Sunday, September 29, 2013

FO: Learn to Knit Cropped Cardigan with Cabled Sleeves

Pattern:  Cropped Cardigan with Cabled Sleeves from Learn to Knit, Love to Knit by Anna Wilkinson.  I knitted the smallest size in the longer length.
Yarn:  350g of Coldharbour Mill Double Knitting, 100% Pure New Wool, in the colour Cornflower, found on Ebay for about £14 for 470g.
Buttons: Bought at The Wool Shed in Oyne when it was a stand-alone shop, they are "handmade fully washable giving employment to women in South Africa" ceramic Incomparable Buttons 

I cast this on in April and had put it aside for a while for no particular reason.  I decided it was time to finish it before the cold weather comes.
I have mentioned before that this pattern is written out, rather than charted.
I found it surprisingly tricky for a "Learn to Knit" design.
Although I am an experienced knitter, I knit more socks than garments, so don't have the knowledge to make many adjustments, other than to the overall length. 
So I followed the pattern to the letter, other than to pick up stitches down the side fronts to knit the buttonbands, instead of making a long narrow strip and sewing it on, as instructed.
As I knitted, it struck me as odd that the sleeves were the biggest pieces, but I put this down to the raglan construction.  I thought it might be OK for the upper bodice to get part of its circumference from the sleeves... but of course I now realise that is crazy-talk.  As I sewed it together, I feared I had knitted a cardigan for a female bodybuilder, with massive biceps and a flat chest. 

It also became clear that the cuffs are teeny-tiny in comparison to the upper arm.
You can't easily change the sleeve length because of the cabling down the side.  The sleeve is 9 cable repeats long, and when you reach the top, you have no excess stitches left on either side of the cable panel, due to the raglan decreases.  You need to work out for yourself how to keep the cable going to the very end.  It can be done, but it isn't written out for you.  I had to think about it - good brain exercise!

Looking at the pictures in the book, I expected 3/4 length sleeves, but these are full-length on me.  The more I look at that model in yellow, the better I can see that her gangley-geek style is not just about her height or the other clothes she is wearing, a lot of it comes from the cardigan itself.

It reminds me a lot of an early 1950's cardigan, with its nipped-in waist, almost batwing sleeves and high buttoned neck.
And that's not a problem... it's just not what I was expecting!

If I had seen a schematic of the finished garment before I started, I probably wouldn't have chosen this pattern.
I think it looks really cute, and kinda vintagey, but I am not a fan of baggy biceps.
I suppose I have room for puff-sleeved blouses underneath!
And it works well with a shirt-collar on top and is great with a high-waisted skirt.
But there is a lot of excess fabric in unexpected places - especially at the back.
It was fun to knit.
I love the cables.
It is a lovely colour.
It is warm.
So... I will definitely be wearing it, but it's not what I expected!

Friday, September 27, 2013

In Slow Motion

The title of this post is dedicated to Derek Jarman.  I am re-reading the final volume of his published diaries, Smiling in Slow Motion, written towards the end of his life.  If ever a man knew how to "seize the day" it was him.  One minute he is in hospital with a fever of 102, and the next he is at a film premiere in Russia / Paris / Leeds, or prowling Hampstead Heath in the dead of night (possibly not to be recommended) or broadcasting wildflower seeds at Dungeness in his now-famous Garden.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy his writing style.  And it is only now I realise the rollercoaster life he was leading at that time.  But with oh so much spontaneity and life!
I am in a funny place right now. This whole "watch and wait" thing is not my style. I want a plan, a map, a timeline, a timetable, a schedule, a list... anything that tells me where we are headed, what to look for along the way, and how long the journey is going to take. Myeloma was tricky enough, and I admit I got complacent after all those years of regular appointments, daily drug regimes and a set of textbook symptoms. But this? This is a mess.
FL is in a lot of pain, mostly in his feet and his back.  On Saturday night (around 2am) I dug out the "Best Before August 2007" super-drugs I had set aside just in case we ever needed them again. Those got him through to Tuesday when he was able to see a doctor. He now has some medium-strength painkillers (in between paracetamol and the super-woofers.) He tried them for a couple of days and nights but they are doing no good.
Everything hurts. He often feels sick and isn't eating properly. He is exhausted. Walking is avoided as much as possible.  But maybe this is "normal"...? We just don't know.
Yesterday, he developed an alarmingly bloodshot eye (more blood than eye) so today's planned pottering-around day off together has turned into a trip to Haematology, just to be on the safe side.
In these circumstances, my sewing has ground to a halt.
While I take great comfort from the rhythm of my knitting and watching the fabric grow, I have pretty much lost interest in clothes / fashion / style. It just doesn't seem to matter anymore.
I still prowl the blogs and admire what the cool kids are making, but I am faintly repulsed by the really productive people, who are churning out a garment a day (or so it seems from my jaundiced perspective). Am I jealous? No, I don't think that's it. I just don't see the point.
I have fabric and pattern for the Charley Tux Pants, but I can't be bothered putting scissors to cloth.
What about knitting?   Completely different.  If I could give up the day job and just knit, I would.
So I am channelling all my excess energies into fiddling with yarn. 
If I am not on Ravelry or watching a knitting podcast I am busy planning my next project, or actually, you know, knitting!
I have decided to smash the stash.

