Back from the dead - When life gives you lemons...

Oh Hi!

... You make a cannon and shoot them back into Life's ugly face. I am still working on that canon but I'm getting there...

Those of you who have been following me for a while will have undoubtedly realized that I stopped posting around September 2016. This break was never intentional, although after the one year mark I seriously doubted whether I would ever start posting again. Over the past week or two however, I gained quite a few new followers on my blog and it made me feel a little guilty. (I'd love to know how you guys found me because there is no clear source visible in my statistics!) That - combined with a slightly improved health situation - made me decide that it's time to breathe some life back into this sad, neglected little corner of the internet. Coincidentally, my blog also turned 5 years old in May! In this first post I just wanted to share what has happened in the past year and a half.

Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 my relationship ended. The breakup wasn't my decisions and ended up being very messy and painful. I had never been alone in my adult life and at the first sign of a breakup I was suffering from panic attacks at the thought of losing my best friend and my rock, and being alone in a "strange" country (we moved to the UK for his job). However, I quickly found out that I was stronger than I thought I was. My colleagues at work were incredibly supportive and I made some of the best friends I have had in years and went on trips and holidays I otherwise probably would never have gone.
Fast forward to summer 2017, things were actually going pretty well for me in all fronts; emotionally, socially and at work. Then I woke up one day with a bad pain in my neck and shoulders, and a weird sensation as if my head wanted to move on its own. I didn't pay too much attention to it and just assumed that it would go away on it's own. But it didn't... and after a few weeks I finally decided to go to the doctor. He told me that one of the muscles in my neck was stuck in a spasm and I had to do frequent exercises and stretches and I was put on a muscle relaxant. By the time September rolled around the symptoms were still getting worse until I had to stop working - because of the pain but also because it simply became too impractical. From that point my symptoms started to develop even more rapidly. My head just constantly wanted to jerk to the right and I lost almost all other motion in my neck. Because the muscle spasm was mostly triggered by motion, I became afraid to move at all - even just moving an arm - so I spend all day every day on my sofa or bed with my head propped up against a pillow. Sleeping became incredibly difficult too; whenever I lay on my back my head would often jerk to the right (which was very painful), if I lay on my left side my head would bounce off the pillow, turning up towards my right shoulder. If I lay on my right side my face kept getting pushed into my pillow. Going outside was torture. Whenever I walked, my head got pushed into my right shoulder. Even when I tried to push it back with my hand I couldn't get my head back to the center. This caused pain and discomfort, but worst of all, I felt like a freak and people weren't exactly being subtle when they were staring at me. All of this added up together was giving me severe anxiety.
My doctor told me it looked like I was developing Cervical Dystonia. Reading up on this, it was obvious to me that this was exactly what was going on. But reading things like "chronic", "no cure" and even "generalized dystonia" (full body spasms) didn't exactly help to make me feel better and made my anxiety even worse. After living like this for about two months I finally told myself to snap out of it. I managed to flick a switch in my brain and was somehow able to cast off the anxiety. After trying a few different medications my doctor finally found one that gave me some relief. I saw a few different specialist who all dismissed me because they couldn't help me, until I was finally referred to a neurologists in the hospital. Unfortunately they had a long waiting list so it took 6 months before I finally had my appointment, 2 weeks ago. He Immediately confirmed that it is Cervical Dystonia (also known as Spasmodic Torticollis) and injected botox into the affected muscles. The first botox injections have to be a low dose in case there are any side effects so the effects are very minor at the moment.
Although the official outlook is that I am now most likely disabled for life, I am convinced that I will beat this thing at some point. There are a number of treatments that have benefited other patients so I am determent to try as many of them as I can. There is one main treatment out there that centers around TMJ/TMD being the cause of the dystonia. But I won't go into any further detail about that because I don't want to bore you guys! After all, you're here for the knitting and sewing stuff ;)

Molly Pitcher

Now on to that lemon cannon I am building... 
Pretty much since the day I started knitting, I was thinking of designing knitting patterns myself. But with a full time job I was never quite sure how I would find the time for it. When my symptoms were at their worst I could barely do anything. Even knitting was difficult. But since my situation has improved to a point where I am able to sit somewhat comfortably at a desk again, I realized that I would never get a better opportunity than this to finally start designing! So I am currently working on a jumper out of cotton yarn for summer, then I have one lined up for autumn, and I'm playing around with some ideas for winter (preferably one jumper and one cardigan). Naturally, they will all have that vintage flair that you are used to seeing from me.

It's funny how these horrible things that happen in our lives often have a way of enriching our lives at the same time. I have discovered that my mind is a lot stronger than I ever thought it was and I have done and experienced things I never thought I would. I don't know how often I will be posting at the moment. Knitting is barely an issue for me anymore but some days sitting at the computer still is. However I have started doing a little bit of sewing again too, so hopefully I'll have some knitting as well as sewing to share with you like I used to do. When I am ready to start publishing my knitting patterns I will probably do a bit of re-branding and might change the name of the blog, but nothing is set in stone yet. 

