Archive for February, 2014


I passed my mammogram today! Tuesday I get an MRI just to make sure there is no cancer lurking where the mammogram can’t find it, but for the first time in over a year I am actually letting myself believe that I may be cancer free and feeling what that is like. It’s almost electric. If everything wasn’t frozen solid with ice and snow, I’d run out and hug my favorite trees, but I can’t get to them.

When I learned a year ago I had breast cancer the first thing I did was make myself something that would remind me to Believe.

believe heart

I found the pattern on Lucy’s blog Attic 24. And this became my Believe heart. Believe that I could get through the operation. Believe that I could get through treatment one day at a time. Believe that some day I might hear the words cancer free.

Today I Believe.

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The knitting of the Spring Sweater is near its end, and I am near mine along with it. The final stage of sweater making, after the body and sleeves are complete, is always full of Sturm und Drang (translated here as storm and stress) for me. It’s high opera at it’s most over played best: the point where the lead character is toast but doesn’t have the decency to lay down and die so she continues to sing for another whole Act. That’s where I’m at.

First, I need to find a cable needle the correct size and length to pick up stitches along the fronts and around the neck. This means hunting through the yarn vaults with one hand and keeping Yarn Rascal at bay with the other. Bamboo cable needles are valuable additions to his stock portfolio. None of the cable needles are in packages so I can’t tell size and length at a glance. I will need to gather them together near a bright light and peer at them with a magnifying glass to see the size stamped or not stamped on their sides. This means I need to hunt for the magnifying glass, which I last used when setting the rhinestones on the trucks to mimic headlights and running lights. However, it doesn’t mean it’s in the last place that I used it. So my first step really, is to find the magnifying glass and then rummage the yarn vaults while fighting off Yarn Rascal’s attempts to procure goodies.

Once I do all that and discover that I don’t have the correct needle size in the correct length to pick up and knit a gazillion stitches around the neck and fronts I’m going to weep, moan and stagger down the stairs and into the living room, fall onto the couch, look up to the heavens and ask “Why??? Why can’t anything I do just be simple?” Then it will hit me that the sweater needs to be done by 28 February which is this Friday. I will have a short, but effective panic attack.

At this point, it will also come to me that I don’t have buttons for the sweater. A migraine will ease from the back of my head and set up residence just behind my eyes. Buttons are a problem for me. I don’t like putting a lot of buttons on a sweater. The number the sweater calls for is 7 or 8. That’s way too many for me. Okay. So how many buttons do I button when I wear a sweater? I don’t know. I haven’t worn a cardigan in years. I wear my knit shawls. The migraine will increase incrementally along with the number of times I try to figure out this conundrum.

I’m toast, and I need to lie down and accept it.

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A Liebster Award

I’d like to thank Whatimuptotoday for selecting my blog for a


The answers to her 11 questions:
1) Which do I prefer to read the book or see the movie? I’d rather read the book.
2) What would I tell my 16 year old self to make life more meaningful? Check your attitude, you’re headed for trouble.
3) Favorite thing to do on a rainy day? Work on my painting skills.
4) If I could give away a million dollars who would get it and why? The no kill animal shelter in my area.
5) Would I rather live in the city or country? Not a debate. Give me country every time.
6) Chocolate or Vanilla or…? I like both, though I don’t eat ice cream anymore.
7) Favorite Color? Purple.
8) Favorite TV Show? Downton Abbey.
9) Favorite outdoor activity? Walking and observing nature.
10) Pet Peeve? Knots in yarn where the mill has tied two ends together.
11) One thing I wish I could do better? Paint birds.

11 random facts about me:
I’d have a houseful of animals if it were up to me.
I love the styles and fashions of the 1920s.
I eat only organic foods, since my cancer.
Strawberries and blueberries are my favorite fruits.
My favorite time of day is dusk.
I love high tech things but don’t always know how to use them.
I am trying to learn Adobe Illustrator.
Autumn is my favorite season.
I like snow.
I enjoy well-written historical novels.
I like to laugh.

