Sunday, April 22, 2018

Gnome is Where the Heart Is

It's not something I bring up in casual conversation, but...I love gnomes. Their little tummies, their pointy hats, their short stature that enables them to nap under flowers and toadstools. If left to my own devices, I'd be that crazy person with no visible lawn because the gnomes would be all over it. All. Over. It. A few months ago I saw a kit for crocheting a little gnome and some toadstools. Add to cart, complete purchase, boom. Then 'the event' happened, and the kit had to be patient. About two weeks ago, give or take, I decided it had waited long enough. 

Now, truth be told, as I was hooking I was also thinking "Just what in the h-e-double am I going to do with a little crocheted gnome?" And so my brain went where it always goes--I either string it all together and make a garland of some sort, or I plonk it all on a wreath. Immediately a wreath image appeared in my brain, and I worked at a feverish pace towards that end. And last night, because I know how to party on a Saturday night, I put it all together. Wanna see?

Isn't he cuuuuuuuute?

Look at his face with his button noise and pink cheeks (and eyes that I swear are on straight).

And his little jingle bell on his hat! I think that might be my favorite detail of the whole shebang.

The kit was from Little Box of Crochet and came with the perfect amount of yarn and everything else needed to make this little guy (including the stuffing and a hook), There were a lot of little pieces to stitch up separately and assemble, so this was not as quick as it looked like it should be.

I found the wreath at Joann's. I was trying to think of how I was going to get a mossy look; I had a styrofoam wreath and a bag of moss in my hand when I saw this one. All mossy and bumpy and straight out of a little fairy tale thicket. It even came complete with little patches of dirt.

After finishing the gnome and toadstools (and mastering French knots) I whipped up some little flowers. I had a kit I bought last year and never used because I would never use the project (mug cozies), but the yarn was in vibrant, pretty colors and just right for this. I dug through my button jar for just the right touch for the flowers that needed a center.

To assemble, I fussed with the flowers until I liked how they looked, and hot glued them in place. The toadstools and the gnome were a bit harder. I didn't want to glue those in place as if the wreath starts to look worse for wear I don't mind losing a few flowers to the trash. BUT there's no way I'd be okay tossing the gnome and the toadstools. So I rigged up a little system only visible from the back.

I tied them to tongue depressors, and then glued those to the back of the wreath. You can't see them at all (those white splotches are where I had to remove them the first time because I just went for it instead of doing the logical thing and checking their placement), and if need be I can untie them with no issue.

OK wait, my favorite detail might be the little yarn shoelaces.

And if you're wondering....his name is Zeke. Short for Ezekiel. Ezekiel Walter Dominelli. What, a gnome can't be Italian?*

*OK, historically speaking in a cultural sense... probably not. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Modern Icelandic Sweater

If this...I'll call it continues I just may get to wear my new wool sweater after all. I cast on this bad boy on Superbowl Sunday, and worked on it pretty regularly until 'the event.' It was sidelined for a few weeks, and then took a few more to finish.

I've never done corrugated ribbing before, so that was fun to do. It doesn't crimp up like a regular rib stitch will, but it still nice and stretchy.

The ribbing was a nice intro to the color work section. It's not difficult to carry floats for two stitches, so this was a nice, gentle ease-you-into-it sort of thing. Then it was miles and miles of gray stockinette.

I ended up switching up the yoke section a bit. See those gray diamonds? They're supposed to be light green. I had a mild panic attack at the thought of knitting with three colors in a single row, so I figured I'd stick to two colors and then go back and duplicate stitch over the gray. THEN I decided that further along the floats weren't crazy long so I'd knit with three colors (even though floats weren't my concern but three stinkin' colors). It took me a really. long. time to do that section. THEN I had to go back and duplicate stitch the bottom of the diamonds all around the sweater because I apparently decided to make this in the least efficient way possible.

It actually wasn't a terrible task. The inside doesn't look as fun in that section as it should, though.

After I did the first section of duplicate stitching, I decided I liked it as is and didn't fill in the other squares. I kept going back and forth, forth and back, trying to picture it with and without. So I went without. The great part about that is that if I decide I want that section filled in I can simply go back and stitch it in. But this way I like that the snowflakes (though traditionally that motif is an eight-pointed rose) are more obvious as snowflakes.

The neckband is a simple ribbing that's stitched for twice as many rounds as the finished band will be. You then go back and loosely tack it down on the inside for a nice, finished look.

I was nervous about this as it would be so me to make a sweater that fits, and then sew the neckline too tight or, better yet, closed. But after every few stitches I gave it a tug to keep the tension just right, and it worked. I will do this on every neckband where I can as the finish is so nice and neat.

