Saturday, 29 August 2015

Mara and more

After hours spent on the cast off with several hundred stitches, I finally finished the Mara shawl which is free on Ravelry.  The 2x2 rib is not as long as suggested in the pattern but I was concerned about enough wool to cast off.

The double rib uses twice the number of stitches in the single rib and is done by knitting front and back in every stitch except the two at each edge.  Then, the increases continue with four in every second row.  When I decided I would be cutting things fine, I had over five hundred stitches on the needle and each row was beginning to be quite a drag.  The picture shows the edge unblocked.  It took ages to cast off as it was done loosely.  Purl two together and place the resulting stitch back on the left needle.  Purl two together and so on.  The cast off is loose and stretchy but was tedious.

Here is a larger picture.  The shawl is still unblocked here.  Cleckheaton Country which I had from another shawl which I had ripped out.  It is a soft gum leaf green.  It feels very cosy and I often appreciate the warmth around my shoulders of such a shawl.  Winter has been very cold, and while today is spring like, having this finished  gives me a feeling of satisfaction.

That satisfaction's increased by a spot of mending I also did this morning.  Several years ago I bought a commercial pure wool cardigan.  It was on special and I could not have bought the yarn for the price I paid.  It has been very good inside and has been worn a lot.  It is a good weight and handy to grab and put on. To my horror I was out for a birthday, (mine), pizza when I discovered a big hole in the elbow of right sleeve.  After finishing the shawl I found some sock yarn in a colour which would be Ok with the cardigan.  I made two patches, big enough to cover the worn area and have sewn them on.  It does not look wonderful and will mean the cardigan is purely house wear, but it has extended its life and usefulness.  The tulips are from a birthday bouquet for my birthday and that is indeed the colour they were.

Son has his daughters here this weekend although they are out at the park now. It is a beautiful mild, sunny spring day here today after a week of horrible weather and floods in many areas. Miss M had another good report from her fortnightly oncology clinic so we are happy with that.  Getting any breakfast into her is hard.  This morning we had a treat of some very good bacon.  She had four substantial rashers and an egg.  It took forty five minutes for her to eat that, so much must have been cold.  When she was finished she asked if she could have an Up and Go which son keeps for emergency breakfasts if he has little time.  They claim to be the equivalent of two weetbix.  She drank that, so had a substantial start to the day.

When they arrived last night, Big Sister washed her hands and made nachos for us all.  She was very efficient and had her meal worked out well for everything to be ready together.  I haven't had nachos for some years, and totally enjoyed her cooking.

I thought the wind had ripped the McD's flag in two.  It is actually knotted by the wind around the branch of the large Moreton Bay fig.  It has been there like this for a week.  As the branch is over the main road, I think a cherry picker would be needed to free it, rather a ladder against the branch.  Wind was a gale, very unpleasant.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

the new normal?

The last few weeks here have not been good.  Miss M continues to make progress and that is good.  At the oncology clinic a couple of days ago the doctor pointed out to my son that many children have had three hospitalisations in the same time as she has had one.  Admittedly that was a very long stay,  but they are pleased with her progress.  She still has oral chemo to take every day and she is susceptible to the winter coughs and cold and she tires easily.  But she is generally OK.

Family matters have been terrible.  There is a lot I cannot possibly talk about on here, but terrible hardly begins to scratch the surface of what I really think.  There have been lies, tantrums, more lies, downright maliciousness and malevolence.  I cannot believe that a matter which pretty well everyone would view with repugnance has been raised, seemingly lightly,  and tremendous distress and family upset has been caused.  All lies.  How anyone could seem to treat the topic lightly I do not know.

I have been knitting and finished a few things, although not all have been photographed as it slipped past my mind which was not in a good place.I found myself using the knitting to take my mind off other things.  Knit fifteen, pattern, knit fifteen, pattern, and so on. It was very repetitive which was definitely needed by my brain which was darting everywhere at once, or so it seemed.

I made a Cairn hat by Ysolda Teague for a family member who moved to upper Blue Mountains just before the biggest dump of snow there in years.  It looks complicated but isn't, one colour being dealt with a at a time.  I have made a couple of these before, but not for a few years. The person who received this is still working, although contemplating retirement soon.  She leaves home before 6:00 am to walk to the station for the train to Granville where she changes.  She returns home after 7:00 pm.  Not a schedule I would want to keep for long, especially in winter which has been very cold.

This one was for her husband, but I did not like the flare at the base.  I used good wool, had tension and needles right.  I ripped it all out.  It is hard to tell but the top part is made of Quince yarn, Owl, I think.  Dark khaki. The cream is the 8 ply Shetland which Bendigo sold a few months ago.  It is pleasant to knit with and is undyed.

