The felt is a funny colour too

It is in keeping with the rather craptastic nature of 2020 that I begin the month of December by blowing a deadline.  In the past this month has been the scene of some of my most glorious triumphs – grand knitting plans pulled together at the last minute, supernatural amounts of work coming together, spreadsheets and lists galore culminating in glorious family gatherings and joyful holiday parties.

Instead, defeat. I blame the lockdown. (Today is day nine.) You would think that a lockdown would give you nothing to do but knit and organize, but that’s not my experience of it. Instead, whole mornings are lost to *figuring out how to get red embroidery floss through a website and curbside pickup only to pick-up said pickup and realize that it’s completely the wrong red, heading home dejectedly while realizing that you forgot green thread anyway so you might as well light this floss on fire and make another order, all while wondering how you got yourself in a situation where red floss is an “essential trip.” (Repeat from * when the green thread is wrong and doesn’t match the buttons you had to compromise on as well.) Everything takes that little bit longer, everything is just a little more complicated, and no matter how hard you try, everything is a little bit off.

Still, it’s an advent calendar year over here, another little one in our family has come of age – I imagine you all figured that from the wee things settling around me in drifts, and I did have it completely in my head that it would be finished and in the mail by the 27th November and arriving in time for… well. For today. Instead, it still sits in bits on my dining room table and I think that if I really, really try, I might be able to finish it today, and figure out how to get it in the mail tomorrow, and then the rest of the Covid-Christmas knitting can begin in earnest. I did get smart and order most of the yarn I needed a few months/weeks ago, so hopefully nothing is too much of a disaster there. (I can’t believe I said that.)

Today – I’m going to – well, first I’m finishing this blog post, then I’m finishing something for The Patreon (if you’re a patron, a new video headed your way today I think – can’t believe I said that either) and then – oh crap it’s Tuesday so I have to have a weekly meal plan and a grocery list together and text the neighbours to see if they need anything and it’s still snowing so I’ll have to shovel before I take the recycling out and … then.

Then I’m going to finish the last ornament, cut the felt backing, cut the tree shape, appliqué it to the backing, cut and sand the dowels, cut the pockets, embroider and sew the buttons on, sew ribbon onto all the ornaments… and then… how does one get a mailing tube in a lockdown? Maybe there’s one at the Post Office? Maybe that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Are you trying to finish something today? Tell me you’re past your deadline too. It will make me feel better.

Small

It’s day one of “lockdown” here in Toronto.  Not quite as scary as the first time – I feel like we all know how to to it now. We’re not scrambling around trying to figure out how you’re supposed to get things or what you have to wipe down or trying to figure out masks. The shops are all set up for curbside pickup and delivery, we’ve got our PPE sorted, and other than widening our bubble to include our immediate family (and then shrinking it again a few months later, as instructed) Joe and I have pretty much kept ourselves in lockdown the whole time anyway.  Joe’s still grocery shopping for his parents and others as needed, and we’ve kept it to once a week since mid March, so we’re all sorted there. It’s not so hard to only leave the house once a week for shopping if you’ve been practicing for so long. I haven’t been in a grocery store in eight months, and our list of close contacts for a week can be counted on one hand, and that’s if you put the both of us together.  (And you’ll have fingers left over.)  This lockdown, being asked to make our world a little smaller, it isn’t really that different from what we were already able to do.

I’ve been knitting lots of tiny things of late, wee mice and minuscule hats (the experienced among you will guess why, of course) and mittens for Elliot and…

I’ve been finding it rather satisfying, and it’s only just occurred to me today why that might be.  There’s a certain resonance isn’t there? My world has been so very small for almost a year that knitting small things just seems like a good fit.

As we start this new phase, one that we’re being told is at least 28 days, I’m trying not to panic. Part of me is so sad. What about the gingerbread party? What about Solstice… What about Christmas? Then I remember that we couldn’t have our usual Thanksgiving either, and somehow we all survived that. I’m trying not too look to far ahead right now. A few days at the most, and worrying just about small things.

I’m going to try and be here a bit more right now (at least in the next few days) but I am being gentle with myself, and keeping expectations low. It is the covid-times. Who knows what’s going to happen next. Except that I am probably going to knit this.

That goes double for you

For months now I’ve been telling anyone who complains that they’re off their game that these are exceptional times, and you’re allowed to roll with it however you need to. I reassure them that trying to weather personal storms while in the midst of global loss and fear in frightening times is challenging, and that if it means you’re not as productive or tidy or cheerful or laissez faire as usual, that’s cool. It’s a time to be gentle with yourself I say. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

I go away then, having said just that, and do (for the most part) the opposite.  Instead of reassuring myself that I’m actually doing pretty well, what with this being the most craptastic half year of my life, I have been making little lists of the ways that I am screwing it up. You were going to blog every day during the pandemic, I tell myself. You were going to spin when it rains. What happened to brushing up on your Spanish, and weren’t you going to run a 5k? Be in the best shape of your life? Write two books? Bake bread for all your friends, and while we’re at it, isn’t the house supposed to be cleaner than ever now that you’re in it all the time? (This one is epic. Turns out that being constantly in your house and using it for every aspect of your life trashes the joint. Who knew?)

I go to bed thinking essentially that tomorrow is going to be the day that I “get it all together” which is an awesome set-up for the next day, because it’s a goal that’s lofty but vague and therefore largely impossible to follow through on, and then I can disappoint myself properly that day too. I’ve essentially been setting a self-esteem trap every day and it turns out I’m great at it.

I’ve been wondering how to come back here every day when I’ve failed yet again, and it stalls me right out. I’ll have to apologize (again) I tell myself.  I’ll just tell the blog I’m sorry and I’ll do better from here on, and THIS WILL BE THE DAY I GET IT TOGETHER.

