Thursday, July 31, 2014

Doyathinkhesaurus? And other sock news.

When The Boy was a toddler his favourite t shirt was printed with rows of spoof dinosaurs.
Alongside such dino-dudes as the Spotiosaurus aand the Stripeosaurus, there were a couple of dodgy characters from the species Doyouthinkhesaurus.
Call me sad and nostalgic if you like, but in celebration of my son's graduation and coming of age, I am knitting him a pair of dinosaur socks.
No, he doesn't know about this.  Please don't tell him!  They are intended as a Christmas surprise.
I took the dinosaurs from the Brachiosockus Pattern, but adapted it to be wider and top-down instead of toe up.  I also decided to use a 3x1 rib on the leg for a better fit than plain stockinette.  So really the only feature remaining from the original is the dinosaur silhouette :)
Prior to being swept up by such prehistoric madness, I finished my first Wise Owl  Poppy sock.
I really like the look of it, though the heel shaping is very much narrower than I am used to and I am not sure it will be comfortable underfoot.  We'll see.
And before my August sock club package arrives, I ought to show you the July offering from the Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey collaboration.
This is the Maleficent colourway.  I really must cast on another of my sock club patterns - they are all so beautiful.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

For the Love of Owls

I have fallen in love with an owl.
I mean, just look at the plump fluffy cuteness of him or her!  I imagine it weighs about the same as newborn baby, with the same balance between head and nappy... and if I were to pick it up, it would loll against my shoulder and go to sleep.
Or peck my eyes out and fly away in outrage?
I won't try it!
There are two of them, and the other night they were sitting right outside my window, chirruping away to each other for hours.

So my latest project, using "Wide Hilda's Basic Ribbed Sock" pattern (free on Ravelry) is now dubbed my "Wise Owl Sock".
Just because.
The yarn is Twisted Limone Tangy Self-striping, a 75% superwash wool / 25% nylon mix in the colourway Poppy Field.  The colours are a lot brighter in real life and the stripes are wonderfully even.  My only reservation about this yarn is that it is slightly hairy.  I prefer a smoother sock yarn.  But the colours are delicious.
I am having a serious attack of sock fever this summer.
I spotted two new Rachel Coopey Designs last night (while I was owl-watching with the other eye!) that I absolutely must knit:  Woodcutter's Socks and Hansel and Gretel.  They are both in a new Interweave publication called Enchanted Knits, which bears more than a passing thematic resemblance to the Unofficial HP Knits that caught my attention last year.
But before I get to those, I have downloaded the Stepaside pattern that is Top of the Pops over on Ravelry right now.  It is one of those man-friendly-looking designs that takes plain ribbing to another place by adding an interesting cablicious not-lace panel down the side. And it's free!
Of course, one link led to another and I ended up purchasing a skein of yarn from its designer at Dublin Dye Company - oops!
I'll show you that when it arrives - I will almost certainly use it to knit a pair of Stepasides for FL.

Meantime... I made a pair of knickers.
What's that you say?  They look just like a pair of Asda "10 for £5" pants?
Yes, they do.
And they took me the best part of 3 hours to make.
I won't be getting a job in a knicker factory anytime soon at that rate of production!
They are the Rosy Ladyshorts pattern from ClothHabit.  It is another free pattern.
I used the last few scraps of cotton jersey leftover from my black Plantain tee, and The Girl's off-the-shoulder top.
They are perfectly wearable, but that elastic is not the best (ebay) and I had to stitch and restitch it to stop it from rolling.  Until I find a source of better elastic I won't be wasting any more time on knicker-making.  I could have made a dress in that time!
By contrast, I do not resent a moment spent on my giant crochet blanket.
This is the final stripe from Issue 50.  I have three more rounds of purple to go, but probably only enough yarn for two.  It's fine.  I will just change colour.
I am definitely not buying any more yarn.
Got that?  NO MORE YARN!*

*Believe that and you will believe anything...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FO: Planorbis Corneus socks

