Back in the Saddle

Who am I kidding.  Not only am I not back in the saddle, I am unclear on where the horse I am supposed to put the saddle on might have got to.  I try really hard not to be the kind of person who wallows, who feels bad for too long, who gets in the deep end and swims loads of laps in the self-pity pool. While I’m not sure that I’m super successful at it every time,  I try hard to be someone who only sits on the edge of that thing and swishes my feet around for a bit, and then towels off and goes to work, so a few days ago I dried some of my tears, put on clothes slightly less stretchy than the ones I’ve been wearing (I almost put on a bra but that seemed like overkill, considering our positions) and I thought “Right Stephanie, let’s get to work.”

That’s about how far I got – see above comment re: missing horse. In my life, like in a lot of yours, a whole bunch of stuff disappeared at the same time. I admit, the grandchild was a a very big deal and really what I had intended to keep me busy in the next little bit (along with being Elliot’s best friend so he wouldn’t mind the presence of the usurper) but besides that all the work I had booked for the next bit (read – this whole year until June) also evaporated, leaving me wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do with myself.  I’ve only been unemployed once before (ironically, it was the last time there was a pandemic) and it is possible that I’m terrible at it. I love to be busy and have a lot on the go, so usually if I find myself in a lull for work I throw that time into the family – but I can’t be with them either, and similarly it’s not like I can go find a friend to amuse myself with.  No, it’s me and Joe – here in the house 23.5/7 and amidst my grief and anxiety over all that’s going on, I have made rather unending attempts to be… busy.

My house has never been cleaner – the drawers more organized, the laundry more up to date… and I even lost my *&$%#$%ing mind and bought shelf paper on Amazon.  I’m not even totally sure what the hell I’m supposed to do with it, but in the moment it seemed important and like it was going to be helpful.  I have been cleaning like mad, and if you are right now feeling bad that you haven’t been tidying your way through quarantine and feeling like maybe you should be, rest assured… it’s not nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped and I can wholeheartedly assure you that you shouldn’t bother unless you’re absolutely possessed of an urge to do so. I did repaint the kitchen door that’s been a mess for 17 years, and that felt pretty good but only took two hours. I’ve also been meal planning and cooking a lot- and that’s at least managed to keep us out of the grocery store except for the once a week per family we’re to keep to, so there’s that. (I admit that I’m finding it a little challenging to plan a week or ten days of meals based on how long salad lasts but I’m getting the hang now.  One word. Slaw.)

In the end though, as my ability to manage comes creeping back, as I get some footing on all that’s happened, It is my same old friend that’s here for me. The one that’s always there no matter what.

When my mum died, my urge to knit went with her, and so it was with Charlotte as well.  I think now as I did then, that for me knitting is so positive, so constructive, such a powerful way to move onward that it is a terrible match for my first intense wave of grief. For days Meg and I both held our knitting, moved it from room to room, looked at it and thought about it, but very little knitting happened.  Then all of a sudden as the fog started to lift, as we started to feel the possibility that the world was going to keep on turning, both of us picked up steam and now we’re unstoppable. (Joe had to drop off more yarn when he took Meg and Alex their groceries, so she’s making great time.) I knit a sweater for Elliot over the last 10 days of so – I’ll show it to you tomorrow I think, but now I’m onto a proper full-size man sweater for Ken, and it’s all I can think about.  (Not totally true, still trying to figure out the shelf paper thing.)

It’s Rift, which has lots of plain knitting but just enough details to amuse a knitter, and begins with a fabulous tubular cast on that’s just the bees knees.

I’ve spent ages patting it and stretching it and admiring it, and I’m pretty sure that Joe’s tired of talking about it. (While he feigns knitting interest pretty well, his ability apparently falls off sharply when I ask him to enjoy cast-on minutia.)

Thank goodness then that in all that it feels like I’ve lost over that last few weeks, I’ve still got you, my blog – and I can ask you and know that you’re there to answer with honesty and sincerity…

Isn’t that a really great cast on?

(PS there is also a sock.)

Perfect

This has been one of the hardest things of my life to write about. To find the words that match the experience we have just had, that Meg and Alex have had… I have thought so much about it. I have thought that perhaps I would simply not write about it at all, or perhaps write about it, but keep it private for just us. In the end though, there is no person in this family can change what happened, which is that we had the most wonderful thing happen, and then the most terrible, but one does not erase the other. Charlotte’s birth was a most welcome, happy, beautiful time for us, full of emotions and moments we would never want to forget. She was our little Charlotte, my most darling wee granddaughter, and though we feel robbed, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate having her at all. Meg and I spoke about writing this, and Meg said she was looking forward to reading Charlotte’s birth story, I said that I was having trouble writing about her birth because I felt it had a sad ending. Meg, showing far more wisdom than I could have ever hoped for in a daughter, reminded me that the birth did not have a sad ending. What happened 48 hours later was sad, but not the birth- and that event deserves to be remembered and celebrated as much as we are able, just like when Elliot was born. She’s right, so I’ll write.

