I’m the Tortoise, Life is the Hare

Tired, that’s the single word that defines how I feel. It’s not a well earned tiredness either, it’s just an endless worn out, worn down, impossible to push through weariness that just won’t seem to stop. I’m currently on my fourth round of chemo, but I’ve only managed to actually complete taking all the pills in one round so far, my body just will not cope with it and throws up all kinds of wonderful side effects which reach a level where the Oncology team aren’t happy for me to carry on so I stop, try to recover, and then start again and wait to see what happens this time. I have gone from having only over the counter painkillers in my medicine cabinet to having a range of different things I take to combat the side effects, it’s wearing and annoying and my inner 3 year old is tantruming more than she should, it’s hard to keep the lid on her sometimes but I do try.

So I plod along, picking out the things that absolutely have to be done and trying to do them on time and letting the rest go. Unfortunately that brings it’s stresses as I’m having to let things go that I want to do and live with a house that is never as tidy or clean as I want it to be (and trust me, my levels of expectation and comfort aren’t majorly high in those areas). My sister is still staying with me, helping me out, and it is reassuring to have someone else around, something I’ve never felt I needed the whole time I have been a single parent pre-cancer. I resent that I need help, I don’t want to need it or want it, I want to go back to being the independent do it all myself get out of my way woman I was before all this. I aim to get back to being her, but at the moment it’s hard to imagine staying awake all day let alone kicking any asses…

So, I have been sewing and knitting when I can, I manage a few hours a couple of times a week and I’m getting through my list, but of course for everything I sew I add three more wants to the list. I also almost caught up to having sewn as much fabric as I’ve bought this year, my goal is always to try and sew a bit more than I’ve bought but I can live with breaking even in a year. As soon as I got within 5 metres of evening out I went and bought more, The Textile Centre on Ebay is my weakness, I have things in my basket there at the moment and only the fact that it’s Jim’s 13th Birthday next week is stopping me from pressing the buy button!

Speaking of Jim, two weeks before the Easter holiday he got appendicitis, it took 3 days to get a proper diagnosis and we spent 12 hours in the A&E waiting for test results etc before being admitted. He was operated on during the Jr Drs strike so it was interesting to watch two Consultants with very different approaches discuss how to deal with a young patient with Aspergers Syndrome. They did a great job and he’s fine and back at school finally after going right from 2 weeks off post-op to 2 weeks Easter holidays! Sitting in uncomfortable chairs and sleeping on a horrible chair bed thing for 5 days and nights did me no good at all really but there you go, that’s parenthood for you, it doesn’t stop for your stuff, you just have to work that around it!

Right, so, I finished a cardigan but I need to block it a bit before taking pictures of it. Still have plenty of projects on the needles, I seem to cast on 2 for every one I cast off…

Sewing wise I’ve been sticking to easy things, I made a Blueprints for Sewing Cabin Dress with some £2.40 a metre thin denim from The Textile Centre to try out the pattern before using the fabric I really want to.Cabin DressCabin DressCabin DressI added 3″ to the length of this dress and I think I’ll add another inch next time as it’s still a bit shorter than I like. There are some great details on this that I love; the pockets are great, I messed up the first one but figured out the directions when I did the second one, it looks fine from the outside but the inside is a total mess! The seams are finished with bias binding which I made from self fabric, turns out that wasn’t such a good idea….

Cabin Dress FrayingFirst wash and they have frayed on every single edge, I’m going to have to flip them up again and stitch it down with some liberal fray check being applied along the way. To be honest, although I think it’s a nice design element, I can’t see myself doing the bias binding thing on anything but the neckline in the future, I’ll just flip a small double hem and call it done.

I’m still not ready to use the chosen fabric for this as I want to lower the bust dart. It looks fine even though it’s about 4″ too high, but I want to see if I can get it to hit just right. I really like this pattern and want to keep it as part of my pattern ‘stable’ so a little bit of work on it will be worth it. I have fabric chosen for the next try and instructions on dropping a dart down, I just need the energy to put it all together. I’m not doing a FBA because the dress fits how I want it to fit me, I don’t like the way a FBA adds more fabric and width to the rest of the garment, I don’t need it there and I am trying to stop making baggy sacks, I only need the dart to point in the right place. Hopefully I can get it right and make a few summer dresses from this pattern before we actually get to summer…

I loved the denim so much (it was sold so cheaply as they had found flaws in some of it, but I managed to buy 8m in total with no flaws…) that I made another Roberts Collection dress from it. I went with a size 6 and shortened it a few inches and it’s just right, plus a nice weight for summer too.
Roberts Collection Dress

I used the last two denim buttons on it too, I love the ease of hammering these on, I can see more of them in my future!

Roberts Dress Button

Whilst in the hospital with Jim I finished off my Meringue Cowl. The yarn is Yarntopia Tresures Bamboo in Moonlight, I used 3mm needles to get a gauge I was happy with and did as many repeats as I could to use up the yarn so it’s between a shoulder covering thing and a cowl, but so soft and pretty.

