The Dark Friend


I spent the seventh anniversary of my first cancer treatment in the hospital with a big bad cellulitis infection in my leg. When the ER physicians admitted me, I sighed and put myself in their hands. Upstairs I went. I spent that day receiving three different antibiotics. The next day, it was down to two, and on the third day, before I went home, just one.

In the meantime, I had to be a patient. I’m a patient patient. I let it unfold around me. But nobody enjoys a stay in the hospital, do they? Thank goodness I was sick, and too tired to get really bored! I managed to do a fair bit of work on the shawl I’m designing, and I watched as much Law and Order as I could tolerate. Mostly, I dozed or slept and received IV antibiotics at 6:00, 12:00, 6:00, and 12:00.

All that was a week ago. I’m better, and I’ve gotten a lot of rest, even without taking time off work. These times are what, to me, it means to say that I am a cancer survivor. Survivors aren’t unscathed, ever. We might have long-term effects from our illness or treatment, and most of the time we just get on with life. Sometimes we’re sidelined. Then we get up and keep on.

In these times, though, the little kernel of fear that always lives inside me begins to pulsate. What if… What was that you said about my white blood count… Why does this keep happening… In the end, when I’m home, and I’m getting back to normal, that kernel – the remains of what I used to call my dark friend – retreats to its corner, quiets, and lets me go on.



IMG_5110There is something about this word, reassured. Reassure, reassurance, reassuring. It doesn’t just comfort, it sturdies.

It’s been almost seven years since my cancer diagnosis, and just over six years since I finished treatment. I visited Dr. Pearl and Nurse Sylvia yesterday, and came away ready to put my traveling shoes on and continue down the road. I’ve been reassured in a most … reassuring way.

I went to the Cancer Center with a long list of questions, and with a few concerns. We sat together and talked for twenty minutes, and I was reminded of those days when a long conversation was essential, when Dr. Pearl was creating the treatment plan that would keep me alive. It’s been a while, but this time I wanted the long conversation, and the reassurance.

When I left the building I knew I’d experienced his art again. We are a team, Dr. P. and Sylvia and I. I don’t have cancer, and I am reassured that I’m always in his care, that we are working together to keep me that way.



gigjuly19831Last night as I was getting ready for bed I looked down and saw my mother’s hands. My hands. They make things, as hers did. They work hard, as hers did. They are beautiful, in a craggy sort of way. Just like hers. They’re good hands.

Today is her birthday. I miss my Gig, but I look around and see her big old family moving along in the world, and I know she’s in all of us. Hands, heart, smile.

In a few days my sisters will come for a visit, and it’s a sure bet that we’ll look at each other and laugh at our own Gig-ness. Hands, hearts, and smiles,

Stony Hill


Stony Hill 1It was a long, cold winter at Stony Hill Stables. I wore layer upon layer of clothes to work, but I was always wondering if I could add another. It snowed all the way into March, and even at the end of it. Mud, ice, drifts. Dreary, colorless days.

In the midst of it, I received another magic box from Clara Yarn, and I began work on a pattern for this beautiful, scrunchy, soft Shetland 1.0. You can read its story on the Clara Yarn website. Savor every word, because Clara has a grand story to tell. This new yarn is Clara Yarn’s mission taken to a new level – international!

CY Shetland 1.0Inside that magic box were three incredible sheepy colors– Mooskit, Moorit, and Shaela – and I knew I wanted to incorporate all of them into a scarf that would be wide and warm, and masculine as well as feminine. I began working in blocks of color and texture, adding something, removing another thing. Swatching was so much fun! How would a leaf look along this side? What would happen if I added a stripe to that end?

Stony Hill 9When I finally had a plan, I spent hours and hours mesmerized by the soothing garter stitch. I loved knitting the long central section, and then I smiled as I turned the corner and began working down the long edge. It was so symmetrical, so neat. The wrong side looked so right. I added leaves, changed colors, counted rows, and made everything even, as is my slightly-compulsive way. When I finished that one I made another, slightly narrower version with a different color arrangement. More comforting garter stitch, row after row of delicious, soft Shetland to wrap around and around. At last, and finally, I had created a scarf for everyone, in yarn from sheep the color of ponies.

You see, the Stony Hill ponies have the right idea – they grow thick, warm coats because they live mostly outdoors, even in the coldest weather. They are all shades of brown and gray, much like the fleeces that became Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 and this Stony Hill scarf – a blend of textures and colors that will keep you as warm as a little Welsh pony’s winter coat.

I’m so pleased to be presenting Stony Hill today, at the same time as Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 is making its debut. The pattern is written (charts aren’t needed), and there’s a schematic included that shows you in what order to knit the sections. You can use the color sequences that I list here, or rearrange them in a way that pleases you. You’ll need most of two skeins of the main color (a little less for the Narrow version), and less than one skein each of the second and third color.

Yarn: Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0. Each beautiful skein is approximately 300 yards/274m and 92 grams. This is a limited edition yarn. Another DK weight yarn may be substituted, but please swatch to find the ideal needle and gauge for your desired fabric.
• For Narrow Scarf: 2 skeins Mooskit (A), 1 skein Moorit (B), 1 skein Shaela (C).
• For Wide Scarf: 2 skeins Moorit (A), 1 skein Shaela (B), 1 skein Mooskit (C).
Needles: US 7/4.5mm circular needles in several lengths, up to 40”. I love my set of DyakCraft Interchangeable wooden needles, and I made good use of them for Stony Hill. From the shortest to the longest cords, to the wooden stoppers — every part of the set came in handy. As you work the long side of the scarf, very long needles will be needed, and I even created “straight” needles with two long cords and stoppers at one end so that I could work the almost 300 stitches more easily. I made stitch holders out of long cords with stoppers at each end, too.
Notions: Measuring tape, tapestry needle to weave in ends.
Measurements and Gauge: Swatching is essential for Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0. Knit a fairly large swatch (at least 6” wide) in garter stitch, and wash & block it. It’s easiest to count rows by counting the garter ridges and multiplying by 2. Make sure your swatch has a soft drape, suitable for a scarf. Go up or down a needle size until the fabric is just what you want.
• Narrow Scarf: About 9×68″/23x173cm
• Wide Scarf: About 12×72″/30x183cm
•Gauge when blocked: 20 stitches per 4”/10 cm and 36 rows per 4”/10 cm

Order Stony Hill

Thinking about knitting


cormo hat bIn one moment, I would like to knit with Clara Yarn Cormo 2.0 forever. In the next, I’m enthralled by a crisp woolen spun yarn and garter stitch. When I’m at work, the last thing I should be thinking about is the knitting that waits at home, or what I will do with the design that is forming in my head. And yet there I am.

So I ponder this: I don’t “score” yarn. When something rare and beautiful arrives on my doorstep, I’m delighted. When I spend hard-earned money on yarn, or tools or patterns, there is no “damage” done.

Knitting is such joyful, soulful work. There’s no room for much besides wonder and pleasure, even on the days when my hands ache, or I’ve had to unravel a whole day’s work, or on days when all I can do is think about what I wish I could be knitting.