Even while Meg was pregnant this time, I wondered how I would end up telling the story of this child’s birth. I am constantly surprised in my life by what ends up being important and what doesn’t, and my spectacularly crappy ability to predict it. Before Elliot was born, I thought that when I was at his birth, it was him that I would be most interested in – him that I would adore and delight in, and I did – no doubt, but it was the strength of my daughter that ended up rocking my world.  Her strength was the defining thing about that birth, and I was so proud watching her become a mother. So graceful and gentle and strong. In the hours that it took to move her son from one plane to another, she was amazing to me.

So it was this time, that I got another big surprise. We had high hopes for this birth. Meg and Alex had planned for it, arranged for it as best as people can, considering that you’re trying to plan for something that you can’t predict, and they had weighed and chosen their options carefully. Everyone has their own ideas and dreams and realities about what constitutes a perfect birth, and in my not insignificant experience as a birth worker, not very many of us get it.  Labour and birth involves the powers, passenger, passage, and psyche, and there are so many times that the fates conspire outside the influence of the dancers that it can be a pretty serious mistake to hope for a perfect birth. Meg knew this – and had absorbed all my messages about having a birth philosophy, not a birth plan. To hope for as few interventions as possible, not to say that there would be no interventions. To know that saying she didn’t want medication was a hope that could be shifted if they were needed, to know that (at least here in Canada) home birth with a provider is the safest place for healthy low risk mums and babies to do this, but to understand that risk is an ever evolving thing. You can hope and prepare all you like, but birth is complicated. You have to be prepared to roll with it.

Meg was ready for that, but as things unfolded everything just kept going their way. From the way that labour began before the pandemic limited the number of people who could gather and I was able to attend her as we’d hoped, to the way that it started at night, and ended before morning, so that Elliot was asleep. The timing of my arrival and the midwives was perfect – and music Meg has loved since she was little played in the background while she was supported by candlelight and people who love her best. Alex was confident and comforting, present and grounded, and as Meg had hoped, the midwives played lifeguard – keeping to the background and letting the family do their thing except when they were needed – which wasn’t much. The labour didn’t take long at all, but never felt rushed or surprising for a minute. Sometimes when a labour is quick it’s a little like getting hit by a truck, but this one felt like it was perfectly timed. Not so fast that Meg couldn’t keep up with its rhythm, learning to cope as she went, and never so slowly that we wished it would be over. Every time I looked up, someone was smiling, and a lot of the time, that was Meg. It was difficult to be sure, I think that no matter how a baby comes no person has ever described whatever shape it takes as easy, but I could tell that not for a single moment did she feel fear that she wasn’t able to do it. Her confidence was inspiring.

Gently and joyfully, her daughter crept closer, moved by the miracle that was her mother, and as she came closer, Meg concentrated more fully, relaxed more intently, softening, opening and welcoming and slowly, slowly, Charlotte found her way to us, until at last she was lifted from the water by the hands of her own parents, and the room dissolved into the purest form of happiness. She took her first breaths in her mother’s arms, holding her father’s hand, listening to voices of welcome that she’d come to know as she grew. It could not, and I do not say this lightly… have been a more perfect birth.


Meg stepped strong and unhurt from the water with her babe in her arms, that wee mite so beautifully built and delivered that she was ready to nurse, ready to know all of us, ready for anything. Meg settled on the couch and got cozy, and we set about tidying up. As I passed one of the worlds most charming midwives something she wanted, we caught eyes for a moment, and I saw that she felt what I did. This – what had just happened, almost never, ever happens in a birth. “This is the nicest birth you’ll attend this year” I smiled. “Maybe ever” she grinned, and I could see that it had been magic for her too.

The sun began to peek up, the sky lighten just a tiny bit, and things continued to be… perfect. The babe nursed, Meg and Alex celebrated, the midwives wrote things in the chart like “beautiful water birth” and Charlotte continued to shine with radiant health. Alex weighed his own baby (7’14”!)  Alex’s mother held her, and I did, and then we heard a little stirring in the other room as Elliot woke up. I crept into the room and darkness, and swept him into my arms. “Ellie” I whispered. “Guess what happened in the nighttime.”