Meringue CowlMeringue Cowl

A perfect soothing easy project for a tired body and brain.

I have lots more to show you but I want to get something done today before lunch and then falling back into bed for a few hours. I will endeavour not to leave it so long between posts, but I’m finallywakingup on Twitter and Instagram should you want to keep tabs on me between posts and the brevity of those places is much easier on my brain than writing long posts!

I ain’t in the best shape that I’ve ever been in…*

So, chemo ‘eh? Not so much with the fun…. I was given the highest dose for my square meterage (my Oncologist’s party trick seems to be working out your square meterage from your height and weight in his head) and my body did not react well to it. The Oncologist seemed surprised yesterday at all the side effects I’ve had. It started with the most horrible tiredness, it comes over me completely and makes me feel like I have a weight on my shoulders. You can set your clock by it to, 3pm and I’m done in. The rest of the time when I’m fit for more than napping it leaves me with half my brain working. I lost the ability to comprehend what I was reading, last week I showed up to an appointment at the hospital on time but two weeks early and I’m never sure what day of the week it is or what I’m supposed to be remembering, just the knowledge that I know I’m forgetting things, it’s incredibly frustrating. I actually stopped taking the first course of pills 2.5 days early as I had pain in my hands and feet, my finger tips hurt when I tried to do anything at all with my hands, even knitting, which, as you can imagine really pissed me off, don’t take my stress relief away from me! Then the balls of my feet started to feel like I’d been wearing very high heels for several days in a row, even in my slippers it hurt to walk about. Added to that was a bad upset stomach (I can’t spell and don’t really like the d word so we’ll go with the more refined upset stomach shall we?), so bad that they gave me a second week off between courses to recover and try to get things working properly as they should. I’ve gone off food, which isn’t like me at all, I don’t feel nauseous, I just can’t ever think of what I want to eat, everything just seems meh to me, if I didn’t have to feed the boys I’d be living on toast and instant noodles as they’re easy and I can generally face eating them. A few days ago the skin started to peel off my hands too, lovely… The constant drippy nose is also all kinds of wonderful.

So, I go to the Oncology unit tomorrow to pick up a lowered dose for the second course which I will start on Saturday. I’ve had to accept that napping is the norm (I used to love naps when they were a treat, now they’re necessary it’s annoying) and have applied to extend the interruption to my PhD until the start of the next academic year, that was a very dark depressing day but if I can’t read a hospital appointment letter and understand it how will I ever manage with academic articles and books? I’m also losing my words so academic writing is out the window. We’ll see if my body can get to grips better with things with the rest of the 7 courses I have to take.

I am managing to do some sewing a few days a week and I’m knitting on and off during each day so I will show you what I’ve finished off since I was last here.

Finally a picture of the cardigan I finished in January now that it’s been blocked a bit. The pattern is called Passing Showers and I used some DK cotton in Pomegranate from the stash.

Passing ShowersPassing Showers
It’s a darker red than it looks like, can’t ever get that colour to photograph well. It came out shorter and smaller than I had hoped so I’m not sure it will get much wear, we’ll see when the weather gets warmer, I do like a red cardigan.

I also finished up my Sunseeker shawl, I didn’t increase to the full number of stitches as I had less yarn, but it still came out pretty huge and I’m happy with the way it’s blocked out. I used a bamboo cotton mix from Yarntopia Treasures in the colourway Mocha Latte.SunwalkerSunwalkerSunwalker

I had a massive clear out of clothes that were looking worn or not being worn. Quite a few hand-made things are on their way to the charity shop as I finally admitted to myself that I’m not ever going to wear them so there’s no point storing them. I cleared out the hand knits too and ended up with this huge pile which is bagged to go to new homes soon. Feb 2016(just seen one in there that I’m going to rescue from the bag as I’m apparently not as done with it as I thought!)
I have realised that I’m what they call a process knitter, I like making things, but I don’t always make what I like to wear, that’s something I am determined to work on and to think about how useful things will be before I cast on or cut fabric. I also decided that as I have the time at the moment I will try to fill out my hand-made wardrobe (so much for sewing less!) and try to get back, as close as I can, to making most of my clothing. I don’t sew underwear or jeans as they’re easily bought and I don’t ever feel it’s worth the time, but everything else is fair game. My mental plan is to find a solid stable of patterns that are ‘me’ and work with my lifestyle and to create a more cohesive ‘wardrobe’, if you will, using them. I’m hoping for around 10-15 patterns that offer different ways of styling them, different lengths, finishes etc. and that I know I like to wear. I tend to make tons of things and a lot of them don’t ever get worn. I have enjoyed making dresses, but fitted bodices just piss me off to wear and I’m really not all that girly, nor do I go anywhere that requires a nice frock, so it’s a waste of fabric and time to keep making them. What I want are comfortable and easy to wear clothes that go together, rather than only having a few bits that match and thus only get worn with each other. This will mean making more basics and using plainer fabrics rather than the eye searing prints I usually am drawn to. I’ll see how it goes and keep you updated.