The five blogs I’d like to nominate are:
Cottage on the Green.
Mollie and Claire.
Knitting to Stay Sane
Ella Gordon.

The 11 questions:

1) What got you started on knitting / crochet?
2) What item do you most like to knit / crochet?
3) What are your preferred colors or color scheme?
4) What knitting / crochet skill would you like to improve?
5) What would be the ultimate project you would like to tackle?
6) What kind of designs tend to catch your eye?
7) What is your favorite yarn?
8) What are your favorite resource books?
9) If you were asked to give a beginner one piece of advice about knitting / crochet what would it be?
10) What must a pattern contain for you to consider it well-written?
11) What is your favorite stitch?

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Yarn Rascal Wins Gold


Yarn Rascal had a Gold Paw evening. It’s been awhile since his last award so he went all out for this one.

With the yarn stash locked in the Yarn Vault along with the bamboo needles, opportunities to make a run for the Gold Paw have been slim. To further hamper his dash to Gold, Yarn Rascal is never left alone in the house and never out of our sight in the house. Still, he finds enough trouble to get into. Like a well-heeled Wall Street portfolio, Yarn Rascal has learned to diversify his acquisitions. Currently, he likes to steal and chew pens and pencils. An occasional crochet hook thoughtlessly left on an end table also works for him. But last night he out did himself.

The Skipper stepped out to the store leaving Yarn Rascal and me alone. On the couch I was entangled in half a dozen yarn strands hanging from the Spring Sweater that needs to be finished by 28th of this month. Along with the snarled yarn, I had no less than 3 sets of circular needles and their cables intertwined in the effort. Yarn Rascal was on the couch next to the tv remote. He enjoys changing channels, which he did.

In place of the news show I had been ignoring, was a movie from the Twilight saga, a craze I diligently ignored when it swept through. But for some unsound reason, the improbable plot with Bella, whose head never met a hard surface it didn’t like to bounce against, and Edward, who consistently delivered his lines as if he had a pillow over his face, caught my attention. As I watched to analyze what had attracted so many to such an impaired oeuvre I heard snow and ice crash down from the roof. If for a second I’d been in my right mind I would have known it the sound couldn’t be from snow and ice. Everything was frozen outside. More importantly, I would have seen that Yarn Rascal was no longer sitting by the remote.

During a commercial break the white blur of a madly wagging tail caught my eye. Yarn Rascal was at the top of the stairs positively delighted with himself. He had two of my hand knit socks in his mouth and was whipping them around as if they were one of his badly destroyed toys.

I don’t remember disentangling myself from yarn and needles, I don’t know what happened to Bella or Mumbles, but I remember not taking my eyes off Yarn Rascal, trying to talk him down from his extreme happiness. As I walked up the stairs, Yarn Rascal retreated with my socks into one of the rooms. His favorite game is hide and seek when he has something in his mouth that he shouldn’t. The lights upstairs were not on and all was dark. I had to guess which room he might be in, flip on the light and corner him. I chose the bedroom.

When the light came on I couldn’t believe what I saw. The antique vanity table I had painstakingly restored was on it’s side, all that was on top was now scattered over the room. It was the crash I’d heard. Yarn Rascal had leaped from the bed onto the table to gain the merino wool socks and knocked it over. In my shock, Yarn Rascal blew by me to freedom and the downstairs where it takes two people to catch him.

Remaining calm is the first step in successful dog training. When teaching a dog not to pick up undesirable objects, offer it something it likes, such as a favorite treat. But Yarn Rascal has a delicate stomach and pancreas. I haven’t found a treat that agrees with him. The only things I could offer and that he likes were a ball of Shetland Yarn (his favorite) and a pen (his second most favorite).

They worked.

When The Skipper returned, Yarn Rascal was sleeping like a baby in my arms, the ball of Shetland Yarn gently cradled in his mouth.

“Did you have a quiet evening?” the Skipper asked.

“As quiet as an earthquake,” I said.