I started these socks on a whim:  I liked the look of the whorly cable-like stitch pattern and thought the light-coloured yarn would show it off to advantage.
And it does!
I knitted these in 9 days - crikey!
A long train journey and being on holiday from work may have had something to do with my speed... but I would also cite the regularity of the stitch pattern for propelling me onwards to knit just one more repeat.
When I cast on, I was surprised that there were so few other projects on Ravelry. 
It is a free (Knitty) pattern from a famous sock designer (Hunter Hammersen) and I thought the manic sock-knitters would be gobbling it up.  But the other knitters who had made it ahead of me all seemed to be expressing their doubts about their finished objects, and I suspect that has been putting people off.
So what's the problem? need to know that this pattern is not sized for vanity.  Please ignore the descriptions "small, medium, large" and pick the size that has the number of cast-on stitches you normally use for a sock.  An average female probably should choose 64 stitches and therefore needs "large".
The toe-box shaping is also unusually short - so having stopped knitting the foot where I expected to start the toe shaping (from past experience) I ended up with a smaller sock than intended.  The toe section is only 4cm long instead of 5cm.
It's OK - I can wear them.  But they are pretty snug!
And I can see that this might frustrate a regular sock-knitter who thinks they know when to start their decreases... and then ends up with a pair of stubby-toed hobbit socks.
You can see that they don't quite fit my sock-blockers.
And you can see my mistake at the cuff of the uppermost sock - oops!  Missed a whorl!
But despite all this, I really really like my new socks, which are definitely mine because I don't know anyone else with small enough feet to wear them - score!


Pattern:  Planorbis Corneus by Hunter Hammersen, free from Knitty here, or can be bought as part of Volume 3 of the Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet book.
I knitted size Medium, 60 stitches, on 2.5mm dpns -  but see my notes above.

Yarn:  Atomic City Fibers Merino Nylon sock, a 75% merino, 25% nylon mix.
Mary in TN sent me this lovely hand-dyed yarn a while back and I really enjoyed working with it.  The colourway (Potluck 2) ranges from a sizzling lime green through zesty lemon to a dull beige - and that contrast makes it pop like neon, even though it is a lot more subtle in real life.  Fab!
I have another couple of skeins in a gorgeous turquoise blue that I just might have to knit up soon :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

You Would Like My New Boots

As The Girl says in every job application, she is not afraid of hard work. 
She has been helping me to clear our own private landfill site of years' worth of accumulated builders' waste.  The farmer who is working the land was supposed to have disposed of all this rubbish, but his idea of "getting rid of it" was to run a digger over the area and turn the soil over.  Somewhere under here there is at least one old washing machine (possibly two) and the remains of a boat.  
This was not the plan...
 So The Girl and I have been working our way across the field, gathering all the surface debris and wheelbarrowing it away to the back of the garage, where we are bagging it up ready to be taken to the council tip by the gardener.
The gamekeeper seems to find it most amusing.
Probably because he wasn't asked to do the job!
I have entertained idle thoughts about creating a wildflower meadow.
But considering my track record, with the local rabbit and deer population devouring all the seedlings from my fenced-off herb garden, I am not sure it is worth either the effort or the expense of sowing out such a large area of open ground.
I have preserved one "Everlasting Pea" and nine courgette plants from this year's planting.  The weld was gone in a flash, along with the swiss chard.
I think I should stick to knitting socks. 
That is the Planorbis Corneus pattern, free from the latest Knitty or you can buy it as part of the book:  "Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet Volume 3".  I am halfway down sock two already:  a long train journey to visit Grandma propelled me through this one!

