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Obsession Thursday: reclaiming my Ukeness.

One of the many things I had to stop doing, when my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome got really bad, was playing ukulele. It was gradual and then all of a sudden I realized I hadn’t played in months. And then a year.

Waterman glow-in-the-dark ukulele

Waterman glow-in-the-dark ukulele

Thanks to my CTS surgery, I’m back, people. And I am so damned happy about it. Tonight, I got to teach some basic chords to a lovely fellow who wanted to learn. Watching his light bulb turn on as his fingers started to remember where G, F, A and D are located reminded me of how much fun it was for me to learn.

I am planning a big cross-country train trip at the end of next month, and so I treated myself to a new travel uke. It’s plastic (like the popular ukes of the 1950s) and, get this, IT GLOWS IN THE DARK. Because can’t you see me in my little train cabin, playing my glowy uke in the dark as we chug along through the prairies at night?

It’s a delightful instrument that’s waterproof and plays like a dream. I love how it sounds, and I am veritably smitten. You can get one for yourself here. They come in tons of colors, and I am unreasonably tempted to buy the clear one and fill it with cool LED lights. But I think that would mess with the acoustics.

Are you interested in learning the uke? My (I’ve been told) quite-useful post on how to choose your first ukulele can be found here.

 

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Obsession Thursday: Finally knitting again!

FInally! Progress on my After the Rain in Rowan Revive.

Finally! Progress on my After the Rain in Rowan Revive.

The saga is coming to a close, at least for my right hand. (Catch up with the story here.)

It’s been 4 months since my surgery. I’ve tried to knit during the healing process, but haven’t found it very enjoyable. Which worried me.

Last week, I went on a road trip with a friend, and got to sit in the passenger seat for the first time in a while (being single means you’re the one driving all the time). I started to knit. It ached as the muscles aren’t even vaguely as strong as they used to be (or NEED to be), but I kept at it, with little breaks. In a while, I noticed it was less achy. And then it was easy.

What was the difference? Keeping at it? No. Up till now, I’d been continuing to try to knit combination, which is still new for me. On the road trip, I switched back to my autonomic knitting style: throwing. And poof, my mojo is returning.

I left the knitting down for the last week, and, picking it up again, it’s kind of like starting over. I used to knit every time I sat down to watch TV. With the pain I had, I broke that habit, and now I have to retrain myself.

This will be fun.

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Knitty Friday: A refreshing design!

Or, rather, refreshing our design!

One of our first stated goals with our Patreon campaign was to pay our staff and contributors better. Thanks to our Patrons’ enthusiasm, we were able to do that almost immediately. And so we moved on to the second goal: bringing our website up to date.

We launched our first ever responsive issue last week. What’s responsive? That means the site is coded to automatically resize to fit every screen from cellphones to huge monitors. It’s about as fresh from the code monkey as is possible…and we’re releasing it in Beta. That means there might be bugs to fix, and things might change in appearance from day to day as we fine tune how the site looks and works. We beg your indulgence during this time. Wanna report a bug? Write to me with the subject heading “BUG REPORT”. Thank you!

simulation...the best way to see how this issue works is to view it on your different devices!

simulation…the best way to see how this issue works is to view it on your different devices!

The back issues in our Library will be getting a facelift as well, though a much more subtle one. We want our whole Library to be updated so that the back patterns are still useful to you, and so we’ll be continuing to responsive-ize issues until they’re all done. It’s going to take a while. We’re talking about 55 back issues. But now we know where we’re headed and it’s exciting!

Also long overdue is the addition of metric measurements to patterns. This is now standard operating procedure going forward.

This redesign project has been a huge undertaking in partnership with Philip Chatterton of Marblehead. We’re thrilled with what he’s done for us. (Need something like this done for your website? Drop him a line.)

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TNNA: the knitting industry’s trade show…UPDATE!

Jillian and I have just returned from our annual trek to TNNA’s trade show, this time in Washington, DC. Jillian used to live there a very long time ago, and I’ve never been, so it was an interesting venue for us to explore.

