Archive for Knitting

A Fine Romance

One year ago, I made one of these for the physician’s assistant who coordinated the clinical trial through which we got our IVF:

my uterus

We kept in touch, and she mentioned several times that the doctor who had actually performed my egg retrieval and embryo transfer was very, very jealous of this little gift (not GIFT). So I made him something too, which I plan to give him at the clinic’s IVF alumni picnic in September. But I thought y’all might enjoy a peek at it first.

egg & sperm


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This and that and those.

At 28 weeks and 1 day, I finally feel like I can relax a little about this pregnancy. The OB told me today that “if you delivered these babies tomorrow – and I’m not saying you should – they’d be okay!” They are each about two and a half pounds, healthy and active, and breech as all get-out. There’s still plenty of time for them to turn, but Husband now has orders to speak to them only from below my bellybutton. I am also considering sitting naked on top of a disco ball. Look, kids; shiny!

In other news, I am torn between Barack Obama and John Edwards for the primary. Oh, and I got some knitting done.

Diaper soakers! Annika’s pattern.

Diaper soakers

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Catching y’all up

So I am back from vacation, and already whiny. We spent the first few days back East in Virginia with Silligirl and her funny, adorable daughters. The girls are at the age when “sharing” is a key concept, and they generously shared their colds with Husband and me. I am nearly recovered, but Husband is buried in a mountain of used Kleenex, from which piteous moans occasionally emerge. As SilliTot put it hoarsely, he has “so many froggies” in his throat.

We went north after that, to my parents’ house in Connecticut, where my mother took me shopping for maternity clothes. I am quite huge now – measuring at about 6 1/2 months, though I’m only almost-5. That’s twins for ya. At any rate, I am much more comfortable now that my pants are no longer beating me up.

We did some stuff and saw some people, and it was all lovely, though I felt quite exhausted by the end of the week. I’m going to make it a point to hibernate at some point before these babies arrive. Just spend three days or so vegging out.

And speaking of vegging out, here’s what I made for my mother’s birthday present:

Ninjabun 1
She is an avid gardener, so I thought this would be appreciated.

A vegetable garden . . .
Ninjabun 2

with a surprise!
Ninjabun 4

According to the pattern-maker, “Ninjabun is covert, sneaky, and VERY hungry!”

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Crafty Saturday

On Saturday, Annika and I drove all the way out to San Gabriel to attend a fiber-arts yard sale. We were both primarily in search of wool that would work for diaper soakers*, and thus were delighted to find an entire bin of undyed fisherman’s wool for $10. Rubbing our hands together in cartoonish excitement, we purchased the bin and divided it between the two of us.

Unfortunately for me, most of my skeins turned out to be infested with moth larvae, and even the one that wasn’t infested was chewed through in about six or seven places. I threw out the buggy ones, but decided to keep the unbugged one and Kool-Aid dye it.

First I unwound the skein, cursing at all the moth-munched breakages, and washed it in mild soap and water.

Washing unddyed yarn

Then I prepared my Kool-Aid, using three tablespoons of water to one packet of drink powder (except for the yellow, for which I used a lower ratio of water to powder because I didn’t want it to come out too pale).

All prepared to dye

Using my turkey baster (not just for lesbian inseminators anymore!), I carefully applied the Kool-Aid in stripes to the yarn.

Halfway dyed

Totally forgot to wear gloves. (It washed off by Monday, but I went around all weekend telling people to “look at the red hand of death!” This went over particularly well at the picnic we attended on Sunday.)


Microwaved it, washed it again, and hung it up to dry overnight.

Hand dyed yarn drying

Et voila!

Finished Handdyed yarn

Unfortunately, because only one skein turned out to be usable and the yarn itself is in such poor condition (Fisherman’s Wool from Sears, anyone? I’m guessing it’s about thirty years old), I may not be able to knit a whole soaker out of it. I think I’m going to stripe it with some Lamb’s Pride.

*(Annika says the wonderful pattern she has developed for soakers will be available soon at her Etsy shop).

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Two posts in one!


The particular genius of Laurie Perry, AKA Crazy Aunt Purl, is that she is able to convey complex emotional moments with quirky but exquisite illustrations and colloquial language. She doesn’t need elevated tones in order to be serious, and she doesn’t need jokes in order to be funny. (Usually.) When I read her writing, it’s as though she’s in the room, but in reality no one communicates that well in conversation. She has an ability to be naked on stage – metaphorically, people – that I envy deeply, as I am generally too afraid of judgment or confrontation to put my own crazy out for public consumption. That’s why I write fiction – because I’m not as brave as she is.

