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Yarn Rascal

This past week has been kind of rough. We learned that Yarn Rascal, who is 3 years old, has a small liver that is giving him problems. While the vet says the “prognosis is good” it has meant all kinds of changes. First he must take medication which he doesn’t like at all. Second we must feed him small amounts of special food three times a day. This just kills me because I had worked so hard to find organic high quality food which he loved. The special food is made up of chemicals which I am not comfortable with, but is necessary if we want to keep the liver from going into cirrhosis.

Yarn Rascal was given to me by The Skipper when I was in the middle of my breast cancer treatments and felt I just couldn’t continue on with them. I had hit a wall physically and mentally. Yarn Rascal rescued me and helped me continue my treatments. He is also the driving force behind my staying on my cancer medication for these last three years even though I am constantly in pain from it. Needless to say, this is all upsetting.

Yarn Rascal has a natural sunny disposition and is getting back to being himself though there is a lot that he can no longer have. His chew bones that he loved is one of the casualties. Needless to say, Yarn Rascal from here on in will have full access to the yarn vault and the Rubbermaid bins he so loves to open. It is my hope that Yarn Rascal stays with me for a long time still, but I only have so much control over what his liver does.

Yes, it is finally done. The Pothos Shawl for my SIL is finally done. I am very much in love with the result. The pattern by Anne Hanson is well written and clear. All the trouble I had with this shawl stemmed from me alone and not from the pattern. It turned out to be a big beautiful piece of knitting. Pothos is the name of an Asian plant with leaves the shape of which are in the shawl.

As I said in my last post, the gods of knitting don’t like smugness nor do they like giddiness. Remember I was “giddy” that I only had 3 rows left and the bind off. I should never have even hinted I was anywhere near the feeling of happiness. The knitting gods got me and got me good.

The Skipper was out-of-town overnight on what I thought would be the final night of shawl knitting. All that was left was the bind off. I was breathless with happiness. It is a big shawl and the bind off was going to take most of the night. Before I sat down to begin, Yarn Rascal and I went for a rummage through the yarn vault where he selected a small ball of left over yarn as his companion for the evening. Yarn Rascal with his ball of yarn and I with the shawl sat down on the living room couch for an evening of bliss. I had 10 bound off stitches of the 500 plus when it happened. The lights went out. We were pitched into complete darkness, which frightens Yarn Rascal. He jumped into my arms already filled with the shawl and began doing his nervous dance. All I could think of is this is the revenge of the knitting gods. I should have never said I was giddy. There was no reason to lose electricity no storm nor wind outside. It was calm and the moon was nearing full. It all came down to that one word: giddy. It was clear to me that this shawl was going to vex me until it was packed up and sent out of here to it’s new owner.

I untangled Yarn Rascal from the shawl and held him while I stumbled around searching for my cell phone which has a flashlight feature. A few banged shins and a lot of curse words later I put my hands on it and turned it on. Yarn Rascal went wild. He is not a calm little dog in a power outage. I thought of setting up candles to provide him some light, but I don’t like to leave burning candles unattended and I would need to do that in order to set up the generator, which I have only set up once before. I opened the drapes instead and let the moonlight in. This did not soothe him. I had to battle him to get to and through the door into the garage and generator. How long can a dog bark, yelp, and throw himself against a closed door? Well it seems Yarn Rascal is a marathon barker, yelper and jumper. The dog has endurance. He kept it up the whole while I tried to set up the generator.

Setting up the generator by moving it outside the garage door is a 5 minute job for the person who knows what he’s doing. Key word here is “know”. The first thing I realized is that the garage is absolutely black darkness when there are no lights. The second thing I realized is that the flashlight on the phone doesn’t make much of a dent into that darkness. And the third thing I came to understand is I need light to walk down a group of stairs properly. Waving the flashlight around looking for the generator and not concentrating on the number of steps I had to descend got me to the bottom of the stairs more quickly than I expected.

