We’ve Made HISTORY!

Well, it’s FINALLY ready for pre-order from Cooperative Press!

Hmm, which cover will end up on the book?

Please note that this book is available only for PRE-ORDER.

All purchasers will immediately receive a one-page preview PDF, followed by the full digital book download within a couple of weeks.

Printed copies will ship by late December or before.


I’ve been quiet, but it’s because I’ve been COOKING!

We had an AMAZING Thanksgiving; excellent food, wonderful family time, lots of rest and lots of laughing!  The only thing that could have made it better would have been house guests, but we just weren’t confident of Gerry’s pain levels or my energy levels to open ourselves up to perhaps disappoint friends.

We needn’t have worried – dinner was spectacular (just enough, all tasty, not a ton of leftovers!) and pain/energy levels held pretty steady all weekend.

Pacing, that must be the key!

I will admit, though, it was very nice to know that I could stop and recharge my batteries with a quick nap whenever I wanted to.

Time at home like this can fool me into believing that I have no exhaustion issues; it’s just when I travel and need to accommodate someone else’s schedule that it becomes crystal clear how small my energy reservoir has become.


I’m heading off for NYC/NJ to teach a few classes.  I’m anxious to see how family and friends have fared in the aftermath of Sandy, and to touch base with the place that was my home for 30 years.

If you’ll be in the area on Dec 1 or 2, you can catch a class with me  on New Directions In Knitting With Color (including creating the groovy plaid shown at right):

Knitty City
208 West 79th St,  NYC 10024
(212) 787-5896
Sat, Dec 1 at 5pm
66 Elm St # 2  Westfield, NJ 07090
(908) 301-0053
Sun, Dec 2 at 1pm

I hear the classes are filling well, so if you want a space I’d call right away if I were you.

Isn’t that Special…?

Click to download your own 5-page Special Techniques section to peruse and share!

History on Two Needles is moving along VERY well, amazingly well, and I’m astounded at how the outpouring of support (financial and moral) from the Kickstarter was able to kick ME in the butt and get this thing finished!

I have photos from the book up at the HoTN website, and I’ve begun integrating the new  individual pattern layouts from the book into my pattern-for-sale website.

The Black Prince Hood is the first one.  The next time someone buys that pattern from my site, they’ll get the HoTN version of the pattern PLUS the Special Techniques Section.

Did Someone Say Free?

In the Special Techniques Section I include the information necessary to create the patterns in History on Two Needles.  I feel it would be helpful to all knitters (especially those who knit a bit odd) in that I have a – unique – way of looking at some basic techniques.

So as my gift to you, I’m giving you a pdf of the Special Techniques Section.  I hope you’ll enjoy it!  Please bear in mind that EVERY designer/teacher has their own favorite way of doing some techniques, I am not alone in this*

The way I describe certain things may seem odd – not mainstream – to some knitters, but these are the ways I’ve found that work best for me.

*Knitting is not a dogmatic, theoretical endeavor.  Like any practical pursuit, it’s open to interpretation and improvement.


Hey, Remember Me?

Sorry I ducked out for a week – life is INCREDIBLY BUSY.


It’s going to be a VERY full Autumn and Winter for me!  I’m taking on as much teaching as I think I can handle, fibromyalgia and keeping the home fires burning notwithstanding, so if you want to catch me here are your best chances!

There are also 2 spaces left in my Fall Minnesota Retreat on Oct 19-21, it will be a very homey, warm, fun time with double knitting as our theme and FUN as our goal!


My Sketch of Tissot’s Painting

History on Two Needles (when tweeting use hashtag #HoTN) is coming along BEAUTIFULLY!

All of the photography is finished, the layout is looking good – hopefully not confusing, just well balanced and easy to follow – and the tech editing is some of the happiest I’ve ever been involved in.

I work / design / write differently from many folks.  This isn’t unusual, being individual types of folks, we ALL tend to do some things our own way.  My own unusual style of knitting (Combination Knitting) is the source of some of my differences as a pattern writer, but even more pertinent is my feeling that just about anyone who invests money and time into buying yarn and a pattern is committed and intelligent enough to NOT be talked down to.

My problem with many knitting patterns is that they both talk down to a knitter (spelling some things out in painful detail, which can be more confusing than a clear illustration) while at the same time they sail over many knitter’s heads (using terms and making assumptions about things that ‘everybody knows!’ when – in fact – everybody may NOT know some of the unmentioned stuff…)

London in London in Tissot

My friend London wearing the finished Tissot Shrug

Often I’ll send a pattern in for tech editing and I’ll get back an unrecognizable set of pages with math fixed (thank you!) and verbiage changed (no, thank you…) for no good reason except it doesn’t fit into a ‘style.’

