Category Archives: Philosophical

Even Keel

A good friend who I don’t speak with NEARLY often enough messaged me with sympathy today on our run of bad luck. I answered her:

“I think all of the shit is just now sinking in. When the worst happened (the car, my computer) we were just scrambling to get Andy to college. Now that a week’s gone by (and I’m in even MORE shingles pain) everything seems much darker. It will pass, we know it will. Now to shop for a used car…”

LIFE

We’re just keeping an even keel, trying not to let the two week crap storm hang over our heads, trying to be pro-active and forward looking. It’s helpful that it’s almost September, a time of new beginnings, because it feels like a good time to turn a page.

And, seriously, what we’ve lost is just STUFF.  Yes, some very big and expensive stuff, but it’s stuff. The kids are great, Gerry’s here, and I’m fine (just in pain, but so is Gerry ALL the time, and misery loves company!)

COMPUTER

I am fortunate to have a computer immediately available (I adore my wonderful, brilliant husband who drags computers home like stray cats and fixes them up!), and Carbonite is paying for itself (although the recovery is taking FOR EVER – but I can see that it’s happening – so I’m lucky!)  I don’t think I’ll lose many files, and every few months I backup on my hard drive in the basement, so nothing important is lost.  It’s just in limbo right now until I get the recovery re-installed.

Having said that, functioning this week is very difficult because I’m used to my email being setup as I like it (with all of my many folders and past emails arranged just ‘so’) and I want my browser like it used to be (with my shortcuts and bookmarks)  

I need to wait for the recovery to finish to see if I’m able to recover those small preference things that make such a difference to a semi geek like me.  I’m hopeful.

HEALTH

The shingles pain continues. I actually went to see a GI doc today because I was convinced that SOMETHING terrible is going on, but apparently the nerve pain from shingles can masquerade as some severe internal issues. So this awful pain continues.

The doc prescribed Lyrica. When I went to pick it up (after the Dentist, doing all of my errands on my bike because – no car!) the pharmacist said the insurance company wouldn’t fill it until I tried Gabapentine, which I couldn’t have because I didn’t have a prescription for it.

I explained I’d used Gabapentine for Fibromyalgia 4 years ago, and it really didn’t do anything for me. The upshot was nothing could be done, so I’m back to OTC pain meds. My GP prescribed a narcotic (a strain of hydrocodone) but I really hate taking it as it upsets my stomach.

Funny, you never see Nurse Jackie chugging Milk of Magnesia because all that hydro’s given her rock hard constipation.

So this is me moaning about my health again.  Someone said that once about me on a blog, and it’s stuck with me. I laugh about it some days, and other days I feel like a real whiner.

But the truth is, this pain is real and hurts like h@ll.  Maybe someone can benefit from my story (get the vaccine!) and maybe I can benefit from some words of wisdom!

The most helpful things I’ve heard so far are:

  • Epsom Salt Baths; I’m not a huge ‘bather’, but the Epsom Salts are one of the few things that really take the pain away.  I’m going to take a nice, long bath before I see my acupuncturist tomorrow. THANK YOU DEBORAH R!
  • Ice Packs: They really, really help with the pain. I have a tank top that I wear under a huge Tshirt, and I use safety pins to make little ‘pockets’ between the two garments where I can slip the packs so I don’t have to hold them in place.
  • Acetaminophen: It works. (Paracetamol for my UK friends…) Believe me, I WISH I could take the ‘fun drugs’ – but the pain of being backed up, the nausea, it’s just not worth it to me. So I’ve rediscovered the old family favorite, and it works.  I don’t take a lot, I discussed with the doc today, and I’m hopeful that in the next week the Lyraca will be approved by my insurance so I can see if THAT works better.
  • Movement Hurts: I know this sounds silly, but I tend to define a sickness on whether it is made better with movement, or made worse.  Fibro tends to get better if I can get out and bike, or do yoga, or stretch and swim. This shingle thing, on the other hand, just hurts more when I move.

I knew shingles was bad, and after Gerry’s stem cell transplant I was an eagle eye for any symptoms on him (and actually caught them once very early on, he got medication immediately and had no pain – yay!)

CAR

We’re still wrapping our heads around the car. At this point I don’t think it will be found, so it looks as though we’ll be in the market for a new (used) car. We liked the Hyndai, it had good sight lines, drove nicely, could fit a LOT inside and got decent gas milage. I know if Gerry had his druthers he’d get a VW, and if I ruled the world I’d get a Subaru, but the truth is, we’ll just be getting what we can afford.  Heaven help us. If anyone has a lead on a good, small, fuel efficient hatchback or station wagon in MN, let us know!

PHONE

I miss my phone quite a bit, mostly I miss the last few photos I took on it (pics of Andy which I hadn’t yet downloaded)  But it’s just a phone.  We bought it used (I jailbroke it) and this is when being cheap makes us happy. All of our phones, computers, ipads, etc., are bought as refurbs, used, or we do the refurbing/jailbreaking ourselves. So I’ll be looking for a new (used) iphone because I LOVE the interface, and until I get it I know I’ll feel a bit as though I’ve lost a finger.