I had worried that Megan’s son would be a replay of Meg herself, for when she met her little sister Sam the same way, at home in the living room… she took one look at the little interloper and the first words out of her mouth were “put her down and pick me up.” Not Elliot though, I shouldn’t ever have doubted our sweet guy. He was captivated. He smiled, and wanted her in his arms, and commented on all the right things. That she was tiny, that she was nice, that she was soft and beautiful. That she was his sister.


Meg got tucked up in bed and the grandfathers (anxiously parked in a car outside, waiting for the moment when they could meet their bairn) were finally welcomed by the grandmothers and trouped joyfully in, bearing food and pride and more happiness than that apartment could contain. “Is she okay?” Joe asked me, with Ken right behind him. I wasn’t sure if he meant Charlotte or Meg, but it didn’t matter. The answer was the same. “She’s perfect” I said.

Blog, I can’t tell you this enough. It was perfect. It kept being perfect. Charlotte was the picture of health, Alex was delighted and taking such good care of them all, and Ellie was adoring in a way that usually only appears in children’s books about being nice to the new baby in the family. He called her “my baby” and seemed to be charmed. All well, the midwives left for home, and Joe, Ken and I looked at our girl and her little family and baby in bed, had the presence of mind to take a perfect family photo, and then took our grandson home with us so that his Mum and Dad could get a little sleep. We even baked Charlotte a birthday cake to have with supper when we took him home.

I don’t know how many of you have been to a birth, be it your own or someone else’s, but I have been to lots and I find myself unable to describe the sacred rarity of what happened that night. It was not a good birth. It was not even a great birth. It was a perfect birth, and I’m not saying that because it was at home, or gentle or attended by midwives or any of that. Those things were what Meg and Alex wanted and values our family embraces but they’re not the point, we’re all going to have different ideas of what a perfect birth looks like. We’re all unique, shaped by our own experiences, beliefs, fears and choices. What makes something perfect for me isn’t at all what you may dream of, and what I’m trying to tell you is that what happened that night was perfect because it was such a good match for all Meg and Alex wanted, for the way Meg’s body worked, for how Charlotte arrived. It was a very special thing, and one that was amazing to witness, and amazing too in how long we were carried on that wave of perfection.

Charlotte glowed with perfect health, nursed perfectly, cried perfectly, was soothed perfectly, scored perfect on every test, was given an exam on the morning of her second day when the midwife smilingly pronounced her perfect, again. She seemed to enjoy her knitwear, and I tell you this, the smell of her head, the warm heaviness of her in my arms, the beauty of her in her parents arms… it was all so perfect. We kept saying it like we all couldn’t believe it. “She’s perfect, this is perfect.” She slept perfectly, and she woke up perfectly right as she should have until she was just forty-eight hours old and then….she didn’t.

This of course, is the part where this story becomes unbearably sad. I don’t want to speak to grief right now because I feel like it goes without saying that it hurts, so I’ll tell you in so many ways, we were lucky that even in this terrible moment… things were as perfect as possible. Despite their shock, Meg and Alex took instant action that was perfect. The response by emergency services was perfect. The responders that transported the whole little family to the hospital were perfect, that they live so close to the best Children’s Hospital in all of Canada was perfect, the screening agent who let Joe and I into the hospital so we could be with Meg despite Covid-19 was perfect, and perfect was what the doctor said Charlotte was, when she came to tell us that she had died. “I am so sorry” she said. “She was perfect.” We’ve learned since then that Charlotte was indeed perfect, and that she is dead for no reason except that sometimes little babies simply die, and there is nothing that anyone could have done to change it.


Nothing has been perfect since. This hard time has been compounded by the escalation in the pandemic response, and after spending a week together here to recover, Meg, Alex and Elliot are at home now, taking care of each other. A service for Charlotte will have to wait until this is all over, and we are able to make it as perfect as we can, since things are obviously pretty far from that now. It is a terrible time for our whole family to be parted from each other, but we are doing our best.

I can’t think of anything else to say about this. It is so far in so many ways from the hopes and dreams we all had, so I will just tell you what I think. I think that if a baby must die, and I freely admit that I cannot understand or condone any system where they must, let it be as this was. Having only known love, having never known hurt, sadness, pain or disappointment, a tiny little life of absolute happiness and amidst a family who could not have wished for any experience or any little person more perfect.

Thanks for stopping by sweet Charlotte. We miss you.

