Mitt Madness

My son has a beautiful Maine Coon tuxedo cat. The family joke is that she controls the weather.

Maya
Here she is, Maya Isabella the Weather Queen. She actually considers herself a princess and demands regular attention from her main subject, my son. Kitty treats now! Come run my drinking water for me! Come pet me now!! Time for me to go outside to catch bugs!! She also takes instant ownership of any knitting left unattended…
Snowy yard
Bless her heart. Tuesday she sent me a blizzard, the first official blizzard in the Denver area in several years. The wind howled and shook the house overnight and this is what the backyard looked like in the morning. My cats were not amused. I should note that there was almost no snow at Maya’s house!

The cold weather and previous snow storms had already launched me into some serious mitt knitting, but this week’s storm really pushed me into mitt knitting overdrive.  Here’s what happened during this week:

Mitts
I actually finished these mitts before the big snowstorm and took the picture as the first little pellets of snow arrived. These are Sugared Maple MItts (designed by Melissa Schaschwary) knitted in Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK. Love the cashmere!! The knitted texture was really easy to knit and kind of reminds me of the waffle pattern in Henley shirts. These are really comfy mitts. If you yearn for more details here are my notes on Ravelry.
Pur;ple MItts
The first mitts were so much fun to knit and wear I just cast on and started another pair. This is Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK again, and the purple is actually as intense as in the photo. I have a cousin who can’t get enough purple so I already know where these are going when they are done.
Mitts with Cable on Top
My sister let me know that the mitts I gave her for her birthday last year were flawed: the cable just didn’t stay parked on top of her hand the way they should. My first impulse was to tell her to stop being so persnickety, but upon reflection I decided that she may have a point.  I made some changes to my generic rib and cable mitt pattern that would allow me to make her mitts that have the thumb moved over to place it under the index finger.
Underneath of MItt
Here’s the palm view of the mitts. The gusset has been moved over 4 stitches and starts at the wrist. I’m hoping that if her thumb can move without tugging on the body of the mitt the cable will behave itself. This yarn is Malabrigo Rios which is one of my favorite hand-painted superwash wools. I wrote notes to myself about what I had done and they are here on Ravelry.

I’m still not completely happy with the new mitt design. What would happen if I added more ribbing at the top and bottom of the mitt? What if I changed to a smaller needle to do that ribbing at the top? Should I make the top so long it can be folded back in a little cuff? Hmmm… I have more Rios to play with (well, duh! Yarn Stash Queen here!!) and I’m itching to CO and get started on another pair. I have some more Zen Yarn Garden that wants to be mitts, too. I try to not overthink this compulsion to create mitts. I just knit them up and put the little guys into my mitt bin where they can all hang out together and pretend to be the ultimate cool knitted items.

Box of MItts
My box of mitts: last Saturday I took the bin to my scleroderma support group meeting and gave away or sold 11 pairs! I’ll be taking the bin back to the next meeting as several people thought they might want more pairs for Christmas presents. During the week I handed out business cards to more customers who admired the mitts I was wearing and asked how they could get a pair.

Looks like things are picking up in the mitt business. All of a sudden mitts ARE the ultimate cool knitted item. Must be all the snow; it is snowing again this evening and there is ANOTHER snowstorm predicted for Thanksgiving.

Thanks Maya!

Maybe I should knit her a little something too.

The View from Here: One Year of Scleroderma

It’s been a year since I was first diagnosed with scleroderma. Actually, it has been decided that I have the form of scleroderma called limited systemic sclerosis (the disease formerly known as CREST). Sounds kind of fraught, huh. That’s because it is; no matter what I think I know about my condition this week, by next week things will probably change. It has been quite a journey this year and now that all the dust has settled from the latest rounds of medical tests I wanted to share my thoughts.

There is no question that the first months after my diagnosis were filled with waves of horror and grief. At first I was just stunned to discover that I might lose the use of my hands. Then it dawned on me that my ability to live independently might become problematic; I needed to make plans to activate a support system for myself at some time in the future. Eventually I found out about the fatal complications and the high mortality rate. Well, shoot. During this time I became a driven knitter: endless pairs of fingerless mitts rolled off my needles.

CARD
My sister, who has a somewhat warped sense of humor, sent me this card about the time that I learned about my risk for pulmonary hypertension, an often fatal complication of limited systemic sclerosis.

Yet, it has been a year and I am still here. I sailed through the medical tests and none of the frightening medical complications have manifested themselves. My lungs and heart are fine (huge woohoo!!). My GI tract hasn’t gotten worse. My hands are very swollen and the skin is getting hard (one of the hallmarks of scleroderma is hard skin that forms due to lots of collagen deposition and scarring; my arms and legs are getting hard too), but they work just fine and are actually much better than they should be. My rheumatologist has advised me to knit as much as possible; what a hardship!  Other symptoms have improved and I have transitioned onto a battery of drugs that have good track records for improving the quality of life and increasing survival rates in patients with my condition.