In the mean time I have Max’s old cast of Samsung, with my sim card in it so I can make and receive calls.  But – and I’m serious – I cannot figure out how to use this thing.

Holding Pattern

Well, I went to Indiana to take Andy to school.

It just seemed that so much sh*t had hit the fan, I felt a bit like a wreck, and I wanted to go.

So my inner 6-year old went, and I was along for the ride. And I think overall it was a good thing that I did go; I can’t imagine that I’d have been much more comfortable here, and I think I did have a bit of a calming presence on Andy’s moving in.

Or maybe I’m just in a stupor.

It was a long drive, but the B&B we stayed in was wonderful! Being sick not at home is no fun, but this was the next best thing, and I’m very grateful to Leighanne at Seldom Scene Meadow B&B in Richmond, she made both of us feel very much at home!

The moving itself was incredibly painless (elevator dorm, who knew?) and the orientation sessions were plentiful and helpful. We enjoyed meeting Andy’s advisor and her roommates, we’re crossing our fingers that as classes begin she feels at home and not-overwhelmed. It seemed she was already making friends, that first month at college is HARD.

In case you’re not on facebook and missed the excitement, after my week of a kidney stone AND shingles, everything was topped off by a in home break-in (rather, a screen-slitting, when the downstairs window was left open and the opportunity proved too great)  My computer, cell phone and bag were taken. It wasn’t until the police arrived that we realized that my keys were on the bag, and thus the car had ALSO been stolen. Not a great day.

I think we’re both still in shock over it, and we spent Wednesday regrouping as quickly as we could to rent a car to take Andy to college (we had to rent an SUV as there really are no rentable station wagons, which felt unspeakably odd to both of us for the whole weekend!)

So all cards have been canceled, reports filed, accounts deleted, new EZ pass ordered (and received, but not in time for our trip, damn it!) and we’re looking at, perhaps, shopping for a new (used) car.  We have 30 days of rental, but we’re thinking we’ll dole that out so we can put off getting a new car for as long as we can.

We love being a one car family, but it makes it damned hard when that one car is stolen.

My shingles pain continues, and with it really painful digestive issues which come with the pain drugs (which I try not to take, I only take them when I absolutely must)  It’s not been a pleasant week, not in any sense of the word, except we are very proud of our daughter and loved seeing her begin to find her way at Earlham!

An Open Letter to Mrs. Brokaw

Dear Mrs. Brokaw,

Obviously I don’t know you, we’ve never met, although I – like many Americans – feel that I know your husband. My own husband’s father was a stagehand at NBC for many years, and always mentioned what a mensch your husband was. Stage hands learn pretty fast who is a good guy, and who’s a bit of a prima donna.

So apparently this past Summer you joined the club I joined 7 years ago, spouses of folks with Multiple Myeloma. We also share the fact that our husbands are being treated at the Mayo Clinic, which I consider a very good club to be in, indeed.

You’re in the best hands in the world. When Gerry, my husband, was diagnosed his prognosis was poor, but every year, with new drugs and improved treatment options, his prognosis gets a little better.

Life has never been as precious to us as it as these past few years. We feel amazingly lucky. Excellent work is being done all over the world on this disease, but we’re biased toward the Mayo as we live in Minnesota.

I’m not going to say, “Cancer is a gift” – because it’s not. This is a painful, frightening disease – I hope your husband hasn’t had too much bone damage and subsequent pain.

But what this disease HAS given to our family is a golden opportunity to realize exactly how precious we are to each other, and how wonderful each day we share is. Often at the Mayo we would remark that it felt as though we were on a second honeymoon, except this time with chemo.

You’re not alone. I know it’s presumptive of me to write this note, and by this time you’ve realized everything that I could ever tell you. Know that there are many spouses next to you, standing by your side, all of us loving our husbands and wives, all of us willing to share some strength or just let you know that a prognosis can change for the better, especially with Multiple Myeloma.

All the best wishes for treating this terrible cancer as a chronic condition!

Best,
Annie Modesitt

Happy New Year!

It’s another year, and we’re crossing our fingers chez Landy/Modesitt that it will once again be a relatively uneventful one healthwise for Gerry and myself!

Learning to deal with a chronic condition is a good zen exercise in living itself.  After all, isn’t LIFE a chronic condition?

So this year I traveled a bit less, rested a bit more, and biked when I could. I didn’t break any records, but I stayed pretty healthy! Gerry keeps on keeping on; we cross our fingers that the Revlimid & Dex keep doing their magic (and that the Chronic Disease Fund keeps helping us with the $9K/month cost) and we live hopefully and happily!

In 2013 I stayed home more than I had in the past, but I tried to offset that with more designs and all of my work paid off this Autumn when over 16 of my designs appeared in various magazines around the knitting world in the same month. That was great!

I also came to a decision in 2013 that I was tired of working for less than minimum wage in order to, essentially, earn money for other folks.