Well, it turns out it’s probably not. This is a time of great transition, and I want to be clear that I’m not miserable over here – I’m not lying at the bottom of a pit of despair ignoring a ladder right next to me. There’s good things and great things and bad things and for the most part I feel okay about how this family is doing.  I feel good about inventing a new job and getting us out of trouble, and I feel good about being as available to Elliot as I have been – If the kid can only have a few people in his life, they should be dedicated. I feel terrific about the time we’ve been able to spend together as a family this summer. I feel bad about how sad we are some days, and I feel sad too when I think of how many families feel the way that we do right now, with so much loss all around us. I don’t know how things are where you live, but here we are still under restrictions, mostly increasing ones right now,  and our world is tiny, and having the world shrink to this family and this house sometimes makes it hard to see outside of it.  (I realized the other day that I have lost my wallet. I mean, I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but it’s been seven months since I was in a store so its location has sort of slipped by me.) It is a strange and terrible time, and there are days when I just can’t be cheerful about it, and then days when I am with my family and I think that we’re in great shape, for the shape we’re in.

I miss my friends (especially my American ones) and travelling and knitting classes and conferences and Port Ludlow, and I dread the coming winter when our ability to see people out-of-doors and distanced will go away, and I feel bad for Joe that there’s not likely to be skiing this year, and I am worried about his parents who’s world has been very, very small for so long now.  I really wish we had a fireplace, or that those backyard firepit thingies were legal here. I have anxiety about the holidays, worried about what size and shape they will be and what we will do, and I asked on instagram the other day what people were looking forward to this winter (since I was short of inspiration myself) and there were great answers. Candles and soup, twinkle lights in every room, walks in the snow, movie nights, warm jammies, knitting mittens, the knowledge that I don’t have to put on real clothes for another few months….there is a list of good things. A big list.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, except that you are the blog. I am okay over here, I think. I worry sometimes that something is broken in us after all this, that we will never be the same, and I think that’s true. I think too many hard things happened to us too fast, and after this we will be different, and I think that’s okay. Different doesn’t mean bad, just changed, and maybe if I concede that I’ll stop waiting to feel the way I used to and just try to get used to…. whatever is normal for right now? I’m trying to figure out what normal grief looks like if we’re enduring a pandemic and damned if I know, but I wanted to tell you that I’m trying officially, starting now- to let myself off the hook for all of the messiness I experience while I figure it out. (Both literally, and figuratively.)

Of course, it’s possible that knitting an enormous grey blanket isn’t helping – never mind a grey blanket I screwed up.  It’s been a while since I made a spectacularly enormous knitting error, but here you go, this one’s a classic.  Years ago, I knit the MDK Moderne Log Cabin Blanket. It went fine. I loved how it turned out. Sure, that neutral garter stitch does sort of go on a bit (if you understand that “by go on a bit” I mean that you’ll weep near the end and beg for it to be over) but the result is so, so lovely.  So, I decided to make it again. (I gave away the last one.) I ordered the same yarn, I opened up the book, and I started. Joe and I were going away for three days, and it was the perfect time to get a big chunk of it done, and I did. I started as we began our long drive, with a very good feeling.

Now, here’s the thing. It seemed kinda big from the get go. Much larger than the last time, but I just thought to myself  that I didn’t recall correctly, and I kept going. Our getaway was a little yurt deep in the woods (the girls gave it to me for a birthday present. Neat, right?) No running water (except the river) no electricity, no civilization of any kind, and I thought that this would be perfect timing to really bash out a chunk of this blanket, and it was.

The setting was idylic, and I had hours knitting by the woodstove by candlelight listening to audiobooks, and grand fun knitting by the fire. It was super cold while we were there too (almost zero at night) and that by itself was pretty inspiring in the blanket department.

I can’t explain it,  but I did notice it was too big, but I kept thinking that it was going to work out. (Insane knitter theory #4: If I keep going, maybe this will stop looking too big. Essentially the idea that making something bigger will make it smaller. I can’t explain us sometimes.)  after three days, Joe and I came out of the woods, and as we drove back to the city, yay verily as the cityscape appeared on the horizon, I came to my senses. It was like being slapped in the face with reason and logic.  I opened the book to look at the instructions again and holy cats I am an idiot.

There are two blankets on that page of the book. An adult size, and a baby size. Now, obviously I wanted the adult size so that’s what I was knitting, but the original is knit out of DK weight yarn and I am using a bulky. The minute I looked at it I realized what I’d done last time, and what I should have done this time.  Knit the baby size out of bulky to get an adult size. I’d only completed three sections of the thing and it was already halfway to the size I was aiming for.

I came home and ripped it all out, and now I’m taking a second run at it – it’s coming out fine this time, thank you very much.

Though it’s rather possible I’m going to blow a deadline on account of the gaff.

I think I’ll forgive myself for that too.

I did tidy a closet

There is a lot I don’t understand about this pandemic, but what is wrong with how time passes right now is clear up at the top of my list. I have no idea how so much time can be whipping by me when the days seem so long, or how I can be at home so much and still not get anything done.  Admittedly, I’ve been working very hard on the Patreon and on a few other work things – and that takes up loads of time. I’m determined to make the Patreon a ridiculously good value, and so far I think I’m succeeding. It’s still a little harder than it should be, meaning that because I’m learning everything takes ten times longer than I hope it will once I’m a pro. (This week, due to an error that was incredibly instructive, I managed to lose an entire video during editing and had to start over. It takes real time and commitment to make that kind of high quality error.) It’s a lot of time at my desk, but I’m so grateful to be able to keep the wolves from the door that I’m cool with it, and I’m sure I’ll get better.

I’ve been a very busy grandmother – Elliot is here a lot, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a busy three year old does to your available time.  When he is we spend our time doing very important things like visiting our ducks (they do not know that they are our ducks)

and wandering through the “deep deep woods” or digging holes at the beach – and this marks the second week that Elliot has been confident enough to leap from the back of the anchored boat to swim in Lake Ontario. It’s already starting to cool off here and I know things will really change when the winter comes, so who am I to deny him (or me) any of the moments of summer? It’s such a brief time that I am trying to cheerfully abandon anything at all if anyone wants to go outside.

