Friday, August 30, 2013

Edges / Paul Klee

Edges print cotton

Comedy, 1921, Paul Klee

Toast brushstroke top
This weekend's sewing inspiration.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Week In Knitting

I cast on a new pair of Waiting Room socks before we set off for The Shrubbery.

And in the event, quite a lot of last week felt like sitting in a Waiting Room.
I concentrated on two projects: my "Learn to Knit, Love to Knit" cardigan, and a new pair of socks. The Kex Blanket didn't come out of its bag. The new planned shawl stayed in its skein.
The cardigan pattern goes by the snazzy name "Cropped Cardigan with Cabled Sleeves". While I was away, I completed both fronts. The back is already done, so now I "just" have the sleeves to knit. Luckily, the sleeves are the most interesting part of this pattern: I am really looking forward to working the Hollow Oak panel cables. I knitted the cuffs in the hospital yesterday.
I have mentioned before that this is not a beginner-friendly pattern. The Right Front was particularly challenging, with those fatal words: "work as given for Left Front, reversing all shaping". I had already done battle with "keeping the Briar Rose pattern correct, decrease..." on the Left Front. Ugh.
And there are far too many: "but AT THE SAME TIME..."s. This is an old-fashioned pattern-writing style, for knitters who were brought up on Patons and Sirdar. I have obviously gone soft in my old age and had to re-adjust my mind-set to cope with this think-for-yourself approach. How would a modern, new knitter cope? I'm not sure. This was unexpected in a book called "Learn to Knit..."
So there was some fudgery to the Left and even more to the Right. Let's just hope they match, eh?

And the new socks?
I decided to knit the Reginald Socks from the front cover of A Knitted Sock Society by Rachel Coopey.
I am not sure what possessed me, but I decided to knit the largest size, for The Boy. Does my son care about hand-knitted socks? Probably not. But FL was protesting that he didn't need any more socks, and I had already bought the yarn, which seemed decidedly manly.
My son has very wide feet. Bear feet. So I found myself knitting 79 stitch rows of twisted rib in an improbably long-legged design in brown wool. Oh well planned, Roo!
A whole week of fairly constant knitting produced one and a bit socks. I stopped just short of the toe on sock one because I don't think I have enough yarn to finish it. The second sock is in the reverse colour of this "Same Difference" set from Knitting Goddess. So instead of being "beige with brown", it is "brown with beige".
Any delusions I may have had about these socks looking chocolatey / espresso coffee-like / delicious have now been replaced by thoughts along the lines of mud and dog-droppings. I am definitely suffering from Brown Sock Syndrome.
My plan is to complete sock two to the same point and then work both toes in orange wool.
Yay - orange!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another Day of Waiting

So after all my brave plans not to blog about FL's health, here I am with the latest hospital update.
I have dragged you all this far, I might as well carry on now! If myeloma is not your thing, please come back tomorrow for the knitting. 
P.S.  There's just a splash of knitting at the foot of this post :)

Red socks on holiday
Today we were expecting the latest Freelite results.  Given all FL's recent health problems, we were feeling pessimistic, so it was quite a surprise to hear that his myeloma is behaving itself, with the kappa score down to 48 (from 72) and his ratio to 7 (from 9), compared to two months before.
However, his full blood count continues to fall.  If it carries on at this rate, they plan to give him a blood transfusion at his next appointment (10 September).  The reason for the continuing fall is unknown, and the doctors are working their way through the possibilities.  They have tested his bone marrow (result on 10 September), and next week he has a colonoscopy to look forward to.  Today they decided to check his lungs.
He has been complaining about chest pain and can't lie on his left side in bed.  If he walks more than a few metres, he gets out of breath and feels pain.
So they sent him for a chest x-ray (nothing to be seen) followed by a lung scan (MRI), in case of a blood clot.  He was rather alarmed to be transported by wheelchair for the scan.  They were taking no risks!  He was told that if they found anything sinister, he would have to stay the night.  It was 5pm by the time the results came back upstairs to the doctor - no clots.  Phew!
So we are no further forward, but at least a couple of nasty possibilities have been eliminated.
We weren't expecting to spend the whole day in Haematology, and I forgot to take my knitting pattern with me, thinking I would only have time to knit the cuffs of my cardigan. Lesson learned!   I will pack my socks next time!
However, at least the newsagent had the latest issue (62) of The Knitter, which I read from cover to cover.  It may just be yarn-deprivation talking, but I am seriously considering making the Summardaar cardigan, which isn't on Ravelry, but I found described as "cardigan med daisy-monster" here.
Summardaar by Jansy Simonsen

