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. 🙂

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.

 

Golden Blackberries Cowl

I think I should just declare October the month of the cowl. I made a fun cowl early in the month that reminded me of autumn leaves, and then dug into the stash to make another cowl of the same pattern with a difficult yarn that had been placed into time out after behaving badly. While digging out the ill behaved Watercolor yarn I found another forgotten yarn that I had been saving for the right project. Hey, Christmas is coming. Cowls are fun and fast to knit. I already have a long cable needle put together: time to make another cowl!

Beginning of cowl
Look at this gorgeous yarn! I decided to cast on and see what I could get.

I cast on 180 stitches (size 8 needle) using the Moebius cast-on posted by Cat Bordhi (which meant that I actually had 360 stitches on the needle. Moebius knitting can mess with your head…), which I knew from my previous knitting efforts would give me a nice length. The yarn that I pulled out of the stash for this project was Malabrigo Silky Merino in the colorway Piedras. The yarn had a lot of plum mixed with golds, pinks and greens. When I bought this yarn years ago I had a plum colored coat that I loved to wear on winter days that weren’t too cold. I thought that I would make a scarf to match the coat, but never saw a pattern that appealed to me. The coat is long gone, but the yarn’s time had come.

I had learned from the previous Moebius cowls that garter stitch is a good way to present hand painted yarns, so that is how I started the scarf. After 6 rows I switched to the stitch that my mom called “popcorn stitch”, but I think also goes by Trinity stitch or raspberry stitch. (Since this scarf has plum colors in it, I choose to think of the little berries as blackberries) I continued on in this stitch until  the scarf was getting close to the width I wanted, switched back to garter stitch, and ended up with a picot cast off  (CO 2, BO 4).

Close up of the cowl
Finished cowl. The blackberries to the left are right side up, and the ones on the right are facing down. Since I was using kind of big needles the berries are a little lacy looking.

Here’s the fun thing about Moebius knitting: you start knitting in the middle of the scarf, and your knitting takes you around both edges of the scarf until you get back to the beginning.  What I kind of knew but didn’t understand was the knitting is reversed on the two halves of the scarf. One side of the scarf has the blackberries facing up, and the other side is looking at the bottom of the berries. Hey, that means the scarf is totally reversible.  I’m on board with that.

Finished cowl
Finished cowl is long enough to wear draped like an infinity scarf.

Ta-daa. Finished the cowl yesterday. It drapes really nicely and is long enough to double around my neck comfortably. I’m happy with the lacy look of the berries.

The weather forecast is for snow on Monday. Bring it on, I am ready!

 

A Yarn’s Tale

I bought this fabulous yarn one day while shopping at a yarn store that I love in Denver. It was in colorway called Watercolor, and it does have that look that comes with the watercolor prints that I like to hang on my walls.

Handpainted yarn
How can skeins like these be left in the yarn store? Of course they had to come home with me!

I wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but the colors sure looked like ones that would go with a lot of the things in my wardrobe, so I bought it to add to my stash. I don’t quite know why I do these things, they just happen. The yarn stash gets hungry, and I feed it. 🙂

So here’s the yarn once I opened up those skeins.

Open skein of dyed yarn.
Once I got the skein opened i could see how the dye had been applied to the yarn.

Hmmm… this could be something of a problem for me. This yarn is one that has been hand painted in discrete areas. I like the pink and the purple, but the other colors will occur twice for each time I reach one of my favorites.  I really have been disappointed by yarn painted like this pooling in the past, so I decided to try the yarn out in some crazy dragon scale mitts that I wanted to make for fun. (I bought this pattern at Mew Mew’s Yarn Shop while doing Yarn Along the Rockies last year) The magenta in the yarn matched my dragon scaes, so how could I go wrong? The ribbing pattern will break up the colors so that they don’t pool. That’s cool, isn’t it?

Dragonpaw mitts
Here’s the mitts, The scales worked in really cute and you can hardly see the yarn,
Ribbed back of mitts
It’s a good thing that the front with the scales is cute, because I really think that this ribbing does not display the yarn well!

Well, that was something of a disaster. I wanted to break up the colors, but this is a mish-mash of all the colors at once! I bought this yarn for the magenta and purple colors, and what I notice most while wearing it is the gold and tan. I hunted around to find another pattern.

Garter mitts
How fun are these? These mitts are knitted sideways and use short rows for the shaping,

These mitts are knitted sideways in garter stitch, and I like how the colors are displayed better. With this yarn I do want some pooling after all. The garter stitch makes it a little broken up, but in a good way. I still had a couple of skeins of the yarn left, but without a good pattern for them they hibernated in my yarn stash all this year.

