Stuck on the Flax sweater (but at least I have tea and sweet potatoes)

I made it through the collar. Ribbing isn’t difficult. And then I had an increase round. That was also easy. I got it up to the correct number: 144 stitches. The pattern is free, you can check it out here if you want.

At that point, I read the pattern while simultaneously trying to watch a movie. Jay had left, so Clarica took the pattern out of my hand, and gave me verbal instructions on what to do next. I went along, getting the yoke all set up, and then she told me what to do, and apparently what happened is that I promptly forgot half of it.

Which is why, about 12 rows later, I realized that something was wrong. I was increasing correctly on only half of each garter panel. Wellll, crap. I’d been having this niggling feeling, as I went along, that I was missing an increase on either side, but there was a war between “what I think Claire told me to do,” and what “seemed right”. I should have listened to what Claire told me to do (she will joke that of course this should always be my guiding principle). When I saw how off the shape was, I knew I had to pull it out, or frog it, as they say.

I considered just ripping it down to nothing because I couldn’t figure out how I’d be able to magically stop right after the ribbing, and then pick up all those stitches. I knew it’s possible, but I didn’t feel like that was quite in my skill set yet. Oh, sometimes it’s magic to be wrong – I pulled those suckers out, and then I took my circulars, and I picked up exactly 144 stitches – the row right after the initial increase. I squealed, then cheered! My family, who were all trying to watch a show, gave me quizzical looks.

“I have 144 stitches! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”

They were not as impressed as they should have been.

Here’s where I got stuck again:

The next round is the marker set up.

P17, PM, K55, PM, twice.

Purl 17 stitches. Place a marker. Knit 55 stitches. Place a marker.

Purl the next 17. Place a marker. Knit 55. Place a marker.

At this point I should be right back at that first purl stitch. I’ve cycled around all 144 stitches. My next stitch is a purl.

And yet here’s the next instruction. It’s to do Setup round 1. First step? KFB, knit to 2 stitches before raglan marker, KFB, K1.

So I’m supposed to KFB into the first purl stitch? What? But then later, I’m supposed to be preserving those 17 purl stitches, they constitute the garter strip that goes down the sleeves.


It’s 11pm, and everyone here is heading off to bed. Which is fine because none of them knows how to knit, anyway. Claire will be here tomorrow and I’ll ask her what the heck I’m not seeing. Obviously, she knew how to read the pattern correctly, she had me set it all up right the first time.

Time to make some tea, and eat my nightly sweet potato*.

*Explanation of nightly sweet potato: two things.

1) I’m trying to eat more vegetables. I hear people who live a long time eat a lot of vegetables, and I’d really like to be a healthy, vibrant old lady (with long white braids wrapped around her head, maybe some flowers worked in there).

2) The functional medicine psych I’m seeing for the anxiety and fibromyalgia has been urging me to work at changing my gut microbiome, and apparently sweet potatoes (among other veggies) have a good starch that is beneficial to the gut bugs.

My new nightly routine is to cut up a sweet potato into wedges, toss it in a little olive oil, and lay it out on a pan, put some Sandwich Sprinkle over it (that stuff is great on everything), and then bake it at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. I’m not sure if my gut biome is changing, but I’m liking the new habit.

Favorite Photo Friday

I used to have a FinnZo Friday Feature, which was me posting a photo every Friday of one or both of our two dogs. But then the blog was migrated and the links were coded wrong and my head exploded, so I decided I’d start a new Friday Feature. Instead of just the doggos, I’ll make it all my favorite photos from the past. There are so many! My Smugmug and Flickr archives are bursting. It’d be fun to revisit old memories.

The little rucksack that started it all

This is me when I was…..younger than I am now. I’m thinking 8 or so? And that yellow backpack, that thin little yellow rucksack, is what started me down the road to becoming a total bag fiend. I love this picture because it’s an origin story. My grandma Bev gave me that backpack for Christmas, and it was filled with coloring books and crayons (which I’m using in the photo), and undoubtedly some Three Musketeers bars. I loved that bag. It became a comfort object, I took it with me wherever I went, filled with a stuffy, my art stuff, and whatever small survival object I could find (a wad of string – YOU NEVER KNOW – or a toothbrush, in case I was kidnapped and taken to another country where….there were no toothbrushes; clearly anticipating my biggest concern in any kidnapping situation).

Right after I turned 10 years old, the movie Cloak and Dagger came out, and I was obsessed! I loved it! I could have adventures like Davey! I could work with my friends to solve a mystery (and get help from my annoying little sister, if I’d had one), and I could run away from bad guys and save the day. And at every turn, whenever the hammer was just about to fall, I’d pull something OUT OF MY RUCKSACK (a baseball! a walkie talkie!) and use it to get myself out of any pickle. I’d be Davey, only a girl. MacGyver, only a girl. Or I’d be just like the boys in Explorers (age 11), but a girl. Or like Data in The Goonies, only a girl.

When my kids were little and we had Dora the Explorer, who had an entire song about her backpack, well, I was pretty happy about that.

My nostalgia for this little yellow bag is off the charts, amplified by the fact that my first bike was also yellow. When I become a Tom Bihn fanatic a few years ago, they had a color called Solar, that was a gorgeous bright yellow Dyneema fabric. It’s since been retired, but I was able to grab several Solar items before they were gone, and years later, I still love them.

This one is the project bag for my sock knitting:

They don’t have Solar anymore, but there are some other great colors if you need a project bag!

Jay and I are making a friendship sweater

If I don’t start writing this now, imperfectly and rambly, it will never get done. I’ve come to see how this is a combination spoonie/ADHD problem – I’ll have an idea for a blog post, and I’ll write half of it in my head (perfectly!) but then never get to writing the actual post at my laptop because I’m too tired or in too much pain. Or I’m completely out of executive function because of the ADHD or because of the chronic fatigue – which worsens executive function (that’s why they call it “fibro fog“). “I can’t write in that state,” I’ll think. “It’ll suck.” Maybe it will. But, as they say, perfect is the enemy of the good, and waiting until I’m clear-headed and full of energy means I’ll never get to anything.

So here we go, with imperfect blogging.


I’m knitting an entire sweater! Rather, I’m planning on making an entire sweater. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as the whole point of blogging this process is to encourage myself to keep at it. Telling the internet your goals is usually a bad idea, but I’m making an exception here because the goal isn’t a deeply personal one, and because I want to connect with other knitters (HI! I’m Direcorgi on Ravelry).

If we’re going to get technical, I have knit sweaters before, but only a couple of times, and they were very tiny. It’s not that they don’t count, it’s just that my current venture will require a lot more commitment and attention to detail. I’m a slow knitter, made slower by chronic illness issues and a lifelong devotion to novelty.

Here’s the one I made for our daughter way back in 2005. I’ll replace this shot with a better one of the whole sweater, when I can find that album of pictures (see future post, “How I decided between Flickr and Smumug” to be written after I’ve made my decision). The pattern I used is a paper one I picked up at my LYS (local yarn store) when I lived in Portland. I can’t remember the name of the company that produced the pattern (does it help if I say it was printed on yellow paper?), but if I find it I’ll update this post. 

I know other babies are cute, but dang.

We’re making friendship sweaters!

We! Jay and me! This was all Jay’s idea. She texted me one day and said she’d bought a sweater kit from Bluprint (an offshoot of Craftsy), and would I want to buy the kit too, and knit it with her, and we could make friendship sweaters? She is so great. I loved this idea, and immediately said yes and bought the kit. It arrived, we spent the evening with my ball winder and swift winding up all the yarn into ready-to-go balls, we swatched and we got started……and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s a simple pattern in theory, but following it required too much attention. I like patterns I can mostly memorize and just refer back to every now and then. This wasn’t that. Every row I knit I had to watch the directions carefully or I’d make a mistake, and I just didn’t have that kind of mental energy.

I made a joke about wondering how many pairs of socks I’d have to knit Jay to make up for her taking over this project and knitting my friendship sweater herself. Halfway through a discussion of a totally different topic, she leaned over and said, “I think maybe 3,” and I laughed out loud. Can I just say: having spoonie friends is wonderful. Friends, in general, are wonderful, and my connections to the people in my life are definitely the best part of my life, but when you can feel safe to just have your struggles around someone, it’s so big. Sometimes when a friend is like, “Hey, I see you, I see that struggle, let’s just put that down,” it’s like, thank you.

Finally, I had to put this struggle down, and admit I wasn’t enjoying it. It was so slow-going, such a painful slog, that I knew I wouldn’t keep at it over time, and I really wanted our friendship sweaters to get made. I explained why I was struggling, and Jay suggested we try a different sweater pattern. One where I could just knit without having to refer back to the pattern for every row.

Enter FLAX!

Jay had knit a couple of Flax sweaters, from Tin Can Knits, already. She said the pattern is really simple. It’s actually designed to be a person’s first sweater pattern! YES!

It’s a FREE download, and it comes in a great range of sizes! YAY! And they have tons of tutorials about both their patterns and other knitting skills!

I could not download fast enough. I put the pattern on my iPad. My favorite iPad app for PDFs is PDF Expert by Readdle, I just highlight patterns as I go along. I can add notes and stuff, without worrying about damaging the pattern or losing the copy I’m highlighting.

Step 1: Swatching

Swatching has been….a little tough. I used the same yarn I got for the first sweater, it’s the right weight. But while both swatches seem to give me 4.5 stitches per inch, the swatch that was knit on 8’s (size of needle called for in the pattern, not that that matters much), came out to 3.5 inches, while the swatch on the size 9’s came out within a hair’s breadth of 4 inches wide.

Since 4 inches is the correct gauge, I ought to just use the 9’s, but I had a bit of stress about this because, for whatever reason, knitting with the 9’s was harder than the 8’s. There shouldn’t be that big a difference. If the 8’s feel okay, I don’t see why the 9’s would feel so wrong, but they did. They felt disproportionately bigger and clumsier, and I was struggling with them. It was weird, I’ll admit. When I blocked both swatches, I thought the one on the 9’s would be all huge and hole-y, but it looks just fine. You can barely tell the difference, in fact the only way I could differentiate between them was that the 9 swatch is a half inch bigger. I guess there’s my answer: learn to adjust to the 9’s. Or end up making a sweater one size smaller than I am, and……shrink? Unlike wool, I won’t felt up in the wash (with the number of hot baths I take in a month, I’d know by now). No, better make the sweater to actually fit me.

Jay, for her part, is finishing the original sweater (she’s so speedy, it’s amazing), and then she bought her own new cache of yarn for her Flax. Only this time we took it one awesome step farther: she got the same color as me. Sitting at the table, gleefully planning the new friendship sweater, she points at my ball of yarn and says, “You know, I almost got that moss color, it’s a really beautiful green.”

Me, immediately: “Yes! Get the moss!”

“Do you think that’s okay?” Jay asks.

“It’s perfect! We’ll be twinsies! And then we can get a picture of us together with them on!”

“And I’ll make us matching hats!”

“And I’ll make us matching socks!”

Our voices were pretty high by this point. Jay’s spouse was hilariously rolling their eyes.

Jay already made us cowls!

Okay, now to get those first stitches on the needles. Maybe a bath first. It’s snowpocalypse here in Seattle, so I’ll have a good few days to get started. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I’ll be able to post an update more exciting than, “Look! I got to Row 3!”

No pressure, future me!

Pertinent links:

Inktober, and goodbye to sweet, funny Debbie Sarow

For the last week or so I’ve been really sick and not making art, so I was grateful to Inktober for making it easy to get five words into one image so I can play catch-up a little easier.

Not sure what I caught, but two other people in my house caught it, too. They don’t have fibromyalgia, though, so they’re well over it. I’m going on day 10 and still coughing. Chronic illnesses drag out “regular” illnesses. If you’re used to getting over a cold in a week, with fibro you can extend that to two weeks, and then add on a recovery week where you’re not symptomatic but you just can’t move. It’s…..tiring. Weak, Scorch, Drain, and Swollen are words that all go to being sick.

Goodbye, Debbie, I’ll miss you

Breakable goes to what happened to my heart today, when I found out that Debbie had died. Debbie Sarow is – was – the owner of Mercer Street Books, my favorite bookstore in Seattle. It’s a tiny little thing, tucked into a long, narrow space right down the block from the Pagliacci’s, but when you stepped inside you were suddenly in a warm, welcoming, book-filled slice of heaven. Deliciously high wooden shelves line every wall and form three long aisles down the center, there is art everywhere (just look up!), and well-loved plants are perched on every available surface. I could live there quite comfortably.

Greg and Jason and I went in today, to sell back books, like we have a few dozen times before over the last eight years. Debbie always remembers us, and she and I would talk and talk. The routine was always us dragging in bags of books, then walking off to get dinner, then coming back to find she’d sorted through everything and had our credit ready. Then we walked around the store for an hour or so, shopped until we’d burned through our fresh credit, and headed out. Half the time Greg would be waiting by the door, our transaction complete, while Debbie and I finished our conversation. One time there was no one else in the store and he had to wait half an hour for she and I to be done (thankfully he had lots to read).

I didn’t know Debbie socially outside the store, so I will admit I was surprised at my own reaction to finding out she’d passed away. We came in to see someone else manning her desk, which was odd. Debbie was always there. I’d never been in the store when she wasn’t. The new person was helping another customer, so my eyes fell to the table next to the desk, where enticing new arrivals are usually set. Instead, there are pictures of Debbie, and a notice explaining her passing. Greg had gone to park the car, and Jason was standing, politely waiting for the clerk to be ready to help us. I felt disbelief, so sharp – this was so impossible – how could she have died? And then I burst into tears. I stepped behind Jason and hid my head against his jacket, and just cried.

For years I’ve known that I get so much out of the small exchanges that happen with the people I interact with every week in our neighborhood. It’s a vitally important part of my life, and its deterioration here is a big reason we’re moving.  Debbie was one of my favorite people. She was a link to the city, a link to books, to intelligent conversation, to a relaxed comfortableness that I just can’t find in hyper-busy, overcrowded Seattle anymore. She had a hilarious, dry sense of humor, and we cracked each other up. Bonding over laughter is my favorite kind, and we’d often said we should go get coffee. I wish we had! She was just a lovely person. I’m going to miss her very much. I’m so sorry for her family and friends, who had the chance to know her so much better than I did. Their pain must be very great.

When we left, I noticed Debbie’s hat and coat, still there. I loved her coats, she had great taste in clothes.

Goodbye Debbie! I’ll miss you. Much love, wherever you are. ❤