I took 473 pictures (it felt like it, anyway) of me in this sweater, and got maybe two that aren't insanely blurry (I'm especially pleased with the shot of just the ceiling). HOW do people take good selfies, time and time again? If I'm in a pic where I look HUMAN I'm happy. So, just so you can see the fit, here you go--

I'm not sure if I wish I had made the next size up or not. It fits super perfect, but my preference is usually for a slightly looser fit.

Oh, almost forgot to mention, the pattern is Modern Icelandic by Lars Rains. It's in the winter 2017/18 issue of Vogue Knitting. You can see more information here on Ravelry. I was originally going to do this in the same colors, as I gasped when I saw the photo, but decided to switch it up. I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted in Spruce, Tranquil, and Lake Ice Heather. It's been soaked in wool wash  and wet blocked.

This was maybe not the best choice for my first stranded sweater as far as difficulty goes, but I'm happy with it. My floats are good, the tension is even, and it fits. So now I can go tuck it in a drawer for months. Yaaaay.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"I Need You to Be More Discerning"

That's something my youngest sister has said to be a LOT in recent months (or something similar). I cannot deny that she has good reason.

A couple of months ago I went on a handful of dates with a guy who started off normal enough, and then took a hard left down Crazy Lane (which, if that was a real street, I'd have to live there just because). "When you're out with your friends, I'm going to need you to check in with me regularly." No. Or, "I need you to text me right away when I text you." Not at 3 in the morning, pal. And finally, "I love you." You don't tell the girl who doesn't like to be HUGGED that you LOVE her after TWO weeks. And that's the tippy top of the tip of the iceberg. My sister said "I'm going to need you to let me screen these people."

Reason two. Not long ago, I made a bagel with cream cheese. It tasted fine. I did not get sick or have any ill effects. A few days later, my sister said "Is this cream cheese ok?" My mother looked and gave that "Eh, maybe yes maybe no face." (Don't judge--you know you've got a science experiment in your fridge, too). I said "I ate that the other day and it was fine." Sister said "I'm pretty sure it's GRAY." (It wasn't). So I repeated myself. She threw it away and said "I'm going to need you to not eat cheese of a questionable age."

And reason three. A few months ago we had a girls' day and went to tea. Afterwards we went to this (quite large) cute antique shop that we had never noticed before. If I had space for such stuff I could have dropped a small fortune there. As such, I bought a book for my uncle, and a beaded basket. It looked really cute sitting on the shelf, with the lights hitting it just so. I imagined someone sitting there, stringing beads and following the directions that came in (what was probably) a kit. I carried it around quite proudly, not knowing what I would ever use it for but needing it just the same.

When we got home, I put it in some warm soapy water to try and brighten it up a little bit. I left it on the windowsill to dry. It looked pretty in the sun.

My sister hadn't seen it yet. But when she saw it the next morning she said "What is that?" but inserted an expletive or two. Then--"That's hideous."

I argued on its behalf. I said "But it's pink and red!" And "It's safety pins!!!" And "Doesn't it remind you of that teeny beaded lampshade Grandma has on that little electric candle in her bathroom?"

I'll be honest. I was less than enamored with it. The lighting in the shop must have been fantastic, because it was not as cute anymore. I told her "Well, I had second thoughts about it this morning....?" and she said "The time for second thoughts was in the store when you picked it up!"

Then she threw down  "I'm going to need you to be more discerning. Between guys, cheese, and...this...I'm just going to need you to make better choices." She's right. So right. In that way that only sisters can be.

But now I have to keep it until she forgets it exists. I can't just admit that I don't know what came over me. It's not even functional! But it IS pink and red...

**Note: I wish she would go to the hospital and tell that neurologist that HE needs to be more discerning, because now I've got TWO doctors of the opinion that this might not be MS. I get more tests on Friday, and hopefully they fill in enough of the picture so I can know for pretty sure what's going on.

And also: I finished my sweater. And it seems to fit. And it's going to be really warm this weekend, but I'll try to take some photos for you. But it's pure wool. So no promises.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Popping in to say hello!

Hello, you wonderful people! I want to send you all a giant hug and a great big thank you for the comments and emails that resulted from my last post. They truly made me feel good, and I've gone back and read them a few times to boost my mood. So--thank you!

I received so many beautiful flowers from friends and family that it looked like a florist's shop in the living room for a little while. I absolutely adore flowers, so they were an instant pick-me-up. Every color you can imagine was represented!

I often hear people say things like "Don't send me flowers! They're only going to die!" Which is perhaps one of the most absurd and depressing things I've ever heard someone say. Give me flowers over jewelry any day (and if I'm being honest, give me cake over either of those).

