Category Archives: Knitting

Dear Hedgehog Fibres

I should have considered this an omen this morning when I went to grab my yarn swift to wind some Hedgehog Fibre sock yarn.  Yikes!  How did that lizard get into the house?  Oh, phew!  It was one of my grandson’s plastic ones.

Tangled Mess

I put the skein on my swift and immediately remembered why I hate winding Hedgehog Fibre yarns.  The sock yarn is usually a tangled mess.  I’m not sure why they only use a “one-tie” system when they wind up the initial skeins but it sure isn’t enough.

It’s a puzzlement

I gritted my teeth and tried to untangle it enough to wind.  Wasn’t happening.  So I wound up the one end into a tiny ball and put it on the middle part of my swift and tried the other end.  At least it was a little better but not much.

3 Rotations and then Aggravation

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I love the colors that Hedgehog Fibres comes up with, I’d have thrown the whole thing in the trash.  I don’t even particularly like knitting with it.  Oh, I know that’s probably considered heresy in the knitting world right now but I prefer a yarn that doesn’t have the feel of parcel string.  If I wanted to knit with string, I could just go to the hardware store and save myself a ton of money.  I really like my yarn to still have a bit of the feel of the original animal.  In my opinion, HHF’s sock yarn does not have that quality.

Still tangled

But, you see, one of my favorite designers loves this yarn and knits up fabulous creations using it.  I try to love it.  I really do!  Hedgehog Fibres DOES make a yarn that I really like.  It’s their DK-weight yarn.  That feels like yarn.  It’s not splitty (did I mention how splitty the sock-weight yarn is?) and you feel like you are really knitting with fiber, not kite string.

Anyway, I amused myself by watching the colors go by (not swiftly, which is ironic since the whole purpose of a SWIFT is so you can wind a skein into a cake of yarn SWIFTLY).  Don’t even judge me about wanting to finish something quickly.  I own a Prius, for goodness sakes.  I’m used to slowing down and enjoying the process/scenery but there is just something about tangled yarn that will raise anyone’s blood pressure.   I even worked out that I’d get about three rotations of the swift, winding by hand as I went, until I’d have to untangle things again.

Really?

Just as I was nearing the end, my rotation pattern changed so that I was now having to untangle in several places after just  a few turns of the swift.  Grrrr!

Finally!

Finally, I had a wound ball…over one hour and 4 tornado warnings later.  This better make a darn fine project for all of the aggravation it caused.

Knitting Shawls – Choosing Colors

Hedgehog Yarn

Hedgehog Yarn

I’m getting ready to start knitting Stephen West’s new mystery Knit-a-long shawl.  The first clue comes out this Friday and prior to its arrival, I’ve been trying to decide on what colors to use.  Choosing yarn colors for a mystery shawl is even harder than normally choosing colors because you have no idea what the final shawl will look like, nor do you know in what sequence the colors will be appearing.

While I was in Dallas recently, I purchased the above yarns with the mystery shawl in mind.  Then I came home and started rethinking my choices.

More yarn

More yarn

I had also purchased the yarn above with another Stephen West shawl in mind and I started to think that perhaps these yarns would be a better choice.

Swatch #1

Swatch #1

I will confess that normally I do not swatch for a shawl.  I figure that I’ll enjoy it no matter how large it turns out to be.  This time around, though, Stephen strongly suggested that we swatch prior to starting our shawl.  “Why not?”, I figured.  It would be a good way for me to see how well my intended colors played together.

I sent a picture to my knitting friends and asked their opinions.  Before they had all responded, I had changed my mind and done up another swatch with other yarn.  I sent that picture off, too.

Swatch #2

Swatch #2

Par for the course, opinion was divided as to which combo my friends preferred.  When push comes to shove (or should I say, when yarn comes to the needles?), I pick what “speaks” to me but I’m always curious to hear what others think.

Swatch #3

Swatch #3

The good news is that I settled on the needle size I needed for this knit-a-long.  The bad news is that I still wasn’t sure what combo of yarns to use.  Since I was now more concerned with how colors looked together than finding my gauge, I decided to knit a narrow swatch in the sequence I was considering, casting on just 14 stitches on my needles and working both garter stitch and stockinette stitch.

Again, I sent off pics to my friends.  Some liked the gray, some didn’t.  Some wanted the purple back.  Some thought I should put yellow in the mix (no, thank you), and some thought the turquoise might not be working.