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Making Memories

We were SO ready for a holiday... and yet we were not ready at all.  Up until the very last minute, I wasn't sure that FL was going to be well enough to travel.  By travel I mean "drive".  Male pride dictates that the man of the house does Big Drives.  So even though I had driven him to each of his 5 hospital appointments in the preceding days, FL insisted that he would drive us to the west coast in his car.  Big sigh.  It was only when I went to put the dog in the boot for the journey that I realised he had packed his golf clubs, and that this was the real reason for taking his car - mine doesn't have the capacity for dog and clubs!
Did he golf?
Don't be ridiculous!
But he was keeping the hope alive.
Our holiday got off to a rocky start.  FL took an instant dislike to the cottage which I had scoured the internet to find.  It ticked all the boxes for:  location, cheapness, dog-friendliness, bedroom and bathroom on the same floor, enclosed garden.  But it was emphatically a holiday home, stripped clean between guests and scrubbed to within an inch of its life.  No books or maps or spice racks or personality.  My request that FL take his muddy shoes off at the door earned me 24 hours of silent contempt.  Oatmeal carpets, people!

So I took to the road with the dog until he came out from underneath his dark cloud.  In my heart I knew it wasn't about me or the cottage or its carpets, but I couldn't sit there in that dark room with that awful ticking clock, in the wake of his misery.  I left him to sleep it off.
By Tuesday, I managed to start taking photographs while I was out, no longer afraid to make memories. FL negotiated with the landlady to bring him a table he could pile his papers upon, and although I don't think he did much writing, it stopped being my fault.  We made it out to the Melvaig Inn for a meal.  I started to relax.
And on Wednesday we discovered Firemore Sands, where the path to the beach was flat enough for FL to walk a hundred yards or so before it became too much and he had to go back to the car.  Yes, he really does have the dog attached to a tow-rope. That's Hero's street cred shot to pieces!
In Gairloch, we steered past the coach parties to seek refuge in the Mountain Coffee Company / Hillbillies Bookshop.  A seriously good bookshop with great coffee and giant baked goods.  There was a whole section devoted to vegan cookbooks.  I bought Vegan Planet.  They have rooms to let too - ooh!  That edifice on my plate is a cheese and herb scone.  It lasted me two days, stowed away in a napkin for safe keeping.
Here I am in the shrubbery at the cottage.  If you are wondering what on earth I am wearing... it is the Staccato Jacket I knitted for The Girl many moons ago.  It was always too colourful for her taste, and I decided it was time I claimed it as my own.  I spent the whole week bundled up in its woolly warmth, sometimes with my plaid Darling Ranges dress, or with my prairie skirt, or my jeans.  That's the Lonely Tree shawl at my neck.
Apart from dog-walking, I spent many quiet hours reading two novels:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Signs of Life by Anna Raverat.  The first is a pretty disturbing but compelling read, well out of my comfort zone.  The second takes a more literary approach to the maybe-murder-mystery with some unfamiliar quotes from poetry which I need to follow up.  Yeah, I liked this one a lot. 

"I have written this
so that
in the next myth
my sister
will be wiser.
Let her learn from me:
the opposite of passion
is not virtue
but routine."
Eavan Boland

And did I do some knitting?
I did LOADS of knitting!
I'll show you that another day.

So there you have it.  A week in the shrubbery.  For now, it is enough that we are home again and we are still friends.  FL says that was our last holiday together.  He means it.  It wasn't just that he feels too weak these days for long-distance travel (though he does), but as he said:  "It was all too much of a struggle."  I would agree with that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We are in the Shrubbery

If you are reading this, FL, Hero and I have successfully escaped from hospital appointments to spend a week on the west coast in a remote cottage, complete with shrubbery.
FL will be working on his book.
I will be knitting!
We have no internet access for the week, so you will just have to cope without me ;)
Back soon!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

FO: The Grin Up North Hoodie, New Look 6947

You've heard the saying "It's grim up North" haven't you?
I don't subscribe to that point of view, when it comes to Yorkshire.  Inspired by my trip to Hebden Bridge, this is my GRIN up North hoodie!
The original inspiration was the jacket worn by the main character in The East (which I went to see on holiday in HB).  Hers was clearly "just"  a black sweatshirt with a piece of vintage lace stitched around the edge of the hood.

