Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Weekly Swatch: Lace Mesh Stitch

Considering that my last weekly swatch dates back to November 2015, it is an understatement to say that this weekly swatch post is long overdue.

So, without further ado, here is the stitch pattern for the lace mesh stitch, which I have experimented with this week.

Lace Mesh Stitch with Rowan Kid Classic

Lace Mesh Stitch

  • Multiple of 3 stitches (a multiple of 6 stitches is required to achieve the pattern)

Row 1 (right side): K2,* yo, sl 1, k2, psso the 2 k sts; rep. from * to last st, k1.

Row 2: Purl all stitches.

Row 3: K1* sl 1, k2, psso the 2k sts, yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2.

Row 4: Purl all stitches.

Repeat Row 1 - Row 4 for pattern.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Vintage 80s Knitting Patterns - Part 2

If you can't get enough of 1980s vintage knitting patterns, here is another post full of them. Some might be 1970s, some 1990s. Unfortunately, the majority of these don't have a publication date.

At any rate, be prepared for broad shoulders and daring colours.

More of my vintage knitting pattern collection is available here.

Vintage1980s Ladies' Jersey with Aran Stitch Bands Knitting Pattern

Hayfield 1980s Vintage Ladies' Cable Cardigan Knitting Pattern

Sunbeam Vintage 1980s Ladies' Button-Up Jacket with Pockets Knitting Pattern

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Vintage 80s Knitting Patterns

As I was going through my vintage knitting pattern collection, I came across these gems from the 80s. They simply had to go on the blog. 

It's time for knitted jackets (preferably with foam shoulder pads), over-sized jumpers and colour blocks. Let's go back to the 1980s.


Vintage 80s Argyll Knitting Pattern - Ladies' Cotton Drop Stitch Sweater 

Vintage 80s Alafoss Ladies' Jumper Knitting Patterns 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Vegan Baking: Pumpkin Spice Coconut Oat Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Pumpkin-Spiced, Coconut Oat Cookies (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

I decided to extend the three-week elimination diet, which should officially have come to an end tonight. As a result, I'm carrying on with my gluten-free, vegan baking sessions.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Thursday, 1 March 2018

An Update on Pickle: 8 Weeks Since Her Cancer Diagnosis

Thanks so much to all of you who have commented and left well-wishes for Pickle. Pickle and Team Pickle appreciate them very much. 

For all those, who don't know the back story: At the onset of January 2018, my cat Pickle (aged 8.5 years) was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, the colorectal type being most likely. A detailed account of the background to this, her conventional veterinary treatment to date and her diagnosis is available in this post. 

Today's post is a brief update on what we have been up to over the past eight weeks, discussing dietary changes, supplementation and some general information that helped me cope in the initial phase after receiving the sad news.

Colorectal Adenocarcinoma - Average Life Expectancy

According to available veterinary statistics on this type of cancer, Pickle was given an average life expectancy ranging from 8 weeks to 18 months from the point of diagnosis.

Today, Thursday, 1st March 2018, marks the eight-week point. 

Pickle -  8 weeks after her diagnosis with colorectal adenocarcinoma

Pickle - 8 Weeks after her Cancer Diagnosis

As I'm writing this, Pickle is lying curled up on a towel next to the laptop, having a digestive snooze after her lunch of turkey, pumpkin and turkey broth. Weekly weigh-ins confirm that she has maintained her weight and she continues to have a healthy appetite. The presence of both blood and mucous in combination with loose, smelly stools prompted us to seek veterinary assistance at the end of last year. Now, two months into the New Year, I'm pleased to say that her bowel movements have improved quite considerably. She is no longer passing loose stools accompanied by visible, bright red blood. Nevertheless, we are a long way away from optimum quality in the bowel movement department. 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Knit your own Monk!

Knit your very own Brother Cadfael

I know, the fictional Cadfael resided at Shrewsbury Abbey, but I couldn't resist the header.

These guys below are currently on display in a Knitted Monk exhibition at Tewkesbury Abbey (Gloucester, UK). More information is available here. 

What's best, there is a free knitting pattern, which can be accessed here. I'm sure donations are very welcome. :-) 

Knitted Monk Exhibition, Tewkesbury Cathedral, February 2018
So, now there are really no excuses not to knit your very own Cadfael...or even a whole monastery.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Another Lentil Recipe: Red Lentil Curry with Pumpkin, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts...and whatever else I could find in the fridge

Unlike my baking experiment with red lentils, this was a rather more pleasant lentil experience...