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Need I say it? Yes, it’s snowing. It seems as if it’s never really stopped. I managed to make the rounds to hardware stores in the area looking for a roof rake, to get at least some of the snow and the 4″ /(10) cm of ice off. I am seriously worried about roof damage at this point. My search was an adventure, vexing at times, but an adventure nonetheless. In short, it was like looking for a unicorn.

In some stores when I asked for a roof rake, the workers just stared at me as if I no longer was speaking English. For them, I just turned and walked away. No sense in explaining, they were not going to understand. In other stores, the workers were happy to yell to each other in their grating New York accent only lifelong New Yorkers have “Hey Louie, you got rakes? The lady wants a rake!” And then the worker inevitably looks back at me with a look on his face that says he so wants to ask “Hey Lady, you gonna rake leaves?” Yuk, Yuk, Yuk. For them, I roll my eyes, turn and walk away.

The snow is thigh deep. It is impossible to walk the yard save where we shoveled for Yarn Rascal. The piles made from snow that has been plowed almost reach the lower branches on our trees. Driving is a crap shoot. Every intersection is blind. You can’t see if cars are coming or not because the snow piles are so wide and high that they block your view until you’ve eased out enough to get hit. “Hey lady, you gonna rake leaves?”

Last night the local news channel had a segment on how to remove the snow and ice from roofs. It was worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit. At first, I really thought they were kidding. According to the segment the solution was taking a regular ball peen hammer, climbing up a ladder and hammering the ice and snow off the roof without hitting or destroying the roof shingles. The snow that is wrapped around the house comes up to my chest because of drifting. Where, pray tell, am I going to get close enough to safely plant a ladder without digging out the entire perimeter of the house? By the time I finish digging out the perimeter I will: A) be dead of a heart attack; B) if I’m not dead, I certainly will be too exhausted to climb a ladder to hammer my roof; C) have gone insane.

This, ladies and gentlemen is why I knit, especially while watching TV. The movement of my hands, wrapping the yarn around the needle, adjusting the knitted fabric, knitting some more, adjusting some more, is soothing to my soul. I feel it’s comfort and relaxation in my heart and soul first, and then my mind has no other place to go but to follow. It’s why I won’t be out there with a ball peen hammer and ladder. It’s why I can embark on a journey to find a unicorn and return with mind intact. My knitting is there for me. No matter what, my knitting is there.

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Mother Nature’s Anger

The people who name winter storms for The Weather Channel have a strange sense of humor. The latest one to blow through here, Pax, the Latin word for peace, was the exact opposite of its name.

Gentle, peaceful, orderly, none of these words apply to this latest angry rant from Mother Nature. In fact, only the completely brain-dead could miss this latest message from Nature: she’s really angry.

When I was younger, there was a commercial that ran incessantly on US television for a margarine that came in a tub. The point was the tub of chemicals tasted exactly like butter. In the commercial they had Mother Nature dressed in her soft Spring finery tasting the margarine and agreeing it was butter. Then the snide voice over came in with the name of the product. The next shot contained a bolt of lightning, thunder, wind and rain with Mother Nature saying “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” I couldn’t get that tag line out of my head yesterday as I watched the weather deteriorate.

The snow fell at a blinding rate. Visibility went down to pretty near zero. On top of the snow and ice already here, it quickly piled up, covering the bottom third of the first floor windows. Let me repeat that. The snow fall was so great that it reached and covered the bottom third of the first floor windows. It wasn’t a light fluffy snow either. It was heavy and wet, the kind they call heart attack snow. It’s impossible to shovel. The Skipper and I took turns keeping a small area open for Yarn Rascal. The storm was so bad, even Yarn Rascal got the message. Yesterday was the first time in his whole 1 year existence that he had fast and short business transactions.

At dinner time it grew uncomfortably warm outside. After spending most of the winter in below freezing temperatures 34 degrees (1.1 celsius) feels like 70 (21 celsius), positively balmy. Enter lightning and thunder.