In one way it was annoying to rip it out.  In another way, the very knitting of it was a help to me, so I am just putting it down to experience.  It all helped me in dealing with nastiness and more.

I made a hat from the ebook Head to Toe which I bought last year.  This was for a friend of my son, lovely person.  I can't find a photo of that although I am sure I took one.  She had a birthday so I made a cowl for her from double thickness of Bendigo sock year in variegated blues. This had an easy repetitive pattern which took little thought, freeing my mind to think about other things.  It is cosy, made from two strands of yarn but is soft against the skin.

She loved it and had no idea the knitting she had been admiring was actually for her. It was  somewhat of a surprise to open the package.

 She works in long day care child care and is outside a lot of time in what has been a very cold weather.  I also made her some fingerless gloves in her colours, blues, green and a dash of purple.  I made the wrist part longer so there were no gaps between gloves and sleeves.  This is a poor photo but the feather and fan pattern can be seen, again something which did not need  great deal  of concentration for me.

My son has had a lot of support from a group of guys who seem to have his back covered for him.  This is needed as we often cannot see what is coming next.  We can see the direction it comes from, but not necessarily see the blow till it arrives.  I made a Milkweed Shawl For the wife of one of these fellows.  They have fed him once a week for months, and supported him in many ways.  I have made the pattern several times before and I enjoy it.  Enough pattern to stop boredom, not enough complex knitting so my brain made mistakes.  Apparently she loved it.  Does not do craft herself and so had a great surprise.  I felt I was in some way returning the support they had shown my son.This is being blocked and I have not yet reached the bottom centre of the shawl, so it looks out of shape.  It is finished now.

Finally,, Mara, by Madeline Tosh for myself.  Lots of repetitive knitting of garter stitch which is very soothing.  I am almost down to the ribbing on the edge.  I am not really anticipating this with pleasure as the stitch count doubles for the 2x2 ribbing.  I'll get there.

I said the new normal in my title.  Knitting seems to be back to normal.  I am not sure about other things.  We have been shaken severely over the last few weeks.  I do not want this to be the new normal but recognise it well could be.  Anything to disrupt son's life, anything to be just plain nasty seems  to be what is around now,

Friday, 19 June 2015

head cold

It is now two weeks since I realised my son had passed on his head cold to me.  Two weeks fairly well blanked out in a fog of stuffed head. I am finally beginning to think that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Son was affected as badly as I was and he had a couple of days off work.

During that time, my camera has stayed on the shelf.  However, today seems better and the rain has also gone at least for the moment, so I went out onto the balcony at lunch.  The controls seemed strange at  first on the camera, and there was a chilly wind, so I tried a couple of shots and came back inside.

This is one of the exits from the carpark under the building.  It is accessible only from the inside as the fire escapes lead to the car park.  I took this mainly to see if I could remember what the dials meant on my Fuji camera.

I have done no knitting.  It would have been useless and would have needed ripping out.  I had planned this year on the craft show in town but could not face the effort to get there.  I heard from the president of the NSW Knitters' Guild that there was almost nothing for knitters.  I was glad I did not go.  My hip aches and hates stairs and I  had enough germs of my own without sharing them  or those of others in the crowd.

Here is a picture from my phone.  The old saying goes along the lines of "red sky at night, shepherds' delight.  Red sky in the morning, shepherds take warning."  After a day's rain, there were just a few moments of sunshine right on sunset.  As you can see, lots of red sky.  The saying did not work.  The next day was very wet.

This was taken from inside, looking out to the north west.  Lots of red there.The thing hanging is a crystal mum gave me years ago.  It is in the sun in the morning, that's if there is any, and the crystal splits the light into flashes of its component colours.

This is  another photo taken just a couple of minutes later.  As can be seen, lots of heavy cloud and the heaviness won out over the sun.  The following day was wet.

One of these days, I will return to knitting.  Two hats in as many months is not a good record.

This time a year ago we were planning Big Sister's twelfth birthday party.  Her mum had refused a party for any of them for several years and we had a big one at a park.  She turns thirteen in a week, but this weekend is son's turn to have them.  Because of the uncertain weather, they are doing something different.  A much small number of girls is  going indoor rock climbing this weekend.  She is looking forward to it and will be good.  She is athletic in build but her mind sees pathways and ways to go.