Charlotte Bonnie

It is with broken hearts that our family tells you that our darling Charlotte Bonnie died suddenly yesterday morning. Though we only had two days with our beautiful girl, she has left the mark of a lifetime. We ask for your patience while we take some time to privately care for each other.

Things I thought

An incomplete list of things i have not been correct about lately.

1. I thought the baby would be here by now.  She is not. Clearly she’s on a timetable all her own, and is well and happy on the inside and I guess we just keep waiting.

2. I thought that since the baby was not here by now, that the mystical power of the knitted baby blanket was prevailing, and that as soon as i finished, she would arrive. I finished. She did not arrive.

3. I decided then that it must be that it didn’t work was because I hadn’t blocked the thing, and that the knitting force is so strong within this young one that she was calling bull on her grammy, and so I blocked it. She did not arrive.

4. When that didn’t work, I thought – fair enough. it’s not dry, and folded and I haven’t snipped off the last two ends.

The child noped that too. She remains unmoved. (Meg had high hopes for that moment, let me tell you. I’m going to wait to show you the whole thing until she produces the worlds next great knitwear model.)

5. I also thought that there was going to be a way for our Strung Along March retreat to go forward next week, but after looking at the situation realistically, realizing how many of the attending knitters are in the high risk group and having a chat with public health out Port Ludlow way… there wasn’t.  Our retreat thus joins the ranks of so many other knitting events that are cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19.  I don’t know a single knitting teacher or event organizer who doesn’t feel like they did the right thing when they cancelled, and isn’t committed foremost to the health and well being of our communities,  and to slowing the roll of this thing, so as not to strain health resources any more than they have to be…  but I’m not going to pretend it isn’t difficult.  Lots of people are going to have a hard time economically over the next little bit in all sorts of industries, but today I raise my glass to all the knitting teachers, vendors and event organizers out there who’d already written cheques and signed contracts and are wondering what comes next for their businesses.  Lets hang in there together.

6. I thought people might be upset or angry when the retreat postponed, but I was overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of everyone involved, including The Resort at Port Ludlow. I think it’s that spirit that will mean that these events will still be around when this is over.

7. I thought I was mostly over the urge to embroider on knitting.

Turns out I’m not even a little bit over it.  I finished a little sweater for the baby, and then something came over me and I put a rosebud on it, and the next thing I knew I had seven colours of embroidery floss and whammo.

I am in love with it more than I can say.  I really hope this baby isn’t one of those spitting up kinds. I haven’t given the sweater or blanket to Meg yet, I have decided to withhold all knitwear deliveries until she makes good on her part of the deal. She gives me a baby and I give her the goods. No exceptions.

7. I thought I was done knitting for the baby, but it turns out that I am helpless in the face of this kind of expectation and so now I’ve started something else.

8. I thought it would be finished today but it’s not. A wee vest thing – it’s the handspun merino from a few weeks ago.

9. I thought I could promise that maybe I would knit something for someone who weighs more than 10lbs.  I can’t.  I think I’m just going to keep racking it up over here. Maybe another bonnet.

10. I thought being a grandmother for the second time would be a bit more chill.

Not even a pair of socks

Still no baby here, and still no blanket, and while Elliot didn’t care that his blanket wasn’t done and came anyway, I have begun to have concerns that this wee one may be more rule abiding. Meg herself is quite a lawful creature, and she was born two weeks early – the day I finished her blanket.  Meg’s currently so pregnant and uncomfortable that I’m starting to feel a bit of guilt, so  I’m trying to pour as much time as I can into the blanket, hoping that it won’t occur to Meg to hold me accountable for her discomfort.

I’m past halfway – only about 300 stitches left to work into the edging, which is about 17  repeats to go, which is about 612 rows of lace left to knit.  Just typing that makes it seem to me like I should be cancelling all plans that are not blanket related (like social engagements and sleeping and eating) but I’m trying not to get weird about it.  (As an aside, I am pretty sure that Meg would be fine with me getting as weird about it as I need to.)

Thus far, I have declared myself monogamous to this project, and I have made the incredibly brave choice to give up cleaning and laundry. We will see what further sacrifice is required.

A small rescue

This morning as we made waffles and chatted about our business, Elliot and I discussed the weather.  There is a big snowstorm coming, I explained to him. It is snowing now, and it is going to snow all day, and all night.  Elliot looked at me, then looked out the window at the bleak landscape, and rather seriously said “and all summer” with the exact kind of pessimism that settles into a Canadian heart at this time of year.  We learn it young, here in the frozen North.