A pattern that is most definitely already part of my ‘stable’ is the Montlake Tee, it fits how I like my t-shirts to fit and I don’t have to add any length to it. There are several sleeve lengths to mix things up and I can add different neckbands to mix it up a little. I’ve made 6 of them so far, the first stripy one was too big, it’s more a tunic, which is fine and I’ll still wear it, but I went down a size for all the rest and they’re great. There’s a mix of long, 3/4 and elbow length sleeves and I’ll make a few more short-sleeved ones when the weather calls for them. The 3/4 length sleeve actually turns out to be full length on me so I’ve made my own marks on the pattern for my length 3/4 length sleeves, I didn’t think I had particularly short arms!
Montlake TeeMontlake TeeMontlake TeeMontlake TeeMontlake TeeMontlake Tee
The black and grey stripe is from Boyes, you’ve seen it before and you’ll see it again as I bought loads of it as it’s got lovely drape. The dots are vintage from the local sale last year. The yellow plain is from an online acquaintance’s stash clearance, the grey is from Textile Warehouse (again I bought tons of it) and I’m annoyed that even though I pinned the stripes of the ribbing before cutting it still went wonky on the front. The blue stripe and green bird prints are both from Fabricland in Brighton, bought 4 years apart. Most of these fabrics have been hanging around in my stash waiting for just the right t-shirt pattern to come along so now I finally get to wear them!

I made another Betheua top, but totally messed it up and didn’t realise until the end. I managed to sew the back piece on upside down (chemo brain). It’s wearable and the fabrics are actually pretty cheap so won’t wash well anyway so it’s not too much of a loss.Bethioua Raglan

I also made another Ilsley skirt using some mock suede (micro suede?) that’s been in my stash forever and day. I took an inch off the length and added less width to this one so the fit is better on me. I also added an ad lib lining as it’s a very sticky fabric and it’s too short to wear a slip under. These photos are awful, black skirt in low light room, sorry…
Ilsley SkirtIlsley SkirtIlsley Skirt

And finally I made a pair of Roberts Collection dungarees. I hummed and hawed for ages about which size to make and finally decided to go with the 6, a size smaller than the jumpsuit. The denim is from Textile Warehouse on Ebay, I bought 5 metres of it as it was about £4.20 a metre. There’s no stretch in it but I love the vintagy colour of it and I’m glad I stocked up. I used demin hammer on buttons on it, the buttonholes were actually the hardest part for me, I made 7 before I got 4 that I could live with, it usually doesn’t take me that many goes. This is an awful shot of me, I think you can tell that I was bored with trying to get a good photo by the time I took this one!
Roberts Collection Dungarees
I thought they looked better on me than this picture suggests, but they’re comfortable and work with the stoma so I’m going to pretend that I look fabulous in them and just not look in mirrors while I’ve got them on! I have plans for more from the Roberts pattern before I put it away.

And that’s it, I have fabric out and ready for quite a few more things, I’m hoping to have the brain power and energy to cut something out soon. Sorry for the big dump of things, took me a while to find the energy to type this and the words at the same time!

*Ani DiFranco lyrics, as are the title of the blog. The next line of this song is ‘but I know where I’m going, and it ain’t where I’ve been’, it was my New Year’s mantra to try and psych myself up to get through the cancer treatment…

Top, Blanket, Jumpsuit (aka Titles are Hard)

The post-surgery swelling is going down, I am judging it’s progress by how much of the faces I can see of my sheep slippers whilst looking down, highly scientific. However, I’m still hunting around for comfortable things to wear that don’t make me feel horrid (self confidence is not at an all time high at present).

I liked the Bethioua top so much that I made a second one right away, this time using contrast fabrics. The knit I bought from The Textile Centre on Ebay in January (they have become my main fabric source at the moment, I place another order for 12 metres yesterday…), as I only did the front and back pieces from it I have enough for another garment.

Bethioua Raglan Top 2016/4Bethioua Raglan Top Back The black jersey has been in my stash forever, I think it came from my US co-op days and I still have a few yards left of it even though I’ve used it for at least 4 or 5 things, I miss the days of $2 to £1 exchange rates and surface shipping…

Anyway, I love this top, when I see it my brain says ‘I want to be, a tree’ (is that a quote from something?) and having a drama degree I am qualified to wear a tree shirt, although not for much else… I am definitely going down a size in this pattern next time I make it (I have fabric ready for another version). It just feels too big on me even though I’m going by the size the pattern says I need. This is actually a problem I’m having with a lot of patterns at the moment, I’m making sure I check the body measurements and the amount of ease and things are still coming out too big, it’s weird as usually it goes the other way…

Anyway, I promised some shots of me actually wearing things that I’ve made so this is the first Bethioua top with the Ilsay skirt that I showed you last time. Headless shot against a door, not the hight of fashion photography, I need to find my camera with it’s little tripod thingy and find a better place for photos.
Bethioua Top with Ilsay SkirtThey’re not bad, but just a bit too baggy and long, the skirt needs an inch off it I think, to me it looks like I’m a toddler wearing my big sister’s clothes, not a great look for an adult… However, it was comfortable and wasn’t jogging bottoms so I’ll take it for now.