Vegan Red Lentil and Pumpkin Curry

Red lentil stews are a failsafe, and during my three-week elimination diet, they were a staple. Stews are filling, flavoursome and suitable for all those with restrictive dietary requirements. In my case, this means gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free. 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Gluten-free Baking with Lentils: The Quest for a Recipe that Works

My quest to find wholesome, dairy, egg, gluten and soy-free recipes continues. This morning I once again tried to master the art of baking with soaked red lentils and, once again, I failed. 

Gluten-free baking with lentils - Savoury Lentil Muffins

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies - gluten, egg and dairy free recipe

I was celebrating my first week on an elimination diet and ended up concocting my own version of vegan sweet potato brownies. 

In addition to staying dairy and egg-free, I am also trying to cut out / reduce wheat, gluten, unfermented soy and caffeine. Strictly speaking, I should also cut out sugar. But hey (!), we all have our cheat days. 

Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies (gluten, dairy and egg-free)

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Not Knitting ... due to Pickle's Cancer Diagnosis

Those of you who stop by to read this blog regularly will most probably be familiar with Pickle, my 8.5 year-old Tuxedo Cat, who frequently features on the blog in her capacity as knitting cupboard inspector, model and product tester extraordinaire.

In the pictures below, she can be seen 
The Knitted Cat Tunnel

  • modelling the Cat Leg Warmer (or a swatch of cartridge rib in the round)
Cat Leg Warmer or Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round

Tidying up the Knitting Cupboard with Pickle

At the end of November 2017, I discovered blood in Pickle's stool. This prompted a visit to the vet's. During her initial examination she was found to require dental treatment (including extractions) and we were advised to change her diet to chicken in broth with rice. Despite the nutritional changes, her diarrhoea continued and every third to fourth bowel movement contained blood. At a subsequent consultation with her vet, she was deemed fit to undergo dental surgery despite her digestive issues. In fact, both the vet and us were guessing that her digestive issues might potentially be connected to the state of her teeth; and that by removing this inflammatory culprit, the issues around her digestion would resolve as a result. She was booked in for surgery just before the end of the year. 

In addition to her pre-op blood tests, I decided to take full advantage of her time under anaesthetic to obtain abdominal x-rays and to carry out histological tests on a small polyp, which I discovered on her rectum shortly before her dietary issues emerged. Even though I didn't like the look of the polyp, neither of the vets, who examined her, seemed particularly concerned about this small growth on her behind. Both advised that colorectal polyps were generally more common in uncastrated dogs and that polyps in this location were not commonly encountered amongst feline patients.

Neither her blood test, including complete blood count, nor her abdominal x-rays, which would have shown any obstructions or palpable internal tumours, gave us any cause for concern. Her vet appeared confident that, all being well with the histological tests, Pickle was either passing blood due to the ongoing issues with her teeth and / or she was exhibiting the classic signs of feline Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). 

Following her operation, Pickle returned home in the early evening the same day. Within a matter of days she was back to her usual self. Probably as a result of her dental extractions, she even appeared more active than before. The bland diet, which we kept up, decreased the frequency of her bowel movements drastically. Despite this, she continued to harbour a healthy appetite. Sadly, she also continued to produce bloody stools, albeit at a reduced rate.

In the evening of 4th January, whilst I was in the middle of a chaotic commute home from London, I received the results of the histological tests from her vet over the phone. It was bad news. That was the night Cancer moved into my life and took hold of it. If you and a beloved pet are or have been affected by Cancer, my heart goes out to you.

Pickle (in one of her favourite places - in the midst of freshly laundered bed linen) on 19th January 2018, roughly two weeks after her cancer diagnosis.  

The mass examined was found to be malignant (Adenocarcinoma), most likely a colorectal Adenocarcinoma. Her vet admitted that he would not have expected this result when he relayed her 'very guarded prognosis'. Based on the medical statistics available for this type of cancer, which is relatively rare in cats, he indicated that her life expectancy could range from 8 weeks to 18 months.

In the midst of a packed train, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, asked all the questions that appeared to be of immediate concern (Is she likely to be in pain? - No. Is there anything we need to do right now? - No.) and arranged another consultation to discuss Pickle's prognosis in more detail. I arrived home that night and couldn't even cry. Instead, I was in shock and at a complete loss, not knowing how to start tackling the problem. Even though I was fearful of the polyp being cancerous, I had never really contemplated this being a possible outcome. I had no Plan B.

The follow-up consultation with her vet was not until around 7 days later and I had to somehow bridge that gap. Whilst it's easy to get carried away emotionally when you are confronting this Goliath-type adversary, I somehow knew that I had to contain my emotions in order to concentrate all my waking energy on thinking clearly, gaining knowledge and making smart decisions on Pickle's behalf. And FAST. 

