Friday, October 21, 2011

Pineapple work

Well, I finished the pineapple doily.  And by finished I mean, well, see for yourself.

It ends up with three pineapples attached to the center; good for a placemat or butting up against a wall on a counter.

On to the next little thing. ☺

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Crochet Adventure

I've been working on a crochet project I call Centrino after the jpg file name I found on an Italian crochet site one afternoon when I was trolling the internet for charts.  I've been working on my crochet technique this year and thought this would be a good pattern to get a handle on "pineapples".

The chart is straightforward.

I decided to make it using a set of hooks that Liz found in a box of stuff she brought home from an estate sale.  It's a new set of Boye hooks.

I began the project and almost immediately noticed that it was much harder physically than it should have been.  From the chart, you can see that one is going to be making hundreds of these.

Growing up on a farm and working with tools, personally and professionally most of my life, I know the adage a right tool for the job is a truism.  I suspected I was having to work to hard to make the clusters because this tool (hook) wasn't working properly.  I went and found the Boye 7 I usually use and worked a couple rounds.  The problem disappeared.

I switched back and this problem immediately returned: it was very difficult to make the clusters with the new hook.  Here's why.

The new hook is on the bottom.  As you can clearly see, the shaft gets thicker much sooner than on my old hook from the 1950s.

I'm not saying the new hooks are useless because, before I tackled this doily, I used the new 7 hook to make this.

As long as I didn't have to stack more than two or three loops onto the new hook, it worked fine.  I'd like to see the person who signed off on this new hook design pull off a bullion stitch as these.  (This lone baby boot was in the bottom of a box of fabric Liz bought.)

So I set aside the new hooks and undertook the project anew.  The center worked up very quickly.

Next came the first pineapple.  It took more time than the center.

I was truly surprised at its size: the pineapple alone is about 9"!  Unblocked!!

I'm up to having two pineapples finished and the project is looking as I envisioned it, despite my early hook issues.

As my adventures in hook shape show, there is truly a right tool for the job or, at least, a tool that'll make things easier.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm Still Here! (dagnabit!)

I have been away from this blog for some time because of personal health problems.  In late April of this year my left hand began to go numb to the point that I was no longer able to knit or crochet.  I'd been down this road before, having had two spinal surgeries eight and ten years ago, so I knew what the cause was.  I did not want to admit to myself what was going on because this year was the first time since February 2002's surgery that I was able to go outside for something other than going to and from Dr appointments.

This summer, we had some people coming by, building a fencing project that we'd planned over a decade ago.  I provided lively banter to the workers.  I had to use a cane to walk and couldn't walk very far, but I was "out there".  In late May, a friend and I were walking together the first time a more scary situation developed- I fell.  I was just walking along and on the next step it was as if my right leg wasn't even there.  No pain or anything, it just failed to work.  It happened twice more in the ensuing week and I had to admit to myself that it was no fluke.  This is when I told Liz I was having a problem.

A couple weeks later I had an appointment with the Dr who had been supervising my medications since just before my 2004 surgery.  The only way to describe his reaction is that he freaked.  I had tests on my upper limbs that day, lower limbs the following day, full spine MRIs the following Tuesday and a meeting with my spine surgeon on Thursday evening.  It was not good news.  My spinal chord was so inflamed and swollen that it was trying to squeeze through any opening in could along my damaged spine.  The surgeon said that it was quite likely that I was looking at permanent, irreparable damage.  It was so bad that I had surgery the following Monday.

Since my surgery in late June, I've felt so much better.  Maybe it's the passing of ten years of this lifestyle, but I finally seem to have settled into acceptance that this is the way things are and I have to adapt.  I move more slowly and deliberately.  But I was still afraid of something.

When I first became disabled in January 2002, I was very angry.  After twenty years in the Information Technology field, in 1999 I'd changed my life to a new passion, furniture building.  After my disability it quickly became obvious that this short lived career was over.  A poor initial surgery that corrected nothing led to two years of anguish and permanent nerve damage on the right side of my body.  A second, more extensive surgery solved a lot of problems, but the recovery was lengthy and filled with high doses of nasty, narcotic medications.  I decided being knocked out on drugs 20+ hours a day was no way to live so in February 2007 I quit cold turkey.