Still, there is no explanation for why I haven’t found my way here more often, though I think of you every day, and then… well. Something happens to my day, though I can’t quite say what it is.  (Secretly, I blame Joe. There is something about a big guy in his underpants hanging out in the house this much that just cramps the hell out of my style, as much as I love him.) I am perpetually staring at the clock in disbelief (it just happened again now. Four? It’s almost four? I swear it was 10am when I went for a ride, and then all I did was make lunch for me and Joe and… four?)

I’ll write again soon (I mean that) but today my laptop is going in for repair. (Finally getting the keyboard fixed, hallelujah – we found someone who can do it without us having to go into a shop, so it’s perfect, except for the part where I have to part with it for a few days.) Meanwhile, I’m just here to show you some socks.  I meant it when I said that the lack of travel has really screwed up my sock production… but a concerted effort on my part has meant that three pairs (actually five but I am waiting to show you two others) have come off the needles in the last bit. First, I finished the Regia Pairfect Rainbow pair –

Off they go into the (currently sparsely populated) long-range-planning-box. (Pattern is the plain vanilla top down sock that I taught on the Patreon.) It is worth noting that I did a spiral toe on these, but they spiral in opposite directions, because I can’t imagine anyone could easily walk straight if their toes were unbalanced.

Another pair- I put these in the long range planning box too, but who am I kidding. They are for me.

Yarn is Ancient Arts “Lichen in my Crevices” I am so fetched with this colourway and yarn combo that I have three more skeins of this one in my stash, all purchased separately. Helpless to resist that one, it turns out.  That same pattern that lives in my head again – with an eye of partridge heel this time.

Finally, a pair for Cameron. That one is (again, my basic pattern) and the yarn’s Must Stash in Vespa.

I am glad that Cam is a knitter so he knows exactly how much work his big feet are and can extrapolate exactly how much I love him.

I know that non-knitters sometimes think it’s funny that I like knitting for other knitters so much. They often think that knitters won’t appreciate them as much because they could just make a pair of socks themselves, but it’s never how it goes.  I give a non-knitter socks and (unless they’ve been to school on the topic) they usually say something like “oh wow, thanks so much, these are beautiful hand knit socks”.  This is adequate, of course, and the best they can do- considering that for all intents and purposes they’re pretty sure they’re holding beautiful hand knit socks.

A knitter though? When I give them a pair of beautiful hand knit socks? They usually say something like “these are beautiful” but then they look at you in a way that says what they’re really thinking, which is “thank you for thinking that I am worth this much of your time it makes me feel loved” which is really what we’re trying to say with knitting, isn’t it?

Back soon – you know. When the laptop is fixed and I’ve seen to the ducks. I have a mini-rally to tell you about.

Make your own fun

When I was a kid my mum used to do this thing called Find Your Own Food Fridays. From the time that we were old enough to scrounge leftovers or make a peanut butter sandwich, on Fridays – we were completely on our own.  This was coupled with other parenting gems like pointing out that there were four of us and only one of her, and so it was our job to know where she was, not the other way around. When I became a mum that one started to make a lot of sense, and I also I kept Find Your Own Food Fridays, but one upped my mum by inventing Make Your Own Fun Mondays, in which I didn’t come up with any activities or plans for the girls, and they had to come up with their own fun that didn’t require parental support of any kind.  You want a drive? Sorry kiddo, it’s Monday. Want me to make playdough? I’m happy to direct you to the recipe.  Find your dollie? Set up a fort? Read my lips. MONDAY. My mum loved it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the last few weeks, as the time when we would normally be leaving for the Bike Rally loomed, and Team Knit prepared to have a proper pout about it.  One that was rather serious in nature, because we’re not just bummed that we don’t get to have a Rally, we’re really rather more upset that The Rally (not really being a Rally this year) hasn’t been able to fund the agency the way that they usually do – which makes total sense but is still upsetting. It’s been very difficult to get a sense of momentum for an event that can’t happen, and it’s sad  that things can’t happen and…. Stupid virus. Here we are trying to deal with the fallout of the last great pandemic (that would be HIV/AIDS) and the current pandemic is preventing that.

More than that – as someone who’s been on the inside for the last several years, I know how this is working.  The Bike Rally (thanks to awesome people like you) has been very successful the last few years, and that means that there is cash around, and that’s enabled PWA to do some amazing things during this crisis – like that they’re the only ASO (Aids Service Organization) who’s been able to stay open to provide food hampers and financial supports to clients (many of whom are women, mothers, and newcomers to Canada.) To be clear, that money is going to run out – the crisis is not over, and the Rally isn’t raising as much this year as last. Increasingly PWA is going to be asked to do more with less, and that’s hard to see coming.

Team Knit has been trying to figure out how to fix it – or what we can do, or how it is even remotely possible to make some lemonade here, but absolutely everything has proved impossible, and Ken put it best a few weeks ago after a meeting when he said “I feel like all we do is talk about what we can’t do.” That stuck with us. What could we do? What if we flipped it, and asked not what’s restricted or impossible or hopeless…but what’s possible?

We asked ourselves what was possible- what challenges we had and what we could do about them, and what could we do to drive donations and give PWA the biggest rescue we could. We can’t go to Montreal, there aren’t really places to stay on the way and without the rustlers we can’t really move our stuff, and even if we could figure that out the camping was a problem, and without food crew we can’t feed ourselves – and restaurants are still out. (Some are open, but Team Knit is sadly not in a bubble together – so we must remain 2m from each other at all times and that means we can’t sit at a restaurant table together – if we were going to, which we are not.)  There still aren’t any bathrooms open to the public really, and as the only member of Team Knit who can’t pee standing up (or at least really shouldn’t) that’s a strain too. Also, Covid-19 ate Pato’s vacation days so he can only go away for a weekend, and me and Ken and Cam have work too and… well, we got creative. We problem solved. We put on our cheerfulpants and asked ourselves what we could do, and now … we have a plan.

