Thursday, January 28, 2010

... Just keeps pulling me back...

We had our Mayo day yesterday for Gerry's Multiple Myeloma check up. Let me just say, Gerry's pretty damned amazing. There was just a slight increase in protein and calcium in his test numbers, but otherwise he remain steady. YAY!

We got a HUGE thumbs up from the docs on our planned trip to Ireland. One of our docs, who's had her own cancer adventure, was positively giddy for us. (Extra bonus - with just a small amount of begging I was complimented for my weight loss.)

The trip just about took it OUT of me entirely, though.

I'd been feeling so hotsy-totsy, feeling SO much better than a month ago, sticking my face up in fibromyalgia's face and staring it down.

However, doing something like our round of tests and doctors visits at Mayo that I've done a dozen times before really highlights how diminished my strength is.

I'm getting stronger, getting better, but realism is a virtue as long as it's married with hope. Days like yesterday keep me honest about the effects of the fibromyalgia on my daily energy and pain levels.

When I got home I was SO exhausted (I do the driving, Gerry's concentration for long periods to drive isn't as good as mine is - we're a real pair!) and dear Hannah, who woman-ed the fort by getting Max up and ready for school (we'd left at 6:30 am), left a sink full of dishes, bowls and pans (she made pancakes for Max) which had to be cleaned up.

It seemed churlish to demand that she clean up the mess, especially when she'd been very responsible and had done exactly what we'd asked. (Besides, as any mom knows, we clean the pots and pans better...)

So a clean up of the dishes, a quick bite for dinner, then to my hour-long chat for the January Online Combo Class, which went beautifully. Sometimes we talk a lot about knitting, sometimes we just build our cohesion as a class, but it's always fun.

Then the Prez's speech (which I feel was exceptional - exactly what we needed to hear, with a masterful amount of push, stroke, admonishment and praise) and then to bed.

My reward? This morning I woke up with a clear idea for a new hat pattern and ideas for some other stuff. I was explaining to Gerry that sometimes taking a break from the designing is so good because then stuff will come to me without being forced. I can't blog about the hat pattern because it's for a magazine, but it's crocheted and will involve embroidered flowers.

Part of today will also be dedicated to creating a FREE online "how to knit" class, covering the basics of knit and purl (from a Western and Combination perspective) AND casting on and binding off.

It will be free for 2 reasons: 1) to get more folks knitting, and 2) to give folks a chance to take one of my online classes and see if it would be right for them.

So stay tuned. If all goes well I may have the class up by the end of the weekend, then those of you whose interest has been piqued can sign up, take the class, and decide if my online style works for you.

And we could always use more knitters, right?

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You Watching Me, Rick Levine?

Okay. Rick Levine, you can be honest with me. Are you reading my blog then coming up with Twittascopes that match what's going on in my life?

Come clean, Mr. Levine!

Case in point - here's my Twittascope for today:
It's challenging today to know when to stop, especially if you fall into an enjoyable groove while getting things done.

Others might even think you're a workaholic, while the truth is that you're just having fun. Nevertheless, you can overdo it now and ruin a good thing.

low down or you could be exhausted by tomorrow.
When did I read it? At 10:40 pm, sitting in bed where I've been most of the day working on videos and promotion for the Online Knit Classes, and I realize that it's time to sleep. Yes, Rick, I hear and I obey...

I can see how easy it would be to fall into the bad habit of pushing hard on good Fibro days, then paying for it for the next 2 days.

Today I sent out my monthly newsletter, sent a blast out to my Online Knitting Class network and completed another video for the Universal Mitered Bag class. A few months ago that would have been a morning's work.

But today it took me many hours, and I'm exhausted. The fact that I did most of it from my bed makes it easier, but it astounds me how tired I get now after a few hours of concentrated mind work.

The good news is that the Vitamin D is working well, I'm sleeping a bit better (yay!) and right now the pain is pretty much centered in my upper back/neck. Yeah, baby, I know why you come here...

So, quickly before I slip off to slumberland, here's the news:

February Combination Online Classes

But March & April are open, baby!

Because of my Summer schedule, I won't be offering the Combination class in May, June, August or September. So if you miss March or April you'll have to catch me in July or wait until October.
I'm just sayin'...

