How do you mend a broken knitter?

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).

Vine Scarf

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.

Can't Keep A Knitter Down

Vine Scarf

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!

Good to be back home!

Pink tulips

Pink Tulips

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.

Cut and Run

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!

sling detailHere’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.

Ice Sling

Ice Sling

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

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.

On The Avenue

I’ve been trying to wrap up a few things in anticipation of a fast-approaching knit and crochet hiatus.  At the same time, I’ve also been spending some fun time with friends over the past couple of weeks.  Walking, sampling some very fine craft beers, shopping and making new friends along the way.

First, there was Dark Lord Day.  Sounds ominous but it’s the one day a year when Three Floyds Russian Imperial Stout is made available to the public. Eight-thousand or so lovers of brew descended on the brewery in Northwest Indiana.  Good times, good times.

Dark Lord Day 2010

Dark Lord Day 2010

Next, my foodie pals from Chicago Bites stopped by the French Market on the day the Mayor of Paris paid a visit.  This prompted a search the for the best croissants in Chicago dubbed CroissantQuest2010.  I have fond memories of my first time on Paris, living on the cheap.  Freshly baked, flaky and buttery croissants along with cheese and a piece of fruit served as a great way to start the day.  I want to relive at least that part of my youth, calories be damned!

Since I had to walk along Michigan Ave on my way to the first bakery, I stopped to take a few pictures of the tulips dressing up the flower beds between the Tribune Building and Water Tower Place.  Aren’t they lovely?

White Tulips

White Tulips

Stacks of squares


In between the outdoor fun, I did manage to finish 24 crochet squares for a baby blanket to be donated to charity.  The squares are laid out and just waiting to be crocheted together in the next few days.  Look for a post detailing that later in the week, at which time I will also show you a DIY project involving neoprene, flowered fabric and Velcro.  You will be wowed at my ingenuity (::tongue -> cheek::).

We are everywhere!

Crochet squares

Baby blanket squares

The everyday stuff

I took my car in today for an oil change and tire rotation.  I was surprised to see the place so empty.  Then again, it was the middle of the week around the time that most 9-to-5’ers would have been at their posts.

Since I was the only one in the waiting room, Jimmy (the manager) tried to hand me the television remote, telling me I could watch whatever I wanted.  When Oprah’s opening credits rolled across the screen, I told him I wasn’t much of a fan of the typical daytime TV fare.  Besides, since I wasn’t sure how long it would take, I’d brought along some crochet for a  baby blanket in progress.  He looked surprised and said, “Wow.  You’re the third person this week to bring your knitting – or whatever it is you do with sticks – in here.”

I quickly replied, “This is crochet. And we’re everywhere.”

Jimmy is a slender, freckle-faced redhead who must be all of 25.  He tilted his chin up a bit, pointed a work-stained finger in my direction and laughed.  “Well at least help yourself to the coffee,” he said.  “It’s fresh.”

La Cabeza Love Yarn

"La Cabeza Love" Yarn

The gift of kindness

A while back, I did a random comment yarn giveaway.  Anyone who knows me understands how happy-making it is for me to give the gift of yarn.  There is never any expectation of reciprocity.

Imagine my surprise when I returned from the auto shop to discover that what I’d given had come back to me.   Behold my gorgeous new yarn, courtesy of Jen at Knitting Like Crazy.  She even named the colorway after my nom de plume, “La Cabeza Love,” my first ever eponymous yarn.  I tried really hard to capture the soft steel-gray blue shade, but the daylight is pretty meager at the moment.

It’s always a pleasure to open the mailbox and find something like this.  Makes the bills that were tucked underneath seem not quite so important for the moment.

She's a funny one.

My mother is not the crafty sort.  I mean, she’s creative in a quirky sort of way but knitting and crocheting are not her thing.  Case in point: I’m making PlanetJune’s crochet eggs for Easter.  I took one down from the armoire where they’re being stored out of cat’s reach to show to her.  She exclaimed, “Oh that’s so cute!  How do you get the egg inside?” ::crickets::

I love you Mom but no.  No egg cozies today.  They’re not exactly as beautiful or complicated as decorated Easter eggs from Eastern European traditions.  Just a few adorable, non-traditionally colored oeufes for your visual pleasure – a perfect use for small amounts of leftover yarn.  I’ll make a few more because Mom had a good idea: share the eggs with a nearby nursery school once they’ve served their intended purpose as Sunday centerpiece.  Now that, my dear mother, is using your head.

