I went for a walk.

Over the weekend, while on a beautiful stretch of California coast, I went for a walk.

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It sounds so simple, so routine, but for me, over the past few months, going for a walk is something that was completely out of my wheelhouse. I had to save “steps” for the very functional parts of my life – doing the necessary stuff at home, standing briefly for work, so going for a walk, well, no.

I was feeling so much better that when I went on the trip, I even left the cane at home, which reminded me of this passage from the gospel of Mark:

“10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them.”

When Jesus heals, things happen. And it’s not just that there is a physical healing, it’s a return to being in community – a restoration of relationships – being with family, finding a vocation, eating with folks.

I’m finding just this as I am getting better and better. As I’ve gotten out of the foggy meds phase, I can see all kinds of things that need repair and restoration in the rest of my life. My apartment got almost all unpacked when I was injured, but the stuff that didn’t makes it look like I haven’t unpacked. That new TV never got bought (although hey Hitachi – that 1984 solid state TV seems to be indestructible!) In my job, some things (and truthfully some people) were untended because of limited time for focused work, and now I am working that out.

I didn’t go on vacation except for one week after Christmas because I was feeling crappy and staying home seemed like a waste of good vacation time, so I’ll be doing two weeks of vacation that I really, really need to reconnect with family and friends. Oh, there’s also the need to start working out for real, which I think will only add to my quality of life.

True healing is like that – in truth, if one part of our lives is out of whack, it affects everything else. Health is an ecosystem, not just a body thing. Christian healing, unlike our medical system, is a holistic affair.

When I went on this trip over the weekend, I knew that I was going to really need to rest, but even my own assessment of this was actually underestimated. There was no big “plan” for the time, but I brought four knitting projects and a really good knitting book, along with a couple of great general interest books. What I didn’t know, and experienced, was that I needed true Sabbath, to just be and not even do a lot of knitting. I barely worked one sock the entire four days.

But I did go on a walk. And saw amazing sunsets, and even saw friends. Jesus would have called this healing work.


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There’s Always More to Learn

I just finished my cousin Marie’s cardigan sweater. It’s from a book called Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos, called Twigs and Willows:

image For a change I actually used the yarn that was indicated in the pattern – Brooklyn Tweeds fabulous Shelter yarn – which is light and airy because it is woolen spun, and has great depth of color.

There have been many sweaters that have come off my needles over the years – I don’t know how many, in fact. You’d think by now that I would have learned all there is to know about knitting a sweater, and that would be incorrect.

What the Pattern Said

The pattern for this sweater calls for the fronts and backs and sleeves to be knit separately and then sewn together. I do have a preference for side and shoulder seams in sweaters – they give a better fit, and the sweater is less likely to go askew. The sleeves are set-in, and before now, I have mostly stuck to knitting the sleeve (either flat or in the round), and then sewn them in. I don’t find it hard, but it does sometimes require gymnastics. It also called for a simple horizontonally-knit button hole.

What I Modified

  1. Moved the Shaping: I Spread the shaping of the sweater from the side seams to “princess seams” on the fronts and the backs. There are a couple of schools of thought about this, but my cousin has a lovely waist, and accenting it with the shaping seemed like a good idea. It came out well:image
  2. Short Rows on Upper Back: Often just one inch’s worth of short rows spread an inch apart will really help the sweater sit better on the body. I remembered to do this!
  3. Top-down Sleeves: Since I had just taken a top-down sweater knitting class that taught me how to do top-down set-in sleeves, it was the perfect moment to tackle this maneuver. Vera Sanon has an amazing trick that I will be using from now on – using a Size 0 needle to pick up the stitches! Do it, and you’ll see that basically a needle this size mimics the tight fit that a sewn in sleeve gets. You can use this wherever you are picking up stitches. Never thought or heard of this before, and it is brilliant. See how good that   looks?image
  4. Bigger Sleeves: I also had to modify the sleeves, because the directions are not written for women who have “real” arms. I increased after the sleevecap  a bit, and then did the decreases, and generally made the sleeves bigger overall, which you can see a bit in the photo above. I actually knit most of the sleeves twice to get them the right size.
  5. Button and neck bands: I also used the Size 0 needle to pick up stitches here, and put more stitches into the band, a la Sally Melville’s Knitting Pattern Essentials. Most patterns will assume a 3 stitches to 4 rows proportion for a stockinette background, but Sally Melville has refined this ratio significantly, and they come out better. Then, when I was binding off the button bands (in 2×2 ribbing), I knit the knit stitches, but did a purl 2 together for the purls – why? In order to make that edge firm. I always think the bind-offs there look messy, and I think you’ll agree I got a clean line (that isn’t too tight).image
  6. TULIPS buttonhole: The pattern called for a simple horizontal buttonhole – which I think is not stable and likely to grow, so I did the TECH Knitting tulips better buttonhole. It is firm, completely stable and looks like “two lips” in the photo above.  Check out the video tutorial on this one as well!