So, what have I learned this year? Here is my reflective collection of observations as I look back from the one-year viewpoint:

  • People are more important then things. Period.
  • ..but they just don’t get chronic conditions and they tend to underestimate the seriousness of conditions that they can’t directly observe. In general people on crutches or using oxygen activate concern, but if you have flaming gastritis, the dizzy wobblies, and your muscles are on strike it’s easy for them to adopt a dismissive attitude. <sigh>
  • Medical personnel can be appallingly insensitive. Last week the technician doing my lung scan mentioned that I had a lot of doctors because my disease was really rare; it was important that the doctors get to learn as much from me as possible. Good lord, I wondered. Maybe she was raised by wolves…
  • As a corollary of the above observation, I have also discovered that I can’t assume that the medical personnel that I come in contact with actually know about my condition. One nurse thought that “systemic sclerosis” was “multiple sclerosis”. A doctor gave me a pep talk about how other conditions were worse because some of those patients actually can die from their disease. (“Did you want to hit him?” asked my rheumatologist…) One thing I can count on, however, is that they will put me into some scary machine to look for a possible blood clot. What is up with all the blood clot hunts?
  • MedAlert ID
    I do have some wonderful doctors! Because of crazy interactions with random medical people I have decided that it is best to be proactive: last month I put this tag onto my keys and the little card in my wallet has the business cards of my internist and rheumatologist stapled to it. 
  • There are few things as empowering as discovering that you won’t live forever. Why sweat the small stuff when you are facing down the long odds? My drugs have a small chance of a fatal brain infection? Whatever. Hand them over, Sparky, I am on board! I never worry about money (bad when I’m in a yarn store) or running out of gas, and I am taking more risks than I was comfortable with before. I mean, what is the worst thing that can happen? This week I figured out how to identify all of the electrical circuits of the house and rewired and installed a new doorbell. I didn’t worry (more than once) about getting knocked on my butt by an electrical mishap. Ha! In my younger days I hated to even change light bulbs…
  • Stay Calm and Carry Yarn
    Elizabeth Zimmerman was right. “Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises.” is a motto that I can live with.
  • No, I won’t be skydiving! I’m not that risk-seeking. 🙂
  • It is so much easier to be happy than sad. Plant flowers. Read books. Knit like the wind! Chase bees. Go to lunch with friends (and get dessert!). Watch meteor showers and be sure to catch the Super Blood Moon. Talk to strangers in bookstores and coffee shops. Be kind whenever you can. Never miss an opportunity to take a picture of a great sunset (or a cat). It is really, really easy to be happy, even when you’re in a crazy machine that is looking for blood clots. 🙂

I finally went to my first scleroderma support group meeting a couple of months ago. I’d never met another person with scleroderma; it was a little extreme but good. Like me, they all suffer from cold hands. Unlike me, most of them also talked about the struggle to manage pain in their hands, and I could see that several of them had limited use of their hands because the skin was so tight. Remember all of those fingerless mitts I knitted during the sad times? I think that I have found a home for them.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning: cat hair, finished mitts and a shawl reboot

I started a lot of projects last week and then went out and bought a tons of yarn. What a week I had. The weather is finally warming up, birds have come back to Colorado, the first green shoots have appeared in my garden, and the cats and I are spending afternoons outside.

Buff Cat
Doesn’t he look innocent? Morgan is a rescue cat of mixed heritage. He has a pot-belly, a bob-tail and Maine Coon fur. This cat also seems to produce his entire body weight in shed fur every spring.

My long-haired cat Morgan, bought to be a companion to my over-active and complex cat MacKenzie, has decided he now wants to be a lap cat. He is also shedding like there is no tomorrow. Everything I am knitting is getting covered with blond hair and some of it is now knit into the fabric. Of course this is interfering with my knitting zen, but the weather is so nice and Morgan is so sweet I’m just kind of dealing with it and am knitting a midst the cloud of cat down.

Mitts
I made some changes to my easy mitt pattern so they would hug my hand better. I love how the simple stockinette shows off the yarn. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

I finished my fingerless mitts on Friday, and that evening I got through the first clue of the shawl that I am knitting. This shawl, called Edith’s Secret, was originally a MKAL meant to be knitted during Downton Abbey this season. Because it was a MKAL the pattern is organized into seven clues. With a thrill of accomplishment at the end of a fabulous Friday night knitting marathon I picked off as much cat hair as I could from the shawl,  and counted my stitches to make sure everything was on track.

