Thursday, March 28, 2013

(Don't) Be Still My Heart

A couple of weeks ago the knitwear designer, Andi Smith, had a heart attack. Everyone in the community was pretty stunned. We thought "Andi couldn't have had a heart attack, she's only 45. She has kids. She's funny. She has a great accent." 

 Since Lorna's Laces is involved in Stitch Red, I thought it made sense to take this opportunity to do a little PSA work. We put together a few questions and let Andi loose. (We also decided to include photos of some of her designs. This is serious business but a little eye candy never hurts.)

How did you know you were having a heart attack?
I didn’t. I woke up with a very intense, strange pain in my chest and torso about 4 am on a Sunday morning. My chest, stomach and arms all felt very heavy and squashed, there was an intermittent stabbing in my rib cage and I felt “not right”. I don’t know how else to describe it. Just a strong feeling that something was very wrong. The pain level wasn’t constant, either. It varied between a 5 - which is more than bearable - and a 9 - which really isn’t. 

Did you go to the ER immediately?
No. Everyone was asleep, and I thought perhaps some fresh air would “fix” everything. I went and sat outside in the snow for a while. It took me about ten minutes to walk back in though, and I felt much worse, so I woke my husband and told him we needed to go. I really didn’t want to, I have a special needs kid at home, and was worried about upsetting him, and also finding care for him. 


I think we tend to imagine the chest clutching, Fred Sanford sort of scenario when we think of heart attacks.  That's not true of women, is it?
It’s funny, I had the chest pain, but not the falling down on the floor, dramatically clutching my chest thing. I also had the stomach, neck, shoulder thing that I guess is more associated with women. In the ER, I found it strange that even though women have just as many heart attacks as men, I felt an absolute bias because I wasn’t doing the Fred Sanford thing, especially when my ECG came back normal. I felt as if they thought I was making the whole thing up. 

It wasn’t until my blood tests came back showing an enzyme that’s released during a heart attack, that I felt I was taken seriously. We went from being told I could go home to being rushed for angioplasty in about ten minutes. Gender bias or atypical symptoms? I don’t know. It does bother me though. I’m not sure how I was supposed to act during the whole episode, but apparently, I “wasn’t doing it right!”

Were there any warning signs, say a day or two in advance?
I’d actually been working on getting healthy for a few months beforehand. I’d cut way down on smoking in preparation to stopping, I’d increased my activity level and cut down on fats and sodium in my diet. The day before the heart attack, I felt better than I had in months. I guess it’s a good thing really, or my heart attack could have been worse. 

Are there any specific foods that can combat heart disease?
I know that low sodium, low fat is the way to go. I’m not a big fan of processed foods anyway, and they’re a big no no too. I’ve been looking at a more mediterranean approach to my diet, lots of fresh fish, beans and veggies. It’s not a difficult transition. I personally like the idea of everything in moderation. 

I did have a problem last week where I didn’t have enough sodium or potassium in my diet and suffered some rather nasty cramps throughout my body, so I’m conscious now of making sure I get a more balanced diet. 

I’ve found a couple of good websites that have good, common-sense information, The American Heart Association and their off-shoot Go Red for Women.  Both of these have been very helpful. 

In hindsight, was there any sensation, premonition, feeling that something was not right that you ignored?
I don’t think there was for me. However, when it was happening, even though I wanted to ignore it, even though I was convinced that it was “just one of those things”, I KNEW that whatever it was, I needed to go to the hospital. 

It’s strange, even after having a heart attack, I’m finding it difficult to relax and let my body heal. Earlier this week, I was feeling much better, a little stronger and more like myself. I started washing a few dishes, walking the dog in the yard, moving around more. Not to any huge extent, but certainly more than  I had done the previous week. It exhausted me, but I felt as if I were getting better. Until searing chest pain had me calling 911. No heart attack this time, but I’d definitely over done things. I need to heal. I need to rest and let my body heal. How do I do that? As a mom, a home maker, a designer, an author with a book that needs editing one more time? 

I’m determined to do it though. I’m sitting on my couch, ignoring the guilt, ignoring all the things that I could jump up and “fix”, ignoring all the things I want to do for my family. They can do for me for a while. 

I’m knitting. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me sane right now. I’m in the middle of designing a cardigan using Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace in a rather spectacular Violet color that Amanda picked out for me. I like it enough that it’s keeping me occupied and sitting still. I’m joking with my hubby that my love of yarn is healing my heart! 

I have a few takeaways here:

1) Get educated. Women's heart attacks are different than men's. Learn what to look for so you aren't taken by surprise. 

