Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't worry, only the Monkey Socks are contagious

Thanks for the responses to my last post. I know that fiber prep is not of interest to everyone, but I'm glad to see that some people found it interesting, and perhaps even a little useful. I do plan to write some about carding and combing at some point, but that post probably won't be as in-depth, since they're very physical tasks that are probably better served by in person or video demonstrations. But I will at least talk a little about what I have learned, and will make a list of youtube videos that I found useful in my own learning process.

Today is back to basics. You know -- knit, purl, and all that jazz.

I have hopped on board the primate love train, and produced my very own pair of Monkey socks. How 2006 of me. ;-)

Handspun Monkeys

I used my own handspun for these socks -- a 2 ply heavy fingering weight merino, from top dyed by Freckleface Fibers. I think I mentioned when I posted about the finished yarn that I really adored spinning this fiber. It was a particularly bouncy merino, and made a nice bouncy yarn that was well suited to the Monkey pattern.

Handspun Monkeys

I didn't deviate too much from the pattern, but as you can see, opted for 2x2 ribbing at the cuff, and a slip stitch patterned heel, instead of stockinette. Other than that, they're pretty much pure Monkey. Thanks, Cookie, for writing such a cute little pattern! I can see now why it's so popular.

Handspun Monkeys

I have to admit that I had doubts about these socks the entire time I was knitting them. I actually started the pattern once before, with a yarn that was way too busy for them. I worried that this yarn was also too busy, but in the end I think the results are quite nice, even if it might take a knitter to truly appreciate these somewhat frantic looking socks. (Really, who wears socks like this other than knitters or the people knitters love?)

My recent focus has been on hats. Most of you don't know this, but I spent the summer undergoing chemo for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (Don't worry -- I'm going to be fine, the worst of the treatment is over, and in a couple of weeks I'll be done with radiation, too!) The hair loss wasn't immediate, and wasn't complete, but by about a week ago I estimate that 80 - 90% of my hair was gone, so it time to just shave the rest off and have a fresh start. (Really, the zombie look is not flattering for anyone. Except maybe zombies.) This means that I've been doing a lot of hat knitting. And really, what's better for hats on a bald head than Malabrigo?

My first Malabrigo project was Norah Gaughan's Sunflower Tam, from the book Knitting Nature. I want to knit just about everything from that book, and this seemed like a good place to start.

Sunflower Tam

Sunflower Tam

This pattern is a lot of fun to knit. It's very cleverly designed, integrating decreases into the patterning at the top absolutely seamlessly. It's also very easy to knit, and I made it in just a few days, when I was home sick. Really, few things lift the spirits as well as buttery soft merino. I hadn't used Malabrigo in 4 years, since I knit a sweater out if it. (My second sweater, ever!) While it's not suitable for a sweater (softly spun merino singles pill very easily), it's now my very favorite hat yarn. And I think that, as long as I don't go around rubbing my head on things, the yarn should resist pilling when perched atop my head.

My other Malabrigo hat is Ysolda Teague's Gretel. It's funny that I chose to knit 2 berets when I've never worn a beret before, and am not convinced that I look particularly good in one. But there are so many beautiful and interesting beret patterns out there that I couldn't resist.


This is also a cleverly designed hat, where the patterning integrates the decreases so that the top has a fluid and natural look to it. I wore it out today, and I could tell that it caught the eye of many people. Thank you, Ysolda, for such a beautiful pattern!


If you are knitting chemo caps for someone you know, I think that both of these patterns are wonderful. And if you know you'll be knitting for someone who will not throw the hats in the washing machine, Malabrigo really is the softest thing I could imagine putting on my sensitive, naked scalp. I think that berets/tams work particularly well for chemo caps because they give the head some interest in terms of shape. Seeing your bald, round dome can be a bit startling at first, and you really realize how much of a difference hair makes in the dynamics of your head. More closely fitting hats are still great, and I have one in the works, but something that isn't shaped like your bald head feels great to wear when you are bald.

