The Saturday Update: Week 7

We have had so many snowstorms this month I have lost count. We seem to get one every few days…maybe the one coming next Monday will be storm number 6? Anyway, there has been lots of shoveling and knitting going on this week.

Knitting

With all of the snow I have really been focusing on making more of the thick snowshoe socks that keep my feet warm and cushioned when I go outside. MacKenzie was really involved in the production of these socks this week so he will be blogging soon about them, but let me say that we are just cranking them out. I also worked on some mitts to give away to other members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation. These mitts aren’t all that much as I’m making them out of leftover sock yarn that has been piling up in the stash, but I hope that they will be as helpful to other people as they are to me. Here’s the two pairs that I finished this week.

These mitts are made using the pattern that I developed that you can find here in an earlier post: Sweet & Simple Vanilla Mitts. Feel free to make yourself a pair if you’d like. 🙂

Since I was occupied with socks and mitts I didn’t get as much done on the Pebble Tunic sweater by Joji Locatelli as I thought I would, but I am making some progress.

I’m coming down the back of the sweater. Later on I start the front and then the parts are connected and knit top down in one piece. The pattern is here, and my project notes, such as they are, can be found here.
Garden

I bought myself some cute, cute, cute miniature ornamental kale plants this week. Look at these!!

Seriously, what could be more cute than this?

I bought two more to put into my little greenhouse that I keep on the kitchen window shelf. These just make me happy, and they were super, duper cheap, too, at $4 a plant. Total score for the kitchen garden!!

See what I mean?

I thought that I could get all three plants into the greenhouse, but I also bought the little clay pots and they made the fit for three plants too tight. I like the clay pots, so these two will have to hang out in the greenhouse by themselves.

My rose gold orchid produced the second bloom, and it looks like several others are ready to pop open.
The purple orchid is a little underwhelming, but I’m sure it is doing the best that it can.

The monster orchid is still looking good and the buds are a little bigger, but I won’t see the bloom for another week or two I think. The buds aren’t producing any color, so there is a chance that these will be very light colored flowers. It’s an orchid adventure!

Books

I’m still slowly reading The Water Dancer. It’s good, and it is making me think a lot, but the performer’s voice is rather soothing and I do go to sleep within a half hour . Hey, that is a good thing, too, right?

There is another snowstorm coming next week so I should make more progress on the audiobook and my sweater.

Have a great week, everyone!!

The Saturday Update: Week 4

Life went into intermission this week as I spent the ENTIRE WEEK in bed with the flu.

Get your flu shot people!!

I did get a flu shot this year but one of the drugs that I take for my scleroderma interferes with vaccine efficacy. Curses! I do think that my case was kind of mild, but bad enough to make life very difficult for several days. I couldn’t even knit!!

While I was down the rose recovered from its mildew and put out a bloom. Life goes on.

The Saturday Update: Week 1

Have you ever gotten to the end of a week and wondered what you had accomplished? Yep. Me, too. As a New Year’s resolution I’m going to try to do a weekly update every Saturday about all the little things that were going on that week. You know, all the stuff that has to do with yarn, books and my garden. Here’s the first update.

Knitting

I just made the best socks in the world! I’m not kidding, these babies are just great! I’m talking about the Snowshoe Socks by Emily Foden that I knit this week. What is nice about them, you ask? I’m so glad you wanted to know: they are heavier socks that are knit by holding two fingering strands together. One strand needs to have nylon in it, but the other can be a softer yarn like 100% superwash merino or maybe something with cashmere. I have a lot of yarns that I bought to feed the stash thinking that they would be great shawls or whatever someday. Right. Those yarns are still lurking in the stash laughing at me. I can now use them to make socks when combined with a tough sock yarn. Together the two fingering yarns make a marled DK yarn that blends through the sock as you swap in different fingering yarns. This can be a stash buster or you can just use 2 yarns that you love marled together. The pattern is simple and pretty easy to adapt if you need to. My project notes for this sock are here.

The navy and gold are yarns that I had left over from previous sweater projects. I hate yarn chicken, so I always have an extra skein of yarn. The light blue mix is yarn that I bought to feed the stash. A year later I’m still wondering what to use it with. Since it went with the other two yarns I decided to use it as the main yarn with the other two jumping in and out.