I also finished my Solar Flair socks.
These were the ones that aggravated my RSI, so I was glad to see the back of them, even though I love using Hazel Knits Artisan Sock yarn.  The colour is "Cami Chic".
These came out pretty large:  it is a very stretchy pattern and the Artisan Sock is a heavy fingering weight.
They have been set aside for a future gift.
That's my 6th pair this year, so I might actually catch up with my goal to knit 12 pairs of socks before December :)
I have also been working on my crochet Mystery Blanket.
I ran out of yellow yarn 8 inches from the end of the penultimate row of stripe 9.
There was language.
When the new yarn arrived, I took special note of how far one ball stretched.  My conclusion is that one ball takes me round 3 sides of the square on a fairly plain treble-stitch based round.  This means that I only have enough yarn left to work 12 more rounds, which is not the end of the blanket.
But I don't think I can justify buying any more yarn - I reckon I have bought a total of 45 balls so far?
But it is looking pretty spectacular, if I say so myself!
I am going to use the yarn I already have and reduce the number of rows in the remaining stripes.  
At the moment, I am aiming to work stripes 10, 13, 14 and 15... unless I run out of yarn.
Fingers crossed.

And here is a final word from our sponsor:  hoo-woo!

 Can you see him (or her)?
I had to take this picture through the window, as the minute I open the door our owly neighbour is gone.
But I can sit on the sofa and watch it swooping around every evening - fantastic!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

FO: A Slouchy Tee for The Girl

 Another "simple black top" for The Girl.
This one was supposed to be easier to make because, let's face it, it is not much more than 4 rectangles with a neck curve.
The pattern is from Female (Japanese) pattern magazine, Spring 2012, and I used it to make this top.
We cut it from leftovers from The Girls' first Summer Concert tee and my black Plantain tee.
So it was basically free.
Not bad!
The back and sleeves are lace.
We were right down to the selvedge to cut the back, so it has an intriguing neon yellow edge - cool!

I helped her out by sewing the satin bias binding to the neckline, because that lace can be bad-tempered.
It is somewhat more off-the-shoulder than I would wear... but I am not 18.
In retrospect, she could have left the sleeves off and still have had arm-coverage.
We decided not to try to hem the sleeves (that lace...) so they are raw-edged.
She could always cut the sleeves off and bind the armholes if they get too raggedy.
That's the last of our summer sewing holiday projects - she's off home to London on Monday.
It's been fun!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

FO: The Girl's Hooded Summer Concert Vest

The Girl wanted to make some simple black tops.
Because she is young and fearless, she saw no reason why you wouldn't just cut off the sleeves and add a hood to the basic high-low Summer Concert Tee pattern that she made before.
So that is what we did.
 We borrowed the armholes from the Chemisier Berthe pattern from Un Ete Couture.

 And the hood from New Look 6947, which I used for my linen jersey / broderie hoodie.
The fabric is bamboo jersey from Truro Fabrics.  One metre for £14.99.  It is much blacker-looking in real life and is a very dense and bouncy jersey - it would make a fab skater dress.
We discovered that it was most easily sewn with a straight stitch, rather than an overlocking stitch - but by then she had sewn all the main seams and just had the bindings and hem to do.
The neck and armholes are bound with strips of the same fabric, attached with a straight stitch while stretching it lightly.  
The Girl was really good at the stretching-while-sewing technique!
Like I said: young and fearless.

The Girl is looking forward to wearing it with her Demonia boots, which sadly did not come on holiday to the farm this summer.
I think it looks amazing!
She has another top all cut out and ready to sew.
It's great fun to have another stitcher in the house!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pomalidomide Prescribed!

We don't understand how it can be true... but today we went to the hospital and the Consultant  prescribed Pomalidomide for FL, despite a recent SMC ruling that it was not a recommended drug for prescription by NHS Scotland.
FL was startled.  He had assumed that he was going to receive some kind words and be sent home to fend for himself.  He blinked and grinned at the Consultant.
I could see him considering asking the obvious question about the cost of the drug and how they could possibly be allowing him to have it, but he just laughed and said he thought it had just been for 3 months...?
No, not at all.  As long as it is working, he can continue to take it... but at the first sign of his Myeloma number rising, it will be stopped.

So... bring on the dancing girls!  Pom pom pomalidomide cheerleaders cartwheeling across the fields, please!