The garage is a two car variety. The garage door is large. It also runs on electricity but can, hypothetically, be opened manually. How hard can that be? I positioned myself and bent over to lift the garage door. It came up maybe three inches before it snagged, at which point I could hold it no longer, and it slammed shut the way a guillotine whooshes down just missing my feet. No problem, I thought. Just assume ballet position number two, making sure the feet are out of the way and try again. Same thing happened. Something was preventing the garage door from going up. I take up the flashlight and run it over the mechanism of the door. Sure enough the door has a “safety” feature on it which is a lock that prevents people from just lifting the door up and gaining entrance. The little handle for unlocking the lock was dangling over my head and out of reach. I tried jumping up to grab it and pull it down, but unlike Yarn Rascal, who was still going strong, I finally had no jump left in me after a handful of tries.

Looking around I noticed there were no ladders in the garage. They were all up in the barn. I had a decision to make: I could walk all the way up to the barn with no lights and hope that I wouldn’t meet a coyote or a mountain lion or I could find something in the garage to stand on and then jump from that and grab the release handle. Briefly I eyed the tractor. If I stood on the seat I was at the perfect height to grab the handle. But the tractor was back in the corner and not positioned where I needed it. Also I had at least two hours worth of things to move out of the way to get the tractor in position. Lastly there were no keys in the tractor and I had no idea where they were.

The next thing I came up with was a milk crate. While not tall enough for me to reach the handle even on tippy toes it did give me a higher platform to jump from and attempt to grab the handle. My thinking and attention was totally centered on grabbing the handle to release the lock and I never once thought about where I would land once I launched myself into the air. This was an important oversight.

I placed the milk crate under the handle stood on top of it and jumped like I was going for a gold medal. My hand touched then grabbed the handle and I heard the lock click open. I experienced a very brief feeling of success that ended in some pain when I landed amid the clutter on the garage floor. I remember being surprised that the chain saw was on the floor, but it was a fleeting surprise as I crashed into saw horses, two by four pieces of wood, a full gallon can of gasoline and a wooden bench I never saw but would have worked better than the milk crate.

I got up, dusted myself, off ignored the bleeding and went to open the darn garage door. This time I got the door open a good 10 inches (25) cm before it whooshed back down trying to sever my toes from my feet. I tried it three more times, but the problem was my left arm, the mastectomy side. While my right arm was strong enough to lift and then push up, my left arm couldn’t do the push motion. Down the door crashed.

I thought for a bit. If I could wedge something underneath the garage door to hold it at the 10 inches (25) cm, I could then reposition myself to lift it a little more and wedge a taller item under it and if I could get it up high enough doing it this way I would be able to push it all the way open. But what was I going to use as wedges? After much searching and a bad encounter with a rake (never leave the tines outward where they are easily stepped on in the dark), I found an entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica high up on a shelf in the far back of the garage. The Skipper is probably the last person on earth with a complete set. But they would work well, I thought, as wedges. I was planning how I was going to climb up to the shelf and get the books when I noticed that Yarn Rascal was silent. I called his name. Nothing. Was the dog dead? Was he eating the shawl? Did he have a nervous breakdown? I picked my way back around the garage, avoiding the rake, to the stairs. When I opened the door there was Yarn Rascal sitting panting in the middle of the shawl, his ball of yarn by his side and the lights were on. We had lights again!

Needless to say, I didn’t finish the bind off that night. I cleaned out the cuts and scrapes I had gotten in my fall, looked in my medical chart to see when my last tetanus shot was and decided to call it an evening. The knitting gods had won another round

pothos-knit-shawl-1

pothos-knit-shawl-2

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The SIL shawl has 3 more rows before it is completed. 3! I know I shouldn’t show how giddy I am at being so close to calling it complete, the gods of knitting don’t like that sort of thing, but I can’t help it; there is so little good news around. The amount of work needed to complete the 3 rows will probably take 3 nights of knitting, but after working on it so long 3 nights seem like almost nothing. I must stop this crowing or the gods will put some really difficult road blocks in front of me and the darn thing will take 3 weeks and not 3 days. Is it possible it could be packed up and in the mail before 24 November? Be calm my rapidly beating heart. Or am I having a heart attack just thinking of the end of this shawl?