Here's what a current student says about the January class:
"I've been playing around with your videos this morning and I finally learned how to cable without a cable needle. Thank you!! I am thrilled. The only problem with not being in a class is nobody is around to see me do a happy dance!"
The four week class consists of 17 videos, many pdf handouts, and 2 mp3 lectures. During the FULL MONTH of your class you will have 24-hour access to all the class materials at our private Combination Class Network, as well as 2 live text chats per week.

And here's the MOST excellent news:

I've lowered the price for
ALL of the Combination classes to $50.

And further,
since YOU'RE reading my blog (and since I like you...)
can use the discount code "blog"
and get 10% off of the already reduced price!*

to register using Paypal or any major credit card.

*Yes, a similar offer was made to my Online class network and in also my newsletter, but I like YOU the best...

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rethinking due to Reassessment...

Here's my Twitterscope for today:
You may need to reconsider a decision that you made recently, especially if you weren't being realistic about your abilities. Your expectations might have been exaggerated because you were looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but now you are beginning to see things in their proper light. Although you could be a bit discouraged today, the situation will likely work out beneficially in the long run.

Ironically, I saw that after I'd had a good heart to heart with myself about my ability to finish History On Two Needles on my own. I don't know if I can do it, given my diminished energy and my new diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

The book WILL get done, but I have to face the fact that things are different now - at least for the short run. I've been beating myself up for not getting more done on the book, but when I look at the last 6 months I realize just HOW MUCH I've been in pain, how difficult life has been, and how I'd been avoiding seeing that.

Barrelling through IS a good strategy, but it doesn't work forever.

So now that I've been sidelined, seriously, I need to reconsider how I'm going to go about publishing this book. I think I'll contact publishers I've wanted to work with for a while and see if they have any interest. I've already done the research, and most of the patterns are written and finished garments are ready to be photographed. I just cannot see myself arranging that as I thought I could a year ago.

I can't tell you guys how sad this makes me. But to have the book not see the light of day would make me much sadder. So, we pick the level of our sadness, I guess, and we pick our battles.

I think the Trazodone has been helping my sleeping. I don't think I'd realized that my sleep WAS being interrupted by pain, but it had been. I have half-awake remembrances of rolling one way and finding it agonizing, then rolling the other and finding THAT agonizing, too.

I've also been waking up between 5 - 7 every morning. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd been going to sleep later and later. Laying in bed felt good because I was tired, but it HURT to be in one position for very long. The Trazodone is helping me go to sleep at 11 and sleep, FULLY, until I wake up at 8 or so. Very late for me.

I guess that's what vacations are for!

And - irony of ironies - how brilliant that this is all coming to a head right when my first online class is about to start. It's a beautiful thing, to be able to teach and not have to drive, carry bags (the hardest thing for me) walk up stairs, carry bags up stairs.

It's nice to not have to unpack all my stuff, dance around a classroom to act out Stitch Theater, move from student to student bending over and looking at work (I'd been doing more "gather 'round me, students!" moments) and then packing everything up, carrying it out to the car and driving home. It's good to not have to do that.

What's been hard is finding a day when I look halfway like myself to make videos. I look at myself in the mirror and I hardly recognize myself. I look very old, very wrinkled, very tired.

So I brush my hair and put on makeup and I feel better. And today I WILL make several videos and thus be finished with the pre-recorded portion of the Combination Knitting Class.

I'm blown away by the fact that the January Combination Knitting class is sold out, and February is one space away from being sold out. I'm contemplating adding a second section to February, there's no reason why I can't, but I want to get an idea of how much email / chat I'll be fielding on a week to week basis before I make that commitment. I'll decide by mid Jan.

In the mean time I'm making a few samples for a new class, the Universal Mitered Handbag, and I cannot WAIT to get going with that class! I'm thinking hard about how best to feature a project class, how much can I expect from the students when we don't have the 3-hour time constraint. This new way of working out classes is fascinating!

Something else that's fascinating is a new book I was just sent! Myra Wood's new book, Crazy Lace, is just lovely! It's well photographed, laid out in an easy-to-read manner, and has a lot of useful images to help a knitter through the concept of creating your own lace.

I really like the "go for it!" attitude it has about lace, that you should approach it fearlessly, with a bit of a 'go to hell' attitude about making sure everything is perfectly symmetrical. I think this will free up a lot of folks to begin to play with their lace.

It's through this kind of play that we become the knitters we want to be - folks who don't lose themselves in their knitting often have a hard time finding themselves in their knitting, too.

