Posted by: christinelaennec | February 19, 2017

Five and a half years of ME/CFS: Dafter update

Hello!  No, I haven’t slipped off the edge of the earth.  Time has flown since New Year, what with various bugs afflicting us, supporting the Dafter to keep going at college, Michael being absolutely snowed under with work, me continuing to get our US ex-pat tax paperwork sorted, my volunteer work as church music librarian, and singing in choirs.  In addition, since Christmas I have been serving on an advisory board for a potential study into M.E.  I have spent every spare minute studying material, and being in touch with some very talented people who are as passionate as I am about finding out what this mysterious illness is, and how to cure it if possible.

February 2017

February 2017: flowers for our 29th wedding anniversary!

Another recent event is that the Dafter turned 19.  This was a very hard birthday for her.  Five years ago almost to this day, we sat in a paediatrician’s office.  She said that since the Dafter had been ill for six months, unless blood tests revealed another cause, she would diagnose M.E.  She said, “Every year I see two or three cases, mostly girls.  It’s usually 4 to 5 years to full recovery.”

I remember waiting with the Dafter for Michael to bring the car around, wondering if she would manage to walk across to it.  We were both stunned.  “You mean I’m going to feel this bad til I’m 19?!” the Dafter said.  “No, no,” I reassured.  “You’ll feel a lot better by the time you’re 19.”  But we couldn’t have known how much worse she would become; we couldn’t have imagined the two and a half years of lying nearly-paralysed in bed; the isolation and loneliness; the painfully slow and part-time return to education and life.

The Dafter with her final piece for her Higher Art portfolio. This is part of a study of rainbow colours on her face. Done in pencil and paint.

January 2017. The Dafter with her final Expressive piece for her Higher Art portfolio. This is part of a study of rainbow colours on her face. Done in pencil and paint.

Now at 19 the Dafter is better than that day five years ago, but she is far from being well.  So she has gone through quite a grieving process, with me by her side.  We have to accept that she will never have been well during her teenage years.  However, she is making progress, and I still believe she will make a full recovery.

It is also a blessing that the Dafter isn't wheelchair-bound, because she could come into the strands of hanging lights with other people. Such fun!

At the Enchanted Forest, October 2016.

The pattern of the days and of the week

The Dafter goes to college [for US readers, a bit like a community college] three days a week.  She’s now able to attend for three and a half hours, sometimes four hours.  Although she misses at least two hours of class time every day, she has managed to keep up with the course.  And sometimes she has a bit of energy left over to do something else during the day other than rest in bed.  She still needs rest days where she does very little besides rest in bed.  But this is only about once a week, sometimes even less.  Days when she doesn’t have college, we have other routines that involve getting out of the house every day that it’s possible.

She still is too unwell to take public transport on a regular basis.  I (or Michael) take her places in the car, to save her energy for whatever she is going to do.  Occasionally now she can take a taxi.  However, having to leave at a fixed time is very stressful because she still can’t quite be sure how long it will take for her to be ready.  She can’t rely on her body functioning a particular way from day to day.  So a big part of my job as her carer is to be available to leave when she is ready, and to go get her at a moment’s notice.  But providing her with this support is allowing her to heal.  She will eventually be able to be more independent.

Last winter she discovered that she could delay the plummeting of her energy if she closed her eyes and deeply rested in the car while I drove.  She hadn’t been able to rest deeply in this way before discovering that the motion of the car made it possible. We went for “rest drives” nearly every afternoon, and they were a big help.  But this winter she has not needed rest drives nearly so often.  She seems to be able, most of the time, to recover a bit of energy by doing something restful in bed.  Sometimes we still go for a drive, but she can now rest while enjoying the view and maybe taking photos.  A year ago that level of activity might have drained her.

The Dafter in Gourock, January 2017.

The Dafter in Gourock, January 2017.

Physical strength

The Dafter is now able to walk a bit further than just from the car to her class at college and back.  She is sometimes able to walk ten minutes each way with her classmates to a nearby supermarket at lunchtime.  And when we get home from college, it’s no longer a struggle to get her from the car, up the stairs and into her bed.  Sometimes after college she comes into the kitchen to get her own snack before going upstairs.

She still needs the wheelchair sometimes, for example to go on a shopping trip, or to travel.  We think of the wheelchair as our friend, because it makes so much possible that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  It’s a bit like a blender:  you may not use it every day, but when you need it, nothing else will do.

A recent development is that she sometimes feels the need to stretch her muscles, and go for a short walk.  She is still in pain almost all the time.  But sometimes now the pain comes from not having moved, rather than just the constant M.E. pain.  We still give her regular massages and foot massages – a foot massage can help her get to the shower in the evening, for example.

Collapses are changing

For years the Dafter has had what we call “collapses”:  sudden and total loss of power in her body, inability to speak, great pain, but complete awareness.  A few years ago I counted that she’d had 80 collapses in six months (about every other day), each lasting half an hour to 45 minutes.  Over this past winter, the collapses have become much less frequent and have changed in nature.  She can feel them coming on, and we’ve discovered that if we vigorously massage her straight away, she doesn’t lose power completely.  We can head them off in this way.  She still is in great pain, but it passes fairly quickly.  And this only happens a few times a month, almost always when she is particularly tired out.

Mornings

Waking and getting up remain something she needs help with.  She needs nine to ten hours of sleep a night, and even then needs a friendly pestering presence to fully waken and manage to get up and out of bed.  However, whereas two years ago she could not do anything out of the house before 1 pm, now she is almost always able to leave by mid-morning.  On weekends she sometimes wakes naturally, which is a new development and a lovely one.

Bedtime

Getting to bed at the end of the day remains an anxious time for her.  While she is fairly happy to rest in bed during the day – we have a system of duvets and pillows that prop her up at the non-sleeping end of her bed – the thought of going to sleep for the night is still a bit frightening.  I think this is because when she was very ill, she was often afraid that she was going to die before the morning.  I help her at bedtime, and although it can take quite some time, she manages to be calm and ready to sleep.

Immunity

The Dafter has successfully fought off three different “just a viruses” over the past two and a half months: a tummy bug, a bad cold, and a bug involving asthma-like wheezing and requiring an inhaler.  She and I have spent a few long nights recently.  However, she has managed to keep going to a greater extent than in previous winters, and her immunity seems to be a bit stronger.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me". 1950s stained glass church window.

“Suffer little children to come unto me”. 1950s stained glass church window.

Concentration:  progress

The fact that she is able to focus for three and a half hours at college is an advance on last year, when she managed an hour and 40 minutes of concentration at a time.  She has had a number of assessments this academic year, and her memory has been serving her well.  She’s passed all her assessments so far.  Just the fact of doing so many has been a big accomplishment, seeing as in the previous five years she had only taken a few short tests, one prelim exam and one full exam.