I’ve been digging out things that don’t see the light very often and dragged out the Schoolhouse Tunic Dress that I made way back in October 2012.
School House Tunic/DressSchoolhouse Dress Long cardi, high boots, leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt under it have me following the fashion trend of my teen years that my Mother referred to as ‘Russian Peasant’. It’s a comfy dress though so I’m glad that it’s getting worn, I have a shirt version cut out waiting that would go well with the Ilsay skirt.

Confirming once again to me that Roo finds all the cool patterns I am once again copying her and have cast on for a Vivid Blanket.
1st Vivid Blanket Square As you can see I’ve made great progress on it… I’m using yarn from the stash, the middle is a bamboo cotton SMC yarn and the outer is black cotton that I made something from and then ripped out probably about 2009, nice to see it doing something rather than taking up space. This isn’t blocked yet so the pattern isn’t that clear on it. Obviously this is a long term project, but it will be fun to see it come together. No idea how big it will be, I will just keep going until I run out of one or other of the yarns. The first few rows of these squares are like playing pick up sticks with string attached, a little frustrating, but once you get past them it’s easy going and I’m excited to see some blocks together, I think it’s going to look good.

Finally, I made a jumpsuit from the Roberts Collection by Marilla Walker. My fabric is a batik/tie dye cord that I’ve had in the stash for at least 10 years having bought it from someone clearing out things they didn’t want in their stash. I figured it having sat there all that time if I wasn’t happy with the result it wasn’t a great loss. I wasn’t convinced that the jumpsuit is a good look for me, to be honest I’m still not, especially after Piggle asked me if I was wearing my pyjamas on the school run and then his Head Teacher commenting on the jumpsuit during a meeting I had with him… My sister says it’s slimming which makes me think that I must be a lot bigger in reality than in my head as I kind of see Weeble when I look at this picture…
Roberts Collection Jumpsuit 2016/5 I wore it with my over-used long black cardi, you’d think I didn’t knit the amount I wear it and the grey version I have. Again, I think it’s a bit too big even though I made the size for my measurements. I have fabric for a summery version and I think I will go down a size for that, especially as it’s linen and will stretch a bit. I’m not great at getting out of these yet, I managed to pin my arms to my sides the first time I attempted it which was a little panic inducing until I managed to shrug it back on. I want to try the dungarees and the shirt from this pattern, I have fabric out for both, but I think I’ll make a few other things first, I seem to have piles and piles of fabric and patterns at the moment but not the energy or the time.

In cancer news, I took the first chemo tablets this morning. I’m really not happy about doing this part of the treatment but it needs to be done so I kind of have to shut up and get on with it. I’m the type of person who doesn’t take paracetamol until it’s almost a migraine and who believes in listening to what the body needs, so basically taking poison and then more drugs to fight the reaction to the poison isn’t something I’m very comfortable with. Apparently the side effects can build over time, or I could just sail through and not have any major side effects, who knows. The fact that it comes with a booklet with charts for judging how bad the symptoms are and whether you need to get your ass to A&E immediately doesn’t comfort me much though. 8 three week cycles to get through.

I did have some good news following another undignified X-ray with the soothing name ‘contrast enema’. The physical result of the test was that I got to wear a grown up nappy for the rest of the day but the medical result was that the internal wound or ‘join’ has healed well and there is no leaking. What this means is that once I am done with the chemo and my system recovers enough I will be able to have another operation to reverse the stoma. Obviously this is great news, except for the bit where I have to do chemo and then have another operation, but one step at a time.

Going to try to finish the last 2 charts of my Sunseeker shawl this weekend if I can and maybe sew something. Have a good weekend.

Working on the Stoma Fashion

After 6 weeks of pyajams or jogging bottoms I have been getting a bit fed up with my clothing options. I had a dig through my wardrobe and found a few dresses that will work with the stoma bag and the still very swollen stomach but I still need more options, and things that make me feel more like ‘me’. I can’t wear jeans at the moment, none of them fit or hit me in the right place and, besides jogging bottoms, I can’t think of any other trousers that would work right now. Sewing trousers that will only fit for a short time isn’t going to happen either as it’s a waste of time and fabric, so skirts and dresses it will be until I can fit into other things.

Luckily I went from ‘no idea what to make’ to ‘here’s a large stack of fabric for the 20 things I want to make right now’ so I have ideas, fabric, patterns and options a plenty in my sewing room.

I started off with the Roberts Collection pinafore dress. I checked and double checked the measurements before cutting out the largest size. After sewing most of it together I checked the fit…

Roberts Dress Before Alternations

(bad hair, bad expression, dirty mirror, sorry Internet)

A strong wind would have had this dress acting as a sail, plus you could see straight through down both sides to the floor, not a good look. I took it apart and cut an inch off each side and the put it all back together again and came up with a much better fit.

Roberts Collection Dress 2016/1Roberts Collection DressRoberts Collection Dress
I will try and get some shots of me wearing these things as I want to be more honest about what and how things fit rather than going for the standard dressform shots.

