I’m BACK!

December 7, 2010

This past year I’ve been doing less and less. When I graduated last December I was more functional than I’ve been this entire year. It’s been frustrating to say the least. I feel like I’ve lost enough of my life due to these accidents and having the gains I had made over the past few years falling away was brutal. When I couldn’t keep dyeing yarn or even posting about my exploits it nearly killed what was left of my soul. Being banished to the only (moderately) quiet and dark place I have to go, my mother’s basement, just hasn’t been very satisfying. Thankfully things got so bad this past November that they’re getting better.

Those of my Chronic Bitches and any others who have spent the past few years on OxyContin know exactly what I’m talking about. Having been on the same dose for way too long, I’d been feeling worse and worse with time. To make matters worse, on Halloween night, I started the first dose of the new OP pills. Sure, they may be harder to abuse, but they’re also impossible to digest leaving pain patients to suffer through withdrawal and worse, the full force of the underlying pain they’ve been trying to hide. Thankfully, withdrawal for me isn’t too bad. I get super sweaty (which makes using the TENS impossible because electricity + sweat = all sorts of zaps and hurts), super cold, and my sleeping gets even worse. I don’t get a runny nose or flu-like at all. Some muscle aches, but nothing too horrid. All in all, not that bad and compared to the pain I’ve been living with, VERY short lived. What got me was how bad I hurt. When I hurt like that I thrash about trying to find any position or movement that relieves the pain. This thrashing about only further injures me. I’ve been having minor to moderate thrashing bits for about a year and a half since the old dose wasn’t working anymore and then suddenly, I literally had to use every fiber of my being to stay still because I know the thrashing makes things worse. By the time my physical therapist asked me to wear a cervical collar until we figured out how to get the pain under control I was very happy to wear one.

My old doctor’s office (and their after hours answering service) refused to believe that the change in pills could cause any of this and treated me like a criminal for stating the simple fact that I needed help getting my pain under control ASAP. The urgent care I finally went into (no health insurance makes it a very expensive proposition) proceeded to lecture me, told me that this was my own fault for not managing my meds effectively, that it wasn’t possible for the OP pills to be giving me any problems (unless I was an addict who was snorting them or whatever the fuck people do with them), and gave me some completely useless pills to last me a whopping 3 days, until Monday. Because of course you can get an appointment with a new pain doctor that fast after a holiday weekend!

Thankfully Tuesday morning I got in to see someone my PT had suggested I see. She looked at me a little sideways until she found out who sent me. Then, I actually got to explain my problems to someone who would listen…for over an hour! I kept talking at warp speed. I’m so used to having to get through everything in those typical 4-6 minute appointments! Ultimately, I got put on new pain meds, in a dose that actually works for me without being treated like a criminal. Within 24 hours of starting the new pills, the changes were so dramatic I wouldn’t have believed them if I hadn’t been caught inside of them!

The pain is lower than it’s been since…before the wrecks, 4+ years ago. I still feel the hurt, but it’s shockingly manageable. I don’t feel all dizzy and drugged like I have any time the pain has been knocked down in the past. My brain actually works again! I can keep track of what row and stitch I’m knitting! Last night I pulled out a rather heavy textbook about headaches and was able to follow it through the few pages I was interested in, even though I had a bad headache! I got to go play with my friend’s kids for the first time in months and months. I was just as overexcited as the kids were! I took my dogs on a short walk after my PT appointment last week. The dogs hardly knew what to do. They’ve not really been on any walks since early last winter and even those were rather sparse! I even went to knitting group for the first time since July! I feel like if I can get back some strength just maybe I could work again, probably not a scheduled job because of the fact that pain doesn’t adhere to a schedule, but maybe be a writer or work more on knitting patterns and yarn dyeing.

