Stitches and Sutures

I'm a 25-year-old second-year medical student living in Ontario, Canada. I'm pretty sure that the only way to stay sane in medical school is to have a life outside of medical school, and knitting is one of my chosen diversions.

Location: Ontario, Canada

Monday, October 31, 2005

What the?

So, I gave out Halloween candy for the first time tonight since I moved out of my parents' house, 7 years ago. I've either lived in university residences or apartment buildings since then, but our current apartment is in an old house, so we actually have a front door that kids can come to. So fun!

Our door is actually shared with one of the other apartments, so the neighbour gave out candy until I got home at 6:30 and then I took over so she could take her little daughter out trick-or-treating.

It wasn't that busy - maybe 25 kids in an hour - so I got some reading done.

But the weirdest thing....we had at least six grown-ups who came to the door, in costume, with candy bags, and no kids with them. At first I thought, "oh, their kids must be sick at home and they're out getting candy." But by #6....nope, I think it was just fully-grown adults capitalizing on an opportunity for free candy.

Most of them were in their forties, I'd say. One notable exception, and by far the scariest "costume" of the evening, was a woman about my age, who was good and pregnant. She had rolled her shirt up and tucked it under her breasts, and painted a huge pumpkin on her belly.

No, I'm not kidding. I couldn't make that stuff up if I tried.

I was so shocked that I was actually at a loss for words (yes, a rare occurrence for me). "So, uh, you're trick-or-treating...." I finally stammered out. "Yup!" she responds, "next year, I'll bring him." she says, pointing to her belly. I told her we'd looking forward to seeing the baby next year. Then she showed me the Eeyore tattoo on her ankle and said she'd probably dress the baby up as Eeyore. And then she was gone.


I was tempted to get all judgmental about all this. Then I did some thinking.
This past Saturday, the local newspaper published the paper with the front page blank. Apparently, they explained that the blank page was in honour of the 100,000 people in this city who live below the poverty line but never make the front page. I was really impressed when I heard about it. This is a working-class city, and half the city works in the steel industry. It follows that if the majority of your population is one step out of poverty, you're also going to have a high poverty rate. We also have the 2nd or 3rd highest population of recent immigrants in the country, many of whom are refugees. There are a lot of reasons for the high poverty rate, but it's still shocking to me.

In tutorial today, we somehow ended up talking about the fact that poverty is the #1 determinant of health. Genetics be damned, the best thing you can do for your health is to be rich. The second best thing is to be happy. They are not the same thing.

There's an overwhelming body of evidence that shows a direct correlation between socioeconomic status and health. We ended up musing today about how much more impact a physician could have on his or her patients simply by taking half of his or her salary and giving it back to the patients, in the form of anti-poverty initiatives. We concluded that it would probably make more of a difference than all of the drugs and fancy tests we could hand out.

I have a lot of guilt about living in one of the richest countries in the world. Even as a "starving student," I have a higher standard of living than the majority of people in the world can even dream of, and it bothers me. But sometimes I forget that I also have it a lot better than many of the people in my own own own neighbourhood.

There's currently an enormous uproar in Ontario about an aboriginal reserve in the far north that has had a "boil water" advisory for years. Their water is grossly polluted, and their people are ill as a result. Somehow, this got into the media recently, and the resulting public outcry pushed the provincial government to evacuate the community. (This in itself was quite the big deal, because aboriginal affairs are generally the exclusive domain of the federal government.)

Sounds like a good thing, right? It is, but here's the catch: over one hundred aboriginal reserves in this country currently have drinking water that isn't safe to drink. Many have been that way for years - I heard one chief from a community in northern Ontario on the radio this morning. His community has been on a "boil water" order for ten years.

It disgusts me that in one of the richest countries in the world, we can't even provide clean water for our population. And don't even get me started on the fact that the particular population that is suffering as a result is the aboriginal population - our very own "third world country," right at home.

It makes me sad that I don't do more to make a difference. I wear my white wristband, and I talk a lot about poverty, but what do I actually do? And what will I do when I'm a doctor, a "respected member of society," who has a "responsibility to speak out against injustice"? (Both phrases quoted from a scholarship application that I submitted today.) Will I know then what to do?