The gold yarn has some cashmere and both the navy and the gold contain nylon. The light blue multi is 100% superwash merino and could never survive as a sock on its own. This strategy allows it to become a sock by hanging out with the other two yarns. It’s kind of mysterious, but the resulting fabric is much better than a sock just knit from DK yarn. I think that the twisting of the two sock yarns plus the added nylon makes the difference as you knit.

Look at the cool fabric that is being produced by these three yarns in combo.
Here they are all finished up: hearty socks that are amazingly warm, soft and kind to my feet right when I need a little help to get through the winter.
In spite of gloves with mittens over them I lost circulation in my hands and feet while trying to get into the grocery store… this is Raynaud’s.

What’s up with my feet? Ugh. Where to start. I haven’t made too big a deal about it, but I’ve been struggling to walk for a year now and finally have transitioned from limping, to using crutches, to mastering a snazzy purple cane. The opposite foot to the bad hip has developed a slew of problems of its own and now needs to be babied also. My toes hurt and need to be cushioned. The fat  that people usually have on the bottoms of their feet is now gone on mine (thanks, scleroderma) and I’m walking on the bones of the outer side of my foot and they are not happy campers at all. I’m developing benign tumors in the big tendon on the bottom of my foot (the plantar fascia), and to top it all off I struggle with loss of circulation in my toes because of the cold. Not to worry, people, I am a knitter and these socks are going to be big helps for me in the weeks and months of cold weather to come. Bring it, winter, I am ready for you!! Note to self: knit more of these socks!!

Garden
The first orchid plant has started blooming! This is a plant that puts out lots of smaller blooms. Four more orchid plants have growing stems and those flowers will be larger. I can’t wait to see what the color of the blooms will be: you’d think I’d keep notes, but no, this is going to be an adventure. I’m pretty sure I’m in for purples and rosy gold blooms.

All of the orchids are thriving under the indoor growth lights that I bought for them last winter and I gave them more fertilizer and a spritz of Neem oil this week. I felt sorry for a couple of little roses that were still in the garage and brought them into the indoor garden. To thank me for taking pity on them they gifted me with white fly: those brats!! Everyone got sprayed with Neem and we’ll see if that does the trick.

Books
This is why my socks were completed in three days flat!!

I’m trying to listen to audiobooks more while knitting, and I started this one early in the week while knitting in bed with MacKenzie. Good lord! Don’t start this book if you don’t have time to put your life on hold while obsessively reading (or listening) it from cover to cover. It’s compelling. It’s horrifying. It’s best described as a psychological thriller that involves a cult-like psychopath, abused and abandoned children, a murder mystery, lies, poisons, inheritances, families lost and found, or a take home lesson to not let strangers come live with you. Okay, this is flat out unbelievable and more than a little disturbing, and the characters aren’t all that likable, but you can’t help feeling like, maybe, this could actually happen… I read this book for my book club and I can’t wait to go talk to some other people about it.

I’ve been thinking of Australia this week. If you are there, please stay safe. I feel awful complaining about cold while you are suffering through extreme heat and fire behavior. Hugs to all of you.

Free Pattern: Sweet & Simple Vanilla Mitts

I’ve been working away on developing the pattern for the simple mitts that I mass produce and give away to share with all of you. I thought that I would get it done and posted in time for Thanksgiving, but here I am a day late. Anyway, here they are, my gift to all of you just in time to create some yummy little mitts for yourself or as a gift. I’ve made a PDF of the Mitts and also put the instructions into this post. This is the first PDF I’ve created and uploaded, and it isn’t tech edited, so don’t judge! 🙂

Sweet Simple Vanilla Mitts_Final

Happy knitting.

These simple mitts can be used to showcase a special yarn, are extra comfy due to their deep thumb gusset, and can be used as a stash buster as they only need 160 yards of fingering yarn. Oh, yeah. They will also help keep your hands warm this winter!

Sweet & Simple Vanilla Mitts

Materials:

  • Yarn: 160 yards fingering yarn. The pictured sample was knit using 80/20 superwash merino/cashmere yarn.
  • Needles: Two 16” cable needles, size 1 (2.25 mm), additional size 1 (2.25 mm) double points, or size needed for gauge. The pattern can be easily adapted to use only double-pointed needles or a large cable needle and the magic loop method.
  • Notions: 2 stitch markers, yarn needle, scrap yarn

Gauge: 32 stitches and 12 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch

Finished Measurements: The mitts have a 7.5 inches circumference and are 6.25 inches long. The size of this mitt is easily adjusted by adding stitches or rows.

