Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Working on Golden Oldies

So, a miraculous thing happened this past weekend - I actually had the desire to finally pick up my Emelie cardigan, lol. I started this back in September, and managed to finish the body of the sweater at the beginning of December. I'm a smidge worried about having enough yarn, so I wanted to knit the button bands and neckband before making the sleeves, so I can just make them as long as I have yarn for - this meant having to do lots of counting and such for the button bands, which I really don't enjoy doing. My least favorite part about knitting is the math, hands down. Anyway, not only did I need to count out the button bands, I also needed good lighting to do it since I knit this in fingering weight black yarn. Most of my knitting time is at night after work, so it became a hassle and I just ended up setting this aside while I worked on other projects. After cleaning up my sewing room, I had a sudden desire to finally get this thing finished up, so I buckled down and knit my button bands!
I'm sorry for the terrible quality of the picute - black is seriously so hard to photograph any details on. I spent my Saturday evening knitting both button bands - I even learned how to do a 3 stitch button hole :) Once I finished the bands, I looked at the pattern ... and noticed that I was supposed to knit the neck band first! UGH! I seriously can't believe that I didn't even think about it. The button band is supposed to continue up the edge of the neck band as well to tie it all together ... so these bands will have to be unraveled and redone :( Bummer!
Before I unravel things, I decided to go ahead and make the neckband so I only have to pick up stitches along that extra area and not the whole thing again. Smarts! So, my sweater looks like this at the moment, and hopefully tonight I will get the chance to unravel and redo. I'm really excited about this sweater now! This is my first fingering weight sweater, and I'm hoping I will actually be able to wear it in the blistering Florida heat (indoors, that is) without wanting to die. My wool sweaters have already been packed away, and I've kind of lost steam on my Agatha sweater for the same reason - it's in the 90s already here. Ugh.
In other news, here is a sneak peek at what else I was working on this week - I made a dress! I finished it up last night and now I just have to photograph it, so stay tuned for details soon :)
I've been working on all these projects while listening to what may possibly be the best book I've ever read - Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Oh my gosh, this book is so good! This is a 63 hour audio book (!!!), and in the past 2 weeks I've managed to listen to 49 hours of it. The amazing thing is that I have not once wished it would just get to the point. I have loved every minute of it ... for 49 hours so far! That's pretty incredible. I can't wait to listen to what happens next!
I've also worked on my Geek-A-Long square as well as a new project I have yet to mention here. I've been pretty busy! If you'd like to see what others are up to, head over to Gracey's Goodies and click around :)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

FO: Fuzzy Mitten Mystery KAL - Timmy Turtle

You guys - I HAVE SOLVED A MYSTERY! Well, not really, lol, but the mystery is over. The Fuzzy Mitten Mystery Knit Along animal is...
A very cute turtle! My suspicions were correct :) I've named this little guy Timmy (original, I know), because he reminds me of a little turtle just going off to school. For those of you just tuning in, for the last 6 weeks I have been participating in the Fuzzy Mitten Mystery Knit-Along - Barbara Prime (the designer of Fuzzy Mitten) releases one clue per week and each clue contains just a piece or two of the final animal and you have no idea what you are making until the end. This is thee second year I've done this mystery and it did not disappoint. The final clue was released yesterday and it was how to make the front of his shell (which I think is my favorite part!).
His shell is actually removable - the front has little buttoned straps that remind me of overalls and they hold the shell up on his body. He also has a cute little tail :) For my little guy, I used Everyday Soft Worsted in Shamrock (the lighter green), Loops and Threads Impeccable in Kelly Green (the darker green - ugh! see my thoughts on this yarn here) and Red Heart With Lovffodil for his yellow extras.
I love all the little details in Fuzzy Mitten patterns, and they all include some kind of item of clothing. This time he not only had his shell (kind of necessary for a turtle), he also came with a rain hat and rain boots pattern :) I used faux-tortoise shell buttons (oh, the irony) mostly because my button stash is very limited on buttons this size and these looked best. I went with yellow thread just to tie into the rest of his accessories. I did do his smile a bit different than the pattern - the pattern has you follow the cleft to make a sort of W shaped mouth, but when I went to embroider it I just thought a simple half circle rounded him off well. I love the subtle patterns on each piece - the stitch design on his shell, the lighter green stripes on his front, the ribbed straps - so cute!
Hooray! Another mystery completed and I could not be happier with my finished new friend :) These are always so much fun I can hardly wait until I get to join in again next year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Secrets Revealed and New Project Planning