For most of the past five and a half years of illness, she’s been unable to read extended texts, or to listen to audiobooks.  In June 2015, she discovered she could watch films again – that was a big step.  But text remained too challenging.  (This is why she has never yet been able to study English at high school level.)  However, over the Christmas break, I tried yet again to read aloud to her.  And this time, she was able to follow!  I’ve read one book (Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which she enjoyed) and we have started another.  As long as she can paint while I read, she can focus and follow the story.  This is a major development.

Social life

It is still the case that very few of the Dafter’s friends have an understanding of the reality of her illness.  This is partly because they don’t see her when she is resting and unwell (which is much of her time), and partly because when she is well enough to socialise, she is so thrilled to be with other people that she seems very well and energetic.  It is hard enough to grow up and work out who you want to be friends with, when you have full health.  The Dafter has had many fewer opportunities than most her age to make friends and be with people in the past five and a half years.  However, she now has quite a few friends of various ages and interests.

Having a day with no particular plan is no longer a major worry to me.  Often now, the Dafter can find someone to do something with, if she feels like it.  She was able to go out to celebrate her birthday, and she had an absolutely wonderful time dancing at a club.  Needless to say, she spent two days in bed afterwards, but it gave her a happiness that no amount of careful pacing could ever give.

Emotional progress

The past few weeks have been challenging not only because she turned 19 – when according to the paediatrician, she should have been fully well – but because her college work has included learning to write and speak in Gaelic about “how to be healthy”.  The Dafter can no longer remember what it feels like to be well.  With my help, she managed to write an essay in Gaelic about her health, why she cannot go to the gym or the swimming pool, why her food sensitivities mean that she can rarely eat at a restaurant.  One of the prompts was, “What do you do when you need to lose weight?”  Her answer was, “When I need to lose weight, I look in the mirror and decide that I am beautiful just the way I am.”  The effort of speaking and writing about the full reality of her illness took a lot out of the Dafter, and it took me a great deal of work (not for the first time this academic year) to support her and encourage her not to drop the course.

However, she persevered.  The tutor was supportive – she doesn’t set the syllabus, and this topic may be on the exam in May.  She told the Dafter that most 19-year-olds would have much less to say about their health.  In the speaking assessment, she asked the Dafter how long she’d been ill, and was sincerely interested and probably impressed with what the Dafter has come through.

The Dafter still loves her rats very much, although she is not always well enough to take them out of their cage for long (Michael and I do that, with the help of their wee sling).  She has had some tender times with Tilly, who is still with us.  Pets are such an important emotional support.

Tilly, February 19, 2017. She has several tumours down her tummy, eats more, and walks a bit more slowly, but seems very happy and very purry with us.

Tilly, February 19, 2017. She has several tumours down her tummy, eats more, and walks a bit more slowly, but seems very happy and very purry with us.

Special moments

It sounds like nothing, but a few weeks ago while I was making her packed lunch, I nearly burst into tears of joy when the Dafter appeared in the kitchen, to ask me if I thought her outfit was okay.  It is such a normal thing for most people, but it was really amazing that she had got dressed by herself – this is increasingly the case nowadays – and had the energy to come all the way downstairs, and get back upstairs, with the idea of potentially changing her clothes after that. (The outfit was fine.)

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. February 2017.

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. February 2017.

A few days ago, I picked her up from college after she had had her speaking assessment (on the topic of health).  The Dafter was tired, but relieved and pleased that it was behind her and she’d managed it.  I asked if she wanted to do something before going home.  She asked if we could go to Kelvingrove Museum – and we did!  She remarked:  “This is the first time I’ve been here on foot,” meaning without using the wheelchair.  She really enjoyed seeing the (stuffed) animals and displays about dinosaurs. Michael, most unusually, was able to join us as well.  We had a snack all together, and got into a conversation about palindromes.  The Dafter found some funny palindromic sentences on her phone, and was reading them out to us.

I was so very, very happy.  To anyone else we looked like just a normal family, I suppose.  But the fact that she had managed a difficult assessment that morning, AND walked around the museum for over half an hour under her own steam, AND that she could sit there giggling with us about sentences such as “Red roses run no risk, sir, on nurses order” – it struck me as really amazing and wonderful.

I want to thank the many regular readers who have followed our journey thus far, and left so many supportive and helpful comments here.  I have a little collection of them printed out, and some are engraved on my heart.  They are very precious to me.

If anyone is reading this because their child has been diagnosed with ME, I’m sorry that it can turn out to be a very long road. But never give up hope!  Try to find other people dealing with the condition.  (In the UK, the Association of Young People with ME can provide some help for those under 25 who have ME.) You will find that life can still have deep meaning and joy, and your child will no doubt develop great strength and empathy on the path to healing.

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year to you!  I have quoted Minnie Haskin’s poem before, but can’t find where, and so I will do so again today:

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,

‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’ ”

Sunrise in Aberdeen, Nov. 2010.

Sunrise in Aberdeen, Nov. 2010.

 

As our minister said in church this morning, we start this new year with some trepidation, but also with faith and hope.  I hope that 2017 brings you peace, good health, happiness, and the sense that whatever challenges may come, we will get through them together.

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 23, 2016

What Christmas Still Means to Me

Two years ago, I wrote about “What Christmas Means to Me”.  The heartbreaking news stories this year are different, but my feelings about celebrating Christmas when there is suffering are the same.  So here is that wee essay once again, in case you’re interested.

Christmas tree with a "herald angel".

Christmas tree with a “herald angel”.

Thank you all for your kind comments, and I’m glad if I gave you a laugh with my Christmas cookies!   Thank you especially to all those who have written words of comfort about this being the first Christmas after the death of my father.  I so much appreciate your thoughts.

For a few years now, I have wished I could write a post about what Christmas means to me, and each year I have felt inadequate to do so.  This year is no different, but especially given what happened in Glasgow city centre day before yesterday (an out-of-control 50-ton bin lorry killed six people and injured at least six others), I thought I would give it a go anyway.

Many people have commented on how particularly tragic it is that such a thing happened at Christmas-time, which is supposed to be a time of joy and festivity.  I can only imagine how desperately awful it will be for those families who will have unopened presents under the tree and an empty place at the table tomorrow – if they can manage to celebrate Christmas at all.  In France, innocent people out enjoying the season have been killed and injured not by a freak accident, but seemingly by those intent on harm.  It’s not long since Sydney, Australia suffered death and destruction at the hands of one individual.

Do these events negate Christmas?  What does Christmas mean, beyond presents and food and parties (at least for many of us)?