She is halfway through her first year of High School and loves it, especially Science.  A lovely girl, usually bright and cheerful and very helpful.  I have  several SMS messages  sent from son's phone by her.  Each ends LOVE, T.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

cooking in the sun

I have just come inside from topping up my Vitamin D intake.  It was very warm on the balcony and I could easily have gone to sleep out there.  I should have had some knitting but I have been lax about that for a while.  My fingers are still sore and twisted and I have not done much.  Two or three warm hats is about all I have done lately.

Another knitter was in touch with me about arthritis and I am going to speak to my GP.  She said a link has been discovered between arthritis and psoriasis which I have.  She now sees a rheumatologist, has a regimen of treatment and generally feels better than she has done for a while.  It took a while to get an appointment  so I need to visit my GP.

My left hip is very sore from the arthritis and sore from ligament damage  to pelvis.  I have even bought a walking stick as a support, pretty well a psychological support as well as physical.

My last piece of woe has been a cold.  A really truly head cold.  I have not had one for years but son caught one from the daughter of a friend and brought it home.  I caught it from him.  I have had it a week, think it is going, but it was terrible.  Yesterday morning I tidied up after breakfast and sat on the lounge with my feet in the sun.  To my surprise I woke nearly three hours later to find it was almost lunch time.  I guess I needed the sleep.

I was glad it was not the weekend for grandchildren.  They would have had to find things to do out of the place.  Miss M is doing reasonably well and doctors are happy with her.  More than I can say for her mother who is cutting herself off from friends and who is totally vitriolic in anything to do with their dad.   Sad really, she is poisoning herself.

Son had a property hearing two weeks ago and thinks they both received reasonable treatment from it.  The place will need to be sold, but I see today that the suburb is one of fourteen in Sydney which has a 100% clearance rate in auctions for months.  Custody hearing is about three months away yet.

A few months ago we had lunch at a pub in Mt Victoria in the upper Blue Mountains.  I had a blue cheese and mushroom tart  which was very good.  Yesterday I tried to replicate it.  The pastry cracked in my oven, but the filling was good.  Baby spinach, mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese chopped.  I mixed up two eggs with some cooking cream and poured that over the top and added  some grated  cheese.  My oven is savage, so I cooked it at 160° C.  Filling was moist but pastry fell apart.  Very nice and there is some leftover for a lunch.

I have a couple of shawls which need blocking.  The weather is good for that sort of thing and now the cold is beginning to go, I will try to get around to it.

I see it is a month since the previous post.  Perhaps the next time will not be as long.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

old habits

It's very easy to slip into an old habit again after trying to cast it aside.  I see it is a fortnight since I posted.  Still no knitting as fingers ache and I cannot flatten the fingers on my right hand without actually pushing them down flat. My hip is sore, worse some times than others and I have been using a walking stick, more a psychological support than physical.

The last few days have been beautiful and I have been making the most of the sun in the middle of the day.  After Anzac Day we had lots more rain, none of it as destructive here as the earlier session. However, it is now beautiful autumn weather, cool nights, chilly mornings and sunshine.  The picture shows  the first appearance of the sun after some  days.  It was sunset and there were just a few minutes of sun before it disappeared.  Enough to show it really was still there.  The bright bit at bottom of picture is a corrugated iron fence to the stormwater canal near me.  It was just
in position to catch the sun from between a couple of buildings.  City skyline in the background.  Lots of cloud which looked this colour in the sunlight.  I have cropped the original but done nothing more.

I am enjoying my new camera and getting used to the differences between it and the Nikon, mostly shown in aperture settings.  I am using it on fully manual now and enjoying it.  We had a couple of blackouts two weeks ago.  Fortunately with a gas stove top, I could heat dinner.  I ate it by candlelight which I enjoyed.  One son called it romantic.  There by myself?  I don't think so, but it was a pleasant change.  Fortunately I had a candle handy and matches and it wasn't quite dark when the power went off.  I could still see enough to get candle out.

I call this photo the mother ship has landed. I looked out one night to see it attached to McD's roof.  I had heard nothing and it was quite a surprise to see it there.  I did not even hear any compressor to inflate it.  Actually, it is probably more visual pollution and it is still there two weeks later, but it made for a good photo.  No flash, just trial and error with camera settings.  A tripod would have been good  and I have a bendy gorillapod,  as it is branded, but this is OK. The granddaughters were quite impressed to see it when they arrived here last night.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. The top photo in particular benefits from enlarging, although they all look better larger as more details can be seen.

