Friday, November 27, 2015

Sewing with Attitude

Thank you all for your enthusiasm for my simple coat, my spinning and my birthday.
And your kind words of comfort and encouragement for FL.

Life continues apace.  Another week has passed and I have not hit the "publish" button, despite a few attempts to drag my thoughts out into the world.
So let's have another try.

Sewing... what's next?

I am having kittens about this dress from Poetry.  It is made of impractical lightweight wool and costs £139.
And the more I look at it, the more I fear it looks like a nightshirt.
But imagine the same in a plain teal herringbone flannel...?
Ooh yeah!
I am on to it. 

I had a minor splurge in the Village Haberdashery sale today, and bought some beautiful plain-coloured jersey to make three long-sleeved tops.
Practical, some would say boring.

Rather less pedestrian inspiration has hit me in the form of Vogue 8813:

Have you see what IvyArch has done with this pattern?  Wow!
I am on the lookout for warm, drapey fabric with an interesting print.
Any recommendations?

I am trying not to over-commit myself by building up my fabric and pattern stash.
Sewing feels more difficult in the winter.
But that is the wrong attitude!
I need to let my inspiration lead me where it wants to go.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fifty First Snow and a Ladybug

I am told that it always snows just before my birthday.
This year, it was a day late.
I took a holiday to celebrate - not by getting inebriated (tempting though it was) but to take delivery of my brand new shiny spinning wheel - yay!

It is a Schacht Ladybug.  Every one has a tiny red and black pin in a secret location - every one is unique.

FL was asleep when it arrived and missed the hilarity of its assembly.  I felt quite proud when I had finished, without the need to refer to a "how to" video.

Actual spinning took me rather longer.  (And several videos.)

But by the end of the weekend, I was producing a passable single in a particularly pungent hue of pond scum green.

The fibre I used was not the best choice for a beginner, but I didn't want to ruin the good stuff.

This only cost me £3.25 for 100g from World of Wool and is a blend of merino, bamboo and soy bean.  It is wonderfully silky to the touch, but very slippery.

I am amazed I managed to spin it at all.
Proper sheepy wool will be a relief after this.


In knitting news, I am storming through my bright orange Angelus Novus cardigan.  I predict it will be finished before the end of the month. 

There is also secret Christmas knitting.  But it is a secret :)


I don't quite know what to tell you about FL.

He is really struggling at the moment.

We are at the hospital every two weeks now.
No Pomalidomide, no dexies.

He is in a great deal of pain, has a chest infection and an eye infection, and is completely miserable.
I don't like leaving him alone, but I can't always work from home.

The Consultant asked me if we were coping and I said "We are managing"... but I know it is not sustainable.

I did not opt for Voluntary Severance and I have been Restructured.
It is not ideal, but I am probably one of the lucky ones.

I have blue hair again.
So life is good ;)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

FO: A Simple Coat

It is 7 years since I made a coat.
Alas, when it came out of storage this time around it was almost bald in places.  I had washed it before putting it away, and the wool had finally given up its fluff.
Time for another.

In the quest for a substitute, I fell for this herringbone wool mix from Sherwoods Fabrics. The fabric is lighter in weight than I expected, with a perilously open weave.  So a fairly dense lining was essential.  I settled on a black paisley satin from Minerva Crafts.  It is soft and drapey and works well with the airy herringbone.

I decided to use the Maya dress pattern, my go-to pattern of 2015, adding simple sleeves with darts below the elbow to control the width.

I wanted to avoid visible stitching, so made bagged hems, slip stitching the lining to the facings by hand.

A coat without pockets is of no use to me, so I drafted a couple of big fellas :)
They are lined.
Those wrinkles are caused by the phone in my pocket... just as well I added the lining or they would have sagged down to my knees in no time at all.

The vintage buttons were an Etsy find, all the way from Vancouver.
That's my carbon footprint thoroughly muddied.
Sorry, planet, but I love them.

I considered making bound buttonholes, but was worried that the fabric was too unstable.
Instead, I followed the instructions in my sewing machine manual for a "buttonhole gimp".  This involved stitching a fine cord into the edges of the buttonhole to add strength.  I am really pleased at how well these turned out.


Pattern:  Maya by Marilla Walker with self-drafted sleeves (with thanks to a vintage Simplicity blouse pattern), in size 2.

Fabric:  Herringbone wool mix from Sherwoods fabrics and black paisley lining from Minerva Crafts.

Other:  Vintage buttons from Etsy.  Black satin bias binding from stash (ebay, years ago).  Thread.


I wanted a "dressing up" coat.
It is of no earthly use to me around the farm, but I work in the city in an increasingly grown-up job and sometimes I need to look like I actually belong there.