One thing that I thought was odd was Mrya's use of the left leaning triple decrease in all the patterns. I think it would have been helpful to introduce the concept of a centered (or vertical) double decrease, which can add such a dramatic effect. And, like many books, this one works on the assumption that every knitter is a Western knitter (all decreases are described as if all stitches were seated on the needle in a Western fashion)

It's understandable, but I keep hoping that as wonderful books are being independently published, the concept of a universal knitting pattern style will begin to take hold (describing decreases as left and right leaning - k2togL and k2togR - instead of using the terms SSK and K2tog, which only apply to Western knitters.)

One thing I really liked was the encouragement to BLOCK. I'm often surprised when I meet an excellent knitter in a class, someone who obviously knows all the ins and outs of creating beautiful knit fabric, but is wearing a garment that COULD be really stellar if only it were blocked.

When I mention blocking in class, often this same student will shake their head and say, "I never block!" Such a waste - to be SO close to an amazing garment and falter in the last few yards.

Blocking is easy. You don't have to wet down your garment, you can use steam to block just about anything (I use it for EVERYTHING except mostly acrylic fibers, which can stretch out) and the results of blocking are so easy to see, it feels like you've just performed a miracle. This is especially true in lace knitting, when the increases and decreases need to be opened up as only blocking can do.

If folks who read Crazy Lace start blocking more, it will be a wonderful thing for all knitting in general!

I've discovered and it's a real work stopper. Fortunately I can't afford the $155 for the whole year, so I'll be out before my 14 day free trial is over. But I'm enjoying it right now!

Here's one branch of my father's family that I've been looking up. Is it true? Who knows.

Click for larger version

This does, though, give a good amount of information so I can begin using other resources to verify what I've found. I know the connection to the Cunninghams is solid (we used to go to the Modesitt/Cunningham reunion when I was a kid) and the walk back from Cunninghams to Scotland seems pretty firm. Maybe this is why I felt so at home in Scotland this past Summer?

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Registration for Online Classes is LIVE!
This post is late due to a publishing problem

The Combination Knitting classes I'll be offering over at the site are coming together very nicely. I've got some great videos, some good hand outs and I'm working on a few mp3 lectures so folks who take the class can have some mobility while they learn.

If you're interested in registering you can visit to sign up for Jan [sold out], Feb [almost sold out] or March classes (1 class per month)

If you register by Jan 1 you can sign up for the February and March classes for $50 also (use code "introfeb" or "intromarch") After Jan 1 the Feb and March classes revert to $65 for the month-long class.

I hope to "see" you in class - I'm so excited about this whole thing! Especially the chance to share my passion and knowledge without taxing my limited energy or putting undue pressure on my family.

Thanks, everyone, for "walking" me through this process of getting the classes together!

And Happy Solstice! It's lighter every day from now on!

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I am embarrassed when I'm ill...

...and I'm ashamed to admit it.

It's been a full month of this flu-cold-whatever I've had, and I'd give a small fortune to SMELL SOMETHING.

Which reminds me of my favorite joke of all time


How do I smell? Who knows - I certainly can't tell...

I hate being sick, I hate feeling like I may have done something wrong to get sick (this is a constant fat-girl worry - that someone will say that anything bad that happens to us is because we're not thin.)

I imagine myself going to go to the doctor and hearing, "You have a hangnail. If only you had lost some weight this wouldn't be a problem..."

Which is absurd, but the whole judgemental thing gets a little crazed when one has had a sore throat for a solid month.

The throat has gotten REALLY bad this week (I'm a soup and tea girl), but the tests for RA, Lyme & Mono are all negative. I was actually SO disappointed that the mono test was negative, I feel certain that's what my body is telling me it has.

Full disclosure: I had Lyme really bad back in 1991/2, it took forever for me to get over it. My Lyme titer is at 9.5, because I've had it, but that's not high enough to mean I'm having a flare up.

The physician assistant told me they'd make an appt. for me with a specialist (Rheumatologist) but the soonest I can get in is Jan 11, if I want to see the person my doctor wants me to see, it will be Feb 1.

Wow, good thing we don't have that horrible Canadian system, I might have to wait a full 2 weeks for an appointment.
That was sarcasm.

Sitting up hurts, laying down hurts, but mostly in the evenings. During the day I'm actually pretty good (definitely under the weather, but it only feels like a bad cold)

When it gets to be 5:00 my fever goes up, the aches expand, and my ears ring like a dinner bell. What are we having? Soup.

Good heavens, could I WHINE any more?

