Thursday, December 31, 2009

When taking risks really is not a good idea

I visited the ER yesterday, not for fun, not to see cute doctors, not even out of curiosity. I visited the ER because I believe my throat was closing due to the beginnings of an anaphylactic reaction.

I put on my Benadryl Mittens yesterday morning, picked up my bags, and walked out to the garage. I opened the car door, and felt my throat swelling.

I closed the door, walked back into the house, took off my boots, and went into the bathroom to take 2 and a half capfuls of Benadryl. I took the mittens off, and the ball of the same wool out of my knitting bag, then put my boots back on and walked back out to the car.

I started the car, and started driving to work. That's when I started to gag.

Luckily, my house is seconds away from the hospital, and it was in the direction I was going. I talked to myself, calming myself, trying not to panic.

I walked into the hospital and told the lady at the desk I thought I was having an allergic reaction. By then, the gagging feeling had stopped. She took my details, even updated my phone number. I figured by then that I wasn't going to die, but if I was going to have a reaction, this would be the place to do it.

The nurse took me in, checked me out, made sure my tongue wasn't swelling, took my heart rate and blood pressure and temperature. A little high, but I was scared, after all.

The doctor came into see me, and checked my throat, asked me some questions. He said my throat didn't look swollen, but that didn't mean it wasn't further down (which it was). I told him about the Benadryl, and he said that's what they would have given me if I hadn't already taken it. He suggested another antihistimine, told me to take it for the next few days, but to come right back if anything changed.

And, that's how I stopped using Lamb's Pride Yarn.

This is not meant to be a slanderous post about the Brown Sheep Company. Just a word of warning. If you think you might be allergic to something, stop using it immediately. You won't get any awards for ending up in the hospital.

'Nuff said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Benadryl Mittens

If you read my previous post, then you know that I've been experiencing some difficulties working with some yarn for a pair of mittens. I've been wanting to make these mittens for a while now, but it seems that projects keep popping up here and there that took precedence over these.

Well, after lots of thinking, I decided to try working with this yarn with a bottle of Benadryl next to me, to see if I felt any allergic reactions, and then to see if the Benadryl quelled them. It was probably not the smartest thing to do, and I'm sure all those with allergies out there are screaming at me for doing so.

I started knitting, I felt the itchiness in my throat, and then I took a dose of Benedryl. I kept working, and then promptly forgot about any weird sensations because I was distracted by the episode of Family Feud my dad was watching (he loves game shows - and so do I).

I worked and worked and worked, and then finished the mitten. Then, I took a nap, because the Benadryl makes you drowsy. Then, the next day, I made the other mitten. No strange reactions.

Maybe I was reacting to something else.

Anyway, I finished both these mittens, washed them, blocked them, and here they are:

They are LONG mittens. I wanted them to go well up my arms so that my wrists wouldn't get cold. That worked out fine, except that, when I blocked them, they grew a little, so my fingers have LOTS of stretching space, should they decide to stretch, I suppose.

If you look carefully at the right mitten, you can see there's something a little weird about the space an inch or so below the thumb:

This was the original thumb hole, but after I created it using Elizabeth Zimmermann's Afterthought Thumb, I realized that it was much lower than I needed it to be. So, I finished the mitten all the way to the tip of the fingertips, then went back and inspected this hole I'd made, did a bit of research, and concluded that I would have to graft it shut and make a new thumbhole further up the mitten.

Now, I did have it in the back of my mind how I was going to do this. I was going to find the area where I would need the thumb hole to exist, and then snip one of the threads of yarn, unravel it a few stitches, and then pick up the live stitches and knit myself a thumb.


I don't know why this didn't frighten me as much as steeking does, but I had read another one of EZ's books about how she made afterthought pockets in this manner. It made sense to me.

So, I cut open my mittens. I took the cut ends and spit-felted a length of yarn to one, then darned it in, then spit-felted the end of my ball of yarn onto the other one, and then picked up my stitches normally.

I make it sound so easy, but sometimes, spit-felting (yeah, I know it sounds disgusting, but I do it) sometimes just won't work for me. It took a lot of moisture and twisting to get that thing to work, and I did end up tying a knot in it in the end, just to be sure it stayed attached.

Anyway, my mittens are done, and I've started a hat. I'm still watching out for reactions, though. Now that I'm back home in my own house, eating my normal foods and all, and I really make sure nothing is amiss with me and this yarn. At any rate, at least I made these mittens. If I can't wear them in the end, well... we'll call them art. Art, for mitten's sake.

A little note about gameshows: my family takes them very seriously. We were all sitting around watching Wheel of Fortune (which, in all honesty, I can't believe is still on), and this guy is spinning the wheel, guessing all the right letters, filling in the puzzle.