I cancelled my two yarn club subscriptions.  It's time I just got on and knitted up the yarn I already have, enjoy it, revel in it, possibly even roll in it... if I ever get that blanket finished! ;)
The three sets of yarn above are all from Skein Queen.  The top picture is Voluptuous for a Lush cardigan - my own (club) green, plus a fellow-Raveller's leftovers of Plumberry.  I have a plan!
The other two skeins are recent club shipments.  Absolutely beautiful.  And I am clear that it is definitely time to stop buying even more and make the most of what I already have... before I explode from a fit of over-consumption.
At the very top of this post you can see my latest on-a-whim project.  These are the Hermione's Time-Turner Mitts from Unofficial HP Knits... again!  I am using Yarn Yard Small Skein Society wool in the colour Blood Orange.  I would never have picked this wool for myself, but it is perfect for this project.  And this project is perfect for Waiting Rooms.  Excellent.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Week in Knitting


In this week's thrilling instalment of:  Knitting:  My Drug of Choice, I am delighted to share significant progress on Sleeve Two of my Learn To Knit Love To Knit cardigan.
Sleeve TWO!
If I carry on at this rate, I will have a Finished Object by the end of the month - woo hoo!
And it's just as well, because I am in the grip of cardi-planning fever.  
I succumbed to not one but two Tin Can Knits books, Pacific Knits and Handmade in the UK.
The Antler Cardigan will be knit!
The Lush Cardigan too!
And I suspect Lush will come first, because I have a yarny inspiration bubbling away at the back of my head, involving two colours of Skein Queen Voluptuous.... watch this space!

Devotion to the cardigan has led to a slowing of progress on my Narcissa Sock, but I am still enjoying it.  I have turned the heel on Sock One.  My project bag has been with me every day this week, but I haven't had the opportunity to get on with it.  That's good!  No Waiting Rooms!

And last but not least, here is my Mermaid's Song Shawl.
I make sure I knit one repeat of the lace every evening.
13 down, another 12 to go.  Really?  Really.
And then I have the main body of the shawl to knit...  really?!
It may be time to weigh my ball of yarn to check I am not going to run out of yardage.
I haven't looked at my Kex blanket this week.
Maybe once the cardigan is off the needles?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Getting it Baled

We had The Boy to stay this weekend, for a quick injection of home comforts before he started back at University for his final year.

 I joked with him that it was a shame the farmer hadn't yet baled the hay, because when they were younger, there was nothing The Girl and The Boy liked better than bale-jumping.

These pictures were taken in September 2004, when we first moved to Scotland.  The Boy was 11 and The Girl was 8.
Aw bless!
No sooner had he gone (with a bag of fresh food, some new underwear and a bar of Urban Jungle soap!) than who should turn up, but the farmer and his baling-machine.
A day too late.
But nobody wants to start their final year with a broken ankle, so it's probably just as well!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Bag Lady Strikes Again

You might assume I have not been sewing. Well, I have not been sewing anything wearable, but last weekend I made three little box bags, as gifts.
It was only when I had everything set up to sew that I realised I didn't have any heavyweight interfacing in the stash. Tsk!
However, the original instructions suggest using denim to line these, for added structure, and it just so happened that I had some remnants in the stash - hooray!