I need a drink.

P.S. That poppy appeared from nowhere in among the weeds at the edge of the field.
It was a sign!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

FO: Pavilion Socks by Rachel Coopey

This weekend it is the Unwind Brighton festival.
I seriously considered going, but then it turned out to be Graduation season.
And I wouldn't feel right leaving FL home alone right now.
But even though I can't be there in person, I was determined to participate virtually.
There were several celebratory knitalongs I could have joined, but when I spotted a Rachel Coopey Mystery Sock KAL, with a design inspired by the architecture of Brighton Pavilion, there was no doubt this was the one I would choose.

Pattern:  Pavilion by Rachel Coopey in size Medium
Yarn:  Skein Queen  Squash, 100% superwash merino in the colour Turkish Delight, one of the club colourways from last year.
Needles:  2.5mm clover bamboo dpns

I kept up with the Mystery Knitalong on one sock... but it would have been just as easy to knit the two side-by-side as there was enough time between instalments of the pattern. 
If I had done this, I would certainly have finished them in time to be eligible to enter in the prize draw over on the Unwind Ravelry group board.
But I didn't... so I wasn't.  Shrugs.
Each instalment ended on a cliffhanger, like all the best serials.
I truly wasn't expecting that to happen!
Sock pattern design as story-telling - there is probably a thesis to be written there!
These are planned as a gift, so were deliberately made too big for me.  I have another pair of handknitted socks on underneath in the top picture! 
So what's next?  I am finishing off my other pair of Work-in-Progress socks: Solar Flair, also by Rachel Coopey.  I have passed the heel turn of sock two so there is a good chance I can polish them off soon.
Hooray!  Then I get to cast on something new!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Graduation Day

I almost entitled this post:  FO, The Boy.
But really, he has only finished one stage and now must move on to another.
Scary stuff this growing-up malarkey.
To mark the occasion, The Girl baked him a batch of her finest chocolate brownies and I gave him a box of assorted teas to go alongside.
I wish I had taken a photo of the brownies, with pirate figures on top :)
Us girls wore our Vintage Fremont shawls - spot the difference?

And of course I wore the dress that FL bought me for the occasion.
We only had two tickets for the ceremony itself, so FL went to the local museum while The Girl and I gave ourselves RSI applauding the new graduates.
It was incredibly hot in the hall.  When the last person received their certificate, the cheering and stamping was as much from relief as celebration.  FL definitely made the right choice - I think it would have been too much for him.
So there you go - another milestone passed.
Congratulations, son!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Pomalidomide update: a question of statistics

Information from the Scottish Medicines Consortium website, published 7 July 2014:

"pomalidomide (Imnovid)

following a full submission

pomalidomide (Imnovid®) is not recommended for use within NHS Scotland.

Indication under review: in combination with dexamethasone for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior treatment regimens, including lenalidomide and bortezomib, and have demonstrated disease progression on the last therapy.

Pomalidomide plus dexamethasone significantly increased progression-free survival compared with high-dose dexamethasone in patients with refractory or relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma.

The submitting company did not present a sufficiently robust economic analysis and in addition their justification of the treatment’s cost in relation to its benefits was not sufficient to gain acceptance by SMC."

I read the full adjudication.  The facts are fairly clear:  the drug is too expensive and its benefits are insufficient to warrant the cost.  It didn't help that the drug company prepared their stats on the basis of a 25-year life expectancy, when the median age of diagnosis for myeloma is 70.  Quite rightly, the SMC queried this, and adjusted the cost / benefit analysis to reflect a more realistic 10 years.  Of course, if you are the statistical anomaly who develops myeloma in your 20's or 30's, you would argue that 25 years was just about reasonable... but that's not how statistics work!

The drug company estimated that 132 people in Scotland would have been eligible to receive the drug in its first year, if approved, for a total cost of over £6 million in that first year.
That is an insane amount of money!