I will take clarity over style any day!

97% of tech eds I know are GREAT, most tech editors I work with are the unsung hero(ines) of any knitting publication, making patterns readable and usable by knitters and getting little more than grief and headaches for their hard work!

But there are a very few editors whose contempt for my unorthodox way of explaining things is palpable when I read their comments.  Or when I see what they’ve crossed out and changed (which speaks louder than any comments can!)

Most annoying is the rare tech ed who will begin changing things before reading through an entire pattern.  Among this narrow sub set are the very, very few who will email me with problems and changes before they’ve read to the end of a pattern.

This is beyond annoying, and I’ve learned to just ignore those first few emails because, eventually, I will get one that reads, “Oh!  I got to the 3rd page of your pattern and NOW I understand why you explained X like this and Y like that!”

But enough of my complaining.  As I’ve said above, most tech editors I work with are amazing, and my goal here is not to damn the hard-working lot of them.

My goal here is to praise the amazing tech ed I’m currently working with.  Or with whom I’m currently working.  I’ll leave that stuff to someone else…

Tech editing en route

Kate Atherley is well known in the knitting community as Wise Hilda, but I hadn’t worked so intimately with her before Shannon Okey at Cooperative Press fixed us up to work on History on Two Needles.

I love working with Kate.

She gets it.

Kate gets that I write about knitting things in an unusual way, that I use different terminology (and she doesn’t try to change it!) and she’s not just okay with it, she is 100% along for the ride!

Or, maybe 95% along for the ride, but she doesn’t try to make me turn off unless she REALLY needs a bathroom break.

Kate’s math is right on, she catches great mistakes without making me feel like a great moron, and is quick as a wink.

I love working with Kate.

This book has taken me over 4 years to complete, not in small part because I couldn’t find [was scared to look for] a tech editor who wouldn’t make me feel like the knitting equivalent of a wild-eyed, bomb throwing anarchist who can’t add.

Kate makes me feel like a slightly eccentric, differently-seeing designer who makes understandable math errors every now and then.  No bombs involved.

Hm, 2 ‘bomb’ references…
My blog is now being monitored
by the Dept of Homeland Security…

And that, my friends, is the difference between respect and finger wagging (from both sides) and I love working with Kate for this reason.


We’re talking about the brown skein at the bottom

I have one more skein of Buffalo Wool that I’m willing to part with!  I have a nice stash of it that I’m using for a few designs, the skeins I’m parting with are exceptional yarn that I can’t use in a design, or have been discontinued.

My hope is that when you win this yarn you’ll knit it up, talk about it, blog about it, show it off and bring in more converts to the Buffalo Gold Cult Family.

This is a GOOD one!

It’s Buffalo Gold #11 Laceweight, 400 yds/50gr, 100% American Bison Down.  You will fall in LOVE with this.

It must be used for something amazing.  Let me know what you want to knit up with this, and you may be the lucky winner!


Kickstart History on Two Needles

Well, it’s live.  I’m committed.  I’m asking folks for money, and that means I WILL have a book to produce for them!

I’m KICKSTARTING History on Two Needles!


It’s certain taken me long enough!

When I think that I produced 3 knitting books in 2 years (Twist & Loop, Romantic Hand Knits & Men Who Knit) and that it’s taken me 4 years to get this one to the point it’s at now – well, it’s worthy of consideration.

But first, a word from my favorite online astrologer, Rick Levine, which sort of sums up how I’m feeling today.

Virgo’s Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)

Saturday, May 26, 2012 – Perhaps a practical idea starts as a flash in a dream or even as a persistent daydream. Maybe something catches in the diaphanous web of your imagination, making you feel as if you are recovering a lost treasure from unknown realms.

Normally, you are very logical, yet now it’s wise to set aside your need for rationality. Keep open to any messages that come from your subconscious, even if they aren’t understandable right away.

History on Two Needles began long ago, as a class assignment in grad school.  The object was to take a period painting and design a piece of modern dress off of it. It was great fun, and something I’d kicked around once I moved back to hand knit design as a career in 2000.

But I didn’t actually start putting together research for the book until late 2006, when we were in the process of moving to Minnesota.

We all know what happened that first year in St. Paul – just getting by, just getting my current assignments and teaching engagements fulfilled (without bursting into tears) was my goal, and I set HoTN aside for a bit.