Another thing to keep in mind when making chemo caps is that hot flashes can be a side effect of chemo. Another advantage of more loosely fitting hats, like berets, is that they are insulating without being suffocating. I think they are a lot more comfortable to wear than traditional hats for someone whose temperature is fluctuating a lot. Though I am happily beyond that stage, and so pleased that I don't spend my day tearing things off my head, then scrambling to put them back on.

So that's my chemo cap wisdom for the day! I was reluctant to talk about the whole cancer thing here. Part of it was that, when I was going through chemo and not feeling well, chemo was really the last thing I wanted to talk about, ever. Now that the whole thing is almost over (radiation is like a walk in the park), it seems a little weird to bring it up. But with all this hat knitting, I suppose the topic was unavoidable.

Another reason I decided to finally talk about it is that, as a woman suffering from a kind of cancer that is not breast cancer, the past few months have been particularly frustrating. Not that I don't think breast cancer is terrible (all cancer is!), and not that I don't think support for people with breast cancer, either monetarily or personally, is not important. But when you are feeling sick, weak, and scared, and the source of those feelings is some other type of cancer, it can feel particularly isolating to be inundated with requests for breast cancer support and pink ribbons around every corner. Supporting breast cancer research is absolutely awesome, but if you're a person who has the desire and the money to make donations, consider veering at least some of your money to more general causes, such as the American Cancer Society. Or, heck, Amnesty International is also a great cause, because there is a lot of suffering in this world that is caused by things other than cancer! Obviously, my illness has made me a lot more sensitive about this issue than most people are. But even though I know it's illogical, when you're feeling terrible and all you see are pink ribbons, it's hard not to feel even worse because you have the uncool kind of cancer, and it's hard not to feel that society cares less about you than it does other cancer patients because the tumor is in your neck, and not your breasts. So, as my favorite presidential candidate would say, spread the wealth? ;-)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us. No matter how much support you have, I'd imagine that cancer, like any illness, can be very isolating. I'm so glad to hear that your treatment has been successful and that you're on the road to recovery. I've made so many chemo caps.... it's really great to hear about someone who will be wearing them as "real" caps for many winters to come!


11/01/2008 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have always wondered about the pink ribbon thing, how it must feel to be someone with some other kind of cancer. I know that I have felt similarly about the fundraising stuff for Lupus research, as someone with a less well-known connective tissue disorder. I'm glad people are raising funds, but yes, spreading the wealth is good!


I am glad to hear that your treatment has been successful! I will definitely keep your suggestion of Malabrigo in mind for the next person in my life who needs a chemo cap.

11/01/2008 7:40 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

My husband went through a mastectomy 5 years ago. He, too, felt radiation was 'a walk in the park' after chemo. We are also irritated by the way the cancer organizations and the media deal with cancer and particularly breast cancer, in DH's case. The ad agencies really do not 'get it' at all when they produce those spots and the sponsoring organizations don't understand that while they are soliciting donations, they are at the very least irritating those who have been or are being treated (and their families).

As my DH's oncologist said, drink lots of Gatoraid for the electrolytes and calcium supplements are essentail. Though maybe yours says elsewise...


11/01/2008 8:35 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

You're probably already aware of this, but just in case you're not: there are actually a lot of women (and men) who *have* had breast cancer who still feel like you do, or have other problems with the way breast-cancer awareness/support is marketed. I think the name for one of the big groups is "Think Before You Pink."

Love the hats and the socks!

11/01/2008 8:46 PM  
Blogger Crazy Knitting Fool said...

I am glad to hear things are going better for you. My mother had intestional cancer so I have similar feelings about the pink thing. While it makes you feel like a heel sometime you just can't help it.

11/01/2008 8:48 PM  
Blogger Bridget said...

I had a mastectomy and reconstruction, and then 5 months later was diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer. Personally, if I never see another pink ribbon again it will be too soon.

I'm so glad you are feeling better! Your knitting certainly doesn't seem to have suffered.

Take care.

11/01/2008 9:07 PM  
Blogger YawnOver said...