Every year, we gauge what’s out, what’s in and what’s growing in popularity. This time, without question, the most popular trend was gradients. Gradients in every form, from sets of single-color skeins that make up the gradient to super-long-color-change skeins (first popularized, I believe, by Tina Whitmore of Freia Fibers).

Here’s a sampling of the new products released this year:

Indigo-dyed yarns at Ancient Arts

Indigo-dyed yarns at Ancient Arts

 

Adorable sheepies from Kraemer Yarns

Adorable sheepies showing off the color range at Kraemer Yarns

Really cool laser-cut tapestry looms at Purl & Loop

Really cool laser-cut tapestry looms at Purl & Loop

Delicious colors of Manos Alegria

Delicious colors of Manos Alegria

A soft rainbow (timely!) of Gems, from Louet North America

A soft rainbow (timely!) of Gems, from Louet North America and Fresh Stitches

Another delicious rainbow from the folks at Wonderland Yarns

Another delicious rainbow from the folks at Wonderland Yarns

And finally, the new speckled yarns, Splatter Shot, from our friends at Lorna's Laces

And finally, the new speckled yarns, Splatter Shot, from our friends at Lorna’s Laces

There was also a lot of this going on…which helps you understand that, although it’s a work event, we also love seeing our fiber friends. There is a lot of hugging at TNNA.

Jillian, Stefanie Japel and Liz Gipson

Jillian, Stefanie Japel and Liz Gipson

Clara Parkes, Jill Draper, Miss Jillian again and Laura Nelkin

Clara Parkes, Jill Draper, Miss Jillian again and Laura Nelkin

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Obsession Thursday: continuing to heal

Last time I wrote, I told you about my upcoming surgery of a womanly sort and how that would affect Knitty’s next issue.

Since then:
– surgery went off very well
– took 2 hours longer than expected because my surgeon needed to consult during the procedure to make it as minimally invasive as possible
– I believe I asked the recovery room nurse to marry me after she gave me 4 perfect orange popsicles, one after another…just what i needed after having that tube down my throat (ack)
– some very lovely people visited me in the hospital (I just stayed overnight) and I felt very loved
– home the next day, feeling surprisingly good, but moving slow
– the usual post-general anesthetic symptoms gone in a few days (yay!)
– soon feeling almost zingy!
– and then the real zinger: a pinched nerve in my neck from all the proneness (since sitting up was not very comfortable the first few days)

So that last bit, that was actually probably the worst part of my recovery. I took myself back to the ER when I started to feel severe pain in both my arms, 5 days after surgery. All sorts of tests confirmed I hadn’t had a heart attack or stroke, and they sent me home. With no idea what was wrong. Oh, joy.

Cervical radiculopathy. I'll say...it's radiculous!

Cervical radiculopathy. I’ll say…it’s radiculous!

And then, Dr Mom diagnosed me. Pinched nerve. It was exactly that. Stretching my neck in a specific direction reproduced the pain. So gentle long stretches in the same direction finally relieved the pain. I’m continuing to do the stretches and the pain is gone, but my neck STILL feels like I let a tractor run over it. (I didn’t.)

For those who told me that a hysterectomy (total, laparoscopic, btw) would be an easy recovery, I thank you. You were right. It definitely was even easier than when I had my gall bladder removed. I find that surprising and a huge relief. Yay, modern medicine! Boo, neck nerves.

Anyway, Knitty production has resumed, albeit slower than usual. We will be bringing you a fabulous First Fall issue around the middle of June, as we predicted. Jillian and I are heading to TNNA in Washington, DC, next weekend (already? holy cow).  If you have a yarn shop, please stop us if you see us on the floor. We have a little something to give you.

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Obsession Thursday: ending the uterine tyranny

The legendary Womb pattern by MK Carroll.

The legendary Womb pattern by MK Carroll.

This is the Womb pattern, designed by MK Carroll for our Winter 2004 issue. Back in our embryonic days (see what I did there?).  One of our most popular patterns.