"Solve the puzzle!" my dad yells. The guy decides to spin.

"No! No! You're going to lose all that money!" I yell. Gameshow-time is loud at our house. But he doesn't hit a Bankrupt. He guesses a T.

"Noooooo!" I yell, because I know he's thinking the wrong answer. And he loses his turn. The next person spins the wheel, guesses a correct letter, and promptly solves the puzzle.

"He got greedy," dad says. "That's what happens when you get greedy."

"He was only thinking of himself. He got blinded by the money, and lost his good sense," mom says.

"He did all the work, and then let someone else win," dad says.

"You get greedy, and then you lose everything. That's what happens," mom says.

And so, this is how gameshows become lessons in morality at my house. Pat Sajak has no idea how he has contributed to my life. Come to think of it, I've knit enough with Vanna's Choice to be heavily influenced by Vanna White, too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It's been a disappointing few days, much of it my own doing.

I made a neckwarmer for a good friend of mine for Christmas. It started off as the Reverse Rib Neckwarmer from Sqwish, but I got bored with it. I scrolled up on Sqwish's blog and found her pattern for the Horseshoe Lace Cowl. I decided to change my plans and use this lace pattern, but to orient it so that the horseshoes came out sideways. It worked. I lined it with grey jersey-knit fabric. I sewed buttons on.

It came out too short.

I messed around with the buttons and experimented with different ways to wear it, and finally came up with something wearable. Luckily, she loved it, and loves how different it is.

I find this is happening to me a lot lately - things turning out too short, too small, too big. I think I must be rushing my measurements or something. It's frigging annoying. And, I'm rushing so much that I keep neglecting to take photos of things before I give them away. Sigh.

My next disappointment is that I think I might be allergic to the wool I'm currently using. It's Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride, worsted, 85% wool, 15% mohair. I was excitedly knitting away on a mitten that I'm basing on the heart cable pattern from Vampire Boyfriend, a sock pattern on I reached a point where I ripped out a few rows to make a few changes, and I started noticing an itchiness in my throat, and a tingly tongue. I don't have many allergies (just to cats, and my symptoms are different), but I've got a friend who has a lot of allergies, and that's just how she describes her reactions. I put the mitten away and the itchiness and tingly feeling went away. Now, every time I pick it up, I feel the symptoms. I don't know if it's because I'm looking for them, or if I am genuinely reacting, but since I'm home for the holidays, I figure it would be better to put it away than risk making a memorable Christmas by ending up in the hospital.

My brother is picking up some Benadryl for me, but I think I might just let this one sit for a while until I can figure out what's going on. Worst case - I get one pretty mitten out of it and give away the rest of the yarn. So much for the pretty mitten and hat set.

Well, actually, the worst case would be to have a fatal anaphylactic reaction.

On the upside, since I'm home in Winnipeg, I paid a visit to Ram Wools and picked up two lovely skeins of laceweight yarn to make Hannah Fettig's Featherweight Cardigan. I've been thinking about this one for a long time - such a lovely light and beautiful cardigan, perfect for wear all year round. I've been searching for the perfect laceweight for it - I wanted greens, lots of greens. I really wanted an apple green, but it's hard to find a heathered apple green lace. And I also decided I wanted to choose it in person, where I could see the colours, rather than buy it online and risk getting something that wasn't quite right.

I decided on these two skeins from Tanis Fiber Arts - a Canadian hand-dyer that has really made a name for herself!

I chose these skeins purely because of their beauty, and for their reasonable price. I had heard about Tanis Fiber Arts before, but only noticed the label when I got back to my parents' house. I'm so very glad to have supported a Canadian small business.

The colourway is Mallard. They don't have any apple greens in them, but they're lovely, and they're going to make a perfect cardigan!

I also bought these skeins of Alpakka, from Sandnes Garn. This was a standing-in-line purchase - so pretty! And I immediately pictured an entrelac scarf - perfect project for three skeins of yarn. I may start on it now, since the mittens are grounded. I feel so strange sitting here without something to work on.

My throat is still funny. Wow - I never thought this hobby would get me into so much trouble!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Which came first, the project or the chicken?

I'm mixing up farmyard animals and yarn. You can tell it's been a busy week. Holidays coming, parties to attend, things to bake, make, cook and knit. This must be what it's like to be an elf.

In the midst of all these holiday preparations, we booked a holiday to Los Angeles at the end of January. Woohoo! Winter sun!

I'm really excited, because the last time I was in Los Angeles, I was not nearly the prolific yarnie as I am now, and this time, I intend to visit at least a couple of yarn shops, especially in my favourite area of L.A. - Santa Monica!

Oh yeah, and we'll do some sightseeing, too.

I'm also really excited to be going home to Winnipeg for a week over the holidays, especially since I can go to Ram Wools and Wolseley Wardrobe and see what goodies are there.