Mother's Day tomorrow, not my favourite festival of the year.  I get tired of seeing beaming mothers in bed being presented with steam cleaners or hair removal gadgets or similar.  I  sent around my sons what I called the "usual mother's day admonition" not to buy me anything.  I don't need a day to remind me of how supportive and helpful they are all year.  We are having dinner at local pizzeria just down the street from where we all lived for so long.  We are regulars there and they know our preferences.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Anzac Day 2015

Anzac Day again and rosemary for remembrance.  It is the centenary, a hundred years since the first day at Gallipoli.

Huge crowds packed Sydney streets eight deep for the march and thirty thousand attended the Dawn Service.  Many are young people and children brought by their parents.  It seems to me that much of the thought is no longer on just remembering those killed, but there is more now.  It came through in the speeches from the Centenary Service at Gallipoli and also here.  What do we make of it?  What lessons can we learn from it.  Where do we go from here?  It would be good today that there will be peace, but let's face it.  That won't ever happen.  Perhaps it is about how we face adversities.

And there were plenty of adversities in the previous week in this state.  A three day storm wrought havoc.  Flooding, trees down, homes floated away on the current and several deaths.  RFS, SES and police and civilians were all out helping in atrocious weather to try to bring relief or rescue to those caught up in the battering Sydney and north and south environs took. The SES responded to around 14,000 calls for help.

Thousands were without power.  One son on the central coast was without power for over five days.  We took him up a gas ring and a full bottle of gas and some basic supplies such as ice which was hard to find up there, more candles and matches, and so on.  He was very glad to have power return on Friday evening after it went out on very early Monday.  There were no trains or buses because of debris on the roads or tracks.  A yacht was shifted from trainline near him.  Fortunately the buses returned after two days and he was able to shower at work.

My son took his two girls yesterday morning to the local service.  He met a friend and her two children there and they all returned here for breakfast   It was lovely to sit in the sun after the dreadful weather of the week just gone.  They cooked bacon and eggs and similar and then spent much of the rest of the day re-arranging his room here.  A lot of his things had just been pushed in wherever they fitted, so everything was pulled out and the bed turned around to make more room.  Then all went back.

I kept out of it.  We had four children here and three adults.  One person fewer was a good idea.  I sat in the sun on the balcony with coffee and phone nearby.  It was lovely.

Then the weather turned again in the afternoon.  A massive storm moved over Sydney and dumped a huge amount of hail  The children here went racing outside and collected several cereal bowls of hail, piled high, from just outside my door which is fairly sheltered.

Today is cold and damp again and grey.  But at least the pictures show there was some sun.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

frack free.

Just a quick post this morning to support what has been called the biggest demonstration in the world.  Perhaps not in numbers but in space.  There is a car decked out like this every five kilometres from Dubbo, I think to Narrabri.  The demo has also taken off on other highways in NSW.

My sister and her husband were rangers at Mt Kaputar out of Narrabri before their daughter was born so she has taken up a position in the area.  It took her most of yesterday to get there from her place and she is staying on a cotton farm of one of the organisers. It will take most of tomorrow for her to return to her home on Mid North Coast.  On passenger side of the windscreen you can see Freedom, the bear I gave her after her first cancer operation in 1997.  He is much travelled, all over Australia in car and van and has now become politically active.  Click to see more clearly.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

long time, no blog, no see

I have been considering a blog entry for some weeks now.  Like much of what I do now, it has taken me time to get around to it.

Last year knocked me around and blogging was one of the casualties.  I lost all incentive and motivation to do much.  I think there was some depression involved as well.  I could sit on my bedside for twenty minutes getting up the energy to have a shower.  Lots happened and much of it was unpleasant.  Not that all is rosy now, but I do feel more inclined to make an effort.

Miss M lost all her hair from the chemo.  She did not go to school till the beginning of the fourth term up here at the beginning of October.  She had work to do, but was very disinclined to do it. One effect of the chemo.  She is now enjoying school although there are few weeks when she is there every day. She went to school class camp and caught a cold.  It flattened her for at least a month, a result of suppressed immune system.

She visits the oncology clinic at least every fortnight, sometimes more if levels of various blood components are not quite right.  She has been on a dose of oral maintenance chemo for six months now and will have probably another three years of this.  She handle this well, knows what to take, what it does, and how to take it.  This is just as well as much of what she takes is cytotoxic and should not be touched by others.  She is generally cheerful, although one sign of recovery is that she is no longer the centre of attention and she misses being in  the limelight occasionally.

Her hair is growing back.  It's not quite as blonde as it used to be, but has lovely deep bouncy curls which she hates.  She wants long straight hair and wants it yesterday.

