Monday, July 30, 2007

Beaded Gloves and a little cloud

A little cloud and a pair of gloves, two unrelated things, are paired in this entry. The gloves are at the end.
No, the cloud in the title of this entry does not refer to a Native American. But it could feature a real-life encounter with the main character of the book.

I realized when I reviewed the photos from my trip across Independence Pass to Aspen that there was a similar feature in several of them. It was around 9:30 a.m., and there was only one little cloud.
About a half hour later, we were farther up the mountain, and there are other clouds. Another 15 minutes of driving, and I took this photo:

Same little cloud, but much different stream. I didn't realize how quickly you can change your surroundings here in Colorado. We frequently take advantage of this ability, since a quick drive can move us from a sultry 85 degrees F. (remember we have no a/c, so that is plenty hot for us) to a pleasant 65. If I take the drive all the way to the continental divide, I usually wish for a sweater.
There are lots of reasons to knit here in Colorado. Cold shoulders, cold heads, cold hands. Regarding cold hands, I have knit several pairs of fingerless mitts. I often wear them over gloves. In the winter, I need multiple layers. This spring, I finished my first pair of gloves. They were warm enough then, since they were wool. It will be fun to see how far they will take me this fall before I have to reach for another layer, or for the more extreme days, my ski gloves.

I followed the pattern from Knitting with Beads by Jane Davis, but I had to adjust the gauge. The Tesoro yarn I bought from JoAnn's knitted up at a larger gauge than the suggested worsted weight. Even though I knit it tightly, on size 6 needles instead of the size 10s recommended for the Tesoro. I even used size 5s for the fingers, but still got fewer stitches per inch. As you might imagine, as tightly as they were knit, the gloves are quite warm. However, the Tesoro yarn remained soft and comfy. I have enough left for a hat and a scarf, but am still debating patterns.

I used some iridescent blue beads i had left over from a beading project. They were just big enough to fit over the yarn. The cable is my favorite cable so far. Once I started that section, I could stop until I finished--it was so much fun! The fingers, they were not so fun. I may stick to fingerless mitts from now on.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Colorado and Why Knitting Made Me Crazy

Wherein I tell you something personal...but don't worry, it's still about knitting!

If you have looked at the sidebar, you know I live in Colorado. Living here is new to me, and is a large part of the reason I started this blog. We moved here in response to K's overwhelming desire for snow and mountains. We have satisfied that desire. We regularly drive right up to the tippy-tops of 14,000 foot high peaks.

Undoubtedly, we are fortunate to have been able to move across the country to such a beautiful place. K is happy here, and thanks to modern technology, has continued working as usual.

Me? Another question altogether.

I sometimes wonder how we would both feel if I had never pursued the idea, had said I simply didn't want to live in the snow and the cold, where I knew no one at all. I might have been happy to stay where we were, but it would have been, oh, I don't know, maybe a bit dull? I like a challenge.
I like challenges. My college advisor told me many things, but the one I remember is "You need to be challenged." I wonder, though, if seeking a challenge justifies this foolhardy move of mine. You see, the reason I agreed to move here? Really the reason? It's the knitting.
When I say knitting made me crazy, this is what I mean. I considered moving, not because I was unhappy where I was (actually, I was happier than I've been in years), but because living in a hot climate was limiting what knitted items I could justify making. Now, on reflection, this seems impulsive.
What actually happened--we were visiting here on the way to a vacation in Telluride. I wanted to stop at a nearby yarn shop. We stopped over on the way to do that, got lost and found a beautiful town we didn't know existed. Found affordable houses for sale in this town. Fantasized about living here. That might have been all there was to it--fantasy. THEN the next day I went to the yarn shop and the clerk said:

"If you lived here you could wear a sweater every day."

THAT was it. Every day, wearing hand-knitted sweaters. I thought of all the yarn, pattern books, and hours of knitting that would justify. I becamed obsessed with the thought. Of course, K was all for it. Three months of consideration, and we committed to moving.
So at times, when I think I was crazy to leave kith and kin and home and hearth for the unknown, I blame knitting. It made me crazy, or at least my passion for knitting lead to a 'crazy' decision.
Other times, I am happy to be here, helping K with the work, traveling as much as possible, and knitting, knitting, knitting.
To convince you of the beauty of this place, now that I've gotten your attention with my knitting, I will show you some of the things that appeal to me.
We drove to Aspen not long ago, and while I was taking pictures of the wildflowers at the pass, I saw this:

The Flowerlovers.
All those pretty flowers, and people were strolling among them. This older couple were both looking down in opposite directions, admiring the flowers. They were holding hands.
Then, last week, we drove over to Crested Butte for the Wildflower Festival. I hope to go there next year and take a photography class. This year we just drove around and looked at the flowers.