Other changes I made were to take 2 inches off the length (apparently I’m really short as this dress is supposed to hit at the knee and I had to remove that length and do a 1″ hem to get it there) and to leave off the button placket. I didn’t really get the placket, and the fact that the drawing showing you how to do it is backwards really didn’t help either. It doesn’t add much space for an opening, the piece seemed the wrong length and I will pull the dress on and off over my head anyway so I didn’t need it. If I make the trouser version I will have to figure it out.

I used two of my favourite buttons that have been waiting for the right project.

Roberts Collection Dress

I can’t remember where this black denim came from, it’s been there a while as there is a slight fade along the fold line. It’s got a nice bit of stretch to it and I’ve enough left to make something else so it was obviously cheap wherever it came from!

Next up was another Marilla Walker pattern, this time the free Ilsley skirt. The pattern says the largest size is for a 36″ waist so I cut the pieces an inch away from the fold to give my largeness some room. Turns out that it was another one with lots and lots of ease and I didn’t need quite that much room, if I use this pattern again I’ll add an inch to the front and back rather than 2. The other change I made was to make the waistband out of ribbing so that it doesn’t rub. I should have cut the ribbing pieces shorter as they didn’t need to stretch very much, but the finished item is a very wearable muslin, in fact I have it on right now!
Ilsley Skirt 2016/2Ilsley Skirt

I used the thick denim I’ve been sewing with for about 10 years now, I still have enough left probably for a bag, I can’t even count the number of projects I’ve used it for!

The final sewing project is a sweatshirt using the Bethioua Raglan Shirt pattern. I wanted a nice loose comfortable t-shirt/sweatshirt pattern and contemplated another raglan pattern that is popular but decided that I needed a bit more interest in my sewing having made hundreds of Kwik Sew raglans over the years.

Bethioua Raglan Shirt 2016/3Bethioua Raglan Shirt

This isn’t a great picture of the back, but the sleeve pieces meet in the middle and the back piece is arched. I sewed all but the darts and hem on my overlocker which I’ve not done in a really long time. Although the neckline looks, and is, wide, it still covers the bra strapsI’ve got a second one of these cut and in progress already. The fabric is from Remnant Warehouse on Ebay last week, they describe it as a sports knit but it’s really a loose knit french terry. I bought the grey version as well for a baggy cardigan. The only thing I don’t like about this pattern is the way the sleeves for the larger sizes are laid out. I printed about 8 pages I didn’t need and could only cut a single size sleeve from that print run. I prefer patterns where I can make more than one size after cutting out the pattern depending on the fabric and the fit I want but if I want a smaller size of this I will have to figure out which pages the sleeve is on so I can just print those, it’s a little annoying.

And the knitting! I started the year with a finish on January 1st. This is Easy by Martina Behm and it was a gift, for a change!

EasyEasy

I wanted to make some really pretty lace for the recipient but my brain was just not up to it at all so I relied on the very soft bamboo tencel mix from Yarntopia Treasures in the colourway Visionary instead. The back and forth garter stitch was just what my brain needed whilst recuperating and it was well received so I’m happy with it. I think I might make myself one at some point.

In my new year finish up I have also completed a short sleeved cardigan, but I’m not hugely pleased with it and it needs a block which I’ve been putting off due to my feelings for it. I now have 7 projects on the needles, one of those is new as I needed something simple to knit on whilst watching tv (although I messed up a YO due to being preoccupied with Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy in Peaky Blinders and had to rip back 18 rows…) but there is a wide variety of stuff to be working on and yesterday I knit on four different things over the course of the day!

The first thing I worked on yesterday became a FO, my first pair of socks for the year using the pattern RPM which is in Knitty.

RPM Socks
The yarn is Maizy in Neptune, I think these are actually my first pair of blue socks in all the years I’ve been making them. They’re very comfortable, I wore them the rest of the day after taking the picture. I used the round toe option for a change and it was quick and looks good I think.

So, all caught up for now excepting the unblocked cardigan. Back to the machines and the knitting I go!

Well, that was 2015

I didn’t get my usual end of year knitting finish up done in 2015 for obvious reasons. I packed lots of knitting to take to the hospital with me but felt so terrible that I managed about 10 rows in total the whole time I was there. I am working on the finish up now and have made progress on a few things since I’ve been home, I will save the January finishes for another post though and just wrap up 2015 in this post.

For some reason I never had a picture of my Folded sweater before now, not sure what happened except I was extremely irritated to run out of yarn right before the end. Also, the larger size isn’t photographed in the pattern or Ravelry page for this pattern and the gathering is much lower than the size shown so even though I managed to hunt down the extra ball of the discontinued yarn I needed I didn’t get quite what I expected from it. It’ll be a useful around the house jumper but I’m still not in love with it and have only worn it a couple of times since I finished it in the summer, thus the creases in it from being shoved into my over-full jumper drawer.