Oh yeah, and I'll see my family too. Yay, mom's cooking!

When I have pending visits to urban centres, I start thinking about what I'll see, what I'll do and what I'll buy. Being the budgeter I am, I try to have a limit to what I will spend, but that just gets me thinking about what yarn I'll buy for what project.

Now, I generally try not to buy things on whims, but sometimes, it's so hard to find the yarn for a specific project at a price I'm willing to pay. Then, after circling the store a few times, I end up buying things just because they are pretty, and I think I'll come up with something to make with these things.

Problem 1: This is a good way to build up a horrendous stash.

Problem 2: This is fine if you are made of money, which, last I checked, I am not.

I have to say that I am mostly a big project knitter. I don't knit socks (but I might start soon), and you can only have so many hats and scarves and cowls (I have not yet hit that limit). I just hate the idea of having so many things just lying around, waiting to be made into something. And, I always like to buy enough to make a sweater or blanket. Something big. Something I can wear or use a lot.

Case in point: I'm still struggling to think of what to do with this huge yarn cake of Evilla I bought in Alaska. I gave up on trying to make it work with the Rambling Rose pattern - just too busy. But what? What should I do with it?

This indecision can quickly descend into stress. I do not want stress associated with my hobbies. Because, in case you didn't know, stress sucks.

So, if you have any bright ideas about what I should do with the following yarn cakes, I would be happy to entertain your thoughts!

Below is a yarn cake of Kauni - it's about 600 metres. Wool, 8/2, fingering weight. Shown in the centre, here:

This is the infamous Evilla - it's about 800 metres. Also wool, 8/2, fingering weight.

Please place your ideas in the comments below! Thanks for your brain energy!

Please also note that your suggestions will totally justify my yarn purchases. And hey, that's not a bad thing, right?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Gremlins

Wow, it's been almost a week since my last post! I have a terrible habit of sitting back after writing one and basking in its doneness that I forget that I should write another one!

Part of the reason I haven't been writing is that I had a serious attack of the winter blues. Bleegh, sigh, cold, argh... It's cold and it's dark, and I'm gravitating towards sad stories of things gone wrong, people not well, and standing around shaking my head, tut-tutting and wondering what it's all about. Really, what is it all about?

Luckily, all this hmming and hahhing and sighing gives me ample time to sit down and knit whilst I contemplate the meaning of it all. As of last night, I finished the sweater for my mom, the Chic Cables and Lace Cowl Neck Sweater by SweaterBabe. It hasn't been easy. In fact, it was a struggle, but I think that's my own darn fault.

First off, even though it explicitly says in the instructions to go through and highlight the information for the size you intend to make, I didn't. "Nay," I said. "I am a seasoned and experience knitter. Highlight, you say? Pish. That's for suckers."

So, I didn't. And then, after knitting that luscious cowl, I starting on the shoulders... and after 5 inches of knitting, I was ripping back to the cowl, because I got mixed up in the sizes.

I must say, however, that if you're thinking about knitting this sweater, it is an extremely quick knit (provided you don't get cocky, like me). I probably could have finished it in a week, if I'd stuck to my usual lunch-hour-and-three-hours-after-work routine. Bulky weight yarn and big needles. What more can I say?

There are still modifications in my version, however. In the notes of those who did make this sweater on Raverly, it is mentioned again and again that this is a close-fitting knit, which, if you knew my mom, she just doesn't do. So, instead of decreasing five times towards the waist, I only decreased three times, then knit it straight until I increased for the hips (five times, instead of six). I also made it a touch longer, 25 inches instead of 24.

As I was knitting, however, I started to worry. It looked so small. All the little gremlins of worry started to circle around my head. "You should have knit the medium.," one said. "She'll never fit into it," another said. When I bound off and wove all the ends in (of which, there were only four - I love wool), I looked down at my bag, and saw that I still had a whole other ball of wool in there - this after thinking that I wouldn't have enough. "See," gremlin three said," you have a whole ball of wool left. You could have made a medium. What a bad daughter you are."

I shook off the gremlins, and they went squealing behind the couch. I grit my teeth. It might be fine, I said to myself. "You are delusional!" gremlin two said, before I kicked it back under the cushions.

I wet-blocked it immediately, and you know what? It's fine. I may steam-block it to set the size, but for now, I think it's ok.

It's interesting, this handmade clothing-thing. It's been a real opportunity for me to try to embrace my mistakes and my imperfections, something that I've always found hard to do. And it's a real balance between trusting my instincts and accepting failures.

I can't wax philosophical for too long, though. I have to cast-on for another Christmas project, but it's a small one - should only take me a week. Those gremlins are still behind the couch... but maybe they have a purpose after all.