Gentle knitters, Team Knit leaves in the morning for a mighty and triumphant MINI RALLY.

Today we called it “packing day” and I drove around and collected everyone’s stuff, and drove it out to our overnight location. That’s Sam’s house – she lives about 80km away.  While I share a bubble with Sam and her husband Mike (and Mike’s awesome mum Marilyn) the rest of Team Knit does not – so while Sam and Mike have graciously agreed to let Team Knit use the bathroom there – we’ve got tents to put up in their backyard.  (Four – one each.) I solved the lunch problem creatively, you’ll see how tomorrow – I don’t want to spoil it for the rest of Team Knit, and we’ll be able to BBQ once we’re there, and we’ll ride home the next day.

It’s imperfect. Like everything during this lockdown and pandemic, it isn’t what we want. (For starters, even though it’s only 80km (50 miles) away – it is uphill the whole way.) It’s not the Rally, it’s not easy, and there have been moments during the planning that we’ve wondered how much fun it’s going to be, but that’s never been the point anyway.  What’s been the point is all of us pulling together for one goal, for celebrating friendship and taking care of people, and trying to be the change we want to see in the world, and putting our time and efforts where our mouths are.

So, we’re leaving.  I’ll try to post to instagram as we go along over the next two days, and show you what we managed to make work. We’re all turning on the “dings” on our phones, and considering the temperatures tomorrow (scorching) and the distance (far) and the grade (uphill the whole way, into the goddamn wind) and the fact that there haven’t been any training rides this year and we’ve all been on our own… we’d love it if you used it. I will let you know, but anticipate needing a serious boost at around 11am.)

There will only be four of us, instead of a few hundred, and we have to stay 2 metres away from each other the whole time – but we’ll be together. Sort of. Mostly. Making a big push for PWA, and trying to inspire you to inspire us so we can help them, and trying to make our own fun – or fundraiser, as the case may be. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the Rally, but it’s the best we can do. It’s what we can have.

Team Knit remains:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

We love you. (And we all packed our knitting.)

(PS I have been knitting a lot of socks I will show you soon.)

Dear Charlotte

It is tradition in our family for me to knit a blanket for every baby born into it. I’ve made a bunch of them now – starting with blankets for my own daughters, and then Hank. I’ve showered them on nieces and nephews, and a grand-niece and a grandson, and every one I have knit has been an epic. A blanket made just for them, never to be repeated again – with motifs and meaning that is unique to that one person on earth, as special as they are. I knit them for months as the awaited babe bakes away, and every stitch I knit in them is another little wish. Be happy, be healthy, be your own self. Be brave, be funny, be fierce, be all you, be mine.

When I give the blanket to them, there’s always a glorious photoshoot of the recipient nestled in all that love, and… I write them a letter. A missive explaining why I knit them what I did, what the motifs in their blankets mean, and what I hope for them, what I hope the future holds for them, and I tell them how very, very welcome and loved they are, and how happy we all are that they’re here. You’ll find some of those letters here on the blog. Dear Elliot, Dear Maeve, Dear Frankie, Dear Luis…

I love this tradition. In a family that values handmade things as part of our culture, the blankets feel like treasures to me, and they’ve always been treated that way by the parents of the babes, and by the children themselves, when they get big enough. They all call them “my blanket” and I have never doubted that they are the closest thing I can knit to an amulet of protection – my love between them and the world. Wrap yourself up in that, kiddo. You’ll always have me.

Of course, I knit Charlotte a blanket, and it was blocked and folded and waiting for her when she arrived, and there aren’t words to tell you how much I looked forward to wrapping her in it – the lace around her little face, her fingers curled like little blossoms against the wool and silk. We took Elliot’s blanket pictures when he was a week old and Meg and I had agreed that’s when we would take Charlotte’s. Those first few days are just too hard to scramble fancy photoshoots in matching clothes into the mix. We’d wait, we said. The blanket stayed folded, there was no need to rush.

Yesterday, Charlotte would have been four months old. Meg has been asking for almost all those months for Charlotte’s blanket to be photographed and for me to write about it, the way I did for Elliot, and I have been stalling, or maybe it’s unfair to say stalling and it’s really been more like… trying, because of all the items left behind in the wake of that babe’s life, it is the blanket that hurts me the most.

Meg and I speak often of the inner conflict we feel around remembrances of Charlotte. I know it is different for everyone -but for me and Meg, some things have begun to bring us comfort. The pictures and videos of her, or remembering the delicious anticipation of her birth, recalling the joy I felt holding her in my arms, these are things about my little granddaughter I don’t want to forget, and while it makes me sad to see or think of those things, they are balanced with a sweetness and happiness that makes it worth the agony. Other things have remained intolerable. My Ravelry queue, still full of everything I was going to make her is still exquisitely painful to me and I haven’t been able to open it – not after I opened it once without thinking and was confronted with it all. Similarly the tiny clothes I made for her that she never wore are unbearable. It’s funny, but I don’t feel that way about the wee things that we did dress her in. They don’t make me as sad at all, but the unused ones just break my heart.

For me, that is the difference. Remembrances of Charlotte don’t make me sad, but the things we didn’t use are gigantic reminders of the colossal rip off that is infant loss. So it is for Megan I think – we’re on mostly the same page with all of her pictures and belongings, with one difference. Charlotte’s blanket. Meg feels connected to it, often holding it and finding comfort in something that was so fiercely and individually Charlotte’s – a symbol of how desperately loved and wanted she was. Me? I’m the jerk who can’t quite look at it long enough to write the post my daughter wants.