When I realized I was coming to the end of the shawl I briefly panicked wondering what I would knit next. But I have a cowl and fingerless mitts I’d like to complete before winter is over so I think I will concentrate on that for a bit. Then there are socks that I started for Big Foot aka The Skipper, but I am rethinking the design. I also have the massive Shetland Shawl to do, but I have to bounce some questions off of you guys first before I start that.

I also have the Anastasia baby sweater pattern to write up. I started doing that in earnest yesterday. Instead of figuring out all the numbers for all the sizes as I created the sweater as I usually do, I decided to try what I thought would be a simpler method. I knitted and recorded all the numbers for one size within the pattern. The “simpler” way will never be done again. I am finding it more time consuming than if I had figured everything out as I went. The only thing saving me from madness is that I made two schematics: one detailing all the sizes the other all the stitches and rows. At least the schematics give me a starting point for all the other sizes. The great thing about grading a pattern is that I literally close myself off from all media while I am doing it. Not hearing, seeing or reading the news is a massive plus right now.

In other interesting news, we have a female fox hanging around the house at night. Last night she was on the patio, much to Yarn Rascal’s dismay. She is beautiful and looks healthy but it is unusual for foxes to come as close to the house as she does. I am going to have to encourage her to stay her distance by shooing her when she is that close. It’s fine when they turn and go, not so great when they decide to stay their ground. Speaking of which, for the time being I have lost the battle of the yard with the big buck. When he doesn’t want to move, he doesn’t move. Rather cheeky of him, but his testosterone is high this time of year and it affects his common sense. He is majestic looking when he is being obstinate and since there is no hunting allowed on our land, I know he’s safe here. SO all in all I’d rather have him around than end up a trophy on someone’s wall.

Random Notes

After the SIL shawl sat in a time-out for a little over a week, I am once again knitting on it. I have 20 rows until it’s done. Why this is being the mother of all shawls is beyond me. It’s not the pattern, it’s me. Somehow I can’t count to 24. I also keep blowing the double central decreases. Why I don’t know. The knitting is not hard to read, I just can’t seem to shake the sense of doom I get each time I pick up this shawl.

The Skipper seems to think I have other things on my mind. I went to my oncologist last week and found out that my bone marrow is not making platelets so I have a low volume of platelets. It’s called thrombocytopenia. Why the marrow is not making platelets may be a combo of the radiation treatments and the cancer med I am on. Or it could be that my spleen is destroying them. While they can’t take me off the cancer med, they did pull me off the nsaid they had me on for the pain in my bones. It’s a shame because the nsaid was working pretty well. At the moment, they won’t even let me take a simple aspirin or Tylenol. Still I knit and sketch new designs and dither over the designs I have completed.

I used to like to have a span of time between completing a design and writing it up in good pattern form. It gave me some distance on the design so that when I returned to it again it was with fresh eyes. But these latest designs are sitting and sitting. Every time I think of picking up my notes and writing them up in pattern form something crops up and I have to put it off. This weekend I am locking myself in my work room and getting at least one of the patterns typed up. I also need to take some pictures for the tutorial that will be included in the patter regarding ribbon work on the bonnet. The ribbon work is simple enough, but not many people today know how to hand-sew things neatly. Once hand-sewing skills were the norm, now they are not. I have a friend who tosses a shirt if it looses a button. She owns no needle and thread and wouldn’t know where to start to even try and attach it. How things have changed.