We are all also on high alert today, because as any birth worker can tell you, this is exactly the sort of weather that babies prefer to arrive in.  Not now, not while the roads are still pretty clear and it’s not too terrible to drive around in, but later – at 2am, when everyone is tired and there’s 20cm of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down hard.  If there is a moment of lowest possible visibility, and you’re looking out the window thinking “mercy I hope I do not have to travel in this” that is when they are possessed of a sense of urgency. I have it on pretty good authority that every midwife in the city woke up this morning, looked at the weather and thought “Right then” and went straight away to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and they still have that shovel in their trunk.

I have my bag packed and ready to go (and there is already a shovel in my trunk) and I’m going to spend the whole afternoon working on the blanket (as soon as I can skip out on the rest of my work.)  Last night Elliot did not go down early (thanks dude) and it took me a little longer than expected to get around the corner of the edging (if by a little longer you understand I mean about 90 minutes) so the blanket is almost the same as when I showed it to you last.  I’m officially only about 1/4 of the way through the edging.  In short -weather and blanket status combined,  it is a perfect day for a baby to arrive, if you have a neonate’s sense of humour.

I promised to distract us all from Baby Watch 2020 with a little show and tell about an old sweater, so here goes.  I save things. Not a lot, you understand – I  part with objects fairly easily and (yarn and patterns aside) have few hoarding tendencies.  My mum was the same, and she saved very little from when we were babies, but she did have the good sense to tuck away a few bits, and I’ve been able to pass them on to Meg – along with some stuff that she and her sisters wore as bairns. My mum didn’t knit, and neither did my maternal grandmother, but my great-grandmother did, and she was really pretty good at it. When I was born, she knit me a tiny little layette set in a newborn size, despite the fact that I was born in June. (See above comments re: Frozen North. All babies get woollies.)

Considering that it is a 52 year old sweater set worn by six babies, it is in pretty good shape.  It’s a soft baby wool, slightly yellowed by age and felted by washing, and  it was white (or natural) when it was new. (I can tell because the ribbons don’t match.)  I took it out to pass it on to this baby, and found that in the almost three decades since it graced a little one, something’s had a bit of a snack on it.  It looks to me like carpet beetles, rather than a M**h – the holes are clean and look like they were drilled through – and the damage is localized. Three distinct spots, two on the bonnet and one on the sleeve of the sweater. Apparently this beastie cares not for bootees. I gave it a good wash and a little dose of sunshine, and started.

When I make a repair, usually I have some of the old yarn, or can salvage some from the garment. Unpick a cast off and pull back a row or two… then cast off again, but this is a little felted so that wasn’t going to work.  I needed a fine, softly spun wool in a matching colour.  I knew I had nothing like that in the stash (rather unbelievably) but I did have a yarn that was the right colour, though not the right weight.

Undaunted, I took just one ply of the worsted weight I found, and it worked just fine. There was a tiny hole in the brim of the hat – that took just a stitch or two to fix, I simply worked duplicate stitch over the missing bit.  The larger hole in the bonnet was a little harder, a combination of darning and duplicate stitch made that one go away.

The hole in the sleeve was another matter.  One whole column of stitches was absent – it’s missing all the ladders in that column- so I couldn’t just ladder it back up like a dropped stitch, it was too wide to just sew up, and it wouldn’t look right if I darned it.

I thought about knitting a patch, a little heart or something, and sewing it over the hole, but then I had another idea. I used a technique that I teach in my Fix is in Class.  *

Working back and forth, I gave myself the ladders that I needed, one for each missing row, then inserted my tiny crochet hook in the intact stitch at the bottom of that section, and laddered it up like it simply was a dropped stitch, anchoring it at the top with a single stitch of grafting to the intact stitch at the top.  Voila!

You can’t even tell it was ever munched.  When I was done I took the ribbons out and thought about replacing them, but though they’re a little ragged, they’re the originals, and silk, and serviceable enough that I didn’t want to swap them out. They got a little pressing, and I put them back in. The whole things looks almost as good as new, or as good as a 52 year old sweater set can.

Now my little grandchild can wear something I did, and that their mother did, and it was lovely to work on something my great-grandmother made with her own two hands.  It felt really good to be able to be responsible for restoring her good work like that, and I think it will feel even better to dress a babe in something her great, great, great grandmother knit. I know it’s a wish of mine that the things I make will last this long and be this loved.

That’s her – Dorothy, in the back next to my Great Grandfather Archibald. My Grandmother Kathleen is on the left, and there’s my mum Bonnie, holding me.