Is it the coat of my dreams?
Um...  no... because that would be a shocking pink fun fur yeti coat ;)

Will I wear it?
Oh yes!

Will it require its own library of matching knits?

Absolutely - watch this space!

PS:  Worn here with my subversive schoolgirl Camber dress and neon mirrorball cowl.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Under the Influence

November already!
My socks
Since last I wrote, another pair of Arne and Carlos Regia socks has fallen off the needles.  I squeezed His 'n Hers socks out of 100g of self patterning yarn, plus 50g of plain red.  Bargain!
I am saving FL's pair for Christmas or a time of great need, whichever comes first.  The jury is out on the more likely of those two scenarios.

FL's socks

This left a sock-shaped vacancy on my needles, so I decided to cast on a pair of knee high colourwork socks, Talia by Rachel Coopey.  I probably managed two rows in the Waiting Room on Tuesday before I got bored of knitting 104 stitches in twisted rib on 2.25mm needles.
This does not bode well!

So perhaps it is just as well that I have been struck by an unnatural obsession with another knitter's cardigan, to the extent of emailing her to ask for a custom dye of matching yarn, so that I can be her Northern Scottish twin.

"Shepard's Warning" by The Wool Kitchen
This is what comes of a recent bout of binge-listening to UK-based podcasts.  It led me into a rabbit warren of links:  Curious Handmade, ShinyBees,  the Wool Kitchen,  East London Knit... on and on I burrowed, until I fell upon Helen's version of the Angelus Novus cardigan by Renee Callaghan.
GASP!  It shall be mine!!!
And lo, it shall indeed :)

Hospital Update:

The doctors are still pondering what best to do for FL.  He has 12% myeloma cells in his bone marrow (bad, but not as bad as it could be). However, the main problem is that his blood cells are "dysplastic".  I understand this to mean that they are not regularly replacing themselves with healthy new cells. Instead, the proportion of dodgy dud cells is increasing, making FL less able to fight infection and less able to cope with chemotherapy.

So, although there is an intravenous  chemo drug called Bendamustine (forever lodged in my brain as "Bendy-Bus") it is far too toxic for FL's system to cope with, so is off the menu.  There is another called Idarubicin, which can be taken in tablet form and they are considering this one.  However, a cursory Google search tells me that 9 out of 10 patients experience a wide range of side effects including vomiting, exhaustion and generally feeling terrible when taking this delightful drug.  I honestly think they will have to rule that one out on the grounds of reduced quality of life.

Which leaves us with...?
The doctors have no other ideas at the moment, other than to give FL a steroid boost.

So this week FL has 4 consecutive days of Dexamethasone to look forward to.  He is still taking Pregabalin to try to combat the nerve pain, but it doesn't seem to be making any difference yet.

We go back to the hospital in another 2 weeks for the results of his latest Freelite test, to see if the Myeloma is sneaking up on the outside lane in the dark with its headlights off, since there is nothing to stop it.  They still haven't ruled out going back to Pomalidomide, but I would be surprised if they manage to justify it to the NHS funding panel.

Just keeping on knitting.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow Season

 It took me until this weekend to set aside my summer clothes.  It has been warmer here in October than it was in July, so I had put off the inevitable.  But with the changing of the clocks and the first log fire of the season, the time had clearly come.
I unpacked: two flannel Camber dresses, two wool skirts, and three warm cardigans.  All handmade.

There is a jangling of empty hangers in my wardrobe, but they have a pleasant chime.  I am not in a rush to fill them.

I started work on a new winter coat a few weeks ago. 

I am using Marilla Walker’s Maya Dress pattern, with some self-drafted sleeves which owe a lot to a 1960’s Simplicity blouse pattern.

The fabric is a herringbone wool mix, which is not as heavy as I expected.  It is a “dressing up” coat rather than a weather-resistant one.

This weekend I got as far as making a bagged lining, and now it is hanging up to find its shape as the wool relaxes.  At the moment I have an unintentional scalloped hem!

I have ordered some gorgeous vintage buttons.  I am still deciding whether or not to try my hand at bound buttonholes.
Slow and steady, little by little, I am making a coat.

And when my first Skein Queen club surprise package arrived the other day, the plan for matching knits came together a little more clearly.  Ooh!  Lovely!

I am not completely sure, but I think I will make a scaled-down version of the Sunwalker shawl by Melanie Berg.  I only have 400m and the full-sized Sunwalker takes more than twice as much yarn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Toesday in the Waiting Room

For the Myeloma fans, with a dash of knitting.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my last update.
I listened and I understood and I am thinking.