Each time I returned to it (and I never really let it go) it was with a sense of guilt that I was taking so long.

One of the great lessons of this process has been that guilt is, indeed, a useless emotion.  Or, rather, holding ONTO guilt is useless.

Guilt can be used like a shove out of a snowbank, but it’s as useless to cling to guilt as it is to try to push a car down a highway.

I’ve spent a lot of time pushing this car.  Obviously what was needed was a mechanic with a tow truck to help me fix what was holding me up.  Enter Cooperative Press (run by my good friend Shannon Okey, a force of nature)  CP will be publishing History on Two Needles, and as an author it’s an exciting proposition because it’s as close to self-publishing as I can get with the hand-holding that only a publisher can provide.

A book like this can be expensive to produce, which was one of the things holding me back.  Some museums have been gracious enough to allow the use of their work for a credit line or a very small fee.  I’ve also found a number of the images I want to use on pay-for-image sites, taken at a gallery (with permission) by gifted amateurs who are willing to license their work for a small fee.

I, myself, have been fortunate enough to have been able to visit some sites where I was able to photograph statues & carvings.

But some museums and galleries charge heftier fees to use research materials, and of course these happen to be among the most important images in the book.

Then there’s color printing (which is expensive) and advertising (also pricey) which has to be considered.  The entire financial burden can’t fall to CP – they’re a startup, too!

Which is why I’m KICKSTARTING the project!

With most excellent tech editor Kate Atherley (Wise Hilda) I’m making sense of the computerized chicken scratchings that make up most of the patterns and worksheets.  Thankfully I’ve kept pretty good records of every step I’ve taken, but I’ve also gone through several computer upgrades in the past 4 years.

It’s astounding how many hours I spend opening files that are in the ‘wrong format’.  I’ve gone through three separate writing/book layout software applications in the course of this – not because I didn’t like any of them, but because it’s taken so long that my apps keep going obsolete!  This is one of the unanticipated consequences of taking so danged long to get this book finished!

This is going to be a hard few months, pushing through and getting this thing published in time to get into stores (and hands, and onto ipads & kindles & onto knitting needles!) before Christmas!  But I work well under a deadline, and I’m motivated to get this thing done!

After all, I already have so many ideas for HoTN II…

Lovely Parting Gifts

The winner of Kristin Omdahl’s Compliments Collection is Robin! She’s been notified via email, and she’s probably just now recovering from the joyful shock.

That last part was tongue in cheek… I should make up an acronym ‘TIC’ and insert it when I’m speaking in a light sarcastic tone. I could spread it all over the internets, but I know the kids would just turn it in to something dirty. Those damned kids.

However, being a HUGE fan of 1960’s gameshows (not the point where I’d actually watch The Price is Right on the gameshow channel, like my mom used to do, and reminisce about the days when a can of leseur peas cost $.35) I would like to offer a lovely parting gift for everyone who played along at home.

So, for anyone who is interested, here’s a free pdf pattern of my wonderful HEN HAT.  I worked this up after a trip to England where I fell in love with a flock of chatty chickens.

At around the same time I was gifted with a few skeins of Laughing Hens Rooster Almerino DK and the connection seemed too good to pass up!

If you’d like a copy of the pattern, click here for the pdf file download.

It’s a cute little hat which will allow you to test your lace skills, your embellishment chops, and your giftee’s patience (Really?  You want me to WEAR that hat?)

HoTN / Ho2N Progress

One Cover Attempt - This May Change!

One reason I’ve been so silent is that I’m working through a lot of the History on Two Needles background stuff (photo approval & licensing rights, organizing the photo shoot, tech editing the patterns, actually FINISHING a few of the things…) and that takes up more time than I’d like to admit.

I’ve been working on the cover – what do you think?

Credits: The amazing shot of model Ellis is by Jen Simonson, photoshopped onto a background (stock photo purchased at dreamstime.com, ©Boonsom)

I’m definitely moving slower on this than I ever intended, but I’m hoping a Spring/Summer of hard, concentrated effort will get the job done.

I feel KNOW that at some point in my life I’ll return to that energy level I used to have (perhaps when I’m not dividing my energies between teen age kids and a husband who requires a bit of TLC) but worrying that old bone won’t make life any easier right now.

My goal is to have the book printed in late Summer, in shops by the Fall and available for purchase and download by the holiday season 2012.

Cross your fingers for me (during the times when you’re not knitting or crocheting…)

In Math We Trust

The Universal Mitered Bag

When making a felted bag or even a felted hat, often you just jump in, knit it up (real big!), toss it in the washer and take your chances.