If there are any of you out there who are also suffering from a disability or chronic illness while still staying creative with knitting and/or sewing I would love to hear how you get on!

Stay strong <3

Finished: Sock Update

Here I am sharing yet another sock update (don't worry, I am not suddenly a crazy fast sock knitter, I was just very behind on posting!). These are my socks for July, August and September. Only 3 more to go!

#7 Soft Beige
This is actually the second pair I have knitted with this yarn. The first pair where for my mom for her birthday in July, but I loved this color so much that I had to knit a pair for myself straight away. The yarn is Bergere de France Goomy 50 in the "imprim beige" colorway.

#8 Speckled loveliness
This is another sock blank from Sewknitobsessed, where I also got the purple sock blank from. I loved this one even more because of the lovely speckled effect it gives. The very pretty heel comes from Vanilla is the New Black by Anneh Fletcher. It is a super easy heel to knit and super pretty. I was surprised how well it fits me because I have a high arch. Needless to say I will definitely be using this one more often!

#9 Fall Night
I'm sure this one needs no explanation because it's such a popular yarn - it's the Regia Arne and Carlos yarn in the Fall Night colorway. Just like it's sister - the Summer Night socks - I knitted them with white contrasting heels and toes to break up the pattern a bit. For this one I also tried something new: I continued the slip-stitch pattern trough the heel turn. I am curious to see if this will make the heel last longer.

Finished: 1950's Fair Isle Cardigan!

I'm so excited to finally share pictures of my 1950's fair isle cardigan with you! Ever since I finished it a few weeks ago I have been so eager to share it with you, but I simply didn't get round to taking photo's - until now! Just a slight warning: this is going to be a long post!

After knitting the Swedish 1940's cardigan with steeks, I gained a lot of confidence as well as a new obsession. Even though summer was coming and I had planned to make some summer knits, all I could think of was colorwork. Finally I decided to give in, but now came the hard part: what to knit?! I realized that I really wanted to go all the way: proper fair isle. So I settled for a lovely 1950's Fair Isle cardigan: Bestway B2637.

Then came the color picking process. I never really liked the original colors but I figured that changing just the "main" color (the blue) might change the entire look of the pattern. So I did a bit of photoshopping to see what would happen and discovered that I was right. I think I could have actually picked any of the colors and ended up with a lovely palette but I decided to go with brown. So I replaced the bright blue with dark brown and the light blue with light brown. I kept all the other colors the same. When I made the first swatch however, I found that the 'true red' and 'true green' didn't fit in with the rest of the dark earthy-toned palette so I made a second swatch, replacing them with the dark red and dark green.

The body
I cast on for the body flat rather than in the round, because when I knitted my previous steeked cardigan I noticed that the steek adds a lot of bulk at the ribbing and also has a tendency to peek out at the hem. So I knitted the ribbing flat, then joined in the round when I started the fair isle pattern. The body has a 9 stitch steek at the center front and for each armhole. The fact that this cardigan has a V neck makes knitting in the round a lot easier because you don't have to cast on a steek for the neckline or switch to knitting flat. Only when I got to the shoulder shaping I had to switch to knitting flat, but this is only for a few rows.

My gauge changed a little when I was knitting the body and at first I was afraid that it would end up being too big. The size I aimed for was 33"(my bust is 32") but the final size is 34" which is something I can definitely live with.

The sleeves
Trough two previously knitted versions of this cardigan on Ravelry I discovered "Siamese sleeves" and decided that I was going to knit the sleeves that way too. Rather than knitting each sleeve separately - whether it be flat or in the round - where you end up with a lot of ends to weave in, you knit the two sleeves together as one big tube with steeks to seperate them. When you're finished knitting you just cut the steeks which also cuts all the ends off. Then you just seam them as if they where knitted flat. It does create slightly bulky seams, but it makes the knitting so much easier and faster and it uses less yarn.

I did knit each of the cuffs flat first, then cast on extra stitches for the steeks, joined them together and started knitting in the round. I realized though, that next time I am knitting sleeves like this, I will start them at the fair isle pattern, in the round with a provisional cast on, then when they are cut and seamed together, knit the cuffs down in the round. This takes away the annoying seam at the cuff and also makes it easier to get the perfect sleeve length.