I have always loved the magic of Christmas.  As a child, I both knew that Santa wasn’t real – my parents didn’t really encourage us to believe – but I would stay up wondering if maybe I might hear the sound of hooves on the roof.  Then as now, I was a believer.  I am still quite prepared to think that fairies may live in the garden, and with Lewis Carroll, I wonder if the question we ought to ask isn’t:  “But do fairies believe in the existence of humans?”  In my very full and interesting life I have experienced amazing coincidences, inexplicable help, signs and wonders.  I love midnight on Christmas Eve, a magical moment when legend has it animals can talk.  Animals seem to me to have a far better understanding of the divine than us humans.  And I love the story of a God who created this incredible universe – what keeps the planets going in their courses, and not just falling out of the sky? – coming to earth in the form of a helpless baby.

What I celebrate at Christmas is that God is with us.  I believe in a loving God who is closer to us than our own breath, in whom we “live, and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  I believe that God can never leave us.  God is “the Love beyond which we cannot fall,” to quote the Rev. Bob Brown at South Holburn Parish Church.  And God is with us not just on one day of the year, or when there are twinkly lights and lots of chocolate.  God was in George Square when those Christmas shoppers suddenly lost their lives.  God was right there (and angels, I believe) as events unfolded.  God was present in the many passers-by who ran towards the scene, covering bodies with coats, comforting the traumatised.  Over and over, the innate goodness that is in people is demonstrated at such times of crisis.

Why did God not stop this and other tragedies happening in the first place?  I don’t have the answer to that.  In his book Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Rabbi Kuschner concludes that God isn’t always able to stop accidents, illness and suffering generally.  Whatever the case may be, the Christmas story itself takes place in a world of suffering, of military rule and great injustices.  Jesus’ birth did not erase these problems.  But, if you believe that he was the Christ consciousness, God incarnate – a bit of a stretch for many, and I accept that! – then the story is one of God taking physical form amongst us, and suffering in all the ways humans do.

Until I was lucky enough to hold my own baby in my arms, I didn’t appreciate as much as I do now the idea of Love incarnate in a tiny baby.  Babies are (often!) so peaceful, and so utterly trusting.  Charles Dickens wrote, “It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”  Indeed there can be moments when any baby seems to be the incarnation of unconditional love.  We can learn a lot from them.  The other thing I like about the Christmas story is the completely absurd idea of God taking the form of a baby.  This reminds me that God is to be found in the most unlikely places, if we care to look.

Christmas for me is also about light conquering darkness.  A single flame can conquer the darkness in an entire room.  I believe that ultimately, good will always overcome evil.  And Christmas comes at an excellent time of year to be reminded of that.   The early Christian church very cleverly adapted existing pagan practices, and it is no accident that we celebrate Christmas just a few days after the Winter Solstice, which had been marked by fire ceremonies of various kinds.  We need to be reminded that the sun hasn’t left us forever, that although the earth seems dead and barren, the force of new life is there, even if we can’t see it yet.  We may have to wait (as Christians do through Advent) but life and light will gather force and come back into our lives.  We need to have “faith in things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).

The most important of all Things Unseen, it seems to me, is love.  Christmas points me towards the tremendous power of love in our lives.  Years ago my Grampa, one of the best men I will ever have the privilege to know, told me, “With love, you can do anything”.  I held this to my heart during the very difficult, indeed precarious, years of raising Our Son.  At one point I began to wonder if perhaps Grampa had been wrong, if maybe there were some things in life that even love could not help.  I also began to understand that love can take many forms, and sometimes it doesn’t feel at all cosy.  The most loving thing we did for Our Son was to battle to get him into the best residential school in Scotland.  Some people considered we were monsters.  However, he was very happy there, we continued to love and battle, and in the end I am glad to say that he is doing very well.  I realise that even with prayer and love, things do not always turn out so well.  But for me, that does not mean love isn’t the greatest unseen force in the world.

Christmas reminds me also that we must actively look for the light – beginning with believing in its possibility.  Like the Wise Men, we have to follow the star and have hope, rather than sink into cynicism and give up.  One of my favourite lines in a Christmas carol is from O Little Town of Bethlehem: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight”.  We humans do have a lot of fears, and also hopes.  God is where these fears and hopes meet.  Christmas isn’t about non-stop happiness and joy, it’s about our human vulnerability, symbolised by a helpless baby and two parents who had to settle for the stable.

At Christmas time, one does often experience more cheer and goodwill than at other times of year.  I enjoy living in a society where many people around me are similarly focussed and the holiday is a shared celebration, even if each individual has a different understanding of it.  I’ll finish with another quote from Dickens: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  To me this is a reminder that on every day I should try to be a bit more generous, more forgiving, and have a bit more goodwill than I might otherwise.  Of course I fail to live up to this ideal!  But it’s good to have.

I wish you all peace, light, hope and joy at Christmas-time.

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 20, 2016

Christmas preparations 2016

Things have been busy, but in a good way.  Let me show you in photos:

The rats helping me write my Christmas cards.

The rats helping me write my Christmas cards.

The mantlepiece.

The mantlepiece.

Angels

Angels

The Christmas tree!

The Christmas tree!

Each ornament has loving associations.

Each ornament has loving associations.

I made this salt-dough paw-print ornament 20 years ago when my beloved many-toed cat Tinker was dying.

I made this salt-dough paw-print ornament 20 years ago when my beloved many-toed cat Tinker was dying.  He had 7 toes on each front paw, but the two small ones were too small to make a dent in the dough.  I remember the feeling of holding his paws to this day!

The Dafter helps me show you an amazing hedge in Hyndland, Glasgow.

The Dafter helps me show you an amazing hedge in Hyndland, Glasgow.

Palm trees in Hyndland.

Palm trees in Hyndland.

The three of us did a bit of Christmas shopping in Hyndland. The Dafter was able to walk a few blocks, and shop with her Dad for me, but then ran out of steam. But it's the first time we've managed that family tradition since December 2010!

The three of us did a bit of Christmas shopping in Glasgow’s West End. The Dafter was able to walk a few blocks, and shop with her Dad for my present, but then ran out of steam. But it’s the first time we’ve managed that family tradition since December 2010!

The entire pillar box was full of Christmas cards!

The entire pillar box was full to the top with Christmas cards!

Tilly's tumours have come back, but she has been happy - and decided to pose for her photo one morning.

Tilly’s tumours have come back, but she has been happy – and decided to pose for her photo one morning.

Helping with my baking. (Don't worry I didn't let her lick the spoon.)

Helping with my baking. (Don’t worry, I didn’t let her lick the spoon.)

I treated myself to this Christmas cactus from the local florist.

I treated myself to this Christmas cactus from the local florist.

Made some pomanders!

Made some pomanders!

And I made a new Christmas cookie, Citrus Cardamom Pinwheels. I found the recipe on the Old Farmer's Almanac website. Not a quick project, but really yummy!

And I made a new Christmas cookie: Cranberry, Cardamom and Citrus Pinwheels. I found the recipe on the Old Farmer’s Almanac website here. Not a quick project, but really yummy!