Today – it’s been four months since Charlotte’s perfect day. The day in between the day she was born and the day she died – the day that we all just snuggled in and looked at her and passed her arm to arm and smelled her head and showed Elliot how he could tell that she loved him already, because she was holding his finger in her wee fist, and we let the feeling of tremendous luck and gratitude wash over us. Charlotte was safely arrived, healthy and beautiful, and carrying my mum’s name. It felt like a healing of a kind – one out, one in, the family seeking level like water. Meg and I whispered over her tiny body, marvelling at how she was a girl. It feels a little sexist, doesn’t it? To say we were happy she was a girl? Our family is an undeniable matriarchy – I think it started when my grandfather ceded all familial power by heading off to war, and my Grammy took charge and it’s been down to the women since. There is something special about being a woman in our family – to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, most of us became the men we wanted to marry, and we have a long history of wonderful mothers and powerhouse aunties and sisters and some (okay several) men who have opted out of doing anything amazing with their roles, and it’s left the whole family valuing women more than is strictly reasonable. I love Elliot more than I can possibly tell you and I don’t think having a girl is better than having a boy, but I had only daughters myself, and there was something about Meg having a daughter that lit us both up with a connection. Charlotte would be…. like us. A mother maybe, an auntie, a sister.

This is what I was thinking about while I knit her blanket. That she would join a long line of incredible women that Meg and I would tell her about as she grew. She would have me and Erin of course, but… we are the matriarchs now- it would be only stories that she’d hear about my remarkable Mum and spectacular Grammy that would inspire her. I resolved to start telling that story with her blanket – the story of the women she came from.

The centre of Charlotte’s blanket has little trees of life (I know, obvious – sorry. I get a little romantic about babies) and a border of diamonds because they have four sides – and Charlotte was the person who took Meg, Alex and Elliot from a trio- to a quartet. Meg and Alex will forever now have two children. The four little nupps in the centre of each diamond are for each of them.

Around that centre is ring lace. This is the only element that has appeared on most blankets that I knit – it’s a signature move, and is meant to symbolize the family that surrounds the child, whole and intact, as protectors and help.

Outside that, my favourite. It’s an old victorian lace pattern that’s roses on a trellis – it’s a theme of four again, but this time, it’s for my mum. Anyone who knew her couldn’t help but associate her with her garden, and her love of roses. Roses are like my mum too – and I imagined explaining to Charlotte that my mum was like a rosebush. Not like a rose, you understand, but like the bush. Beautiful soft blooms – and strong canes and thorns. Bonnie (the elder) was soft hearted, but it came with a wicked fierceness that I wished for my Charlotte Bonnie (the younger). There are four roses on each trellis, the same number of children my mum had. Me, James, Ian and Erin.

Beyond that – it’s my own Grammy. Kay McPhee, mercy she was a wild woman and she died when I was a teenager and I still sometimes think about her fingers in my hair as a I go to sleep. She was larger than life, and more beautiful than I can say, and if anyone ever tells me I am anything like her I feel so proud. She was like a willow. Strong, but flexible. Remind me to tell you all about the time she had me fake an illness so she didn’t have to go to a business dinner with my Grampa. Genius. (We got caught.) This panel of Lilly of the Valley is her favourite flower, and it grew all the way along the side of her house, and when I was a little girl she used to encourage me to lie on my tummy in the grass and stick my nose right in it. I recommend the practice. Lily of the Valley also appears on Elliot’s blanket – so a little nod to sibling solidarity there.

The border is the only bit left to tell my Meg about, and it’s the only thing that’s exactly the same as Elliot’s blanket – well, that’s not true. I used the same yarn too so that they’re in the same family – just like Elliot and Charlotte. It is Print ‘o the wave, and meant to signify the same thing it did for her brother. The water we all love to be in and near, the water she was born from, and into, and the wave of love that carried her here to us. It is the part that is Megan – the strong woman that Charlotte came from. There is much that I could say here about the strength I see in my daughter right now. I always knew it was there – but she’s shown more grace though the last four months than I could ever have hoped for. I am grateful that Charlotte had such a good, strong mum. I grieve that she didn’t get more.

I have not found a way to write to Charlotte. Maybe that is for her mother to do, or maybe I am just too much of a realist to write to someone that I know will never read it, and besides, I wrestle with some demons yet. When I wrote to Elliot, I wrote about how content I was as a grandmother- how the fear and terrible worry of being a mum gives way to experience, and that in that there is so much joy. I worried about what might happen to my girls, I wrote- but after they grew up, largely without incident, I thought there was nothing to fear, I could enjoy my grandchildren with a joyful unafraid love that leapt like little fish in the sunshine and made my heart feel like it was made of sparkles. How many times did I reassure Meg, how many times have I told her not to worry, not to be afraid? I was so wrong.

I think it is natural when someone dies, when there is a tragedy like this, that you search for the meaning, purpose and value of it. I think that too because Charlotte was so little, and because forty-eight hours is a pretty short lifespan, that the urge to look for the gift or transformation that her life offered is powerful, and there is an attempt to give weight and motive to a life that couldn’t generate it with time, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what that is.
I do not believe that Charlotte was here so briefly for a reason. I don’t think (and cannot tolerate) any idea that Megan and Alex have had to suffer like this as part of a grand design. They are good parents and made no mistakes and so I can only think it was an accident of nature that took her – like a terrible flood or a disaster that no-one could see coming, and no-one could stop, and I don’t feel like we are supposed to figure it out, but I can see that it’s going to change all of us.

Megan wrote the other day that she feels that this has taken her innocence, and this – this is Charlotte’s legacy, in a very good way. I have spent my entire adult life trying to learn how to be brave, and in particular how to raise brave daughters – and I do not think that was a waste of time at all, but this whole thing, not getting a chance to write Charlotte a letter, to wrap her in her blanket, it has reminded me that maybe when it comes to love, it is perhaps a good thing to be a little bit afraid.

I know now that anyone I love, any person, any moment can be struck by lightning, and since Charlotte came and went, I have tried to love the people I do a little more fiercely. I say I love you more often. I try to bite my tongue a little harder, to pay more compliments, to show more patience, to say yes a little more often, and I see Megan do the same. Can someone who lived only forty-eight hours change this many people? I think, as I look at my tiny granddaughters big blanket amongst the bleeding hearts, that oh, my Dear Charlotte, maybe so.

I’m so glad you were here. I miss you.