Shawl
Looks good, but seriously off the pattern. Yikes!!

Oh,  no!!!  Almost 30 stitches off from where I should be. Morgan was dumped off my lap, I laid out all the pages of the pattern (yep, another battle with the cat and the pages of paper on the floor…) and started making a diagram with little boxes and stitch counts to figure out what had happened. Seriously, how was it possible to mess up this seriously? I blame the cat, of course!!

Everything was frogged. Both cats thought this was a new game. I calmly reminded myself that ripping out my own hair wouldn’t improve matters, and finally got everything back into two balls.

Here's the frogged yarn. See all the cat hair in it?
Here’s the frogged yarn. See all the cat hair in it?

Hey, that grey ball doesn’t look big enough. Maybe I should check the label again… Are you kidding me? The yardage is 50 yards too short!

Suddenly the cat is back in my good graces again. Wow. If I hadn’t made soooo many mistakes that I ended up frogging this shawl I would have had a crisis down the road when I ran out of that yarn. And besides, there is a silver lining to all of this: I get to go back to the yarn store!!

Back to the yarn store I went Saturday afternoon. I took several yarn candidates with me with the hopes of making a good match with a contrasting yarn that would work for the shawl. It was a great visit, I found the perfect yarn, connected with an old friend while I was there, and bought even more fabulous yarn!! I got the new shawl yarn wound at the store, came home, bribed Morgan with kitty treats, and cast on again.

Yarn for the shawl
This purple/pink handpaint yarn was one of the original contenders for the shawl. I was able to match it with this light grey colored yarn.
Shawl
Here is the shawl this morning at the end of Clue #1. I think that I will like this even better than the first effort.

Wow, what a difference. I’m really happy with how this looks, I’m positive that I have enough yarn, and Morgan and Mackenzie have been running around outside so I’ve been able to concentrate on the pattern while I was knitting. What a great ending to a frogged project. I definitely need to give Morgan some more kitty treats!

Oh, the color of the grey yarn that I bought to go with the purple handpaint from my stash?

It’s called Silver Lining.

 

A Tale of Two Mitts

I bought a really fun skein of hand-dyed yarn a few weeks ago. It is another yarn from Zen Yarn Gardens Serenity 20 in the colorway Burning Bush. I cast on to make a pair of vine lace mitts a couple of days later, and here is how they turned out:

stuff
These two mitts really are the same size. It was too cold to take another picture. 🙂

Cute, huh. These mitts fit really well, and they go great with my black, grey and fushia tops. The colors in the mitt, however, didn’t really stand out the way I thought they would. The grey is almost gone. I decided to make a second pair of mitts in simple stockinette to see how that would change the way the yarn looked. Here they are:

Burning Bush MItts_Stockinette
Same yarn, totally different look. I think that these will be easier to wear over my gloves.

Wow. What a difference the pattern made. Both mitts are comfy, but the second pair will go a lot better over my black gloves and with my new grey sweater. I do think that the stockinette pair shows off the “burning bush” characteristics of the yarn. But the lace mitts are really cute. I made both pairs with the same number of stitches and shaped the thumbs the same way. Which do you guys like better?

I haven’t written up the pattern for the garter vine lace mitts, but I did write down the details in my pattern notes on Ravelry. Here’s the link if anyone is interested.

 

WIP Wednesday: Another Hitchhiker and Mitts

It has been crazy weather time in Colorado. While the news is full of the huge snowstorm that hit New England, I have been outside in the sunshine with the cats reading and knitting. Yesterday we almost set a new record when we hit 75 degrees! Today is not as warm, but it was nice enough to give one of my cats a bath.

Within minutes of being released from the drying towels he was at the food bowl. Little does he know that the hair dryer is next...
Within minutes of being released from the drying towels Morgan was at the food bowl. Little did he know that the hair dryer was next…

Here he is tanking up on cat food after his traumatic ordeal.  🙂 Morgan is a (bob-tail) Maine Coon, which meant that a serious blow-dry and brush-out procedure was next in store for him. He actually likes the hair dryer, so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Look at these colors!
Look at these colors!

Still, what with one thing and another I didn’t settle down to knit until late this afternoon. I’m working on another Hitchhiker, this time in Noro Taiyo sock yarn (which is cotton, wool, nylon and silk). The colors are cool, but it isn’t as squishy as the last Hitchhiker that I made out of wool. It will be nice for summer. I keep thinking of ways to make a Hitchhiker-shaped scarf with gathered lace along one edge instead of points.  Hmmm…

Yep. No thumb.
Yep. No thumb. This yarn is Baah! La Jolla sock yarn in the colorway “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

I’m also making some vine lace mitts that still don’t have their thumbs knitted on. As usual, I’m going to have a little stack of thumb-less mitts piled up before I force myself to finish them. Then there is the matter of the pattern for these mitts which I need to write out a little better before I forget what I’m doing. Here’s the project page on Ravelry for the mitts with kind of a half pattern.

