Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mother of Invention

I hate being cold. I love being able to wear beautiful handknit sweaters, socks, hats, scarves, and mittens, but I hate that I have to wear them or be cold. I guess I'd like to wear them purely for fashion, though heaven knows I'm certainly not a fashionplate.

The past few winters here in Upstate New York have been relatively mild. We has some cold days, but no long stretches of cold, blustery weather. This winter has been a bit different. Here it is, February almost over, and we've not had a lot of snow. But, it has been cold--and windy. This winter, cold snaps have lasted for days, and with windchills, temps have been below zero.

At the time we need heat the most, the price to heat our homes has been outrageously high. In my area, they even want an increase. Of course, this is an area with incredibly high taxes and an unemployment rate that strikes fear in the minds and hearts of all residents. Many people here and elsewhere are like me; we lower the thermostat, throw an extra blanket on the bed, and bundle ourselves in warm clothing--especially handknits.

Despite wearing my handmade socks, my feet get cold. But it's not all of my foot. The rest of my feet can be fine, but my toes get cold. It's always been that way. The problem has been how to keep the toesies warm while not making the rest of my foot hot. Enter--the Toe Cosy.

Don't laugh; it works.

I can wear it over a sock if I'm most concerned about adding warmth. If I still want the pattern/yarn of my sock to show, I can slip the Toe Cosy underneath the sock. And, if I want to wear my clogs without socks, I can slip on the Toe Cosy instead of a full sock. This also helps if the clog rubs against my foot.

If you're brave and want to make your own Toe Cosy, here's the pattern. It's written for Magic Loop but can easily be adapted for DPNs or 2 circs.

Approximately 250 yards of sock yarn or DK yarn
Size 2.0 needles (or size required to achieve gauge
Gauge: 8 stitches/inch in sock yarn.

Using a Turkish or other invisible cast on*, CO 16 stitches. Divide stitches on needles.
Round 1 Knit
Round 2 K1, M1. K to next to last stitch. M1, K1
Repeat these 2 rounds until there are a total of 52 (56, 60) stitches, 26 (28, 30) on each needle.
Knit even until the sock measures approximately 5.25 inches from cast on. (Try on the sock. It should reach past the "bunion" portion of the big toe and slightly into the arch area.)
Knit a K2P1 rib for approximately 1 inch. Again, try on for comfort.
Bind off loosely, and enjoy warm feet.

*If you're uncomfortable using this type of cast on, feel free to use a long-tail cast on and simple graft the toe closed when finished.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In Whose Opinion?

OK, folks, this is me. Well, at least part of me. After literally years of not putting images of myself on the Internet, I had a change of opinion this year. Why? It's thanks to Oprah--May I call you Oprah, Miss Winfrey?

Yep, Oprah. As many of you know, I have delusions of becoming as successful as Oprah. I don't necessarily want to become a cultural icon; successful will do. But, when she went Tom Cruise-like about her weight gain over the past years, well, I was, shall we say, annoyed. She said she couldn't understand how she let it happen. She felt like a failure. Well, Oprah, welcome to the world of being human. Many--if not all--weight loss experts will tell you that it is common for people to regain lost weight--and more. Why were you surprised? Don't you listen to the experts on your own TV show or radio network?

Maybe it's just me, but her "self-flagellation" about her weight gain sent this message: "I'm fat, so what I say or do shouldn't mean anything."

Balderdash. There, I said it: balderdash. And yes, I'm fat. Oh, I could say (and have said) that I'm fluffy, plus-sized, and many other euphemisms. But what it boils down to is that I weigh more than the "average" individual. I've dealt with it. It doesn't mean that I'm stupid, without valid opinions, lazy, or unambitious. It doesn't even mean that I have serious health issues. My weight is only part of who I am. If someone can't deal with that, then they can't deal with me. Their loss. At least one good thing has come from this, however. Well, at least for me. I'm not hiding my photo anymore.

Now there's at least one knitting pattern designer who is professing to tell me what I should and should not knit if I'm planning to wear it myself. As it is, finding large-sized and smaller-sized patterns can be difficult. Even patterns that are labeled plus-sized can be misleading. Imagine my shock when I found a size 2X pattern in a magazine and found that it went only to a size 42.

The designer of whom I write indicates that some of her patterns do not lend themselves to larger sizes, and it would be a disservice to provide them in those sizes. I'm sure she's write. In fact, I daresay I know she's right. I would look ridiculous in the crop-style tops that have been gracing knitting magazines. But, should it be up to the designer to make that decision for me? Short people might not be flattered by long knitted coats. But again, should it be up to the designer to limit their selections? Designers of all clothing should give individuals credit for knowing what they look best wearing.