An Illustration

Things have been much the same here – working from home, hanging out at home, I can’t tell you how much I miss travel, and my knitting does too, it turns out.  For years I’ve known that knitting socks was my travel solution, I always had a pair in my purse, and I knit while I’m on the bus, on the subway, in cars, on planes – at the queues at shops, waiting for appointments, now that that’s all gone the sock production around here has dropped off sharply, which is to say that it turns out that without really thinking about sock knitting, I don’t do much.   So far this year I have only finished two pairs of socks, and knitters, it’s July.  Something needs to change, and it starts today.

We’re in the car, thanks to the miracles of technology I’m hitting post as we stream along northward with Elliot in the back seat, headed for an almost local Provincial Park and four days of camping.  Cases of Covid-19 continue to decline in Ontario and Canada, only 200 or so in the whole country today, so while many of the rules are still in place (no gatherings of more than 10 people, you have to stay 2m away from anyone not in your bubble, etc.) other things are becoming possible, like camping! The minute we heard we booked this trip, and you’ll happily find us in the woods as much as we can be there now. (What the heck. If you’re working from home, why not work from a tent?)

Since this is a return to travel of a sort, it’s a return to much needed sock knitting, definitely.  I’ve brought three pairs with me, and I intend to turn all of them into finished pairs before i get home, as much madness as that seems like. First this pair that’s missing just a gusset foot and toe – Ancient Arts “Lichen in my Crevices.

Then there’s this pair – missing just about the same thing – One done, one huge foot needed. (Yarn’s Must Stash in Vespa)

This pair isn’t yet a pair – I’m headed for the toe on the first one – knit in Regia Pairfect Rainbow – yeah, I was rocking a Pride theme for Pride month.

It is lunacy of course,  to think that I can possibly finish those up in just four days while chasing an active three year old (Meg is coming, but I suspect that she has some knitting goals of her own) which totally explains why I also have this:

(Neighbourhood Fiber Co – Pride.) I know. It’s all so crazy, but it feels like travel, and I’m so excited, and it might be possible.. right? We’ll see.

Alternate Ending

Leading up to my birthday this year, I was a little bummed. While I don’t usually work on my birthday, this year I was supposed to be at the Strung Along Retreat with my dear friends Debbi and Judith, and a hoard of knitters I adore. I’d thought I would be sipping a spectacular glass of wine, toasting Debbi (her birthday was last week) while I showing everyone at Port Ludlow the latest pictures of my beautiful grandchildren, and did a job that I really enjoy. I imagined that when I got home I’d have a big party with all my beloveds around me. Obviously the stupid pandemic (and a few other knots in my metaphoric skein) meant that things were going to be very different and it was really getting me a bit down.

Since things really got wild over here a few months ago, I’ve made the decision to put my friends and family first, to cling to them and try to be nice to them and try to make this hard time a little easier, and doing that has brought me a lot of happiness during the lockdown, or as much happiness as you can have in a lockdown. It turns out that this is a family trait. There have been a thousand little kindnesses we’ve extended to each other during this time and I’ve been so grateful for all of them. My favourite part of all of it is watching the people in our family who neither need nor particularly want these kindnesses bestowed upon them accept them with a tremendous amount of grace, understanding that sometimes it helps the helper more than the helpee. There have been occasional mismatches, but mostly I am proud to tell you that this family has freakin’ nailed it as we navigate the hardship of a pandemic/loss/separation triple whammy. (Can you have a triple whammy? I know it’s a sports reference but I’m not sporty enough to have the nuance of it.)

I didn’t know what this birthday was going to look like, but I am an adult and I was prepared to make the most of it, but this family – oh, they are divine, and in the end I received such amazing gifts. First, my girls and Ken and Joe came up with an amazing plan, and it was so funny and charming that I laughed my way through the entire afternoon.

They got in touch with everyone that I’ve been missing and sad for, and came up with a scene of fantastical proportions.

 

Every hour, another few darlings of mine turned up in my back garden, and I had a physically distanced visit with all of them.

Every hour Amanda and Joe cleaned the furniture, put out fresh bowls of snacks (separate for every person) and and trotted out drinks in disposable cups and glasses of champagne, and every hour all day we sang Happy Birthday and had cupcakes.

 

Every 60 minutes. (I was careful to pace myself on both the cupcakes and champagne, realizing early that this could end in disaster.)

Through they came, a parade of all my favourites, and by dinner time I was overwhelmed with happiness, but it didn’t stop there, oh no, it did not.

The greatest gift I received this year (oddly, from the province of Ontario) was that Ontarians were allowed to expand their social bubbles. It’s not perfect, you can only have 10 people in your bubble, and no person in Ontario can be in more than one bubble – there’s a massive element of trust and monogamy, but that day, for the first time in months, our family was together.

It wasn’t perfect. Ken and Pato remain outside our bubble (their living arrangements mean they’re automatically in other bubbles) but I was with Elliot and he was with his Aunties, and the whole thing was as much a celebration of the family as it was my birthday. We lingered together long in to the evening, Elliot asleep in Grammy’s big bed upstairs, talking and eating and sitting in the garden under the twiklelights, all wondering how we’d ever managed without each other for so long.

I thought watching Elliot fling himself into the waiting arms of his aunties would be my favourite part, or even holding him in mine… but it wasn’t. Do you know, as the girls grew up and starting from when they were very little, I made a decision. it was a tricky one and one that has taken years to reinforce, years to implement – and years of quietly working things out so that they sort of had no other options, but I wanted my daughters to be each other’s best friends. I know that being sisters isn’t perfect, and they all have relationships outside the sisterhood, of course, but I wanted them to be close, to depend on each other. To be a team, if nothing else. This worked. I don’t know if they are each other’s besties, exactly, but they are a united force, and they depend on each other to a very great degree.

Watching them be able to embrace for the first time in 87 days was the best gift I have ever, ever received. I know we had to be apart to protect each other and our communities, and for the sake of vulnerable people and none of us could imagine doing something that would endanger someone else’s mum, not after we know what it was like to lose mine, but watching them console each other after so long… I can’t believe now that we did it.