2) Pay attention to your body. You know it better than anyone. 

3) Speak up for yourself. Doctors are fallible. You are the expert on your body. 

4) For once in your life, put yourself first. Of course you'll be worried about your kids/work/family but it'll be far worse for them if this kills you. 

5) Don't apologize.You didn't do anything wrong. 

6) Let people take care of you. Really. It's OK. Friends, family, neighbors. They can all pitch in. 

There's a great video starring Elizabeth Banks that talks about this. It's clever and funny, just like Andi.

(Besides surviving a heart attack, Andi is a designer, tech editor and author. Her book, Big Foot Knits will be published this year by Cooperative Press. She volunteers as a special education advocate and makes sure to take knitting to meetings to help keep her sane.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Is Fast Better?

Confession time: I'm a slow knitter and I'm okay with it.

Lately, I feel like I've been bombarded with the idea that faster is better. I'm pretty sure that this AT&T ad has something to do with it. (My husband loves this campaign. It makes me twitch.)Then over the weekend, I got an email from Craftsy with a link to speed knitting techniques. 

Bigger, better, faster. We've all been conditioned to believe that's the best way. But, I'm not convinced that's always the case.

I mean really, is there anything cuter than the Fiat 500?

And what's not to like about a puppy?

Don't get me wrong, I like big. 

Fast too. 

But what's wrong with being a slow knitter? I may not finish as many projects every year as Miriam Tegels, but that doesn't mean that my knitting is any less valid. Or that my FO's are any less finished. There are just fewer of them. There's no shame in that. 

We live in a world where too much of what we do ends up being some kind of a competition. I've decided that my knitting is not one of those things.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Julia Farwell-Clay just posted a new pattern, Mindy, to Ravelry. It's knit from our new yarn, Haymarket.

Here's what she has to say about it:

I love graphic cables and snuggly collars. For the Mindy cardigan, I combined my two favorite sweater elements for a cozy sweater to wear for the first fresh air stroll in early spring. The slightly a-line cardigan with wide cable panels that act like ribbing and pull in a little. This makes Mindy a very forgiving sweater as far as fit goes. The sample shown is worn with several inches of positive ease.
The Flying Buttress Cable reminds me of the yoke pattern from the Mork pullover I knit a few years ago. Knitters familiar with that sweater will be reminded of the graphic cable that made it distinctive, and understand this as a companion sweater in more than just the name.
For anyone not clear about what I mean by a “companion sweater”, the dynamic duo Mork and Mindy were darlings of 70’s television.
The sweater is knit using traditional construction, worked as pieces and seamed although knitters are free to knit the front and back seamlessly. The set-in sleeves are worked in the round to the underarm bind-off. The collar is knit using short rows to incorporate front placket stitches, and finished with an i-cord edging. Collar can be worn up for a Mandarin effect or folded over as shown in above.

I got to wear Mindy at TNNA in January. I can't tell you how many times I was stopped by people asking about it. Julia is spot-on about the way the cables make the fit forgiving. Lots of the people who stopped me tried it on and it was amazing how well it worked for so many of them. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out Like a Lion

It's twenty degrees today. I don't know why people are surprised. This is Chicago after all. We won't be out of the woods as far as winter goes for a few more weeks. I think we got spoiled because we didn't get much snow this year. Mother Nature faked us out. But honestly, we should know better. This isn't our first rodeo!

I'm actually hoping that it stays cold long enough for me to finish my Aftur and get at least one wearing before the weather changes. Especially since I'm knitting the yoke for the second time. I had it completely finished a couple of weeks ago but when I tried it on it had bracelet length sleeves 

I'm not a huge fan of bracelet length for myself. I'm six feet tall and I always feel like bracelet length just looks too short. It's as though I bought the jacket/blouse/whatever too small. I'm sure much of my psychosis comes from a youth of wearing high water jeans and all the ridicule that accompanied it. For years, I checked hem allowances on pants before I tried them on. There just wasn't any point otherwise. 

I know there are gazillions of people who have the opposite problem. They have to take everything up. But at least they have the option. You can't create length if the fabric isn't there. I realize there are some proportion issues but for the most part it's easier to make things shorter. 

I've finished the first of the three fair isle motifs on the yoke. There are two more to go and then the collar. Evenings aren't looking too busy this week, so I should be able to get through it pretty quickly. 

Please don't be mad at me when I tell you that I'm hoping that March goes out like a lion. Then I might even get a second wearing. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Colors, New Yarn

March 15, 2013
We're on a newsletter roll these days! This time it's about the new yarns and new colors. We're pretty excited about it all.

