Monday, November 19, 2012

Trucker's elbow stinks

Two weeks ago if you told me about the Ulnar nerve I would've thought you were just making up fancy medical jargon to impress me. Now I know that it is the nerve that controls your pinkie and ring finger and it runs through the outside of your elbow. I also know that if you damage or pinch that nerve you will not be able to feel your pinkie or ring finger and they will be a bit weaker. They call it Trucker's elbow because it usually happens to truckers who lean their elbow out the window as they are driving. Maybe your recliner broke and you are more comfortable putting your feet up underneath you during a knitting marathon and leaning on the arm of the chair - yep that will do it too.

So I have damaged my Ulnar nerve. My right ring finger feels different. I can move it and I can feel with it but it is just different. Like I have had a rubber band around the first knuckle for the last two weeks. I asked the doctor about it and she says there is nothing that can be done but rest. i.e. no knitting. YIKES.

So it has been about 5 days now. No needles have touched my hands and no hooks have passed through my fingers. I did wonder if I could just switch to crochet but decided to just rest. And it is a horrible time of year to be yarn-free. I have so many present ideas that I'm itching to start but I can't. If I had been smart I would've been working on presents through the summer too but I got wrapped up in my own projects and then re-doing my projects because I'm still working on my sizing to fit any presents in there. Now I'm paying for it.

On the bright side - I do think that my ring finger is slowly going back to normal. But at this rate it will be Christmas before I get to knitting again. Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

F Number - Fibonacci is not a dirty word!!

For a while now I have been aware of the correlation between knitting and mathematics. As knitters we are constantly counting stitches and rows and memorizing patterns.

Recently I bought The book, Stitch 'n Bitch: Superstar Knitting and have been reading it like it was a mystery novel. The biggest plot twist for me was a chapter devoted to the Fibonacci Sequence. It sounds like something out of The Da Vinci code and actually it is! The Da Vinci Code examines the F Sequence as the main character uses it to crack a code left by a deceased museum curator.

Your high-school or college teachers probably told you about the F sequence or F numbers but most of us never thought we would ever find a practical use for them in our everyday lives.

Biologists can probably tell you the significance of the F numbers as they are present in almost every plant. The ever elusive four leaf clover is elusive because four is not a F number. You see flower petals, seeds and leaves come in quantities of: one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty one, thirty two, fifty three, eighty five ... Do you see a pattern? It is probably not coincidence that these numbers have such a strong correlation to nature since they can also be used to create an aesthetically pleasing set of "random" stripes for knitters.

After ready my F Sequence chapter in Stitch 'n Bitch, I decided to give it a try with a couple of baby blankets I had planned to make. I love the look of random stripes but my random stripes never looked good like the ones in the magazines. What did they know that I didn't? The F sequence!

OK the f sequence numbers are found by adding the last number to the one in front of it. So if you start with one then the next number is one (the number before) plus the number before it (zero). So now you have one as your first number and one again as your second number. Our third number is one plus one. Now we have 1, 1, 2. And you can go on calculating the F numbers from there. The official F numbers are:
1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 ...

You can also use the same formula used to find the F numbers and start with a random number like four which is not an official F number.
But notice that these numbers are all corresponding with the F numbers.

I chose to use these numbers to count my pattern repeats in my blanket. My repeats were four rows long. But instead of counting row I counted the repeats. One repeat then four rows of another color then two repeats of my next color then three repeats of the last color petting the F numbers guide me. I chose to start again at one repeating from the beginning each time but you also can reverse the patern until you are back at one again.
To make sure my 1 repeat row of knitting wasn't always the same color I decided to use 5 colors but only 4 F numbers so that my colors shifted through the pattern.

Not every striped blanket I see uses the F numbers to decide the thickness of each stripe and I haven't figured out what mathematical formula they are using but for once I created a striped blanket that looks random and nice at the same time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why can't my son just be a Pirate?


Why can't my son be a pirate or a police officer or even an Angry Bird for Halloween? I was talking to my friend the other day telling her how I made my son's costume last year, bought the one before that at a garage sale and was given the ones before that. I think the only costume I've ever bought from the store was a tiny pumpkin that he wore when he was about 3 months old. Even then, we didn't take him trick-or-treating with it. We wanted to show him off but were too embarrassed to be collecting candy on behalf of a 3 month old who obviously wouldn't eat it.

