Thursday, September 30, 2010

Keep good records

I'm guessing there are other people out there like me. I have (too many) projects that are partially completed but finishing them now will take a lot more effort because I didn't take good notes. At the time I either didn't think it was important or thought I would remember the details. Yeah, right.

The other day I was going through a stack of traced off patterns and some sewn up muslins, and I had to toss a lot of them because at the time I made them I didn't bother to note the pattern number, size and changes I might have made. Granted, most of these were early projects, and over time I've become much more conscientious of the need to write down all those details when I trace off a pattern. At the time I may think it's unnecessary because I plan to trace off the pattern, make a muslin if needed, and sew the garment up - all within a reasonable amount of time. But in reality I might trace the pattern and then get distracted by a different pattern and shift my attention to it. Or I'll make the muslin and get discouraged at the fit issues and, well, there you go. Months or years later the tissues and muslins are useless, and the initial work is wasted.

I also have a few UFOs that are in the process of construction. Of course I never thought I wouldn't finish those items in a timely manner and didn't think it necessary to note what needle I used, what thread I used, or even take the effort to keep all the pieces and notions together. I admit that reconstructing all this info is partly why I don't finish those projects.

It's even more crucial with my knitting projects that I take good notes. I use a nice Moleskine notebook for this purpose.

Squared Notebook - Pocket

My book is bound at the short edge but for some reason I couldn't find that version on the Moleskine website. I like the Moleskine book because it has a nice, hard cover so it won't get bent up when I toss it in my knitting bag. I record info for current projects, as well as instructions for things like Kitchener stitch, short row toes, sock heels, and variations of cast on/off. The gridded paper is great for recording charted instructions, and there's a little pocket in the back that's useful for storing stray slips of paper. My version doesn't have a bookmark ribbon so I use the elastic strap to mark the page I need. But the absolute best thing this notebook has done for me is help get my knitting back to me. I once left my small knitting bag, containing a sock project, on a Jet Blue airplane. Fortunately a flight attendant found it and looked inside the bag and saw that it was something I'd want to get back. She was able to contact me right away because I'd recorded my name and cell phone on the inside page of my Moleskine book. I never take my knitting anywhere without that book now!

I've found over the years that it's important to record the following things for a knitting project:
  • needle size - that's an obvious one but if you didn't and you borrow the needles for something else, you'll wish you'd recorded it
  • garment size - if I photocopied the instructions I usually circle the size I'm making but I've also lost my photocopy. And sometimes I don't or can't make a photo copy.
  • changes to the pattern - if they're short, like how many stitches I cast on for the first sock or sleeve, I include them here. More complicated stuff gets noted on the photocopied instructions. 
  • cast on method - I finished a sock I'd started after it had sat for many months and when it came time to start the second sock I wasn't sure what cast-on I'd used. Not a big deal but it could make a difference in how the socks wear.
  • again with socks, the type of heel or toe - there are many variations and some are pretty similar.
  • start/end date 
  • pattern name and source - just in case you lose those photo copied instructions! 
  • name of yarn and dye lot - I'll usually record the name of the yarn but haven't ever recorded the dye lot, but I suppose if you lose the ball band and need more yarn it would be helpful to have this info.
  • stitch pattern instructions - if they're short enough I record the stitch pattern instructions. Sometimes it's handier to have the book open instead of my photocopied instructions. I've found that after I while I memorize the stitch pattern but if I've not worked on the project in a while having the instructions jogs my memory.
  • swatch gauge info - you may only get as far as the swatch for a new project and it's helpful to have the needle size and the gauge you got when you eventually come back to it.
I do have a notebook for sewing projects but for me it seems to not really equate to the way I use the notebook for knitting. Though perhaps I should revisit it when I get back into the sewing room.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's been two weeks

...and I'm still hobbling around with my surgical shoe, which is to be expected. Today I'll fill you in on how the surgery and first days of recovery went in case there is anyone out there in internet-land reading this who is contemplating this surgery.

The surgery, which was exactly 2 weeks ago, was about how I expected it to be. It was outpatient surgery, performed at a surgical center. I was instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before my surgery, which was scheduled for 8:30 am. My birthday was the day before the surgery (and my anniversary the day after - what timing!), so I enjoyed a wonderful birthday dinner, cooked by my fabulous husband, and had a glass of wine. I learned too late that I wasn't supposed to have alcohol the night before (oops!). No harm done though.