I made three bags. One has the denim on the outside because my main fabric had a white background, and I feared for its practicality. The print is of cats and fish on music staves :)
The typewriter-print version is a bit bigger than the other two because my zip was longer. It would easily hold a 4-ply cardigan-in-progress if gifted to a knitter. I trimmed the inside seams with orange polka dot bias binding for a neat finish. I plan to add a home-made stitchmarker to the zip-pull on each.
Every time I make a batch of these I entertain delusions about selling them on Etsy. But I know I would have to find a source of well-priced quirky cotton to make it in any way worthwhile as a business venture. As a customer, I want something really special for my £10 to £15, not just someone's denim leftovers!
Does that make sense? I know what I mean!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Week in Knitting

So what have we here then, Roo?
Another sock?
Oh yes!
Yesterday's hospital appointment was a long one, so I made plenty of progress on my new sock project.
This is the Narcissa Sock by Rachel Coopey from the "Unofficial HP-who-cannot-be-named-for-copyright- reasons" magazine. I am getting my money's worth out of this publication!
The yarn is utterly gorgeous.  It is from Countess Ablaze and the colourway is called:  "Nerds Prefer their Rainbows Darker"!  It is very difficult to capture the colour in a photograph.  Imagine a spiralling rainbow rubbed in charcoal, with sparkley bits through it...?  The texture is slightly crisp and dry, possibly due to the sparkley bits, but I would forgive anything when it is so pretty!

Like the Mermaid's Song Shawl, the pattern included a new-to-me stitch to learn. This one is quite easy once you get the hang of it, and makes a very interesting twisty transition between the loops of what looks like a chain running up the side of the sock.
Obviously a semi-solid yarn colour would have been the sensible choice, but this combination called to me.

In other knitting news... um.  Yeah.  I must get back to my cardigan...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Watch and Wait, Enjoy This Time

Back to the hospital today.
We were promised the full result from FL's bone marrow test by today, but it was not available.  It will be another 3 weeks (8 October).

The Science bit:
They were able to tell us that his second bone marrow sample showed less evidence of leukemia than the first, but that: "on a spectrum that runs from myelodysplasia to acute leukemia he is somewhere in the medium to high risk end".
Reading the computer screen over the doctor's shoulder, I was able to read that they already know his results are consistent with him having Acute Myeloid Leukemia, but there were "no blasts" in his sample.  They await cytogenetic test results.

What this means:
As the doctor put it, he is currently "in a good place".  His recent blood transfusion has given him quite a boost and his body is slowly recovering from the 32 months of Lenalidamide treatment he received for Myeloma.  His Myeloma appears to be on a plateau, and the benefits of further treatment are heavily outweighed by the need to improve his general health and quality of life.  And of course, we now have a new diagnosis to deal with.
Once they have the cytogenetic results, they will be able to assess what (if anything) can be done to tackle the leukemia.  But for now, the doctor says we must:  "Watch and wait.  Enjoy this time!"
You can't argue with that, can you?

And how is he?
Variable.  He is taking a lot more painkillers than before, but we are talking about paracetamol here, nothing stronger, and he is probably only taking 4 or 5 in 24 hours.
He is getting a lot of "electric shocks" in unpredictable places.
His feet and legs are very uncomfortable.  They did an ultrasound test on his right leg today to check for a blood clot, because it is quite swollen, but found nothing.
He can only walk a very short distance before becoming breathless.  Maybe 100 yards?
But despite this catalogue of woes, he is full of energy for his writing.  It is flowing a lot better now that he is on an even keel and doesn't have to deal with Dexy Days anymore.
Did I mention that he is almost drug free now?  Imagine that!  After almost 7 years of chemotherapy of one sort or another, his only medications are paracetamol, bone-strengthening pills and asthma inhalers.
So we are following doctor's orders.
Watch and wait.
Enjoy this time!