Mitt Instructions

Ribbed Cuff 

    • 1.Cast on 56 stitches using your preferred method; I’m a fan of Old Norwegian CO as it creates a nice, slightly stretchy edge. Place 28 stitches onto each of two 16” cable needles. Join to knit in the round carefully, making sure to not twist the stitches. Mark the beginning of the round (BOR).
    • 2.Work K1,P1 ribbing for 8 rounds.

Wrist: K 12 rounds. If you are using the two 16” cable needles you can easily try the mitt on to see if the wrist is the desired length to the base of your thumb; if not, you can add or decrease rounds until you have the length you want. (56 stitches)

Thumb Gusset:

    • 1.Set up round: K2, PM, M1R, K1, M1L, PM, K to BOR.
    • 2.K 2 rounds
    • 3.K2, SM, M1R, K to marker, M1L, SM, K to BOR.
    • 4.K 2 rounds. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until there are 21 stitches between the markers (76 stitches)
    • 5.Next round: K2, remove marker and place the 21 thumb stitches onto scrap yarn, remove 2nd marker, CO one stitch using the backward loop method, K to BOR. (56 stitches)

Palm: Continue knitting rounds until you have completed 12 rounds. Try on the mitt again and add or decrease rounds if desired, keeping in mind that the final ribbing will add ¾” to the total length.

Ribbed Knuckle-Hugging Top: Switch to K1, P1 ribbing and complete 5 rounds. BO somewhat loosely in pattern being careful to not BO too tightly for a comfortable fit. (Note: for a balanced mitt with more coverage you can add 2 more ribbing rounds = 8 rounds total.)

Finish the Thumb: Using the 2.25 double point needles, pick up the 21 thumb stitches from the scrap yarn and place them back onto the needles. Attach yarn, pick up three stitches across the base of the thumb, and complete 5 rounds of K1, P1 ribbing. (24 stitches) BO somewhat loosely in pattern.

Note: the construction of the right and left mitt are identical; make two mitts following these directions. Weave in all ends and fix any gaps at the thumbs. Enjoy!

I gifted these mitts to a friend this summer. She let me know that they sure came in handy this summer while jogging up at Steamboat Springs in our Colorado Rockies.

I knit and gift these mitts to family, friends, other scleroderma patients, and Raynaud’s sufferers that I meet. Feel free to copy and/or share this mitt pattern with reckless abandon. If you would like to knit and sell the mitts, much joy to you, but please give me credit for the pattern.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

A Month of Crutches and Panic Knitting: The Destash Project Update

It really has been a quiet month for me as I’ve been more housebound than usual as I slowly recover from bursitis and tendonitis in one (thank heavens only one!) hip. I’ve been doing my physical therapy, faithfully using my crutch whenever I have to do any prolonged walking (like going to the grocery store), and even started a gym membership so I can start on the reclined bike for the prescribed 5 minute workouts. It helps that it has been cold and I’ve been very motivated to get some projects done. I cleaned up my sewing room and started on some quilts, joined another book club, and began some serious panic knitting to get my yarn destash project back on track after a disastrous September shopping spree.

I entered the month with only 33.5 skeins out of the stash, and my goal is 50 skeins out of the stash before the end of the year. Yikes! I settled into the knitting chair, started an audiobook and began to catch up on knitting projects every afternoon into the evening.

I had two sweaters that were close to completion at the start of the month: the Climb Every Mountain (upper left) and the Koivua (upper right). I finished them up rather quickly (3 skeins used) and then cranked out the Understated sweater (bottom right) in less than two weeks, using up 6 skeins in the effort. Pretty productive!

This week I pulled out several skeins of yarn that were kind of rustic (not superwash), paired then with some mohair that I’ve had stashed forever and make MacKenzie (my very spoiled and demanding cat) a cushy padded sleeping blanket in three days flat while a series of cold fronts dumped a foot of snow and drove temperatures into single digits. It helped that I used big needles and 4 strands of yarn held together for the project.

Another 7.5 skeins of yarn used!!

I also managed to polish off a couple pairs of socks (very simple, mash-up socks that are winter workhorses…) that aren’t all that much to look at, but they used up another couple skeins of yarn.

See what I mean? These are just simple ribbed socks with a sturdy heel.