And now she has a book out! I bought it last night and read fifty pages before falling asleep with it on my chest. You all should read it too. You can get it at Amazon, but I would personally advise getting it at your local bookstore instead, because Amazon can’t seem to keep it in stock. That’s how great it is.

In honor of Laurie, and because she specifically requested it when I saw her last night, I will now post ultrasound photos taken this morning. When we saw the babies on the screen, they were bouncing all around. I watched each little hand and foot hit the edge of my uterus, and I tried to feel it as it happened, but alas, no success.

Baby 1

Baby 2

The doctor got better photos than these, which showed the babies measuring at 12 weeks 4 days and 12 weeks 6 days, but she kept them for herself. Pooh.

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A victory.

Once, in the throes of knitting agony, I summoned every ounce of courage I could muster, and asked for help. And you? You were there; you came through for me. And I was so grateful, I cried for days and tattooed each and every one of your names on my neck. And then, in the honored tradition of dysfunctional families everywhere, we never spoke of it again.

Until today!

I hereby reveal to you . . . Sizzle!

Sizzle (Knit & Tonic)

Sizzle (Knit & Tonic)

(I actually finished it before we went to Hawaii. Like, four o’clock in the morning, on the day we left.)

In future, I will put in a few more short rows. Not that the fabric-stretching-perilously-to-cover-the-enormous-boobs look doesn’t work for me, but I’d like to maybe be able to wear my tops to work, too.

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It’s not brain surgery, people. Oh, wait. Yes, it is.

Last night, at my knitting group, I finally met someone famous. He was tall and blondish, and I positively melted under his luminous, blue-eyed gaze. Okay, so he was a little drunk. But you would be too, after that much milk.

Evan, milk-drunk

His name is Evan, he’s eight months old, and I’d been hearing all about him from his mama and her friends since before he was even born. But somehow, our paths never crossed until last night.

Some of you already know about Evan, and some of you met him even before I did (and to you I say boo! hiss! not fair!), but for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, here’s another photo:

Allison & Evan

Evan was born with a rare condition known as Hypothalmic Hamartoma, a benign brain tumour that causes gelastic (laughing) seizures. This serious condition will require surgery quite soon.

I know you’re all wondering how you can help, and luckily for you, there are several ways!

  • 1. Evan’s mom, Allison, runs a wonderful online craft-supply store called SuperCrafty. If you like the awesome t-shirt Evan’s wearing in the photos above, you can make one yourself (maybe with a different name) with the onesies and iron-ons here.
  • 2. Allison also has a donation fund for Evan, to which you can contribute by going to her blog and clicking on the donation button in the sidebar. This method comes with some perks, too. Remember Frank, who made me a yarn cake? Well, evidently, Frank’s generosity and ingenuity do not stop at cake.

    So here is our idea: Momma and Poppa already have a PayPal account set up to take donations (which you can access by going here and clicking on Evan’s Brain Surgery Fund). Click the link and make a donation to Evan’s Surgery Fund. Then send me an email at frankvarney AT mac DOT com with the date and amount of your donation (we’re going on honor here). For every $5 donation you make to Evan’s Brain Surgery Fund I’ll put your name into a drawing for a prize once. A $25 donation will get your 5 entries! (And the love, kharma, and warm tingling feelings that go with helping out a little guy and his family in need!)

    And here are the prizes:

    more hearts for evan even more hearts

    Two quilts, handmade by Frank and his friend Joan.

  • 3. Instead of your regular search engine, use It’s a Google search, but all proceeds go to Evan’s surgery fund. Bookmark it. Use it. So easy!
  • Okay, people. I don’t want to go all Sally Struthers on you here, but I will if I have to.

    Evan sacked out

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No such thing as too many chefs.

We should all be grateful for our honest friends; the ones who tell us hard truths, like that we have something stuck in our teeth and that puce is not a color anyone should wear. Or, in my case, that the sweater I’m kntting so confidently is not going to fit.

Knitters: I need your help.

I optimistically embarked on Sizzle for my first sweater/top project, and I’m facing a difficulty. This is what it should look like when it’s complete:


The pattern said to choose the size based on bust measurement. I measured my bust: 38 inches. Okay. I cast on 98 stitches and began. When I was about six inches into the back, my friend Sara cast a discerning eye upon it and told me, as I mentioned above, that I was knitting a tent, not a close-fitting top.

“It has darts!” I protested. “It decreases to 86 stitches at the waist!”