FL has always been clear that he didn't want the NHS to squander its resources on "an old man" when there are younger people out there in greater need, in his words "more deserving".  But 3 months on Pomalidomide have hammered his cancer. His kappa score has plummetted.  So it is hard to accept that at next week's hospital appointment he will more than likely be taken off the drug that has helped him because it does not represent "value for money".

"The greatest good for the greatest number" - we still believe in it!  But FL has a book to finish.  And he's still the man I fell in love with all those years ago.  And I don't want to lose him sooner than I have to.

More and more I wonder - who sets the cost of the drugs in the first place?  How can those tiny little capsules possibly be worth so much money?  And if the drug company can't sell them to the NHS, they have no market in the UK.  So why not cut the price to attract the target customers?  Buy one get one free.  Isn't that how business works?

So even though Pomalidomide has brought my husband back from the brink of death, neither he nor anyone else in Scotland can have that same opportunity to stay alive because of an "insufficiently robust cost / benefit analysis" by some poor sod in the finance department of Celgene.

The cited (only?) study of this drug indicates that it increased the duration of survival without progression of cancer by an average of around 7 weeks in the (small) group of patients studied.
132 people could live for 7 weeks for £6 million.
I start to understand why relatives and friends of cancer patients become obsessed by fundraising.
It sounds plausible: you can buy survival. 

But then you read on, and you realise that it is just a temporary fix.  Pomalidomide is NOT a cure for myeloma, it just holds it at bay for a few short weeks.  And if you had £6 million to spend on drugs,  wouldn't you rather save it for the cure?

So could someone do some work on that, please?  And could you be quick about it - we're running out of time here.

Monday, July 07, 2014

FO: Robe Alexia from Un Ete Couture

 I needed to kick-start my sewing mojo - and what better to do than make an easy-going shift dress!
There is something 80's going on in these photographs... maybe it's the hair / baggy dress / leggings ensemble?

 But if I turn this way, it could almost be the 1920's? Or the 1960's?
Either of which makes sense, since those are my granny's glass beads :)
But let's not quibble about the era, because this is such a simple style that it doesn't really have a best-before date.

Pattern:  Robe Alexia from the book Un Ete Couture by Geraldine Debeauvais, the designer behind Republique Du Chiffon (RDC).  I made size Small and it is just right.

Fabric:  2 metres of Nani Iro Japanese double gauze in the Pierre Pocho Fortune Stones design, from Guthrie and Ghani, £9.10 per half metre.  I did not realise how narrow this fabric was until I tried to lay out my pattern pieces and discovered I had to cut the sleeves sideways.  I got away with it, but I need to pay more attention to the width when I am buying fabric online.  

Process:  The pattern is recommended for "grandes debutantes", absolute beginners, and that is a good assessment.
There is nothing tricky here at all:  no darts, no fastenings, no awkward facings.
It would be a great choice for experiments with an awkward fabric.
The double gauze behaved fairly well, but I would not want to use it for anything with narrow pleats or tucks as it can be quite stretchy.
You definitely need to stay-stitch your neck.
Speaking of which... that's what drew me to this pattern:  the neckline.

It fits perfectly across my shoulders, with no strap exposure and no gaping at the back or the front.

I hesitate to say this.. but I think I like it even better than my Camber dresses - gasp!
It was easier to make and I really love the wider neck.
It is also more of an a-line, so has a little more movement to it.
I am wearing it with leggings here, but it would be instantly more "dressed-up" worn with tights and some pointy shoes.
So... another successful sew from Un Ete Couture - this book was definitely worth every penny!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Round and Round