Last weekend I knitted a cowl in a fall colorway (my post Weekend in October Cowl if you would like to check that out), and as I finished it I kept thinking that it would be a good project for the Watercolor yarn. There is a lot of garter stitch going in the cowl, and the areas of wrapped and crossed stitches highlight colors well. Since the purple and magenta areas of the yarn are longer, they will display more in the openwork sections of the knit. I put on a picot bind-off again to add a little more color pop to the work.

Stitch detail of the cowl
Look at how the garter and wraps show off the colors of the yarn. No pooling allowed!
Finished cowl
Finished object on my favorite model. The cowl is long enough to wrap twice around my neck.

Happy, happy, happy. Can’t wait for the weather to get colder so I can wear this cowl and the one I made last weekend. Yesterday we set a new heat record, but this is Colorado, so maybe by next week…

Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi  (18: Watercolor)

Dragonpaw mitts: Pattern acquired from Colette Smith 

Garter Stitch Mitts: pattern by Ysolda Teague

Cruzado Cowl: pattern by  Laura Nelkin for Dream in Color

 

Weekend in October Cowl

It is Indian Summer right now in Colorado; the days are warm and balmy and the trees are getting ready to drop their leaves.  I just love the colors this time of year! Within a couple of days last week the leaves on my trees changed to amazing shades of gold, orange and flaming red.  Wow! Fall arrived almost overnight.

For the rest of the week I drove around town and through the countryside admiring the colors and smiling with happiness. Friday afternoon I took out some yarn that looked like fall and cast on a the Cruzado Cowl designed by Laura Nelkin for Dream in Color. I had bought it a couple of weeks ago at my favorite local yarn store, and its colors were now calling to me.

Skein of yarn.
Isn’t this the perfect fall yarn? This is Dream in Color Classy in the October 2014 colorway.

I cast on the cowl using a Moebius cast-on with help from a video online. Yikes! Even following the extremely clear directions by Cat Bordhi in the video I gave it a 50/50 chance that I had done it correctly.  After a couple of rows, however, it became clear that I was OK. Yeah for our team!

Moebius Cowl
Here’s the cowl at its beginning. The cool thing about a Moebius is that you start in the middle and then knit out on both edges at the same time. See the half twist at the bottom? That’s what makes the Moebius.

All weekend I worked on the cowl off and on between trips out running errands amid fall colors. The cowl was fun as it had wrapped and crossed stitches that made it have a lot of interest. It was a fast knit too because the yarn was worsted weight on size 8 needles.

Look at all the fun stitches!
Look at all the fun stitches!

Today I finished the cowl and took it out to the maple tree in my back yard for its final picture. Indian Summer at its finest!

Cowl in tree
Here’s the finished cowl handing in the tree that inspired me to start knitting it.

I originally bought this yarn as I thought my sister in San Diego would like the colors. Sorry Sis! This cowl is staying in Colorado. 🙂

Successful Reboot: Socks are done!

A couple of weeks ago I started a pair of socks, decided that they were a disaster, ripped them out, and then started over in another pattern that I thought would keep the colors from pooling so badly. (The chronicle of that effort is my post “Sock Reboot” in case you want to see what I’m talking about.) Well, I finished the socks last night, and here’s what I got.

Finished socks.
Through some happy accident both socks pooled on the foot in the same manner. Kind of fun, huh.

Wow. I couldn’t be happier with how the colors worked out on the socks. The legs are kind of striped, the colors pooled on the foot in a way that I kind of like, and then the toe ended up with an interesting stripe effect. I think that they are really cute and am glad that I ripped out the first effort with this yarn. The fabric of the upper part of the sock is very stretchy, and it fits my fat little Swedish leg well. The twisted rib on the foot was a little fussy to do, but it brought out the best in the yarn and makes it fit my foot snugly.

Colors on the finished sock.
Here’s another view of the socks that shows off how the color pooling changes on the sock. I really like what happened on the toes.

The pattern on the sock is kind of cool. The criss-cross stitch forms lace columns down the sock that continue along the edge of the heel flap. It is pretty hard to see in the painted yarn, so I cast on another pair of socks last night in a solid red merino sock yarn. The adventure continues…

Sock Pattern: Traversus Socks found in Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin.

Yarn: Simple Sock Fingering Weight by MJ Yarns in the colorway Midnight Orchid

Owls for Eleanor Part 2: Safe Landing in California

A couple of weeks ago I made some little owl mitts for my grand-niece Elly who sustained an injury to her hand that required surgery. I got the mitts done and into the mail just in the nick of time. Here’s how things went down.

Cast coming off.
Elly heading out to get her cast off. This is the first time she’s seen the injury since she landed in the ER. Did you notice that she loves purple?

 

Mail delivery
Not long after getting home the mail delivery brings her a package!

 

Mitts!
Perfect landing! Owls have arrived.

 

Best timing ever. Enjoy the mitts little lady and keep safe.

Love,

Aunt Marilyn