Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Will Work for Air

It's official, I do NOT have Swine Flu. The test was negative, and after 2 days off Hannah is back at school today.

However, my breathing is very bad.

Whatever I have has settled into my lungs, I'm having those 3 am waking-with-no-breath episodes that were so charming back in winter 2005, and I'm back on prednisone. Alert the media.

It's true that I've had precious little appetite for weeks (except for a chocolate croissant that I HAD to have this weekend) so I'm certain the P'zone will change that. I feel as though I gain 20 lbs every time I'm on it. Shannon's recommended her accupuncturist in Cleveland, and I think I'll make an appt when I'm in that town in late May. Right now I'm setting up an appt with someone my doctor recommended, just a few blocks from my house.

When I watch "What Not To Wear" - which I love - and I fantasize about them going through my own closet (admit it, you do too!) I can just hear Clinton reading me the riot act about my elastic waisted skirts and pants. I'd hang my head in shame, he'd tell me, "Elastic waists are EVIL!", and Stacy would pipe up, "They allow you to gain weight and NEVER KNOW IT!"

And I'd say, very quietly (breathlessly?) "But they allow me to breathe, too..."

If I had to take in or let out the waists of my garments every time my breathing took a nose dive or upswing, my sewing machine would never be put away. Some days - like this week - even a bra is too much. It's unsettling how the small pressure of a strip of elastic can make me feel as though I'm being waterboarded.

All the chatter about that insidious torture hits home with me so deeply. When I can't breathe, when I have that horrible 1-second gap between when I thought I'd have air in my lungs, and when I actually DO have air, the panic can be overwhelming.

Anyone who's ever experienced lack of air understands the fear, the adreneline (not in a good way) and the immediate deep depression one falls (sometimes just for a few minutes) at feeling so close to not being able to take any more breaths. I guess there might be exhilleration at living when it's all over, but I just wait for the next gasping episode. I hate steps.

I've had a long fear of falling into a river in a car - I drive across bridges with my windows open and my PT cruiser was my first car with electric windows for just that reason. Water can be fearsome. Just ask Max when I tell him to shower.

I'm moving slowly - nothing slows me down like lack of breath. I feel embarrassed, feeble, old, fat, all those things that I'm not (well except for fat) but these feelings are more a by-product of just feeling so inadequet for several days.

I made Gerry a strawberry shortcake tart this morning (bisquik, milk and cut up strawberries, not hard...) so I'd feel I'd DONE something.

I also moved our seedlings from the front porch to the back deck (it took me an hour, moving one egg-planter at a time, like a Carol Burnette character)

I've been finishing up an independent crochet project for a book the Stitch Coop is putting together.

It's something I'd been thinking about for a while, creating something with the heft and feeling of the quilt(s) I inherited from my grandma, but crocheted.

I'm very happy with it - it's a car-seat blanket (with a slit for the between-the-legs buckle to fit) and I'll make a matching hat and booties. And it's due - tomorrow. Better get hooking!

But aside from that, I'm painfully inactove. Oh yes, there's Scrabble! I've discovered that the online game has amazing medicinal properties at 4 am.

Perhaps part of my mental hovering - not getting down to tasks at hand - is because I've upgraded to a new computer (my old was having repeated problems in many places, which we had been fixing, but an upgrade was in order.) and I'm still trying to find my way through a new operating system and mail upgrades. Curse you, upgrades!

Gerry found this one at Micro Center for $799 with twice the hard drive, 1-1/2 times the memory running the most up to date operating system.

I've named it Blanche because it's white (I liked the aluminum better) and it depends on the kindness of strangers. It has a smaller screen (of course I liked the bigger one better...) but it's LIGHTER, and that will make it easier for travel. And it's lovely and fast.

And I'm all about lightweight travel these days.


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Bronchitis

It's a rainy, overcast, thundering Sunday morning here in St. Paul, and the weather matches my mood.

I'm sick of feeling sick. I've been nursing this darned long-lasting crud since mid-cruise, and at this point my breathing is about as bad as it was way back in Winter 2005 when I was diagnosed (correctly? incorrectly?) with COPD. I certainly had all of the symptoms, and it seems the thing that pulled me out of it wasn't the meds my doc prescribed, but some chinese herbs that I ordered from the UK and took religiously for 2 months.

This is the first time in 4 years I've felt this low with my breathing. Yesterday I went for a bike ride with a friend (no matter how bad I feel, I try to get out and at least go down the alley and back - I feel my lungs need the excercise) and spent an hour recovering.