The Christmas Rose.

The Christmas Rose.

The Dafter has finished her semester now, and was able to take her assessments.  As you see, she was able to do a spot of Christmas shopping In Real Life with us.  I’ll give you an update on her in the New Year.

I have a lot of singing coming up this week!  Michael will soon be on a well-deserved break, so I will be able to do some caroling in hospitals and the care home.  On Sunday one of the choirs I sang in performed in a Nine Lessons and Carols service.  Among other things, we sang Philip Stopford’s A Christmas Blessing.  I think it’s a beautiful piece.  You can have a listen here.  (Not to us singing it, though – I wish we were this good!)  We also sang a new carol, Can It Be True? by Jacqueline Burley.  You might hear it on Radio 3 over the holidays.  It’s set to the words of a poem by Susan Hill.  I think you can download it here, if you’re interested.  Michael was able to come to our performance, and he said he really liked the piece, because it made him feel the wonder of Christmas was fresh and new.

I wish the same for all of you!

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 4, 2016

The Oregon Cardigan and Other Steeks I Have Known

After eleven months of work (alongside a number of smaller projects), my Oregon cardigan is finished!  I am well pleased with it.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  Photo taken by the Dafter at Aberfoyle Forestry Commission.

If you are interested in steeking and construction techniques, read on.  If not, I quite understand and I hope to be back soon with more tales of family life and of course Christmas preparations!

In my last post, I showed you the start of the process of trimming and tacking the steeks down on the wrong side of the garment.  Here is the Oregon cardigan, wrong side out, with steeks tacked down:

Steeks all finished wrong side

Steeks all finished (wrong side)

The most challenging aspect of this particular project has turned out (as I had somewhat suspected) to be the buttonbands.

Buttonband finished.

Buttonband finished.

Below I will show you how I have finished other buttonbands with a knitted facing.  But I wasn’t confident of making a facing for a curving Vneck.  So I am attempting to do as suggested in the pattern, and simply bind off.  As you can see, and despite my repeated efforts to bind off with a good tension, the buttonbands curl:

Buttons on

With buttons on, and a clear snap for good measure.

However, I think I have a solution.  A few years ago, I made Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Fair Isle Yoke Cardigan.  (You can see my Ravelry photos and notes here.)  It was pretty snug when I finished it, and the buttonband gapped horribly.  So I basted the buttonband together, and wore it for a few months as a pullover instead of a cardigan.  It was very interesting how much the cardigan relaxed in that time, and when I undid the basting, the cardigan wasn’t particularly snug, and the buttonbands lay very nicely.  As they still do to this day, six years later.

So I am going to see if a few months of behaviour-modification-via-basting works on the Oregon cardigan.  I carefully basted the buttonbands closed, with a contrasting piece of wool:

Buttonband basted together.

Buttonband basted together.

Basting closer up

Basting closer up.  The buttons are some old buttons that I have had for a long time.

Because it’s vital that I not clip the wrong strand of yarn when it comes to undoing this basting, I have left unmistakeable ends on the wrong side:

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

So what you are actually looking at is a sewn-together cardigan.  A bit like sewing babies into their Liberty bodices for the winter!  But I can easily take this off:

Worn as a pullover - finished for now!

Worn as a pullover – finished for now!

If the buttonbands revert to curling, or if the curling edges above the basted overlap get worse, I will add a facing.  It might be easier to do so once the cardigan has relaxed a bit.  More about facings in a moment.

Because so many of you have expressed an interest in the technique of steeking, I thought I would show you some of my other cardigans that were constructed with steeks.  Here we have the Rona cardigan by Alice Starmore, which I made back in 2001.  As you can see, I completely forgot to cross stitch down one of the sleeve steeks!

I think it was precisely because of a curling cast-off on the buttonband that I decided to knit a matching facing.  I did this by making a purl row as a fold line, and reduplicating the pattern to match.  This requires making matching buttonholes, and sewing the two layers together where the buttonholes are, but it provides a nice, sturdy buttonband.

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

However, I didn’t make facings for the neckband or indeed the cuffs.  A friend asked me once, “How can such a thick sweater ever wear out?”  Well, this is how:

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

I still wear this jacket – often over another, lighter, cardigan – and I will be very, very sad when the day finally comes that I have to retire it.  I think it will become a cushion…

After I’d made Rona, the next stranded jacket I made was the Rambling Rose cardigan, also by Alice Starmore.

Rambling Rose by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

This time, I decided to face the neckband, buttonbands, and cuffs.  I did so using one of the background colours of wool, rather than reduplicated colourwork:

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. Steeked and facings added to neckband and buttonband.

Rambling Rose jacket, made with facings added to neckband and buttonband.  With a double-layer buttonband, I find it best to use buttons with a shank, although you could make a shank with thread as well.

cuffs lined

Cuffs with added facing.

I wore this jacket to church today, and it is still going strong.  It gives me great pleasure.

Back to the topic of steeks, here is the steek of the Elizabeth Zimmermann Fair Isle cardigan (the one where I basted the buttonband shut until it settled down).  It isn’t the best feature of the cardigan!  Perhaps my next step as a knitter will be to use ribbon instead of cross stitch to fasten the steeks down?  I would be a bit worried in case the ribbon shrank.  If anyone has used ribbon facings, I would be interested to hear how it worked for you.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Regular readers may remember that I made a steeked jacket last year that was faced with fabric, a first for me.  You can see the New Leaf cardigan on Ravelry here.

So you can see that steeking is a technique that I find very useful and worth the trouble.  I love being able to do colourwork on the right side only, and on a large scale.  The only part of making the colourwork cardigans that I don’t enjoy so much is when I finally have to switch to double-pointed needles towards the ends of the sleeves.  Maybe it’s because I don’t do a lot of dpn knitting, but I find it far more difficult to keep the stranded knitting even.  I go over those sections after I’ve finished, on the right side, tugging and sometimes using a darning needle to straighten out the knitting.  I know from experience that it will settle into itself.  I don’t generally block my colourwork, unless I really think it needs it.

What is next for my “complicated knitting” project, you ask?  Another cardigan.  This time a kit that is partly a Christmas present from Michael.  It has arrived from Sweden!  Can you guess?

Kit to make "Yellow ..." cardigan from A....

Kit to make the Yellow Lace Collar cardigan from AngoraGarnet

The pattern doesn’t contain a photo of the finished garment, so I must direct you here so you can see.  I have long been interested in Bohus knits, and it’s exciting that this company has been authorized to continue the Bohus design tradition.  I also like their animal welfare policy.  This should keep me busy for a while!  Perhaps I will finish it by the summertime… hmm…  oh well, fortunately I live in a part of the world where I need to wear a sweater of some type nearly every day, so it doesn’t really matter when I finish it.