This was taken surreptitiously on my phone so detail is not as clear as it could be.  However, the curls can be seen.  The girls spend every second weekend here and life is hectic and noisy.  I love having them but enjoy the quiet on thew Monday following their visit.  We teach them cooking and Big Sister has taken to it and can now follow a recipe easily.  Miss M is not as keen, unless it involves lots of sugar or honey like cornflakes liked with honey.  She could eat lollies all day long if I had them in the cupboard.  With the exception of this photo, all others in this post are with my new camera, Fuji XT1.  I made dozens of hats for the Children's Hospital oncology wards.  Son said  nurse cried when he took in a big bag.

My son is still with me and has had a rough year.  A few days after being told he would be made permanent at work, he was sacked.  The company lost a big contract and laid off a lot of staff.

He found a part time job up the road at the local big supermarket, stacking vegetables etc.  He then found a much better job with an old Australian company which has been around for about a hundred years. He loves this and the staff are all appreciative of his work ethic.  Divorce went through a couple of months ago, but hearings for property and custody are pending.

He was not "out looking," but has found someone else, a lovely person who is thrilled with him and he with her.  It all just happened.  She and I get on well together.

All was not well with others.  Youngest son had to move from the house with the jetty as his housemate was ripping him off.  His ex-partner had a couple of moves and a couple of jobs along with some other unpleasant events.

Eldest son  has taken a long time to recover from the very major back operation just before Christmas 2014.  He still sees surgeon every few weeks, attends a clinic for chronic pain, sees GP every week and physio as well.  He has had a couple of trips to London and Frankfurt for work this year.  The only was he can manage  this is by flying business class with flat bed seats.  He  could not have sitting all the  time and especially not in economy seats.

So lots of depressing things to cope with.  My arthritis has ben really bad for weeks, I can't straighten my fingers and other joints are painful.  I tripped and tore the ligament which joins hip and pelvic girdle.  Walking is difficult and stairs are hard as I can feel the lack of support.  I eventually bought a walking stick which helps, even if much is psychological.

I lent my son my big Nikon camera and he took some amazing photos.  The camera was never around when I wanted it.  I finally gave it to him as present for birthday and Christmas and bought a new one for myself.  This has helped my general mood as I experiment.  It was definitely not cheap but it has a wonderful reputation and eldest son has one, an older model is shown in the picture.  It is lovely to use and very versatile.  I have been using it on full manual for several weeks now.  It is a Fuji XT1. Very vintage looking.

Here are a few more which I have taken recently.  The service station at night was taken without a flash, as was the picture of one of my shelves. Settings can go much higher than many other cameras without graininess.  This one took a lot of experimenting to keep the soft ambiance of the lighting but having clarity of the objects on my shelf.  Clicking on any of the photos will give a larger image.

I have done almost no knitting for at least three months.  My fingers are sore and curved and I can't flatten them.  I took a lot of children's hats to the hospital, for both girls and boys and all sizes from toddlers to teens.  I have started a cowl for a woman who's husband has been a big support for my son.  A thank you gift. The fingers feel a bit better so I may give it a try soon.  A little at a time.

This picture illustrates bokeh, the blurring of the background with a focal point in the foreground.  This is one of the lilli pillis on the balcony.  The effect comes from opening the aperture wide, much wider than the light suggests should be the setting.  I have  two lenses, one a 35 mm which is equivalent in Fuji to 52 mm and the other, a macro lens of 60 mm, in Fuji it would be 90 mm.

Well, this is probably more than long enough.  I will try to be more regular and hopefully posting  will help with the depression as the lovely new camera does.  Money well spent.  Son got really good deals for me from his favourite camera place and has given me a few elementary lessons. Various bits and pieces  were thrown in to the deal for me as well.  Extra battery ($80) card reader and other bits and pieces. The manual is now well thumbed as I have learnt my way around it.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

caressa small head

My youngest son is now in late 30s.  Before he was born, a friend made for him a set of leggings and a top from blue Patons Caressa.  They wore and washed well.  A few years ago, I found Caressa was still on sale and I bought a couple of balls.  I have no idea if I used them or what they made but I found some more in a box of 8 ply the other day.

I have been making chemo hats, hat after hat.  It helps my state of mind and I like to think that every hat made is another little head warmed.  My son tells me that hats are always in demand at Westmead Children's oncology, and it's a way to show gratitude for Miss M's treatment.

I use only good yarn, with alpaca, merino, cashmere, silk etc as part of the mix.  Miss M had tried some hats on but said they were scratchy.  However, she approves of mine.

I made a couple with the Caressa and they felt fine.  I was surprised to see that it was still available.

Here are some of them.  The grey/blue mix near the bottom is Caressa.