Hannah's sniffling now, so I fear that I've spread this to my darling, beautiful daughter. Bad mommy. It's raining cats and dogs, thundering, and I'm enjoying the lively weather. I don't have to be out in it. I'm the only one up, I have my cup of tea and my banana, and life is very, very good... (breathing notwithstanding...)

I've been missing my mother, my brother and my cousin so much these past 2 months that it feels like a sharp, continuous pain. I awoke this morning to an essay by Amy Tan on NPR about the ghosts of her mother and grandmother, and I understood.

I'm not sure how I feel about ghosts - the whole ghost-powered economy of so many cable TV shows and books - but I do firmly believe that those who have passed into a different life? realm? do try to lead us sometimes with varying degrees of success.

I do believe that our move to MN was generated by prompts by my mom and brother. If that makes me ooky-spooky, then so be it, one doesn't choose what one believes, belief reveals itself.

So here I sit on a rainy Sunday morning thinking about ghosts and lungs and feeling that it's time to get knitting.


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Friday, April 24, 2009


Hey Folks,

Whatever this crud was that I picked up on the cruise ship (at this point I've heard of 4 folks on that cruise who have it, too - one before they met me, the rest I probably contaminated...) it is NOT going away.

I know I sound like I'm falling apart - I'm not - but this April seems to have been a perfect storm of bronchitis / headcold / flu infect-y thing, pinched nerve in my back and the continuing ski-fall shoulder twinging. Who knows, they're probably all connected! I do feel that when there's an infection in the body all the aches and pains feel three times as bad.

At any rate, I'm dopey, lightheaded, feeling icky and my skin hurts. I pulled myself together to go to Hannah's speech competition last night (she got 2nd place in her group!) but ended up just sitting in the car because I felt icky and didn't want to be around a huge pool of infectable folks. Don't ever say I'm not fun on a date.

I keep trying to hop on my bike once a day - even just to go around the block - because the weather is is amazingly beautiful and life is good. But then every time I blow my nose or cough up a lung I'm reminded in vivid ways that I cannot rid myself of this infection. Hey - this feels like old time! This reminds me of those endless bronchial things I used to get back in NJ.

Along with me being ill, my computer is acting up. Specifically, the port where the power supply goes into the computer seems to be on the fritz, so the computer can get no power, and it is dead as Marley.

I apologize if you've written and I haven't responded. I'm on my husband's computer now, and when I finish this I'm retreating to the back porch to knit in the sun and then I'm sleeping the rest of the day. Yes, I will go back to the doctor. And Gerry's working on my computer even as I write this.

Let's just call this an enforced period of inactivity and enjoy it, shall we?

And while I'm inactive, I'll be finishing the Egyptian skirt & top, and making the belt for the Chiton. Pics to come!

The Maryland Sheep & Wool show is coming up, and It's A Purl Man Guido is putting together a shindig! I would give a great deal to be there, but I'll be at my own wonderful Shepherd's Harvest out at Lake Elmo teaching a few classes, so a trip to Maryland isn't in the cards.

However, if you'll be in Maryland and would like to hang with a wonderful assortment of fiberly folks during the show's off hours on Saturday evening, check out this fete!


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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mind Games

I'm taking a break from writing patterns, knitting on my back and writhing in agony to play a little Facebook Scrabble, and what does my rack spell? YOU ARE B.


It's a pinched nerve in my lower back on the right side, which is why I'm leaning so strongly to the left.

THANK YOU, Gina, for the chiro reminder. Of course I needed to go to my chiro! Dur!

So I went, he did some good stuff, I'm not out of pain but it's eased up. Xrays showed - something - I nodded like I understood (and I kind of did while he was talking) then he gave me a modified adjustment and I'm resting for a few days. I go back on Monday for a follow up.

I'm missing some good stuff this weekend. Yarnover, the Textile Center Garage Sale, a sale at The Yarnery. On the bright side, though, the sun shining into my bedroom is lovely, and I got my sad (hurting) butt downstairs to sit outside for an hour or so until I couldn't take the upright position.

Is it me, or is there something SO different about the light at this latitude, especially in the Spring and Fall? I've always been sensitive to light, but it's just so lovely - sharp and soft at the same time - so clear up here. And my seedlings are coming up along with my bulbs. They're late because I planted them in a shady bed, but they're definitely coming up! Thank you, Minnesota Spring!

Back to my knitting. IK was very kind to give me a few days extension so I can mail my current project (a lace and cabled cardigan worked in a soft Merino) on Monday instead of yesterday, and I'm not too far from finished. This gives me the luxury of rechecking my measurements against my pattern again, always a nice thing to do.