However,  fulling – felting – a larger garment that is suppose to FIT A HUMAN BODY after everything is said and done, involves a leap of faith.  And Math.

Why, here’s a video I made on how I felt my Universal Mitered Handbag (part of my UMH online class) that explains the process quite nicely – and amusingly…


My take on gauge is a bit unorthodox (you were expecting something different?) because I feel that gauge is – for most knitters – a variable rather than a constant.

We’ve all experienced the situation where we do a quick gauge swatch (usually in the yarn shop) buy the yarn and go home only to discover that the gauge on the actual garment is markedly different.  Or the gauge is different from section to section on the garment.

This is hand knitting, folks, this is going to happen.  Unless we’re machines or dieties (and we’re neither) our gauge is affected by many things – not least of which is our mental state as we’re knitting.

Gauge happens.

This is one reason that LARGE gauge swatches are very important (I don’t make gauge swatches smaller than 9″ square, usually more like 15″ square).

It’s also a reason that it’s vital to swatch using the same needles you’ll be using on the project, and knitting in the same method you’ll be using (if the garment is to be knit in the round, SWATCH it in the round!)

Gauge & Felting

When felting gauge is a changeable thing.

We all know that our stitch and row gauge is usually different, and I tell folks that unless they’re knitting a sweater from cuff to cuff the stitch gauge is more important than the row gauge.  But when you felt something the stitch and row gauge changes even MORE.

It’s necessary to take this into account when figuring the final size of the garment – the rows and stitches will shrink in different proportions, the % of the shrinkage will be different.

Section of Woman In Red Jacket, Tissot

And this means that the actual non-felted garment may look rather bizarre when knit up, before felting.

Circular Logic

I’ve just finished working up a felted circular garment (I did the felting live in real time via Twitter, it was very exciting…) based on a painting by Tissot.

I worked it up using Imperial Ranch Pencil Roving, which – until you get used to it –  is kind of a bear to knit with (you have to treat it GENTLY –  it becomes easier!)

This yarn felts better than just about anything I’ve knit with, though, so it’s well worth the learning curve!

Since the garment was to be knit in the round, I worked my swatch in the round.  This gave me a better understanding of what the pre vs. post felted measurements would be, and how to figure my shrinkage percentages.

Because the row and stitch gauge changes during felting, the whole pi thing (diameter x pi = circumference) can get a little surreal – but it actually DOES work!

This garment had the extra, bonus wrinkle of a cabled edging which was not worked in the round, but worked along the edge of the circle.  THAT was bit of a headache, and I’m not entirely sure I have it perfect, but I’m happy with it.  I’ve tweaked it in the test pattern so I’ll see if my tweak garners the correct results.

This garment required TWO feltings, I’ve found that’s the case with a lot of items.  The first pass shrunk it up nicely, but it didn’t have the compactness that I was looking for.

Tissot At Night

So I felted it a second time, then I attacked it with my steamer (a steam iron would work well, too) and manipulated the hot, wet wool into the shape I needed.

Most of the steam block shaping took place at the armhole opening (forcing the top of the sleeve a bit wider) and at the cuffs and edges (making the cables look nicer, the edge smoother and the bobbles a bit rounder)

I can’t deny this was a fun knit.  Now that I’ve worked it up AND I see that my math works, I definitely want to make one in my size for me.

It’s a long knit, and you have to pay attention (there are two different short row passes to create the oval garment with the bust shaping) but with stitch markers all things are possible…

I didn’t need to do this…


My mind has NOT been as clear as I would have liked – which actually may have been a good thing as it forced me to take copious notes of every step of the process as I worked.  The sleeve cuff openings are placed along the center back line of the sleeve, and I placed my first one correctly.

Then I rode my bike to have coffee with a friend and convinced myself that I’d put the opening in the wrong place, so I cut the sleeve apart and kitchner stitched it back together.  And I worked the other sleeve to match.

THEN I finished the garment and placed it on the mannequin and saw that – yes – I was right in the first place.  Dang.

So I cut the sleeves off AGAIN and kitchner stitched them back on.  After the felting it’s not terribly apparent, but it IS noticeable.

I would NOT suggest that this is the route anyone else takes in the working up of this garment.  And don’t make decisions about a garment after biking 8 miles on a cold day.

I also wasn’t happy with the bobble placement – that’s why they disappeared in the photo above.  I cut them off when re-stitching the sleeve, tossed them in the washer so they’d felt, too, and have yet to sew them back on.  I’ve tweaked this in the pattern so the bobbles fall higher up the sleeve, so I think this will resolve this issue.