Ever patient, Sara pointed out that at my gauge of 5 stitches/inch, the waist of this sweater was going to be nearly 35 inches. We pulled out the tape measure and wrapped it around my middle. 28 inches.

I kvetched, but I frogged it and started again, this time with 78 stitches, decreasing to 66. Problem: the bust measurement for this size is 31 inches, which is just not going to cover the area required. Clearly, Ms. Wendy Bernard did not have my body in mind while she was writing this thing. Which is fine – I don’t really expect her to dramatically tear up her patterns, declaring “these are wrong! All wrong! They just won’t fit Uccellina!” (though I kind of like the image) – but now I need to strategize.

At 66 stitches, the narrowest point in the sweater will be 26.4 inches.

sizzle math

(First of all, really? Is this right? Because although I teach English, I am beyond awful at math. So if I’m doing this wrong, please tell me.)

(So far beyond awful, in fact, that I just noticed that my fancy equation up there could be simplified by just subtracting 31 from 38. Yup. That’s how bad I am. It’s embarrassing, really.)

On the recommendation of several people, I picked up Big Girl Knits. It has wonderful instructions on how to create short-row shaping for de boobies. I practiced it on some spare cotton, and hey! Look at that!


Extra inches of breast-space, as promised.

But . . .

How do I incorporate the short row section into a pattern that already has darts? Do the short rows interrupt the pattern, or is there some way of adjusting the pattern to do the darts and the short rows simultaneously? And what to do about the neckline shaping and armhole shaping that’s supposed to happen at approximately the same place in the pattern where the short rows need to go? Should I abandon the short rows and just increase the dart stitches more than the pattern says?


At least the back is pretty. Maybe I’ll just wear that.


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Knitting and cats, so I don’t lose the rest of my readership.

Back in August, I hired a file clerk. She was a 28-year-old college student, majoring in Anthropology, who liked to knit. And – even better – she was far more organized than Lawyer and me put together. She found things I hadn’t even known were missing. She created space for files where before there had been none. She was bright, funny, and had great hair. I was in supervisor-heaven.

Then, shortly after the holidays, she e-mailed me to say she had abruptly moved away from L.A. to take care of her mother, who had been diagnosed with an agressive cancer. Naturally, I offered to knit her mom a chemo cap. Monkeygurrl had just done two caps that I liked, so I asked her for the patterns. Then I e-mailed the (ex-)file clerk.

“Is your mom more the Strong Women Dance type, or the Fuck Cancer type?”

“She’s kinda both, but the dancing lady would probably be more appropriate for everyday wear,” she responded. So that’s the one I made.

Chemo Cap - Strong Women Dance

Chemo Cap - Strong Women Dance (in sunlight!)

Both photos were taken with my cell phone camera, because my regular digital camera is on the blink. Pardon the quality. Or lack thereof.

(Oh – and to the MRA blogger who called me “Knitting Nellie,” thanks! I’m totally adopting that as my stage name.)

In other news, we had a scare with one of the kitties this week. Gawain was very, very sick with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease; he developed a blockage that prevented him from urinating at all and caused him a lot of pain. (If you have male cats, please go read those links.)

He was at the vet for three days, and I may or may not have visited him each day. When I picked him up this morning, he was very pleased to see me.

Gawain at the Vet

Now he is home, eating his fancy new food and taking his fancy new medications, and we are considerably poorer than we were last week. When he’s feeling better, we’re going to make him get a job. He’d be a great hairstylist. Or maybe a professional ping-pong fashionista.

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Wavy Scarf Section

Back in November, when I was visiting the far, chill reaches of Connecticut, my not-actually-Aunt B. expressed an interest in my knitting; naturally, I offered to make her something. I took her to my mother’s LYS (local yarn store, for those not familiar with knitters’ argot) and let her choose a yarn. She, of course, chose the scratchiest wool she could find in the brightest color available. I chose the pattern – Wavy, from Knitty. As previously discussed here, I had to adjust for the bulkiness of my chosen yarn, so each row has 24 stitches instead of the 42 originally called for.

Wavy Scarf Closeup
I knit it in a very tight gauge on size 9 needles.

The patternmaker recommends using a row counter, to which I cockily said “Bah!” Then I put the scarf down for a few weeks (maybe months) without marking which row I was on, and when I picked it up again, I had a hellish experience trying to figure out where I was in the pattern. I was thoroughly chastened (and also drinking heavily) by the time I received a row counter in the mail from my friend S.B., which I used faithfully from then on.

It’s for an ankle-length coat. Think it’s long enough?

Wavy Scarf Full Length

(Don’t say no. I already bound off.)

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