Folded

On the heels of the successful Quick Sand make I cast on for a Fine Sand using the House of Hemp yarn I’ve had in my stash forever. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out as the hemp changes quite a bit when washed and I wasn’t scientific at all about figuring out how it would change, but I was tired of the yarn sitting there making me feel bad for not using it (it was far more expensive than any other yarn I’ve bought) so I knit away, chucked it in the machine on the wool wash and hoped for the best. This is the texture of the knit before washing

Fine SandFine Sand

Quite uneven and stiff, after washing it is still a bit itchy but it gained a nice amount of drape and didn’t shrink in width which pleased me.

Fine SandFine Sand

I really like the way it’s come out so it’s a definite win for these patterns and I’m sure I’ll use them again in the future as they’re really comfortable and wearble.

Back in October I made up the Arum top that was on my ‘to make’ list. As expected it did come up too small for me, I’m sure it would be pretty easy to size up, but with my limited sewing time I will probably not bother to be honest. The fabric was only £1.99 and it may fit me one day, who knows.

Arum Top Arum TopArum Top

It’s a really easy pattern and it goes together quickly and easily so I’d recommend it if you fit in the size range. Early November I made another Fen, this one a round neck using some fabric I got at Fabric Land about 4 years ago. I love this shirt, it’s easy to wear and really comfortable, although I’m still considering going down a size in this pattern as they are coming up really huge which works well for drapey fabric but wouldn’t for something with more body.

Round Neck Fen

Then I moved onto a Fen dress which I’m not so happy with. Once again I made a sack and didn’t expect it to look like a sack on me…
Fen DressFen DressFen Dress

The details are nice on it, but it’s just really big and shapeless. I used a piece of vintage fabric that’s a stable synthetic knit. It’s the kind of thing I’d wear around the house on a warm day but not in public as it does absolutely nothing for me at all and the neckline it too wide, must remember to stop making sacks…

So, finally, the totals for the year:

13 knits in total: 1 hat, 6 cardigans, 1 jumper, 1 child’s jumper, 3 shawls and 1 pair of socks.

Nowhere near the biggest knitting year I’ve had but I’m making more things that I will actually wear rather than churning out things that live in a drawer for a few years and then go to the charity shop. I’ve also managed to begin using up yarn that’s been in my stash for ages but I have gone off the pattern I intended to use it for. That’s something I want to continue doing this year to carry on reducing the stash, still working on the ‘getting it all into one cupboard’ plan!

I currently have 2 FOs to show you along with 7 projects on the needles; 2 pairs of socks, 2 cardigans, 2 shawls and a jumper. Those are the things I want to try and finish off (or at least a chunk of them) before allowing myself to cast on for new things, some have been WIPs for a really long time and one of those cardigans I really really want to wear so I need to actually work on it for that to happen.

Quilting was slow this year, but having covered the house in quilted items in the previous few years it was probably time to make a bit less, and I have quilting plans for this year so I will hopefully produce more of that this year. I made 1 quilt, a coffee carafe cover and 2 bee blocks. There was a little quilting in a bag too but I’m counting that as a sewing project.

I’m surprised by the sewing total of 27 things, it felt like I’d made a lot less. It comes out as 2 pairs of children’s dungarees, 6 bags/cases, 2 t-shirts, 3 sweatshirts, 3 dresses, 1 pair of curtains, 3 pairs of pyjamas and 7 shirts.

I have actually been thinking about making less garments, I have a wardrobe stuffed with things to wear and my chest of drawers is overflowing, so making more and more things seems wasteful. I’m going to try and consider what I really need rather than just making things willy nilly that hardly get worn as it’s a waste of time and fabric. Also, at the moment I’m living in sweatpants and will be until the swelling from the surgery goes down so ‘real’ clothes aren’t really worth the sewing time.

Finally, I read 155 books in 2015, which works out to about 3 a week and probably explains why I sew and knit less than I have done in years where I’ve read less! No apologies for filling my time with both good and not so good books though, I love reading and intend to keep my totals as high as I can!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year and I look forward to sharing my makes with you in 2016!

Good, and Not So Good

So I went to see my surgeon today. She did a good job and the tumour was completely removed with good margins so it is gone now. She says I’m looking very well for 10 days post surgery and that my sister can stop telling me off for moving about and doing too much as she’s all for determined people like me getting on with things as they recover much faster and better.

Today we learnt that there are lymph nodes in all parts of your body. I thought there were just glands and things in the usual places like neck, groin etc. but no, they’re everywhere. In the piece of me she removed there were 13 nodes and all but one of them, the one that was closest to the tumour, were free from cancerous cells.  This means that the cancer was just starting to spread, so we got it at a good time. But, I will have to have chemotherapy in the New Year once I’ve recovered from the operation.

However, bowel cancer chemo isn’t the film and tv IV throwing up hair loss type of treatment. It involves me taking pills in 3 week courses for about 6 months and generally the side effects are nausea (which worries me as it’s the world’s worst feeling to me but there are things I can take to counteract it) and an upset stomach. The only thing it may effect is how soon I can have the stoma reversed as it’s possibly not a great idea to reverse it if things are all messed up with what’s coming through.

