Sunday, January 24, 2010

Enchanted Wood Spoiler

Just to prove that I am, in fact, knitting a lace shawl--successfully!--here are some crummy progress pictures. I took them indoors, at night, with my point and shoot, and this is the best I could manage. You'll have to take my word for it that the yarn and beads are so much prettier than this in person.

I'm about halfway through the second clue and working on my second skein of gradience dyed yarn. These pictures don't show the gradual color change that is starting to happen. This is a much better picture of the yarn:

I started with the blue yarn on the far right and I'm working toward the green on the left. The structure of this shawl is odd (to me). The cast on consists of the two short legs of the triangle (which will become the bottom of the shawl), and steady decreasing at both the middle and the edges draws the edges steadily together to create a triangle as the work progresses upward toward the long, straight edge at the top.

Here you can mostly see the beads. It's not nearly as difficult as I imagined to knit with beads, but it is time-consuming. It's also really, really fun! They're like sparkly little stitch markers you don't take out.

I definitely foresee more beads in my future...and maybe even some more lace, too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

FO: Patience Socks

And they're done!

The nifty sock blockers were a Christmas present from my husband--he came up with it all by himself! I can't imagine using them to block socks--do people really do that?--but they're perfect for taking FOtos.

The Details:

Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Sweetpea. Definitely my new favorite yarn. I've been snatching it up in Rav destashes as fast as I can hit "pay now."

Needles: Size 2 Bryspun dpns. I really wanted to use the Bryspun needles and size 2 is as small as they go, so even though I'd prefer a smaller needle, I gave them a shot. They socks turned out fine. I think this yarn is a little thicker than most sock yarn. I did the cuffs on size 1s (some new wood dpns I got from DyakCraft--formerly Grafton fibers--thanks to a tip from kmkat), because I was hoping tighter ribbing would help them stay up.

Pattern: Winged it. Cast on toe up and increased to 56 stitches. Worked in k2, p2 on the tops only for four rounds, then switched to p2, k2 to get a checkerboard pattern. Toe, bottoms, and short row heels are plain stockinette. When I got to the ankle, I continued the checkerboard pattern all the way around. The cuffs are k2, p2 ribbing. I really like the finished texture. It looks almost like a diamond weave.

Size: Women's 11. I worked the foot until it measured 8.5 inches from the toe, then started the short row heel. After the heel, I worked about an extra inch before beginning the ankle. Foot length is about 11 inches.

Name: Well, that's pretty straightforward. I started these waiting in the doctor's office--for hours--and finished them while waiting for the release of Clue 2 of the Enchanted Wood mystery shawl. "Patience" seemed appropriate. I wonder if wearing them will give me more of it?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming Unraveled

I finished Clue 1 for Enchanted Wood a few days ago (ahead of schedule!), and since the next clue won't be out until the 22nd, I picked up my current pair of socks to fill the gap. I made such good progress that by the end of American Idol last night, I had two socks that looked like this:

All they needed was a bind off.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to bed then, but I was so close to the finish that I figured I'd just stay up a little later and get them bound off.

Does anyone else hear the Knitting Goddess cackling?

I got about ten stitches into the bindoff of the first sock when I discovered I had somehow dropped a stitch while binding off. I started tinking back. The bindoff I'm using involves knitting two stitches, slipping them back to the left needle, then knitting them through the back loops. This makes a nice, stretchy edge for toe-up socks. It is also absolutely impossible to tink back. After two hours and a raging desire for a bottle of Xanax, I had one sock ready for its bind off and one sock that looked like this:

Oh, yeah. It's not pretty, folks.

But for once, I'm proud to say, I recognized bitter reality while it was staring me in the face and bowed to the inevitable. I stuffed the sock back into its bag and went to bed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Counting to Ten

I started winding the yarn for Enchanted Wood last night, but I couldn't resist jumping ahead to the cast on. Which took three hours. 375 stitches, double-stranded lace cast on, working with two ends of the ball and using beads. None of these things caused me any trouble. So why did it take three hours? Apparently I need to return to kindergarten for a little brush up of my counting skills. The cast on was mostly just "cast on ten, place bead, repeat." Alas, mine was more like, "Cast on ten, place bead, cast on...wait, how many was that? Is this bead before or after that stitch? Uh, oh. I must have messed up back here. Rip, rip, rip. Cast on ten, place bead, cast on ten, place bead, cast on ten...why don't I have the right number of stitches? Let's see...ten...nine...or is that ten? Where is this bead supposed to be? Is that one stitch or two? Damn it! Where are my glasses?" And so on and so forth. But I did get the cast on finished and--wisely, I think--stopped there. I'm hoping I've gotten the stupids out of my system now and the rest of this will just jump off my needles. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let the Madness Begin!