Last year he was Luke Skywalker and although the store had plenty of costumes available, the creativity junkie in me took over. You know the one that swears she can make a costume that looks better than the store-bought version. So I did.

I had just finished a slipper pattern so I made some big slippers and extended them upwards for boots that he could slip on over his shoes. I also made a dickie-type neck wrap which was bigger on one shoulder than the other (like Anakin wears in the new animated series.) I found an old karate jacket at the thrift store on base and it was super cheap because the pants weren't included. Then I crocheted (my craft of choice at the time) a belt for my Jedi added a pair of khakis and off he went. He got so many compliments and was so proud to be wearing a costume that nobody else had.

This year he wants to by Lloyd Garmadon from (BIG SURPRISE) Ninjago. At first I dismissed this and tried to convince him to choose a pirate costume from Walmart. But then those creative juices started to flow and I began to feel that making a costume for him wasn't an obligation but a privilege. How many parents make their costumes these days? I'm going to watch on Halloween and see if I can spot even one. Do the same and let me know how that works. I feel proud when my son is rocking his one of a kind costume that the other kids wished they had.

Lloyd Garmadon

So with my completely egotistical motivation fully fueled I went in search of a black hoodie and some fabric paint. My naive husband said I should get one that already has a set of skeleton ribs on the front. I laughed at him. Short of spending a bunch of money for a customized one online that wasn't going to happen. But I walk into Target and voila! There was a black hoodie with skeleton ribs already on it. I had to text him a picture.

He already has a cape in his tickle-trunk (any Mr. Dress Up fans out there?) leftover from a Darth Vader costume. Now all he needs is a purple belt and a green 5 over his heart.

The purple belt is easy - I have purple yarn in my stash. The green 5 was more challenging. I had made a blanket with numbers on it a couple years ago so perhaps I could get out that pattern and crochet a green 5 and sew it on. After a trip to Michael's I came home with a 5 stencil, lime-green fabric paint, lime-green yarn, a swatch of lime-green felt and a roll of iron-on adhesive.

My little Lloyd wannabe decided that he'd like to cut the 5 out of the felt but then decided the color wasn't quite right. I showed him the crocheted 5 but he wasn't a fan (gasp) of my work. He decided he wanted it painted on. Of the three options; sewing on a crocheted applique, sewing on a felt cut-out or painting on a 5, painting one on scared me the most. That's pretty permanent. Oh well I think the hoodie was $15 so here goes. I used a stencil from a previous project and tested the paint on a old pair of sweat pants to make sure the green paint would show well on the black fabric. It did so I went to work on the hoodie. Three coats later and Voila.

I've got a tube of yellow face paint for his face and hands although I'm still considering an attempt at "Lego" hands out of yarn. Add a Darth Vader cape black sweatpants and his purple crocs and I think he is set. I'm not sure how many parents will recognize who he is but I think we've got a good shot! Worst case scenario he decides at the last minute to be a pirate after all and he's got a killer Lloyd Garmadon hoodie.
NOTE: Lego man mitts are finished and fabulous. See the picture above.  You can find the pattern at:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Owl is fine - I've been busy!

I know I haven't posted lately but it is because I have been spending every waking moment knitting for a baby shower. With just one weeks notice I knocked out two stroller blankets and designed this great little baby sweater for my friends twins. I based this pattern on an old pattern from Leisure Arts
and Designed by Joan Beebe although it was heavily modified.
I chose a 2x2 ribbing and shifted the little owls down so they would sit out on a nice chubby belly. I added some buttons on one shoulder to make access easier and then also improvised an owl from one I had a picture of but no pattern. It was easy enough to figure out that the owl was made from C2B/C2F combinations. The wings were smaller versions of the birdie wings featured in the Beebe pattern.

I specifically knit on the purl side when joining the blue and then the brown again because I really like that "stitching" effect that you get seeing the purl side of a new color.