Hope From Mr. Levine

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

It hasn’t been easy accepting the limitations that have been placed on you.

Now, as you finally acknowledge your role in a relationship or on the job, something happens that opens the door of possibilities to what you once wanted but have since let go.

Naturally, this can be exciting, confusing and upsetting all at once. Take a few deep breaths while you consider your choices.

Keep in mind that you have more time than you think to make up your mind.

To say the past few weeks have been – ahem – rather rich and full would be an understatement.

I’ve traveled a LOT – both engagements scheduled last year, long before my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

I hadn’t considered canceling either Scotland or Italy, I wanted (selfishly, perhaps) to do both of them, Gerry encouraged me, and I hated the idea of setting a precedent of bowing out of something due to my health.


So I dedicated myself to staying as healthy as I could while in both locations.  For me, that meant lots of rest, and lots of exercise.  The bike is my favorite exercise method – it allows me to get around, and it’s like taking a big pain pill – it’s quite good at making my aches go away.

The blood flows all over, reaching places that hurt, and they hurt less (or at least that’s how I understood what my chiropractor told me…)

By renting and riding bikes in Scotland and Italy, the trips – and my life – have been the richer.

But even with all the bike riding in the world, the past few months were full of the usual travel tsuris, plus a few added crisis tossed in for extra chuckles.  It became – at times – quite overwhelming.

And, as is often the case when I feel overwhelmed, I begin to question everything about my life.  What are my plans?  Am I reaching my goals?  How pure are my actions? Why am I doing what I’m doing?  How long can I continue to work if I have to take a nap every day?  When did I turn into my grandmother?

I'm sorry, the answer must be in the form of a question.

Recently it feels like everything in my life is a question on the huge Jeopardy! board in my head (“I’ll take ‘Dealing With Fibromyalgia’ for $50, Alex”)

But the horoscope today gives me hope – it makes me feel like I don’t need to rush. 

I always feel like I need to rush.


I wish I were further along with History on Two Needles.

My brain is not processing the math & patterns as it should, and that’s stymied me.  I’ve found a wonderful local tech editor who I think will be able to put up with my oddnesses, I have a good friend who will help me sort out how to deal with the art direction, and I have yarn for the last few projects that need to be knit up.

All I really have to do is get the danged patterns written!  And that’s something that takes time.  The older I get, the more it seems that I require an easing in phase before settling in to write a pattern.

Whereas 5 years ago I could just grab an hour, plop down at the computer and work up the math for a project, now I need to settle in with the worksheet and reacquaint myself with the project for a few hours before my brain will go to the ‘math place’ and I can make sense of the structure.

...and the point would be...?

The fact that most of my patterns have an unusual construction doesn’t help, it often gives me the uncomfortable sense that I’m reinventing the wheel when I start to write a pattern.

On the other hand, I can look at my designs as pieces of origami.  No matter HOW good one is at the creating cranes or salt boxes or paper elephants, each new project begins with a few simple folds.

One can’t just skip over the first folds, these basic steps must be performed to allow you to move on to more complex folds.

It’s not that one is reinventing the fold, it’s that the first steps cannot be skipped.

So right now I’m gearing myself up to settle into a pattern writing phase, (brilliantly coordinated to kick in when I return from my next teaching engagement in Pennsylvania.)  October will mark an extended period of HOME TIME, and October will be pattern writing month.

My current mental preparation before the onset of “Worksheet Wonderland” are like those initial folds in an origami project.  (And it allows me to rationalize the time I’ve spent playing sudoku.)

It's my mental workout. Yeah, that's it...


I’ve hesitated in recent weeks to write about my health – it’s hard to read that you’re “moaning” about yourself – and I hate to go down that road.

Obviously I don’t think I’m moaning, but then no one ever does, do they?  I try to be pretty positive, pretty pro-active and intelligent about what I write and what I do related to Fibromyalgia.  But it’s a huge part of my life, I can’t deny that, and therefore it has a large impact on my design, writing and teaching.

So far, 9 months into this diagnosed adventure, I’m learning that every day is a new lesson.  I’m realizing that any boundary I discover is a moving target (why can I do X on Monday but not on Tuesday?  And why can I do it again on Wednesday?)

