Obsession Thursdays

Obsession Thursday: #rhinebeckpiechart

I haven’t been at Rhinebeck since 2008. Eight years! Until recently, I was in the UK most Octobers, so it just didn’t work out.

rhinebeckpieThis year, my friends got themselves super-organized and rented a house nearby. Which means staying for reasonably cheap with people I love. How could I not go?

So I’m driving 7+ hours to Rhinebeck tomorrow while the housesitter watches the Squeezle again (bless her). I have planned a stop at Sonic for some diet limeade to fuel my drive (i may buy two so I have enough for the whole trip). Have you never had Sonic’s diet limeade? It’s very good.

Twitter user @oharethey started a thing I rather like: the #rhinebeckpiechart. Here’s mine —>

It’s probably more complex than this, but it feels like friends first and everything else is a bonus. That’s worth driving 7+ hours for, right? Hell, yes.

If you’re going to be there, our first-ever Rhinebeck Knitty meetup is on the hill at 2pm on Saturday. I’ll have knittybuttons to give away until I run out. Come give me a hug!

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Obsession Thursday: The smell of woodsmoke.

Long beach on Vancouver Island. Photo directly out of my phone, really. No filters or adjustments of any kind. I can't make this stuff up.

Long beach on Vancouver Island. Photo directly out of my phone, really. No filters or adjustments of any kind. I can’t make this stuff up.

I am in Tofino. I got here by getting on a train in Toronto and riding in my little sleeper bunk all the way to Vancouver, then grabbing a rental car and taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island.

Tofino is a tiny little surfing town that sticks out of the west coast of Vancouver Island all by itself. It’s a 3-hour drive from reasonably urban Nanaimo (home of the bars), going up and down and through wiggly bits, over mountainy terrain, through rainforesty bits that occasionally open up to give you vistas I only wish I had photos of. Diamond-clear lakes that tend more to green than blue, and mountains covered with so very many trees (thankfully, still covered, not clearcut), and fog and little boats and omg I am so much in love with this part of the world. If you want to see what my trip has been like so far, you can find my photos here.

I’ve been lucky enough, thanks to being able to teach knitting, to have travelled to a lot of places. I get this ache often, this I HAVE TO LIVE HERE ache. Sometimes it passes as soon as I get to the next place; sometimes it stays with me long after I’ve returned home. Places that stuck really hard with me are Portland (the Oregon one), Hawaii, Brighton AND Yorkshire, in England, and now here. Tofino. This is the first place I’ve gone to purely as vacation. No work, except blogging. It’s been relaxing, refreshing, enlightening, and so enjoyable. I’ve made myself not be miserly and have booked the Whale Watch, instead of just wishing I had once I got home. I get on the boat in a few hours.

I’m reasonably freshly single after being married a long damned time. I could move anywhere I want, thankfully, as long as there’s a decent internet connection and a good rabbit vet. Every time I walk out of my little inn and smell the woodsmoke, and feel the dampness from the ocean against my skin, I realize that this kind of environment is the one that touches me most deeply. Woods and ocean. So maybe I could move somewhere like this.

Maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll book another trip here or somewhere like here. A longer one.

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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: 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: Helping

Terrifying. Image from the RCMP.

If you’re in Canada, you’re probably aware of the story of the wildfires that have struck the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta. The city of 88,000 people was evacuated a week ago, due to raging wildfires that were moving rapidly in the direction of the city.

Thanks to amazing work on the part of the firefighters and other city and emergency services workers, there have been very few injuries and everyone got out fantastically quickly. The good news is that much of the city has been saved, including the hospital and several schools, but quite literally all of the city’s residents have been displaced, and it may be weeks before they are allowed home. Many have lost their homes, and the Canadian Red Cross is taking donations to support the evacuees.


Designer Lucy Neatby is raising funds for the Red Cross through sales of a new pattern, the Fiesta Bag. This gorgeous set of bags use Lucy’s very clever Flying Swallows stitch pattern, and features cables, slipped stitches and textured stitches. A project suitable for intermediate level knitters, this would be an excellent way to expand your skills while doing a little bit to help.

All proceeds of the $7.50CDN sales price (other than tax) will go directly to the Red Cross

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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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“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns”

NewEd_coverI’m very happy to announce the (re-)launch of my guide to writing knitting patterns.

Driven by my work as a technical editor, I self-published this book in 2014, under the title “Pattern Writing for Knit Designers” expecting to sell a handful of copies to professional knit designers. I was very pleasantly surprised by the demand from designers of all levels, and the feedback on the book was wonderful. I have chosen to work with Interweave Press to distribute the book further beyond the limits of what my local post office can help with…

The book gathers my ten years’ of experience as a technical editor into a guide for designers to help them write instructions that any knitter can follow.

Official shipping date is April 11th, and it’s available in both physical and digital forms from all the usual online sources. We encourage you to support your local yarn shop!

This book is the culmination of my work as a a technical editor and my previous career as a product communications specialist in the technology industry.

The book is a guide to writing knitting patterns: how to translate your great knitting project into a set of instructions that any other knitter can follow.
I provide concrete guidelines, with lots of examples, on topics including:

  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries -how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet And much, much more. So much more!

I discuss technical editing and test knitting – explain what they are how, why they’re important, and when they need to be done. I give tips for designers who wish to self-publish, and for those preparing submissions to a publication. And although it’s not a guide to layout or photography or grading or design, I give lots of guidance and references to help you.

And I’ve heard from knitters that it’s helped them understand how patterns are written and created, even if they’re not planning to write a pattern themselves. If you’re interested in being a designer, a test knitter, or a technical editor, this book is for you.

And people have said some very nice things about it…

Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting reviewed the new version and declared it a “godsend”.

This book is AWESOME. Even if you’re an experienced pattern writer with a successful career, this book will help you catch up with the current trends in writing patterns for today’s younger knitters. – Donna Druchunas

Kate Atherley’s marvelous book is essential reading for any designer looking to create patterns that work well and sell well; and intriguing reading for any curious knitter who has ever wondered what goes into the creation of pattern. – Franklin Habit

If you are considering pattern writing, or want to become a knitter who understands how to read patterns more deeply, this book is for you. I certainly wish I had it when I was starting out! – Laura Nelkin

We have two copies to give away. The usual rules apply: leave a comment below, by midnight EDT Sunday April 10th. If you’ve won something from us in the last year, we ask that you give someone else a chance. Winners will be chosen randomly, and a skill-testing question will apply.

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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. 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.



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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