And for me, one of my most-hated body parts. Mine has turned on me in ways I will not describe to you. Bottom line is that the sucker has to go, and it’s going. Next week.

Those of you who’ve been following along will note that this is my second surgery since the Spring+Summer issue came out. Having my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome fixed was planned so that it wouldn’t impact on Knitty’s production schedule. My stupid uterus, however, has no respect for deadlines. It needs to go, and it needs to go NOW.

This means that the First Fall issue of Knitty, which would normally be out the first or second week of June will now be out some time after June 13th, when Jillian and I return from TNNA (our industry’s trade show) in Washington, DC. I’m sorry about this, but I’m pretty sure you will understand.

Knock wood, I’ll survive the surgery (hey, I’m a neurotic Jewish girl…it’s what I do) and that should be the end of it. This surgery is unbelievably common, and so many of you lovely former uterus owners have tweeted me to let me know how much better life will be once the bastard is history.

Thanks for your kind wishes, everyone. If you want to follow along with how things are going, I’m tweeting without going into messy detail over here. We uterus-holders have to stick together and share our knowledge. The online sisterhood, baby!

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Bonus: Amy on Marly Bird’s podcast!

unnamedWell, this is fun! I get to talk to my friend, Marly, who is an awesome human being. We first hung out together (at length) when I taped my class for Craftsy a few years ago in her hometown of Denver, CO. But we chatted on one of her earliest podcasts, and though that file is lost in the ether, I remember it being one of the most interesting interviews I’d ever done. She’s a smart cookie.

So this Tuesday, April 12, I’ll be talking to Marly again, live on The Yarn Thing at noon eastern time. Click the picture to go to the podcast page. If you happen to miss it live, you’ll find in in the on-demand section.

Will I be clever or goofy? Probably a little of both. It’s my thing. Talk to you tomorrow!

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Obsession Thursday: Healing

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Possibly the three most dreaded non-life-threatening words to a knitter (or anyone who uses their hands). Certainly not welcome news, when the diagnosis hits.

Mine hit in 1999. Surgery on my right hand happened March 10th. Backstory here.

The lovely Deborah Robson had her surgery last week. A lovely Twitter friend (@lahondaknitter) has hers next week. We’re all getting fixed around here.

I thought I would give those who are on a similar path a little timeline of how it went for me. Images are tiny until clicked, for those who don’t want to see. Nothing is bloody or raw, but there are stitches in some of the images and it is a surgical wound. You’ve been warned.

 

Still totally drugged and painfree. It doesn't last long.

Very stoned.

Day 1: Surgery is easy as pie. Only thing that hurt was having the IVs put in. Am just sedated during the procedure just enough not to care what is happening. Have no idea when they start operating, and only know they’re done when they tell me so. I heard them talking throughout, but I can’t remember much of it.

Feel euphoric until I get home and the nerve block wears off. Take 2 Tylenol 3s every 4 hours for the next 24. Sleep reasonably well with arm and hand resting on pillow at my side.

Hand is in a cast-like splint — rigid on the bottom, bandaged on the top. Completely useless, as expected.

 

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent waterproofing solution for showering.

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent showering solution.

Day 2-4: Stop taking Tylenol 3s after day 3. Do nothing for the first two days but sleep and lounge. Hand needs to stay elevated in order not to hurt, so even walking is annoying. Some use a sling to keep the hand up. I hate having a strap behind my neck. So instead I rest, watch Netflix, sleep. Repeat.

Feed myself with pre-assembled pop-in-oven dishes that I’d prepped the week before in ziplock bags or recyclable aluminum dishes. Eat off paper plates. Dictate all text messages and emails instead of typing (this is brilliant). My right elbow and forearm become reasonably helpful tools to keep me from being fully single handed.

Wiggle fingers often, as instructed. When I shower (which I avoid, as it’s exhausting), I cover the splint with a ziploc bag and keep the arm above my head. Feh.