Swatch #4

Swatch #4

Then I got the brainstorm that I could just knit little blocks of possible yarn choices and easily play with them, rearranging the sequences as I desired.  I quickly ruled out the gold yarn but the rust-colored yarn was a winner.  Now my neon orange in the swatch was the odd yarn out.

Swatch #5

Swatch #5

I tried a sequence without the turquoise or purple but leaving in the gray.  Most of my friends thought it was too dull.  It was pleasing enough but lacked the “pow” that I like to see when I knit a Stephen West shawl.

Of course, I was driving my friends nuts by this point.  Some gently advised me to stop overthinking the whole process.  Easier said than done.

Final choices

Final choices

I finally settled on these yarns.  I took away the neon orange and replaced it with the russet orange.  The purple and the turquoise yarns were back in.  These are my final choices and I’m sticking to them.

In the meantime, I’ve taken some of the other yarns and am plugging away on a Stephen West Dotted Rays shawl.  Maybe I’ll work more on that even when Clue #1 comes out and give other speedy knitters a chance to knit through the clue so that I get a better idea of how the colors will be arranged.

The upshot of my little experiment is that I think I’ll make it a point to knit little squares of color combinations when I’m next faced with choosing colors for a big shawl project.  It is such an easy way to play around with color until you end up with a combination that you enjoy.

 

 

Stitches Texas 2016

Ready for Stitches Texas

Ready for Stitches Texas

Last Thursday, a group of my knitting “village” headed up to Dallas for Stitches Texas.  Three of us met at the airport near us to fly up together.  We were excited and ready for some knitting adventures.

Have Schedule, Will Follow (Maybe)

Have Schedule, Will Follow (Maybe)

One of our tech-savvy knitters had even made up several pages of schedules and fact sheets for us so that we would all know when and how each person was arriving and where they were all supposed to be during the days of classes.  We were also armed with the GroupMe app so that we could all communicate with each other, as needed.

Omni-Mandalay

Omni-Mandalay

We stayed at the Omni in Las Colinas, just down the road from the Irving Convention Center, where Stitches Texas was being held.  This was a fancy hotel – fancier than places that I’m used to staying.  It was nice but I quickly discovered that “fancy” is apparently code for “must pay extra for everything.”  The only thing free was the wifi (because we’d signed up for their Rewards program) and two cups of coffee each morning.  My roommate and I didn’t even take advantage of the coffee the first morning because we were so leery that we might be charged big bucks for that “free” coffee.    However, I’d already been warned to bring lots of dollar bills for tips and I was glad that I had heeded the advice.

Candace Eisner Strick

Candace Eisner Strick

The first presentation I attended was by Candace Eisner Strick.  She went through her designs from her latest book, Knit My Skirt.  Now, like many others, I’ve never thought I could wear a knitted skirt.  However, after listening to Candace and seeing some of the skirts she had designed, I DO think there just might be a style or two out there that I could perhaps knit and wear.

trip-lecture

I wasn’t alone in having my preconceived notions changed.  Several others in my group also decided they might try knitting a skirt.  It was nice to have many from our group attending the presentation because what one person misses, another will pick up and it helps to have group reenforcement.

A PA Visitor

A PA Visitor

As I sat on one side of the fashion runway for Candace’s presentation, I glanced across to the other side of the room and smiled at a lady in the front row on the other side.  Then I REALLY looked at her and started grinning and waving enthusiastically.  My goodness, it was my friend, Peggy from Pennsylvania.  I couldn’t believe she was here.  Not only that, but she was wearing a skirt derived from one of Candace’s patterns in the book and Candace asked her to model it for us.  Peg is one talented knitter and it was such a treat to see her AND her lovely skirt.

Knitted Skirts

Knitted Skirts

I later went over to the Knitter’s Magazine booth and took some pictures of several of the skirts from Candace’s book.  Just lovely!

Knitter's Magazine Sweaters

Knitter’s Magazine Sweaters

The other free presentation that I attended was given by the editor of Knitter’s Magazine, who went over how he chooses what designs will go into each issue.  He walked us through the next issue that will be hitting the stands soon.  Very interesting.  The Knitter’s Magazine booth had some of these featured in the issue on display so that you could see them in person.

trip-sweater

This sweater is one that will be in the next issue (whose theme was stratification, I think he said).  I love the colors and the layers they create.