A Sentimental Touch

The last bit that makes this sweater special is that I recycled some buttons from an older sweater. It was the last sweater that I knit for my mom –

 

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Before it was thrown in the washer and felted.

and an aide for her took this beautiful sweater and had it go through the washer, and ruined it (not bitter, really not bitter). Since my mom was a second mom to Marie, I thought it only right that she get these special buttons on her sweater.

It was fun to try some new and older techniques and materials into a new sweater. I wonder what I’ll learn on the next one?

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Other Ways

This year, with my right leg still in recovery mode (yes, it’s getting better, very slowly), I passed on going to fiber and knitting expos this month, which means missing both Madrona Fiber Arts  (which is on my bucket list) and Stitches West (which has been an easy commute  for years – and now a little longer). That’s not really a bad thing, as last year I went to both Stitches West and Vogue Knitting Live, and have the yarn in the stash to prove it. In fact, I have plenty of wonderful yarn that I’m excited to knit. I may still go to Vogue Knitting Live in May, as it is a fairly easy drive, and I can see family and friends down there too.

But seeing beautiful yarn and accessories is only one of the attractions of these events – I love to learn new things at them too. Fortunately, my local knitting guild is all kinds of awesome, and they contracted with a knitting teacher, Vera Sanon, to come to our guild to teach various ways to knit Top-Down sweaters; the guild footed half of the bill on top, plus there was no conference overhead to pay for, so the class was about a third of the price it would be if it were at a big name conference.

And we learned a lot! I’ve knit a few top-down sweaters, mostly for babies and I think one for my mom, I haven’t been wild about the usual construction – called raglan – which is best for athletics builds with no boobs. I look better in set-in sleeves, as do lot’s of women, and we got to learn a bunch of ways to do them. I also loved her warning us about certain construction methods that have downsides too – so we don’t pick patterns that will lead us to tears. There should be no crying in knitting!

The other plus with Vera is that she also lives in a warm climate so most of her sweaters are out of fingering and DK weight yarns – knit looser for drape and to keep cool. Here are some of her beautiful sweaters:

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What a table of gorgeous knitting. And this is a back detail of a sweater that I am itching to start, called the Sara Lace Cardigan (rav link), which, if you do short sleeves, can be knit out of one skein of lace-weight yarn:

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I’ve got the perfect yarn from last year’s Vogue-knitting event to use:

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In the meantime, the fronts of the cardigan I’m knitting for my cousin are now done, and conveniently, I can apply what I’ve learned in my class to knitting the sleeves top-down. The fronts of the cardigan are the feature with a twig and leaf in relief. Even Izzie was impressed:

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Along the way, I am also knitting socks for Afghans for Afghans. It’s a great organization, and we are knitting baby hats and baby socks for a maternity hospital in Afghanistan. Join me, won’t you? Our group on Ravelry is the best, and we list a bunch of free patterns to use. Baby things like these are terrific for using up odd balls and leftover partial skeins of yarn!

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Mountain Top Experiences – in life and knitting

This past week I had the fortune of going to a continuing education event at Lake Tahoe, at a wonderful conference center called Zephyr Point. In summer it looks like this:

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but this past week, I got there right after a snowstorm:

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Yeah. For a gal living in the drought-stricken Central Valley of California, this was amazingly wonderful. At the mountain top, there awaited some lovely worship:

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All designed by a very talented woman named Marcia McFee:

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We even saw a wildcat (bobcat, we think), which is very unusual. It was a lovely time to gather with colleagues to work, and to play:

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Ironically, I missed preaching on the gospel’s mountain text today (story of the Transfiguration), having taken the entire week of preaching stuff off, but I got to experience the mountain instead. We all were transfixed when the snow came in:

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In yarnie things, I feel like I’ve knit myself through a mountain of lace yarn, to come out on the other side. Lunna Voe is done, and blocked, and she is pretty!

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There’s at least one family wedding this year, I think over a simple dress this could be stunning. What do you think?

And now we are onto the Season of Lent,

which begins by our remembering that we are from the dust, and to dust we shall return…

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It gets better (sometimes)

Well, the month of January is coming to an end. I have a rainy morning, and rocked getting a sermon completed, sermon slides prepared, and a reflection for a memorial service done. I’ve emptied the dishwasher, put away washed hand-knit socks that were laid flat to dry. I’ve even reviewed a couple of patterns that have been tech-edited (for publication!) and almost done there. It’s 10:15 am and I feel like I’ve walked up Mount Everest already.

Recently I read a writer who has said that he gets up and writes his daily word count before heading to social media, because he finds that he is much clearer and less distracted than if he fills up his brain with the Internetz beforehand. Given my productivity this morning (ok, I listened to a podcast, but it’s a story, not a million Instragrams and Tweets), I think I am now a believer.