Flowers and mountains, beautiful summer weather, lovely yarn shops--there's a lot to like.

Even though I have my doubts at times, I remain optimistic that we made the right decision when we moved. It is very livable here, comfortable, and the people are friendly. I realize it will take time for me to settle in. I really, truly, appreciate you and the time you take to look at my knitting, read my blog, and leave your comments. I try to keep a postive attitude, but at times I feel lonely and need a little lift. Thanks for the support.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Knitting Pain

Knitting and crafter's gloves; Not only that, but also knitting and carpal tunnel syndrome, knitting and tendonitis, knitting and ganglion cysts, knitting and DeQuervayn's Syndrome, knitting and arthritis, knitting and shoulder pain, knitting, knitting, knitting.
Unfortunately, I have repeatedly gotten hits on my blog from people who google the term "crafter's gloves". Now, I understand that google would list my blog in response to that term. It is a common term, but not one that the manufacturers of such gloves often use. I used it in an entry when I first began this blog. I'm just not sure why the people searching are reading my blog. I assume that it is because I specifically mention hand pain caused by knitting and my use of crafter's gloves in that post.

I assume that they are experiencing such pain and are looking for relief. I ignored this searching, searching, for a while. Now I'm composing a response to it. I'm not complaining here about my problems with knitting and hand pain, I'm merely relating my experience.

Knitting can cause pain. I have experienced this pain, but don't anymore. I have successfully treated pain from knitting, including tendonitis in my forearms, ganglion cysts in my wrists and hands, and bursitis in my shoulder. I no longer suffer from these pains, but I still knit. I relied on my doctor's advice in dealing with these pains. Absolutely, the proper action is to see a doctor.

However, if you are googling for answers, I can guess that you don't want to see a doctor or you have seen a doctor and didn't like the doctor's answer.

Here is the knitter's answer. Take it as it is, just the experience of someone with a similar problem. There's no certainty that it will help, but it is what I do:

First, stop knitting.

*hah hahahahah!*

If you wanted to stop knitting you probably wouldn't be reading this.

Second, buy a brace and wear it every night while you sleep until you are cured, either of your pain or of your passion for knitting.

Third, take an NSAID--you can get these over the counter. I used Motrin. Alleve works, and there are several others. Take an acid-blocker with these, so you don't have serious bleeding problems. These are also available over the counter at your pharmacy, Prilosec OTC, Zantac, etc.

Fourth, use ice on your wrists, hands, arms, wherever it hurts.

I've hesitated for weeks before posting this, because I know the proper response is to see a doctor, and I'm not a doctor. All I know is what worked for me, and I don't know at all if it will work for anyone else.

Here is my experience:

When I began knitting two years ago, my hands hurt some. I was knitting a little, crocheting daily, and not overdoing either. Then I rushed to finish a project for Christmas, knitting about 800 stitches a day, which was a lot for me at the time. At the same time, I was cleaning, staining, and finishing louvered doors. My hands hurt, my wrists ached, but I continued doing what I was doing, working on the doors for a couple of hours and knitting for an hour and a half a day. My persistence in these activities in spite of the pain I was feeling was NOT SMART.

However, it was not fatal (to my knitting, I mean). My research at the time lead me to believe that knitting caused a condition in my arms and hands called "hyperflexibility". While it sounds good, it is not. The hyperflexibility made it easier for me to injure my hands. Normally, I could have painted those doors with no ill effects on my hands. Since I was knitting at the same time, I injured my wrists and forearms when I forced the paintbrush and staining rags into the spaces between the louvers.

AT THE SAME TIME, I was taking Pilates and Yoga classes which involved supporting my weight on my hands in odd positions. ALSO NOT SMART. Did I mention my time on the computer? Oh, let's not even talk about that.

I had shooting pains in my hands, wrists and forearms, and a strange bump on the top of my wrist that was visible when I bent my hand down.

It was time for a doctor's visit. This is what I learned from him:

If you have pain, numbness or tingling in the first three fingers of your hand, (the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger) the nerves in your wrist are involved, and you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. I didn't have that kind of pain. I had tendonitis. And a ganglion cyst. He said ganglion cysts usually go away on their own. They can be treated if they are painful. Mine was not painful, so I waited and he was right, it went away. It took A YEAR for it to disappear completely.