In the meantime I am enjoying breaking in the Oregon cardigan.  I’ll let you know what happens when I undo the basting in a few months’ time!

Take care, and all the best for the coming week.

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 23, 2016

Giving thanks (and finishing steeks)

It has been an eventful month, and that’s just in our little world, nevermind on the larger world “stage” (the term almost ceases to be metaphorical).  Just after my last post, Michael had a bad cycling accident.  He was coming home from work in the evening, after several days of working long hours, and in the dark he didn’t see a metal roadsign that for some reason was on the path.  We spent the night at A&E but very luckily nothing was broken.  He always wears a helmet, and that was split by the impact.  As we were finally leaving A&E at 5 am, he said to the nurse, “I just want to get into a hot bath.”  To which she replied (imagine a Glaswegian accent) “Ach no, you dinna want to dae that – you don’t want to have to call the Fire Brigade to get you out!”

Over the next few days, the Dafter helped her Dad get used to using crutches, and showed him how to use a chair to get in and out of the bath.  He has had a little peek into her world of effort and pain just to do simple things.  And of course not only did I lose my auxiliary for a couple of weeks, but I had two people to take care of.  However, we are so grateful that it wasn’t worse.  He’s now able to walk without crutches, although he does still look a bit like a gunslinger who’s just been in a shootout.

Here is a little visual pun he left for me while I was out doing grocery shopping:

A little joke left for me by Michael.

A little joke left for me by Michael.  Not enough eggs?  Use a potato.

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving Day in America, but we had our Thanksgiving last Saturday.  I was worried I wouldn’t find a source of pumpkin puree for the first year since coming here in 1992, but I managed at last. Here is (was) my pumpkin pie:

Pumpkin pie was achieved!

Pumpkin pie was achieved!

Michael was recovered enough to make our meal, and Our Son came from Edinburgh to celebrate with us:

Thanksgiving 2016: the Dafter, Michael, Our Son.

Thanksgiving 2016: the Dafter, Michael, Our Son.

The Dafter and Our Son taught themselves how to play Chinese Checkers.  We told them how when we were graduate students, with only a radio and no tv or internet, we used to play games a lot.

Chinese Checkers after the meal.

Chinese Checkers after the meal.

They learned very quickly, and ended up having a three-way game with Michael (two star points per player).  It was a good family time.

Thanks for your concern for Tilly.  She has fully recovered from her two operations, and has been very affectionate and funny.  She meows at us in ways she never used to, and has been quite playful.  She and the rats have become a bit more used to each other.  One afternoon I had the rats in their sling (which I patched up after they half-devoured it) and Tilly just came and curled up on my lap.  It was a very peaceful half-hour:

Tilly, and the rats in their mended sling. All contented, and me reading!

Tilly, and the rats in their mended sling. All contented, and me reading!

Thanks also for your good wishes to the Dafter.  She has continued to find college a struggle, and also the shortening days, and the number of colds and bugs about.  But on she goes!

The weather has been cold and frosty, with some beautiful sunny winter days.  Today the frost on the grass never melted:

Still frosty in the afternoon. 23 November 2016, Glasgow.

Still frosty in the afternoon. 23 November 2016, Glasgow.

We’re now a month from the solstice, and the sun is low in the sky.  The sun rises about 8:15 and sets about 4.

I’m particularly glad that Michael is making a good recovery, because we have a special party to go to!  Here I am trying on my party dress – very relieved that it still fits!  I bought it in a vintage shop many years ago.  And I finished a capelet that I made from Louisa Harding’s Nikita pattern.  The colours don’t quite match, but I think they all go well enough together:

Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! Trying on my party clothes.

Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! Trying on my party clothes.  Capelet details here on Ravelry.

I have, slowly, been finishing my Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  Here, for those of you who are interested in the steeking technique, are photos of how I have been finishing them.  I don’t claim by any means that this is the most elegant way of doing it – you can cover the steeks with ribbon and no doubt achieve a much neater cross-stitch than I can.  But it works for me, and I want to show you that steeking is completely do-able.

Because the task of finishing steeks isn’t one that I do all that often, I start with the armhole seam as it is the least likely to be visible.  The first step is to trim the steek stitches down to two.  I do this with sharp scissors, and of course being careful only to cut the steek stitches and not anything else.  I also try to do this by natural light, but that isn’t always possible in Scotland in November!

Trimming the steek to two rows.

Trimming the steek to two rows.

I trim a few inches, and then begin tacking them down.  The pattern tells you which colour to use, or you can choose what you feels blends in the best.  I tack down the steek both to the backs of stitches, and sometimes to the yarn “floats” of the back side.  I feel with my hand underneath that the needle never goes fully through to the front.  Because the steeks lie flat anyhow, you’re really just securing them rather than having to force them into some new direction.  It is slow work and I rarely finish a great deal in one go.  But that is okay because the steeks just wait patiently for me to continue another time.

Tacking the steek stitches down with cross stitch.

Tacking the steek stitches down with cross stitch.

The finished tacked-down steek:

Steek stitches all tacked down on one armhole seam.

Steek stitches all tacked down on one armhole seam.

The right side:

How it looks on the right side. Amazingly, there's no ridge.

How it looks on the right side. Amazingly, there’s no ridge.

Once I’ve done the armhole seams, I then begin the steeks inside the buttonbands, which are more likely to be visible when I have the cardigan unbuttoned.

Tacking down the buttonband steek. I trim a few inches, cross-stitch, trim a bit more, and so forth.

Tacking down the buttonband steek. I trim a few inches, cross-stitch, trim a bit more, and so forth.

I hope to show you the completely finished sweater in my next post!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it.  And a happy end-of-November, and soon the start of Advent, to others!  I hope it’s a time of year for coming together with family and friends, and being aware of the things we can be thankful for.

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 2, 2016

All Souls’ Day: Reflections

Hello everyone!  Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post.  Here is another wee update, and some reflections on All Souls’ Day.  In the Christian tradition (marked especially by the Catholic church), November 1st is All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd is All Souls’ Day.  On All Saints’ Day, we are invited to reflect on saints of the past and what their lives can teach us; on All Souls’ Day, we are invited to think of all those who have gone on before us, particularly family members.  Two years ago yesterday, my father died, and so I have two reasons to be thinking of him just now, although I think of him often anyway.  He and I didn’t have an easy relationship but there was always an understanding and an affinity there.  We thought alike in many ways.  As a grandfather, he really came into his own, and in the last few years of his life he became very loving and affectionate to me, which was a great blessing.

He and the Dafter had a special closeness.  Perhaps she inherited her artistic ability from him.  He was extremely skilled at drawing and also at sculpture, both wood carving and bronze casting.  When I left to go to Portland after he died, I asked the Dafter if there was anything in particular she wanted me to bring back for her as a memento.  “Some of his drawings,” she said. But he had destroyed almost everything.  However, he left one sculpture just for me.  I think he had very little faith in his own ability.  I found the book that he published used to prop up a wonky table!