Waiting Room knitting -two sock toes
FL went back to see the Consultant yesterday.
We are not much further forward... except... maybe that says it all.

The blood test anomalies which confused the Consultant and other doctors over the past couple of weeks are still present, but are no longer a cause for immediate concern.
All of the following are slightly better:  kidney function is ok, his potassium level is no longer a threat to his heart, and he is not as anaemic as he was.

However, there are still the unexplained "raised eosiniphils".  Now that I have worked out how to spell that phrase, I have googled it :)
It would appear that the most common causes of raised eos are: allergies related to asthma; a parasitic infection; a drug allergy.
However, a little deeper delving revealed a study that linked raised levels of eos  with cancer activity in the bone marrow.  Another google took me to the Mayo Clinic where they have found raised eos in patients with CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukemia). 

The Consultant only had the initial results of FL's bone marrow test from last week:  there was "some Myeloma" but mainly the test revealed "very scruffy cells" which the Consultant attributed to the many chemotherapies FL has endured over the past 8 years.  Basically, FL's bone marrow is worn out.

The full bone marrow results will include a report on "genetics".  That will reveal whether or not his cancer has mutated.  The Mayo pages on CML say that it is diagnosed by the presence of the "Philadelphia chromosome", a mutated gene....way too much detail that I don't really understand.
Stop googling Roo!

New yarn - because I knit socks

The bottom line is that the Consultant will not make a decision on whether or not to restart FL on Pomalidomide until she has the full bone marrow test results. 
Saying that, I felt as if we were being prepared for  the "no more Pom" talk.  She was especially kind to FL and appeared to be shifting her emphasis from attacking the cancer to reducing his pain.

Having been weaned off Gabapentin, FL is now trying out Pregabalin for his nerve-related pain. He is still taking Co-Codamol for the bone pain.

Back to the hospital in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bobbing Up and Down

FL and I have been spending more time in waiting rooms.
I am so very glad I knit.

Last week he had a Radiotherapy appointment to try to reduce the pain in his upper arm.
I knitted a hat.
It is the Qwist by Melanie Berg - it is a gorgeous pattern and I plan to knit the matching mitts.

There was a squirm-worthy conversation with the Doctor who asked me if I lived with him or if he lived with me?  Um... we live together.  "Oh!  That's lovely!" she said.
I was too tired to explain that I thought this was normal behaviour among married couples.
I mean.... ach! 
Words fail me sometimes.  The assumptions people make...!

Sock One = Monday
On Monday, we saw the Consultant again.
She spent a long time quizzing FL about his symptoms and staring at her computer screen.
She doesn't know what to do for the best.
His Freelite score is bobbing up and down around the 160 mark (I am not sure if this is the ratio or the difference between his kappa and lambda - she seems to report it either way.)

  • His blood is showing an increasing immunological reaction to something unknown, probably a drug.
  • His kidney function is not as good as it has been.
  • There was a query around his potassium level, so she tested it again.

The Consultant did not want to risk prescribing Pomalidomide until she was sure that the superdrug was not to blame for his symptoms, so she ordered a bone marrow test for this coming Thursday.
She advised us to wean him off the Gabapentin he has been taking for his nerve pain (post-shingles), as it doesn't appear to be helping and may be doing harm.
Sock Two = Wednesday
On Tuesday morning, a doctor rang FL at home.
I was at work, stuck in a 3 hour long meeting.
When I came out, I discovered FL had been trying to ring me all morning.  He said the hospital wanted him to come in asap... but he didn't know why and he had told them it would have to wait til Wednesday because I was in the city and he was home alone on the farm.
I am a Bad Carer!
I tried to contact the hospital but the doctor was not available.  The receptionist said just to bring FL in the next day (today).
At 4.30, a doctor rang me back and said his potassium level had increased significantly and was a cause for concern.
"If he deteriorates overnight, just bring him straight in!"
Thanks.  I feel really great about this.

So we didn't get much sleep.

Today (Wednesday) we spent 5 hours in the waiting room to be told his potassium had fallen slightly and his kidneys appear to be coping.
So they sent us home again... until tomorrow when he will have his bone marrow test and they will check his blood again while he is there, "just in case".

Meantime, I had to ask a work colleague to cover a meeting for me at very short notice.
My future role has not been confirmed, despite a polite email to the boss.
Some parts of my job (but not all) have been moved to a different section.
FL thinks I need to read between the lines...

Fun times.

But the good news is that Rachel Coopey has brought out her own line of sock wool, Socks Yeah! You can order it from Purlescence, Suffolk Socks or Meadow Yarn.
I certainly have! :)