I arrived at 7:30 am, as requested, and after a short wait in the lobby was brought into the post/pre-op room. I changed into a gown, paper hair cover, and socks with gripper-feet on them and the nurse set up an IV and took my temperature and blood pressure. My husband was able to come back and sit with me while I waited. The anesthesiologist came to talk to me, asking me what I enjoyed for breakfast. Hah! Trick question! Then he asked the usual questions of prior surgeries and any complications. The post/pre-op room felt a bit crowded but everything seemed well orchestrated. The nurse wrote "yes" in purple marker on the foot that was to be operated on and later my doctor signed his initials on it in purple ink as well.

Eventually I was walked into the operating room and set up on a table. The surgery was performed with "twilight" drugs and a local for my foot. I might have slept in the beginning but was awake later on. I think the drug dosage was spot-on because I was just sort of indifferent toward the whole thing. I'll note that this was probably a better situation than what I experienced during surgery I had years ago where I had to be awake and I felt a bit too euphoric. In that case I was really nervous about being awake during the procedure and they probably overcompensated on the drugs. This time I was just peaceful without being out of it. I could hear the doctors and nurse talking about music - it was just another day in the operating room and another foot to operate on for them. After the surgery the doctor said it went well. I asked how big the neuroma was and he showed it to me in a plastic container. It looked like a glob of white tissue, about half inch or so in size.

The surgery took about 40 minutes. In recovery I started to feel a little pain and was given something in my IV that helped right away. My husband was able to sit with me and that helped a lot. I don't know how long I was in recovery but it wasn't more than an hour until I felt ready to go home.

I've read on line about some people who were up and walking about, driving, and back at work a few days after surgery. Maybe they have a high tolerance for pain, maybe they had no choice due to work or other circumstances, or maybe they were stubborn and didn't want to sit and rest. I was advised to be off of my foot for the rest of the week and fortunately I was able to miss work for that time. Also, my husband happened to be working from home for the week (and the next, and the next) so it was an opportune time for this surgery. While I sat on the couch with my foot elevated on pillows and chilled by an icepack, he cooked and retrieved things for me. Since I couldn't work from home, I watched lots of TV and knitted and knitted and knitted to pass the time. I actually enjoyed the downtime!

The foot was swollen and occasionally throbbed right after the surgery (they make pills for that, thank you very much). It hurt less the first day and more in the days right after, probably as the swelling came down. Two days after surgery I had the dressings changed at the doctor's office. I actually haven't looked at my foot and don't want to for a while. I'm the type who would like to sleep through colds and flu and injuries. Wake me up when I'm better.

I've been wearing the surgical shoe 24/7 - even at night because it keeps my foot from flexing and accidentally getting bumped. It also keeps the cats off of it! My cats like to sleep at the foot of the bed, right where my feet go, and I find that I have to move my feet around their hot, furry bodies. For the first 10 days I slept with my foot elevated on pillows and that kept the cats away. Now that I've done away with the pillows I've noticed the cats are back, so the shoe helps protect my foot.

I'm able to shower by using a blue rubber Dry Pro cover that I pull over the surgical shoe and then I pump out the excess air. It works pretty well, far better and much safer than taping plastic around my foot.

Walking is still a bit of a hobble and I'm not sure if it's because of the surgical shoe or that I can't put weight on the front part of my foot yet. I still try to stay off of it and keep my foot elevated when I can, even if it means hoisting it up on my desk at work when I'm typing on the computer.

I had another appointment for a dressing change last week and have another tomorrow. The doctor said the foot looks good (again, I won't look!) and he thinks I might be out of the shoe this week. We'll see! My foot does still hurt. My 4th and 5th toes have regained some feeling but everything still feels tingly. The upper foot feels constricted and I'm guessing that's due to the bandage. Sometimes I have a pins and needles feeling and sometimes it feels a bit cramped up. The ball of the foot is sore if I put weight on it, which makes me think I'll be sporting this stylish surgical shoe for a bit longer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 2 of foot recovery

So it's been 10 days since the surgery and my foot is slowly healing. I went to work this week, with the help of my wonderful husband who is driving me around. It's nice to have a driver...and a cook. You don't realize how much you need to get around on your feet until you can't. Thank goodness I have my knitting because it's been keeping me sane while I camp out on the couch in the evenings. At work I sit with my leg up on the desk. Not the most ergonomic of positions!

Lovely footwear

I thought I'd share some of my experiences with this recovery in case anyone else does a search on Morton's neuroma and finds my blog. I did lots of searching on line before my surgery and found plenty of people experiencing terrible recovery but I suspect that's the case because people with problems will tend to voice them and not the other way around. My podiatrist has done lots and lots of these surgeries and after talking to him I felt confident to proceed...despite what I'd read on the internet. Yesterday I discovered a coworker had this surgery done on both feet about 20 years ago and she recovered 100%, has no residual pain or numbness and can play tennis with no problems. That made my day!