The tendonitis -- he advised a wrist brace, which I purchased at the drug store, following his instructions to find one that was comfortable and had a stiff metal brace which prevented me from flexing my wrist. I tried on every brace in the store, until I found one I could stand wearing. The pair of them cost about $20.00. I also bought a more flexible one to wear at the computer. And a pair of elastic bands that had thumb straps on them to wear while I knit. (Edit: these were no help--I don't wear braces or supports while I knit.) Later, I bought a set of thumb braces for the DeQuervayn's Syndrome pain I was having at the base of my thumb. and I slept with braces every night (either the stiff metal wrist brace or the thumb brace, depending on what hurt the worst. If I had stopped knitting, my tendonitis symptoms would have been relieved in a couple of weeks. Being me, I continued knitting and had to wear the braces every night for four months. I still wear them now and then when I feel I'm having a lot of pain, but I haven't had to do that for months.

On the pain. It was suprising, how much pain there was. I would have sharp pains in my hands. I had to immobilize them and just wait it out, breathe slowly, and tell myself, it will all be over in ten minutes. It always was.

I threw my crafter's gloves away. They were no help at all. My doctor laughed at them.

Now I have muscles in my wrists and hands that weren't visible before. I can knit for hours each day without pain. I have fatigue, and sometimes some stiffness in the morning, but no pains. I usually knit about 3 hours a day, in 1 hour sessions. I probably average about 2000 stitches output, with breaks, ripping out and all.

I just finished painting the house. The entire outside, and there is very little out there that is brick or stone, so most of the house had to be painted. I wore my braces the first two nights, but didn't need them after that.

I try to be very careful with my hands. I have more than one project on the needles at all time, so I can vary the size needles and the type of yarn; I think variety relieves some of the repetitive motion strain. I take frequent breaks, about every 15 minutes. I limit knitting with inflexible yarn, such as cotton or linen to a few projects a year. I'm sure there are other helpful hints--please add a comment if you know of any!

I'm very fortunate to be able to continue both my hobby and my regular activities. I'm going to be careful, because I want to be able to knit for many more years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Knitter at a quilt show

I went to a quilt show. Actually, I went to TWO quilt shows. I didn't realize that many of the quilters were exhibiting at both shows, which were held within two weeks and 30 miles proximity. Normally I would have been a bit bothered by the duplication, but it worked out well this time. You see, I didn't take pictures at the first show. I thought it would be rude to take pictures and post them without the express permission of the quilter. Then at the second show, several people were taking pictures. So I did, too. Look at these quick, because if I find out that I shouldn't have them here, they are going to disappear.

I liked the way the blocks of color pop out in the above one. Had I designed it, I would have reversed them, based on what I have learned thus far about colors, setting light 'stars' on a dark background, but this works well. I'm surprised at how the dark colors draw the eye, even though they do recede as they should. The basketweave effect of the white strips is nice.

This (above) was a particularly good log cabin, I thought. It shows what can be done with the pattern in a large format. (Unlike the small format log cabins knitters usually produce.)

Here's one of my favs:

It's a really big quilt, so I just put in the part that shows up the best. I hope the images are all clickable. (Good Blogger, pretty Blogger, be nice today)

I also edited the shots so that the quilter's name is not visible--just being polite, and cautious. That's why you don't see so much of the one above. The part you can see on the tag is the important part, anyway. The quilter who made the above quilt is 89 years old. And--she hand quilted it. Machine pieced and hand quilted flowers in the white rectangles and butterflies in the white squares. I think it's wonderful.

I liked the one above the best out of the small quilts. It is, as you can see on the tag, "Shaman's Dream." Of course, it appeals to the Colorado and New Mexico native culture fans, which I am. But I also think it's attractive.

This one is a crib quilt, but I really liked the funny cats. One of the best quilt concepts at the show was a quilt done for a grandson of the quilter. Each square was a different Colorado wildlife scene. There was a bear, a coyote, a moose (I love moose!), an elk, a deer, etc. Each square was different, and each animal was cut out of an appropriately colored fabric with a light marbling in it, but plain otherwise. All of the fabrics were similar, and went well with the theme. It's hard to explain, and didn't photograph well, so I'll stop with the describing and just say that I'll bet the grandson loved it.