The yarn for the Enchanted Wood mystery shawl KAL just arrived in my mailbox--only four days from England!--and it is just lovely. I'm so excited to get started on this. I'm also more than a little worried that all I'm going to make with this beautiful yarn is a huge mess. I've been reading the threads about this on Rav, and I don't even understand the questions, much less the answers. I've decided to just take it in little baby steps. My goal for this evening is to get the yarn wound. If prior experience holds true, this will be more than enough to deal with.

Anyone else working on this? I could use a little company.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Very Special Gift

I received a very special gift today. It wasn't yarn or needles or any of the fibery things I so love. I didn't get it from a friend or a family member. It didn't come from a store. I got it from a stranger at the blood bank, and it wasn't blood, either.

In order to tell you what it was, I have to indulge in a little personal history. Those of you who've been around this blog for a while probably know that I have given birth to two children, now nine and twelve years old. During my first pregnancy, I had a great deal of pain. The doctors did not know why and didn't really seem concerned. When I was eight months along, it became so severe that I ended up in the hospital on morphine. After a few days and some tests, the doctors decided to do a c-section and just get the baby out. The pain went away immediately and nothing more was said.

Until my second pregnancy. The pain returned, far stronger and sooner than the first time, and reached the intolerable stage when I was only five months along. A c-section wasn't an option that early, so more tests were done, for days and days. Finally, a surgeon told me he thought he saw something on an MRI and wanted to operate to see what it was. A little incision, a scope, no big deal. It was really early in the morning and none of my family was around, so I agreed. But I was terrified that the baby would die if he didn't have a name before we went into surgery. We hadn't chosen one, although there were several on the table. My OB was came by to see me. He had just gotten off a 24 hour shift and stayed to see me through the surgery (God bless him). I told him, "If anything happens to us, tell my husband the baby's name is Nathan." I had a very strong feeling he needed that name. The OB promised he would and they wheeled me away.

A few hours later, I awoke in recovery and immediately knew something was wrong. I felt awful, there were doctors and nurses everywhere, machines were beeping like crazy. I was hemorrhaging internally. The surgeon shouted to take me back into surgery and the entire group wheeled my bed--no time to transfer to a gurney or call orderlies--down the hall and into the elevator. My OB was standing beside me. He is a jolly man and I had never seen him look so grim. I said, "My baby's not going to make it, is he?" And he replied, "We'll have to wait and see." That's the last thing I remember.

I woke up two days later in intensive care, with eight IVs, a ventilator, and an incision running all the way up my abdomen. I was so swollen from all the fluids that had been pumped into me that I couldn't even see my wedding ring on my puffy hand. But I was still pregnant, and the baby's heart was beating. It turned out, as I learned later, that I have a rare and bizarre birth defect. It's called a "malrotated bowel." In short, my intestines never formed correctly and were bound with hundreds of adhesions that made them unable to move out of the way as the baby grew, so that they were being crushed and twisted and completely obstructed. According to conventional wisdom, this is a condition that normally causes severe pain and inability to digest and kills a person in the first few months of life if not corrected. Conventional wisdom is wrong. I never had any indication of trouble until I got pregnant. I have since found several other women online who have had similar experiences. But I digress.

So here's where things get a little weird. You can take this story any way you wish, but I assure you it is the truth. Sometime during this period, either during or after the surgery (I'm not clear on when), I had a really strange dream. I was standing in the operating room, watching my own surgery. There was a man standing beside me. He reminded me of cab driver (don't know why), but I knew he was an angel. [I should add here, I am not a religious person. I don't belong to any church or religion and I don't believe in angels.] There were doctors and nurses all around the patient, but they couldn't see or hear us. The man said, "Doctor, you know your patient is dying." He didn't speak in English, or any language I know, but I understood what he said. The doctor couldn't hear him, of course, and didn't answer. And then he said, "That's okay. That's my job." And he reached out and touched a small tube that was protruding out of the patient's abdomen. It glowed briefly, and then disappeared, and I knew the patient was going to make it.