The new IK preview is up - I have two pieces in it. They both make me happy.

The skirt is - I'm not ashamed to admit it - inspired by the Forest Path Stole (F. Letoutchaia, Summer 2003 IK) as it is one of the lovliest designs I've ever seen.

This is entrelace - lace worked in an entrelac manner - and it's much simpler than it looks! Honest! I used the charted entrelac technique that I've been perfecting (Perfecting? No such thing!)

The changes in the lace motif create the shaping, I love putting the increases and decrease within a motif itself (I do that a lot for my knit millinery / hats)

The other piece in IK is a cardigan which is worked up using my favorite slip stitch plaid technique. I'm not sure if I invented it, but I haven't seen it anywhere else, so I'll take the credit for the time being. I'm sure I'll be informed of previous sources if they're out there!

The original intent was to work the entire jacket as a plaid - sort of like a hunting jacket - but as I began working with the (thin) yarn I realized that not only was it going to take forever, but it would be evil hard for anyone to really knit it.

I like my knitting to be challenging, but FUN - not a chore, and not a marathon. I knit for fun, and I assume that most folks who buy IK do, too! So this is simpler, with just a little plaid at the hem and at the yoke, no pockets (they were screwing up the fit of the ribbing at the body) and a different collar. But I still like it very much.

I hope what folks take away from this is that if you see something you'd like to make but you want to change something - that's FINE. It may be hard, and you want to be certain that you can do it, but we designers ponder various details and outcomes in our patterns. If I wanted everything I designed to only be worked one way, I'd be designing for retail, not for hand knitters.

I tried something different with the sleeve shaping, which I'm not 100% sold on. Based on a 1530's bodice sleeve - it's not awful, but it's different than folks might expect. Warning, the cardigan I'm currently working on has a sleeve inspired by a 1603 painting. One would think I'd been locked in a museum with a sketchpad.

I'm not saying marathon knitting is bad, but when I knit I'd prefer to have a lighter job of it. Each person is different! And doing all that ribbing on size 3's isn't exactly light work...

Bragging Time

I don't do this often, but I thoroughly enjoy it when I do.

Here's a letter I received this week from a new knitter who worked up the skirt from Romantic Hand Knits. What I love about her letter is the courage and fearlessness that she shows - she's only been knitting since Feb, and already she understands that if she can make a knit and a purl stitch she truly CAN do anything!

She said it was okay if I published her letter on my blog, and I'm just proud enough (good heavens my mom wouldn't like all this pride!) to want to share it.

I just had to write to you to say a huge "THANK YOU!"

You see, I have a co-worker who told me she was retiring; and I told her she couldn't retire until she taught me how to knit. The next day, she brought in a pair of knitting needles and some waste yarn and showed me how to cast on, and perform the basic knit.

I attempted, and within seconds, I dropped the knitting needles (on accident, of course) and just did not think I would ever learn, as it felt so clumsy. Anyways, I went home that night and starting surfing the internet for books on knitting, and came across your book Romantic HandKnits.

I loved the picture, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I quickly whipped out my creditcard and purchased. As I awaited the arrival of your book, I practiced my knitting, and came to learn that I couldn't master English, however, could do Continental.

Well, when I finally received your book and I flipped through the pages, I fell in love-and in specific, the tulip skirt. I read all your pointers, read the pattern, ran to the local yarn shop and bought all my supplies to attempt the skirt.

Long story short, I have this absolutely georgeous skirt that I get compliments on everytime I wear (thus, I try to wear it minimally once a week-which at this rate, I'll have to knit several more), and I've moved on to knitting a couple of other tops.

Annie, I started knitting in late February of this year. I had never knitted before. Your Romantic HandKnits was the first knitting book I ever bought and am ever grateful and overjoyed that I did.

It changed my life as it produced and and ehanced my love and understanding for knitting.

You have started me on a wonderous journey that I am truly loving every minute of.

Even now, when I look at patterns, I already want to alter it to my liking (and will be able to), because of someone like you. I am someone who never had any formal training in sewing, designing, let alone, putting a garment together, and now, I envision designing knit garmets.

Thank you
Thank YOU, CP! This is a letter to keep around and read when I feel discouraged or when the road seems too steep. This is the kind of letter that designers dream of getting, and I am very fortunate to have received this one! Suffice to say this came at a most excellent time - it was a good week to recieve it!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Horizontal Knitting

Today I see if I can knit flat on my back. Hell, if Michaelangelo could paint a ceiling like this, then I can knit a darned cardigan, right?

