmas presents going. I buckled down and got one of them done today. I offer for your viewing enjoyment the Christmas Cat!!

Pieces for stuffed knitted cat.
My cat MacKenzie was thrilled to model the start of this knitting project, a black and white cat for a cat-loving cousin.
Last night I completed knitting all of the pieces and steamed blocked them into submission so I could start seaming.
Last night I completed knitting all of the pieces and steamed blocked them into submission so I could start seaming.
By this afternoon I had the body of the cat together. Not very appealing, is he?
By this afternoon I had the body of the cat together. Not very appealing, is he?
Cat is done! MacKenzie still isn't sure about how he feels about him.
Cat is done! MacKenzie still isn’t sure he’s happy about this new friend

It will be snowing this weekend in Denver, so hopefully I will get those Christmas mitts done next. 🙂

Pattern:  Four Knitted Cats by Kath Delmeny

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WIP Wednesday: Christmas Gifts!

This is the time of year when my Christmas knitting plans are waaay too big for the time left before the big event. I always knit or plan to knit presents for everyone. As the days creep closer to the date I begin to triage and start presents that need to go into the mail first while holding local presents on the back burner. That’s how I ended up with soooo many works in progress this year. Here they are:

Knitted Mitts
I already have three pairs of lace mitts finished, and these are the ones that I worked on over the weekend. When I get the third pair done I’ll sit down and do all the thumbs at once.

 

Half knitted Hitchhiker scarf.
This Hitchhiker (exactly half done!) went on hold before I started the mitts as it is going to someone local. I’m getting a little nervous about this one’s chances of making it to full Hitchhiker status. 🙂

 

Pieces for stuffed knitted cat.
My cat MacKenzie has been hanging out today as I worked on the pieces to create a black and white stuffed cat. This is one of two cats I need to get done and into the mail by next week.

 

I still have to get another stuffed cat and a pair of alpaca half-finger gloves done too.

I hope to have some finished objects to show off by Friday.

Patterns:

Three Pines Envy: Still Life by Louise Penny

I started reading this book the Sunday of Thanksgiving week, the same day that is the setting of the book. Hey, it’s a sign. As it turns out Thanksgiving in Canada is in October, but still it was an eerie coincidence. Obviously this book and I were meant for each other.

The first sentence: Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. The hairs went up on my arm, and I settled in for the afternoon.

Jane Neal is the retired schoolteacher of the small village of Three Pines located in Quebec. This village is so small that it doesn’t even appear on any maps. Amazingly, it is the home to a small community of complicated and richly conceived characters. There is a lumber mill, a bistro, a new and used book store, a B & B, and all the other small stores and businesses that you would expect. This is also an artistic village filled with introspective, clever and creative people. Some of the people are decidedly odd, but it all works somehow as people interact and support each other.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives in this village, sets up a command post, and sets about solving the crime. He is stable, kind and gentle. Huh? This is a homicide investigator? Yep. He is the best kind: self-contained, insightful, patient, polite, and powerful. An excellent superior and mentor; he installs confidence and loyalty in those he leads. He listens well, observes even better, makes connections over distance and time, knows that old pains can lead to deaths years later, and is not afraid of decisions or confrontations. With him are Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Yvette Nichol, and together they set about solving the murder. This is how it begins:

In all the years Jean Guy Beauvoir had worked with Gamache, through all the murders and mayhem, it never ceased to thrill him, hearing that simple sentence. ‘Tell me what you know.’ It signals the beginning of the hunt. He was the alpha dog. And Chief Inspector Gamache was Master of the Hunt.

The book is about the hunt. Gamache knows that murder is often personal, and this one may have been years in the making. He engages the community, unpacks their events, secrets and history, and eventually pieces together what happened, why, and by whom. Of course; this is a murder mystery.

I really enjoyed the book. It was well constructed and contained enough suspense to keep me flipping pages late at night. The conclusion was satisfying and believable. What I didn’t expect is how much I would love the writing of this book, appreciate the host of village people (and their amazingly snappy and snarky dialogue!), and long to be a member of this community myself. I so want to pack up my car with the spinning wheel, loom, my yarn stash, as many books as I can cram in and move there! I could get a dog and plant some roses and really, I would be happy…

Well, that isn’t going to happen. However, I was thrilled to discover that there are nine more books in the series for me to read. Hey, in a way I can move to Three Pines after all! Happy, happy, happy.

