24 January 2008

Game Day

My dad is a big Packers fan. I know they just got knocked out of the playoffs, and that is very unfortunate - not least because now this post is very poorly timed. But, this quick knit was a Christmas gift for my dad, and I've already let a month slip by since Christmas and I can't very well wait for the next football season. Besides, if you're fast, you could adjust the colors and decoration and make this felted football for your own team in time for the Big Game.

This was a bit of a last-minute, can't-come-up-with-anything-for-dad gift, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. I think it makes a good guy gift, whether he uses it as a pillow or for horsing around. It would probably also be great for kids.

I couldn't find a pattern for a felted football, so I made up my own. Once I got all the pieces done and felted, well, they didn't quite fit together like I anticipated - because felted pieces shrink more vertically than horizontally. (And yes, I knew that, but I didn't do quite enough to compensate.) That's what I get for not swatching. Fortunately, felted pieces can be trimmed... So, the pattern below is what, on reflection, I believe I should have done. Therefore, no guarantees that it'll actually work - sorry!

Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted (or other worsted weight non-superwash wool). I used one skein each of "Wild Mustard" and "Christmas Green," but you may adjust your colors to match your favorite team!

Needles: Size 8 straights.

Construction: This ball is made in four "orange peel" segments, felted separately, and then sewn together. The logo was embroidered on after felting - as you can see, my embroidery skills are mediocre at best, but Green Bay's emblem is pretty basic. If you prefer to work your decoration in intarsia form, well, you can either search the 'net for a chart or create your own!

With Color A, CO 4.
Row 1 - P all.
Row 2 - Sl 1, m1, k to last st, m1, k1.
Row 3 - Sl 1, p to end.
Repeat rows 2 & 3 until 24 sts total.
Change to Color B, continue repeating these 2 rows for 6 rows - 30 sts total.
Change back to Color A, repeat these 2 rows for 6 rows - 36 sts total.
Work even in stockinette (slipping first stitch of each row) for 49 rows, ending after a RS row.
Next row, sl 1, p to end.
Following row, sl 1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.
Repeat these two rows for 6 rows - 30 sts total.
Change to Color B, continue repeating these 2 rows for 6 rows - 24 sts total.
Change back to Color A, continue repeating until 4 sts remain.

Make four total pieces, alternating which color is A and which is B.
Felt the pieces, decorate them as you see fit, and sew together. Stuff with polyfill and enjoy!

16 January 2008

For the Love of a Dog

If you don't already know him, this is Riley.

I have had him since he was a wee puppy. In fact, he was my 13th birthday present. That makes him very nearly 12 now.

He's had his medical issues through the years, and he's definitely been showing his age lately, I admit. But a year ago, he was here:
And now, a bit more subdued:
I mentioned our trip to New Orleans in my last post. Riley was boarded for those few days. I hate boarding him. The last time he was boarded (in 2006), it was the onset of a long string of bizarre health issues. Every day in New Orleans, usually multiple times a day, I would say to B, "I hope Riley's okay." It became a running joke.

We picked him up and he was fine. While he was there, I asked them to start him on arthritis medication, so he was perhaps feeling even spunkier than when we dropped him off. My family drove in to spend Christmas with us two days later; that morning, he was chasing his squeaky ball around the house, then when my family arrived, he couldn't get up to greet them.

Through Christmas, he could hardly walk at all, and couldn't stand up without help. His back legs would not support him. Something similar had happened to him in '06, where he was unable to stand up, and that was when he was diagnosed with arthritis originally. During that episode, he was put on steroids and got better within a couple of days. At first, I assumed this was another flareup... but after a couple of days of him barking mournfully for me when I left the room because he couldn't follow, and crying at night until I came out and slept with him on the couch, I became convinced that this looked like the end.

This originally happened on a Saturday. Monday and Tuesday were Christmas holiday. So the 26th, he went to visit the vet. The vet said it looked like a back injury, because of the way he was turning over, or "knuckling," his back foot, not recognizing that it was being placed upside down. This is indicative of an interruption of the signal between brain and leg. We decided to try treating him with steroids to reduce inflammation and see how it went.