Now, this designer is definitely not the only one who feels this way. Take a look at how many patterns are offered only to a large or perhaps extra large size. The difference is subtlety. She has said what many apparently believe.

So what can be done about it? Buy designs by those who realize not all of the world is a size 6 (or even 12) and stands 5'8". Let designers, pattern companies, and even your LYS know that you want a wider range of available pattern sizes. Be active and advocate. Avoid pity parties. Remember the squeaky wheel concept. Become that wheel.

And yarn companies: Hello? Are you out there? Larger sizes, including longer lengths, require more yarn, ergo, more sales. Duh. Encourage those who design for you to include larger sizes.

Thank you, Oprah, for getting me off my butt and make a stand. To stop hiding behind photos of cats. To come out in the open.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I Have a New Appreciation for

Stockinette Socks like these.

I recently stealth knitted a new sock pattern. It's very pretty, but did I ever have problems with it. First, let me say that it was not beyond my technical abilities. Quite the contrary, even though it looks much more difficult than it is. But, it was a 24-row repeat, and I didn't happen to find the pattern conducive to memorization. I won't tell you how many times I had to frog the socks. It's simply pathetic. It's also not a sock I would personally wear. My shoes tend to run tight, and there's too much "bulk" to this sock for a comfortable fit. But, as I said before, it is pretty.

I fear the stockinette sock has been much maligned in favor of more complex patterns. How unfortunate. Stockinette socks are great mindless knitting, especially while doing the foot and leg. It's relaxing to sit and watch movies/TV while knitting away on a sock. And perhaps most important--to me anyway--is the fact that the stockinette sock can highlight the yarn.

And, you can still be creative with a stockinette sock. Snazz up the leg a bit. Do something a bit different with the cuff. Use contrasting yarn for the toes and heel.

When you're finished with your socks, show them off. Let everyone know how you feel about stockinette socks. You are not alone. Throw off the shackles of stockinette shame!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

This and That--Including Knitting

Well, it's over. Tommy crossed the Rainbow Bridge early Saturday afternoon. For several days, I had gone to bed thinking that I should make that call to the vet. But, the next morning, he'd seem to be doing better, so I'd decide to put it off. Of course by nighttime, we'd be going through the same cycle. That's what happened Friday. Tommy had a brief rally earlier in the week, when he started the steroid treatments for his cancer, but it quickly ended. Friday night I went to bed thinking it was time to let him go. In the back of my mind, I'm sure I thought he'd be acting more normal by morning. After all, that's what had happened before.

This time, it was not to be. When we got up Saturday morning, it was obvious to me that Tommy was telling me he wanted to go. And I had to respect his wishes. So, I made that call to the vet.

Let me say something about my vet and his staff. The past few weeks have been very emotional, and they stood with me all the way. They've been caring, considerate, and most of all, kind. When the vet came into the exam room, there was no rushing. We talked about the situation, and he agreed that it was probably time. He explained what would happen. He gave Tom a tranquilizer and then took him to a room in the back, where he shaved a small spot on Tom's arm and inserted an IV. He gently carried Tommy back into the room, wrapped in a big fluffy towel. As he injected the final drug, I talked to Tommy and petted him. In seconds, Tommy was back with his mom and dad, across the Rainbow Bridge.

After Tommy had passed, the vet reassured me that there was no way I could have known how sick Tommy had been. He reminded me that I had given Tommy a good extra year and had done a great job treating his diabetes. I did feel good about that. After all, his family wanted to euthanize him in November 2007. Plus, I truly believe that Tommy went to join his mom and dad. I also learned alot during the time Tommy lived with me.

I've had pets euthanized before, but they'd all been due to emergencies. For example, Lily had thrown a clot. There was really no time to adapt to the idea that it was something that had to be done. This time was different. Tommy was 16 and had diabetes, so it was always in the mind that his time with me was probably short. I will always be grateful that I was able to be with Tommy when he passed. After all, before he came to live with me, he had spent most of the previous year alone. He knew I loved him. And thanks to the vet and his staff, Tommy's passing was gentle. We should all be so lucky.

Knitting Content
For as long as I can remember, I've loved lighthouses. I'd like to live in a lighthouse, preferably on my own island. OK, so what does this have to do with knitting? Well, Miss Violet (of Lime & Violet fame) posted the following Isak Dinesen quote on her blog recently: "The cure for anything is saltwater--sweat, tears, or the sea." I love the sea. One of the highlights of my life has been sticking my feet in the Pacific Ocean. Strange as it may seem, as much as I love water, I can't really claim to be able to swim.

OK, you still want to know what this has to do with knitting. I would like to knit only things relating to water, the sea. I'm not sure how I'm going to do this. I'm thinking something Aran, perhaps a lace scarf with a water-related pattern. It'll evolve.