Stitches Marketplace

Stitches Marketplace

Of course, one of my favorite places was the marketplace.  StevenB was there with the largest selection of Hedgehog Fibres yarn that I’ve ever seen in one spot.  I also want to give a “shout-out” to two of my new favorite vendors  – Twisted Owl Fiber Studio and Stunning String Studio.

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Hedgehog Yarn

Hedgehog Yarn

Of course, I found some yummy yarn to take home.  These two groupings will be used for some Stephen West shawls.

To the Pajama Party

To the Pajama Party

Stitches Texas held a “pajama party” one of the evenings and our group headed down that night in the elevator.  There is one lady in this pic who wasn’t with our group.  She looks like she can’t quite figure out what we are doing.  Well, we’re having fun.  Duh!

Time for Hibachi Yummies

Time for Hibachi Yummies

Speaking of fun, we also enjoyed the Indian restaurant near our hotel, Italian the first day, and a Japanese hibachi restaurant.  I am not a big fan of hibachi (much ado about nothing veggies) but wow, was my teriyaki steak melt in your mouth.  Fantastic!

Last minute bargains

Last minute bargains

On the day of our departure, we headed over to the convention center to wait to hear who had won the Grand Prize.  You had to be present to win so we were all there.  As we sat and waited, I noticed that one by one, our group was trickling over to a nearby booth that had yarn for sale at 60-70% off.  Pretty soon, they were coming back with big bags full of yarn.  I wandered over but resisted the temptation, plus I didn’t want to have to lug any last-minute purchases on the plane.

With great luck, one of our group won one of the Grand Prizes (they had divided it up to 3 cash prizes of equal value).  We whooped and hollered with glee because now our friend could go buy that luxury yarn she’d been eyeing for the entire weekend.

I DID forget to mention that I took two classes – one on knitting ergonomics (a very informative class) and one on crochet entrelac (decided that I don’t like entrelac any more crocheted than I do knitted).

Lessons learned as I left Stitches Texas?

-Take a sweater or shawl to the convention center.  It was frigid the entire weekend in the building.

-Uber is rather fun.

-Take lots of money because convention cities/areas are expensive.

-Trying to get 11 women moving in the same direction and on the same page for group activities is nigh to impossible.

-Next time photograph more of the stunning knitwear attendees were wearing.

-And finally, Mama’s insistence that I learn to be a negotiator and a peacemaker is a valuable skill to have when traveling with a group.

Knit on, my friends, until our next great adventure!

Shrinky Dink Knitting Stitch Markers

markers1

I’m getting ready to head up to the Stitches Texas conference for knitters, crocheters and other fiber artists.  As part of the planned fun, there are a bunch of us who will be participating in a stitch marker exchange.  So I’ve been busy making stitch markers for this.

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Yes, I’ve been making LOTS of stitch markers.  In fact, my group of knitting friends who are going to the conference have been meeting and working on our markers together, which is a load of fun, let me tell you.

markers3

Our latest “workshop” involved making markers out of Shrinky Dinks paper.  It has been many, many years since I did anything with Shrinky Dinks and this proved to be lots of fun.  If you aren’t familiar with the process, here is roughly how to do it.

markers5

You can buy Shrinky Dinks at most craft stores.  It comes in thin sheets of plastic-like material or heavy vinyl.  At the store I got mine from, they had matte, frosted, and white shrinky dinks paper.  In the picture above this one, the matte markers are the ones that are black and white.  The white markers were made from white shrinking paper.  And the frosted ones are the semi-transparent ones in a bit of color and black and white.  I found that, for the matte paper, I needed to take a green scrubber like you use for scrubbing a pan and lightly rough up one side of the paper so that I could easily draw on it.

OK, here is what you do.

1. For markers, find something circular, if you like that shape (i.e. the bottom of a pill bottle) and trace the circles onto the paper.  You might want to experiment with several sizes of circles and go through the whole process, including baking them so that you can see what size they will end up.

2.  Using Sharpie pens (or even Crayola-type coloring pencils/crayons), draw your design of choice on each circle.  I used a piece of paper to rest my hand on while drawing (starting at the top of my Shrinky Dinks page) so that the oils from my hands wouldn’t interfere with the ability of the pens to draw on the paper.

