Tuesday, 13 December 2016

New and Improved (OK, Old and Attempting to Improve)

Hi all! "Omg!" you say. "We thought you had disappeared! Just dropped off the face of the earth". Well, almost but not quite.
At the beginning of 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer. I know, who isn't these days - and we are all so over it. I think it's about time for a newer, more exotic disease. (Trust me - bad humor is the only way you get thru it). Anyway, I had surgery, then started chemo. My reaction to the chemo drugs was so severe they had to stop, so I got all the side effects and none of the benefits - kinda sucked, but that's life. The chemo left me with permanent nerve damage in my hands and feet, and it is only recently that I have been able to start doing my crafts again. 
So that's my cancer story, and that's all you get. I didn't blog about it because, frankly, I just didn't have the energy, and - to me - there is nothing more depressing than reading about someone's illness(es) post after post, month after month, moving into a few years.
So now I'm getting back on my feet - metaphorically. The nerve damage in my feet means I'll probably never be able to spend too much time on my feet without a lot pain. But I can live with that. Between the crafts and Netflix, who has time to stand up much these days anyway.

I crocheted my first afghan (since the diagnosis) - a beautiful 24 point ripple afghan. I was really pleased with how it turned out. 

At one point, I kept having to tear out the same six rounds to fix a mistake (had to be fixed or would throw off the placement of the last set of point increases). So I took a week and a half off to knit a hooded cowl.
I'm a self taught knitter, and while I'm good with what I do - beautiful stitches, even tension, looks machine knitted - my skill is very limited. This hooded cowl is actually the largest thing I have ever knitted, and I avoid all patterns with abbreviations I don't understand - which ends up being a LOT. So I decided this coming year, I would do more than just get back on my feet. I decided 2017 was going to be my "Knitting & Bread" year, where I would concentrate most of my efforts on those two thing, to become proficient in them.
To that end, I bought a butt-load of Craftsy classes. Between the 'Take your first class' discount, Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and '12 Days of Christmas' sales, I got a lot of classes, at really great prices (some as low as $10 on a 24hr 2-for-1 special with classes already substantially marked down for the sales).
The first one I took - and have completed - was "Knit Faster With Continental Knitting" with instructor Lorilee Beltman. I knit English style, but continental style is much faster (I can knit 4 times as fast now with continental), purling is easier, and doing ribbing is a breeze. The hooded cowl was done in continental style - it was my class project. Lorilee is a fantastic instructor, encouraging, patient, and just a lovely person to deal with. I can thoroughly recommend her class.

Now I have started class number two - "My First Toe-Up Socks" with Susan B. Anderson. Another good teacher. I expect this class to take quite a bit longer to complete.This is where I'm at so far - the toe of the first sock.

I discovered yesterday that there is such a thing as self patterning sock wool - who knew?! Probably everyone except me - lol. It is so cool though! Of course now I want some, and I'm also wanting some fine wool yarn to try doing a Shetland style shawl. I asked someone online where I could get the shawl yarn I was looking for, and they recommended a shop up in Tauranga. I figured I could probably get the sock yarn there too. I went to the website to buy yarn, and had problems with trying to register. When I phoned to try to get help, the first thing Lynette (the shop owner) said was "well it's your fault you are doing something wrong", and then she just kept saying that as I was trying to explain what I had done. Even if I had done something wrong (which it turns out I didn't), that is certainly no way to treat a potential customer.
I then moved on to ask about how to browse for yarns, as I couldn't find any way to do that. She was quite snippy about the fact that I had to know what I wanted - the exact brand and yarn - if I wanted buy, that I couldn't just browse. There is a search facility which I did try to use, but again you need to know exactly what you are looking for. I tried putting keywords only in - "sock" for one search looking for sock yarn, and "lace" in another search looking for lace weight yarns - both came up with nothing. I mentioned this, wondering how to find sock or lace yarns in general, and again was told if I didn't get anything from the search that it was my fault, I was doing something wrong, and anyway I should know exactly what I am looking for and should be searching for that. She did ask what I was looking for (in a very exasperated tone), and I told her. She replied "of course we have that" and told me, very curtly, I should be searching for Opal brand. Apparently I am supposed to know what brands - and yarns within the brand - are for what, and I'm being rude by asking for information or help.
I'm told the shop has an exceptional range, and as a shop it is probably very good, but the customer service is appalling, and I will definitely be taking my business elsewhere. At the moment I buy mostly from the US and the UK. There are a lot of complaints from NZ businesses about people buying from overseas, but the attitude and service displayed here - which are endemic in NZ businesses - are why.

Not wanting to buy from overseas this time - it takes so long for the orders to arrive and I wanted it kind of now-ish (as in, you know, right NOW) - I did a Google search for Opal sock yarn in NZ, and low-and-behold a shop in Hastings came up: Knitworld. I knew we had a yarn shop here (other than Spotlight), but quite a while ago someone told me that the only yarn shop here was really expensive, so I completely forgot about it. I thought "OK, they may be expensive, but maybe just get one ball there now, and then order the rest from overseas".

I phoned the shop to see what they had, and what the prices were. I could not have met a nicer person anywhere - the woman was so nice, and so helpful. The shop is a small one, but it is a franchise, so I can order online, but it wouldn't support the local shop if I did that, so I decided to make the effort to go into town to buy, to support the local shop - especially since the woman on the phone was so nice. The range of yarns she has is fantastic, and the prices are definitely NOT expensive. I go through a ton of cheap acrylic with my crocheted afghans - I wouldn't be able to do them at the rate I do otherwise. Her cheap acrylics are cheaper than Spotlight (or Warehouse or K-Mart). She has really nice wool/acrylic blends that are about the same price as the 100% acrylic at those other "cheaper" stores! Don't even get me started on how much wool and wool blends are at those "cheaper" stores!
I got everything I wanted, including stuff I didn't know I wanted until I got there - lol. Four different color self patterning sock yarns (100g balls); 2 different balls of 100% merino self patterning DK (I think that is called worsted in US lingo - knits on US7 needles), to make a couple of hats with; 2 hanks of the most gorgeous burgundy 4 ply - 75% merino 25% NZ possum fur, for a shawl; and a large hank of 100% merino 2 ply to do a Shetland shawl with. I'm a happy camper now.
They even have a small knitting/crochet/hand sewing group that meets there on Thursday afternoons. I'll start going to that in the New Year - it will be great to meet up with some other knitters.

So that is where I am at the moment. I will keep blogging as I do classes, and make stuff. For now, I will leave you with a couple of pics of my fur babies, which I got just after chemo so haven't posted here yet.

This is Arnold, a red-point Ragdoll - 6 kg (14 lbs) of fur and whinge. 

This is Sheba, a Bengal - 3 light kg of mostly claws and attitude.

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