The East (film) hoodie

 I was immediately reminded of the gorgeous creations of Zorya of AnaisShop on Etsy.  I have hankered after one of her hand-crocheted-lace-trim tops for a very long time. The Rus Hoodie (it even has my name!) is a favourite.

Anais Shop Rus Hoodie
My original plan was to use the leftover broderie from my Betsey Johnson prairie skirt to trim the hood of a plain hoodie, and leave it at that.

But you know how it is...

I got out my recent Zara sale bargain linen jersey "top" and started fiddling around, trying to fit the pattern pieces onto the available fabric.  Despite the enormity of the original top, there was nowhere near enough yardage for a hood and sleeves and a back and two fronts.  I might have squeezed a plain cardigan out of it, but not a hoodie.
So then I hit upon the idea of making the whole hood out of broderie - ooh!

But there was still a fabric shortage.
After a bit of finagling, I realised I could make the hood, lower back, front facings and pockets out of broderie, and everything else out of jersey.
So I did.
But it was looking awfully "patchworky" and I really didn't think I would wear it.  It was too... bright.
The original inspiration was kinda grungy and dark.  This was like something a Holly Hobbie fan might wear.  No.  Just no.
So I ordered some black dye, thinking I would dip-dye it.
But reading the dye instructions, I couldn't see how that would work.  I had to stir it for 30 minutes.  I couldn't imagine controlling the stripe for that long.  So took the plunge and dyed the whole garment.
I fully expected a solid black hoodie.  So much for a cream lace trim, eh?!
I dyed a silk shirt for The Girl at the same time.  The shirt came out a rich velvet-y black - perfect! (It was light blue and she had never worn it.)
My hoodie was black too, until I rinsed it in the washing machine.
When I went to get it out, the colour had mellowed.  Ooh!

I have a midnight blue-and-taupey-chocolate hoodie!  YAY!
It is so much better than plain black!
I love this colour combination!

Pattern:  New Look 6947 from about 1998. My note in the pattern envelope says I made the trousers 6 times in size 12! I made the jacket in size 8Crumbs.  I shrank!

Fabric:  One over-sized pure linen jersey tee / dress from Zara sale, £5.  Remnant of vintage broderie anglaise from ebay (leftover from my skirt).

Other:  One cardboard packet of Rit dye (about £3 from ebay), and a cup of salt as fixative.
I bought a black zip but haven't put it in yet as it feels too heavy for the lightweight linen jersey.  As this is a summer-weight garment, it doesn't really need a fastening.

An unexpected "woo-hoo!"
It is not at all what I was aiming for, but I love how it has turned out.
It's a weekending garment - an extra layer to pop on if I need to drive to the shop (7 miles) for the Sunday paper.  Good enough to be seen out in, and funky enough to make me smile!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FO: Fred and George socks by Rachel Coopey

A pair of socks in 8 days?!
Roo, what has come over you?
Oh yes... the Waiting Room factor.
I won't plague you with the details other than to say that FL's planned bone marrow test did not go ahead today because they LOST HIS BLOOD SAMPLE.
I have no words.
It happened to another patient too.  His wife was screaming and crying.  I... knitted.
Back again tomorrow for another try.

Fred and George Socks by Rachel Coopey

Yarn Yard Toddy, a 75 / 25 wool / nylon mix.  I have only good things to say about this yarn base.  Soft, squooshy, and hopefully hard-wearing.  The green was a Small Skein Society club colour.  The purple was my prize in the Coopknits Ravelry Group KAL for Willowherb.
I used 2.5mm dpns, except for the colourwork, where I used 2.75mm dpns to increase stretchiness, as my gauge is tighter in colourwork.  I learned this lesson the hard way.

My most-favourite socks ever, in my sock-knitting history!
The colours are completely insane.
The mis-matching makes me happier than a sensible person would admit.
But who needs sensible when they can have hand-knitted socks?!
Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stag! Canon! Sous-tendu!