Knitting into the Future

Last month I gathered with the other members of my family to attend the memorial services for a beloved aunt, the last of her generation in our family. The celebration of her life focused on her service to the nation (she was a WAC in WWII), her commitment to her family, church, and community, and her many beautiful quilts. Several of these quilts were displayed in the church at her service, and I think that many of us in attendance had been given a quilt that she had made. Exquisite creations with names like “Texas Star” and “Storm at Sea”, they are her legacy to so many of us.

Detail of Shawl
This is one of the Holden shawls (designed by Mindy Wilkes)  I knitted for Christmas presents last year.

Well, it’s not like my little knitted pieces can compete with that, but I’ve been sending knitted items out for birthdays and Christmas for several years now. I was amazed to see two of my cousins and my sister all wearing shawls that I had given them. In fact, all the women in the family had something from me except… my cousin Jean.

Oops! Kind of a big fail. Time to get cracking on a custom ordered shawl. Jean likes jewel tones, so I dug in the stash to see if I had something that would work for a shawl.

Skein of Yarn
This is Interlacements Tokyo yarn (50/50 silk/merino) hand dyed by the late Judy Ditmore. Perfect!

I found a nice sport weight yarn that I bought a few years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. It was an impulse buy that was hibernating in the stash waiting for its moment to come. Hello jewel tones.

I decided to use a simple pattern with mostly garter stitch since I learned that it displays handpainted yarns well. This pattern, 3S Shawl by Amy Meade, was perfect. Fast easy simple! I finished it in a week of knitting and mailed it off this morning.

Finished Shawl
Here’s the final shawl ready to head off to New York.

How fun is this? A little piece of me went to New York with the shawl, and with a little luck it will have a long, productive life. LIve long and prosper little guy. 🙂

Life is Uncertain, Knit Fast!!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful for the good things in life. I have always thankful for good health in the past. This year, for the first time, that wasn’t true.

There can be no doubt about it. Things hadn’t been quite right for a long time. My joints hurt. I had a rash on my face. I sometimes had trouble swallowing, and acid reflux was occurring on a regular basis. My hands were swollen and I had trouble moving my fingers. Fatigue was my constant companion. If my hands got cold my fingers turned white or purple, a condition called Reynaud’s. Sometimes it hurt to breathe. I kept thinking that if things got worse I would go to the doctor, but I never became so sick that I could justifying taking off work. As many people with chronic conditions do, I just made adjustments and kept going.

Then, without any warning, my digestive system rebelled in a big way over the course of one weekend in early May. Colitis? You have got to be kidding me! Feeling pretty uncomfortable I kept close to home and worked on landscaping projects outside, read books, and worried. After two weeks I contacted my doctor.

Tests were ordered. Everything was negative: there was no obvious infection. Relieved, I decided to just give things a little more time. There was one test result that did nag at me, however. My renal function was a little low.

Two weeks later, lying on the couch with aching legs and abdominal discomfort, it finally hit me. I have a rash on my face. My knees hurt. I have Reynaud’s disease. I have a low renal function test result. When tested in the past I had a positive ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test. This sounded like one of those cases presented at the weekly seminars when I worked in a rheumatology research lab…

Alarms went off in my head. Lupus! I called the doctor’s office and scheduled an appointment for an exam to be evaluated for lupus.

Lab Tests
Good grief! This is how much blood was drawn to do my rheumatology testing!

“How is it possible that you haven’t already been diagnosed?” my doctor asked me.  How indeed? Oh yeah. That adjusting and just keep going thing. She ordered a huge battery of tests for a comprehensive rheumatology screening, and told me no more gluten in case it was celiac disease. I was horrified. Celiac disease! I wasn’t prepared for that! “Celiac disease would be good,” she said. “We can treat that.” Believe it or not, at that moment celiac disease seemed like the end of the world. I left her office in a sad condition and counted the number of tests ordered while heading down the stairs to the lab. Twenty-two lab tests. Yikes!

Over the next week the test results slowly trickled into the patient portal where I could see them.  Everything was coming back negative. Because of the rheumatology research lab job, I had some idea about which antibody test results were linked to lupus. The big lupus markers were all coming back negative. I began to convince myself that I was a big over-reacting baby. Then suddenly a note came from my doctor telling me that she was sending me to rheumatology for a consultation and three tests I hadn’t seen before appeared in my inbox on the patient portal. Positive results for auto-antibodies associated with scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Pills in case
Look at the great pill case that my sister sent me to help me keep track of all these meds!