I'd made tentative plans to get together with some of my teaching/designer friends who are in town for the Yarn Over, but now that will not happen, and I am bereft. [sigh]

Even worse, I was going to volunteer at the Textile Center Garage Sale tomorrow, but there is non way I'm moving.

I have a heating pad planted firmly under me, and just discovered that I can parent from this angle (get IN that shower NOW, Max!)

Why did I have to ride my bike yesterday. As soon as I got a block away I knew what a stupid idea it was. But not riding would have meant picking up Max's bike and shoving it into the back of the car, which seemed a much bigger deal at the time than just riding. Well, now I know. And apparently it's time to get the bike rack back on the car.

On to some back knitting. Luckily I already have the project on circs...


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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh, My Achin' [insert joint here]

I'm in pain, baby, and it's not the fun kind.

All last week I was achey, it was the flu/bronchitis coming up. Now Big B is settled firmly into my chest (this baby is NOT going away) and it's brought super-duper joint aches with it.

Last ache to emerge? Lower back.

It was just mildly annoying yesterday, more troublesome last night. This morning I was walking with a definite tilt (known around here as The Leaning Stumble of Annie) and just as I thought I might be feeling better I went and spoiled it all by taking a bike ride to pick up Maxie at school and escort him to his Hebrew tutoring. I am not usually this stupid. Oh, yeah, I am.

So I'm home, I'm blogging and I'm about to go upstairs and recline in bed while I finish the sleeves on a project for IK. I KNOW that rest is what I need, the bike thing was some freaky idea I had that, "I can walk this off..."

Yeah, right. Guess I couldn't "ride it off", though.

I'm basking in the glow of having sent out 2 projects earlier this week (they arrived!) and just received an AMAZING piece from Miram Tegels for History on Two Needles. I want to polish it up a bit before I photograph it and blog about it, but - as usual - I'm so proud of Miriam for her amazing knitting!


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tilli Tomas Love

I have neglected something SO important that I hang my head in shame...

Right before I left for the cruise my friend Tracy from Tilli Tomas wrote to ask if my students would like some yarn. Wait, let me check -- YES!

So she fed-ex'ed some yarn right over to me, and I was blown away by her generosity!

She sent lovely beaded, sequined and bejeweled yarns in various colors and textures, and my students ATE IT UP! Well, it was a cruise ship - we tended to eat anything that wasn't tied down...

The yarn absolutely MADE the lace class, and everyone started the Gigi scarf from Romantic Hand Knits in the intended yarn.

One student's marine blue scarf was SO like the waves outside our window, it was just lovely (Hi, Kathy!)

So this is my belated - and much heartfelt - THANK YOU to Tilli & all the little Tomases for their help in making my students the envy of the Caribbean. Yar!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baggage Rendezvous!

I was so happy to have my bags back last night - yay! And I have TWO projects that must be mailed out no later than Wed, so I have to get crackin'

Evidently I was more ill than I thought. Gerry made me go to the doc, and I do indeed have Bronchitis, and I'm on an antibiotic. But I feel so happy to be back in my home that it's hard to feel really bad. I'm such a darned Virgo.

I urge you to visit Drew Emborsky's blog for some lovely photos of Aruba and Curacao. Thank heaven he took some nice ones!

Pam, a friend from the cruise, made the most adorable crocheted hat with a day-glo orange brim, which she wore to the lifeboard drill.

Today she sent me a photo of herself in it, and it's charming. It crystalizes - distills - the cruise for me, all in this one sweet image...

And now back to work. I must knit like the wind.

And as I knit I'll contemplate a crisis of teaching confidence I'm flirting with. Finally - the cruise is over and I'm flirting!

I need to rethink some things, perhaps rewrite my handouts and set everything up more as a rotisserie type of class thing (cafeteria classes?) I need a boost of new energy.

I love teaching - LOVE it - but my fear factor rises as classes start in silly ways. I feel inadequate - frightened that I won't be able to get through to everyone - but I know this is because I've been dormant for a few months. I'm looking forward to the 3-week teaching trip in May/June to get my chops back.

To that end, I'd love to add some book signings / speaking gigs - freebies - at shops where I'm passing. Check out this map of

If you know of a shop that is on my way, please ask them to get in touch with me if they'd like me to do a book signing. I think I'd like to add a few low-pressure reach-out events to get me back into fighting form, to meet knitters & crocheters in person (with no expectations that I'll be able to unlock the mysteries of all decreases and increases.)

Maybe I'm just crazed with the lung infection.


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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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