We all pine for having our family all together, and for a time when we don’t have to sit so far from those we love, but that Sunday? It was perfect, and I mean it when I say it was the perfect gift, even though Elliot made me a pipe cleaner bracelet that is clearly going to fit right into my wardrobe.

 

It all came right as I thought I couldn’t take a minute more. For those of you who still can’t be with the people you love, hang in there. It’s worth it, and maybe it will be sorted by your birthday.

Finally – so many of you have asked about the Bike Rally – it being sort of traditional to donate to the ride if you were feeling the urge to give me a present on my birthday – so here is where we are at.

It’s not happening. I mean – of course it’s not happening. How could it happen? A group of 450 cyclists and crew (a bunch of whom are immunocompromised) travelling together from one province to another? The province currently isn’t allowing groups of more than ten people to gather, the campgrounds set up are only at 50% capacity, and the city of Montreal isn’t issuing permits. Of course it’s not possible. We’d kill people and spread the virus. The Rally is supposed to help, not hurt so this year we are trying to take the Rally virtual.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not consoled by virtual events. I am too clever and I suspect you are as well, to think that they are even remotely the same, that they scratch the same itch. That said, it is a heartbreaking truth for PWA that as our event goes virtual, their needs remain not virtual at all – in fact, the pandemic has meant that they are seeing an increase in the number of people with HIV/AIDS who need support now, and a reduced ability to fundraise, thanks to the cancellation of Pride Festivals and with many donors being under financial strain. To boot, it is far more complex to provide those services with the restrictions we have in place. Clients who had jobs that were helping might not now, clients with support may be missing that now, and clients with children are now under additional strain, with no school, childcare or camps. The needs rise, and the fundraising goes down, and so here is where Team Knit is at.

We talked it over and we decided we would ride the Rally anyway. Not together, and not all at once because the restrictions won’t allow it, but we decided to cycle 600km between now and the end of August. Then we looked at that goal, and we decided it wasn’t lofty enough It wasn’t… hard enough. The Bike Rally exists as a fundraiser as sort of a contract. We commit to doing something difficult, and you commit to supporting us, and tootling along riding a paltry 600km (I cannot believe I just typed that) doesn’t seem… inspiring, does it? It didn’t to us.

We talked it over again, and now Team Knit has decided to (oh I can’t believe I’m typing this publicly)…. cycle the equivalent of the rally each month for three months. June, July and August, and let me tell you that seemed crazy, and then we started trying to do it. All four of us still have jobs (thanks for the Patreon you lot!) and then Ken fell off his bike and hurt his knee (he’s going to be okay don’t panic) and there are no organized rides and we can’t ride too far from home because there’s no infrastructure for it (like bathrooms or food) and we can’t really be together, and… it turns out it’s really hard. Super hard, but we’re going to try, darn it – because no matter how hard it is, it’s easier than having AIDS during a pandemic, and PWA needs a way through the next year.

This year, Team Knit is the old faithfuls. (Photo taken last year when we were still allowed to touch each other.)

Me
Ken
Cameron
Pato

I know that things are tough all over, and I know that it’s possible all you can send us this year is luck and love, and we appreciate that a great deal. I know too that usually now I would fire up the Karmic Balancing machine, and I might yet – but I wanted to get a feel for what you all thought first? I know I’m tired of quarantining or wiping down packages, and I know that it would be an extra trip out to the post office for me to send something to someone now and while things are starting to be less scary in Canada (and I have been to the post office once) we’re still supposed to keep our public contact to a minimum.  I know so many of you are in the US- the epicenter of the world’s pandemic, and that with hundreds of people dying every day still – you might not feel comfortable going to the the post office, or getting a package. I am wiling to consider it if it seems or becomes reasonable, but don’t want to facilitate a system that gets anyone hurt – that’s so totally not what the Rally is meant to do (despite Ken’s banged up knee.)

Let’s think on it, and I’m open to feedback in the comments – thanks for being there. Let’s try to find a way to be nice to as many people as we can, with the minimum amount of risk.

You know, someday we’ll all read about this year in books.

Seasonally Appropriate-ish

Now that I hang this finished thing in the back garden to show it to you, I can see that I was wrong about it. (I am physically distanced from all the World’s Top Knitwear models at the moment. I guess I could ask Joe to do it, but I know exactly how it ends and choose not to go there. For two people who’ve been locked down together for eleven weeks we’re getting along just fine, and part of that is that we try really hard to care about the things the other person is interested in and in return, don’t ask the other person to have to pretend too often.)

Shawl: True Colors Yarn: Fiber Optic Kashmir 6-pack in Spice, along with a skein in the natural grey.  (Edited to add: Thanks to everyone in the comments who tipped me off that I’d forgotten to link to the pattern – there you go!)

While I was knitting the last little bit of this one, it seemed to me rather hopelessly autumnal and it didn’t scratch the itch of spring fever that I had.  I was looking to embrace summer with my knitting, bright colours, hope and joy – it didn’t speak to me of flowers and warmth and water. (To be fair, not much in my stash does.) Now that it’s done though?

Doesn’t it just.  I love it.  I think it’s just so pretty, and I believe I’ve got that little jolt of bright acid springtime yellow to thank for it.  It’s exactly the colour of new leaves, and that ruby red is like the red of ranunculus or sweet peas.  I’m entirely smitten.  I admit, it hurts just a little to finish something so cozy as it gets truly hot around here, and I am rather short of places to wear it,  but I have hopefully hung it near the back door, ready in case there is a cool evening.

Still hungry for summer colours, a rampage through the stash turned up this kit, and I started to feel like I had the hang of this season. Summery – right? I’m getting the hang of this.  I’m out of my box.

Yarn: some antique (and sadly discontinued) Schaefer Heather (in bluebell) Pattern: Undulating Waves.