Over the next couple of weeks, with an additional recheck, he did improve some. He has gotten to a point where he can stand up on his own, though sometimes it takes a couple of tries. He can walk - it isn't smooth, but he can get around - as long as there's good traction, on carpet or the sidewalk or in the grass (though he does still fall over quite a bit). We do have to carry him outside whenever he needs to relieve himself, because he can't cross either the tile foyer to the front door or the deck to the back yard, and at 60 lbs, that's no easy feat. Still, his attitude is much better, he is much less panicked when left alone, and will slowly follow me around the house when he wants to. But... nearly all the improvement was within the first week, and since then he's not made any progress.

Yesterday I took him to the neurologist. The neurologist confirmed it is a spinal cord problem, which is most likely a slipped disc, though it could also be cancer, a stroke, or (most frightening) degenerative myelopathy. His recommendation was that we do a barrage of tests, including a myelogram, in which they inject a dye at the base of the brain stem, hold him up to let gravity pull the dye through the spinal cord, and then take a picture in which they can easily see any place that the spinal cord is corrupted in any way.

By the time we hypothetically get through these tests and (hopefully) figure out what's wrong, he estimated the cost to be in the neighborhood of $3,000. Then, if it is indeed as simple as a slipped disc, the surgery to correct it is anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500, depending on whether they perform it while he's already under anesthesia from the myelogram, how badly the disc is screwed up, and so on.

The neurologist said that he would definitely not recommend putting him to sleep at this point. And I agree, that's not the next move - he is completely alert and mentally with it, and from a veterinary point of view, at least, pretty functional. However, as an unemployed student, I don't exactly have $6k lying around. But leaving him as he is and coping, that isn't a satisfactory answer either.

I have cried a lot as I've considered options. And given Riley lots of hugs.

I hate the feeling that I could help him but won't. I think I'm going to find out about doing as much of the testing as possible with his regular vet, whose prices tend to be excellent, not inflated like they are in a specialist's office, and just doing the specialized tests at the neurologist's. Maybe by doing that we can drive the cost down considerably. If not, well, acupuncture has been suggested. I still don't know. I've been told that giving it a couple more weeks of watching as he's weaned off steroids and seeing how it goes won't be detrimental, so...

Riley and I appreciate your thoughts.

12 January 2008

Spring Things, in December

For a few days before Christmas, B and I treated ourselves to a little trip to New Orleans. B went to college at Tulane, and other than Katrina relief operations with his ship, this was the first time he had been back since graduation in '04. Needless to say this trip involved quite a range of emotion, but additionally it involved a bit of knitting.

One of the highlights of the trip, planned well in advance, was a posh dinner at Restaurant August, owned by Chef John Besh - who was recently the runner-up for (and ought to have won) the Next Iron Chef series on Food Network. This dinner necessitated dressing up really fancy, and all of the dresses that I own (that I still like and that currently fit) are sleeveless. Rather than buy a new dress, I decided I would make a nice shawl, because it isn't too very cold in New Orleans in December, and a shawl ought to provide the perfect amount of warmth. Especially if it was made from alpaca.

Pattern: Spring Things Shawl. No changes to the pattern. Yes, I know it's not springtime, but I really liked the pattern a lot.

Yarn: Alpaca Cloud (lace weight 100% baby alpaca) from KnitPicks, in "Horizon Heather," 1 skein. (The pattern cost more than the yarn did!) The actual color wasn't quite true to how it appeared on my monitor, but my goodness is this stuff soft!

Time Spent: Honestly, just a little over a week, plus blocking/drying time.

I had never done any real lace knitting before. Certainly nothing to this scale. And before blocking, I wasn't extremely convinced this would turn out.

Before blocking.

But water + animal fiber = miracle, and here is the end result:



The total look (I really like this picture)

I probably need to work on my pinning-out skills. My points didn't come out as pointy as I would have liked, and the trip inside the suitcase didn't do them any favors. Actually, B's ship is throwing its holiday party this evening, and I will be wearing the same ensemble (don't tell anybody) - I reblocked the shawl this week for the event, and the points did get a lot pointier.

Aside from that issue, I really like this project, and while I don't have much everyday need for shawls, in the future I may be seeking out more complex shawl patterns just for the sake of the experience and challenge, and perhaps a bit for the pride in the end result.

By the way, we had a great time on our trip. New Orleans does, admittedly, still have a long way to go before it's back to its full glory - but it's getting there. Oh, AND, we got to meet Chef Besh. Briefly. He looked just like he did on TV, and it was way cool.

Here are some gratuitous vacation photos.

Bourbon Street at dusk