 

Day 5: Cast-splint off! I try not to feel faint looking at my Frankenhand at first. Am healing perfectly. Making a fist feels V weird. Left hand and forearm feel strained and sore from doing all the work. Keep the incision covered with a big rectangular bandaid at all times. Change daily, as it’s awfully hard to keep a bandaid sticking to your palm. Plus it gives me something to do.

 

Frankenhand.

Frankenhand. Purple is surgical marker. Stiches are like fishing line.

Day 6-7: Tweet that left (untouched wrist) hurts more than surgically altered wrist. Fascinating. Return to the keyboard. Hand often sore, occasional electric shocks, especially when putting right arm into sleeve too quickly. Very easy to overdo it.

Wiggle fingers more now, since the cast is off and I have more range of motion.

 

Day 8: Finally able to hook my own bra on the normal way. This is a huge achievement (haha).

Still can’t depress an atomizer, but can (slowly) pull lighter doors open including fridge. Have been driving, steering with my left hand, and shifting from park (etc) with it as well. Clicking my seat belt in to the holder hurts.

 

Day 9-12: Type/mouse too much some days and feel it.

 

Stitches out.

Stitches out.

Day 13: Stitches come out. Tech uses some sort of v pointy poky thing (scalpel? I didn’t look) to help remove them which I am sure will cut me. Of course it doesn’t. Feel woozy, but it settles. Making a fist easy now. Doc says no pushing, pulling, lifting heavy anything for 6 more weeks. No direct pressure on incision. Yes, doctor. My ART therapist works on my left arm and hand, and right forearm. It helps.

I occasionally wake up with my bad hand under my face, numb and hurting from the pressure. Have an idea that might help me stop this till it heals. (Who knew I slept like this?)

 

Day 14: I notice the very topmost layer of skin is pulling away from the incision in the middle. It turns out to be nothing… the underlayers are all healing. Still driving left-handed, but can shift into drive (etc) with right hand. Seat belt can be problematic, but not using it is not an option so I deal. Give up on bandaids. They’re no longer sticking. Scar fully dries and doesn’t look that bad.

In terms of relief of symptoms, am finally free of post-surgical pain enough that I can start to evaluate. Ring finger continues to be numb on R side of finger as it was before surgery. Other fingers not numb. Thumb pain hard to evaluate, since it’s directly attached to one edge (or feels like it) of the ligament that is still healing. Overall, surgical pain or discomfort is worse than any CTS symptoms I’m feeling.

 

Good use for a single sock.

Good use for a single sock.

Day 15: I start applying Scar Fix cream, which feels pretty much like any moisturizer would. But it gives me something to do. Gently rub in circles without pressing on incision. (I get dermatitis from some of the ingredients in Bio-Oil, so I can’t use that.)

I take an old thin cotton sock and cut it into a handwarmer to wear when out. It helps protect the scar from superficial crap, and makes me feel better.

Still can’t depress an atomizer or do much of anything requiring grip, but can press fingers on keyboard, apply makeup, etc. Treated myself to an electric toothbrush, which is very helpful under the circumstances.

 

image

Healing nicely.

Day 2o: Can depress atomizer and squeeze spray bottle, but just a little. Thumb is the most problematic and uncomfortable, still. Wrist occasionally sore. Second and third fingers still lightly numb from internal swelling. Hand (in area that was operated on) is achy. Am not, thankfully, waking up with hand under face any more. Somehow my brain figured that out on its own. I still sleep with a pillow under my whole right arm including hand. I find it comforting.

Incision healing nicely. I apply scar reduction cream at least 2x daily. Not sure it’s doing anything but it feels nicer to keep it moisturized.


So healing is ongoing. I’m not to do any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling for 8 weeks from the surgery. I’m still having to baby it in other ways, and am not frustrated, just hopeful.

Trying the other therapies I did and waiting 16 years from diagnosis to surgery is, I believe, contributing to a slightly delayed healing process. Not the therapies, but just letting it go on so long. In 1999, I’d heard that I’d be out of commission for a full month if I’d had the surgery then (this happened to my ex’s aunt). And so I was spooked for a long time.