The most exciting thing right now is that I’m knitting Christmas gifts for my family. I’m way to broke to buy them anything though I’d kill to go shopping. I desperately want to get out and be a part of the world now that I can for aa few hours a day! Sitting in the same cell I’ve been trapped in for the past year and a half just doesn’t feel like it’s got any holiday spirit to it. Maybe I should decorate. BUT, the point is, I’m making holiday gifts for the people I love. I was dreading the empty handed holidays. I’d given up around Halloween. I couldn’t even finish my costume, or my mom’s birthday present. Thankfully, my mom is the kind of person who still gets rather excited when you show her a tangled mess of yarn and explain what you were trying to get done. I may not get all my holiday gifts done in time, but there will be a few!

My goal for this year was to get good enough at knitting that I could start writing patterns. After the first wreck and the loss of work, I’d started working very hard on putting together a set of crochet pretend food patterns (this was way before Tasty Crochet) and then had to quit with the second wreck when I lost the ability to crochet. I found a dog sweater I’d attempted when I was trying to learn to knit in 03. I’m unraveling it as I knit on my brother S’s gift. The progress I’ve made even with the hell I’ve been through this past year is incredible. Just in this one picture, you can see how I used to unintentionally twist every stitch and how irregular my tension was. On the right, you can see the torso of the ‘doll’ I’m knitting. The gauge is an even tight fabric (to hold in the stuffing) and there are no twisted stitches.

I’m very pleased that in this year of hell I’ve made some progress in something even if it seems like the shreds I’d been clinging to of my previous life have all slipped away. I’ve missed several trips this year, including one to Europe. I’ve missed weddings, parties, dates, meals, countless night’s sleep, and just the feeling of the sun on my face as I stroll around with my dogs. But, I’m coming back now. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have this Christmas than this hope that I’m not stuck in the pained state I’ve been in for the past year and a half. Just having a clear head is worth everything. I’m not sure how fast, or even what I should/shouldn’t be doing given how bad the pain the drugs are hiding really is, but now that I’ve got a spark of strength and the hope that there is someone new who actually believes in helping me through my pain rather than ignoring my gradual decline, consider me back.

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It’s MONDYE!

July 12, 2010

I’ve decided to start a new weekly tradition for the hairballz blog. Every Monday, we’ll have Mondye! It’s a chance to oogle all yarn, fabric, wool, and even ungloved fingers that were dyed during the past week. If you have to start another week, you might as well do so with some fuzzy eye candy, right?

Here we have an overview of the week’s dyeing, most of which is destined for my etsy shop. It was my first time to dye roving! The yellow yarn that’s hanging in the back of the picture is 5 hanks of Mountain Dew dyed yarn for a custom batch order. I’m very pleased with how these came out. The color is perfect, and the subtle variation in color within the hank is ideal for adding that gentle interest to solid colored knit pieces.

Unfortunately, I had a rather high pain week and wasn’t able to do as much as I set out to do. Additionally, the yarn and wool I was expecting to receive on Thursday didn’t arrive until Friday. I started in Friday right away with some sock yarn and some professional acid dyes I ordered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m VERY happy with my food safe dyes and acids, but I wanted to experiment. So I got some acid dyes in black, grey and blood red. My intention was to dye some zombie/apocalypse yarn. This way I’d be plenty inspired for the upcoming zombie swap with the Odd Ducks of Ravelry. I envisioned a mottled grey yarn with black flecks and blood splatter. The goal was truly gruesome sock yarn to make some stunning mid-calf socks for myself. The black I ordered was a blueish black, and mixed with the red blood color made for lots of purple. Next time I’ll dye the grey, wait for it to cool, wash the yarn, then dye the red splatter, wait for it to cool, wash…. and so on to layer up the color rather than my current dyeing history of just keeping going and only washing at the end of all colors. This way I may be able to prevent some of the color mixing that caused my zombie yarn to come out so feminine. I’m calling the color “Punk Endtrails”:

I’m no longer content to have my socks made from this. However, I do like the color a ton. It just wasn’t what I was trying to achieve. It reminds me of colors a goth girl might wear. It’s very similar to my punk zombie doll. Who knows, if I swapped yarn dyed this color with my little zombie doll, then it could still be on theme even! I just don’t want this yarn for me though since the colors came out so un-gruesome. Unfortunately, this particular yarn got a bit knotted up. Thank goodness I’ll have a yarn swift soon! Since it does have about a half-dozen little knots in it, I’m calling it unfit for sale. I wouldn’t want any of my customers to have even one knot in their yarns! I spent hours hunting through sock patterns on Ravelry to find just the one. I decided I’ll knit socks out of this yarn anyhow, and I bet my mother would love these colors! I’ve got to get my holiday crafting done sooner rather than later, and she has a birthday around that time too. If the finished socks don’t seem very her, then surely they’ll be very me. Either way, I’m still knitting socks!

Next we have soda dyed rovings. I don’t want to leave the spinners out of the awesomeness of soda dyeing! Here’s the “Orange Crush” and “Grape Crush” both dyed on a superwash merino wool roving.

Both colors came out with tons of white area even though each is the same weight of wool and dyed in the same quantity of soda as my soda yarns. The superwash just sucks up the dye before I can even get all the wool into the pot! The orange is just varied shades of orange and off-white so it looks just like orange soda with foam. The purple came out with stripes on the inside of deep bluish purple in addition to the lighter soda foam areas. It’s a very interesting roving to say the least. I’m quite happy with how both came out and I’d love to spin that orange up! The purple is nice, but it’s just not my color.

I also dyed a roving with the blood red professional dye. I dipped it much like making hand-dipped candles. The color came out exactly like I wanted, but darker than I’d intended. I was just going to use the dye that was left over from my sock yarn to make some pink roving, but when I added a bit more dye to the pot, I got the most stunning color. I’m calling this one “Wild Strawberries” because looking at this roving makes me hungry and almost makes my mouth tingle with the tartness of a wild strawberry.

The final roving I had to dye, I wasn’t sure about what colors I wanted. Then guy pal suggested a waterfall over dinner. Every dyer seems to make a waterfall colorway, and I’m sure I will to at some point. I decided that since I’m in Colorado, and it’s the summer time, the appropriate color would be white water rafting instead! I used several Wilton cake colors to make acid dye for this roving. This color is truly one-of-a-kind. Be sure to watch out for those rocks on your rafting (spinning) adventure!

I’m so happy with this week’s dyeing, I don’t think I can pick a favorite. Even though I don’t like purple much, it’s a stunning shade. I’d love to spin up the white water colorway, but I know those colors don’t look good on me. The orange would be super fun spin and knit into socks. It’s superwash, so all you’d have to do is ply in some nylon thread! Then the wild strawberries I want to spin into a worsted weight yarn and actually make up one of the many free patterns for knit and crochet strawberries. Of course then I’d have to dye a stem green as well… The Mountain Dew always comes out great. It’s such a reliable and soft yellow. All geeks should knit their kids’ blankets out of Mountain Dew! As for the sock yarn, I’ve adopted it and someone on my list is likely to get some socks made from it…so long as this pattern works out well. I could see some great fingerless mitts there too. Send me a message if you’ve just got to grab one of this week’s dyeing. This is all there is from this week, so you’ll have to jump on it!

I love the odd ducks group on ravelry’s swaps. The topics are often off the wall and inspire the best and most creative crafting from all the members. I’m trying to get a package finished to ship out. It’s due at the end of this month, but it looks like I’ll ship in the first week of July. I hate being late, but I am one of the best spoilers out there and it takes a while to properly stalk a person and craft a package that will leave them breathless.

The swap I’m working on right now is the Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog swap. Everything has to be themed around that movie. For starters, I decided to make my partner a needle gauge. She knits socks constantly and most store bought needle gauges don’t go small enough for sock needles. I’ve noticed most gauges stop at size 0 and I’d like them to go to 000 or smaller. Conveniently, guy pal has a great set of drill bits and a drill press AND was willing to help me.