3.  Now cut out each circle.

4.  Using a hole punch, punch a hole at the top of each circle.  (NOTE:  You MUST punch any holes you want to make before you bake these otherwise you’ll be trying to drill a hole in a hard, small object.

5.  Now, put a sheet of parchment paper down on a cookie sheet (I used a jelly roll pan which is just a cooky sheet with a little lip all around it so that, if they “jumped” while baking, they wouldn’t accidentally slip off my sheet and gunk up my oven).  Place your shrinky dinks circles on the parchment paper.  NOTE:  I think I placed mine about 2 or so inches apart.

6.  Bake in a 350 degree oven.  At this point, you need to turn on your oven light and watch them.  First they will start to curl up until they look like little bowls.  Don’t panic.  This is normal.  They will gradually lay back down flat.  When they have flattened back down, you can take them out of the oven.  NOTE:  The whole procedure takes probably less than 5 minutes.

7.  Now, using a second sheet of parchment paper, lay that extra sheet of the paper on top of the baked shrinky dinks and use a flat spatula to press down briefly on each one.  This will just ensure that they are nice and flat.

8.  I then slide the baked shrinky dinks (which are much smaller than they were originally, plus thicker) onto another sheet of parchment paper on my counter and let them cool, which doesn’t take long.

markers4

To finish making the markers, I open up a jump ring and insert it into the hole and then close up the jump ring.  There you have it.  You’ve made your own stitch markers.  If you aren’t familiar at all with jewelry making, you’ll probably want to get a few tools.

I particularly like the following:

Beadsmith Jump Ring Opening and Closing Tool

Beadsmith 1-Step Looper Pliers

A Crimper

A set of jewelry pliers like these, which are a nice size to throw into a bag when going off to work on markers with friends.

You’ll also need see-through containers for your beads, assorted jump rings, and 2 or 3-inch headpins for making the beaded markers shown at the top of this post.  But for shrinky dinks markers, it’s pretty simple:  jump rings, hole punch, and shrinky dinks paper (they DO make generic shrinking vinyl paper, if you want to save some bucks).

Now go pretend you’re a kid again and make some crafts.

 

Thumbs Up to Occupational Therapy!

swollen thumb

I’ve been doing occupational therapy for my hands lately in an attempt to see if therapy might strengthen them and also get my one swollen thumb to bend a little.    The therapists who initially examined me and then watched me knit a bit (since that is the most repetitive thing that I do on a daily basis) concluded that the thumb inflammation is probably due to a combination of a lifetime of pressing the thumb against my needle to hold stitches in place and the fact that I have osteoarthritis in my hands.

“My hands are already deforming,” I told the therapists, “just like my mother’s did and my grandmother’s hands changed as they aged.”

I glanced up to see them wince at the word “deforming.”  Hey, I could have used “mutating” but I call it like it is.  I’ve already got Quasimodo’s hump for a back.  What’s a few crooked fingers?

The swollen finger, though, is new.  My OT worker thinks that the tip is starting to rotate like some of my other finger tips have already done and this is causing the top joint to be so out of alignment that it can’t freely rotate over the IP joint.  Add to this the fact that I tend to push that thumb in a backward curve when I rest it against the needle in my right hand (or crochet hook) and you get added stress.

ergo grip

Today my therapist had me picking up smooth little stones and buttons.

“How does THAT feel?” she asked me as I picked up buttons out of a box and put them on the table.

“Feels just like home,” I answered her.  “I sew so I do this a lot.  I’m always searching through my box of buttons.”

We discussed other areas where I’m having difficulties.  I mentioned that it is uncomfortable to write and that my writing is getting worse from not being able to bend my thumb.

She popped up and came back into the room with the foam tube above that she proceeded to cut down and slit open so I could slip a pen or pencil into it.  She also recommended that soft pencil grippers would be good for my writing utensils.

Non ergo scissors

“I also get my thumb caught in scissors,” I told her.

ergo scissors

“You need ergonomic scissors,” she said.  Luckily I have a pair of small ones and I’ll have to get a bigger pair of scissors for sewing.

Then a hand specialist came in and started spouting off the things I should do (or not do) to get my thumb less inflamed.

I asked her about the knitting especially since I often knit 6-7 hours a day or more and she said she really couldn’t say without seeing me actually holding the needles.  We found two pens and improvised.