Getting the length for the sleeves right while still making sure that the pattern would line up was something I really struggled with. Originally, the pattern increases to the full number of sleeve stitches directly after the cuff, but you knit the first repeat of the fair isle pattern on smaller needles to compensate. But this made the sleeves way to big for me and I almost got a bishop sleeve effect. I calculated that with my gauge I could easily take one pattern repeat off and still have the right size at the upper arm. So I ripped back to the cuff, increased to one pattern repeat less that the original, then knitted the first repeat on 2.75mm, the second on 3.25mm and the third on 3.75 (which is the size I used for the body). Unfortunately I noticed that the sleeve did seem a bit tight at the upper arm after all, so I went up another needle size and knitted the rest of the sleeve on 4mm. Definitely not something I would recommend doing, because this makes it a lot more difficult to get the sleeve head to match the armhole. In retrospect I should have just increased stitches rather than needle size, but hey, you live and learn, right? The fact that the fair isle pattern on the sleeves did end up matching the body's while also having the right length was just pure luck.

The steeks
The center front, armhole and sleeve seam steeks where all 9 sts wide. The sleeve head steeks where only 7 sts wide because I was running out of yarn and hoped to save some yarn this way (it didn't - I ended up having to order more). I made the steeks 9 stitches wide to ensure I would have enough room to switch colors, while still being able to cut those stitches where I joined the new color off when I cut the steek open (to make sure that all the loose ends would be cut off as well).

Because I wanted the sleeve seams and sleeve cap seams to have the least amount of bulk, I wanted to cut the steeks off as short as I possibly could. So I did some extra reinforcing before cutting: First, I crocheted along the stitch where I was going to cut, then I did a backstitch in the stitch next to it and then I also did a running stitch in the stitch next to that one. Then I cut all the steeks to 2.5 stitches wide.

All the pieces where seamed together with mattress stitch, as I always do with seamed garments. I ended up having a little bit of extra fabric left over at the top of the sleeve heads so I gathered them in slightly by skipping stitches while seaming. The button band is knitted separately and then sewn to the opening and the neckline. I was sewing on the button band as I was knitting it to make sure the buttonholes ended up in the right place and to make sure the button band was exactly the right length.

Pattern: Bestway B2637
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in Cream, Cornmeal, Garnet Heather, Hare Heather, Ivy, Merlot Heather, Turmeric, Wheat Heather
Started: May 16
Finished: August 15
Buttons: Vintage plastic, Ebay

Finished: Sock Update

I do apologize for the lack of posts lately - I have started working full time and on top of that managed to catch a virus that decided to linger for a few weeks, so I have simply been too tired to do anything next to work. But I have a week off from work now, so I am getting a couple of posts ready for you guys! In order not to bore you with an overload of sock posts, I decided to just post a "sock update" every once in a while with a couple of pairs of socks that I have finished lately. This year I am aiming to knit 12 pairs of socks for myself, motivated by the Box of Socks KAL that Kristin of the Yarngasm Podcast is hosting. I have finished 9 pairs so far so I am pretty much on schedule.

#4 Honey Badger Socks
These where knit with Baerenwolle Baerfoot Sock in the Sakura colorway. The pattern is called the Honey Badger socks. I have to fully admit that I am a total copycat - I saw this pattern on Ravelry knit up in this exact yarn by someone else and I fell so in love with the combination that I just had to knit them too.

#5 Galaxy Socks
I got very intrigued by all the sock blanks I saw on the podcasts and really wanted to try one for myself. I found a lovely seller on Etsy called Sewknitobsessed who was selling very affordable hand dyed sock blanks so I immediately ordered two. When they I arrived I just had to cast on the purple one straight away because I was so excited to see what it would look like as a sock. And it did not disappoint! I just love the way they turned out. The colors combined with the sparkling stellina reminded me of the photo's taken by the Hubble Telescope so I named them my Galaxy Socks.

#6 Daphne Socks
I originally knitted these for the Cookie Jar KAL hosted by Candice (from Pinfeathers & Purls) and Laura (from The Fawn Knits) but I actually forgot to enter them in the finished objects thread - oops! The pattern I used is "Daphne" by Cookie A and it is knitted with The Wool Barn - Tweed Sock in a lovely silvery gray color. I absolutely love these sock, they are so pretty and will be such a wonderful accessory for my autumn/winter wardrobe. I need more lacy sock!

I'm in the Fruity Knitting Podcast!

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Andrea and Andrew from the Fruity Knitting podcast, asking whether I would like to appear in their "Knitters of the World" segment. As a viewer of the podcast I was absolutely thrilled and - despite my shyness saying NONONO- immediately said yes. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, Fruity Knitting episode 9 is now live, featuring yours truly! I am absolutely amazed by the way they have put the segment together and by their incredibly kind words. It was a truly heartwarming and fun experience. Thank you, Andrew and Andrea!