View of Glasgow from the airplane coming in to land at sunset. Painting by the Dafter.

View of Glasgow from the airplane coming in to land at sunset. Painting by the Dafter.

I’m glad his granddaughter has had the chance to develop her art and be encouraged to do so.

Last week we were able to go to an event that we’ve long wanted to attend:  the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry.  It was quite a long drive for us, but well worth it.  The fact that it was wheelchair accessible made it possible.  You follow a circuit around the forest and experience various sound-and-light installations.  We spent two hours going round.  Here are some more “reflections”:

"Shimmer" - the Enchanted Forest 2016, Faskally Woods, near Pitlochry, Scotland

“Shimmer” – the Enchanted Forest 2016, Faskally Woods, near Pitlochry, Scotland.  In the centre, light is being projected on a fountain (coloured swirl above the water).

Michael pushing the Dafter - The Enchanted Forest was surprisingly wheelchair accessible.

Michael pushing the Dafter – The Enchanted Forest was surprisingly wheelchair accessible.

We loved this installation, a little bit from the main path:

Strands of lights that people could walk through.

Strands of lights that people could walk through.  The lights changed colour constantly, and made different patterns.

It is also a blessing that the Dafter isn't wheelchair-bound, because she could come into the strands of hanging lights with other people. Such fun!

It is also a blessing that the Dafter isn’t wheelchair-bound, because she could come into the strands of hanging lights with other people. Such fun!

The Dafter thoroughly enjoyed Halloween.  She was able to go out to celebrate, and met some new friends!

Halloween 2016!

Halloween 2016!

A few weeks ago, I signed up to an online mandala-making course by Heather Plett.  Because of the Dafter’s college schedule, I’m not able to attend mid-week service at my church.  This service has so often given me perspective and courage in between Sundays, and I was wondering how I would manage without it.  The mandala course is 30 days of prompts, but I have followed the suggestion to do a mandala a week, and I now have a mandala date with myself – an hour each week set aside to follow the prompt and see what happens.  The results have been surprising to me.  I thought I would share the Prayer mandala that I made.

I began by thinking, “I should pray in a more organised way, I should do a better job of keeping track of people needing prayer, I should be quieter, I should be more specific,” etc. etc.  I drew my idea of Father-Mother God arching over, with a heart in the middle representing me.  I added angels (in my very limited drawing ability – didn’t inherit that from my Dad!).  I wanted to express the idea of security and safety.  Then, thinking about how prayer works for me in my own life – rather than my list of “shoulds” – I began writing down words, from the centre out, that are like the kinds of prayers I say as I go about my day.  These can be anything from “thank you for my life” to “help!”  I realised that at the same time, I often receive guidance / intuition.  I wrote the kinds of things I might “hear” or “know” as coming from the outside of the circle, from God.  These could be anything from “all will be well” to “just let her settle” or “why don’t you email so-and-so?”.

Mandala on the topic of prayer. October 2016.

Mandala on the topic of prayer. October 2016.

What I like about the mandala-making, besides the fact that it’s a discipline that allows me to spend an hour thinking about deeper things once a week, is that there is no right and wrong.  It’s just whatever the unconscious presents.  You could do the same prompt over and over, and no doubt each time it would be different.  And, as should be obvious from the above, anyone can make one!

My finishing of the Oregon cardigan has gone along rather slowly.  The light is now fading and it’s work best done in good light.  It’s taken me quite a while to sew in the loose ends inside the sleeves, but the end result is very pleasing:

Finishing Alice Starmore's the Oregon Cardigan: sewing the ends into the underarm seam of the sleeves. In the foreground, Before, and further away, After.

Finishing Alice Starmore’s the Oregon Cardigan: sewing the ends into the underarm seam of the sleeves. In the foreground, Before, and further away, After.

Right sides: in the foreground, sleeve needing finishing; further away, the sleeve with ends sewn in has a noticeable underarm seam row.

Right sides: in the foreground, sleeve needing finishing; further away, the sleeve with ends sewn in has a noticeable underarm seam row.

I have been doing a lot of nurse-maiding both of the Dafter and of Tilly.  In between outings and celebrations this month, the Dafter has had two nasty colds, and one horrible cyst on her leg requiring antibiotics.  She has had to miss college today, but is drinking lots of water and taking extra Vitamin C (as well as probiotics) and my fingers are very tightly crossed that her body will be able to recover without more drugs.

Tilly has healed very well from her second operation and is now pretty much back to normal.  She had her last check day before yesterday.  The surgeon said, “We’ve managed to remove all the cancer that isn’t at the microscopic level.  She should have a couple of good months left.”  I cried in the car, with Tilly wanting to comfort me from inside her carrier, sweet thing.  But it’s okay to cry.  I do really hope she beats that prediction.  I’ve always felt that cats teach us how to appreciate each moment and to get the maximum happiness possible out of everything.  I had another reminder of the importance of appreciating what we have when I got the news that a friend’s husband died unexpectedly at the weekend.  She lost her first husband very young, and I am so very sorry for her.

The clocks went back last weekend here.  I got out for a walk at 5 this afternoon, and there was still just enough light to show you how beautiful the trees are.

Autumn colour at 5 pm, 2 November 2016, Glasgow

Autumn colour at 5 pm, 2 November 2016, Glasgow

Apparently this has been the driest October for many years in this part of the world.  My garden received less than an inch of rain in the month, which is very unusual. The colours have been really stunning in Glasgow, and it’s all lasted so long as well.  I’m sure the trees were nearly bare at this time last year.  At the moment we are walking through golden carpets of leaves.

Life isn’t always easy, that’s for sure, but I think it’s a great privilege to have a life on this earth.  I won’t say I don’t get angry at God (some of my prayers go like this:  “Really God? REALLY?!”).  But I think God can take it, and I think God wants me to be honest.  Mostly, I feel loved and heard by the universe.  Albert Einstein said that one of the most important decisions we make is whether to see the universe as hostile or loving.  I choose the latter, as much as I can.

Happy November!

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 17, 2016

October Break

A most unusual thing has happened:  I have been home by myself for a couple of days!  It’s the first time in 20 years that I’ve been home on my own without at least one child to look after, although I do have the rats and Tilly to care for.  Michael has taken the Dafter off for the weekend, and they have been having a great time!  It’s the sort of thing that I would find really stressful and wouldn’t manage, physically, because it takes a lot of strength to push the wheelchair, nevermind with a suitcase as well.  So I am very happy for them, and I’ve enjoyed my time here.  I have done quite a lot of cleaning – things best done while the others are away, such as the fridge and the Dafter’s curtains.  But I also went visiting (I was able to use the car on Sunday, so drove to a friend’s house in the countryside for lunch – another first, as usually if I have time off, Michael has to have the car to help the Dafter).  One thing I haven’t done is attempt to patch the rat sling:

The rats love their sling but this is what happens if you leave it too close to their cage...