“You probably need to reduce that amount of knitting if you want the thumb to heal,” she ordered.

“Not going to happen,” I said.  “Knitting is the only thing that keeps me on an even keel.  However, I WILL take more breaks and continue to make a more conscious effort to put less pressure on that thumb when I’m holding it against the stitches.”

After she left, my therapist suggested a thumb brace to help reduce the stress on the thumb.  I introduced her to “knitting gloves” although she first got pages of “how to knit gloves” when she did a search.

“Let me help you,” I offered.  “I worked in libraries for many years and I’m an ace at searching the Net.  Let’s try ‘compression gloves.”  Voila!  That did the trick.

So now I’m waiting on my hand brace with the 3/4 thumb covering.  There are a lot of compression gloves out there but most stop below the top thumb joint.  I’m hopeful that this will be a breakthrough along with giving my hands more breaks.

On the plus side, the hospital’s elevators for the public were broken and I had to ride up to OT in the staff elevator so when I left OT, I decided to just walk down the steps.

A man in the waiting room called out, “Hey, they DID get one of the elevators working.”

Uh, no thanks.  I didn’t feel too confident riding in an elevator that had just been having problems especially since I was once stuck in an elevator…with my brother…twice in the same afternoon.

I walked down the three flights of steps and went to push open the door into the lobby.  Yikes, it was locked and apparently you needed a staff card to swipe in order to open it.  I looked around in a panic until I noticed an exit door to the outside behind me.

Out I went only to find myself way in the back of the hospital in some workers’ parking lot.  I ended up having to walk ALL AROUND the hospital complex (and it was a very big complex) in temps hovering in the “feels like 106 degrees” mark before I reached my car. At least I got my exercise for the day!

 

A Yarn Dyeing Workshop

Drying Skeins

Drying Skeins

Several days ago, I and six of my knitting friends took a Dyeing Workshop with Elizabeth Inman of Vice Yarns.  We learned 4-5 dyeing techniques and got to pick our own colors to try on a generous number of skeins and scarf or sock blanks.

IMG_5636

We first worked on the Speckled Yarn technique.  Speckled yarn is really “in” right now, especially with Brioche knitters.  I’m not going to even attempt to tell you how to do these techniques.  I was too busy just enjoying the day and trying my hand at each of them.  I’d encourage you to sign up for a dyeing class and, if you happen to live in the Houston area, contact Elizabeth at Vice Yarns  and take her workshop.  It is fabulous.

IMG_5590

I can’t remember what this next technique is called but it involved a lot of knotting and reknotting and dipping in dye vats.

Dip That Skein

Dip That Skein

It was really something to see how the yarn would change with each dipping.  Everyone’s skein was so different, too.

Dipped Skein

Dipped Skein

Here is a closeup of my dipped skein.  I’m holding it in one of the pictures above.  The technique rather reminded me of my days in college doing tie-dyeing.

Safety First

Safety First

Oh, yes.  We had to wear paper masks over our mouths and noses and wear safety goggles when we were doing the speckled technique since you shouldn’t breathe the powdered dye in.  That was the only one that needed those precautions.  For the rest of the techniques, we wore latex gloves just so we wouldn’t go home with dyed hands.

Another Technique

Another Technique

This was another technique but I can’t remember what it was called for the life of me.  It involved squirting liquid dye onto the skeins with syringes.  I remember that much.

Drying Skeins

Drying Skeins

We did rainbow dyeing and the skeins at the top of this picture above are the rainbow skeins.  Many of my friends chose to “overdye” their skeins in a diluted purple vat after they had steamed but I left mine bright.  This picture shows them before they were overdyed.  The overdyeing simply mutes the colors.

Dyed Blanks

Dyed Blanks

We were able to dye blanks which are preknitted into a yarn fabric and then you dye them.  After they are dry, you can pull them apart and skein them.  Those were fun.  Elizabeth showed us how to do a gradient yarn dye on them and some attempted this.  I wasn’t that brave so just did different color blocks.  The picture above isn’t mine, by the way.  One of my friends took it but I don’t remember which one.  However, since I didn’t get a picture of the blanks drying, I wanted to include it here.

Dyeing Blanks

Dyeing Blanks

Here are two of my friends.  One is dyeing her blank and another is giving her a free “consult.”