Things that are making me happy right now:

Inhaling Warrior soap from Future Primitive

Brewing Earl Grey with Cherry tea from the Hebden Bridge Tea Company

Watching the incredible growth of the Verbena Bonariensis plants in my herb garden - taller than me!
Reading “The Rest of Us” by Jessica Lott.
Looking forward to trying to recreate an amazing meal eaten at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, using my new Tibetan cookbook.
Planning autumnal sewing projects.
Clearing more clutter.
Knitting socks – of course!
Adding spice to my diy fitness regime by breaking into a chorus of “This sh*t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s!” once out of earshot of the neighbours.
With accompanying kick-boxing moves, naturally.
Oh – and occasionally throwing in a shout of “Stag!...Canon!... Sous-tendu!” is fun too.
This is what comes of watching “Step 2 The Streets” with The Girl. It’s kinda hard to do a canon on your own though… the dog just won’t cooperate.
And my stag is particularly shabby.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Socking in the Waiting Room: for Myeloma Readers

Oh lordy lordy here we go again!
Back at the hospital today to see the Consultant (aka Big Cheese).
She gave my dear FL a challenging mental and physical workout to get to the root of how he has been feeling / what might be going on in his body.  She believes he has a lot more strength in his legs than he demonstrates while walking.  No more shuffling, FL!  Stand up straight, man!
She did not share the results of the blood tests from last time, other than to say that his body does not seem to be making red blood cells as it should.  This could be due to the effects of Myeloma, or a side-effect of Revlimid. 
In her words, they have decided to "interrupt his treatment" while investigating the possibilities.  So she ordered a Bone Marrow Test (BMT) and "a telescope up to his bowels" (that's what she said,  but I know there is a proper medical term for this!)
He was to come back at 2pm today for the BMT, so we drove home for a rest.  However, after a half-hour wait at 2pm, he was told they had forgotten he was on Warfarin.  So he has to go back on Thursday instead, after discontinuing the anti-clotting agent.  They weren't going to risk him bleeding to death on the consulting couch!  Fair enough.
He has another appointment with the Consultant in two weeks' time, by which time they will have the Freelite back from Birmingham and the BMT results.  The bowel appointment will come in the post.
That's all we know.
This is why I knit socks.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

FO: The Girl's Own Summer Concert Tee in Black Lace

What do you do when you are 17 years old and have ten days to kill in the middle of nowhere?
Well, you could try to absorb "Crisis in the Middle East:  Israel and the Arab States 1945-2007", with a bit of light relief from "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat".  And you do. But when the local broadband is too slow for You-Tube to load properly, there comes a point of desperation.  A point when you think:  "OK, let's try this sewing thing."
I asked The Girl to draw something she would like to make.
The picture came out looking remarkably like a Summer Concert Tee.
But it would be longer, have a lace back and a plain front, and a lower neckline.

So I showed her how to trace the pattern, adding in her modifications.  The Girl's version is 12cm longer, back and front, and the front neck curve is 3cm lower than the original.
When you are this new to sewing, it doesn't occur to you to think that might be a difficult thing to do - you just get on with it.
Because I wanted her to make something she would actually wear, I didn't restrict her fabric choice to "beginner" level.  So she opted for a beautiful corded lace for the back, and the same extra-fine jersey I used for her Drafting Cardi and my Summer Funeral Hoodie.
Yes, clearly I am insane.
I showed her how to use the vari-overlock stitch on my Bernina, and she practiced with scraps of fabric, until she felt she had control of the machine.
I showed her how to stabilise the shoulder seams with satin bias tape and she practiced that for a while before launching into the real thing.
Yes, there was some frustration and slippage and restitching, but she was remarkably patient for a newbie.
We stopped for the day after that.
She approached the side and sleeve seams with a lot more confidence.
She was stitching far faster than I ever do!
And there was far less unpicking to be done.
Knowing how I had struggled with folded hems on that fine jersey, I offered to hem the sleeves and attach the neckband.  Of course, I managed to cut a hole in the main fabric while trimming the neckband, and had to fold it over a second time to cover the wound - aaargh!  Yes, mother almost ruined the whole project!
The Girl opted to finish the bottom edges with a single row of stitching, just to stop it from unravelling.  Good plan! 
Pattern:  Summer Concert Tee by Dixie DIY, size small, made 12cm longer just below the armholes, and with a 3cm-lower front neckline.
Fabric:  I ordered a metre each of extra-fine jersey and corded lace from Truro Fabrics.  She needed about half of each, so I foresee another sewing project next time she visits :)  Total cost?  About £11. 