The rats love their sling but this is what happens if you leave it too close to their cage…

I was very glad we had planned for me to be here, because Tilly has needed a lot of reassurance and help:

A cuddle with Tilly (interrupted by a photographer).

A cuddle with Tilly (interrupted by a photographer).

We managed to give her all 10 days’ worth of antibiotic tablets (despite the vets hospital not thinking that was possible given her fiery temperment).  She was very cooperative about having her wound cleaned twice a day.  But to my surprise it was difficult for her to adjust to having her cone collar off.  She would get very upset and start running around anxiously, washing and twitching.  Then she would calm down when the collar was back on.  So I did it in stages, over several days.

Beginning to relax a bit in the sun.

Beginning to relax a bit in the sun.

I took the collar off when she was relaxed.  What I realised was that she would then begin washing herself, and would become upset when she was able to reach her shaved tummy, her shaved elbow and her shaved ruff.  I think she just became horrified at what had happened to her body!  Over time she got used to it, and is now without the collar at all.  She will go for the second and final operation in a few days, to get all the cancer out that they have identified.  I have pondered the wisdom of taking this step, but in the past few days she has been playful and frisky again, and I feel that she will manage one more operation okay, with plenty of love and care afterwards.  I feel pretty certain that it’s her best chance of living to see this time next year.  And I don’t think we are doing this primarily so that we will have the pleasure of her company, but because she does want to live and enjoy life as long as she can.

In other news, I am very relieved to tell you that my mother is continuing to do well.  She recently was able to have one of her two planned cataract operations, which was very successful, so she is thrilled to be able to see a little bit again.  The other more fundamental problems are being well-monitored and she is enjoying life just now.

I’ve been working on my Oregon cardigan.  For those who are interested, here’s what I’ve done since my last post.  I knitted the ribbed buttonband, and began casting off as per the instructions.  But I didn’t like the look of the cast-off:

First attempt at casting off buttonband - I didn't like how the gold showed through, so I took this out, knit one row of the dark blue, and then cast off over that.

Oregon cardigan designed by Alice Starmore.  First attempt at casting off buttonband – I didn’t like how the gold showed through.

So I took that out, knit a row of dark blue, and then cast off in dark blue.  For similar projects, I have preferred to do a double buttonband, with a row of purl as a foldline.  But for a V-neck, I don’t feel certain of what would happen to two layers at the point where the V angles off.  So I’m hoping I will be happy with this.

Tilly came right over to help me photograph the jacket once all the knitting was done:

All knitting done, and ready to finish.

All knitting done, and ready to finish.  (Is this not a kitty mat? Tilly wonders.)

The sun came out, and I thought I would show you how I discovered a dropped stitch on the back:

Safety pin holding a stitch I dropped sometime last March or so!

Safety pin holding a stitch I dropped sometime last March or so!

I will darn that in from the back.  Here is the buttonband (without buttons yet):

Buttonband in the sun. I am hoping the edge will be persuaded not to curl.

Buttonband in the sun. I am hoping the edge will be persuaded not to curl.

The next step will be to trim and stitch down the steeks, which are now lying nicely folded back on the wrong side:

Turning the buttonband back, you see the steek stitches. Notice they are just sitting there very obediently and not unravelling wildly.

Turning the buttonband back, you see the steek stitches. Notice they are just sitting there very obediently and not unravelling wildly.

Another photo (the sun had disappeared behind a cloud), with a piece of paper stuck behind the steek stitches, so you can see them a bit more clearly.

Another photo (the sun had disappeared behind a cloud), with a piece of paper stuck behind the steek stitches, so you can see them a bit more clearly.

Some people sew ribbon over the steek stitches, which looks beautiful.  But I can’t find any ribbon that seems right.  I will just do as I have done in the past, and stitch them loosely down.  I’ll take photos of the process to show any of you who are curious about steeking.

The Dafter and her father are due back in a few hours.  This coming week is the October Break.  I know she will need some days to recuperate – I hope she won’t have too steep a price to pay.  But, although with ME/CFS pacing is essential, we have also discovered that sometimes overdoing it a bit in order to have a joyful time is just as critical to good health.

I wish you all a great October and a good week!

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 5, 2016

Tilly Returns, plus The Oregon Cardigan: The Final Cut

Thank you, everyone, for your very kind comments and thoughts.   It’s a double-feature post today.  (Remember double-features?  Memories of my Dad taking me to “the flicks” at the Sellwood Theater!)  Firstly, Tilly is now home after 48 hours in the veterinary hospital, being treated for a badly infected wound from the surgery she’d had two weeks previously to remove a lump.

Tilly is so glad to be back home...

Tilly is so glad to be back home…

While at the hospital, she had tests done a few weeks earlier than planned.  This showed that the cancer hasn’t discernably spread beyond the lymph node.  Also while at the hospital, she fought every single procedure they did with her, even proving greatly resistant to sedation.  “She’s a real hothead!” one of the vets told me over the phone.  The plan now is that she will have one more operation, to take out the cancerous lymph node and other mammary tissue.  But she will not have any chemotherapy after that.  She gets too stressed and uncooperative to tolerate many more medical interventions.

Tilly happy in front of the fire. 5 October 2016.

Tilly happy in front of the fire. 5 October 2016.

I think the oncology vet thought that he would have to convince me about not doing chemotherapy.  He said, “Because of her nature, and the risk to our staff…”  But I completely agreed with him.  It isn’t about prolonging her life by as many days or weeks as possible.  (Median survival time once all known cancerous areas are removed, and with no chemotherapy, is 414 days for cat breast cancer.  The average with chemo goes up to more than 1,000 days.)  It’s about her being as settled and happy as we can make her.  I think she can manage one more operation, and a few more checks, but not a lot more than that.  He was doubtful that we would manage to clean the wound twice a day, or give her the antibiotic tablets – but she has so far been very good and cooperative with me and Michael.  So perhaps just being at home will be the most life-extending thing for her.

Kaffir lilies by the summerhouse. 5 October 2016.

Kaffir lilies by the summerhouse. 5 October 2016.

"A Shropshire Lad" in bloom for the third time this season. Headed skyward! Glasgow, 5 October 2016.

“A Shropshire Lad” in bloom for the third time this season. Headed skyward! Glasgow, 5 October 2016.

It would be so nice to think that she could enjoy the end of summer this time next year.  She has only been out in the garden once since September 18th, and it will be at least three weeks until she can get out again.