Here are a few truisms that I’ve discovered:

  • Wheat and gluten make me hurt, they make my joints and muscles ache, my throat becomes sore and my ears ring like a carillon.  I can be laid up in bed for days with these flu-like symptoms after eating a bit of wheat, even a tiny bit.
  • Wheat and gluten are in a LOT of products, but it’s easier to avoid them than I might have thought, and there are some very good alternatives.
  • Vitamin D3 is like a miracle for me.  When I err and take some wheat, I can flush it out of my system more quickly with a lot of water and some Vit D3.  I take a good amount each day, and when I skip it, I feel it.
  • I get more tired physically than I used to.  When I get tired, it’s like a light turning off.  There’s not a lot of warning, and suddenly I’m almost paralyzed with exhaustion.
  • Perhaps counter-intuitively, a good amount of exercise each day will keep the pain to a minimum and raise my energy levels.  When I go for two or more days without a good bike ride or yoga, I hurt like heck the next day. Which makes movement even harder.
  • Very hot weather is hard for me.  Very cold weather is hard for me.  Wet weather is hard for me.  I am feeling rather fearful of this Winter, hoping that I’m able to use activity, vitamin D and rest to stay relatively pain free.

One of the hardest things is dealing with folks who either can not, or will not, understand that I can be paralyzed with pain – to the point of tears – on Monday, but able to ride my bike 6 miles on Tuesday.

I hate being seen as a victim, but at the same time I refuse to be ashamed of being ill, to not talk about it at all. It’s not in my nature to suck it up and be silent, I’m too much of an extrovert (and, to be honest, a ‘me-show’) for that.

My Salts!

I want folks to understand that this is a manageable condition.  It’s not fun, but it has forced me to be more intelligent about the way I live my life, and that’s not a bad thing!

I haven’t had to take medication specifically for Fibro yet – I am currently not insured so I couldn’t afford them anyway. I’ve been doing well so far with diet, exercise, Vit D3, rest, chiropractor, massage every now and then AND acupuncture when I can.

Having said that, though, I do have days when I’m just out of commission.  More days than I like to admit.

And the days when I am functional are less full and busy than they’ve been in the past, and they’re fewer and farther between.  Less work gets done than I’d hoped, less money is earned, and I feel – like many folks these days – a little worried.  But what would life be without some worry to keep us honest?

Excuse me while I gracefully collapse onto the fainting couch…


Sunday was the Stitch & Pitch Twins game, and I’d planned on attending with Steven B’s group.  At the last minute Steven told me another ticket had become available, so I grabbed it for Max (he hadn’t been to a game at the new Target Field yet.) It was a beautiful day, so we made the decision to bike over to Steven’s and then to the game (12 miles total) knowing that if we got tired we could hop on a Metro bus (each bus in the twin cities is equipped with a bike rack) so we’d be in good shape.

Yes Ladies, He KNITS!

The ride was wonderful!  It was easy going, the uphill parts didn’t seem bad and the downhill parts were a blast!  Sunday morning the streets were pretty empty, traffic was at a minimum, and Max and I stuck to bike paths and back streets as much as possible.

It was – as always – a delight to see Steven, to see his great space, and after picking up our tickets Max and I headed over to Target Field.  Now THAT is a beautiful ball park!  We sat in the bleachers, just behind the 1st base foul pole, and enjoyed as much of the game as we saw.

Around the 7th inning I could feel a pretty strong Fibro-flare up coming on.  I can tell one’s on the way when my muscles begin to ache, my throat gets sore and my ears ring.  It’s almost like clockwork, now that I know what the signs are.  I think in this case it was sitting for an extended period on metal benches in a shady, cold area (yes, it’s Minnesota…) but for whatever reason, I knew that I had a doozy of a mini-flare-up coming.

So Max and I made our goodbyes (and THANK YOU to the kind woman who tossed some kettle corn at Max!  We all enjoyed it thoroughly!) and headed off to the bus, conveniently located just below the stadium.

We caught the express, got our bikes all settled on the rack (I was pretty shaky by this time, when I called Gerry I dropped my iphone and cracked the glass – phone still works.  Gerry’s confident that he can fix it) and in 20 minutes were were a mile from our home, so we hopped off the bus and rode the rest of the way.  Wonderful!

Max at Target Field

Despite the expense of the day (perhaps guilt at being away from the kids for so long had a bit to do with that. The tix were $20 and there were food items purchased at the park…) it was SO great.

Sunday was a good example of how I can deal with the Fibro while getting as much as possible out of life.

I rode when I could, I  I interacted with other folks as much as I could, I stayed as long as I could, then when it became too much for me physically I made my exit and got home with minimal stress.