The Girl says: "I really enjoyed creating this top of which I'd seen similar styles on various online shops but couldn't justify spending a tenner or more on what seemed relatively simple to make (ha!). But now I have my own, mainly handmade by myself, with lots of help along the way! I plan on layering up this top as it's very see through without wearing something underneath and I'm currently searching ebay for some kind of bandeau to wear underneath if I'm feeling brave. In an ideal world I'd wear this top with a pair of faux leather interesting leggings of some kind such as these  and a pair of Demonia Swing 220's. Neither of which I currently own but I'm working on it, especially the boots (which I'm nearly all saved up for) and now I have the perfect top to go with them!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

More happy sock-knitting

Thank you all for the kind, concerned and funny comments to my recent posts :)
FL is secretly pleased to hear himself compared to a Toast model.  He will deny knowing what Toast is, but I have seen him flicking through the catalogue when he thinks I'm not looking! Heh.
We were back at the GP today for another check-up after he admitted that the D of his D and V had still not cleared up properly after two weeks.  But the threat of that sort of examination seems to have, um... dried him up?  The GP told him he is "just frail".
That's not at all how FL sees himself.
As The Girl said when she saw him again for the first time this visit: "But... but he has always been so full of..."  Yes.  Full of life, energy, spirit, joie de vivre, you name it, he was full of it ;)
The GP weighed him again today and he has lost 7 kilos since July.
Some of that is clearly down to eating less, and the D and V, but it is a lot of weight to drop in a month.
Back to the hospital on Monday.  Sigh.

But on to happier things!

My Rachel Coopey obsession has been fuelled by two new publications.  One of them is illicit contraband if you live in the UK, due to copyright restrictions, so let's just call it: "The Unofficial HP Knits" magazine from Interweave.  I am sure you can track it down without me linking it.  There are some seriously fab patterns for full-sized garments, gloves, cloaks and socks in there.  I am almost tempted to knit a black laceweight coat...

I spotted the Fred and George Socks and just had to knit them, immediately.  If the millionairess with the initials JKR has a problem with me knitting these socks, I will happily make a pair for her to compensate for the loss of earnings involved in the use of the names "Fred" and "George" by a sock-pattern designer.  I mean... really? 

I cast these on on the 6th.  It is only the 8th now and I have just turned the heel of sock one.  That's how obsessed I am!
I am using the Yarn Yard Toddy sock yarn from my CoopKnits KAL prize, and the Small Skein Society round 4.  Purple and green!  Woo hoo!  The colours reverse on the second sock.  I absolutely love how Rachel Coopey designs her patterns in bite-sized chunks.  Every time I pick them up, I am starting a new section:  rib, colourwork, fancy rib, heel flap, heel turn, gusset, foot... everything fresh and new all the way to the toe!  And I even remembered to use bigger needles for the colourwork to make sure it comes out the same gauge as the rib - woot!

I didn't say anything about Toddy when I wrote about the Wallace socks.  That was a wicked oversight!  This yarn is deliciously squooshy, and much softer that the 25% nylon led me to expect.  I am really really pleased with how it settles down in colourwork, but has a good amount of definition in the rib sections. 

The second publication has unrestricted access worldwide.  It is "A Knitted Sock Society", a book of ten Rachel Coopey designs for Rowan Fine Art sock yarn.  I am particularly pleased to see a number of man-friendly designs in this book.  I am serious about knitting at least six out of the ten patterns, if only there were enough hours in the day!
My favourites are Jesse, Reginald and Thora.
Go.  Look.
 I have some Knitting Goddess yarn waiting to be wound just as soon as I finish Fred (or is it George?).  It is "Same Difference" yarn in the Capuccino colourway.  Exciting!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

FO: Wallace Socks by Rachel Coopey

Pattern:  Wallace socks by Rachel Coopey, size large
Yarn:  Toddy from the Yarn Yard (75% merino, 25% nylon)
These are probably the brightest socks my darling FL has ever owned.
He laughed out loud in the waiting room today when I finished kitchenering the second toe and presented them to him, there and then. 
That was a lovely reaction, particularly given the circumstances of our wait.
It was his regular monthly appointment.  But we knew he was in trouble, without seeing a doctor.  It was the Italian lady doctor today.  We like her a lot.  She gave him a thorough examination.  There was no Freelite test taken last month, so we don't know what is happening with his Myeloma, but he is significantly weaker than a month ago.  The doctor was concerned enough to give him a holiday from chemo.  He has to go back in a week for more tests.  She sent his Freelite off today, and ordered more blood tests.  Depending on what they tell her, he might need a bone marrow test next week.  Lovely.
Meanwhile, we just have to keep on keeping on.
With added red socks!