Monday, June 19, 2017

Not exactly a vacation...and an explanation.

Gentle knitters,
Yours truly has been coping with the usual aggravated hand issues, which have been mentioned in earlier posts, so I won't bore you again, but that's why I've been in Off Mode. Until just recently there was no knitting on my end and a lot of grief about not knitting, thus nothing to write about. Then my PT miracle worker, Vicki designed a splint that keeps my third and fourth fingers immobilized, so the tendons can't be stressed, and it has helped mightily, as well as the wearing of a carpal tunnel wrist support. In the meanwhile I've explored rigid heddle table looms, which I find daunting but interesting, and a pin-loom thing, the DIY Weaver, which reminds me of making potholders in third grade, though the results are better.



This clutch and shoulder bag were made with the DIY Weaver.


So knitting is happening once again, both slowly in terms of gradual re-entry, and quickly, because I'm using enormous needles, number 17s currently. The rehab key is to work with large-scale needles, since they're less taxing to hold, and thick yarn.


This color-block baby blanket measures about 32" x 35" (unblocked), is done in Lion Brand's Wool-Ease Thick & Quick (80% acrylic, 20% wool, good for babies), and was knitted with #17 needles. Time elapsed from beginning to end of knitting--about eight hours. Quite amazing, IMHO. I designed the pattern, such as it is, and you can find it here, for free. Kramer wants me to give him the blanket, but it's already got an owner. She arrives sometime within the next few weeks, and will be a young citizen of Brooklyn, NY. (There are no surprises for expectant parents anymore. Had I been given the option of knowing my babies' pre-birth genders, would I have accepted? I can't decide.)

So, the saga continues, and the next post will arrive sooner than this. In the meanwhile, happy summer knitting to us all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It's not over until the Cat Lady sings...

Foxy's silence is deafening.

and believe me, it's going to be a long time before that happens. The Rally for Women's Rights at the Rhode Island Statehouse, and all of the other simultaneous rallies in DC, throughout the US and around the world, showed that there's a vast movement rising and it's here for the foreseeable future.




How heartening it was to see so many Pussy Hats in evidence!


La lutte continue!



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pussyhattin' around...

Shrinking violet that I am, I rarely appear on my blog, but having knitted my first ever PUSSYHAT, in preparation for the Women's March on Washington on 21 January 2017, I feel compelled to be a role model for all Politically Concerned knitters out there:

Il neige aujourd'hui à Woodville, RI.  Mon chapeau Pussy me protège très fort. Should I stuff the ears to make them stand upright?  Or should I stick with the "Scottish Fold" look?

Gentle knitters, here's the pattern; make one for yourself and make one for someone else. It's a really quick project--maybe four hours, faster if you use chunky yarn and larger needles. Check out a wonderful knitting blog, photographer Gale Zucker's She Shoots Sheep Shots, for instrux on the bulky yarn pattern, and other good links.

True confession:  I can't be in DC for the March on the 21st, but will attend the Sister Rally at the Rhode Island State House that day.  Click here for info on and to register for The Rhode Island Women's Solidarity Rally. Wear your Pussy Hat! Find me there; I'll photograph you in your lovely headgear, and post it on this blog ex post facto.  (I'll also bring an extra Pussy Hat with me for a photo prop.)

And if you can't make it to the DC March or any of the fifty state Solidarity Rallies, just make a hat and wear it on January 21st.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dear friends...

Sending holiday greetings to you, and best wishes for happiness, good health, and fortitude in 2017.


Today is Christmas, and this is what it looked like at sunrise in Woodville, Rhode Island, USA:




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Square deal

Here's the start of the famous Zick-Zack scarf on a #5 squared circular needle. Pattern is highly recommended, and it's free!

Over the past months I have been wont to complain about a hand problem that unhappily impacted my ability to knit. In fact, I wrote a piece for Lion Brand about my struggle and how it led me to trial a table loom they sell, with positive results. Perhaps the most interesting part of this is a general understanding I've gained of how woven patterns are designed and implemented. I'd never understood that before, but experiential learning--simply by warping and wefting a very small loom (11" x 11")--has clarified a great deal of the process.

This is actually two 11 x 11" looms joined.  It's the Martha Stewart Crafts DIY Weaver.


But weaving is weaving and knitting is knitting. The prospect of a life without knitting wasn't an option for me. Finally, with the correct diagnosis--because my symptoms were atypical, the full diagnosis took two years, yikes!--I've figured out ways to knit comfortably and often. While I continue to study small-scale weaving (with table looms of various sorts), I've developed compensatory measures that allow me to knit in the manner to which I was accustomed, so I've let the Portuguese Knitting gyrations drop.