So, other than going to the pool and getting some food for lunch between services tomorrow, this is the other “on the list” item. And a fun one! Let’s see what I’ve been up to:

Progress on the health front:

I went back up to Dr. Fancy-Schmancy mid-month, and we came out about where I thought we would – stay the course with the cane. There’s no real reason to do surgery at this point, and we’re guessing I have a stress-fracture in the leg. Nothing shows up on any scans. I thought he might say I had to go completely off the leg for a few weeks, but since I’m better with the cane (less pain, less pain medication), we’re trying that. And I’ve been cleared to go to the pool with care. Hurray! Stay tuned…

Knitting Bigger Stuff:

Both of my projects are big ones, and progress has been apace, but not terrible exciting progress-wise.

Twigs and Willows cardigan: this is my Christmas present to my cousin Marie – and it’s going well. The back is done and came out straight on gauge (hello, swatching pays off!), and now I’m mid-way up the fronts. The front yoke is where all the fun happens, so I’ve still a fair way to go – I’m knitting them flat, two-at-a-time. I did change where the shaping goes on this sweater. The pattern has one do this at the side-seams, and I’ve decided to put them into the back and fronts as princess seams for a more shapely look:

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Lunna Voe is the last kit from Ysolda’s 2015 Shawl club. The yarn is a Shetland 2-ply, laceweight, and the pattern is true knitted lace, with patterning on both sides of the knitting. All went relatively well until I hit the garter section (the last part of it), and realized I was knitting that so loosely (because I was using a much smaller needle, that I erroneously thought was too small) that I was going to run out of yarn, which when you are knitting 800 yards of lace is a big yuck.

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Now, because it’s part of a club, I could get a bit of leftovers sent from other folks, but I thought about and decided to do some knitting surgery. I used a very long circular needle to make an afterthought lifeline at the beginning of the garter section:

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rip back to that point, then re-knit the section again with a more normal tension. It’s going fine now, and I should have enough that I shouldn’t have to undo the swatches – which are a total of 5 grams.

Now I’m headed out for a week of continuing education and the like, and I’m hoping that I can figure out another quick and fun project to go with these bigger projects!

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Beginning 2016, and what Renee knit in 2015

Ok, so it’s January 4th, and I’m lucky to get the holiday today, although work is happening here at home, I get to be fairly informal about things (shower to come later, lol). The housecleaners came today, and it is always like magic that after an hour and a half they leave it sparking and clean for me and the kitties. So, that is a good start to 2016.

My fall into grace (the literal version): A less than graceful start for me was yesterday in worship. I was just finished communion and about to put the last plate and tray of juice cups onto the communion table when I managed to miss the step down to the table, and let us say that things went flying! Fortunately, I did manage not to break any earthen vessels – but the plate went flying, I went down on one knee, fortunately my head and other parts of my body missed the deadly-heavy communion that can only be moved by four strong folks.  I was so totally surprised I stayed down, and probably worried the heck out of the congregation. A few guys came up to see if I was ok (sorta) and a deacon cleaned things up briefly, and I was given a stool, saying “Wow! Is everyone awake now??” and we proceeded through the rest of the service briefly.  The same deacon who cleaned up the table had ice packs for me by the close of the service, and a few folks came up to tell me their own stories of public falls. Such a grace-filled community I am blessed to serve!

This morning I have the already in pain right leg and the left knee is now sore and swollen – feels like a bad bruise. Sigh. Maybe God is telling me to just slow down already. Fortunately the hands are free for knitting and crafting!

I’ve also tallied up the knitting for 2015, and the stats are a little different this year:

  • total yardage (new tally): 17,340 yards (approx)
  • socks – 14 pairs (gifts and charity for the most part)
  • sweaters – 3
  • shawls – 9 (4 from Ysolda’s shawl club)
  • hats – 4
  • cat things – 10 (9 fish cat toys and one cat bed)
  • necklaces – 24

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  • knitted knockers – 40 (for the charity by that name)
  • cozy for iPod – 1
  • charity knitted bag – 1
  • dishcloths – 21 (gifts for many in my life)

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with the same general theme – most of my knitting goes to others, although two of the sweaters were for me, which I am totally ok with.

I don’t set knitting goals as that is the place in my life that is fun and not structured, so it will be interested to see what unfolds over the next year! The first FO for 2016 is:

Oh! Valencia socks – The color is great, and the lace pattern is stretchy but not too holey:

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Many things are begun

It’s a New Year, and importantly for this knitter, I am done with the Christmas knitting. Everything turned out well, the recipients said nice things to me, but perhaps my favorite photo of a gift recipient was for Stevie, the new cat of my cousin Allison.