I love designing, I love knitting, but I don’t love working 80 hours in a week to earn peanuts.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re 80 very ENJOYABLE hours, but I feel that there’s hardly a moment in the day when I’m not thinking of a design, knitting up a swatch or sample, or plugging away in “math hell” in order to write up a pattern.

I’d been feeling this way for a long while, and when one pursues a career of LOVE (acting, writing, composing, designing- the sort of things folks usually do while starving in attics) one can’t expect to get rich.

After 6+ years in a freelance/caregiver ‘holding pattern’ it’s time to change things up, or go a bit mad. Since Gerry’s illness I can’t travel as much (which is where most of my income came from) so I’ve decided to use my at-home time more wisely and augment my design income by starting a hand-dyed yarn business with a partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi. Also, this year, with my health insurance no longer a month-to-month nail biter, I feel a sense of  security I haven’t felt in a LONG time!

I can’t help but think there are other small business folk / entrepreneurs who are feeling as if they can finally spread their wings and not rely on a not-very-fulfilling job simply to retain health insurance. If I’m right about this, I think we’ll see a nice blooming in our economy beginning this year.

We’ll see what becomes of ModeKnit Yarn, LLC in 2014. Our initial offerings of semi-precious stone inspired colors sold very well, and we’re currently waiting for more yarn to arrive so I can fill order requests and try out new color ways.

Our rough business plan involves starting small, selling online and at local fiber shows, then increasing production (hopefully by hiring extra hands) and moving on to a wholesale business in 2015.  Anyway, that’s the plan.

So although I’m only teaching in 3 or 4 locations in 2014 (first stop, Knitting Lab in New Hampshire in May!), I’ll be visiting several fiber shows with Kathleen and our bins of yarn (first up, Shepherd’s Harvest in May – that is, if we get accepted!)

I’ll also be enjoying time at home, working (as always), but perhaps using my time more wisely so that I can sell $25 of yarn along with a $6 pattern!

And I’m working on a book for Stackpole on shrugs and short jackets, sourcing my yarn from other indy dyers, which I am supposed to have finished in June.  Watch this space.

Non-Work Life

Our family will be undergoing a major shift this year as Andy (neé Hannah) applies to and – hopefully – gets accepted to a good college. This week she finished all her applications, her final SAT scores came in (1970 cum score, not terrible!) and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find the perfect place for her to thrive and become the young women we know she can be; strong, funny, smart and kind!

Max continues to thrive at his high school, specializing in math and science, taking several college level courses in this, his Sophomore year (and avoiding haircuts whenever possible.)  He’s also learned the joys of the debate team, which makes Gerry and me very proud.

Gerry is Gerry; wonderful, funny, happy, loving and HERE!

Every day is a gift, and we’ve been given 6 years of presents that we never expected. We take NO day for granted.

To that end, we’re cashing in a bunch of frequent flier miles and Gerry and I are traveling to Amsterdam for a week in April. We haven’t taken a trip together alone in 17 years, and never alone to Europe, so for the cost of a B&B and walking around money, we’re going to celebrate life for a week of biking, walking and museum hopping. Suggestions on places to see are WELCOME!

This trip is made possible by having responsible teens and good friends who will pop in on them (not because they NEED supervision, mind you, but just to make sure a shower is taken every few days…)

We’ve come to understand, in a way we never thought we would, that life is for LIVING, and the best way to appreciate every day is to live it fully.

And who knows, while I’m in Holland maybe I’ll dream up a bunch of new colorways based on Tulips (my favorite flower!) and make some great in-person knitting connections!

So go make 2014 memorable for yourself, even if it’s simply memorable for being a quiet, peaceful and fulfilling year!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.14.20 AM

I’ve Waited 10 Years For This!

I have a tremendous announcement, but first, a bit of housekeeping…

The winner of Kristen Omdahl’s book is Stella with the following comment:

I Love Ribbing

I Love Ribbing

Thanks everyone – I love hearing what each of you treasure from your own personal knitting tool boxes! It’s helpful to me, and interesting for everyone!

And now to my BIG NEWS!!

Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic Has Sold 100,000 Printed Copies!

And how am I celebrating this momentous occasion?

Announcing the KINDLE version of Confessions!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.14.20 AM

I wrote the book in the early 2000′s, when I got back into knitting and realized that there were very few volumes that even discussed Combination Knitting, and NONE that championed it as a valid, respectable, legitimate way to knit.  It seems, from the research I’d done, that beginning around the 1920′s a ‘standard’ way of knitting – Western Style – slowly became accepted as the right way, and then the ONLY way sanctioned by the knitting Powers That Be.

The internet has had a LOT to do with folks realizing that there are many ways to create a knit and a purl stitch, and these will differ from person to person. Just like many things in life that we hold precious.

As a world we are coming to understand that there is no ONE way to pray, love, or eat (hey, that sounds like a book!) or KNIT! Folks who thought they’d never accept two men or two women in love now proudly embrace family members who are ‘out.’