Google-aided research shows that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is rampant among knitters, and Digital Tenosynovitis (inflammation of finger tendons) only slightly less so. Those are my two bedevilments. For those of you who suffer from one or both, or from arthritis in your hands, here are my recommendations.

First, discover the Magic of SQUARE NEEDLES. These are much easier to grasp than cylindrical needles, and therefore more ergonomic. Kntter's Pride Cubics and Kollage Square needles come in all forms--straights, dpns, circs, interchangeables. These are the two brands I've found that are readily available, and you can get them in metal or wood. Since my experience with them is limited, I don't know if one brand has advantages over the other--and would like to hear from my readers, if you have good information about this--but I can say one thing for sure--they are a great relief to work with, and I can't see myself returning to cylindrical needles ever, even if my hand problems should completely resolve! You can buy all of these needles on Amazon and through other websites. I tried buying some first, at Webs in Northampton MA a few weeks ago, but they were sold out of the sizes I wanted. I think it's more efficient to order online.

I bought two wooden-tipped circs, 5 and 7, and a set of metal interchangeables in sizes from 6 to 11. I generally hate interchangeable needles, and had recently chatted with my Knitting Cabal about how frustrating it is to use them (we all agreed on this point), mainly because they seem to untighten quite regularly and often the tip separates from the cord, releasing a cascade of stitches (HORRIBLE!). However, I've been using my new square interchangeables for a few hours and that hasn't happened...yet. Dare I dream?

The other aid to my knitting has been an over-the-counter soft-ish brace for CTS. I ordered mine from Amazon; it's made by Mueller, but there are several manufacturers of these braces, and I think the style and fit are up to the individual. In other words, what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Trial and error time, my friends! Knitting with one of these braces on your hand is awkward at first and slow, but it also protects your wrist from damaging motions and provides much soothing support. It's really not hard to adapt if you just relax and take your time.

This brace is made by Mueller; it's relatively inexpensive and tightens with velcro straps. I bought it on Amazon.com, source of all things. Other good brands are Futuro and Imak.

Well, gentle knitters, that's the scoop from Woodville, Rhode Island. I embark on a Pacific Ocean foray next week and will be away from my computer for many days, so do not despair if your emails aren't answered in a timely fashion!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Desperate measures....

After the election, Pepto drank the Kool-Aid.


Kool-Aid had the desired effect. I joined Pepto and hope to stay in the koma until 2020. Perhaps by then....


(An aside:  today's Kool-Aid is not what I recall from days of yore. Rather than being packaged in paper envelopes that contain granules meant to be mixed with water, it now comes pre-hydrated and in individual pouches. This makes it harder to add cyanide.) 

***

In the wake of the election, there's been a lot of kumbayah chat in knitting circles about how we must accept the reality of the Slash and Burn promises of the incoming administration with grace, how we should not move to New Zealand, and how we should infuse our daily lives and those of others with kindness and respect. As a lifelong proponent of civilized behavior, I find this to be old news. Yes, by all means, we should continue to operate like rational, decent humans, but/and we should also think about becoming defenders of those in the cross-hairs of the Make America Hate Again movement. Please consider upping your donations to organizations that defend civil rights, women's rights, immigrants' rights, reproductive and sexual identity rights, and environmental causes, since the government is about to increase their workloads and in some cases eviscerate their funding. And of course we should think about upping the time we spend knitting, whether for ourselves or charitable causes, because EVERYONE is going to need warm and fuzzy really soon, even if they live in a hot climate.

***

Seeking solace, my knitting cabal and I forayed to western Massachusetts last weekend to visit a truly beautiful yarn shop, Colorful Stitches in Lenox. This is one of the few yarn shops anywhere on the planet that has adequate natural light, so that you can actually see the colors of the merchandise. There's a second-floor loft that provides workspace as well as lovely things to buy, and offers a panoramic view of the calming environment. It is a pleasure to be there.

The shop's Command Central basks in natural light!


Everything in the store is luxe and inspirational. There's a superb selection of yarns, notions, books, accessories. Bonnie Burton, the proprietor, designs and knits amazing window displays (naturalistic pumpkins, Indian corn, autumn leaves, and other seasonal flora) and is a great source of knowledge about knitting, weaving, and all things needlecraft. Interestingly, late fall and winter are the off seasons for businesses like hers in Lenox, home of Tanglewood, Kripalu, The Manse, Shakespeare & Co., neighbor of Jacob's Pillow, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and many other stellar attractions that see warm-weather tourist traffic. So I'd recommend a trip there at this time of year, as you will feel relaxed and untrammeled in the shop. There are excellent restaurants within a stone's throw, and you can easily make a day of swanning around this lovely town on foot, or if you are so motivated, you can drive on to Northampton, home of Northampton Wools and Webs, about fifty miles eastward on the Mass Pike.



