December in Chicago and the first snows have fallen, right along with the temperature. I was afraid I wouldn’t have what I needed so I knit as fast as my fingers permitted – just to make sure I was ready for the drop.
It’s not as though I don’t have hand knits to wear, right? The conundrum this year had to do with a cape and the colors of that cape. Yes, a brown, cream, charcoal and rust colored tweedy wool cape that very much put me in the mind of the old Sherlock Holmes movies. Beautiful, dashing things WITHOUT sleeves. What to do, what to do? My workable option came in the form of Malabrigo Hand Thingies (Ravelry). I like the faux-rib created by the slipped knit stitch, so I adapted the pattern to create fingerless mitts that extend to the elbow. No sleeves? No problem.
(2) skeins of Cascade 128 Chunky Solid in Charcoal Grey
Size 10.75 US needles
Although I used heavier yarn than called for in the pattern, I still cast on the requisite number of stitches. I followed the pattern as written except I kept going until I’d knit the length of my forearm, alternating k2, sl 1 row with knit row until to about 2 inches shy of my wrist. I then repeated the purl row, knit row banding as in the beginning of the normal Thingie pattern and voila! Thingies At Arm’s Length:
Malabrigo Arm Thingies
I’ve never worn this cape so I decided its debut wouldn’t be complete without a neckwarmer and matching hat. The challenge here came in the form of the flared-bottom shape of the cape. It absolutely requires a fuller shaped hat to help balance top to bottom. I have enough body issues so I refuse to look like a tweed-clad penguin with a tiny head and large body. I settled on Natalie Larson’s Star Crossed Slouchy Beret (Ravelry). The slouch and the fullness of the softly cabled top really appeals to me.
For the neckwarmer, I stuck with the Malabrigo Neck Thingie pattern, using one skein (210 yards) Malabrigo worsted weight merino in Red Java. Two days, start to finish:
Red Hot Malabrigo Neck Thingie
There is no way I was going to go the completely matching ensemble route though, which is why I chose the same pattern for arm and neck thingies, then the same color for neck thingie and slouchy beret. I’ll try to snap a picture of the complete look once I get cracking on the beret.
Knitty Eleanor Cowl
I actually cast on for Eleanor in mid October but those 132 stitches sat for two weeks – just the promise of a cowl at that point. I knit it in fits and starts, hence the delay in finishing this beautifully simple pattern. I thought chart-reading would be a problem after my long knitting hiatus but this is easy-peasy. If you’re sitting on the fence about this pattern, time to jump in and knit it!
It helps that I rediscovered my Knee-sel™ from Nancy’s Knit Knacks. Totally worth whatever I paid for it. The name comes from the fact that you can prop it on your knee to read and knit at the same time. It is a perfectly portable easel with a pop-up flap to hold papers or charts in place. It made knitting in the waiting room so much more manageable, without having to wrangle papers along with a wily ball of yarn and needles.
By the way, I have no affiliation with Nancy or her Knit Knacks.
Choices and modifications
- The pattern calls for sport-weight such as Lorna’s Laces or similar. I used about 2/3rds of one skein of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks bamboo merino worsted with no adjustments for gauge. Despite weight difference, the cowl still retains the grace of lace but with a bit of heft from the slightly beefier yarn.
- I chose to knit the piece flat because I found it easier to manage moving the stitch markers. I cast on using size 9 US and switched to size 8 once I finished Chart A.
- I used Ravelry member Nakiru’s modifications to Chart B to make the pattern more symmetrical:
Edit rows 17, 31 and 45 of chart B so that the decreases in these rows showing “k-k2tog-k2tog-k2tog-k2tog” become “ssk-ssk-k1- k2tog-k2tog.” I tinkered with the pattern chart to make this mod a bit clearer:
Eleanor, Chart B Mods
- By the way, there is a bit of errata in the written instructions. Where it says, “When you begin working Rounds 5, 15, 35 and 48,” it should read “When you begin working Rounds 5, 15, 35 and 43.” The chart itself is correctly highlighted.
- Because the yarn is worsted weight, I did not repeat rows 23-49 as called for in the pattern. I had already reached the finish height of 12” by the time I hit row 50.
- I used a Kitchener stitch to seam the cowl. It might have been easier to do a 3-needle bind-off or crochet the two sides together but this way, the seam came out nice and clean with little tell-tale thickness on the inside.
There is actual knitting going on chez moi. This is Knitty’s Eleanor knitting up nicely in Kitchen Sink Dyeworks bamboo merino blend. I found this lovely yarn on sale at Chicago’s YarnCon in early October.
I seem to be knitting this neckwarmer in fits and starts, having cast on 132 stitches and letting it sit for a week before doing a few rows. Lather, rinse, repeat. The real progress came from a concerted effort to make the most of the time spent waiting in the doctor’s office. With yarn cake nestled in my über cute somersaulting kitties Piddleloop bag, I was able to break through well into Chart B of the pattern. At this rate, I predict completion this year!