It was a very rough 4 months of withdrawal, but in May I began sitting up in the bed for a few minutes at a time.  I wanted "to do something".  Liz usually listened to the local news on the bedroom TV while she got ready for work.  One morning, after the news, I pressed the "Up channel" button and saw a few minutes of a show with someone named Vickie Howell before I fell over and back asleep.  The next day, I looked for the show and thought, "I could knit!"  At least it'd be something to try.

Liz brought home a book, a set of knitting needles, and some yarn a couple days later.  I learned a couple stitches and watched Vickie devoutly.  I would knit for 5 minutes or so, then fall asleep.  I would wake up and pick up where I left off.  For the first time in years I was "doing something"!

If you've been a reader of this blog or have looked through my Ravelry projects page, then you know where the past four years have taken me.  When I met with my surgeon that Thursday evening I showed him some of my work and told him that I'd lost one career to my spine's decay and that I was not prepared to lose another.  He said he couldn't promise anything.

Surgery at end of June.  Near the end of July Liz asked if I'd tried to knit or crochet anything.  I hadn't.  I told her I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to, but I was working towards trying.  A couple days later I began the Shining Star mittens.  As you can see, things went well.

When I first began knitting in 2007, I had almost no muscle tone in my arms from the years of bedrest.  I was surprised by how the micro-muscular movements of knitting were toning my arms.  I told my Dr about it and he took me seriously.  He is a good pain management Dr who speaks all over the US.  On my next monthly visit he told me that he'd been at a seminar where someone had presented a talk about the benefits of micro-muscular movement in recovering pain patients!  He said that he contributed to the discussion by mentioning my experience with knitting.

A couple years later I began crochet and discovered that a completely different set of arm muscles were used than in knitting.  And it took a lot more strength to crochet than to knit.  The next meeting with my Dr I told him about this.  He was glad to hear I was getting a more complete workout on my arms.

After the Shining Star mittens in July, I decided to try some crochet.  I had planned to spend most of this year crocheting in a serious effort to improve my crochet consistency in stitch size and tension.  I had began a Patricia Kristoffersen pattern, Mayrose, in 2010, but had ran into an issue with the written instructions on the final section of the pattern.  I decided to test my crochet comeback and hone my PK chops by tackling several projects in her book, 99 Little Doilies.  The projects were small enough that I could work them up quickly while improving my technique as well as discovering if my surgeon was successful in fixing my left hand finger numbness when using those crochet muscles.  As you can see by my subsequent completion of Mayrose, things worked out right.  (Even though I ended up charting the last section to see what was going on.)

I am so happy to be back in the fold of some of the kindest, supportive people I've met over the past few years- you folks. ☺

(Some of you have messaged me on Ravelry that you've missed me on Facebook.  I have never had much patience for fluff and the endless ads and notices about gaming finally took their toll and I moved to Google+ (link to my profile) as soon as I got an invite in the beta.  It is now open to everyone and there is a thriving knit/crochet community over there.  I have over 1100 knitter/crocheters from all over the world in my String circle and, while it sounds like a lot, the traffic flow hasn't surged... yet. ☺)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2nd Anniversary of Crocheting!

This month is my 2nd anniversary of learning to crochet.  I'd been knitting for a couple years and then... I saw the doilies. LOL  I picked up a G hook at JoAnn's and got a book on crochet stitches at Half Price Books and gave it a whirl.

I used some Lamb's Pride to knit this timeless spider design into a lapghan for Liz to use when driving to and from work.

Liz came home with some cotton yarn and old pattern books she had picked up at an estate sale, so I decided that I'd try this, in a LARGE size.  I ran out of the "Delft Blue" yarn and, even though I search high and low, the lighter colored blue, from the same manufacturer, a few decades later, is their current version of "Delft Blue". ☺  This came out some much larger than I thought; mainly because I hadn't discovered "thread crochet", yet.