(PS. At the Spring Retreat I’m going to teach this sort of repair, our theme is the letter E, and that covers “Errors” and this comes up in that section. All the workshop spots are filled up, but we still have a few spots for textile artists who’re able to spin and knit. For the record, and because people always write to us and ask, you do not need to be a very experienced knitter or spinner for these retreats. They’re learning experiences, and it’s just fine to be a beginner in both departments.  Everyone always says “maybe when I’m good enough” and there’s no reason to wait. This sort of thing is supposed to help you become that good. More info here if you’re into it.)

Am I winning yet

There is not yet a baby, which is a good thing in the knitting department and I’m quite pleased by it, though Meg less so, to be truthful.

I’ve been quietly sending “not quite yet sweetie” messages out into the universe, and so far it’s working.  I did decide, after the last blog post to add another repeat of the lace – it seemed silly to make a short term knitting decision when this will be a long term grandchild, and I knew I’d be happier in a year with this choice than I was with it in the moment – so my nine rounds to go turned into 25 rounds to go, and I poured on the burn.

(I know, that is such an incredibly hip thing to say that you can hardly stand it.)  I dedicated a few days of really intense knitting to the thing, and I’m happy to announce that the body is done, and I, gentle readers, have made it all the way to the edging.

This blanket has almost a thousand stitches in a round now – and that means I have to work around two thousand rows of the edging to get around the thing and have it cast off. It’s about 55 repeats of the edging pattern, plus a little more to get around the corners. I’m almost to the first corner now, which means I am at the exact point in the process where it feels completely hopeless.  Elliot’s coming for a sleepover tonight and that’s always good for a chunk of knitting time – he goes to bed early and easily, bless him. (He remains the sweetest child to ever walk the earth, I tell you. It makes me wonder if this next babe will be the end of all peace, but let’s worry about that when we see what sort of vibe the kid is rocking.)

I took a little blanket break earlier in the week, partly because I was bored to the point of chewing my own arm off, and also because almost everyone I know who’s ever had a knitting injury can point to a wicked knitting jag that did it. I think it’s pretty important for your hand health to keep mixing it up.  (Do you know what makes it hard to get a repetitive strain injury? Not repeating things. It’s not like I’m going to knit less, but I can keep knitting with variety. That wee break meant that I finished the sweetest little onesie.  So darling I can hardly stand it. Soft and warm, perfect for the first few weeks or so.

Pattern:Tiriltunge Newborn Onesie Yarn: Rosy Green Wool Merino d’Arles in Mistral. It took about 1.5 skeins, and I used a 3mm needle.

It is just about  perfect.  I loved this yarn a lot, and the result is charming, cozy, was pretty easy to knit if you keep your wits about you (and I do.)  I think it’s going to fit too – and may be a hair big, which is perfect, because new humans grow so quickly.

I also spent a little time restoring some old knits, ones that were mine when I was a baby, of all things – but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.  Trust me, we’re going to need something to break up the blanket monotony.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

On the weekend, I was feeling pretty good about the blanket situation. I’d completed the centre, picked up the stitches all the way around it, worked the first garter border, the ring lace, the second garter border, the first big border, the third garter border and was just a few rounds away from finishing the second big border. That just left the final garter border and that’s just eight rounds, and I’d be staring the edging.  Sure, the edging takes a while to knit, a million years or so, but it was seeming all so possible.  So possible in fact that I worked on some other stuff. I worked on a little onesie I’m knitting, and I even contemplated starting something else – a little merino shirt for the baby to wear in the early days.  I went on a dive into the stash and didn’t come up with just the yarn I wanted but I did find some hand combed merino top (a gift from MamaCate more than a decade ago, combed with her own two little hands) and It seemed like just the right thing. I didn’t have the yarn I wanted, but I could make the yarn I wanted, and I gave the blanket a little glance, told it to essentially knit itself for a bit, and pulled out my wheel.

It’s been a while since I sat at it, and it was such a pleasure that the next thing I knew I’d spun all my singles, and plied, and voila –

By yesterday afternoon I had the sweetest little skein of two-ply merino, about 200m of a light fingering weight, just the right thing for the idea I had. I thought about getting out the needles right then, but the blanket was lurking, and I thought to myself that since I only had about ten rounds to go before the edging, I should just put in few rounds.