As loud as the narrow minded folks who hate those who pray differently than they do may sound, I can see the world opening up. I can feel people being more accepting of those who are different.

Unfortunately, the last gasp of the narrow minded, the “throw the gun phase” I think of it, when they’ve run out of bullets, is never pleasant. We’re going through that right now in some quarters.

But in knitting, it’s been a pretty smooth transition from a general non-acceptance of different ways of knitting in the 1980′s (when I began knitting and designing) to the current Smörgåsbord of knit styles; and it’s a beautiful thing!

If I’ve had any part in that, I’m very proud.

When I wrote my book I shopped it to several publishers and received some of the loveliest rejection letters anyone’s ever received. “It’s a great book, but we think no one would want to buy it…”

After pondering things for a while, and after the death of my brother (a timely reminder that – well – why in the world was I waiting for an authoritarian sanction of my book on unorthodox knitting?) I decided to open up my Quark Express and create my own book. I read some books on self publishing (thank you, Fern Reiss) and got to work.

That was almost 10 years ago. My first order from Unicorn Books for 7,000 copies came just before I headed to Texas to be with my mother before she passed, and telling her about that order will always be a very happy memory. I would have been thrilled if the book sold 10,000 total. I never dreamed it would be 100,000.

But, toting up all of my print receipts (I keep a tally on them in my database) I realized that this October I would hit this milestone. So I prepared.

I’ve been working on this for several months. Converting a book to a kindle (.mobi) file is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I tried it back in 2012 with Knitting Millinery, and I had to give up because the eBook looked like – well – crap.

Making a pdf file is much easier, but it doesn’t read as well. I’ve grown to love the Kindle app on my iPad, the experience of reading a book using kindle is much more satisfying than just reading a pdf, and I wanted that richness of experience for my own books. For better or for worse, Amazon is the biggest game in town. To ignore it would be foolish.

So I dedicated myself to learning how to translate my 2003 Quark file to an InDesign file (I taught myself that trick while laying out History on Two Needles, thanks to Lynda.com and David Blatner!) and then I went one step further to translate the InDesign to a .mobi file (once again, thanks to Lynda.com and, this time, Anne-Marie Concepcion)

It’s been hard, I won’t lie. I’m good at this computer-graphic-html stuff (not an expert, but I get by) and there were times when working through this made my brain hurt. A lot. But once I was in, I figured I should barrel through a few titles (the hard won knowledge of cracking open OBPS files and adding <guide> tags won’t stay in my head forever!)

So in addition to offering Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic as a Kindle book, I’m also thrilled to offer Knitting Millinery in Kindle format. Huzzah!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

The price is great, you can’t go wrong! Click on the above images to order either – and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kindle, like me, you can download kindle apps to use on your mobile device or computer – I think you’ll really like the ease of reading a kindle book!

The paper version is also still available, and as of today I’ll be beating the Amazon list price and offering it for $16.00.

Look for more of my books to be offered in kindle format! Knit With Courage will be next, and the big kahuna will be History On Two Needles. THAT will be a bear!

But I did the original layout, so I think I can fight through this.

Stick with me, sister and fellow heretics!

Well, I SAID I was a Heretic…

I recently recorded an interview with the KnottyGirls Podcast, and we had an absolutely AMAZING time! I twirled around my backyard in my Sky Chair while we talked about many things.

Chief among them was my irritating insistence on using non-traditional knitting terms. On good days my odd thoughts are the sand in the oyster shell. On bad days, they’re just poison ivy.

In the early Summer I finished a marathon session of designing, which meant a marathon session of tech edit conversations back and forth this month.  I think I must be the average tech editors worst nightmare — a designer who uses different terminology, and has (what she thinks) is a logical reason for doing so!

It’s true, I do use some unusual terminology, but not in a stubborn or non-thoughtful way.  If a publication is set on their own style, I’m happy to back down and have their terminology laid over my design.  But I feel it’s incumbent on me to mention to editors some of my reasons for using a more logic-based approach to knitting terminology.

The first thing is to divorce tradition from useful definition. I know, I know, knitting is full of tradition, and much of it is fun and cool and quirky.  I don’t want to change every oddball thing that knitters do, but I DO feel that a few well chosen technology updates could make knitting more intuitive (and thus more joyful) for every knitter!

Some folks will cling to the terminology they’ve grown up with, and that’s fine. I’m not demanding that anyone change, but be warned that when you purchase a pattern from me, I may use terminology you’re not used to (always with an explanation of the term, and how it relates to a more traditional term if necessary).

I began using these alternative terms because in my classes I realized that different knitters will achieve techniques in different ways. Most knitters are Western, some knitters are Combination, a very small number are Eastern.

Combination Knit Stitch

Combination Knit Stitch

Terminology
Here’s what I mean when I mention the following two terms

Western Orientation Eastern/Combination Orientation
A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the front loop. A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the back loop.

Note: You’ll know the stitch “wants” to be knit a certain way because when the needle is inserted that way the stitch opens up big and fat and wide.