The thunderstorm was quite a show. The lightning was like watching a light show put on by someone strung out on speed. Even the thunder couldn’t keep up. Though the thunder was exceptional in itself. The rolling sound never seemed to stop and the concussive blasts shook the walls, rattled the plates in the cupboards, and was felt through the floor. The lights flickered, threatening to go out. Yarn Rascal was a model of good behavior because he was so scared. The rain poured down, then sleet and then white out snow. It was awesome to watch.

Today, the sun is out. Tomorrow another storm is coming. More snow. It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

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Between swatching for two baby sweaters and working on the test knit for the Spring Sweater I’ve had little time to register weather reports. So imagine my surprise at 10 pm last night when my brain selected the following words from the local weather report to highlight: “historic storm”…”starting in 2 hours”… “ending Friday.” When my head jerked up to look at the television in hope that the weather guy was talking about North Dakota the screen had gone to a commercial, and my hands kept knitting. A mistake that I compounded by continuing to knit away while flailing around searching for information on what the guy just said. In the end, it would have been easier to have waited the 2 hours, looked outside and all would become clear. Yes, he meant my area. Instead, I have about 4 rows that need ripping back.

Today it is snowing so hard that visibility is measured in yards, not miles. The Skipper and I are taking turns shoveling, trying to keep a few paths open for Yarn Rascal. We shovel once every two hours, that’s how hard it’s snowing. It’s full blown Nor’easter Blizzard conditions, blowing snow, the complete orchestra is playing in this little number. While I thought about keeping a path to the car viable in case of an emergency, that would mean clearing the car too of snow, and really where the heck do I think I could get to in case of an emergency? We live on back roads. Nary a plow has been seen. You can’t get there from here is a reality. Also you can’t get here from there is true too.

But the best is yet to come. Ice and strong winds. After that, if the temperatures rise enough, heavy rains and strong winds.

So I thought it appropriate at this moment in time to show you the back of the Spring Sweater in it’s “I’m knitted but awaiting adjustments” state.


The adjustments will occur near the top on the garter st lines. When I knitted the back and came to the top area, I realized that the designer had garter st lines going across the sweater effectively ending the lace and balancing the garter st lines at the bottom. Well I panicked. I didn’t want the garter st lines to call attention to any part of my chest and mastectomy. My strong reaction surprised me. It’s a beautifully designed sweater and part of what I like about it are the garter st lines.

I wanted the back in some state of finish so I moved the garter st lines too far up. I need to rip the top of the back and adjust the garter st lines to the ones on the fronts. I haven’t reached the line area on the fronts yet, but when I do, I am going to take a deep breath and put them where the designer has them. I need to take this one step away from my fear and shame about having a mastectomy.

This is why I like knitting. It is life’s problems in microcosm. Until I knit this sweater I never realized that I had stopped wearing all shirts that are my regular size. Since my mastectomy I have been wearing men’s XXL shirts instead of my usual size which is medium to large, depending on the cut of the shirt. Most of The Skippers turtlenecks and long sleeve shirts, sweat shirts, tees are hanging in my closet now. My shirts are relegated to the side of the closet that houses things I rarely wear. Don’t get me wrong, I like roomy shirts, but this hiding beneath my clothing has got to stop and it’s going to start with this Spring Sweater.

To all who live on the East Coast. Happy Shoveling.

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A subject that keeps surfacing in the knitting community is whether it is okay if a knitter can’t get row gauge, but is spot on with stitch gauge. The answer is no, it’s not okay. If I can’t get row gauge I have a lot of pencil, paper and calculator work ahead of me.

Row gauge is the ruler of lengths. The shaping of a piece occurs over a set amount of rows. If my row gauge doesn’t equal the gauge given, all shaping will be off if I follow the pattern shaping as written.

What to do?

First, I find my row gauge over 4″ / (10) cm. Why 4? It’s a standard number. It’s also an even number. Even numbers are the gold standard of knitting because everything is done in twos. Knitting has a RS and a WS (2 rows). Decreases and increases are often paired occurring at each end of the needle (2 ends).