[Intermission:  in other news, my mother is home and doing a lot better with a new regime; and the Dafter had a good day today at college.]

The second part of this double-feature post is about the Oregon cardigan, which I realise is a rather specialist interest.  If this is as far as you read, thank you, and I hope to post again soon!

Today I did the last steek cutting that it will require, namely the rest of the front steek.  You might recall that in July, I sliced the V-neck part of the front steek so that I could try it on (photo here).  It has had no special handling since then, I can assure you.

Body and two sleeves done.  Now the buttonbands remain, plus last finishing.  In order to do the buttonbands, I need to slice the front steek below the V-neck

Body and two sleeves done. Now the buttonbands remain to be knitted, before last finishing. In order to do the buttonbands, I need to slice the front steek below the V-neck

Just to be quite certain I only cut through one layer (the front of the cardigan), I put a book between front and back.  Photos from Life Magazine, if you're wondering.

Just to be quite certain I only cut through one layer (the front of the cardigan), I put a book between front and back. Photos from Life Magazine, if you’re wondering.

Starting to cut up the middle of the steek.  Note nothing frightening is happening!

Starting to cut up the middle of the steek. Note nothing frightening is happening!

Continuing to cut the steek.

Continuing to cut the steek.

The front steek is now completely cut open, from the bottom of the ribbing up to the grafted shoulder seam.  Because the centre steek is where each row begins when knitting the body, all the loose ends are here.  You can see a few that I will need to darn in, but almost all of them begin right at the centre of the steek.  These can just be trimmed off.  Not having to sew them all in is one of the advantages of using steeking in colourwork.  (I will still have to darn in the ends going up the underarm of the sleeve.)

The front steek is now completely cut open, from the bottom of the ribbing up to the grafted shoulder seam. Because the centre steek is where each row begins when knitting the body, all the loose ends are here. You can see a few that I will need to darn in, but almost all of them begin right at the centre of the steek. These can just be trimmed off. Not having to sew them all in is one of the advantages of using steeking in colourwork. (I will still have to darn in the ends going up the inside of the sleeves.)

Loose ends trimmed.

Loose ends trimmed.

Picking up stitches for the button band, beginning at the bottom of the right front.  I did not do a very consistent job with my edge stitch (the row of stitches that runs between the steek stitches and the pattern). I don't know how I managed to have it meander so much, and also - something I became aware of and changed when I reached the Vneck rows - I managed to do the edge stitch in the motif colour rather than background colour.  Hence two rows of yellow shades next to the pattern.  However!  Knitting being as forgiving as it is, I was able to meander slightly so that I had two knit rows to the left of the edge stitch on the ribbing, and then I picked up the edge stitch I wanted all the way up.  The safety pins are where, when I knit the stitches, I have to pick up another stitch to have the right number.

Picking up stitches for the button band, beginning at the bottom of the right front. I did not do a very consistent job with my edge stitch (the row of stitches that runs between the steek stitches and the pattern). I don’t know how I managed to have it meander so much, and also – something I became aware of and changed when I reached the Vneck rows – I managed to do the edge stitch in the motif colour rather than background colour. Hence two rows of yellow shades next to the pattern. However! Knitting being as forgiving as it is, I was able to meander also when picking up for the button band, so that I had two knit rows to the left of the edge stitch on the ribbing, and then I picked up the edge stitch I wanted all the way up. The safety pins are where, when I come to knit the stitches, I have to pick up another stitch to have the right number.

This is what works for me:  instead of picking up and immediately knitting, I pick up and count until I have all the stitches on a long circular needle.  Then I begin knitting at the right-hand side of the circular needle.  It may stretch the picked-up stitches, but in my case the damage is far greater if I try to pick up and knit each stitch on the first pass. I end up taking it all out so many times that the end result is pretty mangled.

This is what works for me: instead of picking up and immediately knitting, I pick up and count until I have all the stitches on a long circular needle. Then I begin knitting at the right-hand side of the circular needle. It may stretch the picked-up stitches, but in my case the damage is far greater if I try to pick up and knit each stitch on the first pass. I end up taking it all out so many times that the end result is pretty mangled.

That’s as far as I got today.  Once I have knitted the buttonbands, I’ll show you the final finishing.  For now, some helps:

Things I find helpful when knitting stranded colourwork:  I make myself a wee chart of the various yarn colours, so I can check if I'm not sure; I keep little shade labels for each ball that I have wound (they generally stay tucked in); and I work with photocopies that I annotate mercilessly.  You can see where I've planned decreases.

Things I find helpful when knitting stranded colourwork: I make myself a wee chart of the various yarn colours, so I can check if I’m not sure; I keep little shade labels for each ball that I have wound (they generally stay tucked in); and I work with photocopies that I annotate mercilessly. You can see where I’ve planned decreases.

So that is my news for now.  I am hoping that life will settle down a bit more soon.  And I am still looking forwards to sharing our Harris trip in August with you.  Thanks again for your kindness and moral support.  I hope you are having a good week!

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 3, 2016

October already

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments and encouragement on my last post.  We all appreciated it.  Things have continued to be challenging, although the Dafter is settling better in college, once she got through a tummy bug that felled her for a week.  I am extremely grateful that she is still battling on.

Tilly has been pretty unwell – more on that in a moment – but I recently had another amazing singing experience.  I travelled to York to join one of the choirs I sing in, along with many other choirs from the North of England, to sing in Evensong in York Minster.

Looking up into the tower of York Minster.

Looking up into the tower of York Minster.

As you can imagine, it was an amazing experience.  I had never sung with 400 other people before, nevermind in the soaring acoustics of a cathedral!  The music was beautiful, and has been running through my head ever since.

Faces and a sheep:  carvings in the Chapter House of York Minster.

Faces and a sheep: carvings in the Chapter House of York Minster.

My visit to York was punctuated by phone calls to and from the vet (although not during the actual service, I hasten to add) but I made the most of it and was delighted by both the grandiose scale of this amazing medieval cathedral, and by the small details.

I was so excited to have this opportunity – Michael had insisted I go, and took time off work to look after the Dafter – and I was also relieved to be home again.  Tilly was very poorly, and we took her to the emergency vets.  She was dehydrated and running a fever, and she is still there.  I have been waiting for a phone call all morning.

The veterinary hospital in Glasgow has an excellent reputation.  We were impressed both by the care Tilly received when we arrived, and by the modern building with its brilliantly designed waiting room.  There are four S-shaped benches, each with two semi-enclosed areas for an animal to wait, without having to see all the other animals.  It being Sunday afternoon, we were the only ones there:

Waiting room of the Small Animal Hospital in Glasgow.

Waiting room of the Small Animal Hospital in Glasgow.

So I hope to have some slightly better news about Tilly for you.  I am regularly counting my many blessings, and I thank you again for your lovely comments.

 

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