HOW could you not want something like that in your life? I find it endlessly fascinating the things that nature comes up with all on her own.

As for me, I'm doing really well. So well I am planning on returning to work on Monday. I've been so eager to get back to normal, but I know that tomorrow night I'll whine "I don't wanna go to work tomorrow!" (which is in itself normal, so I guess I've made it after all).

I've made some progress on my sweater (I'm fair-isling with three colors per row, and am convincing myself it's good therapy so I don't lose my mind over the tedium of trapping floats and remembering there's a third color). And I've got a bucketload of afghan squares as well.

Since we last chatted, I've seen a specialist and he wants more tests before he confirms the diagnosis. He would not say what it was or what it wasn't, just simply that he "needs more information." Whatever it turns out to be (if not MS), I've been progressing well--I'm able to drive, the fatigue has lessened, and based on how much This Old House, Pawn Stars, and ER I've been watching I've got three viable career options if I ever want to switch things up.

Improvement was gradual, but when I think that exactly a month ago I couldn't see straight and had a mind-numbing headache that wouldn't quit it seems like it just zoomed along. I am eternally grateful that I was born into a fabulous, supportive family that doesn't let you dwell too long and keeps it real (while bringing tea and chocolate upon request).

I hope to have some things to share with you soon, as I'm eager to start new projects. If it's going to be too cold to wear a new sweater, then I want to make things that remind me of spring. However, it's supposed to snow Monday, so I have no idea how nature works anymore. So on that note, I'll say Happy Easter/Passover/what's passing for spring, and see you soon!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Sometimes, it doesn't matter that you've made such great progress on a sweater that you think you might get to wear it before it's too warm to do so. Because the universe had other plans.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter that you bought a fabric bundle for the first time in ages because you saw a picture of a quilt using it and got a bad case of the must-haves. Because the universe had other plans.

Sometimes it doesn't matter that you're not very good at something; it can still be therapeutic and fill the hours. Because the universe had other plans.

And sometimes it doesn't matter who gave you flowers on Valentine's Day (a right loony-toon, if you're curious, haha). When the universe has other plans, it matters who gives you flowers after your world turns upside down.

Because sometimes, vertigo isn't vertigo. At all.

I've written and rewritten this post in my head a zillion or so times. I've struggled with putting this out there in the world. But we've been pals for a while, so I thought I'd share.

About three weeks ago I was rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night with tingling and numbness down the left side of my body, and eyes that wouldn't sit still. It was a struggle to open my eyes to do anything; if something can move in fifty directions at once that's what EVERYthing was doing. I was fairly calm, yet terrified at the same time (can that happen?).

I was poked, prodded, scanned, scanned with contrast, scanned again, and asked for a sequence of events enough times that if they asked me again I might have said "Just read what the other person *%@#$^ wrote!!!" I had a lumbar puncture with one cranky guy ("Sit still! You're moving!"---OK, guy with a needle in my spine while I can't even sit without someone holding me up. Calm yourself). I had a very hasty neurologist fire questions at me like a drill sergeant ("What's in your left hand? What's in your right? Is this sharp? Is this soft? Come on, come on, is it soft?"). Not to mention the usual hospital antics (gowns with slits in the back, assisted bathroom breaks, being woken up every two hours for vitals, injections, and what have you). And phrases I never thought I'd say to my mother ("Mom, this is Tom. Tom gave me a bath and I didn't make him buy me dinner first").

So, after being told I don't have Lyme disease, or lupus, or meningitis, I learned that I DO have multiple sclerosis (MS). If I wasn't already on my back in a hospital bed (for almost a week), this would have knocked me over for sure.

All of the things they said can contribute to this are not present in my life (smoking, family history, harmful environmental factors like working with chemicals, etc). And there's nothing you do to cause it. You just go to bed one night like you usually do. Then you wake up feeling weird, and a week later you're sent home with a walker, and instructions on how to inject yourself.

It took almost two weeks for this to fully hit me. Each day was a struggle and a triumph. I'd feel myself getting better, and then I'd have a wee setback. But for the past few days, I've been moving along unassisted (a bit slower, and sometimes unsteady), but making good progress. After putting on no makeup and having my hair pulled back, I'm back to my normal look (including contact lenses and mascara). My vision is back to normal. And the skull-crushing headache I had for ten days has finally gone.

I'm still bewildered. I'm still not OK with this. I'm still angry. And I'm still scared.

But I'm still me. My hands still know what to do. And yarn and making things still calm me and feed my soul.

