Friday, March 19, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

I'm separating my lupus woes from my afghan series so I can concentrate fully on getting good pattern instructions out for the latter. I'm suffering on the former front, and I can't wait to be better. I have pain in several joints, including the metacarpal-phalangeal joints of my hands (where the fingers meet the palm). Those joints are swollen and tender and a bit reddened, looking like the rheumatoid arthritis joints that they are. My mom's hands looked like this before they took on the typical RA deformities. My knees ache and have sharp pains at unpredictable times like the lupus joints that they are. My sacroiliac joints are incredibly inflammed, so walking and standing is torture. Meds only partially suppress any of this, so I am a cranky hurting person.

I'm finally allowed to return to my rituximab therapy, and I had one IV session yesterday, to be repeated in two weeks. Oh joy. Seriously. I'm happy, just don't feel like smiling right this minute.

I've continued knitting during this flare (surprise!). I have my mind on completing custom orders and preparing for the Chattanooga Market. That means I'm knitting a wool hat and scarf, a custom afghan, and cute little summer hats at the same time. Must look a little schizophrenic from the outside. Right now I'm focused on spring/summer items for the Market, so the striped hats are a major step in that direction. They are knit in Esprit, 98.3% cotton/1.7% elastic, an easy care comfy yarn that knits well. It's identical to Cascade Fixation which gives me an expanded color range if I need it. I'd love to offer some little sleeveless pullovers for kids in the same yarn. We'll see. My colors were chosen by a kind of rigid formula of my own making. It has pushed me into some nice color combos that are new for me. I made each color combo in at least one adult and one child's size, so one can choose to match their offspring. They are simple enough that I'm willing to make more custom sizes if needed.


Continuing the Afghan (Part 2 in series)

I read last week's post about Starting an Afghan, and realized there was some vagueness to the initial instructions, so I will reiterate in more formal pattern fashion:

Materials: Approximately 15 balls of Knitpicks Shine Worsted yarn, one size 9 circular needle, at least 24 inches long, one yarn needle for finishing work. Yarn can be divided 10/5 balls between two colors, or 5/5/5 between three colors.

Finished measurements: Approximately 40 x 60 inches, measured hanging but unblocked.

Stitch pattern 1: Multiple of 8 stitches. All RS rows: *K2, P2, K 1x1 RC, P2 and repeat from * to end of row, ending with P2. All WS rows: Purl.

Cast on 72 stitches in first color. Purl one row (WS). Begin stitch pattern 1. Continue for total of 40 inches, ending on wrong side row. Cast off on right side using K2P2 pattern.

There. That's better. The photo shows the almost completed 20 x 40 inch panel. (In the last post, I measured the panel at 18 inches wide, but with continued handling it relaxed to 20 inches.) I'm very pleased with the pattern and its fancy ribbed effect. The piece drew many compliments as I finished it in the chemotherapy suite yesterday. It is incredibly soft and comfortable to the skin.

My gray yarn still isn't available, so I've cast on another 72 stitches to repeat the red panel. I will use the gray yarn to make a center panel. The gray must contain a good-sized area of stockinette stitch so that I can duplicate stitch "OSU" (for Ohio State University).
To be continued.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Starting an Afghan

I'm on a knitting high this morning. I just finished the third of four afghans, and I am starting the fourth. I thought I would walk through this project as I do it. It will help keep me on track, and explore some of the thinking that gets me into a new piece.

In general, my afghans are 40 x 50 inches. I'm not fiendishly obsessed by the numbers, but that's about what is expected for a full size throw. As always with a custom project there are some guidelines from the client. This throw is for an Ohio State University fan, and therefore it will be red and gray. I made a striped OSU baby blanket for the same client, and she liked it, so I am using the same yarn. This keeps me in the realm of the familiar. I know how this yarn acts and approximately how much it will take. The yarn in question is Knitpicks Shine Worsted. It is 60% pima cotton, 40% modal (beechwood fiber), has a lovely sheen, good stitch definition, and is soft as a cloud. With the amount I need for an afghan, the price is right, too. I don't have to charge an arm and a leg to cover an expensive yarn choice.

There are always other factors that influence my knitting. In this case, I ordered the red yarn first because I was also using it for another project. Meanwhile, the gray sold out, and I have to wait a few weeks to order it. This makes knitting the afghan in strips not only a nice design feature, but an essential time-saving factor. I can knit all the red strips now, and add the grey once the remainder of the yarn is available.

Last week I ordered a stitch dictionary - 400 knitting stitches from Potter Craft. I have paged through it, admiring various stitches, not really studying any particular one but letting them soak in and broaden my scope from the patterns that I've used frequently in the past. The last afghan I made had a diamond/triangle pattern (see the photo of the gold and black throw) that evolved without much thought. This time, I decided to swatch. I wanted a ribbed look but something more complicated than just a flat rib like knit 5-purl 1-knit 5. Lately I've been in love with cables, but a complex cable is beyond the scope and price of this piece. (Yes, I charge for extra complexity.) I decided to rib as follows: *K2, P2, 1x1 RC (right cable), P2 and repeat from *. You can see the red strip that I've worked so far, and a close-up shot. By the way, the gauge with a size 9 needle is 16 stitches to 4 inches and 24 rows to 4 inches.

A small digression: I measured gauge using Knitpicks combined needle sizer and gauge measuring device. It has a clear strip over the ruler that magnifies your swatch, making it very easy to count stitches and rows. This is one of the handiest knitting tools I've purchased, and it was only $2.99.

It just so happens that the strip I showed you was knitted from one ball of Shine Worsted. Measuring it I get about 18.5 inches x 5.5 inches. I can use this information to check whether my supply of red yarn will be adequate. In the case of this particular piece, I can also finish out my red yarn and order enough gray to make up the difference. Knitting one color at a time is helpful that way - your strip width can always change to accommodate the yarn supply. Some might ask why my initial strip is so wide - after all, 18 inches is a big chunk of 40. I'm avoiding the "scarf phenomenon", my term for the time wasted when you are constantly turning a piece of knitting to start a new row. It's just not practical to knit a bunch of narrow strips. You want a piece wide enough to keep your rhythm going and spend more time knitting than turning.
Questions are welcome. I'll continue until this piece is finished.