Here are a few more pictures from our dyeing adventure:

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IMG_5593

IMG_5576IMG_5568

At the end of the day, I came home with these.  What is especially nice is that you can purchase additional blanks or skeins for the workshop and I chose to do an extra blank.

My Dyed Yarn

My Dyed Yarn

What a fun way to spend a sunny day here in the Great State of Texas.  Check out Vice Yarns and, if you live in the Houston area, lucky you!  You, too, can spend a day learning dyeing techniques from Elizabeth.

 

 

Knitting Gadgets for Arthritic Fingers

Viking5

I have arthritis in my hands which continues to weaken their strength while slowly deforming the shape of the fingers.  My mother and my grandmother both had the same thing.  It can be frustrating (boy, do I hate how hard it is to open jars, etc.) or comical (have you ever tried to point a finger at someone when your “pointer” is aiming sideways?) but mainly it’s just a fact of life that I work around.

One area that I have to get creative about is with my knitting.  I’m an avid knitter.  Now this sounds like it would make things worse with the arthritis but I find it actually keeps my fingers looser when I knit regularly.  I’m always on the look-out, though, for tools that will make life easier on my hands when I knit.

Viking2

One area that I have trouble with is blocking my shawls.  I have always used “T-Pins” to pin them out on my blocking mats but lately it has gotten harder and harder to push those pin into the mats.  I’ve also found it harder to get down on my knees on the floor to pin out things so I’m now using table tops and the top of the guest-room bed.  Of course, I’m not really keen on pushing a long pin into the mats with the chance they’ll go through and mar the surface of our table.  That means I’ve been doubly motivated to find some alternate tool solution.  Enter “Knit Blockers.”

Viking4

Knit Blockers are a blocking tool made by Knitter’s Pride.  They come in a little hard plastic case and consist of 12 longer blockers with 8 pins sticking out and 8 smaller blockers with four pins each.

Viking6

The pins are held in place with a plastic top that is easy to grasp and easy to push into your blocking mat/knit fabric.   The pins are also not as long as the T-pins so there is much less chance of them going through your mat and out the other side.

Viking

For my recent Vikings Shawl, I used these in conjunction with blocking wires and they made pinning out the straight sections a breeze.

Viking3

I will say that I still resorted to the T-Pins to get my points in the shawl.  I suppose you could use the smaller KnitBlockers and maybe pin it vertically through the points but I simply didn’t have enough of the blockers to do that.

All in all, I’d say that these KnitBlockers are an excellent choice to add to the tool arsenal of the arthritic knitter.  I know that I liked them so much that I plan to get an additional set.  They are available from various vendors, such as Amazon and Jimmy Bean.

But I GOT the Flu Shot!

Meds

It just seems like, well, last month that I was really sick with coughing, chest congestion, and major sinus drainage.  Whatever I had back in February really knocked me for a loop and I wasn’t the only one.  This ailment had been making the rounds of my knitting friends.

This month, I was doing fine until this past week.  We spent part of the day with the grandkids earlier last week and I noticed that little Spud had snot flowing out of his nose while Sweet Pea was hacking away.  Of course, they were touching me, my phone, etc. but they are the “grands” so what can you do?  You love them, runny noses and all.

This past Sunday, I woke up feeling just a tad “off.”  Throughout the day, the feeling persisted and by last Sunday evening, I was suddenly hit yet again with the drainage and the hacking cough.  As the week progressed, we got the word that our grandson had tested positive for the flu.  In the meantime, my hubby and my son were now laid low with the same thing and even the baby was very cranky.

All week I’ve been fighting coughing, achy body, a dull headache, and sinus congestion alternating with lots of drainage.  I finally broke down today and went to a local clinic.  After I filled out my symptoms and was ushered into the examining room, the nurse said, “Hmmm, sounds like you have the flu.”

She grabbed a flu testing kit and came over to me with this long swab.  I dutifully opened my mouth.

“Oh, no,” she chuckled, “This doesn’t go in your mouth.”

“Huh?” I responded, startled.  “Where does it go?”

“This has to go up your nose and not just inside your nose, …it has to be way up beyond the bridge of your nose and I have to do it in each nostril,” she answered.

She promised me she’d be gentle and she was.  After a few minutes, she asked me, “Did you say you had gotten a flu shot this year?”

I assured her that not only had I gotten my flu shot but I also had made sure it was the one for “old folks.”  In other words, I got the high-dose version.