First up, the new yarn. It's called Haymarket. It's a single ply 100% Bluefaced Leicester. Super yummy, super soft. It has a gentle sheen and halo. It's a worsted weight yarn, 210 yards to 100 grams. We named it Haymarket because we thought that it was interesting that there are Haymarkets in both Leicester and Chicago. Ours hosted a labor riot in 1886 and theirs is a shopping center.

While we were researching our 127 year old labor incident, we got to thinking about Chicago history and thought it would be fun to name the colors this season after significant mayors. Without further ado:

113 Byrne. Named after Jane Byrne, our first femal mayor. Chicago is the largest city in the US to have a female mayor. Kate Oates has a super new design in this colorway called Morning Coffee. There's even a KAL going on.
213 Daley. While we've had other mayors, the Daley family kind of had a lock on it for a long time. Between the "Richards", father and son held the office for 42 years.
313 Harrison. Carter Harrison was the mayor during the aforementioned Haymarket incident.

413 Mason. Roswell Mason held office during the Great Chicago Fire.
513 Medill. Joseph Medill was the owner of the Chicago Tribune in the 1870s. He was also the great great father-in-law of our first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Check out Lindsey Stephens darling crocheted Divette pattern. Swoon!
613 Ogden. William Ogden was the first mayor of Chicago.
61ns Washington. Harold Washington was our first African American mayor. Amy Christoffers Love and Happiness uses Haymarket in Washington.

713 Christmas at Downton. Not a mayor at all, but a wildly popular color that we did as an exclusive for one of our customers that we decided to make available to everyone.
And if you're in the market for a MKAL, there's one going on over here that you might find fun.

Let us know what you think! We hope you love what we've done this season as much as we do!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Those Parkes Kids

I've been making my best effort this year to support the Parkes family. Let me tell you about it. 

I'm lucky enough to have gotten in on Clara Parkes' Great White Bale at the Explorer level. Here's how Clara described it.

I am the proud owner of a very special 676-pound bale of superfine Saxon Merino from upstate New York, and over the next few months I’ll be walking through the process of turning that bale into yarn. Not one, not two, but four different kinds of yarn. And I’m taking you with me!

Not only do I get to follow along with Clara on her journey making yarn, I get to enjoy the fruit of her labor. One point seven pounds of the fruit of that labor to be exact. This is gonna be some spectacular yarn. (No pressure Clara.)

It started in January and goes through June, so we're just over a third of the way through our little adventure. I tell you what, I'd still sign up as a Armchair Traveler in a New York minute. Watching the progression of this yarn-to-be through essays and videos so far has been fascinating and I'm sure it's just going to get better.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't know all that much about yarn. Sure, I know a little about dyeing it, and I know what I like, and I do a fair amount of reading about it, but when I run across someone like Clara, I feel like a nincompoop. (And I always jump at the chance to type nincompoop.) I'm learning so much here and getting to see it all happen is such a treat. It's almost as good as going to a mill in person. 

The next part of my Parkes family support system is that I joined Clara's brother,Eric's, chocolate CSA. That's right, Clara's brother is the captain of a different sort of expedition. With this one, I'm receiving 10 three-bar shipments of chocolate in which only one variable has been altered. For example one type of chocolate roasted three different ways. Or one bean with three different levels of cocoa butter. It's been fun (and tasty) so far. Today's delivery was what prompted this blog post. 

The package on the left is Bolivian chocolate that has different levels of refinement. The ones on the right are bonus bars from Hawaiian beans. Any guesses about what I'm having for dessert tonight? 

Dang, I'm starting to sound like an advertisement. That really wasn't my intent. I'm just having such a good time with both of these endeavors. I love to see people reach out and share something that they have a passion for. They are taking the risk that others won't see it quite the same way. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable in a new way. That's good for us all. 

Now, if we can just get one of the clan to start making wine we'll all be set. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Charity Auction, Part Two

Wow, the first part of our charity sample auction was a huge success! Because of your generosity, we've raised over $2300 for Between Friends and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research.  Thank you so much.

I finally got the rest of the items listed. There's a broader variety of items this time around. In addition to sweaters and shawls, you'll find more kid's stuff, some toys and home decor items.

I can't imagine you won't be able to find something that would like to come live with you! Please, come take a look. Tell your friends. Share with the world!

P.S. We also have a bunch of single socks that need a good home. Does anyone have any ideas of where they might go?