Within these basic styles are then further differentiations in how a knitter holds their yarn, their needles, and how they actually form their stitches (wrapping, picking, scooping, etc).

For the most part I find labels more divisive than helpful, although they are sometimes necessary. I prefer terminology that is universal — more democratic — and can apply to ANY knitter regardless of their chosen knitting style.

In short, I prefer to describe the outcome of a knitting technique, rather than insist that the knitter get there in a specified manner. Here are a few examples of terminology I’d love to see changed.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Knit 1 Tbl (knit 1 through back loop) Twist this stitch as you knit it Tw1 or Twist 1
How To Achieve This
Basically knit so that the stitch is "unhappy" – doesn't open up fully – so that the little legs of the stitch are twisted as you enter the stitch.
If you knit Eastern or Combination knit into the front of the stitch; If you knit Western knit into the back of the stitch.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2tog (knit 2 together) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the RIGHT K2tog-R

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle; then into the 1st stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Western Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you're a Combination Knitter you'll want to re-orient the stitches so they sit on the needle in the opposite direction THEN knit the stitches together.

 k2tog_r_on_needle

Annie’s Hint:
The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the RIGHT when making this decrease!

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2togTbl or Ssk or Skp (knit 2 tog through back loop OR slip slip knit OR slip knit pass over) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the LEFT K2tog-L

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 1st stitch on the LH needle; then into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Combination Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you are a Western knitter you will want to slip the first two stitches (either knitwise twice; or knitwise then purlwise) and then knit these two sts together as an Ssk.

k2tog_l_on_needle

 

Annie’s Hint: The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the LEFT
when making this decrease!

 

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Wyif Hold the yarn toward you WyRS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyWS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.
Wyib Hold the yarn away from you WyWS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyRS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.

 

How To Achieve This
In some techniques (Double Knitting) you will want to hold the yarn toward you while working on the Wrong Side of the piece. This can be confusing when the term is "With Yarn in Front"; I've had many students email me with questions about this. Using the RS/WS as the point of reference seems natural and more clear.

 

BONUS
Knitting In The Round / Knitting Garter Fabric

When Working as a Combination Knitter

When knitting in the round, or back and forth in garter, you must do one of two things:
1) Either knit through the front loop of each stitch (the tip of the working needle will point to the RIGHT as it enters the stitch) in the traditional Western Style, or
2) As you wrap each knit stitch, wrap it in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION than you normally do.  This will cause the stitch to be seated in the Combination manner in the following row/round and will set up the stitch to be entered through the back loop, in the Combination Style.

At this point I hope I haven’t confused you too much! I just want folks to THINK about their knitting logically, not be slaves to outdated or inexact terminology which makes full comprehension of complex techniques more difficult. I am the G.B. Shaw of knitspeak.

UPDATE!

After writing this piece, inspired by some questions tech editors had for me, I discovered the reason that I’ve been receiving emails from folks trying to knit my Paisley Shawl from Jane Austen Knits.

Well, the reason was that the tech ed on this project decided they didn’t like my own chart, so they rewrote it, making significant changes that make knitting up the edging of the chart practically impossible.

If you’ve tried to knit this up and have failed,

Here is the IK Jane Austen Knits chart (changed from my original)Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.55.02 PM

…and here is my own chart,

annie paisley chart

 

Symbols aside (I never expect anyone to use my own symbols, these are just what I use when writing up the pattern to send in to the editor) there are some significant changes.  All of the ‘non stitch’ sections were removed – but these are NECESSARY to create the lace the way I designed it.

Also, the VDI’s were removed and some VDD’s were changed to K2togs.  I don’t know why, but there it is.

The faggoting between the green and blue sections won’t look the same, either, as in my chart they’re worked as a kind of lace/garter, but in the IK chart it’s St st, and thus not as sturdy and the holes will collapse easier.

Below are some of the terms I use for those of you who may not be familiar with them:

  • St st – Knit on RS, Purl on WS
  • Rev St st – Purl on RS, Knit on WS
  • Sl 1 wyRS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Right Side of work
  • Sl 1 wyWS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Wrong Side of work
  • YO – Yarn Over
  • K2tog-R – See above (aka k2tog)
  • K2tog-L – See above (aka Ssk)
  • P2tog-L – Purl 2 together so the dec slants to Left when viewed on the RS of the work (same as K2tog-R when worked on WS of work)
  • VDD = Vertical Double Decrease: Sl 2 sts as if to work k2 tog-R, k1, pass slipped sts over (decrease of 2 sts)
  • VDI – Vertical Double Increase: K into front of st, YO, k into back of same stitch.
  • Inc 1 Right: Knit into st immediately below next st on needle, then knit next st on needle, creating a right-slanting inc.
  • Inc 1 Left: Knit next st on needle, then into st immediately below that st, creating a left-slanting inc
image

Turning Over

Well, I’m still relegated to the iPad for my Internet communication, so if you’ve contacted me and haven’t heard back, I apologize (and you might want to try again, I might not have received your missive!)