Then the man moved away from me, out of my line of sight, and I realized there was another patient in the room who was also dying--a child, and no one was paying any attention to it, and I knew he was going to save the child.

For the next several days, I was very sick and didn't think much about the dream. But a week or so later, I had an interesting conversation with my surgeon. He told me that I nearly died on the operating table. I was bleeding out and my baby's heart rate had dropped to a dangerously low level. The neonatologist wanted to do a c-section to try to save the baby, but the surgeon thought that would kill me, so he stepped out into the hall to ask my husband "which one he wanted me to try to save." My husband told them to save me, so they didn't do a c-section and put their efforts into trying to help me. But the surgeon couldn't figure out where the bleeding was coming from and couldn't stop it. All of a sudden, it just...stopped. He said (and I quote), "It was nothing I did." And then the baby's heart rate returned to normal and everything stabilized. He said he had no explanation for any of it.

A few weeks later, when I was back home, I looked up the name Nathan. It means, "gift of god." And he truly is. Months later, I had him with me when I went for a check up with my surgeon, and the man asked me if he was brain damaged. He wouldn't believe my son was fine until he did a neurological exam. He was baffled to find the baby completely normal, despite the oxygen deprivation he suffered and the massive amounts of drugs he was exposed to as a result of my illness. He's now nine years old and perfectly healthy.

I know this is getting really long, and I apologize, but I am telling you for a reason. I'll try to finish up quickly now.

I donate blood regularly, which is why I was at the blood bank today. I started after Nathan was born, even though I'm scared of needles and faint at the sight of blood, because he and I would both have died had it not been for the generosity of the donors whose blood saved our lives during and after my surgery. I felt--still feel--that I owe a debt I can never repay. I can't even say "thank you" to the people who helped save our lives. All I can do is donate blood in the hopes that I can help someone else who needs it.

Today I was sitting in the donation chair and the nurse was checking my forms over. She said, "Oh, you're O negative, that's great!" [O negative is a "universal donor"--people of any blood type can get O negative blood, which makes it critical in situations where there's no time to type a patient's blood.] And they she looked again and told me my blood was especially rare because I am also negative for the antibodies to a certain virus that more than 85% of the population carries. These antibodies can cause illness or death if blood containing them is given to a person with a compromised immune system, such as a newborn baby or a cancer patient.

"We save blood like yours for the weakest patients, " the nurse told me. "Your blood will almost certainly go to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital."

A rush of sensation ran through me when I heard that. The rightness of it is undeniable; my son's life was saved by a blood donation before he was even born. Because of him, I donate blood. And my blood may help save the life of someone else's newborn baby. I would be happy to know my blood helped anyone, but to learn that it goes to those most vulnerable of patients is like getting all my birthday presents at once. And it brings me full circle in a way. I finally feel like I've said "thank you" to those people whose blood gave me back my life, and my son.

Friday, January 8, 2010


So, you remember how I complained that the pretty yarn I ordered online ended up being fugly as heck in person? Just to show you that it wasn't just me, nor was it a misread by my computer monitor, here is the skein I complained about (top) with another skein of the exact same yarn, same named colorway (bottom) that I bought from a Rav destasher:


Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's...Goal

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. Never have. If you're going to make a change, just make it, whatever the time of year. Who needs all the extra pressure of announcing at the beginning of a brand new year, "I am going to do this or be a failure"?

Still...there is certainly something to be said for reflecting on the past year and setting some goals for the new year, or at least contemplating what one would like to achieve in the privacy of one's own mind--or blog, as the case may be. [Case in point: I had privately decided to try to go this whole year only buying sock yarn, because I have enough sweater yarn to keep me busy through the next ice age. My resolve lasted until I saw that Beaverslide had some $12.95 merino/mohair on clearance for $6.00 a skein, and I typed in my paypal password so fast there was smoke coming off my keyboard. Now, had I publicly announced my intention, I would have been rather embarrassed at crashing and burning so dramatically on January 4th. As it is, though, I will be happily adding a few more grains of sand to the yarny beach that is my stash room, if you'll excuse the labored metaphor.]