To watch the episode click Here

On The Needles: A 1950's Fair Isle Cardigan

After knitting my first stranded colorwork cardigan with steeks, I really wanted to cast on a new colorwork project straight away. After hemming an hawing about what to knit next, I decided that I really wanted to challenge myself and take the next step to multi-colored stranded knitting. I have this lovely 1950's Bestway pattern in my collection for a Fair Isle cardigan which I decided on making - my first real fair isle. As with most of these patterns, the original is knitted flat. Naturally I decided to knit it in the round instead, with steeks for the center front and armholes. Luckily it is a V neck cardigan so I can just continue the center front steek all the way up and I don't have to worry about the neckline shaping. The yarn I am using is Knitpicks Palette, which is a yarn that I have been wanting to try for a while and I really like it for colorwork.

I have just finished the body and cast on for the sleeves. I have decided to knit "siamese sleeves" where you knit the two sleeves as one piece with steeks to separate them. I got this idea from the wonderful Tasha who has knitted this cardigan as well and, as always, documented the process in great detail. I am afraid it will make the sleeve seams rather bulky, but it should make the knitting itself much easier and quicker, plus it uses up less yarn! Now that I know I can do this it has become very addictive and I simply cannot wait to knit ALL the fair isle garments!

I will write an in-depth post about the entire process once it's finished - I thought that might be helpful and interesting to some of you. 

Finished: 1940's Swedish Cardigan, or: My First Steek!

I couldn't be more excited about the Finished Object I am showing you today, I honestly think that this is my favorite hand knit to date. It has sparked a serious colorwork obsession.

The cardigan pattern comes from a Dutch knitting magazine called Nitwell, edition Fall 1946. Or rather: it is actually a Swedish magazine called Stickat that was translated to Dutch and published under the name Nitwell. (If you watch the wonderful Kammebornia podcast you'll see one of the original Swedish Stickat magazines in the intro, of which I also have a Dutch version.)

After my experience with the Christmas Jumper, I knew I would want to avoid having to purl colorwork as much as I could. Unfortunately - as most of my fellow vintage knitters will probably know - despite the fact that "fair isle" was very populair in the 1940's due to rationing, the patterns themselves generally aren't constructed in the traditional Fair Isle way. They are usually knitted flat and seamed rather than knitted in the round with steeks. So was the case with this pattern. So I made the decision to convert it to circular knitting and then steeking it to make a cardigan, something I had never done before. To help me get started, I read some entries on Kate Davies' blog and purchased Alice Starmore's book of Fair Isle Knitting.

The original pattern is knitted at 27 sts per 4 inches, but the yarn I used - Cascade 220 fingering - is rather thin and with 3.5 mm needles I got a gauge of 36 sts. per inch in stranded knitting. I didn't want to go up more needle sizes because I was afraid that the fabric would be too open so I went with the 36 sts and re-calculated the whole pattern. (In retrospect I could have easily gone for a looser gauge). Annoyingly it meant that I had to knit the non stranded parts on 2.75 mm needles to get the same gauge and for the body I had just over 300 stitches on the needles. Needless to say, the cardigan took quite a while to knit!

I decided to steek the center front and the armholes with a 9 stitch wide steek. I started knitting in the round right from the beginning but have since discovered that it is better to knit the ribbing flat, that way you don't have the steeks potentially sticking out at the bottom and it reduces bulk. I knitted the body in the round up to the neckline. This is where the colorwork actually stops, so I just knitted flat from there on. I had also been dying to try Tasha's wonderful tutorial on knitting seamless 'set in' sleeves, where you pick up the stitches around the armhole and knit the sleeves down in the round, but still get sleeve cap shaping as for a traditional set-in sleeve by using short rows. When I was knitting the sleeves I was actually very close to ripping them out because they where puckering around the armhole, but luckily I decided to be lazy and just left it, hoping that it would block out, which it did.

For the steeks I opted for a crocheted reinforcement and cutting the steeks open was probably one of the most fun and rewarding things I have done in knitting - definitely not scary! I do still need to finish the steeks somehow - either sew them down or cover them with a cute ribbon. I knitted the sleeve cuffs and waist ribbing in a 1 x 1 twisted rib (where you knit the knit sts trough the back loop) because I have been wanting to try that out for garments, but to be honest I think I like the look of a plain rib better. For garments anyway.

I do still need to get better at getting an even gauge in stranded knitting. When I was knitting on this cardigan I got quite a lot of puckering in the colorwork (luckily 95% has disappeared with blocking). I also made the mistake of switching the yarns from one hand to the other - if you look at the upper chest section of the colorwork you will actually see some sort of striping which was caused by switching the yarns. But I foresee a lot more colorwork knitting in my future, so I'm sure I'll get plenty of practice ;)

Pattern: "Sportjakje" from Nitwell, Fall 1946
Yarn: Cascade 220 Fingering - Burgundy and Doeskin Heather
Started: Fabruary 22
Finished: May 8
Used: Doeskin Heather: 4.72 skeins = 1180.0 meters (1290.4 yards), 236 grams / Burgundy: 1.3 skeins = 325.0 meters (355.4 yards), 65 grams
Buttons: Vintage glass, eBay