New acquisitions
You know me well enough by now to realise that if I write something like "I don't NEED to sew any more clothes", it means I am having a crisis of over-consumption.
Too.  Much.  Stuff.
It drives me crazy.
And the craziest thing is, it has the effect of making me want more, but different stuff.  So instead of having that wardrobe full of me-made rainbows?  I think I ought to take the whole lot to a charity shop and start again from scratch with a simple shop-bought "capsule" in denim blue, black and white.
But because I have told myself that I DON'T BUY CLOTHES, for 3 weekends in a row I have gone upstairs, spread out some black or white fabric from the stash... and then laid down on it in the sunshine like a lazy cat.  Oh dear.
After a while I get up, fold my fabric away and return downstairs to my knitting or my crochet.  And I am working on such BIG knitting and crochet projects right now that I feel alternately imprisoned and set free by the monotony of ploughing up and down or round and round the rows of stitches with no obvious growth to show for it.
49 before 50:  get my hair cut - did it!
It is 7 years since FL received his diagnosis (Multiple Myeloma).
In 3 weeks' time, it will be 10 years since I gave up my other life to come and live here with him.
Later this week, my son graduates from University.
Not long after that, my daughter will receive her A level results.
In November, I will be 50.
It feels like I am teetering on the verge of changing my life.
But right now I am going round and round in circles.  Or squares.
Mystery Crochet Blanket
Get a grip, Roo!
So little by little I am working on breaking the bad habits and making some good ones, those "49 before 50" ones.
49 vegan days?  Unlikely, but definitely more than 49 vegan main meals and more than 49 vegetarian days.
I have two fantastic new cook books,  "Honestly Healthy for Life" and "A Modern Way to Eat".  I have planned to blog about the first one for ages.  The Masala Roasted Vegetables are a new staple in this house.  I tried making double to last two days, but by the time I got home from work on day two, FL had polished off the leftovers!  Another surprising hit has been the Raw Green Curry with Courgette Noodles.  I had to steam the veg out of sympathy for FL's phossy jaw, but the flavours were still fresh and bright and amazing.  The sauce is made out of coconut milk blended together with cashew nuts and spices - yum!  Inevitably, there are several hard-to-source ingredients (rural Aberdeenshire, remember!) and the structure of the book is a bit annoying (does anyone need a section for Easter, really?) but there are lots of fresh new ideas in here.
Laura's Herbed Green Quinoa
My latest acquisition is "A Modern Way to Eat" by Anna Jones.  We tried it out for the first time last night, with "Laura's Herbed Green Quinoa".  OMG, I could live on this recipe!  I offered some goat's cheese on the side to answer the "But what are we having it with?" question.  That worked really well.   This book is absolutely packed with gorgeous-sounding vegy meals.  As a one-stop shopper I have had to re-think my supermarket choice.  Lidl has great citrus fruit, but the veg can be a bit limp and sad.  Big Tesco terrifies me (too big, too bright, too loud, too many people in 4x4s).  So I have started shopping at Asda, where the fruit and veg are both reliable and plentiful.  I would never buy their meat (huge cuts of flabby pork appear to be their forte) so it's a good place to shop if I want to go vegy!
So with renewed energy...I am sewing today :)
And I have a pair of socks to show you.
And the Tour de France is due to climb through Hebden Bridge at noon, so I will have to watch that on tv - woo hoo!
Zoom zoom, people!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

FO: Vintage Fremont Laceweight Shawl

Pattern:  Vintage Fremont by Jami Brynildson
Yarn:  75g of a 100g skein of PoshYarn Miranda:  70% alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere (875 yards per 100g) in the colour "Gale Force"
Needles:  4 mm, US size 6
Finished dimensions:  2.5 metres along the pointy bind-off edge, 1.1 metres along the lace-wedge edge.  So... if I had used the whole skein, it would have been a quarter as big again..?!  This one has 25 lace wedge repeats.

The colour is impossible to capture.
In some lights it is silver, while in others it is a deep rich teal with flashes of cerise.
The fabric is fragile, with a slight halo from the alpaca and a sheen from the silk.
Even though it is so light that the wind catches it and lifts its edges, it feels warm and comforting.
It is the sort of shawl that I will wear and wear until it falls apart.
And I imagine I will keep on wearing it, even when it is in tatters.

How many more times will I reach for this pattern, I wonder?