I soon found out that the presence of Cancer and a work life do not mix well, especially if you attempt to keep on functioning in the latter. I completely stopped eating and, as a result of sleepless nights and countless hours researching the web, I physically caved in halfway through the following week. By the time the vet appointment was upon us, I was on antibiotics for tonsillitis, full of cold and my GP was particularly concerned about my anxiety. I was not able to switch off and my brain was working at full capacity any time, all the time. Feeling physically shit was ok though. As long as I was able to do something constructive and, above all, spend time with Pickle, my anxiety was bearable. With a notebook full of questions, mainly concerning the histological report, cancer staging and treatment options, we returned to the vet's. 

During the consultation, her vet explained Pickle's further treatment options in more detail. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that has the ability to move fast, affecting other organs as it spreads. In order to establish the stage of her cancer, we would either have to resort to invasive surgery or get her booked in for MRI scanning. Both procedures would require another anaesthetic, a lengthy journey to a clinic with appropriate facilities and, if opting for invasive surgery, an overnight stay at the vet's. 

Pickle on 19th January 2018, sporting a post-op shave on the right side of her neck

Ignoring the financial aspects (I would remortgage the house if I had to) considering the stress and impact on Pickle's emotional and physical health, neither of these options seemed appropriate. From a medical point of view, given the absence of a palpable tumour, the chances of successfully removing cancerous tissue during surgery are slim, especially as we don't know where and whether it has spread. Chemo - and radiotherapy are equally unsuitable. Unlike certain types of Lymphoma, Adenocarcinoma is not particularly responsive to either treatment options and both might do more harm than good, especially if, assuming best case scenario, we have nipped Pickle's cancer in the proverbial 'butt' with the removal of the polyp from her rectum.

This leaves us with the final option: shifting the focus from the cancer found in the tissue sample to concentrating our efforts on improving the symptoms of her IBD, whilst simultaneously boosting her immune system. Conventionally, severe cases of IBD are often treated with the help of corticosteroids, which - when managed carefully in conjunction with dietary intervention - can produce good results. Having lived with a Terrier, who spent the best part of his life on corticosteroids and made it to 13 years, I am not necessarily averse to their use. Yet, corticosteroids negatively affect other organs when used over a prolonged period and, by implication, will shorten the life expectancy of the patient. 

Considering Pickle's overall condition - she is not lethargic, shows no signs of pain, has not lost any weight and continues to display a healthy appetite even for the bland food we have served up over the past month - I had made my decision that 'Pickle on 'Roids'' wasn't an option, at least not until all other routes had been exhausted.

In the various consultations with Pickle's conventional vet, he must have sensed my reservations in respect of conventional treatments. From my comments on immunisation to microchipping and the application of parasite treatments such as Bayer's Advocate, he was probably expecting my next turn already. Thankfully, he appeared to back my approach: the holistic route. 

Having read many accounts of owner's grappling with their cat's cancer in recent weeks, I am aware that in many cases conventionally trained vets are often not supportive of this route. This comes as no surprise, and the recent spat between the  RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the BAHVS (the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons) serves as a timely reminder of the frictions between both 'camps'. (More here.)

Every case is, of course, unique and there may be valid reasons why a conventional approach should be favoured over holistic treatments. Yet, in Pickle's case, he backed the idea of getting a holistic vet on board, if only to delay the use of corticosteroids by exploring raw feeding, dietary supplementation and other holistic remedies.

And this is where we are right now. After more research and days spent discussing Pickle's case with various holistic vets across the country, 'Team Pickle' was joined by another member at the onset of last week. Meanwhile, the patient herself appears content. Her last two bowel movements contained no visible blood, she maintains a healthy appetite, has recovered from the upheaval of the vet visits and seems to enjoy life as before, maybe even more, bearing in mind that she is now rid of her painful teeth. By simply looking at her right now, no one would assume that she was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma. Further updates will follow.

Pickle on 19th January 2018, 2 weeks after her cancer diagnosis

Friday, 15 December 2017

Knitting for Dollcena Takara Tomy Dolls

After knitting a pencil dress with sock yarn for this Takara Dollcena doll, I decided to make another in black (also with sock yarn). Project instructions will follow. Soon. I hope.

Here's the prototype.