Monday, September 16, 2013

FO: Reginald Socks by Rachel Coopey

The brown socks are finished!
These are the Reginald pattern from Rachel Coopey's book A Knitted Sock Society.
If you are thinking of knitting a pair, please note that the leg is 12 inches long (to the bottom of the heel flap) and that if you choose to knit the largest size, as I did, that is an awful lot of twisted rib.  Insert wry smile here.
I was surprised to find that they took me a month to complete.  It felt longer.  And I would put that down to the brown-ness and the twisted-ness.
But those are the two qualities which got me started on this project in the first place.  These are for The Boy's Christmas, and I knew that he would appreciate their quirky mismatched manliness.  Well... I hope so!  Time will tell :)

Pattern:  Reginald socks by Rachel Coopey from A Knitted Sock Society

Yarn:  The Knitting Goddess "Same Difference", a superwash merino / nylon mix.  I bought mine from another Raveller's destash, but there is plenty for sale direct from The Knitting Goddess here.

Sock One went swimmingly, and was mostly knit on holiday near Gairloch.
Sock Two happened in a series of waiting rooms and suffered from my stress-levels.  I made lots of stupid mistakes:  overshot the heel flap by 8 rows and had to pick it back, picked up the wrong loops on the side of the heel flap, creating a delightful lacey feature which I have not completely fixed.  And strangest of all, there is a single row half-way up the leg where I appear to have twisted the stitches twice, creating a tactile ridge.  It won't be ripped back.  It is a designer original.

I am so over twisted rib.  If I never see twisted rib again it will be too soon.
But you know I am lying because Rachel Coopey is the queen of twisted rib and I have another of her patterns at the top of my mental queue, just in time for Tuesday's hospital appointment.
Off we go again!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Calm Before

Every morning this week, FL has started the day with a doom-ridden prophecy about this year's barley crop.
Look at it!  It is the picture of fertility and health!  He reckoned the crop was far heavier than last year and absolutely ripe, at the peak of perfection. There was probably 100 tonnes of grain out there.
So what was the problem?
A storm was forecast.  A BIG storm.  It was due to hit last night, with winds forecast of up to 150 miles an hour in places.  It would flatten the crop.  An entire year's harvest would be destroyed.
So every morning, FL stood at the window and worried.
The irony being that this was not our crop.
We allow a farmer from the village to work the land in exchange for a range of favours, from the provision of firewood to the digging of ponds and control of the rabbit population.  His day job is working his father's farm.  Our 40 acres is just his "bit on the side".
I tried to explain to FL that P. (the farmer) couldn't just hire a combine-harvester and rush over here whenever he fancied.  He has responsibilities at the home farm. The chances were that he would have to wait for his father to finish using the equipment before he could come over here.
FL just shook his head and worried.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  I scrubbed the floors and let the sunshine dry them, the front door flung wide open and the dog basking on the doorstep.
Then I sat down to knit, and put on my new CD, London Grammar.
But all across the valley, tractors and combines thundered up and down the fields.  Everyone had the same thought:  this was their last chance to save the harvest.  By tomorrow, it would be too late.

And at about 3.30 in the afternoon, the rumbling began.
Two tractors, a combine harvester, two men and a boy.
They set to work.

At 7pm, the boy was taken home for tea.
But the farmer kept on working.
On and on, into the night.

The combine harvester has its own floodlights.
They flashed past the farmhouse windows at about 1am... but that was just part of the job done.
FL and I woke at 3am to the throb of tractors passing by with loaded grain carts on tow.
This morning, there is a combine harvester parked next to the oily neighbours' fancy cars :)
And the storm?
Well, it certainly rained and it is windy this morning, but nothing on the forecast scale, I am pleased to say.
The fields are heaped high with loose straw.  The farmer's priority was to harvest the grain and he didn't bring a baler.  Maybe he will be back later... after a little sleep!
And certainly FL will sleep a little easier tonight.
Harvest home.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Week in Knitting

This is turning into my regular Wednesday feature! That's OK - it makes me look organised :)
Despite several dedicated knitting sessions, progress has slowed.
The main reason for this (other than the absence of hospital appointments this week) has been my refusal to stir myself from a comfortable curled-up ball on the sofa to fetch the pattern / first sock / measuring tape. This resulted in an overshoot of 8 rows on the brown sock just before the heel flap, and 6 rows on the first sleeve of my cardigan between phases of the raglan shaping.
I get very disheartened by ripping back - it feels like such a waste of good knitting time. So both of these projects were in time-out while I psyched myself up for the rip-and-reknit process.