Okay, I am totally jealous of every project you've posted here!! Beautiful work.

Also, I appreciate the information about chemo caps. It's good to have an honest perspective.

Ditto on the breast cancer issue.

I wish you the best in your recovery. Can't imagine what you've gone through, but so glad to hear that you are starting to feel better.

11/01/2008 9:41 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Beautiful hats! The first one is very nice but that second one - WOW! You make a great point and I totally agree! So glad you're feeling better!!

11/01/2008 10:52 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Glad you're almost done. Those hats are lovely - you'll wear them long after your hair grows back (and it might grow back different than before!).

As for the pink everywhere breast cancer thing, I share your opinion. As a doctor treating patients with lots of cancer, and lots of things we can't even think of curing that are worse than cancer, one gets the impression that breast cancer gets so much attention because it happens to young and pretty people. And it definitely detracts attention from a lot of other things. . . . or maybe it lets people give more attention to medicine? Hard to say.

11/01/2008 11:14 PM  
Blogger RecycleCindy said...

We are all here for you and support you through your cancer. Cancer does not define you. You are not your cancer. Your hats are beautiful as well as you are. Take care,

11/02/2008 12:00 AM  
Blogger bockstark.knits said...

Wow, I had no idea! Glad to hear that you are mostly recovered! Thanks for sharing something so personal with the world and giving your insights. I will keep these designs in mind when I make more chemo caps! I don't think I've heard anyone else mention that a loose hat is better - it makes total sense.

Glad to hear

11/02/2008 1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you about the pink ribbons and all that enthusiasm for supporting breast cancer cure. It puts me off giving to anything at all and that is not good. I am also curious about how many dollars get to go into research after everyone has taken their little bit to make the pink ribbons etc.
I suffer from depression and would like to see folks donate to mental health research!! There are tons of things to give to.....don't be bullied by the pink people.
Good luck with your healing.

11/02/2008 8:09 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

I'm so glad you are through the chemo! And thank you for the chemo hat tips. My husband has follicular lymphoma and will need to go through chemo at some point. And we feel the same way about the focus on breast cancer. All cancers suck.

11/02/2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger LaurieM said...

I'm sorry to hear that you were ill and glad to hear you are getting better.

I like the way you've pointed out that society has turned breast cancer into the "cool cancer". I really don't understand some of the promotions they have out there. Such as buy some shoes and the company will donate money to breast cancer research. Why doesn't the company just make a donation? And the individual?

I think making a donation to any cause or charity shouldn't require a prize, or a present.

I hope you are taking good care of yourself. Best wishes!!

11/02/2008 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A beautiful, polished blog like yours represents a significant amount of work and energy under the best of circumstances, so first, thank you for continuing to share it with us all throughout stressful times. Thank you also for giving your perspective so openly. It can be so paralyzing for us, on the non-patient side, to worry about what to do and how to help and support the ones we love.

I have knitted shawls for friends going through chemo but rarely hats. Your point about the beret shape is well taken, thanks.

11/02/2008 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for your post and i wish you future good health. i'm glad that you're feeling better.

i too get frustrated with all of the attention that breast cancer gets. one in 8 women over the course of her lifetime is at risk for breast cancer, but 1 in 2 women is at risk for cardiovascular disease (or something like that -- don't quote me). i work in cancer research and am currently working on a lung and colorectal cancer study. more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer and yet we barely hear about it anymore.

anyway, continued good health.

11/02/2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger MmmYarn said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I am happy to hear you are nearly done with treatment and are doing well. I appreciate your taking the time to post tips on chemo caps. My husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in early October and begins round 2 of chemotherapy tomorrow. I expect the remaining 25% of his hair will go this week so I'm working on a hat for him today and am putting your tips to good use. Thanks again. -- Kirsten

11/02/2008 4:45 PM  
Blogger Adrian said...

I can't believe you moved while undergoing chemo. You are a rock star.

I am absolutely thrilled that you are on your way to full health! I hope you're feeling well, already.

That Gretel hat is seriously seductive. I've had the pattern set aside to knit for ages and you've spurred me to action.