Now, the blanket has, at this point- about 900 stitches per round, and that increases by 8 every other round. Sitting down to do “a few rounds” isn’t a small chunk of time. It’s lace, too, so the idea of getting this bit done and moving on to the edging/casting off phase is pretty motivating. Of course, I have no real idea when the baby will come, but I do know that I should get a move on, and I did.  Last night as I was hanging out with the family, chatting after Sam’s birthday dinner (she turned 26 yesterday!) finishing the last lace round, (JUST NINE ROUNDS LEFT) I spread the work out on my knee for a minute, and had a thought. The thought was not good. The thought was that the border I was looking a wasn’t tall enough.

I turned to Sam and asked her what she thought.  Could I stop? Did I need another repeat?  Sam looked at it and said that she thought another repeat wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but that if I wanted to be done with it, she thought I could stop if I wanted to.

Wanted to be done with it? Yes. That is what I wanted, so I celebrated, called it done, and went to bed, happy to be waking up today in a world where there are just NINE ROUNDS LEFT.

This morning, well rested but with a proper sense of panic around the blanket, anxious to finish those NINE ROUNDS, I pulled the behemoth onto my lap and started to work.  As I started, I thought about what Sam had said.  “If you wanted to be done with it” and then I wondered about having asked her at all.  Are those the actions of a confident knitter? Does a someone who’s sure they’re right ask for help getting out of knitting a bit more? I drank my coffee, and thought about revisiting my blanket math.  I’ve got a sketch with measurements and a plan in a drawer in my office, a sheet of paper with the measurements from Elliot’s blanket on it, and equivalent calculations for this one – because I have this crazy idea that they should be about the same size. I didn’t go get the paper, because I know what it says on it, and I know what it’s going to tell me. I know that math. It’s my math – and although my mathematics skills are total crap, my memory is just fine. I looked at my measuring tape, and I thought about measuring, knowing full well that if I did, it wouldn’t be nine more rounds.  It would be TWENTY FIVE MORE ROUNDS, and well – have a look at Meg.

Exactly.  You see the situation.  So, here I sit, measuring tape in one hand, the truth in the other and I’m trying to bring myself to accept the whole thing.  I do not think, if I decide to go the long way, that I will outrun this baby.  I do think that I might be happier with it in the end though, and this child will have the blanket a lot longer than it’s going to take to knit those rounds, and while do I want to be “done with it” I also want it to be perfect.

Maybe I’ll just look at that little skein of merino for a bit.

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie

I wasn’t going to blog today because I didn’t have much time, but a short post is better than no post so I’m going to write this, but I’m not even going to try to make it coherent.  Let’s do a list, shall we? Here’s some things.

1. We had Megan’s baby shower on Saturday here at the house.  I thought that you were only supposed to have a shower for your first, but the girls said I was being old-fashioned and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to celebrate getting a baby, so we did.

2. I made cookies.

3. I also made a romper (the pattern is this one) and then I hadn’t run out of yarn so I made a bonnet (no pattern I just know what babies look like) and the I still had yarn so I made shoes.

I am out of yarn now. All that from one skein of Rosy Green Cheeky Merino Joy – which made it a very good deal indeed.  (Colour was 62, Isar Pebble.)

4. The shoes are from 50 Baby bootees to knit, which is a book I love now and always have. It’s paid for itself a thousand times.

5. Elliot is staying here for 3 days and two nights while his parents celebrate the last gasp of relative freedom they have before the new baby thows them back into lockdown.  I admit, I’m a little nervous – we’ve been doing sleepovers to practice for this – and so that he can have people to hang out with when the little usurper arrives, but two nights is a long time for a boy not yet three.  I hope it goes well. Today was the first and it went just fine. We cooked dinner together, and he went to bed like warm butter on hot toast, so let’s just see if it lasts.  (I have purchased treats and are willing to use them.)

6. I have their dog too.  See above re: treats.

7. I taught Elliot how to peel a carrot. Together with the potty training (he is better at that then the carrot) he is just about employable.

8. I do not care to discuss the blanket (or lack thereof) today.

All that I survey

This morning, before I packed my bags and got ready to head for the airport, I spread out my knitting and had a little sigh about it. I brought three projects with me on this trip – and I didn’t meet my goals on any of them.  I forgot how completely exhausted I am after skiing, and what it’s like to try and juggle my other responsibilities with that.  Joe always says that the great thing about being self employed is the flexibility.  You can work any 14 hours a day you want, and both of us were feeling that.  If we were in the hotel room we were on our laptops, trying to get stuff accomplished and pretend to the people we had commitments to that we weren’t playing on the slopes, and I only managed to carve out about an hour of serious knitting each evening.  I did manage to get a few hours of non-serious knitting in each day as we travelled back and forth to the ski hill.  We like taking the bus once we’re there, and it gives you some pretty good knitting time, although I couldn’t bring myself to bring the blanket on the bus and then stuff it in my ski bag.  I’m too far along for it to get dirty or what if someone stole my ski bag? There would be no coming back from it.  I kept it in the hotel room – resisting the urge to put it in the safe.