Eleanor in progress
Now to the “Kitty” portion of our program: Nikita’s birthday is October 29th. As he emerged in 1996, that makes him 14 years old and just as cute (though not as spry) as the day he was born. I’m not going to lie to you. He’s had some recent health problems – one of which seemed to develop suddenly. He’s bounced back from the weight loss and dehydration and seems much like his old self. His heart is still a concern but the vet reminded me that cats, unlike dogs, don’t do things to please us. She says that if he wants to play, let him. And so, life goes on. One bowl of tuna at a time.
Nikita and his birthday tuna
It brings together those of us who believe in its soothing properties and the implied promise of renewed creativity. It gives us a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones. It feels good to know that, although you’ve fallen away from the local scene, the people who “knew you when” still welcome you as one of their own. Best of all, we get presents! What could this magical October event be? YarnCon!
YarnCon bills itself as Chicago’s only independent fiber festival and yarn-centric exhibition. The convention, now in its fourth year, is the brainchild of “two Chicago knitters and otherwise crafty gals,” Natalia Wilson and Sara Ware. Wilson and Ware say their intention was to find a way to support and promote locally-owned businesses and producers. It seems the dozens of vendors in attendance provide fitting testament to the success of their effort.
Since I’m (mostly) on a self-imposed yarn-buying ban, if was not my intention to bring home any fiber. Trouble is, I couldn’t resist a good sale at Kitchen Sink Dyeworks, a new beautiful colorway from Sophie’s Toes, an adorable wedge bag from Piddleloop or a mystery bag of yarn for $5 from Chicago Knitters Unite.
Turquoise - Kitchen Sink Dyeworks and New Plum - Sophie's Toes
Blue Mystery Yarn and my new Piddleloop Bag
Right now, I think the Kitchen Sink yarn will become Knitty’s beautiful cowl, Eleanor. Dunno yet what fate awaits either Sophie’s Toes or the Mystery Yarn which I bought, sight unseen. Chicago Knitters Unite had a table loaded with brown paper bags cryptically labeled “Pretty In Pink” and “Fuzzy.” I bought a bag of the “Blues.” All I can say is that I saved so much money that I cried, “Wee-we-we-Wee!” all the way home.
The cool, grey days. The school bus days. The days with geese flying away in formation toward warmer climes. It’s days like these that say to me loud and clear, “Where the heck have you been?! Could you have been knitting and crocheting and just forgot to blog about it?” My answer is D) None of the above.
I started to write something a month ago but then the, “Oh shiny!” got the best of me. I’ve been trying to get out more because socializing is supposed to be something we humans need to have a certain “quality of life.” I’ve got pictures of most of my adventures. Thank goodness no one shot video of me doing my interpretive chicken dance. Yes, I have one, complete with sound effects. Sweet baby corn, the cats just love it!
Here’s a loose timeline of events:
May and June – Arthroscopic surgery and recovery, including physical therapy. No pictures, unless you rilly, rilly want to see inside my shoulder. Just ask.
July and August – Freakishly hot hereabouts, with the resulting freakishly huge electric bill; washing machine broke; rode my bike for the first time in 9 years.
Fell off said bike – backwards, no less. I am talented that way.
Am I Blue?
Sold valuable yarn to buy my Nutcase helmet to more safely ride said Madwagon bike.
Nutcase - Keeping My Brains Intact
Played tourist with visiting friends – from tours of the Chicago River and the Tall Ships to Chinese artists’ displays and Cloudgate (The Bean) in Millennium Park. I really do enjoy this city – even though I know it’s much more than the pretty lakefront and downtown architecture.
Wrigley Building & Tribune Tower
Tall Ship Sail & Mast
Man versus Pig
Inside The Bean
September and you’re welcome to it. September is that month with multiple personality disorder: I shall be HOT! I shall be cool. I shall be rainy and miserable. I shall be perfectly cromulent. You will love me because I signal an end and a beginning; because it means the kinder are back in their holding pens – um, school. It means both my Old Man Kitty and I have new medical issues, with his more serious than mine. My MRI and his echocardiogram will tell the tale. Later.
Physical therapy is well underway, with a week’s worth of sessions under my belt. Over-achiever that I am, I can already raise my right arm at least 140 degrees – well past the 90 degrees I strained for just one week ago. The sad part is that I still can’t completely brush my own hair as this involves reaching back or across, which is one of those “not quite yet, Karen” moves.
Until I’m a bit further along in the recuperating, I thought I’d take advantage of my camera’s image stabilization feature to capture a couple of things in my wee garden. Enjoy!
Columbine and Concrete
You go to a very good surgeon who knows how to use his own tools of the trade to reattach, reshape, shave and sew (as needed) to put the FO (me) to right.
I had my first post-op appointment. Doc says things look good. In fact, from the size of the incisions, it looks as though I’d just received a few shallow scratches. In reality, there was a whole lot of shaving and bone spur removal going on. Turns out that I also had a partial rotator cuff tear. No wonder it hurt like hell to knit, with all that stuff in the way and the shoulder joint partially dislodged at times from the socket. For the medically curious, click this link to see an actual “inside my shoulder” picture. Top left picture is my collar bone. Top right is the frayed socket. Others should move on.