My eight year old grandson unexpectedly spent a few days here last week.  He was impressed with the hats and went through the pile.  "This is for a teenager, this one is a toddler, I would wear that one," and so on.

My son took around twenty hats to the hospital today.  Winter has struck here and today has an icy wind blowing, so hopefully  they will all warm some bare little head soon.

Life has been humdrum here and at times unpleasant.  I have not been sleeping well some nights and seem to have pulled a tendon or ligament in my groin.  I thought at first it was hip trouble but have observed symptoms closely.  Exercises will help but are unpleasant to do.  They are to strengthen muscles to help hold everything in place.  Walking is slow and sometimes painful. Sudden movement is painful.  Stairs are very painful and I am grateful for a lift in this building.  Sitting is just fine but exercise is also needed.

I had more than I really wanted last Saturday.  Miss T, big sister to Miss M, turned 12 the week before.  Her mother had not had parties for any of the children for several years, so her Dad decided he would have one this year.  It was held at the Armory which is on reclaimed river land beside the Parramatta River, a mile or so upstream from where I grew up.  There are lots of pieces of play equipment and BBQs etc and it is very popular.

We invited friends from school and other areas of her life and had not only cousins and uncles and aunts, but over twenty girls attend.  It was freezing and we walked across quite a large area to get to somewhere with just a bit of shelter.  We had pass the parcel which was very popular but otherwise they preferred to play on equipment.  Lots of lovely presents and she had an absolute ball.

That night he took her to Luna Park for some one on one time.  Again she had a great time and we  have a beautiful picture of them both on a ride.  Life has been tough for her lately and unpleasant for us.  Lots of passive aggression from her mother and resistance to  any arrangements being made.

Miss M has about six weeks left of the last, hopefully,  aggressive chemo.  After that, it will be checkups at the clinic and chemo given there.  This lot is making her very lethargic.  The big black circles have gone from her eyes, but her face is pale and the eye stand out in it.  She is back in the wheelchair and stayed in it all through the party, well rugged up.  The diabetes and pancreatitis is back, but hopefully will go.  She looks pretty bad but are assured her results are just what specialist wants, so have to accept that.

What was good at the party was that there was a school mate of Miss T's there.  She has just been officially declared in remission and her hair has grown back in beautiful ringlets.  It was encouraging for all of us to see her, although she has some issues with bone density caused by the chemo.

My mother had a magic touch with African  violets and they bloomed well for her.  She loved flowers and a pretty garden but was not a gardener.  However, African violets thrived under her care. I do not have that touch passed down to me.  This plant was part of a birthday present given to my eldest son several years ago.  He passed it straight over to me and it has bloomed on and off in the years I have had it.  However I had not had any flowers on it for the best part of a year and I wondered if it needed repotting or was on its way out.  Then suddenly, these flowers appeared.  There are more flowers coming.  It may be a swan song on the part of the plant, but I am enjoying them.

I have decided not to do any hats for a while.  It may be because I packaged them up to go to the hospital.  Who knows?   Last night was disturbed by a recurring stupid dream where I was making a new hat and writing the pattern down.  Over and over, I would knit in my dream, then rip it out and try something different.  I think I will go back to a  shawl for a while.  I have an Aestlight on the needles and am still on the garter stitch section.  I have made several of these and am planning on giving this to a friend from Adelaide in September.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

fraternal hats

All these three hats come from the same ball of Bendigo alpaca.  The difference in colours is due to the light.  I possibly have enough left on the ball to make another small sized hat, but am now knitting yellow for a bit of a change.  My son asked for some smaller hats to be made as well as those with around 80 stitches in a thicker yarn.  One little mite whom they knew at the hospital was diagnosed with leukaemia at three months old.  She didn't quite make her third birthday, although an early party was held for her.  The bottom hat is a downsized version of Odessa which I originally downloaded way back in 2003.  I've made several of this pattern over the years, easy, attractive, quick.  I've even done one with beads but don't think they are suitable for a chemo hat for a sensitive scalp.  The top hat is slightly flatter across the decreases than the second.

Miss M starts the last of the intensive chemo in this original blast of treatment in a few days.  It will probably trigger another bout of diabetes.  Hopefully, that will go in a couple of months when this cycle ends.  She's pretty brave and pricks her fingers for blood sugar level tests every couple of hours.  Not up to doing the injections herself and I hope it disappears before she is old enough for that.  Chickenpox is still doing the rounds at her school, so she has not been attending there.  Her resistance is very low to pretty well anything, and even a cold is a major illness for her.

