Obsession Thursdays

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.

Please like & share:

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.

Gorgeous!

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

Please like & share:

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!

Please like & share:

“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.

Please like & share:

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.

 

 

Please like & share:

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.

 

 

Please like & share:

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!

Please like & share:

Knitter’s Film Picks: RAMS and ADDICTED TO SHEEP

Some of you my know that my husband is a professional film critic. A few weeks ago he told me that he had to watch a film for review: “I think you might like it. It’s set in Iceland, and it’s about sheep.”

He was entirely correct: the film RAMS is indeed set in Iceland, it’s about sheep… and I absolutely adored it. (Spoiler alert: the professional film critic did, too!) It’s an utterly charming little film about a family in a small farming community dealing with a family crisis and a farming crisis. It won the very prestigious ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The scenery is fabulous, and the knitwear is amazing. There are scenes – like the one in the photo below – where three-quarters of the people in them are wearing hand-knits. Now, as a knit designer, I’m used to being in environments where three-quarters of the people are wearing handknits, but those are knitting classes and conferences and yarn shops. This isn’t a film about knitting, and these aren’t scenes about knitting: these are just casual scenes in cafes and village halls.

What’s not to love?

Don’t just take our word for it, you can see all the glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and watch the trailer.

If you’re in the UK, it’s playing in cinemas, and is available for digital rental from BFI.

If you’re in Canada, a regional run starts this Friday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, opening in Montreal February 26 and throughout the winter in other cities.

If you’re in the US, it’s playing in NY and LA, with other cities coming soon.

Expect VOD/download and DVD releases later this year.


Although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I hear that “Addicted to Sheep“, which ran on UK television earlier this week is also a winner. It’s about a sheep farming family, in the north of England, and their question to breed the prefect sheep. Available for viewing .through the BBC iPlayer now, although there are geographic restrictions.

Please like & share:

Obsession Thursday: the brilliant KeepCup

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

This is not a feminine device. It’s a travel coffee cup that you keep.

Nothing new, you say? What’s so great about the KeepCup, you ask? It’s smart. It’s environmentally sound. And it is ergonomically designed to fit your lips.

Seriously. The very best thing about it is this: your mouth will fit perfectly around the drinking hole of this fabulous cup and you will not accidentally dribble as you try to avoid scalding yourself. It’s just good design.

here's mine, well used and loved since finding it in a coffeeshop in the UK 2 years ago.

here’s mine, purchased 2 years ago in the UK. had no idea what it was; i just liked the colors. it’s proved to be my best coffee friend ever since.

It also self-seals with this cool top thingy (see the orange thing at left) that rotates from closed to open easily. Easy to clean, doesn’t scald your hands, affordable. Works for hot or cold drinks. Comes in a variety of sizes. Designed and made in Australia, the home of the inventors of my new favorite coffee drink, the flat white*.

And you can make up your own color combo.

No affiliation. I just love this thing and wanted you to know about it.

You may resume your regularly scheduled day.

*according to the linked post, “Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.” To me, it tastes like a more intense, more caramelly latte, without any bitterness. I am addicted.

Please like & share:

Obsession Thursday: It hurts.

In the late ’90s, I was an obsessed quilter and new computer user. Hand quilting + mousing gave me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome back then, and I’ve been fighting it ever since. For the record, that’s at least 16 years.

2016-01-02 22.12.21-2

A Somerset Star that fills a 12″ diameter embroidery hoop. Made with fabric, glue stick, hot iron, and just a few perfectly placed stitches.

I’ve worn some sort of splint (aka brace) at night all that time. I’ve done acupuncture, osteopathy and the only thing that sort of worked: Active Release Technique (ART) therapy. The condition got so bad, there was a period where it woke me up at night with screaming, searing pain. The cortisone shot made no difference. ART has kept me from being in agony, but it couldn’t solve a too-small opening for a too-large nerve in my wrists.

During that time, I stopped quilting (mostly because I became 100% re-consumed with knitting and then started Knitty. Both hands, though, continued to get worse.

Earlier this year, my Pilates teacher yelled at me (She’s an RN): “When are you going to get those things fixed?!” And it finally seemed like avoiding surgery was no longer a wise thing to do. Beyond the fact that knitting more than a few rows at a time is all I can do, CTS means that almost everything I do is affected in some way. Surgery* is scheduled for mid-March, and according to the doc, I’ll be back at the keyboard within just a few days, fully healed in 6-8 weeks. I am actually EXCITED about this. *Nothing bloody at that link. Just info on the type of surgery I’m getting, in case you’re curious.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum's sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum’s sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

In the meantime, quilting is providing a creative outlet that I desperately need. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen some of the stuff I’ve been doing. I took a class to learn how to make a Somerset Star at The Workroom, and went a little bonkers with it (see above).

I find it amusing that the craft (though not the same hand movements) that started the injury is what I’m doing until I can get it all fixed.

I still don’t hand quilt. Maybe I’ll be able to after healing from the surgery, but mostly, I just want to be able to knit, wash dishes (!), drive my Vespa, and play my ukulele again without hurting.

Please like & share: