Knitter’s Elbow

What happens when the knitter is in so much pain that even lifting the needles hurts? When even typing in the knitters blog can only be done with one arm? When simply fully eftending your arm causes you to cry out in pain?

On Monday, I was diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis. This is a long way of saying “tennis elbow” or in my case “knitter’s elbow”. Such a happy phrase for what causes an imense amount of pain and frustration.

I went to the orthopedist after experiencing pain on the lateral side of my elbow which radiated down my arm and at times into my neck. Shockingly, knitting did not hurt at all. I tend to be a “picker” not a “thrower” in my knitting style. The urgent care orthopedist I went to declared my arm “sore from over use” and told me to take some naproxin and it would get better. It did not get better.

As each day passed, it became worse. Lifting anything heavier than a ball of worsted weight yarn sent shooting pain down my arm and into my neck. I called and made an apointment with a specialsist.

Today, I saw the wonderful man who specializes in injuries of the upper extremities. After examining me he stated that had lateral epicondyltis with ligament, muscle and nerve damage and suggested a cocktail.

When a bartender suggests a cocktail, you should smile and say yes please. When an orthopedic doctor suggests a cortozone cocktail you should run fast, long and hard.

The nurse returned with what could only be described as a pipeline with a tube aattached, a numbing spray, a small vial of betadine, and five vials of different liquids. I signed the consent form and pulled up unsual knitting projects on my phone to keep my mind occupied lets I run for the nearest exit or make a new one in the wall cartoon style. Especially after the doctor said that my high tolllerance to pain would come in handy at this moment.

After humming through the injection (humming is my way of centering myself when I am in pain), he bandaged my arm and sent me home with an appointment for a month later and instructions to rest it. Oh, and put down the knitting needles.

On the way home, I almost started crying. How can I live without knitting? Knitting for me is more than just a pasion, love, art or even a way to produce fun gifts. For me knitting is my therapy.

I have told people in a joking way that I knit so that I do not kill people. There is a lot of truth to that saying for me. As a person with an anxiety disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and PTSD, knitting calms me and resets my brain like nothing else can.

There is much research to support the idea of knitting as therapy. One would think that OCD and knitting would not go together, however the repetative action has a calming effect on the brain.

The act of knitting calms the brain by creating within the mind a specific type of focus called “flow”. In flow, the person performing the operation is fully immersed in the activity of enjoyment and has a full feeling of energized focus. While in “flow” the person is able to pay complete attention to the activity and the feeling of joy derived from that activity and is able to channel the emotions into that activity which creates a since of calm due to the release of dopamine. Doing the activity on a regular basis actually trains and resets the brain to be able to release dopamine overtime thus helping to eliviate depression, stress and anxiety.

So for me, knitting not only produces lovely things for myself, my friends, and the community at large, it actually resets my brain and heals my mind and soul. Without it, my brain runs wild and hyperfocus on fear and sadness. It is like a run away train that can not be stopped or turned plowing through a beautiful town, tearing down and destroying everything in its path. Knitting may not be able to stop the train for me entirely, but it does have a wonderful way of waking up the engeneer and causing him to pay attention to the beauty of the town as he slows the train to a reasonable speed.

I NEED to knit. I knit so that my brain remains healthy. My body hurts but my brain needs to knit.

 

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Ease On Down the Knitted Road!

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When asked to knit something fun for a a raffle for the show The Wiz, I jumped at the chance.  The only hard part was what to knit and which yarn.  I settled on The Wiz themed projects and headed to my local Yarn shop to find the perfect yarn.

First I decided to knit something that was Yellow Brick Road themed.  As I looked at the beautiful colors and yarns, I decided to knit a pair of socks with Cascade Superwash 220. And because it is my trademark to never have or wear matching socks, naturally these cozy socks had to follow that same trend.   FB_IMG_1426339192841 FB_IMG_1426378101692 20150315_231354

Next I set to work on something that was Emerald City Themed.  Because I did not have move than one week to make this perfect, I decided that I should make an Emerald City Beanie.  Because I love Cascade Superwash 220 I decided to stick with that fast knitting yarn but decided to use Quatro this time in a beautiful green and silver mix. Needless to say, one of my Baby bears wishes to claim this beanie for herself.   But the Mama Bear, who knows best, is encouraging her to knit her own.  20150316_1611202015-03-16_04-21-42-1

Two knits down, and one to go, I turned to making something more colorful to represent the cute Munchkins we have in the show.  This time I turned to Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn because of the beautiful variegated colors in the yarn.  I do not believe I will ever purchase this yarn again.  I love the colors and how they slowly move from one color to another.  I also love how the yarn varies in texture and thickness.  I believe this adds a lovely rustic quality to my yarn.  The main issue I have with this yarn is the texture of the yarn as it slides through my hands while I am knitting with it.

One of the main reasons I knit is the meditative feeling that happens as I knit with a beautiful yarn.  There is something wonderful beauty in the process of knitting that only those who are knitters have found.  It is not just the beautiful projects we make that urges us on to knit, it is the click of the needles, the glide and feel of the fiber as it slides between our fingers to make a fabric seemingly out of magic.  One reason I started knitting is just this reason.  This yarn had none of the qualities I love about the fibers I choose.  It did not glide between my fingers as my needles clicked along.  It scratched and tugged.  It did knit a beautiful Munchkin Shirt, but I lost the beauty I crave when I knit.

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All three of these projects will be raffled off this weekend during the run of the show.  I hope whoever wins them will do as the tag states and WEAR IT OUT!  It was made with love, enjoy them  and feel the love with which they were made.

The Emergency Bath Sets for Show and Tell Thursday

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What happens when I get an emergency phone call from Sunrise Soap Company‘s owner saying that they need more of my bath puffs immediately and less than an hour later, they sell out of all but three of my bath cloths?  It is simple, I take down what few I have left and then start knitting quickly to get them into the shop in time for “First Friday”.

I had no idea when my Baby Bears took my knitting out at Sunrise Soap’s that my beloved art would become something that anyone else in the world would ever enjoy or even want to own let alone purchase.  Now, a year later, my hobby is slowly becoming a business.

The wonderful thing about this is not the fact that I am making a bit of money doing something I enjoy doing.  What is completely astounding and beautiful to me is that others enjoy what I make with love enough to take it home and love as well.

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.”  

~Wayne Dyer

It Has Been a Long Time

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strange scarf by The Knitting Mama Bear
The Gryffindor Scarf

Hello all.  I have not abandoned this blog nor have I given up on my knitting.  Life has had a taking over in some unusual ways and I have not known exactly how to blog about it.  I was told that the best way to do anything is to just start.  So, here I am, back just starting.

The photo you see above is the start of a Gryffindor House Hogwart’s Scarf I am knitting for the Holiday season for the youngest Baby Bear.  The interesting thing is that I am knitting it with acrylic yarn on bamboo needles!

I have become such a “yarn snob” that I have stayed away from all acrylic fibers and instead opting to spend a bit more for fibers that are more natural.  This is knitted with a Lion Brand yarn called Vanna’s Choice.

Because this Baby Bear is only seven years old, I did not wish to spend over $100 on a scarf for him and needed it to be easily washable and yet warm with vibrant colors that matched what he was looking for.  This yarn fit the bill shockingly well.  As an Acrylic, I have always overlooked this yarn completely.  But, it seems that there are places and uses for this type of yarn.  I can not use my normal Chia-Goo Reds on this and had to use bamboo needles to avoid the feeling of the fibers slipping on the needles or separating as quickly knit along.

The interesting thing about this yarn is how easy it is to work with.  Unlike other acrylic yarns that are sold in chain stores, this one is not bad to knit with at all.  It is soft, bright, and easy to use with the bamboo needles.

Does this mean my yarn snobbery has dissolved and I now have a new found love of acrylics?  NO!  I will always love the feel of wonderful yarns as they slip through my fingers and look first for those for my projects.  It does mean, however, that I have found a use for even “the dreaded acrylic” as long as the right one is found.

What’s on My Needles Wednesday (one day late)

DSCF0083 by The Knitting Mama Bear

I realized that it was Wednesday late Wednesday night and I hope you will forgive me for having a Thursday morning version of “What’s on My Needles Wednesday”.  Most of my Wednesday, as many days have been lately, have been spent unpacking, preparing, and renovating my new historic brownstone.  It is exciting, but at the same time it does take a lot of time and there are many days where I  do forget what the day is.

Wednesday night, I realized that I needed to post what is on my needles and quickly took these photos of the progress on my Hemlock Ring Blanket.  As you can see, it is coming along quite nicely.  I am still working on my projects for the soap shop.  Those tend to be small enough to be portable and go everywhere with me.  The blanket, stays at home where I can stretch out and enjoy the knitting down time.

The photo you are looking at is of a quarter in the middle of the center flower pattern of the blanket with a quarter in the center for perspective of size.  I am using Cascade Yarns Eco + in the colorway 0507 which is a beautiful rich red.  I purchased this from Uncommon Threads when we had our little field trip to the store.  It is a natural Peruvian Wool in a bulky weight.  Knitting with it is pretty typical of most wool fibers.  It is a bit scratchy and drying on the hands after knitting for a long time, but a bit of my favorite yarn lotion and all is well again.  It will make a wonderfully warm blanket I am sure because the weight of it now keeps my legs nice and toasty.

I am knitting it on circular needles (obviously) and so you can not see the full size or scope of the pattern.  This could be a good thing because I want to unveil its full glory when I block it.  There seems to always be a beautiful thrill when blocking a project.  It is my own personal present unwrapping moment when I steam block my project and see the full beauty of my hard work.

I am now on row 50 of the Feather and Fan portion of the blanket.  I have found it easier to place markers for each of the eight repeats for this section.  I found it easier to manage counting, finding, and fixing any mistakes with, what is now, almost 60 stitches per section, instead of over 400 stitches for the entire round.  This little trick I learned after finding mistakes the first few rounds.

The most interesting moment of knitting the blanket has been when I took it with me for a bit of down time between my daughter’s performances this past weekend.  A happy young singer bounced up to me in awe of the large “blob” I was knitting on my lap.  After looking at it for a moment, he asked me with genuine glee if I were knitting a hat.  I could not help but smile at him.  The giant blob on my lap which is being knitted in the round could only be seen as a hat by the most creative and imaginative person.  It would make the ultimate “Rastafarian Hat” for quite a fashion forward person.  Perhaps I will take the flower center (and a thinner fiber) and create a hat.

Without question, this has been quite an adventure.  I do not believe this will be the last time I use this pattern.

Soaking Up Some Fun for Show and Tell Thursday!

Soak Tattoo by The Knitting Mama Bear

What happens when knitting enthusiasts who enjoy fun are asked to review fun temporary tattoos from  one of our favorite companies?  Fun, art and silliness suddenly breaks out all over the house and town.

We have loved Soak wash for a long time.  We use their wash to wash our art and even for blocking with wonderful results.  So, when I saw they were looking for people to review a new product I had to ask for more information.   When I found out that they needed people to review their new temporary tattoos I was beyond thrilled for our family to try it.

When the package came, the Baby Bears could not wait to open the package and see what they looked like in real life.  They saw the designs on line but were quite excited to see what they looked like in person.  Needless to say, when they came across the package on the floor of the playroom, they were  thrilled and vibrating with excitement.

When the package was opened, I sat back and allowed them to enjoy the vibrant and beautiful colors.  I also wanted to see how easy it would be for them to follow the instructions without parental intervention.

They quickly read through the well written easy to understand instructions and then set about the duty of picking their first cool knitting tattoo.  

We were all quite impressed with the beautiful colors and designs.  There were designs for every sort of knitter.  In my house, we have the “goth knitter” who loves to knit with edgy designs and fibers, the “hippy knitter” who enjoys more traditional designs and organic fibers, my son who is the six year old “fiber arts cool kid” who loves all things fiber arts, and then there is me, the Mama Bear who has a real tattoo but enjoys a bit of fun and has a bit of all  three of the Baby Bear attitudes in me.

I then set them loose to apply the new tattoos.  They cut out the four chosen tattoos and we all walked to the kitchen sink.  

Saying that they were easy to apply would be an understatement.  They went on like a dream and even the smallest Baby Bear had no problems following the instructions to apply one to my foot.  They did have to be reminded to keep their hands completely dry when applying them because one mitten tattoo started to rub off before they had a chance to transfer it because of a slightly damp hand.  This is to be expected with temporary tattoos and they rolled with the punches, which is how I ended up with a knitted mitten tattoo on my foot.

When they removed the backing they were all excited and thrilled with the bright colors.  Unlike many temporary tattoos, they were even brighter after application than before!  The colors simply popped on their skin and each one was easy to see.  Many temporary tattoos have a “halo” around the image that takes away from the image.  These did not have the halo at all.  When looking at the skin, only the beautiful colorful tattoo could be seen.

The only complaint from the baby bears to the application process is the fact that the instructions are on the back of the tattoo backing.  This means when they cut out their tattoo, the instructions were cut away as well.  When I reminded them that the instructions were easy to follow, and this made less waste for Mother Earth, they perked up and said that it was a great idea.  Less trash means less for the landfill and more fun for all.

As you can see from these photos, the colors are beautiful.  The designs are whimsical and fun.  There is something for every mood and every personality.  The phrases I heard from my Baby Bears as well as those who noticed them were all quite positive.  They commented abut how bright and beautiful they are as well as how fun the designs were.  I put a small cat playing with a ball of yarn on the inside of my wrist and was told how sophisticated the design was.

So, the one huge question we had after seeing all of this beautiful art, was how long will it last?  The answer to this question is it depends.  Mine rubbed away after about a week and a half and the Baby Bears’ is still bright and beautiful.  There is a bit of wear, but they are still able to show off their tattoos with pride!

So, all in all, we would like to sing the praises of this product.  It is fun, it is beautiful, and it brings attention to the fiber arts.  Even the Papa Bear, who is not a knitter, wants to put one on.  I believe we will allow him to do so as well.  We will post about this when he does it as well as the next Soak Tattoo.

What’s on My Needles Wednesday

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Blogging and knitting by The Knitting Mama Bear

Now that the projects have been turned into the store, it is time to turn my attentions to fewer bags and more interesting and creative projects.  This does not mean that I have completely given up on making my goods for the store.  Oh no…I always have something in my travel bag to that is specifically for the store and my goal is to complete at least one per week to make sure that I keep up with my inventory.  Please, wish me luck with that ambitious goal.

What you see in the photo.  is an experiment.  I found a pattern for the “Hemlock Ring Blanket” and fell in love with the idea of taking a lace pattern and making it larger using thicker fiber and needles.  And so, I started seeing how easy it would be to follow this pattern.  I picked a yarn out of my stash and the appropriate needles and started to knit.

Within a few hours I had the heart of the Hemlock pattern and was starting to see how beautiful it could be when  knit larger.  The fiber I used is a light worsted weight corn that works well for this test.

Even unblocked and close, it seems to be a beautiful knit and an easy pattern to follow.  I do like how the simple pattern makes a flower pattern bloom before my eyes as I knit.

The next step is to find the perfect yarn to use for this project.  My goal is to have a new bright red throw (and perhaps a yellow one as well) to go with my new sunflower living room when it is completely set up.

I will make sure to keep you posted as to the progress.