"Bread Tray Doily 7772" was my first thread crochet project.  You make one half, then the other.  After the first half came out looking the same as the photo, I was hooked on thread crochet.

I made myself a hook case, and set off to make "le crochet beau".

This was my first doily attempt.  It is now the receptacle for the cookie tin.

The thing I like most about crochet is the charting.  You not only see what stitches are used, but how they are used in relation to each other and how, combined, they make the overall pattern.  This charting method has been used throughout the world, with one exception, since the late 1960s.  US magazines still write crochet patterns out in text instead of using this easily understood, visible method.

I love tulips and this is my favorite tulip doily.

And my favorite tulip hotpad. ☺

I love the spontaneous whimsy that crochet can be.

Freeform flowers, strewn about a table where guests can rearrange them in varying patterns while idly chatting.

I call these "After the Pants"; who can forget the splash the Norwegian Curling Team made at the Winter Olympics?  I made this hat one evening while watching trounce an opponent.

This year at St. Valentine's Day, I made dozens of hearts.  This doily was our Valentine Day dinner centerpiece.

I enjoy making bedspread squares into hotpads or coasters.

I turned this bedspread motif into a St. Patrick's Day doily last year.

This Spider Mum Doily, about 8½" across, has become Liz's favorite coaster at the breakfast table.  The soft cotton keeps the frilly shape.  Discovering the difference between the kinds of cotton thread has been a lot of fun.  Things I've attempted with the "wrong" thread: bikini tops.

This doily from Magic Crochet is my latest effort.  After blocking, it measures 19" across.  It has found a permanent home on the table.

Crochet has opened up another window in string's world of possibilities, not the least of which is its free-form capabilities.  Now, if I could just get my doilies to looks as nice as Pamela's! ☺

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fourth Anniversary of Knitting!

May has always been a time of review and planning for me.  My birthday is May 1st.  Every year I take that day to review my life over the past year and to sort out what I want to do in the next year.  It's just a coincidence that this May also marks my fourth anniversary of learning to knit.  I had just begun to awaken from five years of being in bed, knocked out on nasty narcotics, and had started to listen to the TV.  I couldn't sit up, yet, but I kept hearing Vickie Howell on Knitty Gritty each morning while Liz was getting ready for work.

A couple weeks later, I could sit for 10 minutes or so, and I saw what Vickie and her guests were doing.  Being a type A+ personality who had just lost five years of my life, I was ready to do something- anything!  I told Liz, "I want to try that."  A couple days later, Liz appeared with a pair of knitting needles, some yarn, and a book: knitting basics by Betty Barnden. (0-7641-5546-6)  The thing that caught Liz's eye was the word "therapeutic" in the description of knitting on the back of the book.  I picked up the needles, dove in, and never looked back.

OK, as I could only sit up for about 15 minutes, then keel over and sleep for two or three hours, then sit up for 15 minutes and keel over again, it was a very slow start.  The first three months was spent learning how to manage the needles and yarn while making washcloths, and to not stick myself when I fell asleep. ☺  Soon I was making scarves and then I discovered circular knitting on dpns... with colorwork.

Here are some of my favorite projects from the past four years.

These gloves are Annemor 17 from Terri Shea's book Selbuvotter.  Terri was instrumental in teaching me how to make beautiful mittens and gloves.  I joined Ravelry in January 2008 and Terri's group shortly thereafter.  If you want to learn how to make gloves and mittens like these, I cannot recommend her book highly enough.

I made these a month or two ago from a pattern in Piecework magazine.  They're Belarussian fingerless mitts.  I changed the colors to a more "masculine" look and wore them every day until the weather was too warm to do so.

I made these fingerless gloves a couple years ago and wear them 90% of the time in Winter.  They are very warm, yet let those fingertips type easily.

I made this bone bag for the dogs a little over two years ago.  I carried it everywhere (thanks to the long strap) when we first got DeeDee.  It holds quite a few training treats. ☺

This is a motif I found in a turn of the last century book.  I mapped it out and it became the center panel in a double-knit scarf I made for Liz's birthday last year.