I had three knitting goals this trip.  I wanted to finish the romper.

This did not happen.  It might happen today as I make my way home – my flight’s been delayed twice thanks to a snowstorm in Toronto, and it’s farther along than it is in that picture since I knit on it on the way to the airport, but mostly I’m behind.

I brought this little white sweater (pictured in the corner above) It’s a plain white cardigan knit on 2.25mm needles which is, rather predictably, taking forever.  I aimed to finish the body and start the sleeves. Even brought needles for the sleeves, but it was a total bust. While I thought about it a lot, it’s had the audacity to stay about the same, only a few centimetres longer than it was when I left Toronto. I suppose that I would have made better progress if I’d knit it instead of thinking about it, but I was so demoralized this failure that I didn’t even pack it in my carry on. It can think about what it’s done while it’s squashed in my suitcase.

The blanket…. that was the big fail.  My goal was to finish the border I’m on now, accomplish the little garter band before the next border, and be finished the next border, which is smaller than the first.  Sadly, not only did I not get this done, I fell way short.  I’m on the last round of the first border.  I think I forgot to take into account that this blanket is growing rapidly. Right now there are about 712 stitches in a round – but that grows by 8 stitches every other round.  Predictably, those rounds are taking longer and longer.  Still, I’m on to 8 rounds of garter now, and then 20 of a lace pattern much simpler than the last, so maybe there is some hope.  I’m going to work on it all the way home today, and it’s a 4.5 hour flight, so maybe?  It’s making me anxious, I’d like to make some real progress, but I’m going to avoid setting a crazy goal that just generates more knitting deadline anxiety.

Whew! almost done, which is good because I’m off to stand in the Standby line and see if I can get myself anywhere close to Toronto, but one last thing.  Debbi and Judith and I have had lots of questions about the retreat, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that if a couple of people write to ask us, then a lot of people are wondering about it, so we thought that we’d take a few minutes a few days in a row to answer questions. (We’re speaking here of the Strung Along Spring Retreat. It’s March 20-23rd, and there are details on this page.  There’s also details about the June and November retreats there, but please note that those two are full, with a wait list. We can put you on that wait list, but for November in particular, those odds are not good.  If you were hoping for a retreat this year, March is your baby.)

I’m answering today- because this is a question we get that could be sung from my own little heart.

I would love to come and I wish I was the sort of person who could, but I feel really anxious about going alone and not knowing anyone and I’m not sure I can do it without a wingknitter.  Does anyone come alone? What’s it like if they do?

Knitter, my little cowardly, introverted, nervous self hears you.  There was a birthday party for someone really like last week and I had trouble going because I wasn’t sure I was going to know anyone there. It turned out absolutely fine, but I hear you. I actually AM you.  I can tell you a few things about the retreat that might make you feel better.  First, yup.  About half of the retreat is brand spanking new to the experience, and coming alone.  You wouldn’t be the only one, for sure.  Second, almost everyone else who’s coming is a repeat retreat who came alone the first time that they did, so they understand how you feel.

Next, this retreat was set up by someone who’s as nervous as you are (that would be me) and someone who’s pretty normal socially.  (That would be Debbi.) We’ve got it arranged so that it’s pretty cozy.  On the first evening you meet everyone in a big room, but you don’t have to talk to them or do anything, Debbi and I take the heat.  From then on, you’re in a small group with 10-14 other knitters, and they’re the same ones every day.  The whole retreat gathers for meals and evening activities, but you’ve always got that little group that you’re with every day, and almost everybody makes buddies in that group.

Last, I can tell you two things- there is lots of time to go to your room, regroup, knit quietly and gather yourself before you return to the fray. On the other hand, if you’ve made a friend or twelve, there’s lots of cozy living room style space to hang out and knit together.  We’ve got a little lounge that we hang out in.

The other thing of those two? We have knitters who have been coming for years, because it is the one time of the year that they see the friends that they make at Strung Along –  it is a point of pride for Debbi and Judith and I that the retreat is a ship that has launched a thousand friendships.  It is a beautiful thing.

If all else fails, you know me. I’ll be there.

If you want to come, email info@strungalong.ca and we can talk about it.