Things have been moving right along with the Fuzzy Mitten Mystery KAL, and this week I managed to actually make up the clue, lol. It's the shell! The mystery is officially solved - it's a turtle :) I was right! 
The nicest part about this clue is that the designer included instructions on how to knit it in the round - bless you, Barbara Prime! lol I really don't enjoy seaming and I don't mind using dpns at all, so this worked great for me. I only had one snag though ... I was knitting and knitting, getting closer to the moment that I would close things up and  be finished. I kept thinking, "Where does the pattern say to stuff the shell? Does it not get stuffed? That's so weird!" and I kept knitting anyway. Then it hit me - I was changing the original pattern - the pattern is actually written to knit flat and then seam, so you would stuff it after it's completely knitted - ugh oh.
I had already finished knitting the main part of the shell by the time I figured this out. Not wanting to unpick my stitches, I tried stuffing it through the teeny tiny cast on hole on the bottom first. It wasn't the most pleasant experience, but with determination it worked, lol. Also, for the record - I HATE this kelly green yarn. It's Loops and Threads Impeccable from Michael's (their in-house brand) - I purchased a skein a few years ago and remembered it was similar to Red Heart With Love, when I saw this awesome kelly green I snapped it up. They have definitely changed their product! This yarn is awful. It's so grippy that I could barely get it to slide off my needles, and it gripped itself ridiculously too so it was difficult to keep the stitches even looking. I had another skein of this yarn, and I took it back I was so unhappy with the kelly green, lol. So just be aware if you're in the market for acrylic yarn - stay away from this stuff!
I'm kind of sad to post a picture of my Agatha cardigan, lol. It looks almost identical to the last photo I posted of it. I did knit a few rows this week, but that was about it. Again, I'm working all over my house and redoing furniture in my spare time, so it hasn't left much time for knitting. I'm not too worried about it though since this is a long-sleeved wool sweater and our temps are in the low 90s in the day already. Ugh. I hate Florida summer.

Also, I had kind of a sad morning a few days ago, and decided to console myself by trolling Ravelry boards. I had seen the Geek-Along last year posted by various people, but it just didn't interest me at the time. For some odd reason, this project really appeals to me now. Random! The cool thing is that this year they are making all the blocks with patterns for either double knitting or tapestry crochet - pretty cool. I'm actually contemplating making two blankets - one crocheted with the official blocks for this year so I can enter the contest at the end of the year and one knitted with random blocks I like from last year along with ones I make up myself. I think it's a fun idea. This year's theme is Mad Scientists (the example block up there is for Tesla), so I think it could be a fun project. They will release 48 free block patterns and the blanket is designed to be made up of 24, so you can choose your favorite blocks as you go. My only change I will make is to use worsted weight yarn instead of sport - I have very little sport weight yarn and my stash is overwhelmed with acrylic worsted, so it's the obvious choice. Anyway, I haven't technically started any blocks yet, but I've watched videos on how to crochet intarsia so I'm itching to get started when I get an evening to myself. The Ravelry group is here if you want to join in the fun!
So that's what I have going on this week :) Head over to Gracey's Goodies to see what else is happening in the yarn world.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The concept of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has intrigued me ever since I first heard of it - it's an interesting non-fiction mix of scientific data, biography, and ethical questioning relating to the taking of a person's biological property.

Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer from Virginia who moved to Baltimore in the 1940s boom of Bethlehem Steel with her husband. She had 5 children and lived life as any black woman of the time did. One day, she could feel a lump in her abdomen, so she went to John's Hopkins Hospital where they discovered that the lump was cervical cancer. They treated her with radiation periodically over the course of several months, the lump shrank, and they sent her home to live life and come back for monthly checks. About 3 months after they had told her she was completely fine each time, she came back with incredible pain, and they discovered that other tumors had started forming all over her body. It advanced incredibly quickly, filling her body with tumors and giving her so much pain that no medication could help. She passed away in 1951. The reason she is the subject of this book has almost nothing to do with her own personal life and history - it's about her cells. During her first radiation treatment, they had to anesthetize her and insert radium into her uterus near the tumor - while she was under, they decided to take a slice of her tumor and gave it to the hospital's researcher on human culturing, George Guy, to see if he could grow the cells in his laboratory. This had never been achieved before, but doctors knew it would be the change of the medical industry once it finally worked and the cells would grow, so they took cells from most people they felt they could get away with at the time in hopes that they would happen upon cells that would work. Henrietta's cells were the first ones in history that grew in culture. This lead to an explosion of understanding about the human body, and was directly the reason we have vaccines for polio, HPV, hepatitis, and treatments for HIV, TB and much more. Her cells let us begin mapping the human genome and are the reason we know there are 23 base pairs in DNA. Her cells helped us learn about cancer, genetic disease, and so much more. It's honestly incredible how much her cells (known as HeLa in the science community) gave the medical field and all of us as a byproduct.