The blue color was a slightly thinner yarn so I jumped up two sizes for my needles but that area does pull a little. I think it still works although in the future I plan to ONLY use yarns that are the same weight.

Each owl has his own set of button eyes and each are different. First because I was using stash buttons and I couldn't find six the same and secondly it gives each owl his own personality!!

I had fun with this project and am working on another version for the little girl that is on the way. Lets hope I have more than one week's notice to get the next one finished.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Leave a New Salon Smiling - Your PCS should make your life a mess but not your hair.

I was stressed-out for weeks before my latest PCS. Not because my son was changing schools, my belongings were changing houses and my whole life was about to be turned upside down. I was horribly concerned that I would not be able to find a good hairdresser at our next location. Hey - I think my worries were perfectly valid. It took me three years to find a gal who could provide the perfect "Pink meets Ellen Degeneres" look without making me look like Roxette or Annie Lennox. I also knew we would only be at our next location for 6 months, so you can appreciate my concerns.

I decided to take my hair into my own hands. No I did not cut or color my own hair. I'm slightly more advanced than that. I didn't have that figured out at age 6 or 16 but those are funny pictures in my parents' photo albums and not the point of this story. I did, however, take an opportunity to quiz my hairstylist before my last appointment. I plopped myself into the chair of Amber Beronio at Blonde Salon and Spa in Killeen Texas (insert shameless plug here) and asked her just what information her incoming military spouses should bring with them for their first appointment. She said it is all about the color. The cut is important too but if you don't share with a new hairdresser what color has been used or when it was last applied you are increasing your chances of a disaster.

"That happens a lot," she said. "They say they have no color and the color lifts beautifully at the roots where there really wasn't any color but the rest is a mess and then you have to start at square one and sometimes that means a lot of processes that really aren't good for the hair."

So honesty really is the best policy when it comes to hair color, at least at the salon. And she says don't be shy when meeting your new stylist. They WANT to get it right and they need the info from you to do that. Typically it can take 1-3 visits for her to really understand what a client wants. But together we came up with a list of things to ask your stylist before you leave that can help your next salon meet your expectations the first time. And don't be shy about asking. I was at first but Amber told me that most stylists that work near military communities should understand.

"I would never get offended because being in a military town I'm used to my clients leaving," says Beronio. "I do that a lot for my clients that are moving out of town and even go so far as to find a new stylist. You may not do everything the same way but the more information you have the better you can satisfy them."

If you are preparing for a PCS be sure to take this list of questions to your last appointment. Again - don't be shy. A good salon will be happy to help you.

1. What brand and formula of color was last applied and when?

2. How does this client like her hair to look afterwards?

3. How does she like it texturized?

4. How does the hair lift (if lightened) or how porous is the hair (if darkened)?

5. Any other special notes.

For example the card Amber wrote for me said things like:

Client has extremely thick hair and needs double the bleach than you would assume. She likes it to look platinum and not brassy. Thinning shears work better than razor thinning. It also contained the exact brand and formula of powdered lightener, AKA Bleach, so a salon using the same brand can replicate her "recipe."
When you get to your next duty station you can use websites like to research salons or put the work out on that you are looking for a new stylist but there is one tried and true method that I like to employ. Find someone with a killer haircut/color and ask them who does their hair. Works every time. From there you can go to that salon's website and research the types of products they use and whether they provide regular training opportunities to their stylists.

With these tips you should have more control over the success of your first visit to a new salon without having to literally take your hair into your own hands. Trust me the pictures in my parents' photo album are not pretty.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ninjago Lunch Bag Challenge

My obsession is knitting but my son's obsession is Ninjago. Lego Ninjago from Cartoon network with new episodes every Wednesday night. OK maybe I'm a little excited about these five ninjas and their quest to defeat Lord Garmadon. "What's the best way to defeat your enemy? Make him your friend." Ahh who wouldn't love it with great messages like that.

Well it's a little harder to love when your 6 year old is asking for a Ninjago lunch bag for school and there are none to be found. No that's a lie - search on EBay and you'll find them. For $20-30 bucks. I'll do a lot for my kid but I am NOT spending $30 or even $20 on a lunch bag.