Time has passed, procedures have improved and this recovery is nothing like I imagined it would be back then. Live and learn. I’m glad I had it done, and I plan to have the other hand done later this year.

 

 

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Obsession Thursday: Spindling

Spindling, cider, relaxation. Life is good.

Spindling, cider, relaxation. Life is good.

I just got back from teaching at a weekend retreat for the lovely women who run Knit Social (they’re also the folks behind the fabulously popular Knit City fiber event that happens in Vancouver every October).

As my hands are still rather flipper-like until I have my carpal tunnel surgery next month, bringing knitting along wasn’t practical. Instead, I thought I might try spindling again, since I’ve found it uses different muscles than the ones that I’ve overused and doesn’t aggravate my messed-up nerves.

Look! It was successful! I spun more on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle this weekend than I have in the past year, on anything. The fiber is baby camel, and I remember buying it at the same time as the spindle. At the second Sock Summit in Portland in 2011. Yup, that’s how long this particular fiber has been sitting on this spindle, waiting to be finished.

I got a lot done over the weekend, in small bursts. It was a lovely feeling, being productive again. Here are some images so you can enjoy the gorgeous fiber and exquisite spinning tool that I used.

the underbelly of my Jenkins. hard to get, as spindles go, and very much worth the wait.

the underbelly of my Jenkins. hard to get, as spindles go, and very much worth the wait.

 

I love the little cushion of singles this spindle makes.

I love the little cushion of singles this spindle makes.

 

2016-02-20 21.56.14

Starting a 2nd cop, with the first one waiting patiently to be plied once I’m all done.

 

 

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Obsession Thursday: Not cutting your fingers off

Some of you may remember when I was reckless enough to use a rotary cutter on a little cutting mat…on my lap. And how surprised we all weren’t that it had resulted in me cutting the corner off my left pointer finger. The carnage that followed I will not recount here. It was gruesome and excrutiatingly painful, believe me.

The TrueCut My Comfort Cutter (what a mouthful!) rotary cutter

The TrueCut My Comfort Cutter (what a mouthful!) rotary cutter

Despite the fact that it was 100% my own fault, I still have avoided quilting again until lately. However, because my Carpal Tunnel is so bad in my right hand that I can’t do much of anything, I’ve picked quilting back up as a hobby I can do for short periods.

I saw something for sale recently that made my eyes bug out and I actually said out loud, to the empty room, “why didn’t anyone else think of this?” when I saw it.

It was this: My Comfort Cutter, by TrueCut. The sharp angle of the blade against the handle (instead of them being in a straight line like most cutters) is supposed to be ergonomic.

But what got me super excited was this: it has a special guide on the cutter that sits along the special track on the accompanying ruler. See below.

It's so smart, it's dumb. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

It’s so smart, it’s dumb. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Any of you ever have your cutter wander away from the ruler? Like all the time? That’s me. Whether this is safer or not, it will make cutting more enjoyable, because I won’t have to work so hard to keep the cutter close to the ruler. It will just stay there. 

Yes, it means buying a new ruler. Or three. (For now, i started with the 6 x 24“, which I didn’t have in my toolbox.) I think I can get buy with just one more, the 12″ square. And then POOF, I’m set up.

So far, 90% pros. What’s the con? The guard…using the black switch you see above the blade, you push in and up and the guard slides up into the cutter, exposing the blade. I find the mechanism much flimsier than I would like. It doesn’t give the brisk and secure-feeling click that I’m used to with my Fiskars cutter. So I’m just extra careful about handling it. I might even try to find a little tin box to keep it in, so it’s not loose in my toolbox. (Oh, and regarding the comment that complains that changing the blade is hard? It isn’t. Just undo the big black plastic screw, and push the thinner screw side against a table, which will loosen it and let you remove it and then the blade from the cutter. PLEASE be careful, of course.)

Editor’s note: the links in this post are affiliate links and support Knitty, should you choose to make a purchase. Thank you!

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