I first cut out a shape on my scroll saw pulled from the outline of a man on a restroom sign. I just added a little neck in before cutting it out of craft plywood from Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I sanded it lightly and started figuring out what size holes I would need. Knitting needles are measured in mm and the drill bit set I have access to is in inches. So I spent quite a while with a calculator and digital calipers trying to decide if I wanted to go with a .072 or a .068 inch bit for a given hole. I drilled all the holes with a little help from guy pal. His drill press and I aren’t good friends. He and I got holes drilled to make this needle gauge go from size 000 to 10.5 and tested the holes with my own needles to be sure they were just right.

Then I took the cutout shape with holes home to draw a Captain Hammer on it. I figured that it would be great. I could include on the gift tag that it was from Dr. Horrible’s knitting bag. He does seem like the type that would have a voodoo Captain Hammer as his needle gauge if he knit.

Then a few weeks later, I saw a new forum post by my partner indicating that she didn’t really want anything Captain Hammer. So I erased the Captain Hammer drawing and started drawing on a Dr. Horrible. I figured this too would be ok. The tag could just reference the last line of the film by reading, “It’s ok, he won’t feel a thing.”

After finally being satisfied with the new drawing I pulled out the box of acrylic paints and set to work. After finishing painting the Dr. Horrible needle gauge, I ended up re-drilling all the holes because the paint had closed some in just a little bit. Next time I may drill all the holes after painting so I’m not doing the work twice…or be more careful with the paint.

While painting the needle gauge, I also painted the awesome chair that Dr. Horrible has in his lair. He sits in it holding a picture frame with a picture of Penny in it when he sings about handing her “the keys to a shiny new Australia.” Everyone in the swap group seems to really love this chair. When I was out shopping at a local thrift store, I found a picture frame shaped like the big chair! It was filthy and the paint job was really bad–not at all Dr. Horrible.

I cleaned it up and painted it to match the one in the film. It combines the picture frame he’s holding AND the chair he’s sitting in. I think it should score me some mad creativity points. It’s really a shame for the sake of photographing them that he’s not smaller and the chair’s not bigger. That chair is really HUGE in the movie!

Remember, while I may not be able to duplicate the chair frame due to the strange find at the thrift store, if you need a custom needle gauge, leave me a comment or send me a message on etsy! They are a time consuming task, but the result is totally worth it! I’m sure I’ll be making another one for each swap I’m in and a few more generic ones for my store. It’s so unique while being sturdy enough to handle getting tossed about in a knitting bag and functional enough to please even the most difficult swap partners. It’s also super easy to make them fit different themes if you’ve got scroll saw skills!

I decided I need to see how well cake yarns sell on etsy compared to my soda pop yarns. The most obvious way to do this I figured was to make some and see how well they sell. So I dyed this one tonight. I’m not dyeing cake yarn with the same speed as soda pop yarn because the hand-painted dyeing process takes much longer than the kettle-dyeing process AND I really like to contemplate my colors when I paint.

For this yarn, I took a light blue soda pop yarn and over-dyed it with Wilton cake colors and acid. All color added to this once natural color yarn I bought is food-grade. I let the colors blend a bit and cooked them in. The finished product has been washed several times, including one soak in Woolite to be sure it’s ready for you to use.

Dyeing of yarn is a learning process and why I try out a hank of each new technique to make sure the yarn is nice to work with, clean, and colorfast. I learned the hard way on my hippie cake that incomplete rinses after cake dye can lead to very pink fingers that leave pink smudges all over the house. Now I’ve implemented a 3 part hand-wash cycle after every dye, regardless of what dye is used. Now there are no more pink hands. I have noticed that yarn turning hands and even wooden and bamboo needles fun colors is not a problem unique to hand-dyed yarns. One of my dear friends showed me her discolored bamboo needles a week or so ago. The color was caused by some bigger box commercial yarn! I would have thought that big companies would have developed a 3 stage wash cycle like I have. They’ve been dyeing yarn for longer than me.