This is the last one, and I just took the picture because I was fascinated with the edge treatment. It's a flannel quilt, so I'll bet it is very warm and comforting in this climate.

I'm not a quilter, obviously, so I'm sure I've missed what I should be seeing. Perhaps these are common quilt patterns, I don't know. If so, the show was maybe nothing special. I enjoyed both shows, and liked talking to the quilters.

Isn't it funny to post this now, when the U.S. is in the grip of a heat wave? I may be the only knit blogger in the country who looks at the quilts and thinks how warm and snuggly they might be. But it is 47 degrees Farenheit in these mountains yesterday morning when I started this post, and and is barely 60 this morning--I get chilly. (nana na na boo boo!)

Blocking of the wrap will happen today! Pictures of it soon.
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Monday, July 9, 2007

Data and plans for MDSW yarn

At last, at last, it is time to talk about the yarn I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May. I have finished those pesky pending summer sweaters, and I am swatching and knitting some of this yarn...

Here's the details, with my plans:
1. The brown, on the top; Apaca Fun Farms hand-spun alpaca from "Bailey" (the alpaca has a name--I have his picture, too. It's on the label, which you can see a little of in the picture. The color is wonderful, if you love brown as much as I do. It is a deep, dark brown with red highlights. It's Bailey's natural color. I wish my hair was that color!

Apaca Fun Farms doesn't have a website, but they do have great yarn. Woad! (w/o a doubt:). I bought all she had left of Bailey's prize winning fleece from last year. Naturally deep brown, it was spun by Jo (I think) in a dk weight. I have about 1600 yards of beautiful alpaca yarn, and all I had to cut out of it is 3 short pieces. I put this together with the Beyond Wool book that I bought from Tuesday Morning (for a mere $8), and I think I have plenty for the cardigan in it.

2. The white, just below the brown on the right--hand-spun alpaca, 206 yds.

It's alpaca, not Angora :/ . I couldn't tell the difference because I didn't put on my glasses when I read the label. I thought I was buying 100% angora, from Cloverly Rabbits. Instead I got 100% baby alpaca. What a bummer. I spent way too much for it, but it does look very pretty. It is handspun, and is a bit overspun in places. I don't know do with it/I was thinking?

3. The light brown below the white on the right

Camel hair blend. Hand-spun, with one ply of camel hair and one ply of alpaca and silk. I had to have it. Less than 200 yards, and I think it was spun by two different spinners, though it is the same blend. Impractical, but I'll save it in case I want to trim the sweater I'll knit out of the brown alpaca with it. Otherwise, it will have to be mitts or a neckwrap. I have a fondness for camels. :)

4. The red, at the bottom right--odd hanks from the Fibre Co.

The bit of red I got from them might be some Chroma. Maybe in the dk weight. That makes it less likely that I'll use it, though. Such a little bit of yarn. Pretty color. Stash! (Maybe a Lovebite, or a Pudurosa?)

5. The tied-up hank at the bottom--Brooks Farm Duet
This is in a WIP, so I have more detail on this one. This is my first experience with Brooks Farm. I said I wasn't going to buy anything from their booth at MDSW, since I wanted to buy local products, not commercially available yarn. However, I was so impressed by the quality of their yarn, I couldn't resist a single skein. That's misleading, of course--their skeins are large, and this one is 500 yards of a light worsted weight wool and mohair blend.

6. The pink, at the bottom left--

Permaquid, from the Fibre Company, for A's hat--may be the most luscious yarn I bought. I paid full price, too. A gets the best. We haven't selected the pattern yet, but it's a chunky weight yarn, so we will probably pick something from Hip Knit Hats.

7. The blue at the top left.
This is the best, well, second-best after Bailey's. I think it is Savanah, in the bulky weight, color, Chambray. If it is, I got it for half-price from the Fibre company. Perhaps it is a little less-than-bulky? They suggest it knits at 12-15 st/4 in. I'm getting 16. I'm not sure I'd like it at 12. But 16 makes it perfect for Sienna. I should reknit the swatch on 22 stitches and wash it to make sure. I really bought this for the Bubble Pullover from Knitting Nature, but the gauge is off--I'd need 18 st/4" for the pullover. I could adjust it, but the resulting pullover (it's alpaca and merino) would probably be too hot to wear.