Not gonna happen when I have a stash of red and yellow yarn left over from the angry bird I crocheted for him last year. No he was going to have a Ninjago lunch bag - it just wasn't coming from Ebay..

Now I can do a lot of crafty things but I am no artist. Not as far as my drawing is concerned anyway. I did not inherit that gene from my Mom. I did inherit the gene of collecting project materials and never actually finishing (or starting) any of the projects that I have such good intentions of completing some day. But that's the topic of a different post.

This post is about how this mom found a way to make a pattern without the ability to draw. It is called Photoshop. Well a free copycat version from the Internet that is actually called Pixlr.

I used their pointinize filter to turn my picture into a series of dots. First i took out all the shading and colored all the red-red and yellow-yellow instead of shades of yellow and red. I did the same with the black and the white until my final picture was just black yellow or red dots.

Unfortunately a knitting stitch is not the same dimensions as one of these dots so when I made my first set of ninja eyes they were twice as wide as I wanted. I adjusted my size by taking out a few columns from either side and in the middle and transferred my pattern onto some graph paper.

My new pattern is available for purchase from my ravelry store buy now

I decided to make my bag out of a circular tube. I thought I could just knit along happily on circular needles and life would be grand. Guess I missed the chapter in my Knit 'n Bitch book that talked about why it is an awful and terrible decision to knit in the round when you are doing Intarsia or stranded knitting. That chapter is there by the way - I have now read it.
You can't possibly carry your yarn around to the back side of your project for every row and I ended up with about 300 strands needing to be sewn in or - yes I'll admit it - tied off with a knot. Next time I will knit two sides and sew them up with a mattress stitch and save myself at least a couple hours worth of tying up ends.

To make the bottom of my bag I found the sides and pinched about an inch on either side and sewed it together to give the bag a bit of a flat bottom. Doing this first made it easier to center my handles later. I knitted up in the round until past the pattern and then found the center of my bag above my ninja eyes.

I estimated about 15 stitches to make a good handle and on my next pass I bound-off those stitches on the front and the back. On my next pass I cast on those stitches and then went on knitting on the other side of the new "hole" I had just made. I bound off after about another 8 rows and had just 2 feet of red yarn left. Talk about a stash buster.
It's about 18 hours until school starts so I just made my deadline but I guarantee my kid will be the only kid in school with a Ninjago lunch bag. Well unless their parents were willing to pay the $30 to order one from EBay. Me - I prefer the free yarn in my stash and a good challenge. I'm still putting off that black angry bird he has ordered though.
To get a chart of these eyes you can click on the link below and finish your purchase at my Ravelry store.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Continental Success and Silence

My biggest accomplishment in my knitting means absolutely nothing to any of my family or friends. None of them knit. Well my Mom knits and purls enough to make a sweater and my friend, Amanda, is the master of the single crochet. But no one I know is as obsessed as I am. The other day I called my Mom just to share my big news. And nothing. She didn't know what the Continental Method was. She had no idea of the new blazing speeds my needles could now travel at. I tried to explain over the phone:

"Well instead of holding the yarn in your right hand and then wrapping it around the needle, you hold it in your left and kinda hook it with the needle and pull it through."

I had seen it done by a lady on TV one day and was amazed by how fast she could knit. I had tried it a few times in the past but it felt like I was knitting left handed. Awkward and not relaxing at all. But I vowed to learn. I was working on a scarf with lots of ribbing and I absoultely hated ribbing. Loathed it in fact. I don't remember why but I swore I was going to knit the whole rest of the scarf using only the Continental Method and that's exactly what I did.

At first it felt odd and frustrating. It reminded me of keyboarding class when you were forced to learn the proper way to type. But like taking a keyboarding class, after months of painfull  aaaa-ssss-dddd-ffff excercises, you finally feel liberated and free to type without hovering over the keyboard doing the two-fingered-peck.

Now I knit ribbing as fast as I would knit or purl a whole row. I don't drop my needle pulling my yarn to the front or the back anymore because I don't have to let go of either needle. Life is grand. I'm estatic. I want to scream my excitement from the rooftops but all I get is silence from my Mom.
So I'll share my big news with you and hope that it is met with more than silence.