Tonight, as I came inside after the trick-or-treaters had slowed to a trickle, it occurred to me that maybe all of those grown adults at my door tonight were there because they don't have other food to eat. Or maybe because they don't have enough money to buy themselves a treat, even once in a while, so they'll capitalize on any opportunity that comes along to get something for free. I can't say I blame them. And I hope they enjoy the cheesies.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Last night was my class Halloween party. Last year, we went as the Last Saskatchewan Pirate, and his sidekick (Salty Bob). We even had "CO-OP" tattoos (the urbanites in the crowd say, "HUH?").

Anyhow, a costume like that (especially on a Saskatchewanian - my boyfriend - in Ontario) is hard to top. Fortunately, there are people on the net who are far more creative that me - like Alison, of the Blue Blog, whose sons will have amazing knitted costumes this year.

We borrowed her idea (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?) and did the low-quality rendition - although I *did* get out my baby sewing machine for the first time (it was a Christmas present last year, but I'm not a very good sewer so it hasn't had much use), so I guess I deserve a little credit!

We apparently don't own any straight pins, so I had to use scotch tape for "basting". Unfortunately I also opted not to hem the edges of the white cotton that I was using, and pulling the tape off caused the edges to fray. I figure it just added to the slightly crazy look that's fitting for these characters!

Then there was a bit of a challenge, trying to get the enormous shirts to squeeze under the teeny-tiny arm of the sewing machine. Although I suppose that pales in comparison to my difficulties with sewing a straight seam. I think that's a skill I'm going to have to improve before I take up quilting!

And finally, the finished product:

And yes, I have been knitting. We had a full-day palliative care workshop on Friday, and since it was entirely speakers (i.e. not very interactive), I had plenty of knitting time. Sock #1 is done, and sock #2 is well on its way.

Can you tell that grafting toes is my least favourite part? I think I may put it off until both socks are finished, so I only have to subject myself to it once!

I've also started a new project for myself! I realized that I haven't made anything for me in almost a year, so I think it's high time. Here's the beginning:

It's Branching Out, from Knitty (of course). My very first foray into lace knitting. The bottom edge is a little sketchy looking, but otherwise I think it's going okay. Everyone says unblocked lace always looks a bit uninteresting, and I'm hoping that'll prove to be the case here. I've realized, though, that the 30 blocking pins that I own will be sadly insufficient for this project. My birthday is coming up, though...may spend some birthday cash to get some blocking wires!

I like the pattern so far, and the yarn is the lovely wool that I bought at the Creative Needlework and Sewing Festival a few weeks ago. It's the most lovely colour of yellow.

I think my plan is to finish this by Christmas....we'll see if I make it!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

On schedule

Well. For a week that's been pretty darn busy with school (that's the closest school ever gets to 'boring' for me, admittedly), I've been very productive! In fact, as long as I manage to turn a sock heel by the end of the weekend, I will be right on schedule!

What schedule, you ask? My "knitted Christmas gifts" schedule. I have two pairs of socks to finish between now and Christmas, which is approximately 8 weeks away. I figured (when I started this plan) that if I could finish one sock every two weeks between now and then, I'll have everything made with a whole week to spare! However, between about the 7th and the 21st of November, I have crazy studying to do, so I figure I will almost definitely lose knitting time (I know, it's tragic) - which means that the "week to spare" will probably been needed.

It makes me a bit sad that all kinds of knitters out there make WAY more stuff than I do in a similar amount of time....but whatever. It's all about the process, right? ;o)

Without further delay, here's what I've been up to this week:

Brad's Mom's Christmas socks. These are the basic sock pattern from The Knitting Experience, Book Two: The Purl Stitch, by Sally Melville. The yarn is my very first ever experience with Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino, and I'm pretty sure I'm in love. Dishcloth cotton, my arse (see below) -- I AM MERINO!

I'm halfway through sock #1, which I had to quit working on in class the other day when I hit the point where the heel needed turning. I have no issue with knitting in class (as long as it doesn't distract me or anyone else), but I think it's a bit rude to haul out a book to look up the heel technique! Heels also require concentration, which I'm pretty sure would have interfered with my ability to learn about the various forms of memory (the topic of the presentation).

I'm also having a little teeny dilemma -- I'd really like to try short-row heels on these (I'm not nuts about flaps) but I can't find any good instructions on the net. Having never tried short-rows before, I'm a bit reluctant to just dive in and hope for the best. Does anyone know of a good tutorial?