I’m finding it extraordinary, the amount of stuff I do on a daily basis which relies on the saved passwords, information, keys, shortcuts I’ve saved within my computer.  I can still use it, I am writing patterns every day, keeping my databases updated, all kinds of other stuff which I can only do on my computer.

but actually CONNECTING with the world outside, beyond my visible limits, that is now in the hands of my trusty iPad.

Gerry got this device as a Mothers Day gift in 2012, and I was blown away!  our local Micro Center was having a sale and for $350 he walked out with one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

This computer fail (my screen cracked, which was beautifully replaced by Gerry, but apparently the wifi cable is not working now, and figuring out THAT nonsense is taking longer than we expected) corresponded with a health fail and a,weather fail, all of which prevented me from riding my bike as often as I need to for health maintenance.

But yesterday I got out for a long ride, and cashed in on the beauty that is Minnesota in June. It’s not unknown for us of have hot and humid days, but in our 6 years in the North Star State we’ve noticed that on the average the temps fall to the 50s overnight, allowing for decent open-window sleeping and starting each day fresh and clear. This is our trade off for the winters that last 3 years, and although it was a close thing this year, on the whole I will take the cold.

So now I am feeling slightly more energized again, eager for my classes at Darn Knit Anyway on July 17 and 27, and eager to get on my bike again today to sustain the good feeling I acquired yesterday.

I’ve skipped a few submission dates to finish up some projects for various magazines, and also to concentrate on a new project of 7 or 8 designs I will be unveiling in the Fall (more later, I don’t want to jinx myself, I’m not being coy…)

So THANK YOU to those of you who have hung around while I worked through a convergence of fails, I’m hoping as the Summer unfolds I will be blogging more, with much good info and interesting philosophical side trips, and continuing to design and write.

Basically, I’m looking forward to feeling a bit more like myself than I have in quite a while.

Remember Me?

I haven’t posted for a while because we have been battling various pressures, none of them terrible alone , but together they create a firm barrier which I’ve been alternatively digging under and leaping over.

It’s curious how we underestimate a smooth, level, unobstructed path, huh?

Various recurring health battles (both for Gerry and myself) have reared their ugly heads, made bolder by the non-Spring weather, which kept me from cycling (which has slowly worn away my health resources.)

Nothing fills all my reservoirs like a good, long bike ride. As a matter of fact I was SO hurting for a ride that I borrowed Ysolda’s prop bike from her TNNA booth and rode around the show floor for 10 minutes.

Not near enough, but it was fun while it lasted. I got the idea when I saw Cat Bordhi doing it, so haul us both off to convention center jail!

TNNA
Yes, I went to TNNA. I wasn’t going to go. Between Gerry’s returning health issues and my own recurring pain and exhaustion I felt as if it were too much. About Gerry was insistent – he said something to the effect of “if you don’t go to TNNA and have a bad year, design-wise, I will feel responsible.”

I didn’t want to drive alone, I haven’t driven long distances for several years, (not since I took out a construction barrel on a highway in Illinois and scared myself silly) and I wanted to take Max with me. But I didn’t want to leave Gerry home alone, and he was up for the ride!

So we did the drive there over two days, stayed a day at an extended suite type of place (good for everyone!) and while I was at TNNA doing the necessary schmoozing, Gerry and Max slept in, then went to CoSi and had a terrific time (Gerry’s dreamed of taking Max to this great science center for years!)

Hannah (who would like to be called “Andy” for the present) is already up at Menogyn working as an engage for 2 sessions, then late in July she will head out on her 32 day Nor’wester canoe trip up into Canada with 4 other young women. I’m alternately bursting with pride, and terrified for her.

TEACHING
I’ll be teaching a two part lace class at a FABULOUS yarn shop in Stillwater, MN, Darn Knit Anyway!

Lovely Laces: July 17th 6-9 pm and July 27th 10-1pm.
We will cover the basics of lace knitting, charts, and how to go about memorizing a repeating motif to make lace knitting more enjoyable and intuitive. ANYONE CAN KNIT LACE!!

DESIGNS
It’s been a crazy busy few months of designing, which I love and which is good work for me as it doesn’t require a lot of movement (I move we’ll many days, but sometimes those unmovable Fibro days coincide with a teaching engagement, and all hell breaks loose…)

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt both so useless, and also as if so much is depending on me. It’s a bad feeling, but there’s really nothing for it but to keep my mind on my work and do my best.

I’ve just finished 16 designs for various magazines and knitting pubs, all places that pay fairly and offer good terms for designers to retain their rights on their designs. Look for my work in Jane Austen Knits, Downton Abbey Knits, Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet, Twist Collective and in Austrlia in Yarn Mag and in the UK in The Knitter.

I have 6 other designs I’ll have completed by mid-July, also for publications that deal openly and fairly with their contributors, so I’m actually very fortunate, all things considered.