So I got on with my Mermaid's Song Shawl.
Sadly, it is not the sort of project for late-night half-asleep knitting, and I spotted a dropped stitch way way back. It came from the strange new-to-me stitch, where three stitches perform a triple salko, landing on one leg while spinning. I hadn't missed it.
I have secured the stray stitch with a safety pin and will sew it in place later.
I have not yet cast on a self-striping tiredness-sopping project, mainly because I think I should see off that brown sock before I lose the will for twisted rib altogether.
I have no picture of my cardigan progress.  But I finished Sleeve One last night.  One more to go!  The photo in the book (Learn to Knit, Love to Knit) shows a 3/4-length sleeve but mine is definitely full-length despite getting "gauge".  Curious.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks

Sometimes, rarely, I can't wait for a new book to reach paperback or the local library.
I have to hold it my hands almost the moment it is published, hug it to me, inhale the new, fresh print.
This week, Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks came into my life.
I am trying so very hard to savour the text as well as the images, to take it slowly, one page at a time. But really I want to swallow it whole, to inhabit its pages until my edges are blurred and it becomes a part of me. So many electric connections of words, of pictures, of imagination and intellect!

Yesterday, I read the introduction by Tilda Swinton in which she describes Jarman's hands as "black-inked and green-fingered".  At their first meeting they "promptly had a cup of very good, hot tea".  These details expose the humanity of the artist, the multiple dimensions of his gift.
This led me to the astonishingly beautiful keynote speech she made at the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in 2002.  Wow.
Today, I read the introduction by Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall, in which they compare the sketchbooks with grimoires, books of magic and spells. Grammars of magic, to translate the term literally.
With every page that I turn, I am sent off in a myriad of directions, of new ideas to explore as well as old friends rediscovered.
It is a book to study, to live with, to return to again and again and find something new to think about on every occasion.
It is exactly what I need right now.
Excuse me, please, I need to go and read my new book.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

FO: 1960's Painterly Camouflage Blouse

I hadn't been near my sewing machine since The Girl went back to London.
It has been unseasonably sunny up here and I almost started to believe it would stay that way. But there are 40 acres of ripe barley surrounding the farmhouse, filling the air with a toast-like smell: slightly nutty and warm, a sign that harvest-time and autumn are coming fast.
Time for some longer sleeves.
This blouse is a mix-up of two Simplicity patterns from the 1960's: 4482 and 6238.
I have used 6238 twice before, for my Raindrops on Roses shell top, and my Innocent Crush voile blouse. The dart placement is so uncannily "me" that I thought I could use the body shape of this pattern with the wonderfully "Audrey-eque" neckline of 4482 to create my perfect 1960's pattern.
I hadn't reckoned on the radically different cut of 4482.
You can't really tell from the envelope drawings, but the shoulders of 4482 are much squarer and are drafted almost straight across, while 6238 has a gentle downward slope from neck to shoulder.
When I laid one pattern on top of the other, they had very little in common. Even the bust darts were in an entirely different place.
I decided to keep the shoulder shaping and back-neck darts from 6238, but drop the neckline to the level of 4482, blending the two together at the mid-shoulder point.
It almost worked!
However, I have the beginnings of a funnel-neck shape at the back and you can see from the photos that the cut emphasises my asymmetrical shoulders: one is higher than the other, and as a result this neckline slides off to one side. Sigh.
Simplicity 6238 in size 12 (32) with the neckline from Simplicity 4482 (size 14).
1.5 metres of Edges Dash in green by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller, from Fabric RehabYes, it is quilting cotton.  Ooh - they have it in teal and terracotta now too!
One gold invisible zip  at centre back (which you can't see - woo hoo!) and a tiny hook and eye at the very top to help control the funnel-neck issue.

Cutting the pattern out was the hardest part.  I was super-stingy in my fabric-buying and it was a real squeeze to get long sleeves and a scarf out of this yardage.  To be honest, the fabric is a bit too stiff for the scarf.  I can't imagine me wearing it very often.
The invisible zip behaved itself:  my best effort so far!  But it is not the most comfortable thing ever to have the business side of a zip next to your skin.  Maybe it needs some sort of under-placket...?
Otherwise, nothing of interest to report about the construction.

I had great hopes for this project.
I thought it would turn out like Toast's Brushstroke Top.
But of course that one is made from "soft, fluid viscose".  Schoolgirl error!
When will I learn that quilting cotton is great for skirts but dangerously stiff for tops?
I was seduced by the print.  Tsk.