After a few hours in this dreamy part of New England, we all felt somewhat less battered by the aftermath of November 8th.



Monday, November 7, 2016

Pre-apocalyptic knitting


Gentle knitters,
Apologies for the long absence. Since founding this blog in 2009, I have usually posted at least every month and often more frequently. So much has happened in the past few weeks, including knee surgery (with great results!) however, that I've not been able to do much creative work.  Well, I did knit a pink pig, whose color--as a friend noted--evokes Pepto Bismol. The pattern's from Sarah Keen's Knitted Farm Animals, a lovely book for those who like to make toys. 

I doubt the baby for whom this pig is destined will care much about its medicinal associations. Perhaps I unconsciously chose this color because the lead-up to tomorrow's presidential election has been so nauseating and stomach churning.  In fact, I could guzzle a bottle of Pepto right now.


Before speculating about the impending changes to Life As We Know It attendant on the election's results, I will offer a short discourse on the welter of knitting books I've been asked to review in the recent past. They just keep arriving, and I've become increasingly pickier about my choices.

First, I don't review most of them because either they don't appeal to me, or I don't think they offer much to knitters in general.  I also don't feel like taking time to write negative reviews.  I don't see my mission as guiding knitters about what not to buy or read, although I do like to talk about useful or enjoyable books from time to time (see A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, below).

Second, from time to time when a book appeals to me, I try one of its patterns before writing about the entire book. I did this a few weeks ago with a book by a Major Knitting Eminence that seemed really adorable and was right up my alley--knitted toys--and the first pattern I tried was SO FLAWED that I thought I must be going crazy because the instructions were completely impenetrable. Then, by way of reality check, I asked the Knitting Goddess to try it and she couldn't deal with it either. So scratch that from the list of potential reviews. I suppose that I should tell the publisher they need to offer some errata, but then again...is that my mission? Maybe, when I'm in a less anxious state of mind, but right now there are more important things to consider. 

Third, even though books that are underwritten by yarn companies to promote designs that feature their yarn often do contain good patterns, I'm not usually interested in providing yarn companies with free advertising, so I tend to ignore those books.

Hey, sourpuss, are there any good knitting books out there?

Well, of course. I enjoy technical instruction books, stitch dictionaries, knitting history, ethnic knitting, and niche knitting patterns (toys, for example) the most. But that's me, and as the French say, chacun a son goût. And thus spake Zarathustra.

***


So...here's an adorable book, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016), by Michelle Edwards (illustrated by G. Brian Karas) that will ultimately end up on my grandkids' bookshelf (along with Knitty Kitty by David Elliott, which they know and love), but before that I'll tell you why I like it and why it's great for readers of any age. Briefly, it captures all the best there is to say about knitting, and casts it into picture-book format.  So, it's not a knitting book per se, but a book about knitting, about why people knit, how they learn to knit, and what motivates them to knit--and to give their knitting away. Any knitter will identify with it, insofar as all of us learned to knit somehow, and whether we taught ourselves or were taught by someone else, it's a skill we value and think is worth transmitting and preserving.

If you know a child who doesn't knit, she or he will enjoy the story, which contains lessons about kindness, reciprocity, creativity, perseverance, and loving one's neighbor. After reading the book many times, a child may well be inclined to learn how to knit, or at least the seed of that inclination may be planted. And if not, said child may simply enjoy the book for its sweetly presented story.

If you know an adult who knits or doesn't, she or he may also enjoy the book. It's one of those transcendent fables for all ages and all times, like The Velveteen Rabbit or Charlotte's Web. It provides a hopeful message to those of us who struggle with the crudeness and crassness of today's world.

***

So, tomorrow we in these United States elect a new President. Watching the campaigns, as I have since they began, has been (as noted above) a gut-churning experience. The violent language, the ceaseless barrage of abject lies, the fear-mongering, the demagoguery, the despicable sexism, racism, and religious intolerance, the extreme hatred evinced by candidates starting from those in the race before the primaries to the present moment--these are unparalleled in our history, and these expressions are antithetical and repugnant to those who believe in democracy and the promises of American society. This is a shameful time for our country. 

The fascination of the abomination has kept me glued to the TV news and to a range of print news sources. Even if my preferred candidate wins the election, the campaigns have nonetheless highlighted the sulfurous miasma created by those who run our political parties, which seem to be concerned mainly with fantasies about American dominance and power, rather than with the realities besetting American citizens.  

I am afraid, because I see only a very bad outcome (in the worst case scenario) or a very frustrating outcome (in the best case).  
Tomorrow I'll be watching the election results roll in, knitting in hand, as well as libations. Which, dear knitters, will you be drinking?