BRIDGES

I had a chat with a sister designer at TNNA where I was warned not to “burn my bridges” and I laughed. Some “bridges” are little more than zip lines, they only work in one direction.

Other bridges may be burning, but I didn’t set them on fire, I simply balked at the high toll.

I know I have carved a well deserved reputation for someone who will speak her mind about fair working conditions for hand knit and crochet designers and teachers, and that this has perhaps made me persona non grata with some entities.

There are still publishers who still insist on retention of designers rights after publishing a pattern, will only pay 10% of online pattern sales to a designer (50% should be more like it in my book!) or won’t cover the full hotel and airfare for a teacher at their functions (another designer told me this weekend she makes NO money teaching at TNNA for Offinger, but she does it to get at least part of her airfare covered.)

To me this remains unacceptable.

I think I was a little afraid I’d go to TNNA and begin to regret decisions I’d made to avoid/openly discuss corporations that make money off of the fruit of designers and teachers, yet treat these same designers and teachers as if they’re doing THEM a favor by hiring them.

But, happily and surprisingly, I found myself comfortable with decisions I’ve made, happy to continue to work with old friends and eager to forge new relationships with other yarn companies.

There is room for MANY different opinions in our business. If holding a position outside of the mainstream means I’ve burned a bridge, that might not have been the right path for me, anyway.

Now, off to get a good LONG bike ride in so I can start rebuilding my health and grow my strength for what lies ahead. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if hard work and fair dealing cannot provide me an income in this industry, it may not be right for me. I’m not going to change that by underselling myself or working on the cheap.

Note: if you see odd typos in this post, chalk it up to the fact that my computer has been out of commission for wifi use for 2 weeks, so I’m doing all of my online stuff with my iPad.  This is my first time doing a whole blog post on this tricky, disappearing keyboard!

Comparisons, Joy & Jealousy

I read a comment recently that “Comparison is a Joy Killer” and I agree.

I spend way too much time comparing my growth as a designer, my abilities, my time, etc., to other folks, and I expect that all of us do that to some extent. Since childhood my most fervent wish (prayer at times) has been that I don’t fall short of others.

I came to the conclusion that the only cure for this was to try – and succeed – to drown out the loud sounds of the comparisons.

My own personal ‘voice of comparison’ sounds a lot like my Aunt Lorraine, a truly sad woman who found joy only when others were sadder than she.

Twitter, Facebook and social median can be hard for this reason – I’m constantly reading about other folks doing great things. And I’m happy for them, and send along my “Go you!” and “Congrats!” messages whenever I can.

I realize that my natterings about my own successes can be causing the same grief, so I try to keep them circumspect and not too braggy. We all deserve our moments in the sun, and we shouldn’t hide who we are and what we’ve accomplished. But we also have to be aware of our luck, good fortune and the fact that the sun may not be shining in someone else’s yard today.

So that’s my job – perhaps for this week, this year or the rest of my life – to celebrate ALL successes, without falling victim to a comparison trap. It’s a game no one can win. Maybe I’ll just run away and join a carnival.

My dad briefly ran a carnival after WWII. My dad did a lot of things, few of them entirely sober. I think he was, in no small part, escaping the judgement of his sister – the aforementioned Lorraine.

There’s been a recent spate of questions posed to me, in person, via email or on Twitter, about how folks can find my Craftsy classes.

I don’t have any.

Stefanie Japel is a designer I admire, and a personal friend. When she started with Craftsy she asked our design group (Stitch Coop) if anyone would be interested in submitting a class, but I had too many other irons in the fire and begged off.

Later they asked me again, and after some negotiation on a topic at TNNA last year, we decided on an intarsia class (not my first choice, I wanted to do a plaid knitting class…)

The first producer assigned to me was very nice, and dealt with my oddities (I can’t speak – or rather, hear – clearly on the phone. I get confused very easily when someone calls me, especially if I don’t know their phone voice – I’m in the process of acquiring hearing aids, which is just – odd.)

But then my producer was changed and the new producer had no patience with my lack of phone ability, and with lightening speed (or so it seemed to me) I received this email, which broke my heart a little.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 10.15.38 AM

So, the answer is that Craftsy won’t have me.

It makes me sad, and the week after I received this email I flew out to Denver to shoot a video for Interweave on Double Knitting (which has been doing really well in sales – yay!) That was a bit of a boost to my bruised ego.

My own online classes continue to do very well, although I’d love to re-shoot them soon with a higher resolution camera so they’re better to watch. A project for future! And I’m in the process of offering some classes via Udemy (right now I have a free how-to-knit class up at their website)

So when I see all of the news about Craftsy, the classes my friends are teaching, the Twitter and Facebook posts, I’m both very happy for my friends whose classes are doing well, and very sad that I’m not in their ranks.

I’d hesitated to blog openly about this, but so many questions have come to me (“Why can’t I take a class from you at Craftsy?” is the most popular query) that I thought I should try to explain. I hope I’ve been fair in my post!

And you’re always welcome to contact craftsy directly to let them know if you would like to take a class from me via their website.