So, what's the big deal? Well, it turns out the doctors were very shady about what they did. Johns Hopkins never told Henrietta or her family about her cells being cultured, and George Guy was so excited about the fact that the cells would grow that he started giving them out to anyone who asked for them in the research community. He never charged anyone who he gave the cells to, so Johns Hopkins never directly made any money from HeLa cells, but some of the scientists he gave them to did. Other scientists decided to start medical supply companies and sell HeLa cells by the vial to anyone who would pay. There is no way to know how much money was made though the sale of these cells, and Henrietta's family did not find out about all this until 20 years later. Her family are very uneducated (no judgement there, it's just a fact), so all they saw from this new info is 1) their mother/wife/etc is still alive in some way and kept in a laboratory and 2) people were making millions of dollars selling pieces of her. Henrietta' children started trying to stir things up and demand compensation for their mother's cells from Johns Hopkins, saying that they know the hospital made money off the cells even though they insist they did not. The fight lasted the rest of their lives. Eventually, Henrietta's daughter, Deborah, learned to sort of let it go and just enjoy that her mother was a medical miracle that has saved countless lives. Deborah ends up being able to visit a lab and see the cells for herself in her lifetime, which was nice to read about.

This is a really long explanation of the book, but it's hard to summarize smaller than that. So what did I think of the book? I found the science and the story of how the cells traveled through history and what they helped achieve. It's incredible to think that a woman who only had a 4th grade education could have technically given more to the scientific community than any medical doctor on record. My fascination with this aspect of the story was definitely shadowed by the story of Henrietta's family. I feel judgmental for it, but I just wanted to reach in the book and shake her children and family members. All they could see were dollar signs, and they were do ignorant that at one point Deborah tells the author that she knows there is a whole village in England filled with human clones of her mother. Her evidence of this was an article about when the English cloned Dolly the sheep and how they used HeLa cells to figure out how to do the cloning. The article joked that with as many clones as they made of HeLa cells in the lab, they could all fill a village in England. Deborah was convinced that this meant there were hundreds of her mothers running around together in a village in England. Seriously. I don't mean it meanly, and I'm sure it makes me sound awful, but they should have children read this book if they want to drop out of school early just to scare them into finishing their education. Henrietta's family was also swindled by a con-artist lawyer named Cofield who tried to take their case to court and sue Johns Hopkins. They only discovered he was an ex-con conman when he called Johns' Hopkins and introduced himself with the title "Doctor Sir Lord", so the researcher he spoke with had his record looked up and let Henrietta's family know on the side. Seriously. Ugh. This book is a perfect testament to how dangerous true ignorance can be.

The final section of the book talks about the medical ethics behind the family's argument. The fact is that there are no laws that dictate whether what the doctors did was legal or not. At the time, it was actually completely legal. There were very few laws protecting blacks at the time, especially in the medical field. I was shocked to learn that there weren't even any laws protecting human medical test subjects until the 1960s - really! Animals had more protection than humans do as far as the law is concerned. Pretty interesting.

Anyway, the book definitely brings up a lot of questions for the reader. It's kind of frightening to think that you have no say in what is done to your parts and pieces after medical procedures are done, but at the same time imagine if your cells could be as beneficial to the world as this woman's cells were and are - wouldn't that justify taking a few shavings off your tumor before you died even though you had no knowledge of it at the time? The real issue is how do you distinguish what is appropriate for what part of you? How does this change when it's your pancreas or your severed arm? Or what if the doctors involved are more interested in the medical knowledge they could gain from your body than in saving your life? It's the stuff of a Victorian horror story, but we can't just ignore it and hope for the best because it has lead to the detriment of who knows how many people while we wait to decide. The book was well written, and it definitely affected me in a way I won't forget. I recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in science and biology. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.