Yarn Rascal still has his eyes on the prized Shetland wool package that is hanging from the closet ceiling out of his reach. I may not be able to hold him at bay much longer. When he breaks into the yarn vault he now stands on his hind legs and howls at the package. Usually this is around the 2 am time of night. I almost broke the package open and gave him a cake of wool last night as he just wouldn’t settle down. But if I do that now, he will just want another one when I start working with it and I only bought one extra for him. I didn’t think it would take me this long to get the Shetland Shawl up and running.

All things in the yard are normal. The buck now has a little harem of does with him. Hank still visits the pond. I haven’t seen the coyote or the mountain lion, but if the deer and the Great Blue Heron are around it’s a pretty good sign that the coyote and the mountain lion aren’t in the area. Oh yes, and the skunks haven’t gone into hibernation yet. Don’t even ask how I know this.

Weaving In Ends

When I was a very young knitter both in age and experience, I knit my first sweater and wore it to an event called Rhinebeck where I was introduced to a rather famous knitter. Since the knitter is still living and still famous I will avoid naming the individual. The person doing the introduction was crowing about how well my first knitted sweater turned out. The famous knitter looked at the cardigan then pulled it off me and scrutinized the inside of the sweater. She said that the hallmark of good knitting was a very neat wrong side where the ends of the yarn are woven in so they cannot be seen. While most of my ends met her approval, some did not. She took the time to demonstrate how these should be handled. She did this by undoing them and then weaving them back together again. While I am grateful for her sharing her talent, I was traumatized by the whole thing. I didn’t knit another thing for five years and when I did, I dreaded the moment of weaving in the ends. I still do.

Shawls produce the ultimate dread regarding weaving in ends so they can’t be seen. After all, the wrong side of a shawl is easily visible and I’d rather you see my underwear than die of embarrassment from an improperly woven in end. So here is what I’ve learned since that first fateful trip to Rhinebeck.

With a sweater, yarn ends can be hidden in seams. Not so with a shawl. Often the edges of a shawl are patterned in lace which doesn’t make a great place to hide yarn ends. Unlike with a sweater, where the rule is join in new yarn at the edges where it will be lost in the seam, this doesn’t happen with a shawl. Sometimes I need to join new yarn while in the middle of a row. It is best to pick a point where there is a block of stockinette stitch surrounding the join. I keep my joins simple. The more simple, the less noticeable. I join new yarn by wrapping the new and old yarn around the needle and knit the stitch. This creates two stitches, which I mark so I remember to decrease it on the wrong side row. Below is an example of where I joined yarn in mid row. This kind of join has never unraveled for me. In fact the garment will wear out before the join gives way. It is, for me, the surest way to join yarn.

weave-in-ends-1

When it comes time to weave in the ends of the yarn, I want to prevent a hole. I do that by crossing the yarns.

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Then when weaving in I weave yarn A one way and yarn B in the opposite direction. By weaving in, I mean that I am piercing the yarn of the purl stitches and drawing the yarn end through them.

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I pierce three going down one row and then pierce three going up the next row. It is like duplicate purl stitching except that I am piercing the yarn and drawing the yarn end through in order to have it hold. If I just duplicate stitched, the end of the yarn would always be exposed as the garment is used. By piercing I am burying the yarn end.

In order to “lock” my weaving I select a purl stitch, pass the needle and yarn end underneath without piercing, draw yarn end up and pierce it as close to the purl stitch as I can get so it locks into itself.

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This locking works very well with slippery yarns. Then I continue to work three down and three up piercing the purl stitches. Should my yarn end come unraveled the point at which it locks will stop it from further coming undone. In the end, my weaving in of ends looks like this:

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I hope this helps some. My way is not the only way. There are many techniques for weaving in yarn ends. Give them all a try and find which one works best for you.

Well the powers-that-be seem to  be  listening to me. In keeping with their wicked sense of humor, last night around 2 am I met face to face with a real mountain lion in my own yard. It is a unique stomach-dropping sensation that occurs when you go from top of the food chain to the bottom rapidly.