However... I like its silhouette worn with a long jersey skirt.
It would look good with narrow trousers too - a pattern like the Charley Tux Pants from Named?  Though I might start straying into 1980's-style territory if I kept the head-band!
It will be worn.  Maybe not as often as I had hoped, but it's not a write-off.
I like the colour and the print.
I like the sleeves, which are darted at the elbows, by the way.
In summary:  it's a wearable muslin.

Friday, September 06, 2013

A New Rhythm

FL had his first blood transfusion yesterday and is now all pink and perky! :)
His next scheduled hospital appointment is on 17 September, when we expect to find out the type and percentage of acute leukemia in his body. The doctors reckon the transfusion should keep him going for at least two weeks. So instead of a monthly hospital appointment, it will be at least once a fortnight. So that's our new rhythm set.
Off we go.
He is strangely chipper. I don't know why that surprises me - he was never one to let a devastating diagnosis get him down! I think it helps him to know that he wasn't just making it up when he said he felt bad, and the doctors said: "Really? But your myeloma is under control! You shouldn't feel bad!" Ha!
He is attacking his book-writing with a whole new sense of urgency. For the moment, this does not involve me in transcribing the gazillion handwritten notebooks that litter the house, but I know that time is approaching fast.
Meantime, I am preparing to batten down the hatches for the incoming storm.
If ever there was a time for me to find my own equilibrium, it is now. If I was a religious person I would probably be praying a lot and lighting candles.
But I am not.
So I am knitting and decluttering and trying to eat healthy food and get more active.
Don't worry - I am not heading into a hyperactive frenzy of displacement activity! I have those tendencies, but I am not there yet!
I am very much taken with the idea of this 10-day challenge, over on the Be More With less blog. Shape Up. Pare Down. Tune In. Sounds good to me!
I have not yet identified my goals. That's a job for the weekend.
Other plans for the next two days include: sewing a 1960's top for autumn; finishing sleeve one of my cardigan; enjoying the fact that I have functioning electrical sockets on both sides of the ground floor for the first time in 3 months - woo hoo!
Imagine the excitement of boiling a kettle at the same time as watching tv! ;)
Let me leave you with a photo of my new self-indulgent necklace purchase from Silly Old Suitcase at Etsy..
Pardon the crosses and stars.
FL will not be impressed!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

This Week's Knitting

Oh my goodness - so many kind comments!
Thank you all so much for your concern.  I don't think we have processed the news yet.  It will probably feel more real on Thursday when FL goes for his blood transfusion.  They hope to have the bone marrow test result by then too, so they will have a better idea of what they / we are dealing with.
Another week of hospital appointments at least guarantees me lots of quality knitting time.
I took my dark brown Reginald sock with me on Monday and managed to b*gg*r it up quite spectacularly, with a massive loop on the inside where I skipped an entire dpn.  It took me 5 rows to spot the problem and another hour to pick it all back.  This is why we all need simple waiting room knitting!
Sleeve with Hollow Oak panel
Tuesday found us in the Colonoscopy waiting room for 4 hours.  Another day, another diagnosis, but thankfully nothing very exciting or life-threatening (Diverticulitis).  I worked on the brown sock again.

I definitely won't be taking my cardigan sleeves to any appointments this week.  I am really enjoying the cable panel, but I am not a great fan of dollop-making.  Those 3D woolly knots are a bit of a trial.  However, I am onto the raglan shaping of sleeve one which means I am more than halfway done - woo hoo!

Mermaid's Song shawl, two repeats of lace
Which does not explain why I cast on this little number.
This is the Mermaid's Song shawl from the Unofficial-HP-who-cannot-be-named-for-copyright-reasons Book.  I am using Yarn Yard Moondance in a stunning shade of  blue, almost identical to the shawl in the pattern book.  But mine has sparkles in it ;)  The yarn was a woolly hug from my friend Christine - very much appreciated :)
I decided not to add beads.  This pattern has quite enough trouble going on, without adding beads to the mix.  It is tricky.  There are stitches I have never seen before.  By repeat two, I think I had got my head round the stitch that required reference to a separate glossary... but this is emphatically not suitable for knitting in stressful situations!

I think I need to cast on some self-striping socks...