The First “First Friday”

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First Friday Sale Items by The Knitting Mama Bear

I am sure everyone will be a bit patient with me for not blogging for a bit, but as you can see from the photo, I have been a bit busy.  I have been preparing my the fiber arts for The Sunrise Soap Company’sFirst Friday.

If truth be known, I have been a combination of excited and frightened to death while I prepare for this event.  I often wondered if my designs and art was good enough.  And then I started to wonder if I were good enough.  I decided to take a huge breath and just step out in faith and turn my creations into the store as is.

I created my tags where I used my logo for “The Knitting Mama Bear” and labeled each bag’s tag with what they were and hand wrote what each is made of.

I submitted only one of the “Mega Bags”.  This one is large and sturdy enough to hold laundry or a few books and be carried over your shoulder.  The cable stitch was a lot of fun to add.  It also adds a bit of stability to the bag’s mesh work.

The “Market Bags” were the most fun to knit.  I submitted four in beautifully bright colors.  They are quite sturdy and hold a great deal due to the mesh work.

I only turned in three “Mini Bags” in different styles and fun colors.  The multi- pink one has a match in the other sizes as well.  The other two have a fun cable stitch pattern.  Each is made to hold several of the soaps made in the shop as well as a shower puff and has a long handle to hang in the shower.

The “Soap Sweaters” were an impulsive item that I wanted to try.  Each holds a soap from the shop and has a little loop for hanging.  The pattern on one side feels great on the skin and it is a great way to hold the last bits of your favorite soaps.

So, these are the creations that I took to the store for bright and early Friday Morning.  When I walked in and opened the bag with the work, I was shocked to hear the thrilled gasps from those in the store.  The owner and another artist reached for the bags and started trying them out.  Needless to say, I was quite thrilled.  Still nervous, but happy that someone else liked my work.  As I left the story, I was excited to see what she would do with my work and how they would sell in the store that night.

As I walked downtown, I tried not to think about the fact that my work was in a store for all to see.  I tried my best not to think of people looking at my work and saying that it is not beautiful.  But I continued to walk with the purpose of not looking for my work, but enjoying this First Friday.

As I rounded the corner, I glanced into the window and saw one of my creations hanging in a place of honor in the window for the world to see.  I felt suddenly proud and nauseous at the same time.  I wanted to go in and see where they were placed, but I could not bring myself to do it.  The store was crowded and people were happily shopping and enjoying the night.

The Baby Bears, and the Papa bear wanted to go in to see how and where things were displayed.  While I was feeling a bit faint and sick with worry and doubt, they were swelling with pride.  So, I walked around the corner  with Dec-Bear to another store while the rest of the family walked into The Sunrise Soap Company.

This is the beauty that they found.  I am proud and giddy about how they look and the buzz about the art.  But most importantly, I am so excited that my work is being seen.

Show and Tell Thursday

Large Market Bag by The Knitting Mama Bear

I have been working on my lovely bags in several sizes and fibers as of late.  One bag I have made uses twice as much yarn as the standard size with smaller handles.  I have worked this bag in a lovely yarn by Cascade Yarns called Luna Paints.  This is of the lovely fibers I purchased from Uncommon Threads.  I believe I will need to review my yarn purchases soon.

In the middle of the lattice pattern, I noticed that I was coming to the end of one ball of yarn.  I knew that it would use two balls, but I felt myself panic as the ball ended in a lace pattern.  There is no way to weave in the ends!  It is cotton and felting is not an option with cotton.  So, I decided to look up and try a method that I have seen but have never tried.  It was time to pull out the Russian Join!

So, I took a deep breath and tried it with a scrap piece of yarn first.  It was shockingly easy and remarkably strong!  Here is a person showing the Russian Join.

What impressed me most about this join was the fact that it is invisible and quite strong!  The strength of a join is important to me, and doubly so when it is going to be used for market bags.  I asked my Baby Bears to try to pull the yarn apart on my test piece and they were not able to do so.  And as fr the invisibility, I dare you to try to find the join in the work!

 Without question, I will be using the Russian Join again!