Sunday, August 27, 2006

Knitting on Circular Needles

I finally did it. I finally got up the courage to try to knit something on circular needles. I haven't tried to knit anything over the past several months, but I have been collecting things knitting related. Books. I just love to look over the possibilites of what a person can do with their hands.

As with any other craft I have tried, I collect all kinds of books on the subject and immerse myself in them, sometimes for months and months at a time before I try even one technique. I guess I learn by reading and then imagine myself doing the technique, eventually just getting the urge to try it out.

I couldn't find 16 inch circular needles in any of the craft shops around here, so I went on the Internet, Googled, "circular needles" and actually bought sizes I thought I could tolerate - nothing smaller than a size 8 for me - with matching double pointed needles, too.

These have sat in a box on my desk for about 3 months. Sigh.

Yesterday, I got a book by Lion Brand Yarns, "Just Hats" and read the one thing I needed to get me going.

Make a swatch. That's my swatch up there. I wrote down how I made it and what I made it with and attached the 3 1/2 x 5 card to it with a pin. Preserved for eternity.

OK, OK every yarn book on the planet says make a swatch before making a knitted article, the exception being scarves I guess, as most scarves will definitely fit most bodies.

Most of the time, I just didn't get started on a project because I didn't have the same yarn used in the pattern and, this put me off so much, I just let all the patterns I've collected off the Internet and from my books just sit and stare at me. I was afraid.

HOWEVER, this little book gives you the pattern based on your swatch. Not the other way around. I don't have to try to find a way to match the gauge the pattern calls for. I don't have to knit 4 or 5 or more swatches hoping to match the designer's gauge.

This backwards thinking in "Just Hats" sent me forward. I made a swatch using yarn I have, the size 11 circular needles I wanted to use and then measured how many stitches per inch I was making.

3.5. Or, about 14 stitches for a 4 inch swatch. I then calculated for a 20 inch head size because the swatch felt kind of stretchy to me and I figured that with my 22 inch head, it'll probably be OK. If not, I'll give it to my petite sister. Or I'll donate it. Or, I'll hang it on the wall as "art".

Anyway, I stayed up late last night getting the first three rows cast on and knit. All the books say, "be careful not to let the first row twist". Another thing that put me off circular needles. I have a hard enough time just casting on and now I have to worry about watching how the stitches line up on this impossibly small hoop in my hands! Oh, the worry for a Type A, first born, perfectionist type!

I got through this first three rows by following a suggestion made by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka, The Yarn Harlot. She said to knit the first row and second row as if you are using straight needles. Go back and forth. Then, on the third row, join the stitches. By then there is enough yarn knitted to keep the stitches straightened out.

I did it. And it worked. Thank you Stepahnie!

Today, after catching up on insurance EOB's (explanation of benefits) for the office, I gathered myself in my favorite chair and knit, knit, knit!

Doesn't it look good? This is actually the inside of the hat, but you can see how I am really using circular needles, for sure.

And, it's rolling nicely, 'cause that's what I want:
A Roll Brim hat, with no back seam. Don't you think the "Fun Fetti" is a nice touch? The white wool has little streams of silver running throughout, and I just love the way it looks.

The Yarn Harlot also said in "Knitting Rules!" that an easy way to measure the length to knit is to measure from the base of the hand to the tip of the middle finger of the person the hat is being made for. Then do the decreases for the crown.

So, letting the roll roll, I'll have to knit 7 inches more and then I will almost have a hat.

I hope this works!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Swarovski Crystal Earrings - I made myself!

Aren't these beautiful? Last Spring I was getting itchy to learn a new craft and decided it was high time I learned how to wrap wire so I could make more interesting jewelry designs.

These are 12mm Swarovski Crystal. The color is Aqua AB, meaning the pale blue has an aurora borealis finish on them which makes them sparkle with rainbow colors.

The caps and other findings are Sterling Silver, including the wire they hang on. The earring clips are lever back wires which make losing them much less likely. I wear these alot and since I'm on the phone at work so much of the time, I don't have to worry about them falling off and getting lost. Good!

I've been practicing making more because I just think these are so pretty and have finally gotten confident enough to make some as gifts.
OK, OK , if you look closely, the spirals of wire are not exactly perfect, but if you are standing that close to me to see that, then, sir or madame, you are too darn close!

There's a reason personal space is personal space - and this is one of them!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday's I Paint

Sunday's are a good day to go to the office to paint. After a whole day of rest on Saturday, I'm looking forward to doing something tangible and creative. With no phones ringing or a computer demanding my eyes, I can take out my pots of paint and have at something that is naked and dress it up with color, someway, somehow. This group of kiddy size table and chairs have been in the waiting room for 10 months now, getting grubbier and grubbier with each kiddy visitor. That's a nice kind of natural aging process, but I'm just not into it. I like COLOR!