I don't mind making hats in different sizes.  It's a bit of variety in the knitting.  Heads come in different shapes and sizes and what fits one, won't fit another.  The current knit has eighty stitches and blocks of alternating purl and plan stitches.  I'd like  to do some lace patterns and think they would probably be OK.  Son is not so sure, as the chemo makes the skin very sensitive to sunlight and the scalp can burn easily, even in winter.

It's finally turning to winter.  The nights are getting decidedly chilly and the other morning it was only 4° C here, which is cold for close to the sea in Sydney.  I have seen it colder but not often.  Today is beautiful, very sunny although the morning was cold.  We've had some needed rain as well.

Last week I bought a large rug online for a very reasonable price.  It is to go in the lounge room and is 2.5 by 3.3 metres.  It will cover quite a bit of my plain grey carpet which was the original installation.  Today is Wednesday.  Last Friday I had an email from the courier company that it would be her yesterday.  No rug, no email, no phone call, no message.  Not happy Jan.  That is quite a few days to arrange the delivery and the courier firm had it in their possession on the Friday.  I will give it till later this afternoon before I make a call.  I hate chasing stuff up.  This company is not the one run by Auspost which has a very bad reputation, but  is not much above it.

I am a grammar and spelling pedant.  I make typos, but try to find them, but spelling mistakes are another thing altogether.  It seems that there is very little proofreading done these days.  I guess many of the sub-editors on the Sydney Morning Herald have been pensioned off or just sacked.  The grammar and spelling there gets worse, almost every week.

My son sent this picture from his local Central Coast train station which is being upgraded.  There are many notices around, most warning of danger of glass, equipment etc.  The Transport Minister is known here as Our Glad.  She is fussy about such things as train guards wearing trousers and not shorts.  She does not like knobbly knees.  Trains running on time or cancellations do not seem to be as important to her.  However, any way one looks at this photo, something is wrong.  No proofing apparently.  I am surprised that "maintenance" has been done correctly.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

hats for the hydra or... four heads are better than one

I have been working on chemo hats for the Children's Oncology wards at Westmead.  Three wards, each with baskets for donations.  My son can drop them off in the afternoon even if Miss M is not an inpatient, as he works nearby.  Hats are always needed, they treat many hundreds of children with cancer a year.  Miss M was  reluctant to try my hats at first as she had tried the donations and many were knitted with yarn which felt scratchy to her.  She wasn't keen on the acrylic either.  However, she knows I use good yarn and is happy to wear what I made for her.  She's also happy that any I donate are made  from good quality yarn too.

They are a great way of using up stash yarn.  Heaven knows I could knit hundreds and not need to buy yarn.  I find that knitting a variety of hats makes them less boring.  So there are stripes, ribs, some lace, different styles.

The yellow and grey are made from Bendigo five ply and are quite soft.  The yellow is a beret style with a picot edge.  The grey is the pattern Coronet which is free on Ravelry, although my pattern was downloaded well before Ravelry in 2003.  It's originally for 8 ply but using 5 ply downsized it automatically for me.  I'm going to make Odessa for the next hat.  Again, it's an old pattern to me and I have made quite a few.  No beads though, I don't want a tender scalp to be irritated by them.

The other two  are made from Quince and Co in Owl or Owl Tweet.  That's an Aran weight.  I cast on eighty stitches, knit till it looked around the  right length and decreased.

There is one more hat with a pink strip around the edge from the Powderpuff Suzyhausfrau Aran.  However, I can't find a photo of that.  It was dark green with  a narrow strip near the border which used up the very last of the oink from the Acadian shawl.

This photo of the Acadian shawl was taken a couple of days ago when it was straight off the needles and as yet unblocked.  There was a break in the grey light outside, so I took advantage of that.  The pattern is free on Ravelry, easy to do.  The yarn is lovely to work with, soft and pleasant through the fingers.  It's also very warm.

The wrap is still unblocked.  The weather has been damp.  when it wan't damp, it was wet.  The yarn is thick and I didn't want it hanging around for days to dry.  It will be snug and cosy now that winter seems to be finally arriving.

As always, clicking on the image will enlarge it.

I said that I was going to try for two hats a week.  This is four hats over three weeks.  Arthritic fingers and other joints didn't help.  However, I can't let it bother me if I don't keep up.  My knitting is not meant to produce anxiety for not keeping to the standards I originally set.  Any hat is another little head kept warm and is better than no hat at all.  Knitting is a means of relaxation and meditation for me and it isn't that if I worry about keeping up.

I have been using my swift a lot lately.  I love it and it has made winding yarn ever so much easier.  I used to use one end of the rectangular table on the balcony to hold the yarn but this is so much quicker and I now have a different table.  The ball winder is great, but it slips a bit on my glass table.  I think I will try a bit of non-slip rubber on the top as well as the base of the clamp.