At the end of August, 2014 I was diagnosed with both of these disorders and my new rheumatologist started me on medications meant to slow down the progress of the disease and to treat the symptoms that I already have. Eight prescriptions and three over the counter medications!! I have the type of scleroderma that is referred to as limited systemic sclerosis (CREST). This is not good news.  I already have significant skin tightening on my neck, face and hands, and my digestive system has been impacted, but my heart and lungs are doing OK. In a strange way,  however, I feel lucky. Very, very lucky and thankful.  This Thanksgiving I continue to be thankful for what I have. I have been diagnosed, I’m on medication, I am retired and have time to knit…

This is just part of the yarn stash...
This is just part of the yarn stash…

Well, isn’t that a bitch! Here I am in possession of a world-class yarn stash, and I have a rare medical condition that may leave me unable to knit. The skin is getting especially tight across my right hand…

Luckily I am a master of adaptation. That whole adjust and keep going thing has prepared me for an event just like this.

Time to knit fast. Knit very fast! Just cast on and don’t look back.

Enjoy your gluten. 🙂

Quidditch, Anyone?


As all readers of Harry Potter know, Quidditch is the quintessential sport of the Wizarding World. The game features a lot of technical details that I won’t attempt to go into here, but I would just like to share that it features serious technical flying, bludgeoning, and the movement of several flying balls. The most difficult ball to field, and therefore the most desirable for the typical Quidditch player, is the Golden Snitch.

My grandnephew Michael, the brother of Elly who received some purple owl mitts after her broken finger landed her in the hospital, is a great fan of all things Potter. His birthday is coming up and will be Harry Potter themed, so his mom requested a Golden Snitch.

She had already located the pattern that she wanted, which was one of several to be found on Ravelry.  This one, by Melissa Mall, was a crochet pattern. Not my comfort zone, but I was game. Off to the yarn stash I went.

Gold yarn
This is Lumina yarn by Berroco.

What do you know? I do have some gold sparkly yarn (this is a stash to be proud of, let me tell you!). It was a little thin, so I doubled it to make the ball. I found some DK weight Knit Picks Bare to use for the wings, and I was in business. In spite of my reservations I found the pattern to be simple, easy to understand and it produced a snitch lickity split.

Here's the finished snitch all ready for its flight west.
Here’s the finished snitch all ready for its flight west.

One Golden Snitch launched from Colorado on its way to California this afternoon. Happy Birthday, Michael!

 

Winter is Coming: Knit Mitts!

It started for me one blustery winter day about 5 years ago. I made a quick trip in the car without wearing gloves and arrived at my destination with one finger dead white and numb. How bizarre, I thought. I went into the building, rubbed my finger until the circulation returned, and idly thought that I should mention it to my doctor the next time I saw her. I knew that it was Reynaud’s disease.

Over the years the Reynaud’s progressed to all of the fingers of my hands, and last year my toes joined the party. Instead of white my fingers now turn purple within seconds when exposed to cold.  Pain is involved. As it turned out, Reynaud’s was the harbinger of things to come; three months ago I was diagnosed with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis), but that is another story. Today’s story is one of blue fingers, cold weather, and the world’s cutest mitt pattern.

Scarf
I made this scarf using Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere. I had about three quarters of a skein left over. What better excure do I need for mitt knitting?

I made myself a sweet little scarf out of a cashmere blend sock yarn last winter. I had some yarn left over so I made a pair of lace mitts from it using the Sweet Pea Mitts pattern (by Lisa Swanson) in the book Lace One-Skein Wonders (edited by Judith Durant).

Lace Mitts
Mitts to match my scarf. Take that cold weather!

Yep, just as cute as the scarf. Since hand circulation is a problem for me I started the thumb lower on the mitt (starting at my wrist) so it wouldn’t pull across my hand. This mitt is nice because the I-cord bind-off keeps the stitches at the top of the mitt firmly in place across my knuckles. Because they are light in weight I can wear them indoors while reading, knitting, and working in the house. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have some more of these…?

Mitts
Look at what I’ve been making from leftover sock yarn, 🙂

It was stunningly cold this November in Colorado. I went crazy with the mitt knitting. I now have three more pairs to match other shawls and tops in my wardrobe, and I am even sleeping in them. I wore them inside my mittens while shoveling snow, and they protect me from the cold steering wheel in the car.  I can even wear them on top of light gloves. Take that Reynaud’s!!

Oh yeah. Maybe some Christmas presents were also produced.