Looks like one gremlin has emerged, though! And he's really not supposed to be up there:

Monday, December 7, 2009

I wish I could download images from my brain

It's been a tiring weekend. Sore muscles from working out and shoveling snow, and sleepy from dealing with my sick doggy this weekend (who is doing fine now, by the way).

I took a break from knitting my mom's sweater (or rather, I ran out of time to work on it) to make a lining for my lacy skirt (blogged about here).

Now, given that I can only really sew in straight lines, and that sewing patterns frustrate the heck out of me, you can imagine my trepidation at the start of this. It's the reason I've put it off for so long, when I usually can't stand having things half-finished lying around.

I obtained my sewing machine free through when I lived in Calgary. It works great, now that I've cleaned it up and oiled it and all that. It's a great thing to have for doing quick seams and making linings for mitts and hats (which I like to do in flannel).

And linings for skirts, of course.

I began the task at 10:00am. I cut the fabric to an appropriate height, then started measuring out the waist. I pondered how to achieve a perfect cone-like shape. I practiced on a piece of paper, and then transferred ideas to the fabric. I cut out the shape.

Totally too small.

Never fear! I have another length all ready to go, which I'd bought just in case I screwed this up. We went swimming, then when we got back, I measured, measured, seamed, hemmed, sewed into the waistband.

Totally too short. It looked like I was wearing a skirt over a pair of boxers.

Hrmm... well, ok. I'll just make a cylinder from the first length of fabric and sew it to the bottom of this lining. Measure, sew, hem, press.

Totally too long. Goldilocks, what the heck? Time for a coffee.

By this time, it's 4:00pm. I like to sew in natural light. It's getting dark. I'm getting tired and grumpy. Hubby is suggesting we take sick doggy out for some fresh air. After noting my pending tantrum, he suggests that he will take doggy out for a quick stroll if I bathe him when he gets back (doggy, not him).

I lay down on the couch, pull my hoodie over my head, and promptly fall asleep. I wake up to doggy sniffing at my face. Mutter, mutter... give doggy a good bath and blow dry (which I don't normally do, but the poor little guy was sick and shivering), and then return to the dining table, where my big mess of a skirt is lying there. Sniff.

I decide to go into the kitchen and start making a bang-up dinner - sausages, roast potatoes, roasted asparagus and peppers, and yorkshire puddings (which usually set the house into dream sequence because of all the hot oil). Yep, I am feeling accomplished now.

After dinner, I return to the lump-o-skirt, and I lay it flat, and start examining, tugging, turning... I take my cutting wheel and chop off the inch-wide hem I just made. I try it on...

It's right! Yes!

I make a folded hem and sew it all in place. And now, it's finished.

It's too dark to take pictures of it right now... which is why I wish I could download images from my brain! But I'll get them taken asap!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ever have one of those "duh" days?

I've started working on a sweater for my mom for Christmas, a little number from SweaterBabe called the Chic Cowl Neck Sweater. I bought the yarn for it way back in August during a visit to Winnipeg at Ram Wools. I'm going to make the long-sleeved version without the belt and with simpler 3/4 sleeves.

Let's rewind back to that day, shall we...?

I knew I wanted to make this sweater for my mom way back in the spring, because she's going through lots of health issues, and is one of those people who is perpetually cold. I'd been on the lookout for a natural fibre yarn to make this from, and came across GarnStudio's Alaska on sale at Ram Wools. Perfect weight, great colour. I'd brought the pattern with me, and checked the meterage and thought, "Hmmm... eleven balls oughta do it." When I got to the till, I discovered I'd actually picked up twelve. Well, what the hey. I'm always running short of yarn, so I took the extra ball anyway.

Fast-forward to Monday evening. First problem: I'd swatched to find my gauge and to check how the yarn would wash when knitted up. Perfect swatch. Only thing was I'd done it so long ago that I couldn't remember what needle I'd used. Great.

So, I made a second swatch. Ah... size 11 was fine. Good. Now I'll start. Now... what size was I going to make? Hmmm... I think it was a large. Wait a minute... do I have enough yarn?

I counted the balls. Yes, twelve. Then I checked the meterage for the pattern. Size large requires 1125 metres. Yeah, I think I've got that, right? 75m per ball times 12... gasp! That's only 900 metres! Goodness gracious me!

After looking through several photos of my mom and reasoning with myself that I'd always got her clothes in medium, and that she is always much smaller than I think, I started the pattern following the instructions for medium, because that requires 825m of yarn. Ahhh... all is well... or so I thought.

I just looked again, and lo and behold, I'm following instructions for size freakin' small. But! It fits a bust size of 32-34", and that is BANG ON. Whew! I'm saved.

Geeeeeeeez.... why can't I just do things right the first time? Sigh...