I’ll remember Sunday as a really golden day – a very hopeful day.

Back on Track, Baby!

Geeze, I cannot tell you how out of body it is to have your computer cease to function when you depend on it so much!  The only thing I can relate it to is – and I’m just guessing here – having a lobotomy.

Actually, someone recently told me that (it may even be in my blog comments) but I have forgotten.

So much for my OWN CPU in my brain

So I’m on Gerry’s computer.  My hard drive is showing all kinds of errors so it’s back to the manufacturer for a refund.  In March it became clear that I was outgrowing my hard drive very quickly. So Gerry bought and installed a new 500 gb drive for me, and it worked like a charm – until it didn’t.

Apparently the drive itself is wonky.  It hadn’t been acting weird, although iMovie was running weirder and weirder (I just figured it was iMovie, a rather buggy incarnation – I don’t like iMovie 09 at all…)

I lost some stuff, but not much – not really.  Not a lot when I think of what I MIGHT have lost.  The worst thing I lost was 2 weeks, and a feeling of comfort that will take a bit to get back.

And, as I like to say, the only true mistake (or misstep, or minor computer tragedy) is one from which you learn nothing.  So here’s what I’ve learned;

1. Backup.

They tell you this – the magic “they” – and they are right.  I used to use Mozy, but found I was having a hard time backing up completely and when I’d contact customer service they’d insist there was NO problem, but suddenly, magically, my files began backing up on their server again.  Coincidence?  Who knows.  But I was getting tired of the game playing so JUST LAST MONTH I began using Carbonite.

Carbonite could be better, but it’s pretty darned good.  I think it’s a good price for that peace of mind I had in the midst of my traumatic two weeks.  If you are interested and you click on this link, you get a month free.  Just sayin’

I also backup regularly on a separate hard drive.  I do this so I can keep yearly ‘snapshots’ of where my work is.  I do it at least once a year, usually every 3-4 months.  It’s been very helpful at times to return to something from 3 years ago to see EXACTLY how I worked out a pattern, or where I might have gone wrong with something.

Not everyone has extra hard drives lying around, but my husband is a bit if a geeky guy, so we do.

2. Don’t Get Flustered – just walk away

When I realized my computer world was heading south (in the middle of editing a video for one of my classes) I kind of freaked out.  I went through the 5 stages of grief and added a 6th stage; a full pint of Hagen Daas.

Taking Time to Enjoy The View

The next morning I got up early, fuddled and bemused.  In denial.  But Gerry had hooked up my old hard drive (yes, we kept that around, too, in it’s own little easy to hook up case!) and somehow one of the first things I did was – don’t ask me how – installed the newest operating system on my new/used jailbroken iphone.

And, of course, THIS is the operating system for which there is no jailbreak.  So I was without computer OR iphone/ipod, and it was stunning how that hit me.  All because I overreacted and began downloading things with wild abandon.  The next time this happens I will SIT ON MY HANDS for 24 hours.

3. Create Distance

Similar to ‘walk away,’ this is more active.  I worked hard to put myself in a zen place where I moved my brain away from the computer, as much as possible.  I am unlike most of the world, I work on my own schedule, so I can choose to have a few weeks where I am less productive.

Basement Hidey Hole, er, Office

But by compelling myself to actually GO do yoga, ride my bike a bit each day, go for walks, work up swatches of

new yarns, all totally NON computer stuff, I allowed myself to see how much my worth is NOT tied up in my wonderful little MacBook.  It was a step back that’s been very healthy for me, I think I’ll make sure I take a computer break more often, and I’ve committed to attending yoga at least 3 times each week.

I’m also gifting two friends with making their wedding dresses (of fabric, NOT knitting them…)  It’s something I can do well, and these are two friends who mean a lot to me.  So I made myself get some work done on the patterning, and in the process I’ve gone miles toward creating a workable space for myself in the basement.

See how much I can get done when I’m not sitting at my computer all day?

4. Clouds

I’ve slowly been moving much of my work onto off site areas, keeping my calendars at Google (syncing them with my ical every day), keeping my videos, handouts, and some of my databases on my server (yet another type of backup), stuff like that.

But I’m going to get even more serious about keeping my working files on some kind of cloud system so I won’t be completely stymied if I lose the use of my hard drive (or lose my computer, heaven forbid!) I’ll be using google docs more for the kind of work it’s good for, box.net for sharing files.