Pencil Dress for Takara Tomy Dollcena Doll, hand-knit with Araucania Botany Lace 

And here's a preview of the little black pencil dress: 

Dollcena Takara Tomy doll in hand-knit pencil dress

Dollcena Takara Tomy doll in hand-knit pencil dress

Dollcena Takara Tomy Doll in Handknit Pencil Dress (Sock Yarn) - Beaded I-cord Halter 

Dollcena Takara Tomy Doll in Handknit Pencil Dress (Sock Yarn) - Beaded I-cord Halter

Friday, 24 November 2017

Crochet for Dollcena Dolls - Little Grey Hat

I literally have no idea how this little doll hat came together. It's a crochet hat and I can't crochet. I have some sort of mental block when it comes to crochet. 

I'm not entirely sure what I did and how it's constructed, I just used a crochet hook and it happened to turn out this way. By lucky coincidence, it happens to fit my Dollcena Doll. 

I'm afraid, I won't be able to write up project notes this time. But should I happen to attempt another crochet doll's hat, I promise to pay more attention to the process.

Dollcena Doll with Crochet Hat - Yarn: Stylecraft Kontiki

Dollcena Doll Crochet Hat (Doll by Takara Tomy, Yarn: Stylecraft Kontiki, Craft: Crochet)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Knitting for Dollcena Dolls

... can be tedious. It's not so much the knitting, rather the finishing, which can be extremely time-consuming. 

But this Dollcena urgently needed a comfy outfit. 

Takara Tomy Doruchena / Dollcena Doll (Lilo) - handknit dressing gown

Takara Tomy, Doruchena / Dollcena Doll (Lilo) - handknitted gown

I am currently working on pattern notes for a hand-knit tiny pencil dress for this Dollcena. Progress pictures are below, more is available here.

Handknit Pencil Dress (sock yarn) for Takara Tomy Dollcena - I-cord halter detail

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Yarn Dyeing with Lichen - Dyeing Handspun with Cladonia Mitis

Having read numerous 'how-tos' on the process of natural yarn dyeing utilising lichen, I felt the urge to experiment with a local variety of lichen and a small swatch sample of handspun.

Lichen on Apple Tree (West Kent, UK) 

Before investigating natural dyes, I was aware of the existence of lichen and their particular properties as fungi. Yet, I had no idea of the longstanding history of fabric dyeing with these mysterious organisms. And even though lichen are omnipresent in everyday life, I hardly took any notice of them. I subsequently had my first conscious encounter with a particularly impressive variety in an old orchard in West Kent (UK) back in August 2014. More on  this is available here. Shortly thereafter I came across several articles and selected blogs on lichen dyes and was naturally cursing myself for not having taken a small sample on the day to experiment.

Lichen on Apple Tree, West Kent (UK)

During a recent trip across Kent - this time to the Kent / Sussex border - I once again came up close and personal with another variety of lichen. This time I not only collected a very small sample (just enough to dye a swatch of homespun), I was also able to identify the variety: Cladonia Mitis. 

What follows is a brief description of my lichen dye experiment with 

You will require: 

  • 1 small swatch sample of undyed homespun yarn 12cm x 6cm (as pictured below)
  • 1 small sample of lichen (as pictured below)
  • 1 jam jar (to soak the lichen for one to two nights prior to simmering it together with the handspun swatch sample)
  • 1 saucepan

Homespun Swatch Sample

Cladonia Mitis

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Weekly Swatch: The Smocking Stitch

The Smocking Stitch is a slightly more advanced stitch motif, creating a two-dimensional texture, which resembles the lattice stitch in appearance. This is achieved through a very limited amount of cabling on both the 4th and 8th rows of the stitch sequence. All other rows require simple knitting or purling. 

Smocking Stitch

Multiple of 6 stitches

Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *K2, P4; rep from * to last 4 sts., K2, P2.

Row 2 (right side)K2, *sl. 2 sts. purlwise, K4; rep. from * to last 4 sts., sl 2 sts. knitwise, K2.

Row 3: P2*sl. 2 sts. knitwise, P4; rep. from to last 4 sts., sl 2 sts. knitwise, P2.

Row 4:  *Sl 1st knitwise, place 2sts. onto CN (Cable Needle) and hold at back of work, K1, K2 sts. from CN, sl next st. onto CN and hold at front of work, K2, K1 st from CN; rep. from * to end. 

Row 5: K1, P4, *K2, P4; rep from * to last st., K1.

Row 6: Sl1 st knitwise, K4, *sl 2 sts knitwise, K4; rep from * to last st., sl 1st knitwise.

Row 7: Sl1 st knitwise, P4, *sl 2 sts knitwise, P4; rep from * to last st., sl 1st knitwise.

Row 8:  *Place 1st. onto CN and hold at front of work, K2, K1 st. from CN, sl next 2 sts. onto CN and hold at back of work, K1, K2 sts. from CN; rep. from * to end. 

Repeat Row 1 - Row 8 for pattern.

Smocking Stitch

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