I made the scarf "Luce" by Norah Gaughan and Liz fell in love with it at first sight.  I had enough yarn left that I designed these mittens, using the same technique from Norah's pattern.  Norah liked them and Liz loves the set.

These mittens I call "Latvian Winter" were one of my first "for sale" patterns on Ravelry.  I published this pattern in December of 2008 and was so happy I had made something people really liked; especially since I'd only been knitting ~18 months at the time.

Before there was "Latvian Winter", I made these on a lark for Halloween.  I never made a pattern, though many people asked for one.  I just liked them for myself.  I wear them from when it first gets cool until I switch to the "Dark Winter" ones at Thanksgiving.

I saw a set of stamps at the Post Office with these four images on them.  The images appeared to be knitted.  The creator had knitted a square of four stamps with this pattern for a Post Office stamp design contest.  I thought the images deserved to be wearable art, so I made them into wrist warmers, two images on each, for Liz.  They have been a big hit online and wherever Liz wears them.

I had made Liz many pairs of socks and kept meaning to make myself some, but never got around to it until I designed these in December 2009.  Heavy, boot socks.  I LOVE them.

I made Liz these woolemeise socks in 2008 and they've remained one of her favorites.

I love studying other cultures and came across zellij designs on Islamic mosques.  I used some of these designs to make this hat.

Well, those are my favorites over the past four years.  If you'd like to see more, I'm dbennett on Ravelry; where I have over 100 projects!  I thought 20 or so until a couple weeks ago when a new friend said, "Wow! 100+ projects!"  I had to go look and see for myself.

Knitting has been very beneficial in my recovery from my spinal surgeries.  I told my Dr that the small movements of the muscles in my arms from knitting did more to begin rebuilding my strength than anything else.  Six months later he tells me he heard a talk about using "micro motion to rebuild muscle in nerve damaged areas".  LOL

I've also made a lot of friends along the knitting trail I've traveled and look forward to sharing knitting chatter every day.

Until next time, keep those needles clicking! ☺

Friday, April 1, 2011


I've been feeling poorly for the past couple weeks.  While I've been laid up, I decided to knit a pair of socks.  Knit for a while, sleep for a while... ☺

The pattern I made came from the March/April 2011 issue of Piecework magazine.  It is called "Lithuanian Socks to Knit".

I reversed the colors, with the exception of the top band, just below the cuff.  Liz said that if I made that band blue with yellow slants, it'd look like one sock was always sagging.  Since she was the one who would be wearing them...

I also reversed the pattern on the second sock.  Instead of dropping back a stitch on each slant motif, I added a stitch; the idea being that not only were the colors reversed, but so was the pattern.

I like the fact that your eyes don't quite resolve the pattern when they first look at the socks.  To heighten this effect, I also extended a couple rows of slants to throw off the repetition visually, heightening the illusion.

Here's a shot of the stranding on the inside.

These were a lot of fun and surprisingly easy (mindless) to knit while laying around.  I also got in a couple of bad, really, really bad movies while working on these. ☺

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Quarterly Trip

Every quarter, I take a trip "up North" to the "Big City" of Overland Park, KS.  It's a medical journey, but Liz makes an effort to get me to a couple other stops as well.  Today, she stopped at Hancock Fabrics (she's making new draperies) and I followed her in.  Back in the section of the store labeled "Needle Arts", I discovered that they were dumping all their crochet thread!  It was almost all gone, but I picked up a bunch at 12¢ each.

Apparently they are awaiting the "new product" that is to replace this line.

While I was there I also found a great sock book called Country Weekend Socks.  I had to wait a couple hours while Liz was having a meeting with one of her doctors so I was able to give this book a thorough read- I will be stuck in this book all Summer. ☺

This morning, I was checking my eMail and a note from Marie Clair Maison arrived with this little crocheted goodie.

The last goodie was a quick stop at Half Price Books where I scored this gem.

Hopefully the injection into my elbow today will have me making things tomorrow!