11/02/2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger Tipper said...

I'm so glad to hear that your recovery is going well. I wish you all the best!

And your knitting is gorgeous, as usual.

11/02/2008 10:25 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I love your socks and thank goodness you are doing OK now after your illness to share your beautiful spinning with us!

11/03/2008 2:33 AM  
Blogger Ivywindow said...

I am glad to hear you are on the path out the other side of your treatment. My dad had prostate cancer, and felt exactly the same as you. It is fantastic that so many people galvanise themselves for the fight against breast cancer, but sometimes I do think we should drop the breat from the fight, and just be hitting the big C itself.

best wishes for a full recovery.

11/03/2008 4:36 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

thank you for this post...I've had a request to knit a hat for an aunt who is starting chemo soon and I've been having a lot of trouble trying to figure out what kind of yarn to use and what patterns. This will make it a lot easier to make at least a mildly informed decision. And give me an excuse to buy the gretel pattern.

11/03/2008 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you are on the mend. I wanted to suggest one more yarn for hatsthat even my children feel is not itchy (indeed, I have made 4 of the exact same hat out of this yarn to cut down on squabbles!): Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted (I think it is a 50/50 wool/alpaca blend. It's kind of pricey, but so soft and holds up well to wear and tear... (NAYY). Good luck with the rest of your treatment.

11/03/2008 2:10 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Rebekkah, I had to read this twice because I was so focused on your knitting at first (shame on me). I'm glad your treatment is going well, and I wish I could provide you with an indulgent treat to thank you for your thoughtful, interesting, helpful entries, even with so much going on. Thank you in any case - a pair of Francie socks are definitely in my future.

11/03/2008 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the link to a site that supports Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. You may already know about it, but if you don't you may find some of the support you need here. And if no one in your readership knows about it, they may get good information here. A colleague's daughter is undergoing treatment right now, which is how I found this site. Good luck and God bless.

11/03/2008 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your hats!

happy to hear you are getting better!

11/04/2008 8:11 AM  
Blogger Anne P said...

Delurking to say I am SO glad for you that you've finished your chemo. It's physically AND mentally draining, don't you think?

We have a very good friend who had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in his very early 20s, had chemo, radiation and surgery, and was told he wouldn't ever have kids. Imagine his and his wife's surprise when they wound up with a lovely little girl (who is now 26)!

11/04/2008 10:49 AM  
Blogger Quinn said...

So glad you are on the "right side" of your treatment, and here's to having it well behind you. Congratulations!

I am just now knitting my first Monkeys, and they are also purple, but solid purple - for just the reason you describe. I am really enjoying the way they grow so quickly.

Re: fund raising for research...Personally, I don't think there is any way for fund-raisers to please everyone, and certainly there are some campaigns that annoy me, too. The way I try to look at it, is that at least these folks are *trying* to do something positive, to move things forward in a good way. Could be worse!

And I love the sunflower hat - hard to believe the pattern is knit in - not some kind of top-stitching. Beautiful! I want to make one, and I don't even wear hats...looks like another gift item :)

11/04/2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! I found your site on ravelry and my mom is just at the beginnings of her journey to become cancer free. I have often thought about the pink ribbon/breast cancer thing as I have now had two aunts and a mom with cancer that is something other than breast cancer and I had a friend who had bone cancer and always felt very left out at support groups, cancer organizations etc. I am so glad you said what you did as I would guess your thoughts ring true for many other non-breast cancer survivors.

11/06/2008 2:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long-time reader of your blog, I'm very glad to hear you're now doing much better. There are a lot of thoughts and prayers being sent your way.

Also, as a fairly new spinner, I've really enjoyed your spinning and fleece related posts- I'd love to read more!

11/06/2008 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I check your blog frequently to see what beautiful thing you are doing next. I'm sorry to hear about your health issue, but glad that you are on the mend. We miss you at knitting group and our thoughts are with you.

