Who Let Winter In Already?

It’s cold here today, and the ground is covered in snow. Icicles are hanging off the edge of my back porch. The weather forecast is calling for bitter cold and more snow early next week, and I can feel the misery of winter starting to close in already. I used to love this time of year, but lately I’m feeling the cold a lot more than I used to, and I sure do long for those days of early fall when the leaves where spectacular, the geese were just arriving in town, and everywhere I drove there was a blaze of color.

Yarn in tree.
I loved this yarn so much when I bought it this fall I took its picture in my maple tree. Doesn’t it just fit in with the leaves?

It was in that spirit that I pulled out this shawl/scarf that I had started last month for some weekend knitting. I had put it aside a couple of weeks ago to get the Christmas stuff done, but now I was on fire to finish it.  The pattern is called Hitchhiker (by Martina Behm) because there are 42 little teeth along one edge, and who can ignore a scarf that is the answer to life, the universe and everything? Certainly it should be the answer to my winter blues.

Half knitted Hitchhiker scarf.
This is the HItchhiker at exactly the halfway point (21 little teeth). The scarf languished for a couple of weeks while other projects were finished up.

The pattern is all garter stitch, so it is really warm and squishy. It’s colorful, cheerful, and just what I need to face next week. Even better, it will match a new top that my daughter-in-law gave me for my Christmas present. Yep, time to knit like a fiend. 🙂

I knit last night while watching a movie, and then settled down this afternoon and worked pretty steady on it for a few hours. This evening I cast off and it is done!

Finished scarf on author.
Here it is finished and keeping me warn already. Who can be cold with such a cheerful and colorful scarf around their neck? Not me!

All right winter. Bring it on!

FO Friday: The Day After Christmas

It’s the day after Christmas! I know that it is Boxing Day, but in my house it is “Recover From Knitting Day”. It came right down to the wire (again), but I got all of the gifts done on time and into the mail or under the tree. The most fun for me is getting the feedback from recipients after my little knitted gifts arrive at their new destination. So,  from the yarn stash to the Christmas Tree, here are the knitted items of 2014.

Knitted cat.
For my cat loving cousin I made a black and white kitty,
Cats!
Here he is in his new home on Christmas morning. Happy landings little guy!
Lace Mitt WIP
I was knitting lace mitts like crazy as we got closer to the big day…
and here are the same mitts this morning on their new owner's hands. :-)
and here are the same mitts this morning on their new owner’s hands. 🙂
Mitts
The mitts that I made for my sister arrived in time for Christmas…
Socks
and the socks for my daughter-in-law got done early Christmas Eve a couple of hours before I handed over the wrapped package

Ta-daa! Christmas gift success.

OK, there were some things that I planned and bought stuff for but didn’t make, but I have a head start for next year. Right?

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

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

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. 🙂