“Well, guess you might want to get the “high-high dose next time,” she said and walked out, leaving me waiting for the clinician.

When SHE arrived, she said, “So I guess you got the bad news, hmm?”

“No,” I replied. “What do I have?”

She told me I had the flu and assured me that I wasn’t alone in coming down with this despite getting the flu shot.  The CDC had told medical staff that this flu season’s dose was turning out to be only about 50% effective.  Together, she and I decided that Tamiflu wasn’t a wise option at this point, since I’d been fighting it since Sunday.  However, she DID prescribe an array of other meds for me, at which point I told her that perhaps I’d better encourage my husband to come in to be seen, since he seemed sicker than me.

Long story short, he DID go in and he also has the flu.  He did not get any meds, though and when I asked why, he said that the doctor said he was well on the road to recovery and she didn’t think he needed anything more than the over-the-counter things he was already taking.  Man, I thought, I must be a lot sicker than I realized.

So now, happily medicated, I’ll tell you what knitting things I’m working on.   I’ve been knitting the Vikings Binge MKAL Shawl and even sick as I have been, I’ve been enjoying it.  Jimmy Beans Wool, by the way, has some wonderful little Viking stitch markers if you’d like to really go all-out with this project.  Before I ordered my yarn, I looked at quite a few pictures of the fjords of Scandinavia and picked my colors from some of my favorite pictures.

VMKAL

I’m just finishing up Clue #3 and then will start the final clue (all the clues are now published so you don’t even have to wait if you decide to purchase the pattern).

Cyprus

On the Texas front, I’ve been complaining about strange little knobs (which I am now told are called “knees”) that are all over our back yard.  I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from since we have no trees in the back yard, only a shrub along a back wall that has a grocery store on the other side.  The shopping center developers planted trees all along the concrete barrier wall between them and our subdivision, probably when the center and subdivision were first built.  Now my son tells me that the trees behind our wall are most likely Bald Cypress trees which send out these “knees” all over, growing more profuse and taller as they get more moisture.  Thank goodness it hasn’t been really wet because the darn things in our yard have remained about 3 or 4 inches tall but that’s still plenty of aggravation for the mowers and us, whenever we try to walk around in the back yard because they lurk in the grass and you end up twisting your ankles as you walk over them.  I would just like to go on record to say that I think it was a very stupid choice of tree to plant behind people’s homes.  Plus the darn things lose all of their needles in the fall and we have the needle debris all over our yard to contend with.  However, I guess I can learn to live in harmony with my interloping friends as long as the roots don’t choke out my little kishu mandarin tree.

My Scoreboard Cowl

Scoreboard Pittsburgh Steelers Cowl

Scoreboard Pittsburgh Steelers Cowl

I recently finished not one, but TWO Scoreboard Cowls after a busy, high-scoring football season.  I made one in Pittsburgh Steelers colors for my daughter and one in University of Michigan colors for my brother.  For those unfamiliar with the Scoreboard Cowl, you basically decide what team you want to follow and then you take that team’s colors and assign one color for the team and the other color is assigned to all of the opponent teams.  Then you knit a certain number of rows in the appropriate colors based on the points scored.  You do this for EVERY game they play.  If the team has a third color, you can use that (or another color of your choice) to separate the games.  You can find the pattern, designed by Michelle Hunter, here.  It’s a free pattern, which is always nice.

Scoreboard2

At first, it was exciting to knit up the game scores.  However, that quickly faded as both of my teams were involved again and again in HIGH-SCORING games.  I was starting to worry that this would be a cowl that stretched to Pittsburgh and back to Texas.

Scoreboard5

By the time I got to the playoffs, I decided that I was stopping.  No way would this cowl drag on any further.  I had knit up the regular season but enough was enough.  Now came the moment of truth.  Would this cowl even be wearable as long as it was?

Scoreboard4

I looped it around once.  Too long!  I looped it around twice – still too long.  I looped it around three times and that was where I decided to stop.

Scoreboard3

Thank goodness that my daughter lives in a cold climate.  She “maybe” will wear this.  However, since she can be rather picky, I’m afraid that she might take one look at it and burst out laughing and say to me, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me, Mom.”  But hey, I’ve got a back-up plan.  Since she’s pregnant, I figure she can always pull one loop down further and use the whole shebang as a baby sling.