And I'm not even the sick one! Gerry's been having pretty rough pain, it kept him in bed all day yesterday (with 2 cats and a dog for company.) He's been doing some work in the basement, fiddly stuff, but stuff that needs to be done, and he's been overdoing it.

We had to cancel our trip to the Mayo tomorrow for MM testing due to the blizzard warning. It's a shame because we're both a bit anxious to see what his M spike is doing right now.

I'm trying to use the down time to work on my Online classes, to get 2 projects set up for knitters and to write some patterns. I'm succeeding - partially.

Even though I'm starting with a class I've taught dozens (hundreds?) of times, putting it into a format that is clear in an online setup is a mind twist. I've made several more videos, my plan is to have a handout, video and lecture for every part of the class, more for some parts, less for others, and divide the class into 4 parts which the student can run through at their leisure.

One of the hard things when teaching an in-person class is dealing with the different rhythms of the students. I'm hoping this online class thing will help combat that by allowing everyone to work at their own pace, and offer questions in the discussion forum (and perhaps answer some by other students) as they arise.

Each person learns in different ways, so I'm trying to address that with the videos by demonstrating, using artwork where appropriate, writing the instructions AND voicing them. That way folks who learn by hearing, or reading, or seeing can all benefit from the video.

Here's a syllabus - in process - that I'm working on for the Online Combination Class.
I keep telling myself that a technological class like Combo Knitting will actually be more difficult to put together than a project class.

Part 1 - The Nuts & Bolts
I'll give you an overview of the three main knitting styles (Western, Eastern, and a variation which I'm calling Combination Knitting) and my theory of the worldwide spread of these styles.

I'll talk about whether you're a Right handed (English) or Left handed (Continental) knitter, why it really doesn't matter, and give you a tip to help you create better tension no matter HOW you hold your yarn.

Part I Source Material:
Lectures [Geography of Knit]
Videos [Geography of Knit, Setting Tension, Western Knit, Combo Knit, ]
PDF Handouts [Combo Knitting ]

Part I Practice: Student work will consist of listening to the lectures, watching the videos and reading the handouts. No practical student work is done in this portion of the class.

Part II - How Do YOU Knit?
We'll determine our own knitting styles (Western, Combination, some other variation) and examine how we form our stitches.

This will mean you'll have to watch the Western and Combination videos, knit a little bit, then determine what it is you're currently doing. (Mainly I want to know if you normally purl by wrapping clockwise or counter clockwise.)

Then we'll practice the Combination, (Eastern) Purl, followed by a row of Combination, knit to create Combination, Stockinette Stitch.

After working up a swatch of Combo Knitting, we'll discuss the pros and cons of Combination, and whether it will be an answer to your knitting prayers, or an insidious plot to force you to doubt your knitting chops. Hint: Both are pretty great outcomes, trust me...

We'll finish this part of the class with some Combination Ribbing and I'll discuss why this may be some of the nicest ribbing you've ever created. (And I'll explain how it is that I work my ribbing in the dark.)

Part II Source Material:
Lectures [Happy Stitches]
Videos [Stitch Orientation, Happy Stitches, Wrapping HOW?]
PDF Handouts []

Part II Practice: Student work will consist of working up a swatch of Stockinette Stitch in your own style, then continuing with Combination Knitting and a bit of Combination Ribbing.

Part III - How To Fit Into a Standard Knitting World
We'll discuss pattern terminology, and when is the best time to use - or eschew - Combination Knitting.

I'll give you full translations of what the magazines and books mean when they tell you to K1tbl or K2tog, and help you understand that it makes NO DIFFERENCE which way your stitches are seated, as long as you knit them so they're happy.

Part III Source Material:
Lectures [Standardization & Art]
Videos [ ]
PDF Handouts [Translation Cheat Sheet]

Part III Practice: Student work will consist of listening to the lectures, watching the videos and reading the handouts. No practical student work is done in this portion of the class.

Part IV - The Fun Stuff
I'll give you some fun tricks, a couple of nice increases, some explanations about directional decreases and we'll finish by cabling without a cable needle.

Part IV Source Material:
Lectures []
Videos [Cabling Without A Cable Needle, Directional Decreasing]
PDF Handouts [Cabling Without A Cable Needle, Directional Decreasing]

Part IV Practice: Student work will consist of continuing your swatch, working the increases and decreases we learn, and then moving on to the cables.

Bonus Material
Video [Weaving In Ends ]

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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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