Anyhow, I love this finished yarn. I still need to get it packaged up in a proper cake with a candle, but I’m quite hung up on what to call it. Does anyone have any ideas for this colorway? I think it looks like a candy, taffy or cotton candy. Maybe something like Cinderella colors or some other combination of the Disney princesses. Do any of you have ideas as to what to name this fantastic colorway? While it is one of a kind, I would like to have a proper name should I create a similar yarn later. I am keeping a ‘dye book’ with rough recipes for each yarn along with a small sample. This way I’ll get more predictable results as I gain experience. Check back on my etsy store to see the first cake yarns starting to appear! I’ll be rolling out cake yarns in addition to my soda pop yarns in the month of July!

I been really enjoying using some Boku yarn on a fair isle hat I’ve got on my needles at the moment. Boku works up with stripes similar to Noro, but the Boku is a nicer yarn and not full of knots like I’ve heard Noro is. I’ve enjoyed this Boku yarn so much that I decided I’d like to try my hand at hand-dyeing self-striping yarn. I had a hank of worsted white wool I’d found at a thrift store just sitting around, so I grabbed the yarn and my set of Wilton cake colors. I wound the yarn into 8 smaller hanks of varying lengths and tied them with acrylic yarn to prevent tangles. I didn’t cut the yarn at all, but left the small hanks connected. I then added dye to each one and microwaved it to set the colors. I let the yarn cool down in the remaining dye, rinsed, and was really wowed by the final product. The self-striping process is much more time consuming than soda yarn, but I think the result is worth a little extra.

Here is my first ever hank of hand-dyed self-striping yarn:

And here it is again wound up into a cake:

Finally, we’ve got to have a close up to fully appreciate these colors! I didn’t worry about getting the dye entirely worked into the yarn and have light spots as a result giving the yarn the look of tie dye. I call this colorway “Hippie”.

 

If you absolutely can’t wait to have some self-striping hand-dyed yarn of your own, send me a message via my etsy store and we’ll get a custom order going for you!

Bagel Being

January 30, 2010

A friend of mine ordered a custom bagel being. It’s a life-size crocheted bagel with a face and feet. I stitched him up in such a way as to even create little toes. He could even stand up on those big feet of his. He is made of Red Heart Brand worsted weight yarn and stuffed with a premium fiberfill. I’ve made bagel and donut shapes in the past, but this is the first time I’ve ever made feet. I’m quite pleased with how they came out and will likely make feet following the same technique in the future.

Crocheted bagel being

I love custom orders, so message me and we’ll get something going for you!

I’ve only prepared one gift thus far. I needed to get a gift to my physical therapist early, before we both take holiday breaks. I personally hate gift wrap. I like the process of wrapping, but I always feel so guilty with so much trash on Christmas morning. I used left over material from the shirt I cut up to make pants for Ben’s Halloween costume and made a little bag to fit the Wii game I needed to wrap. I used a cookie cutter for the pattern to make the snowflake and hand stitched it on with white yarn. I also used white yarn to make a double chain for the drawstring. Mike liked the game of course and I can’t wait to see what he thinks of it, but what really made me feel all warm and fuzzy was his appreciation for the awesome little bag.

I’m preparing more for my graduation party than Christmas at this point. Graduation is the 18th and very rapidly approaching. I’m having a Donnie Darko themed graduation party. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, it’s basically going to be an 80’s Halloween party. That means we have an excuse for COSTUMES! My brother wasn’t sure of what to go as, but he LOVES South Park. He asked me to make him a Stan Marsh hat so that he could be Stan. I had left over blue fleece from making Ben’s costume and some scraps of red. The fleece was fantastic. It really looks like a cartoon!

Not bad at all for a quick thing to whip out of scraps in the closet! Dexter is really happy about it. Apparently, now I have to make the rest of the gang so we can all dress up and go places. I get to be Kyle (green is my favorite color), and Scott will be Cartman (the size fits). I’m sure after the hats I’ll be making little red gloves and a collar for a brown shirt.