Even more exciting than the socks...

Wee William's cardigan! I finally finished the neckband early in the week, and I sat down last night and seamed it all up. It's HARD to seam things that are made of out variegated yarn and avoid having the seam stitches show, because they often contrast with the pieces. I finally found a way, which I am currently calling the "Nikki Method" because I have no idea what it's really called. It looks good, though, if I do say so myself. ;o) (There's a picture below - sorry, I forgot to take a shot of the inside of the seam so you could seem it better. I'll try to remember when I post the "finished" picture!

Now all I need to do is add the buttons and block it. The button bands are seed stitch, not that you can tell because they're rolling so much. Never having blocked anything before, I'm actually a bit nervous about this. We'll see how it goes! I'm going to block his blankie at the same time - it'll be a Wee William block-a-thon!

Incidentally, the colours are more accurate in the first picture, which is why it's here even though there's a big ugly reflection.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'm boring!

You are dishcloth cotton.
You are Dishcloth Cotton.
You are a very hard worker, most at home when
you're at home. You are thrifty and seemingly
born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain
Jane, but you are too practical to notice.

What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Today's mini-craft

My friend has one of those handy keychain door-locker thingies for his car. Sadly, the bit that attaches it to his keychain broke off, so he has to carry it around in his pocket. I think this is a recipe for disaster, or at least for locking the little thingie IN the car where it's not much use at all.

I offered today to crochet him a little holder, and here's what I ended up with:

Yarn: Bernat Handicrafter cotton - some scraps that I had in the stash.
Button: wooden, it's an extra from the ones that I bought for Wee William's Sweater
Pattern: from my little brain (it's basically single crochet from a foundation chain)
Time: I think this took me a total of about 20 minutes. 30, if you count untangling the yarn at the start.

Hooray for innovation!!

I mentioned that I was going to the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival in Toronto this past weekend. I went with high hopes of finding all the yarn and patterns of my dreams, and then some. I took a wad of cash (that I shouldn't be spending, but that's another issue...hello, student loans). In the end, I spent about $35. I think that's worthy of a medal.

What did I get?
- buttons for Wee William's sweater (see above)
- blocking pins (to block WW's sweater)
- the current issue of Interweave Knits, for 30% off
- the Spring/Summer issue of Vogue Knitting, also 30% off (I figured I saved moolah on IK, so I could justify buying a second magazine!)
- ONE MEASLY SKEIN of yarn. It's lovely stuff, though: Shelridge Farms Soft Touch Ultra 100% wool. It's fingering weight, hand-dyed. Colour: straw. I'm going to make this. For ME. At the rate that I start projects for myself, I'm aiming to have it finished before I retire.

I did come up with LOTS of ideas for my sweetie's and my Mom's Christmas shopping lists, though! ;o)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Oh baby

I sure hope wee William realizes just how much he was loved even before he was born. (I figure the only way that will happen is if I never call him "wee William" to his face when he's old enough to understand. But seriously, how cute is that? He lives in England! It's lovely British alliteration!!) There are few people in this world for whom I would crochet thousands of little tiny squares. He is apparently one of them.

His blanket turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. I would change a few things - for example, I would remember that when you finish a round, you should be at a corner and not in the middle (total brain fart on my part there), I would use a larger hook (which would have kept me more sane, made the blanket bigger, and made it less stiff), and....well, I don't think I'll ever make a giant granny square again!!

A little blocking is in order, too, methinks.

And a close-up so you can see the stitches, although the colour is much less accurate because I didn't use a flash:

Yarn: mystery acrylic, from my LYS in my hometown. I think I paid under $10 for 6 balls. I'd say it's sport weight.
Pattern: good ol' granny square

Wee William also has a wee cardigan in the making. I've finished the body (which is knit in one piece) and one sleeve, and have cast on for sleeve #2. The edges of the finished pieces are rolling like crazy. I'm going to have to do some mad blocking on this when it's finished - which should be interesting, given that I've never blocked anything before!

Next up: Brad's Mom's socks, and a billion new projects from the yarn that I intend to buy tomorrow at the Creative Needlework and Sewing Festival in Toronto. Whee!!!