What was I doing in the yard at 2 am? Remember if you will, Yarn Rascal is nocturnal. He lays siege all night to the yarn vault and in between plays with his toys and chews his bones or, if it’s been a particularly  good night in the yarn vault, he chews up the paper yarn ball bands. A busy dog, he drinks a bowlful or more of water at night. Therefore, he needs to go outside at all hours.

The mountain lion seemed to be passing through. We have a distinct animal trail that runs through our property. Lucky us. This morning I called the local DEP and the nature preserve to alert them but they already knew the lion was around. They said they “think” it is moving north back into areas that would be more suitable.

This is my first face to face with a mountain lion and I can say I do hope it is my last. It didn’t stop to acknowledge me or anything but you could tell by the way it moved it considered itself top of the list.

I am not looking forward to nightfall.

I don’t know why it is true but it is: Each time The Skipper steps out of the house things go south in a big way. Yesterday afternoon The Skipper was out and I thought I’d sit down to some quiet knitting on the SIL shawl. What with 20 rows left I was feeling pretty good about my knitting progress and I was careful not to say that aloud for fear the knitting gods would hear. I only thought it. Still I paid the price.

I had found a cozy position in the chair with the 500 plus stitch shawl in my lap. The television was on my regular news channel which I now watch with the sound off. It is so much better if you can’t hear what they are saying. Yarn Rascal was upstairs  breaching the yarn vault, banging on the doors to pop them open to gain entrance. All was well.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement out the picture window down by the pond. My knitting was in the middle of a lacey motif that I had to finish or else lose my place. But I just couldn’t keep my eyes from the pond where Hank had landed and was now stalking fish and frogs. A yelp of glee floated down the stairs letting me know Yarn Rascal had gained access to the yarn vault and just in that quick moment I lost count and my place in the lace motif.

Taking a deep breath, I put aside the knitting, got up and opened the sliding door to extend my hand and shake the handful of keys to move Hank out of the pond. Of course anytime a door to the outside opens Yarn Rascal is immediately there to add to the confusion. I shook the keys with one hand and kept Yarn Rascal inside by blocking all his attempts of escape with my leg.

When it was clear Hank was not going to move from the pond I opened the sliding door a little wider to step out. As I stepped out in rushed a chipmunk. He went between my feet and under Yarn Rascal racing for the living room. For Yarn Rascal, the next best thing to a cake of Shetland yarn is to have some live animal, other than himself, running around the house. In short, he was delighted beyond all reason that we now had a chipmunk in the house, while I was wishing The Skipper had never left.

Naturally, as all chipmunks probably do, the little creature headed straight for the knitting. It’s a big shawl. Lots of little places to hide in when placed in a heap. With the chipmunk under the shawl and Yarn Rascal on top of it digging, I could see disaster. I captured Yarn Rascal, detangled him and his nails from the shawl and fought the squiggling monster into another room and closed the door. While he yelped, barked, howled and hurled himself repeatedly at the door I took a moment to catch my breath. Next I decided to go back into the living room, grab up the shawl with the chipmunk in it and trying not to get bit, take it outside where I would unravel chipmunk and shawl.

I did just that. Got the shawl outside and viola! no chipmunk. The chipmunk was still somewhere in the house. How does one get a chipmunk out of the house? Darn if the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel didn’t pop into my head. A food trail might entice him back out the door. Thankfully The Skipper loves nuts. All kinds of nuts, so we keep a lot on hand. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, you name it we have it. I made a big, wide trail of most of the nuts we had. It went from the living room out the sliding glass door.

It took awhile, but along came the chipmunk and followed the nut trail. Of course The Skipper was now without any nuts. But as I told him it was the choice of having nuts and a chipmunk in the house or having no nuts and no chipmunk.

The shawl came out of the ordeal pretty well. A few snags that I can ease back into place and a loss of 10 rows, but no major damage. Yarn Rascal is no worse for the wear. He just loves a good adventure. As for The Skipper, he says he’s not going anywhere for a long while. That’s okay by me.

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