Not the news I wanted, obviously, but I’ve always been a B student so I guess getting one wrong is par for the course for me. I have the option not to do it, but I’m never going to turn down treatment that could ensure I see my boys grow up and allows me to live as long a life as I can, so chemo it is.

I also saw the stoma nurse and got some new things to try to help stop the leakage problems I’ve been having with the bags (as gross as it sounds and very frustrating), hopefully it will work.

And on we go with this less than merry journey….

Where I Am Right Now

This is primarily a making things blog and I don’t tend to talk about my personal stuff all that much but I’m in a place at the moment where I think some of my experiences might help at least one other person in the future who is searching for information or wanting to read something about this topic, I know I have been helped by reading bits here and there. If you’re not a fan of medical stories, especially those involving poo, come back for the next instalment of what I made when I get around to posting it (there are still things to show you, although for reasons that will become apparent my output has slowed down considerably of late).

I will try not to make this into a novel, but it is a story as such, so I guess I’ll tell it that way. I apologise in advance for the length, give up any time you feel like it!

About a year ago I noticed that I was bleeding when I had a bowel movement. Having had piles all through my 20’s, to the level that in my late 20’s I’d had a operation to remove them, I was pretty ok with it and figured that although I’d not had them for about 15 years they must just be back. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac (understatement) about my health, being aware that as a single parent I need to be healthy in order to actually do the parenting, so after about 6 months, and when I’d resigned myself to a stranger playing around back there checking it out, I made an appointment with my GP who confirmed that he thought it was piles, I didn’t need a scope to check it out as there were no glaring symptoms, and gave me some suppositories. Job done.

The suppositories didn’t do anything though and just after finishing the course I had a scarily bad mucousy bleed which freaked me out enough to call my Drs Surgery and ask to speak to the GP on call about it. In all the time I had piles I never had mucous and it was starting to feel to me just as if something were off, it didn’t feel like piles and I wanted to be sure. The GP on call told me that it still sounded like piles and when I asked her to refer me for a scope she told me that I didn’t need it but if I insisted she would put it forward (she was rather scathing), although it would take a bit of time to get an appointment as my symptoms didn’t suggest an emergency.

I got the appointment and had to reschedule it twice so it was a month before I went, 6 months since the first GP visit and a year since the first symptoms. It’s a horrible test, it’s invasive and embarrassing and you have to give yourself an enema before you attend. It’s just not nice, but I made myself do it assuming they’d tell me I was just being stupid and had wasted their time. Turns out, not so much…

They found a growth, just one, but she informed me right away that it ‘looked like cancer’. After I got dressed I was very very quickly seen by two nurses who would organise further investigations, I don’t think that they see people respond to the c word quite the way that I did, ‘I don’t have time to have cancer’ is possibly not the standard response… I’d attended the test on my own so they watched me rather like a live grenade, I guess trying to assess whether I could get myself home or not (a 40 minute drive). The NHS have a policy that once cancer is suspected all investigations must be completed within a 2 week period. I had a blood test immediately and they set about trying to get the other appointments I would need. Of course that two week period coincided with my finally getting into schools to do my fieldwork and a week long teaching course I’d been waiting to take. However, they were absolutely brilliant at moving things around to suit me and the boys’ timetable once I’d explained that I was on my own.

The CT scan came first. Horrible laxatives the night before and then another thing inside me while they injected me with assorted things before taking pictures. I also had my period which really added to the comfort of the whole thing I found. It was an all female team though, who I guess are comfortable with all bodily acts as they go about sticking tubes in people’s bums so they were all sympathetic and it got done.

Next came an MRI which I had to fast before (apparently you can take an X-ray through custard though so I lived on that and stock for 24 hours). I followed the instructions in the leaflet and wore clothes with no metal fastenings so I didn’t have to change into a gown. I have no idea how long I was in there, I think it was an hour, but I practiced my yoga breathing and relaxation and actually fell asleep a couple of times only to be jerked awake by them talking to me through the headphones. The only bad moments came when they left the microphone in their booth on by mistake and I could hear them talking, I had a sudden panic that they would say ‘oh god, that’s awful, poor woman’ or something along those lines, but luckily that didn’t happen.

I was, and still am, pretty amazed at the way I manged those couple of weeks. I am a worrier, it’s just what I do, finish worrying about one thing and then onto the next. However, I decided, after having one huge breakdown, that it would be stupid to spend two weeks in a flat panic, I had work to do and children that needed looking after and no time to fall apart. I told myself that I would panic when I knew what I needed to panic about and just got on with it, it’s never worked before but surprisingly it did this time around.