So a little back story to some questions people might have. How did I get this? How did I know I had it? What did it feel like?

How did I get this? I don't know exactly but it may partly be due to my shoes and perhaps just the way my foot is. Morton's neuroma is a nerve growth that typically occurs between the 3rd and 4th toes and can be caused by wearing narrow shoes, having flat feet or over pronation of the feet. I was never a big shoe person. I didn't cram my feet into uncomfortable or too high shoes for fashion's sake, but I also didn't buy very good shoes. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to spend more money on good, comfortable shoes. I think I first noticed this pain when I was ice skating, about 6 or 7 years ago. After about an hour on the ice the ball of my foot became sore and I thought it was just from being in hard skates. I also remember having that same pain while walking (and walking and walking) in Rome. I was wearing some fairly well-made shoes (Reiker) but the insoles seemed a little hard in the toe area and I attributed the pain to that...and to all the walking. A few years ago I had more pain in my feet walking around New York City and at this point I decided that maybe my shoes were too narrow. I figured age and the extra weight I'm carrying had caused my feet to spread a bit and the regular medium size was just a bit too tight. Since then I've been buying shoes in wide widths or with roomy toe boxes. But I still had problems. Last spring I was wearing my Reiker shoes, which I don't wear all that often, and the pain in the ball of my foot came back. I bought some insoles and that helped but the pain seemed to stick around even in other shoes.

What did it feel like? Originally it just felt sore on the ball of my foot. Sometimes I could feel a sort of twang that was definitely a nerve - a lot like when you hit your funny bone. Interestingly I didn't really have numb toes; however, the little toe on my other foot does get numb and I remember it getting numb even way back in high school when I wore a particular pair of boots. Turn out I do have a smaller neuroma in that foot.

How did I know I had Morton's neuroma? The internet. I originally thought maybe the cushion in the balls of my feet was wearing out, but when I searched on line I found that my symptoms matched up with Morton's neuroma. I made an appointment with a podiatrist and he confirmed the diagnosis (without letting him know I consulted Dr. Google - well actually Dr. Bing). He got me custom orthotics to get my feet stabilized and we hoped that the neuroma would shrink. But it didn't.

So I had surgery. I could have had injections of cortisone but that would have been temporary fix and also meant needles. In my foot. Ow. My podiatrist has a lot of experience with this condition and he says he can tell the cases that will ultimately need surgery and mine was one of them. I put off the surgery as long as I could. Normally people with Morton's neuroma feel better when barefoot but I didn't. I think it's because I have a lot of flex in my foot. When I pick up my foot after being flat on the floor, it flexes and crunches the neuroma. Well, it used to...the neuroma is not there anymore so I shouldn't have a problem anymore.

I'll continue the story of the surgery and the recovery another day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Off of my feet and knitting

I had foot surgery earlier in the week for a Morton's neuroma. It's a painful growth of nerve tissue that often occurs between the 3rd and 4th toes. I tried wider shoes, then orthotics, but it was not going to go away on its own and my options were cortisone shots, which wear off, or surgery.


Since I had to sit with my foot up, it was a perfect opportunity to knit. Yay for knitting! Last month in my knitting guild group I learned how to do the Norwegian purl, which is a continental style of purl stitch, and I really liked it. When I learned to knit I learned left-handed English style but I've been wanting to change to left-handed continental style. Now seemed like a perfect time to do it. I decided the perfect project for this was some ribbed hats for my "Hats for the Homeless" project.

 Last year I asked some knitting friends to help me make some simple hats that I could send to the Southwest Chicago PADS organization, which my in-laws are involved with. I chose the Pro Bono hat  by Angelina Fagan (instructions are here) because it's a simple 2x2 rib and it uses thick yarn so it knits up quickly. Last year I made and collected about 15 or so hats and this year I hope to make and collect more.

This week I knitted up two hats and am almost finished with a third. The pattern turned out to be a perfect project for learning a new way of knitting because I was able to practice both knit and purl in continental. I used some worsted weight yarn (doubled) that my in-laws sent me. I'm not sure where they got it but it was probably from an estate sale, thrift shop or was destined for the trash. I suspect it was someone's old fair isle project since there were numerous hanks of wool in 5-6 different colors. Judging from the tags on some of the skeins, I think the yarn was from the 70's. No bugs on it, but I had to wash some of it and some had to be discarded due to staining that wouldn't wash out. But I'm glad I was able to salvage it and repurpose it for these hats.