In knitting news, I think I love these new Signature Circulars. Not only are they a lovely bright blue, the stiletto points work so well. Not so sharp that they poke your finger mind you, but just right for the “grab and lift” you need for knitting nice, even stitches – even as you nod off from the pain meds and audio books. I’m peeved about sleeping through the first few chapters of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls” as I will have to start from the beginning. Still, I have made progress on Nicole Hindes’ Strangling Vine Scarf (Ravelry).
Strangling Vine Scarf
The jury is out on the impact Phase Two (physical therapy) will have on my speed and skill at keeping the knit going. I am, however, a compliant patient with an interest in continued improvement. So yeah. I’m going to PT.
Vine Scarf Begins
It may not look like much but, to me, it means a lot. Here’s the timeline:
May 10th – shoulder surgery
May 12th – wake up in my own bed
May 12th – begin mild movements of shoulder
May 15th – begin knitting, albeit slowly
The pattern is Nicole Hindes’ Strangling Vine Lace Scarf (Ravelry). The needles are newly acquired Signature Circulars, size 5 (3.75 mm). The yarn is some long-ago stashed SeaSilk. The stiletto tips handle the fine, slippery yarn with ease.
The importance to me? Priceless, because even this little bit of knitting gives me hope. I may have 2-3 months of physical therapy to look forward to, but I expect to be back – strong and stitching!
Thanks so much for your good wishes. The surgery went well but the patient had an little incident that caused her to be admitted to the ICU overnight.
Alright. I’ll drop the third person to tell you that I went into a-fib near the end of what should have been a routine surgery (you know what that is if you watch any medical shows). It’s basically a heart arrhythmia. To be on the safe side, I was admitted for monitoring. They didn’t decide to spring me until after 4pm.
I can’t tell you how happy I was to sleep in my own room.
Sorry about being so cryptic about the DIY project in my last post. I wanted to make a few tweaks and figure out how to describe it first. I’m having arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder to (hopefully) fix some long-standing issues. It’s scheduled for Monday morning so, depending on where you are, the surgery may be happening right now! Isn’t that exciting. When they’re all done, I’ll have this fetching bandage and a fabulous new sling to keep my arm immobile. They tell me I need to ice this behemoth every hour for 20 minutes at a time, which is what sent me on the search for something to keep a cold pack in place. I had one more requirement: I needed to be able to adjust it with my non-dominant hand.
Naturally, the insurance company wouldn’t pop for the nifty cryotherapy unit that fits around the shoulder and delivers ice cold water at regular intervals. “Although I agree that it may aid healing, that is not something we approve,” said the firm but understanding voice on the other end. An online search yielded a couple of likely candidates for something to hold ice in place, but nothing completely suitable. They were either outrageously expensive or unclear as to dimensions or where it fastened. Assuming someone would be there to fasten a sling in the back didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – not for an average of $60 a pop.
I opted for a $15 neoprene ice pack holder with adjustable Velcro which, according to the package was suitable for shoulder or back. It only got me half-way there because it neither fit across the body (to ice the shoulder) or around the waist (to ice the back). One size fits all? Feh!
Here’s how I fashioned it into an ice sling that works for me:
Cut a length of heavy duty Velcro;
Fit it around your body (or on a conveniently located dressmaker’s dummy);
Pin in place at to the fabric on the non-adjustable end;
Cut that end on a 30-degree angle.
If you want to pretty it up like I did, cut a length of fabric, sew it in a tube around the Velcro, leaving the hooks and loops at the adjustable end uncovered. Slip-stitch the covered Velcro to the non-adjustable end. Easy.
I’m irrationally proud of how my Ice Sling (TM) turned out. I’m sure some venture capital folks will be contacting me any day now. I’ll be around the house for at least 6 weeks so call me. Seriously, any time is good.
I also finished something (hooray), likely the last thing for a while. This one is for one of the mothers and babies served by The Crafty Angels. I’ve never made anything to be donated, choosing instead to give yarn and other items to enable others to serve people in the Chicago area. This time, I let some forgotten yarn tell me what it wanted to be.
Crochet Baby Blanket
Yarn: 4 skeins of Berroco Comfort (1 cream, 1 blue, 2 green)
Hook: Size 9 / 5.5 mm
Pattern: 9 Patch Blanket (Lion Brand free pattern – registration required)
Difficulty: Easy, even for a beginner
All I did was modify the squares. Instead of creating a foundation chain per pattern, I used 23 stitches, then followed the pattern creating (7) 3-stitch clusters per row. If you crochet evenly, 14 rows (or 7 “bumps” per side) should yield a square measuring 5 inches. I underestimated the number of squares I ended up with, getting 6 from each skein instead of 4.
I laid out the squares in a diagonal pattern, then used a slip stitch to connect them. The finishing touch you see a bit of is a single crochet border.
Once my shoulder is back in good working order, I’ll pop this in the mail along with a cute little matching hat. I hope some little one will enjoy it.