The first appointment I was given to see a someone about the results was at a time I couldn’t make so I was moved to a different surgeon, which turned out to be a good thing as she is absolutely wonderful. The results weren’t. It was bowel cancer, but it was the single tumour and it was caught early (yay hypochondria). However, it needed to be removed which meant open surgery and an illiostomy (don’t know how to spell that, don’t want to look it up), whether that would be a temporary stoma bag or not was in question until the operation due to the location of the tumor, she believed she had room to ‘reconnect everything’ but if it turned out not to be so then I would have to have a permanent stoma (where the upper bowel is pulled through the skin on one side of the belly and the contents of the bowel goes into a bag), the thought of which frankly horrified me and wasn’t something I could even contemplate so I pretty much ignored that part until after the surgery.

The surgery was scheduled for three weeks later, December 10th, and I fit in everything I possibly could and sorting out people to look after the boys for me as it was predicted to be a 6 day minimum stay in hospital. I finished my fieldwork, only one focus group short of my target, taught, marked work, attended Christmas things and took Piggle for his guitar exam (the day before the surgery was one of those horrifically busy work/children/school events convergence that comes a few times a year followed by the laxitives from hell in the evening). I also fit in a visit to a haemotologist due to my low platelets and, once he’d ok’d it, a visit to a local hopsital the day before the operation for an anti-coagulation injection to prevent deep vein thrombosis.

So, off my parents and I trogged on the 10th at o fucking hell this is far too early in the morning, only to spend 45 minutes searching for the new hospital as they apparently haven’t managed to put up many signs for it yet once you get off the A1. It was actually a bonus in a way as I was hugely scared of not waking up from the operation, actually more so than cancer at the time, but as we were late I was rushed right through and into theatre before I had time to think too much or work myself into much of a state.

Hospital was horrible, some great staff some not so, you just can’t recover in those places, drainage bags are awful, the drugs they gave me had odd effects on me, I had to begin to face the stoma bag and learn how to take care of it and I was generally depressed and fed up. I spent the first 3 days basically staring into space and trying to force myself to eat something. The NHS is not good at catering for vegans, this was their best attempt I’ve encountered, but as I just wasn’t hungry (very unusual for me) so a totally plain salad or oddly thick salty soup was not appealing, and I was also hyper aware that I would have to deal with what I did eat up close and personally later, so food just didn’t work for me. Eventually I managed to be able to read a bit again and watched a few tv shows on Netflix (borrowed my Dad’s myfi) but I was still totally wiped out and in pain a lot of the time, even more than 3 or 4 rows on a sock was too much effort.

I came home after 5 days (this past Tuesday) and today is the first day I’ve physically felt a bit better, although paracetamol with a bit of ibuprofen here and there due to the odd side effects of other pain killers doesn’t really cut it and the night before last I slept for a single hour due to being in pain and totally uncomfortable in any position. I hate the stoma bag with a firey passion but it is only temporary, thank every deity, and I will have another smaller operation to reverse it in 4-6 months time. Yesterday I had a District Nurse visit and a Stoma Nurse visit and will see both of them again before Christmas I think. Amazingly they both found my house quite easily.

The result from the removed tumour were due yesterday. The surgeon had said she’d call me about them so I was expecting results over the phone, what I got was someone making an appointment for me to see her on Monday. I don’t know if that is standard practice or bad news so I’m once again trying not to panic after having a small breakdown. They were hopeful that as it had been caught early and there was no spreading that I would not need any further treatment, I won’t know if that’s the case until after the meeting where I’ll find out how aggressive the type of cancer I had/have is.

So, here I am, no idea how bad it is, whether it will come back, how long it will take before I stop looking 5 months pregnant and walk further than from one end of the house to the other or what the new year will bring really. I am taking an interruption from my PhD, currently accepted until 1st March, but like everything else I will have to see what I can manage and when I can manage it and I may have to take a second break for the reversal surgery, or if I do have to have other treatments.

There has never been bowel cancer in my family that anyone can recall. My Great Grandmother died from stomach cancer but there has been none of any kind in either side of my family since then. I had one risk factor (being overweight), I’m 2o years too young, haven’t eaten meat since I was 16, ate a whole foods high fibre mainly organic pretty bloody healthy diet for the 11 years I’ve been vegan and exercised regularly. I had a single symptom, the bleeding, nothing else that would suggest cancer. Knowing my body though, what was normal for it and what felt right and what didn’t was what got me diagnosed so early, the surgeon actually said that they don’t normally see it this early, which hopefully will help. It took me weeks to realise that it could come back, it was just somehow in my head that I’d have the operation and be done with it, so it was a shock to finally understand that this is something I will have to keep an eye on for the rest of my life.

But, I’m here, the tumour is gone, I’m told I’m recovering well and I now have until the 27th to relax and rest as the boys are with their Dad for Christmas this year (luckily it was his year so we didn’t have to change anything). My sister is here looking after me and things and I’ll just have ot see what happens next.

As I said, I hope that sometime in the future this might help someone looking for stories about people who have bowel cancer and that if they are contemplating being tested they have it done no matter what they’re told. Know your body people, that’s the basic message I have for you, and push if you feel something isn’t right no matter what the ‘experts’ are telling you, be the expert on yourself.

If I don’t make it back to the blog before Christmas to show you my last few makes I hope you and yours have a pleasant one, and here’s to 2016 being bigger and better for everyone in every way.