Miss M seems to be well and is certainly enjoying three weeks without being admitted as an inpatient.  Next week sees the start of the last few weeks of the intensive chemo which started on New Year's Day with the diagnosis.  That is another  eight weeks.  If all goes well, there will be clinic administered maintenance doses and regular testing after that for a very long time.  Some years.  If she becomes sick with any infections, she has to be taken straight to hospital for monitoring as an inpatient, as the body has little to fight infections.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


I have been making steady progress on the Acadian shawl.  It will block to perhaps more than a wrap but not really a shawl.  I have done 13/23 repeats of the diamond edging, so am over halfway to the finish.  I have only three more repeats before I start the decreasing in the body of the knitting.

The Aran weight yarn is lovely to knit, soft on the fingers and I am enjoying the pink which is not a colour I would normally choose for myself.  I am wondering just what I am going to block this on.  The picture shows less than half of the knitting and it will be bigger when blocked.  Now if my spare bed were available it would be good.  However, son now sleeps in that room, so I can hardly take over his bed with a wet piece of knitting.

I just realised he'll be away from Friday morning till late Monday of this coming long weekend.  If I get a move on and finish the knitting, I may be able to use his bed to oread out the knitting on a blanket.

It's finally beginning to cool down.  Still too warm in the middle of the day but the nights are getting colder.  It was 6° here yesterday morning around 7:30.  The colder night gave me a wonderful sleep, eight hours without stirring.  I haven't slept as well as that for a very long time.  It was lovely to wake and see how long I had slept without waking even once. A little bit warmer this morning but still chilly and beautifully sunny.  The sun fills most of my lounge room early theses days as it's low enough in the winter sky to come straight in under my balcony roof.  Very pleasant it has been too, to have my second  cup of coffee in the sunshine.

It's a bit weak looking here but it's not long up and there was some fog outside.  While it's been a bit nippy, I haven't had the heater on much at all this year yet, perhaps just twice in the evening.  Gas costs have risen enormously, so if I cam make do without the heater, then I will.  I've been fine with an extra layer on at night but won't hesitate to turn it on if needed.

Waste not, want not, take two.  I darned a pair of socks a few weeks ago and went to wear them again today.  They are old, absolutely nothing fancy but I have always liked them  They are made from Lionbrand Magic Stripes yarn which came from an online shop in Melbourne at least twelve years ago if not more.  As I said, nothing fancy at all.  It's called sport weight.

There was another hole in them,  Nothing surprising, you say, considering their age. Perhaps not but this hole was in a strange place and I think that somehow I must have pulled a thread.  It was in the middle of the top of the instep, right before the cuff of the leg.

So I sat down just after breakfast in the sun which was just coming in then.  What a virtuous feeling darning produces!

I pulled out my cowrie shell which was always used for darning.  I think there was a larger one, but this size works too.  I know people who used an old light bulb or even an orange to slip into the sock to stretch out the hole for easy darning.

My grandmother taught me to darn, very many years ago.  I am very much out of practice but want to wear these socks as long as possible.  I remember when Woolworths and Coles as variety stores selling hanks of  multi-coloured strands of darning wool.  There were hanks in grey tones, brown tones and blue tones.  That's a long time ago too, well before the advent of nylon socks or other mixes of yarn,

I split some very dark grey yarn into its plies. The aim was to match the thickness of the thread  to the thickness of darning  yarn as well as possible.  This makes a smooth, non-lumpy darn. I was not worried about the colour and had nothing to actually match the sock.  After all, who will see it apart from myself?

I ran a thread of small running stitches in a  square right around the hole.  Just into the solid knitting.  This stabilises the material and forms a good base for the darn.

I then criss-crossed the hole with yarn from one side of the square to the other, catching in any stray actual stitches possible.  Threads should lie as closely as possible together.  Picture shows this in progress.  My grandmother  could place threads so closely together that they looked like solid material.  I was never able to get them as close together as she considered necessary.

When the hole has been filled, turn the sock around 90 degrees.  Work the needle under and over the base of threads which now lie at right angles to your work.  extend the dar into the solid part of the sock and again, place the threads as closely together as possible.  Keep an even tension and don't pull tightly on the yarn as this will cause uncomfortable lumps int the dar, which will irritate the foot.

Weave in the ends and voilĂ  your sock has been mended.  As I said, it gives a virtuous feeling of making something useful again.  After all, the socks took a lot of time and effort to make.  Why not mend if possible?