I have a couple of other projects on the needles at the moment, a cowl and another sweater that will take me through next month, and then before I know it I will be at the end of the year. The destash project kind of hangs over me so I have been knitting steady.

This sweater got started this evening and should really use up most of my Heilo stash. I have 20 skeins of the Heilo, so I have been saving this sweater back as kind of a ringer for the destash project. This is Barn from the book Knits About Winter (Emily Foden). It will be nice and warm for me as winter weather really arrives in the weeks to come.

This evening I totaled up the skeins used this month on my little spreadsheet (yes, I am that big of a geek!) and to my shock the total now is…

52 skeins!!!

I have made it! The destash goal is polished off and I will be way over it when I finish the Barn sweater. Whew! I can now shift attention to getting more sewing done and maybe even will be able to spin a little or do some weaving before Christmas if the hip behaves itself. Maybe bake some cookies. You know, go wild with the relief of having made my goal. Who knew that bursitis, tendonitis, and being on crutches for a few weeks would turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Every cloud does have a silver lining after all!

I will, however, be staying out of the yarn store until the end of the year! No more slips, no more slips, no more slips (chant along with me, people!), no more slips…

May your knitting be good, your books exciting, your chronic illnesses (if you are a member of that club with me) well behaved, and all your New Year’s resolutions met. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Knitting Speed Bump

A few weeks ago I went to see my primary care physician for help with shortness of breath and joint pain. I totally scored! I walked out of there with a tetanus shot (fail), inhaled steroids to control my small airway disease (win) and an anti-inflammatory gel to put on my swollen, painful joints (huge win). What a difference to my life these new medications have made. I can breath! I can walk without pain! I can sleep through the night! This is huge, people. Take that Sjogren’s and scleroderma! Feeling so much better I began to spend more hours up and about, and there was a lot more knitting happening too.

I got some socks finished right up. Here are my project notes.
I made a lot of progress on my Suburban wrap and was lured into knitting more than usual because I just had to get into the next section of the wrap. This is such a fun project with lots of color, texture and lace interest. So addictive. So hard to walk away from…

Oops. Then this happened.

Tendonitis!

One of the problems of getting better is that swelling is going down and the tissue is tightening up on some of my joints. My knees are really tight. My wrists are stiff. When I knit my joints loosen, so I thought I was helping them stay flexible. That is probably true to a certain point, but I guess I now need to be careful to not overdo things. Sigh. I am using the tendons in my left hand the most since I knit continental, and I push the yarn over the needle with my middle finger for each purl stitch. I’m really fast that way, but my tendons have totally rebelled in my left hand and wrist.  To make things worse I can’t take NSAIDS or any other anti-inflammatory drug because of my scleroderma-battered kidneys and stomach. Sigh. My doctor ordered a knitting hiatus.

I want to be a compliant patient, really I do. I read a couple of books, managed to get through a couple of days without knitting, and then I snapped. I must knit!! Want knit now!! Knit, knit, knit. Why go on if I can’t knit? Sniff. Obviously this is totally unacceptable and I am going to figure out how to knit in spite of this bad boy wrist. Really, my left hand is the one having trouble, so maybe I can work around that. I tried to tension the yarn in lots of creative ways before I remembered that lots of people on the planet hold the yarn in their right hands. English knitting. I have never mastered purling English style, but now I’m really motivated!

I was in the last striped section of the wrap when disaster struck; stockinette means I have to purl back every other row. 
I managed to continental knit with the brace on (okay, it is a little loose) and am moving my left hand very little by working slowly and relying on my right hand.
Working very slowly I am also managing to purl back English style. So slow. So awkward. So much safer for babying rebellious tentons.

Last night I finished the stripes and am ready to enter the last section of garter eyelet. Yay. Knit all the way! I can do this! Then it is into the last, ribbed section of the wrap.

Ribbing. That is going to be slow going. I think that I will check out Norwegian purling. Somehow I need to do this without moving my fingers too much. Yay. A new stitch to learn.

I’m on it!

Take that, scleroderma. You are messing with the wrong knitter!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Safe House

You know, I kind of view myself as a happy camper. I have more things (ahem… knitting projects) going then I can get finished on any given day or week, books lined up to read, and a “to-do” list that I’m slowly working my way through. Hey, people, I fixed the loose tiles on my kitchen floor last week!! My cat MacKenzie is my constant sidekick throughout the day as I knit, work in the garden, read in bed, and even with me (underfoot, demanding cookies) while I’m cooking. Even on the bad days when I’m pretty much down for the count, I manage small victories. There is just one problem with this picture.