U of M scarf

My brother’s U of Michigan cowl was trickier.  I had started it with a worsted weight yarn, not the sport-weight that the pattern calls for.  Halfway through the season I realized that this was going to be the cowl from H_ll.  It was much too heavy and growing by leaps and bounds.  I set it aside and went out to purchase Michigan colors in a fingering weight yarn and then I started the whole thing over again but this time as a scarf.  It was still long but much lighter.  I knit all the way through the Citrus Bowl and then I stopped, put a crocheted border around it and machine-embroidered the year on the end.  I don’t know if he is ever going to use it but at least the project was finished.

Will I knit another Scoreboard Cowl?  Not in its current version.  If I do this again, I’ll figure out a way to make it shorter and more manageable.  I might try for a “checkerboard” effect to separate my games.  I did such an effect at the very end of the Pittsburgh cowl and I liked how that came out.  But for now, I have no immediate plans to knit another of these cowls.  However, I sure found that I felt pretty savvy during the football season when it came to talking stats for my two teams.  I don’t think that I’ve EVER followed the stats like I did this year.  Go Blue!

The Fun of Group Knitting Projects

Scarf

There’s just something about working on a project, knowing that other friends are working on the same project.  In my case, it tends to be a knitting project.  For example, I’ve been working on the ZickZack Scarf by Christy Kamm for quite awhile.  The needles were tiny and my yarn was splitting like crazy, which made it an aggravating knit but the pattern itself is quite easy and it is free up on Ravelry.  It was my “go-to” project that I’d grab whenever I needed some mindless knitting in a group situation.

Several times I thought about retiring this to the dark recesses of my craft room closet because I was just so tired of knitting (albeit sporadically) on it but what always gave me pause, was knowing that my friend Cyndi was also working away on hers.  It was fun to compare notes and to challenge each other to keep going.

Owl3

This little guy was part of a knitting guild group project.  It’s somewhat different in that we weren’t all knitting up the same pattern.  We just had to choose an ornament pattern and knit it, to be judged at our Christmas party.  Knowing that the other ladies were knitting away sure got my competitive juices going and it spurred me to be extra-creative in choosing my pattern (a variation of Owl Puffs by Jenna Krupar).  This pattern is also free, by the way.  It was a lot of fun to see the different ornaments that were created when the “big reveal” occurred.

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The latest group project that my knitting friends and I have been doing together is the Doodler shawl by Stephen West.  Quite a few of us have been knitting this and here are some observations I’ve noted on the benefits of doing projects like this together, as a group.

1.  You have the benefit of the group’s opinions when you are picking your yarn for such a project.  You know how much fun it is to grab various skeins and then mix and match them to try to get just the right color combination and yarn combination?  Having a group of friends available to offer their opinions can be quite helpful.  It’s also fun to see what the others are choosing.  I think this benefit gives a knitter a bit of a creative edge because your creativity is being encouraged by all the input you are receiving.

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2.  Working on the same project keeps you motivated to continue, even when the knitting gets difficult.  There are many times when someone in our group might say they plan to throw in the towel, so to speak and we’ve been able to encourage them to stick with it.

3.  You have many knitters of differing abilities who you can turn to for help when you get stuck in a project or when you aren’t sure of a certain technique.  My group gets together several times throughout the week and as we’ve been working on The Doodler, the more experienced knitters have been like having a resident knitting teacher onsite.

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4.  Since group members all work at differing paces, someone is usually able to give other members a “heads-up” if there are certain spots in a pattern that might be a little tricky or if there is a tip that would really help out in the various stages of the project.

5.  It’s just plain fun to see all of the different variations of a project done by each group member.

Downton Shawl2

Some months ago, a group of us knit up Edith’s Secret by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich.  It was the Downton Abbey Mystery Knit-a-long 2015 shawl.  Now a group of us are picking out our yarn for the Downton Abbey MKAL 2016 shawl.  We’ve been texting each other to announce that our yarn has arrived or to post pictures of the yarn we’ve chosen.  Soon we’ll be casting on when the first clue is released.  I can’t wait.

If you haven’t tried group project knitting, grab a group of friends, go through some patterns and pick a project.  I think you’ll end up with, not only a lovely finished knitting piece, but also a shared experience that will bring you even closer as a knitting circle.

 

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