Monday, September 02, 2013

Bone Marrow Test Results: A Biology Lesson

Borage and Salvia in the herb garden
I didn't mention that FL received a phone call on Friday, requesting his presence at the hospital on Monday morning for his bone marrow test results.
We knew that it must be serious because he already had an appointment  in the diary for next week.
But we weren't expecting to hear that he now has acute leukemia.

A quick biology lesson:
In your bone marrow, you have stem cells.  These are the parents of 4 other types of cell:  red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma.
Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells.
Leukemia is a cancer of the stem cells.
In acute leukemia, the cancerous stem cells mutate and multiply, crowding out the good guys.
Think "zombie apocalypse".
The more bad guys there are,  the harder it is to zap them with chemo without killing the good guys too, and there might not be enough good guys left to carry on making the cells you need to stay alive:  red and white blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Back to our patient:

In FL's case, myeloma, previous chemotherapy and (sorry darling!) old age have all conspired to leave him with, to quote the doctor: "a scruffy mess of cells".
As a result, it is difficult to get a good enough bone marrow sample to assess the percentage of bad guys in his stem cells.  They had another try today.  Yes, another bone marrow test!
On Thursday, he is having a blood transfusion to give him a top-up of red blood cells.  If the bad guys keep multiplying, he will need transfusions at regular intervals, because otherwise his body will stop functioning.
Until they know what percentage and type of bad guys they are dealing with, they can't consider any treatment.  And the doctor was very forthright:  there is no cure.
There are three things they can do:  watch it, give top-up transfusions as required, zap it with chemo.  But FL's bone marrow is already shot to pieces.  Realistically, chemo would probably kill him faster than the leukemia itself. 
So we watch and we wait.
How long?
We didn't ask the question.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Daisy Monsters in the Closet

Swatching the Summardaar Cardigan stitch pattern, aka Daisy Monster
While no one was looking, I performed another clutter clearance. Goodbye odd paperback books I will never read again, saggy baggy shoes which I fell out of, and assorted beyond-redemption tattered / faded / poorly-fitting clothing. It was a good feeling. And Oxfam thanked me.
In the midst of it, with all my clothes in a multi-coloured heap on the bed, I suddenly realised that the reason I never have the hand-knit I need to complete an outfit is the relative speed of knitting and sewing.
For example, at least two years ago (it was probably three) I decided to knit a turquoise laceweight silky a-line cardigan. It would look lovely with my wide-legged aubergine trousers and my magenta ankle-length linen skirt. So I bought the yarn and set it aside while I finished whatever it was I was knitting at the time. And now here we are, X years later. The trousers shrank in the wash / wore out, while the skirt felt out-dated, was too large at the waist, and went to the charity shop many seasons ago because it made me feel frumpy.
Using Alba Yarn, doubled, on 6.5 mm needles
Luckily, I never cast on the laceweight cardigan. It would go with nothing I own nowadays, and when I look at the pattern I see “mother of the bride”. The yarn is lovely, and one day I am sure its prince will come. But what I realised – dun dun duuun! - is that my starting point has been upside down. I can sew a skirt in a weekend, in fact in a day if I really need to. But knitting a cardigan takes me weeks, if not months, if not years. Instead of knitting to match my current clothing, I should make clothing to match my completed knits – duh!
And if I take that approach, I might finally have the chance to knit the things I really really like, and really really want to knit, instead of dragging myself through the torture of knitting compromise garments that “should go with everything” and never do!
This approach worked with Betty Jean McNeil. Even now I am planning an orange skirt so that I can wear Betty Jean more often – hooray!
Two strands green, or one strand yellow with one green?
So instead of looking at the Summardaar pattern and thinking “Oh how lovely – I had better knit it in navy blue so it will work with my jeans”, I have the option to look at the colour-chart and think “OMG – sizzling mustard! Grass green! Ruby red! Oh wow – which one of those do I like best? I could make a whole pile of skirts to go with my new cardigan!”
Held up to the light - lacey!
What's your approach to wardrobe planning? Do you make the things you want to make or the things you want to wear?

P.S.  The above swatches were just an exercise in working the stitch pattern.  I concluded that it is hell on my wrist and produces a fairly stiff, thick but airy fabric.  Perfect for a blanket!  But if I am going to make a cardigan, it had better not be in a baby colour and it needs to fit closely.  Still thinking!