Look at these beautiful coneflowers I just added to the garden. I’m hoping to lure some butterflies into the yard. Every garden should have butterflies, don’t you think?

I just don’t fit in the world all that well anymore. In my home, living the life that I’ve created for myself, it is really easy to forget how much I have adapted to accommodate the limitations of my scleroderma, Sjogren’s, and fibromyalgia. Once I go anywhere else reality hits me hard. Every trip out of my house is going to come at a cost. Here are the worst of the offenders that will lay me low.

Air Conditioning I know that almost everyone in the world is grateful for air conditioning in the summertime, but for me it is a royal nightmare. The shock of walking into a refrigerated building on a hot summer day will trigger an immediate Raynaud’s attack. I pull on long sleeves and fingerless mitts as soon as I get into the building, but my lungs know what’s up and I have trouble breathing. The airflow makes my eyes burn; I’ve been reduced to wearing my sunglasses indoors to protect my eyes. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerated cases churning out cold air; you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull up the hood of your sweatshirt and the sleeves down over your hands so you can score some butter and eggs.  If that wasn’t enough, there are also usually…

Scented Products Almost all buildings use scented cleaning products and sells additional items with scents. Candles. Lotions. Laundry soap. The scented bathrooms are a nightmare. If I’m not already in trouble with my breathing I will be if I have to walk down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store: I also start to itch and my face swells. Why do these chemicals even exist? They can’t be good for anyone!

Restaurants These are a special kind of hell for me. All the drinks come cold and with ice, and the entrees are served piping hot. There are other landmines that I need to avoid: salt, lactose, fiber.  I have to carefully select something that is very soft and that will behave itself in my gastroparesis stomach. I can’t have spicy food. I can’t eat fresh veggies. Actually, to be safe, some of this food should go through a blender… I actually once soaked a cut up sandwich in soup so I could eat it…

Walking I am trying really hard to meet my walking goals every day, but I stretch those steps out over the day. A trip to run errands can be just exhausting if I’m on my feet for a couple of hours at a time. I need to always carry water, be aware of the location of bathrooms, and have places where I can sit down if I need to.

Sunshine It makes me sick! Enough said.

Ready for another picture? These paper wasps are building a nest right on the edge of my deck! MacKenzie and I are not amused. Still, it kind of shows how the outside world is full of dangers…

Recently I had a tough talk with myself about pruning down my outings and being more strategic about how I expend my energy. I need fewer outings, and my destinations need to be closer to home. I need to live online. I need to in a safe environment as much as I can to manage my diseases.

My home is my safe house. I have no air conditioning and I minimize air flow. I keep the temperature in the mid 70’s in the day so that my joints and lungs will be happy. I cook all of my own food, I don’t own any salt at all, and everything that I drink is room temperature. Fruits and veggies go through the blender to become smoothies. Every product that comes into the house is scent free. I’m always close to a bathroom or a soft surface to crash onto for a quick recovery if I get dizzy. My stairs have wrought iron rails that I use effectively on bad joint days. Flourishing in my safe house I sometimes forget how sick I am because, well, I have fewer problems.

I planted this yarrow last year in a flowerbed that has killed almost everything planted into it. Not this yarrow!! The secret of gardening, and living with serious chronic illness, is to keep on trying new things, and to match your needs to your environment. Or, in my case, make your environment match your needs.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment so I listed up some symptoms and issues that I need to ask her about. It is quite a list now that I look at it, and it kind of underscores how chronic illness can trick you into thinking that things that would normally send you screaming into urgent care are “just another day of scleroderma.” Shortness of breath is an almost daily thing. When I glance into the mirror these days I sometimes notice that my face is blue. One hip keeps failing me; okay, I actually have to lift that leg to get into the car. My joints swell so much that I can’t sleep at night.

But I am good, here in my little safe house with my gardens and cat.

Tomorrow my doctor and I will attack some of these scleroderma/Sjogren’s issues. I kind of think that lung testing and a MRI of my hip are in the future, and that there may be follow-up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been gathering up my energy in preparation for these outings into a world that is dangerous for me, knowing that after each outing my garden swing, knitting and latest book will be waiting for me. With a room temperature ice tea.

And a cat!

It is good to have a safe house.