Don’t those little beads remind you of water trickling through a stream on a day with bright blue skies? Of forget-me-nots and rhododendrons…

It is a shame then that I dropped it like a hot rock when yarn came from Lichen and Lace (the used-to-was owner of the famed Lettuce Knit here in Toronto, now turned dyer extraordinaire in New Brunswick.)

They’re beautiful to be sure – but I opened the package and was disappointed for a second, wondering if I was retreating to my typical fall colours. (That’s 1-ply merino in “woods” and Marsh Mohair in “Shrub”)  I wondered if I was really any good this spring and summer knitting thing, and then I laid the little beginnings of my sweater in the heuchera by the door for a photo, and look.

It’s a summer Love Note after all. (Literally.  Now that the whole rest of the world is finished knitting that sweater I might as well make one. Nothing says Toronto heat wave like mohair!)

Wednesday, I think

I just turned off the TV.  For us, the escalation of the pandemic and lockdown (still locked down, thanks for asking) went hand in hand with Charlotte’s death, and in the weeks that followed I fell into the habit of waking up in the morning and getting my coffee, and then sitting myself on the chesterfield and anxiously knitting while watching the virus rip through the world, fixating on the numbers and rates of transmission and being really anxious about it all. I thought it was making me feel better – I thought information was some measure of control over an out of control world. After a while, as the fog of grief and shock began to lift and I could think a little more clearly, I realized that the TV thing was not helping. Sure, some measure of information really made a difference, I really did need to know what was happening, but it slowly dawned on me that I have never actually gotten around to picking up PHD’s in Epidemiology and Public Health, and that I was essentially unqualified for this whole thing. I decided then to concede to people who actually have PHDs in Epidemiology and Public Health (not politics) and do what they asked me to do without questioning it too much. This flies in the face of my nature, but this is an exceptional time when my opinion or what I’ve managed to cobble together from the internet really doesn’t make me qualified to come up with my own plan.

I stayed in touch enough with the news to understand that the impact the virus was having was unequal, that I had a responsibility to protect those at greater risk than myself with my own actions in my community and to help those trying to solve the broader problems it is causing in the world. Do I know what to do about the impact this is having in developing countries where poverty is already entrenched, where public health measures aren’t possible to enact, where there aren’t health care systems in place, never mind overwhelmed ones? No – but I do know that I can look to the people experiencing that, and organizations who specialize in understanding those problems, and support them as much as I am able. For me, this took the form staying home (since I am a human alive right now with the ability to do that, and can therefore make sure I’m not part of the problem) and of supporting health organizations (like MSF) community organizations like food banks and PWA. Empowering the experts seemed better than me guessing, and I wrote my politicians and told them it was important to me that they centred the people who are most vulnerable, and that it was a path to my vote or the loss of same.

To be clear, I haven’t been able to do this every day. Some days I have only been able to knit, and cry about my little granddaughter while physically distanced from the world at large, and the big picture has gotten entirely away from me. I don’t even know for sure if the things that I’ve done have been the right things, but I know for sure that it was better than just watching TV and feeling completely helpless.

Then last week, while watching an emotionally and situationally appropriate amount of TV, Joe and I watched the news in horror and over the next few days, the TV habit was back. I’ve been glued to it, searching for understanding, trying to absorb the rage and fury, and waiting – like the pandemic, I guess – for the moment that watching enough of it gave me understanding and I knew what to do. It didn’t work, and after a few days of not knowing what to do or how to help I realized that this problem is the same as the other one. A global crisis is killing people, and just the same as with Covid-19, because I am a human alive right now, I am a part of the problem, and can be part of the solution.

At the risk of comparing a very small problem with a very large one, do I need or want Joe’s advice on whether I should rip back a piece of knitting? No Knitter, I do not, and I can tell you that the fastest way to make the problem I’m having worse and make me feel unheard, angry and disrespected is for him to give me uninformed options. Am I sure I need to rip this out? Yes. I have been knitting my whole life and I know a problem when I see it. Also, I’m experienced enough to know that other solutions haven’t worked, and I’ve tried the ones that could have worked already, and just because he can’t see what’s wrong with the knitting doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. It means he’s unqualified to know. Just pass me the ball winder and extend your help dude, it’s what I asked for, and what I know I need, because I am a damned expert.

So, a few days ago I turned off the TV (enough, not completely, I still feel like there’s a responsibility to know what is happening) and started looking for more experts. People with the lived experience that is a PHD in systemic racism. I conceded that I do not know what needs doing, and that they don’t need me and my lack of experience questioning what will work and what won’t, what’s been tried and what hasn’t.

I recommitted to hearing what I do that could make things worse. I know nobody wants to say their actions are racist, and I see that this is the moment where white people balk, – but there is simply no denying that I’m part of a system that is racist, and that the same way that a world built by men has resulted in greater suffering and death for women, a world built by white people resulted in the same for people of colour, and that means that every day I get to experience whatever hardship and suffering I encounter within a system designed by people like me to make that as easy as can be. The same way that know that even though I try to be a good person, I could give someone Covid-19 if I don’t comply with anti-Covid guidelines, I understand that I can be racist if I am not actively anti-racist.

I’ve doubled down on trying to find people who are experts (that’s people of colour, and the organizations that support them) and listening to what they say will help – what they think I can do – what actions they know will make a difference, and every day I’m trying to do some of the things on that list. (What list? You’d be surprised how easy it is to google “how can I be anti-racist.”) I’m also working (like Joe and the knitting) not to offer suggestions and judgments about how to solve a problem that I can not experience.

Like the things I’ve done around the pandemic, I don’t know if these are the right things, but I do know that it has to be better (and takes less time, ironically than just watching this on TV.) I’m just telling you because I think that if you’re a white person who’s currently feeling really terrible about every aspect of this, I want you to know that looking at it from the perspective of the experts, and doing what’s asked of us by people who know better  could actually improve things. At the very least, it’s respectful to the people with the experience to show them that you understand if they say it’s time to rip back the knitting.