Crochet Easter Eggs

Crochet Easter Eggs

Forgot About It!

Oh, the forgotten yarn.  Hiding away in the dark in its original mailing envelope at the bottom of a shopping bag in an antique armoire not normally used to store yarn.  Forgotten because I’d inadvertently purchased the wrong weight to complete a baby ensemble last year.

Fast forward one year when Opal at Akamai Knitter mentioned the surprising softness of Berroco Comfort – especially considering there are no natural fibers whatsoever in the yarn.  Coincidentally, I was thinking of what I could make for one of the newborns aided by a local charity, Crafty Angels.  I was looking for something else altogether when I found the unused skeins of yarn.  There was actually a treasure trove of other yarns (Baby Cashmerino, Lorna’s Laces, SWTC Bamboo in a really hot red) but more on that another time.  That’s what happens when you run out of the usual places to tuck your yarn away.  Yes, even the rolling luggage has been pressed into service.

Moving on.  So what to do with 840 yards of yarn?  It’s still National Crochet Month so I hit upon 9-Patch Blanket for a newborn as a solution available on either Ravelry or  directly from the Lion Brand site (registration required).  I’m deviating from the original pattern by 1) using 23 stitch chain instead of 26 and 2) 16 patches instead of 9 because I should end up with 8 green squares and 4 apiece of the blue and cream.  I’m kinda  torn between pattern layouts.  One or Two?  I know where I’m leaning but I’m curious what you think.

Layout one Blanket Layout 2
Layout One                                        Layout Two

While I mull that over, I was reminded today that Easter is on the horizon.  I found this too adorable amigurumi Easter Egg pattern over at Plant June.  Imagine. No dye stains on your fingers.  No cracked shells.  Perfect eggs every time!  OK.  At least as perfect as your crochet stitches.

FO: Ready to go public

Citron shawl complete

Pretty Raspberry Citron

Eleven days from start to finish.  Not a bad pace for me given that there were 440+ stitches at the end.  You’ll see from the finished product that I did not add a ruffle.  Why not?  Observe that little twist of yarn.  When you’ve only got a few yards to play with, you don’t take chances. I did add a little frilly edge but that’s it.  Still, I really liked how it turned out.

Final measurements (post blocking): 41” wide by 20” down the back.


The finished Citron started out as 480 yards of delicious, slightly variegated raspberry-colored yarn from All Things Heather.  All I needed was a size 6 US (4 mm) circular needle and the pattern printout.  By the way, who’s with me in applauding Knitty for the option to “print only the essentials.”

The were a couple of things I let get in my way.  First was my M1 method.  In the beginning, I was using knit front and back (kfb) but that was a mistake.  The ruching increases use kfb and I totally lost count when trying to do the same thing in the other increase rows.  Instead, use the one of the pick-up between stitches methods. It’ll save counting errors later on.

Another tip? Use removable stitch markers to designate the “knit x, M1” pairs that begin and end rows 9 and 19.  Doing so avoids the need to be so mindful of the counting and knitting. For instance, if the instruction is [K10, M1] 6 times, then count off 60 stitches from just past the garter edge and place a removable marker.

Until I got reached my “aha!” moment, I kept going back along the row whenever something took my mind off increases and, within that, counting stitches.  Recounting became a tedious time-wasting exercise in futility.  Use the removable markers.

How about something really cute to hold said stitch markers?  Jen of Knitting Like Crazy wrote about these vintage inspired tins from Natalie’s Nest and I had to have a couple.  Or three.  These owls come in several colors and can be purchased in sets.

Hooty Owl Tin

Hooty Owl

Vintage Tins

Vampire and White Rabbit

Too adorable. Resistance is futile.

If this is Chicago...

The beer must be green.  The river must be green.  What you’re wearing must be green, for today, everyone in Chicago is Irish!  It’s a tradition – just like having two St. Patrick’s day parades: one for the Northside Irish and one for the Southside Irish.  Here in Chicago, what part of town you’re from matters.  Here in Chicago, it’s very easy to be green.

Daley Plaza Fountain

Daley Plaza Fountain