The cat bed, is the Bull’s Eye Cat Bed by Donna Druchunas, and while the original was knit with fun fur yarn (it was a thing for some knitters in the 2000’s), I decided to knit mine mostly out of Ecological wool because a. it’s a bulky yarn so it knits up quickly, and b. my cats love this yarn, as in, rolling themselves up in any FO I’ve ever made from it. Project notes here.image

Report from Allison is good. This photo apparently was taken 3 minutes after she unpacked the cat bed:

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and she basically is spending all her time in it, and giving swipes to Allison and her fiance when they walk by.

Other than that, live has been about knitting whatever I want, which turns out to be many things:

Socks:

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Oh Valencia Socks from Custom Socks by Kate Atherley. The second sock is almost done – I have only the toe left to do.

A fine lace shawl from the 2015 Shawl Club by Ysolda Teague:

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Lunna Voe – not available to non-club members for a while. The yarn is a custom color from Old Maiden Aunt, Shetland 2-ply, and fairly soft!

The sweater I have promised to knit for my cousin Marie for her Christmas present (no deadline):

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Twigs and Willows by Alana Dakos (from Botanical Knits)

And finally, I’m getting around to knitting the fingerless mittens (or gauntlets) to match my Symetrie hat out of my handspun targhee. I had found a free chevron mitts pattern, which didn’t work, then I started on my own, got frustrated and put it all aside, only to discover it this week when I was looking for a project bag to use. Then I did a new Ravelry search, and someone had put up the perfect pattern – Chevron Gauntlets. It was written for yarn in the same weight as my handspun, and lots of projects already knit, so I knew it worked. For $4.00, it was a steal, given how I hadn’t want to put the effort into figuring it out myself.

I made a couple of small modifications to match the Symetrie Hat pattern, to match the ribbing and the style of double-decreases, but I am happy to report that I have one mitten done, sans thumb, and about half-way through the next one.

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Finally, my grey tabby Isadora is feeling a little competitive about me posting about Stevie, so she wants me to show you that she really, really likes the knitted fish cat toy I knit for her and Brandy.

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So, knitters, what have you started now that the holidays are coming to an end?

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Peace on Earth

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“The Christmas Spirit”

by Ann Weems

The Christmas Spirit

is that hope

 which tenaciously clings

  to the hearts of the faithful

and announces

in the face

       of any Herod the world can produce

 and all the inn doors slammed in our face

 and all the dark nights of our souls

that with God

 all things still are possible.

that even now,

unto us

 a Child is born!

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Done, Not Done

Here we are on Christmas Eve, eve! Wheee, by now, most pastors are scurrying around to make sure there are enough people to hand out candles, light candles, serve communion, read scriptures. Christmas Eve services – not done!

What is done is all the knitting for Christmas! Yes, I have finished, even the presents I wasn’t sure that I would tackle because of time and energy.

The lovely scarf/shawl that went into time-out because of a yarn shortage came out beautifully. This is Osebury Rock, part of Ysolda’s shawl club 2015. The pattern says that you can knot the fringe, but I think it looks fine as is (I have trimmed it since I took the photo).

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The felted balls were done on Saturday in a frenzy of washer stuff:

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So easy, so valued by the recipients! No knitting involved.

Some more cat toys were knitted and enjoyed (see the green blob?):

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And for a very special cat, a lovely cat bed:

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This cat bed pattern is from Kitty Knits by Donna Druchunas. The knitting is simple intermediate knitting – knit a big 10-inch tube, knit a hat top, then knit another one. But there’s  batting to buy (not an easy thing to do with a cane at Joann’s), to cut and to stuff. It’s not perfectly stuffed, but I’m not undoing anything for a cat present. Pretty happy with it, actually! I might knit a bigger version for my cats.

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It Takes One to Know One

In my current congregation, there is a couple – he a Rev (Paul), she a quilter (Ursula) and an amazing fiber artist – who I am glad to get to know!

They stopped by this week to give (unexpected) gifts, and they are lovely. First up, a lovely throw with the building of my seminary, San Francisco Theological Seminary, woven into the fabric. The Rev (Paul) was on a fundraising committee for my seminary a number of years ago, and he got his as a thank you – but since he didn’t attend the seminary, it’s been in a closet. Usually I don’t like branded stuff, but this is well done, and features lovely historical buildings of the campus. My friends from seminary will recognize the buildings.

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But that’s not all (as they used to say in game-show-land! Ursula also made me a bag – something that crafters always need~

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The lovely thing about this bag is that the designer created this free pattern for sewers to use, on the honor system, that they not be sold – only given away. Ursula, of course, was using up some of her stash to make this, just like any good crafter will! My crafting eye quickly saw a couple of lovely details:

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The handles are reinforced where they meet the bag (for strength), and those are french seams – a couple of lovely fine-sewing details to what appears to be a simple project.

Lovely gifts from a crafty and her spouse to another crafter!

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