My checkered history with lace knitting has been well documented on this blog. (If you somehow missed my pathetic inability to knit lace without the aid of note cards, stitch markers, row counters, charts, and copious amounts of alcohol, search "lace".) I've never felt any particular desire to conquer this failing, as it were, because although I love lace, I thoroughly enjoy knitting sweaters and don't feel I'm missing out if I don't also knit gorgeous shawls.

Or at least, I didn't until a few days ago. As I was meandering through the destash offerings on Ravelry, I came across a set of six skeins of lace yarn that had been "gradience dyed" so that each skein progressed gradually across the blue-green range of the color wheel and all six taken together completed the journey from blue to green, rather like one very large skein of very long repeat variegated yarn. I was struck by this. Really. Just...struck. I couldn't stop looking at it. This particular set of yarn was a kit for a mystery lace shawl KAL called "Enchanted Wood" from The Unique Sheep that begins on January 10, and it came with a set of color-matched beads. Now, knitting with beads is one of those things I have long looked at and thought, "That way lies madness." Beautiful, absolutely. But like lace times ten. So it makes no sense whatsoever that I justhadtohaveitrightnow and immediately bought the kit and signed up for the KAL. And, for the record, I'm not a KAL kind of person. It's like group exercise to me: public embarrassment adding insult to the injury of painful physical activity. Only, you know, without the exercise part. Which makes my almost giddy excitement over this KAL all the more perplexing. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the yarn and already have the swatch instructions in hand (although I expect to come down with all the grace of a water filled blimp once I actually start to swatch). I will document the experience here, for those of you who are interested in commiserating...or laughing your heads off at my ineptitude.

My hope is that this will somehow magically lead to some sort of lace-knitting breakthrough that will allow me to whip out heirloom cobweb shawls in under a week without even looking at the charts or using a single lifeline. Or at least that I will successfully complete this one lace shawl without anyone needing to stage an intervention or break out the tranquilizer darts. Just don't call it a resolution; I can't take the pressure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thanks to my HMO...

...I got this much sock knitted waiting at the doctor's office today. I am not a fast sock knitter, so you can imagine how much time this represents sitting in the waiting room. Thank the good lord for knitting, and Mountain Colors for my new BFF, Mountain Colors Bearfoot.

(I should also thank my HMO for the $1200 per month premium, the visit to the primary care physician for a referral to the specialist, the copay for the primary care physician, the mandated specialist, the additional co-pay for the specialist, and the six month wait to see the specialist, but at least we don't have government-run health care. Because that would be inconvenient and expensive, and we wouldn't be able to choose our own doctors. Sorry. My sarcasm is showing. Hey, Canada, wanna trade?)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bad Dog!

It turns out Heidi likes to play with yarn as much as I do.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Socks and More Socks

I would never have believed it possible, but I think I've caught the sock bug.

I finished the Mountain Colors toe-up socks a while ago:

I love these socks! Despite the wonky toe on the first one, I think they're the most comfortable socks I've made. The yarn is amazing; the colors are great and it knits up into a soft, dense fabric that responds really well to machine washing. I do think they got a bit shorter with washing, though. I really, really like knitting socks toe-up. I can use all the yarn and I don't have to graft the toes.

I enjoyed these so much that I immediately cast on for another pair. I had a 150 gram ball of Supersocke dk weight, so I made knee highs!

I prefer longer socks, so these really please me. The top ribbing is a little floppier than I'd like. Next time I will use a smaller needle for the ribbing. I did these on size 2 (2.75mm) dpns. Yes, dpns. And despite my great love for magic loop...I had so much fun!

I did them simultaneously on two sets of dpns, to prevent second sock syndrome. I used Bryspun nylon needles, which are my favorites for sock knitting. Unfortunately, 2.75mm is the smallest size they make. They worked well for this yarn, but for most sock yarn I prefer a size 1 (2.25mm). I haven't yet found any dpns in that size that I really like; I'd like a slightly flexible, non-metal, short (4-6") needle. Any suggestions?