Max & The Liffey

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Flickr.  My premium membership has always been a good investment, NOW more than ever!  Because the hard drive replacement happened before our trip to Ireland, many of those images went missing in the whole experience.  HOWEVER, I had uploaded all of the ones that mattered to me to my Flickr account.  I am happy.

Gerry’s felt pretty awful about this.  I don’t blame him AT ALL, but he was the one who put the new hard drive in, and he tends to take blame on himself like burrs on a wool hiking sock.

He acquired a wonderful new computer through a program to get disabled folks re-educated so they can get back to work (he wants to do computer conferencing stuff since he can’t really do TV production any more.)

So after he finished with his final exams last week he kindly lent me his computer to use while we wait for my NEW big ol’ hard drive to return.  At least the hard drive was under warranty.

It is pretty ironic, he has this honking big hard drive of which he uses maybe 5%.  I had a teeny tiny hard drive (before the switch) and I was constantly ripping things out and moving them to new places just to keep enough space so I could operate my business.  So now I’m on HIS computer for a few days (weeks?) and I’m enjoying every minute of it.  It’s like someone letting me borrow their Saab.

Today is the first day back 100% on my game, back with all of my working files installed into Gerry’s computer, back using the software I’m used to.  I feel like it’s the first day of the rest of my – Summer? I’ve started creating a working timeline for History on Two Needles, I’m actively pursuing a tech editor to see if we might be able to work well together (harder than a marriage!), I feel like I’m getting back on my game!

Imagine how cool it was to read THIS horoscope today:

Thursday, July 29, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

You may feel as if a new race is officially beginning, yet you are barely stepping up to the starting gate. Balancing your need for perfection with your desire to reach the finish line can be tricky business, especially if there are others involved. Eagerly pushing ahead won’t work any better than lagging far behind. Seek a sustainable pace that works for you and don’t measure your progress by anyone around you.

Collar Love

Ben's Suit, PRW Season 7

I’m a big fan of flat patterning.  Not that I don’t like draping, there’s a place for that, but when you see a REALLY well fit garment you just know the pattern maker has a bit of flat patterning under their belt.

When I watch Project Runway one of the things that makes me cringe are the folks who’ve never made a pair of pants, or a jacket, and who feel a major competition would be a good time to try it.

That happened this week and I felt Ben’s pain.  But it was absurd to think that a jacket or pair of pants are so easy to create out of thin air with no sloper or tailoring experience.

It seemed that Ben tried to make his garments entirely by draping, which is the quicker and – at first glance – less frightening route. But without a good bit of pattern drafting, his tailored pieces were a bit of a train wreck. 

The "Tighty Whitey" Pants

Michael Kors said it best when he compared the pants to wearing one’s underwear outside of the pants.

In knit design, draping is a bit more difficult.  Sometimes I have been known to use a yard or two of machine knit ribbing from the fabric store to see if an idea I have for shaping will work out.

But mostly I rely on my flat patterning chops to chart out the increases and decreases to create the shape I’m looking for.

If you’re creating a shaped garment and you don’t have a sense that taking “a bit out here” will affect how “this bit lays over there”, you could end up in hot water very quickly.  And you could have a LOT of ripping out.

But – here’s another secret – designing IS more ripping out than knitting.  It just is.  And a butt-load of swatching (that’s the technical term.)

Collars from Sewingtechnology.net

One of the more fun things to pattern are collars.  They’re usually pretty small, they have interesting curves and shaping, and their influence on a finished design can be dramatic.

Here is a menu of collars by www.sewingtechnology.net.

Although I don’t use this software, I do like to use these images for inspiration. I’m sure it’s a fine application, I just don’t personally use it.

I learned much of what I know about pattern making back in college, working in the costume shop and using the book Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method by Norma Hollen.  My copy cost $20 back then – now it’s $116.  Ouch.

Gripsholm Collar Shape

Right now I’m working on a piece for History on Two Needles (HoTN) called the Gripsholm Jacket.  It’s worn by a woman, but the piece has a definite masculine feel, especially the collar shaping.

Theoretically I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to make a rectangle with a curved top above it.

Here's the collar, flat (collapsed curve)

The lapel tops nest in the corners, and the curve at the top creates the rise at the back of the collar.

But mentally it was a challenge.  It took several tries before I just accepted that I KNEW what had to be done – and I did it!

The shape was not intuitive, it’s an odd alchemy that makes this bizzarre mushroom fold into a lovely collar, but there it is!

Here’s how the collar ended up looking, and the bonus is that the shaping (for the knitter) is relatively uncomplicated.

Well, I hope it is!  It’s easy to lose perspective!

The Collar From The Back