A pile of granny squares has proven a triumph. The first few felt foreign, as though my hands didn't know what that hook was for. But that wee pile there has grown even more. As I stitch, my brain ponders what it wants this blanket to look like on the flip side. A riot of color? Color muted with a neutral? Anything's possible. Because the universe might have plans, but I have other ideas.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Alaska Hat

Hi kids! First, thank you for your lovely notes on my last post. My CT scan came back normal, so the doctor is thinking I have a viral ear infection. I haven't had any more dizziness, but have an occasional bit of...that feeling you get when you stand up too fast. It's worse when I turn my head too quickly, so I'm watching that, but for the most part I'm definitely feeling much better. Not quite my usual self, but getting there.

Second--look at these beautiful pink roses I received for Valentine's Day. The light was coming in at just the right angle, so a picture was necessary.

Third, I made another hat. I'm getting a kick out of knitting colorwork hats as they're quick and satisfying, and justifies my purchase of an interchangeable 16-inch circular needle set. This pattern is called 'Alaska' and is available on Ravelry. I used the exact same yarns as called for in the pattern so as to get the northern lights effect, but this simple pattern would look great in a combination as simple as white and gray.

I made marks all over the chart so I would know where I trapped the floats so I coud trap them somewhere else on the row above (if you trap them in the same spot all the time, they show through the work). Some of these sections had looooooong floats that I didn't love, but I took my time, worked consistently, and everything came out fine.

I even like the way the inside looks. I've been doing research on color dominance when doing colorwork. According to some, there should be no dominant color as that indicates bad tension. This makes absolute sense to me and is what I'm aiming for. However, there are more on the other side of this particular coin that say your background color should carry on the top and your dominant color should be on the bottom (the 'dominant' color being the one you want to stand out the most). The dominance part comes in with how the strand lays on the back of the work, and how it is pulled naturally by the stitches, and so on. I wanted my trees to be dominant, so I sub-consciously decided to NOT make them so (would you expect anything else?). Either way I look at it, though, I really like this hat (and truthfully I don't think I can tell if one color is more dominant than the other unless I knit another one up the other way and compare them side by side).

I finished off with a tidy little pom-pom and promptly wore it out. It's a toasty thing, and fits without squeezing my brains out (but also stays put). 

All this stranded knitting to build my confidence for an Icelandic sweater. I've made good progress on the sweater, but have yet to hit the colored section. With the way our weather has been I won't be needing it this winter so it doesn't really matter how long it takes me, anyway.

OK, tea and the Olympics are calling my name. Later, kids!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mock Rib Watch Cap (and a Ginormous Pom Pom)

Hello. How goeth it with thee? I'm sitting very still right now, as I had a severe case of vertigo yesterday (I've never had that before, and it is one of the scariest things I've ever experienced), and I'm a little nervous to drive so I called off from work today (which I absolutely hate to do). The doctor did his little tests and ordered me a scan as he couldn't tell what the issue is, and I can't have it soon enough, let me tell you. I will be overjoyed if I never ever feel that way again. I'm just glad it didn't happen during my date on Friday, or at the bookstore on Saturday, or heaven forbid while I was driving.

Anyway, a few weeks ago when I made this cowl, I was going to take a crack at a very matching hat. But I was also very eager to make a simple hat with the multi-colored yarn to see how the stripes worked up. Simple won out, so here's the hat:

It's hard to tell in the photo but the colors soften towards the peak, almost as though they come from two different balls of yarn. The pattern is the Mock Rib Watch cap by Tanis Gray (it's free on Ravelry). I did an extra half inch of the rib for some reason I don't remember right now, but I like it. I've made this cap before in a different yarn and it's still one of my favorites.

I even love how this yarn looks on the inside. I saw a tip somewhere on attaching pom poms so they can be removed. You feed the ends through a button with big holes and tie a really secure bow. Then just untie it if you want to wash the hat.

Speaking of pom poms, at Christmas time I bought some pom pom makers. I think I perfected my technique (because you know, it's probably a high demand sort of thing), and the key is to not wind up too much so there's room for everything to squeeeeeeeeze together when you tie it off. I made the biggest size for this one--it might have been overkill.

This is a really nice-fitting hat. I didn't do a gauge swatch or anything, just went for it, and it fits just how I like.

I won't tell you how many photos I took before I was able to deem one "somewhat acceptable." It looks like it's a snug fit, but it's not. It's fitted, but it is not squeezing the life out of my head. It's been warm and rainy here, so if winter could remember it's supposed to be here so I could go ahead and wear this I sure would appreciate it.

OK, I am going to go attempt to make some tea without falling over. Wish me luck!


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