I like to start at the bottom. Using high gloss water base enamel will make everything shiny and easy to clean.

This is a base coat of a gorgeous rose color. But, it is a little "flat".

So, I took my most favorite ratty chip brush and dry brushed some magenta all over it. Now it looks interesting.

I managed to get four chairs and the table base coated in 6 hours, at which point I had to stop because I started dropping things. A sure clue to stop, clean up and go home.

This is the beginning. I plan to add more color to each chair so there will be a veritable rainbow and hopefully, a funky playful place to sit and play. But that's gonna be for another Sunday I paint.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Long Year

I absolutely cannot believe that more than a year has passed since I wrote one word in this little blog! Guess because so much has happened to change the pattern of my days, it's really no wonder.

What happened?

Well, I started working outside my house, that's what happened. Not too far outside, but outside it is. It all started when my husband told his partners he was planning to retire in two years...
Not an unexpected event, really. He thought that when he turned 62, it would be a good idea to take up other interests. Put more time into his golf game. Work out more often. Travel to Denver to see the grandchildren. You know. Just ordinary stuff.

However, it turns out that his first partner didn't agree, suddenly, on the terms of the contract that had been in place for over 20 years.

Man oh man, what a mess! Lawyers, letters, disputes, and a lot of really childish behavior(his). This man figured since he was going to be left with the practice, he could arbitraily decide what he wanted to do with it. And, if my husband, who started the whole thing in 1979, was leaving, then he could keep all the money. (And not share any with my husband, ever)

Amazing what a lack of morals allows people to do. It didn't help that we had a contract that was "loosely translatable" either.

So, what to do? It took a year, but in the end, we decided to start our own practice - again. I had helped him set the first one up back in 1979. I am an R. N. and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, so I was his nurse, his receptionist, his bookkeeper as well as wife and mom of our two young sons. Very young.

I really didn't want to work at that time. My kids needed me and I wanted to be with them. I had never planned on having them and then handing them over to someone else to raise. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that's really old fashioned and probably not even politically correct anymore, but even in the face of the pressure put on by the women's movement, I still felt my place was home, home, home with my kids.

After a couple of years of frantic working schedules, I did finally quit when the practice was able to support a nurse, a receptionist and us too.

Being a home suited me. Suited us. Everybody knew I was there for them. For my husband, I was his center. For my children, I was their touchstone. And, I was there to carpool, cook, shop, get the laundry done, organize family parties and take care of our pets, the garden, cheap chic decorating the house and do volunteer work at the synagogue.

As the kids grew up, I had lots of time to do other things too. I started a small business and made beautiful prayer shawls for women. A chance to develop my sewing, machine embroidery, dyeing, fabric painting, silk ribbon embroidery and beading skills. So much fun to do! Soon, I made shawls for men and boys too. I got so busy I had to hire help. It was great. Then it got so busy it got to be unfun. I was running ragged around the edges and slowly pulled back.

I was kind of in a coasting mode and soon the grandchildren began to appear. New fun! New things to do! A different phase of life. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

And then this. Now I am back to work full time. I have set up a new office for my husband.
And, let me tell you, it ain't like it used to be.

Everything is computerized and electronic. The charts, the billing, and really fancy phones!

And, everything is dependent on the medical insurance industry. They have complete control over every aspect of running a medical practice. If they decide to take you on as a provider of medical services, you have to run everything according to their rules. They tell you what has to be hung on your walls and what has to be in the charts. And they tell you what they will pay for and what they will not. And, how much.

It's a problem just getting them to give us enough money to cover the cost of the vaccines we have to give to our little patients. And some drugs they don't even cover! If my husband feels that a child needs a certain vaccine and that patient's insurance company doesn't cover it, we have to pay for it. And, according to some of these contracts, we are NOT ALLOWED TO BILL FOR IT. We take a hit because we want to do the right thing.

If you want patients to see you, you have to have insurance plans that they use. A pediatrician is considered a "primary care physician". A gate keeper. Ugghh! That means for most insurance that most people can afford, they have to have PERMISSION from their primary doctor to see any specialist they may wish to consult.

I am beginning to hate the word: Referral.

As office manager, I have to write all the referrals. It wouldn't be so bad if all they needed was a signed prescription, but it aint' so easy as that. Sometimes it takes as long as 45 minutes or two days to get permission from the insurance company for the patient to see a specialist.

It's really sickening.

Anyway, as this post is getting too long, I'm gonna have to stop. But, since I feel as if my head is just bobbing to the surface of a routine these days, I will make an effort to show some of what I am doing again. I am painting the walls and doors of the office, making it colorful and fun for the kids who have to face big scary needles and other unexpected insults to their beautiful young selves.

Note to self (and to anybody out their who has a business of their own) :