Maybe I’ll save the mitt thumbs for the snow day that is bound to come. March and April are the big snow-makers here. You never know. 🙂

WIP Wednesday: My January Resolution Sock, a Yummy Shawl and a Mitt

The sun is out today and the meltdown is in full swing. Yeah! Sunshine! It is supposed to be fairly warm for the rest of the week and I am rocking the knitting because my hands are so much happier when they don’t have to deal with single digit weather.

So, I got a lot done, but nothing is finished. I’m still working on three projects (and am resisting casting on another pair of socks. Darn it, there is a pink cashmere blend yarn that is calling to me…) Here’s where I am.

Knitting
Knitting this sock is quite a production. I’m following the pattern chart, tracking the decreases for the pattern and fighting with the cats for space at the same time.

The January sock is still just chugging along, a few rows at a time. The problem is that I need to use the chart to do the pattern, and the cats have decided that they want to sit in on my legs while I knit. They dislike cold snowy days even more than I do! Today I threw them outside because it was warm and I got through the heel on the first sock and am now working my way down the gusset. Looking good!

Sock.
I have made it through the heel. I like the pattern, but it is a little harder to make out then I thought it would be. Still, with colors like this who cares about the pattern?

The cashmere blend 3S Shawl is almost done! I have only another 20g left on the ball. This is easy knitting and I am doing it while watching television in the evenings. Maybe, maybe, maybe it will be done Friday. 🙂

Knitted Shawl
It’s starting to look like a shawl! I’m using an online random number generator to determine how many rows of garter to put between the eyelet rows. Geeks are Us!

Finally, I am working on the little lace mitt using 2 small cable needles. I have finally adjusted to the cables (instead of using double pointed needles) and really like how I can carry this small project in my purse without the danger of stitches coming off the needles. Looks like this project is the one that is coming in last as I’m spending most of my time working on the other two.

Garter Lace Handwarmer Mitts
Knitting on 2 cable needles. Why has it taken me so long to try this?

 

Project Information

Sock: Riot of Color from Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden. The yarn is Baah! Yarn La Jolla

Shawl: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.

MItt: I heavily modified the pattern for the Sweat Pea MItts that I found in Lace One-Skein Wonders.

 

WIP Wednesday: Socks, Mitts and a Shawl

Yep, it is cold out there. I was thrilled that the driveway finally melted dry yesterday only to discover it covered with an inch of snow on top of a bulletproof layer of ice this morning. The trees had inch long hoar frost! Beautiful, but a little dicey taking the trash cans to the bottom of that driveway.

What a great day to knit. I decided that I absolutely needed to try to make a lace mitt on cable needles, so risking my life on the driveway I headed out to the LYS briefly to get two 2.25 mm red lace ChiaoGoo cable needles. I scored 16″ needles and headed home (with a side trip to IKEA on the way back to score some cinnamon rolls…) to cast on.

Yarn and Needles
It’s a start! I am tired of my mitts falling off the double pointed needles so I am going to try to make a pair using 2 small cable needles. Right now it is really confusing…

OK, it’s only the start, but they make me happy. The yarn is La Jolla by Baah Yarn. I once lived and worked in La Jolla (California), so it makes me really happy to knit this yarn. To make it even better, the colorway, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a special dye job for the owner of Colorful Yarns.  Can you tell Tiffany’s favorite color is purple?

Socks
The end is in sight. I need to stop going on knitting detours and get these done!

Now that I have cast on a mitt and gotten far enough along to see how to do it, I need to get back to the socks that I am working on right now. I’m almost down to the heel flap on the second sock, so I really do need to buckle down and get them done over the next couple of days as there is more snow coming at the end of the week. Woo-hoo! Knitting weather!

Knitting
This yarn is 20% cashmere. It sure would be nice and warm to wear.

There is one more project that is slowly chugging along. It is a small shawl that I started during a trip in the car over the holidays. It’s mostly garter stitch, so it is an easy knit. Now that the new season has started on television perhaps I will get it cranked out in the next two weeks, too. No promises, as I am also itching to get started on my New Year’s resolution January sock. I’m looking at a skein of red yarn in my stash and thinking how nice it would look on my knitting needles… The red would go really nicely with my fabulous Hitchhiker shawl…

Sock pattern: Chouwa by Judy Sumner (in the book Knitted Socks East and West) Sock yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock, colorway Malice.

Shawl pattern: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20