That's it. That's enough fer sure. I want to knit it all up right now, but reason tells me I should spread the luxury of these yarns out, making it last until next year's MDSW.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Latoya, redone as a sweater with short sleeves

I liked the Berocco pattern, Latoya, for two reasons--it was cabled and ribbed and it was the right gauge for my stashed Cotton-ease. The asymmetry was not my favorite part, but it was quirky and subtle enough for me to live with it. The straps were the part I didn't like, but I found I had enough yarn to knit them away.

Not only did I have enough yarn to make the straps into shoulders, I had enough for small, short, cabled sleeves. I completely made the changes up, but I give credit to Grace, who also changed the straps in her version. She had the same idea I did originally, which was to carry the ribbing up the shoulders. When I read that the ribbing in her version made the shoulders roll up, almost like i-cord, I decided to go plain stockinette for the shoulders. I first made the switch from ribbing to stockinette while knitting the back. 
My next challenge was to knit the shoulders for the front, but I thought about the sleeves while I did this. I very much wanted the cable on each sleeve. I had less than one skein of yarn left, though, and I know cables eat yarn. I knit the tiniest sleeves I could, centering the cable near the bottom edge. They were a fun, quick knit, but probably could have been a bit wider. My second choice would have been plain ribbed sleeves, but I'm glad I had enough yarn for the cabled ones.

Now let me explain the front. First, like Grace, I changed the reverse stockinette sides to stockinette, to match the back. Then I had to decide how to add shoulders. I still thought Grace's idea of ribbing going up the front was good. I decided to break the ribbing at the middle of the cable and move the 3 stitch cable out along the neckline. This produced an asymmetrical v-neck; somewhat unusual, but in keeping with the design of the sweater. I had to decrease for the neckline every row, and my choice of decreases may not have been the best. I got my technique book out, and tried to select the appropriate right or left leaning decrease, depending on whether I was decreasing a knit stitch or a purl stitch. I was never totally satisfied with the results, but just kept doggedly at it, sometimes redoing a particular decrease until I could tolerate the look. The line of decreases is not the best, but I don't think it is terribly noticeable. I kept a purl stitch next to the the 3 knit stitches to set off the edge a bit, and the purl stitch detracts a bit from the sloppy decreases.

I had to repeat the confusing decreasing for the sleeves, decreasing through the ribbing, but I was able to do better there after the practice on the front. Now the other problem--

The color, um that color. I can wear orange, luckily. Several years ago, I had my colors "done" and orange is one of the colors recommended for a brunette, olive-skinned 'autumn' like me. However, it is a bit bold for my taste, and I haven't owned very many orange shirts. I have a solution, one that I thought of on my own, and would probably have been advised against if I had asked--bleach. You see, Cotton-ease is a 50/50 cotton and acrylic blend. All the knitting boards will tell you don't expect to dye acrylic. Acrylic yarn is manufactured, not dyed. Or something like that. But you can bleach Cotton-ease. I have proof:

I took my swatch and soaked it in a medium-strength bleach solution, with favorable results. It looks like bleached denim, I think. (1/3 cup bleach in 2 cups water for 5 minutes, in case anyone wants to try it.)

I might bleach the sweater later. I certainly expect the orange color to fade with just regular laundering. I'll just live with it a while before I decide. By the way, I've been dithering over what to do with three skeins of orange Cotton-ease for a couple of years now. That's why the swatch has a different stitch pattern. I was originally going to make the mitered tank from Interweave, but I decided against it. I thought the point at the bottom and the lack of sleeves would not be flattering.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bonita Shirt es listo!

With apologies for my poor Spanish...

My version of the Bonita Shirt is final. I will do no more work on the shirt, no matter how "bonita" it is. (Scroll down that link above if you click it; the pattern picture is the 3rd sweater from the bottom.)

Not that it took a long time (one month), or was an unpleasant task (an easy knit). I'm glad it is done and I'm ready to wear it. I did change the sleeves, as you can see. I designed the sleeves, a first for me. I would knit, measure, rip back a few inches, and re-knit. It was a two steps forward, one step back process. In the end, I probably knit the first sleeve over at least twice, fulfilling the curse I placed on myself when I named this blog "3 sleeves".

I learned a lot about sleeve construction during this process, which is coming in handy now. (More on that in a later post.) In the end, I'm happy that Bonita has sleeves, instead of the cap sleeves in the pattern. The sleeves could be a bit tighter. I was worried about ease and being able to raise my arms, so I knit them on a larger needle with generous proportions.

Enough on that detail, here's a look at the complete sweater--

I added the edging instead of the hem, selecting it from Knitting on the Edge. Posted by Picasa