I don’t honestly think it would make any difference, but it would have more of an effect than writing to me to tell me “You should teach a Craftsy class.!”

IMG_2103

Desperately Seeking Groove

I’m certain it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog or knows me that I’ve been battling with some pretty strong stuff for a while.

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Gerry & Jasper, BFFs

It’s not just Gerry – overall he’s doing well, his cancer return is being handled by Revlimid & Dex and we putter along as if we’re retired folks. He’s great on his own for short periods, but I do feel that I need to be here with him most of the time.

And it’s not just my Fibro – I deal with it, I suffer through it when the flare ups come (more often in Winter) and I hesitate to write about it much because, well, who needs the nasty comments about me ‘moaning about my health’

Keep those cards and letters coming folks!

I’m not certain exactly what’s been up, but I’ve felt like a hermit, a pariah, adrift and alone in the midsts of friends.

I know I’m not, I know exactly how fortunate I am, but handling the demons of self-doubt has been very difficult this past year. I question everything I do, I fear that I’m past any usefulness.

Yes, I realize what I’ve just written is a little dumb, and self pitying to boot.
Let’s just say it’s Wintertime, and the wallowing’s been easy.

After my radical hysterectomy (return with me now…) I was put on a blend of estrogen and testosterone. Although generally considered a male hormone, women’s ovaries produce trace amounts of testosterone, which is necessary for many things. Evidently self confidence and weight loss – at least in my case – are connected with Mr. T.

As I am no longer the bearer of a set of O’s (the procedure to remove them is called an ooectomy, which always makes me laugh) I produce neither estrogen nor testosterone.

But, insurance companies being what they are and our coverage being spotty for the past years, at some point my company stopped covering my estratest, then they wouldn’t cover the generic version of it, and then I had to go to a non-testosterone hormone replacement therapy (hrt)

Before anyone writes to tell me I shouldn’t be taking hrt, don’t bother -
Since I had a radical hystero, I will take hrt.

Had I my lovely ovaries, I probably would just deal with more holistic remedies.

After another marathon session of, “50 reasons why I hate myself” I realized that there was something going on that just wasn’t explicable. I battle depression, that’s not a secret, but this felt entirely different.

So I spoke with my doctor and she agreed to try to get me back on an estrogen / testosterone supplement, just to see how that would go.

No, the drug isn’t covered by my insurance, but I felt I really needed it.

The mechanics involved were insane – the drug is killer expensive – and I am grateful to WalGreens which has a pretty great drug club type thing that brings the cost to $30 for a 3-month supply.

After a few weeks I’m noticing a difference. I feel a bit less hopeless, more able to see clearly. I feel stronger mentally, more agile and less a constant ‘victim.’

I have NO idea if this is all in my head, if I’m experiencing some kind of testosterone placebo effect, or if it’s real. But I’ll take it.

I’ve been on radio silence for so long – hesitant to blog, to send emails, to communicate with many folks because I felt so weak (mentally and emotionally), so unable to cope.

IMG_0004The Winter That Will Not End wasn’t helping, but at least it’s pretty.

So this weekend I see a bunch of students at Yarn Over (the Minnesota Knitting Guild’s yearly AMAZING knit class / marketplace extravaganza) and I see a bunch of peers.

Seriously, Yarn Over is an event that is spectacular.

Outside of the knitting convention type of events like IK Knit Lab, Stitches or Vogue Knitting Live, this event brings in the most exciting teachers.

Yarn Over is the event at which I taught in 2006 when I ‘met’ Minnesota for the first time and determined to move my family here.  Ironically, it was then held at Arlington High in St. Paul – which is now called Washington High – and which is where my son Max is a student!

IMG_2140One more ‘moving to MN sidebar’

At the Yarn Over Teacher Dinner back in 2006 there was a prom group at the restaurant. They were SO happy, everyone all together as a group, not terribly “datey” or money centered (limos, etc.)

I remember thinking, “This is what I want for Hannah, a prom that is FUN, not an explosion of $$ and broken hearts…”

And this past weekend at her Perpich Gala, that is what my dear daughter got – a lovely dance with great friends – a dance that ANY kid would love.

Seeing my peers at an event like Yarn Over is always wonderful, sometimes scary, and I’m interested to see how my pathway out of confusion and darkness helps me interact better with folks that – true or not – I feel judge me.  Peer review, it’s the name of the game in any industry.

I’ve been pondering the concept of passion. For whatever reason, I feel I’ve misplaced mine, so I am trying to line up a series of interviews with other knit folks about PASSION.

If I happen to see you at Yarn Over and drag you into a corner and ask you to give me 15 words on what excites you, please play along – I’d appreciate it!

And if you’re not a member of the MN Knitting Guild, you SHOULD be! You can only take Yarn Over classes if you are, but you can register at the event and I know that I still have places in my knitting with wire class.  Bonus – you’ll leave class with a lovely bracelet, and the ability to create many more for Springtime graduation/Mother’s Day/May Day gifts!