11/06/2008 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad your nearly done with treatment and are feeling better! Thanks for sharing that with us. I love the hats you've been knitting! I've never worn berets but I do love that one from Knitting nature. Like you, I want to knit everything in there so maybe I'll get to that tam someday.

11/08/2008 10:33 PM  
Blogger diane_s said...

I just want you to know that I sat at the computer most of the day (I had to be quiet my husband was sleeping after a 14 hour shift) and read your blog from start to finish while knitting socks. It has been funny , insightful, interesting , full of color , just wonderful. It was quite a shock to get to the end and find that you had been so unwell. I wish you health and I want you to know that your blog has brightened my day. I can't get enough of all this spinning info, keep up the great work.

11/11/2008 1:27 AM  
Blogger joan said...

Thank you for such an honest post. I have ovarian cancer and am going through my 3rd round of chemo related baldness and your hat advice is right on, tight hats and hot flashes don't mix. I've always been upset that people who know that I have cancer always look to my boobs before asking how I am. We get cancer in other parts, even parts that aren't so up front. Be well.

11/15/2008 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I especially appreciate your honestly and eloquence.

11/16/2008 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I get an Amen on the blessed pink ribbon thing. I was afraid they would dye the eggs in the grocery pink after a point. Be well! Where did you get the nifty wooden sock strechers?

11/17/2008 9:01 AM  
Blogger Melly Testa said...

Thank you, Brave Woman.

11/17/2008 9:56 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I only just got around to responding to this, but let me add my name to the chorus of well-wishers. My mom had Hodgkins when I was juuuust starting kindergarten. She had surgery, chemo and radiation (oh, to have two small children who wonder why people are drawing on you with markers!). That was back in 1984, and she's still doing well. Crazy as a loon, but I'm pretty sure that was a preexisting condition, tee hee.

Then my aunt (her sister) got breast cancer a few years back, and as she's also a knitter, I wanted to make a hat for her. That's the reason I really started knitting, so I guess something good came out of it. And yeah, my mom knew all about the assorted chemo crap, etc., so it was great to have someone who really knew what was going on. But at the same time, I felt that whole pink-ribbon-overload thing pretty acutely. What about people with grody cancers like colon cancer and bladder cancer and cancers that disfigure you in a way that you can't cover with clothing? How about kids? How about taking all of the money spent on pink ribbon water bottles and jewelry and stuff on a little more research -- and research that hits everything, not just the cancers that affect our ability to have cleavage?

Anyways. Rant over. Just wanted you to know that I'm rooting for you and agree with you, and that you'll be better than fine.

--Susannah (ohsochewy on LJ)

11/26/2008 4:34 PM  
Blogger liset said...

I'm glad everything is going better with you! Hope you are staying in progress..

11/27/2008 3:44 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Hi, I read this awhile back - have been a reader of your blog for some time (mostly lurker!) - I think I noticed you were in Keene on a click through and stuck around for your great posts and thoughtful sharing of your spinning experiences. And wanted to say something after reading this post, but wasn't really sure how to say it (still not, but I'll try!). I was shocked to read what you've been through and so sorry to hear it, but so glad to hear that you are doing better. Thank you for sharing this and your feelings on the pink stuff - and in such a kind manner. This is something that I do think about, despite being a fundraiser for breast cancer causes. There are reasons why I won't deck myself out in pink; but there are also reasons why I support the cause (among others, but none so publicly) and at times the two concerns feel at odds for me. Your post caused me to think even more and I can completely see why all the pink propaganda would have that effect... It's a dilemma I'm not sure I know how to solve, but maybe in time I can come up with a solution that I'll feel truly comfortable with. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story, and your thoughts. I hope you are now done with radiation as well. Best to you - and continuing health!

12/01/2008 1:20 PM  
Blogger JennyD said...

Rebecca ,
Best wishes and be strong. Chemo works. My Mother is 78 and she a Non Hodkins Lymphoma survivor. She was diagnosed at 75. She is one year clear and her Doctor said we can expect her to remain that way.

Thank Heavens for advances in Cancer treatment.

1/24/2009 11:48 PM  

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