Second, after finding my row gauge I make a note of the “raw” number. A “raw” number is the actual number I get when I divide the number of rows I counted by 4″ / (10) cm. Often the “raw” number is not nice and even. For example, I counted 30 rows over 4″ / (10) cm. 30 divided by 4 = 7.5 rows per inch. (30 divided by 10 = 3 rows per 2.5 cm) Neither answer is an even number. Next, I need to make a conscious decision. Do I round 7.5 up or down? Do I leave 3 as it is or round it?

For calculation purposes I decide to leave it as an open question, a decision I will make on a case by case basis.

For instance, I knitted a sweater that had 2″ (5) cm of really noticeable waist shaping. The waist was meant to pull in dramatically over a 2″ length. The pattern gauge was 24 rows over 4″. 24 divided by 4 = 6 rows per inch.The waist shaping with pattern gauge occurred over 12 rows. (2″ times 6 rows per inch = 12 rows).

My “raw” waist shaping numbers were 2″ times 7.5 rows = 15 rows. My rounded up gauge waist shaping numbers were 2″ times 8 = 16 rows. My rounded down gauge waist shaping numbers were 2″ times 7 = 14. I decided to adjust the waist shaping over 14 rows. Once done I checked it against my body to see if it needed to be changed.

Another crucial row gauge area: armholes. The initial shaping of an armhole for an adult sweater usually takes place over no more than the first 1″ or 2″ (2.5 or 5) cm. Again, I need to fit the number of decreases the pattern calls for over my row gauge.

All in all, not getting row gauge is an important issue. The knitter needs to calculate the pattern lengths to fit his / her gauge if he /she wants the piece to fit right.

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From the house to the barn through snow over my knees with a healthy crust of ice is 98 steps. I needed to get the heavy duty ice breaker and of course I looked everywhere with no success. Then it came to me that it was probably in the barn. How hard could it be to reach the barn?

At 56 steps I seriously considered lying on my back in the snow and watching the sky until I:
A) froze to death;
B) The Skipper found me;
C) caught my breath, regained my energy and plodded on towards the barn.

Instead I stayed on my feet, wobbled a moment like a spinning top losing energy, then charged forward determined to reach the barn. When I got there I sat on the tractor for a good while, moving only after I stopped gasping for air. It was the best aerobic exercise I’ve had in weeks.

They say more snow is heading our way, possibly bigger than this last one. Really, we’re just gilding the lily now.

The back of the test knit sweater is done…more or less. I am working on the two fronts at one time hoping to finish them faster. I need to see where the top lines of garter stitch fall on the fronts and adjust the back accordingly. I realize that what I overwhelmingly want is a dress maker’s dummy. One that’s my size and I can pin my knitting to. I’d love it to look old-fashioned. While I am wishing, I’d like to win the Lottery too.

For this weekend, I am going to be busy knitting and designing 2 cabled baby sweaters one with a hood and one without. I am excited about the designing. That means my pencils, drawing pad, lots of pictures of knitting surrounding me, and dreaming. I like the dreaming stage, when everything is possible, and what could be is always just within reach. The sketches….Only when I have to translate the drawings to yarn weight and sizes does reality settle itself around me again with a sigh.

Have a good weekend.

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The full spectrum of this year’s winter fashions was masterfully exemplified by the House of MoNa and its preeminent designer Mother Nature, last night. The runways, streets, highways and byways, in dales and villages and city, nothing was left untouched by her serene palette of whites, greys, and browns re-imagined and reinvigorated for a true 21st century look.

brocade of silver ice

Whether gown, jacket, or casual dress, brocades of silver ice decorated it. Peeking out from beneath a jacket of ombre colors of burnt sienna, ecru and burnt umber

grey green brown ecru

or encrusted on the top half of a gown, silver ice brocade is the fashion update this season.

front in ice

MoNa made her traditional greys, browns, and whites in many varied shades pop with surprising splashes of color. Turquoise,

turquoise snow shovel



and glints of copper provided a fresh update to MoNa’s neutral palette.

bird feeder in snow

MoNa’s greens ran from lively

greens of winter

to dusky beneath silver ice brocade.

tree snow

The good news, MoNa is repeating this show 2 days from now. Tickets are available from the Weather Channel.

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