Some days you’re the windshield

1. My sister called.  After careful consultation with her fashion team (that’s my mum) and a trial run of dress and shawl in daylight, with other shawl colours tried, and all the deep thinking that a wedding outfit should have, the shawl has been declared PERFECT.

erinsdetailperfect 2014-08-22

2. Even though I was totally and completely prepared to knit her another one (with consultation with her, I like surprises, but I don’t know if I could take the hit twice) I am totally freakin’ thrilled to bits that the one that I thought was perfect is perfect and that I don’t have to hustle another spectacular shawl off the needles on deadline.

3. Oddly, I am still thinking about knitting it anyway. Over the last few days I had to give it a lot of thought, and I got a little excited about it.

4. I haven’t started though, because I have a new project that I am just  wild about. Earlier this year I started buying yarn a little differently.  (Sometimes.)  Instead of buying yarn because I liked it, putting it into the stash and then raiding the stash when I found a pattern I liked, I started doing it the other way.  Finding a project I liked, then buying yarn for it – Even if I had no intention of starting the project anytime soon.

5. This seems to be working.  Even if I change my mind about the project – it’s at least getting me buying yarn in the right quantities.  A shawl’s worth, a sweaters worth, etc.

6. If I keep doing this, I’m going to start bagging the yarn up with the pattern though- or at least the name of the pattern.  I was in the stash the other day and there’s two of three lots of yarn that I bought that I know I had a great plan for, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.

7. That’s not the case with this though:

minnistart 2014-08-22

It’s Minni, by Lene Alve (do you read her blog Dances with Wool? You should. She hasn’t posted for a while, but even her archives are beautiful and inspiring.) When I first saw this pattern, I fell really hard for it, and I’ve been waiting for just the right little person to put it on. Now that there’s little person who was practically made for it, I’m in business.

It’s not a fast knit – I’m using 2.25mm needles to get gauge, and that’s not exactly a high speed size, but the yarn is delicious, and that makes it delightful to go slowly.  It’s Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, in Antler (the cream) and Magnolia Leaf (the gorgeous reddish orange.) So far it’s nothing but a party of short rows,  and a fascinating construction, and I’m having the loveliest time.

yarntoshsock 2014-08-22

I’ve got a pair of plain socks running in the background, but I’m totally in love with the sweater, and the only way the socks are seeing action is if I don’t pack the sweater along when I’m out.  I love this feeling, when a project comes together, and you love everything about it, and it’s all going right and …

I’m so glad Erin loved the shawl.


And that’s a wrap

Despite all my dread, the mending of the shawl went really, really well.

mending 2014-08-19

Like I planned, I threaded a needle with the yarn, and then wove it in along the bath of the previous thread, starting a little ways back. When I got to the break, I looked back at the path the yarn had taken in the sections before and after, and tried to duplicate it – imagining that the knitting existed (where it didn’t) and wove the yarn in and around.  When I got to the place where the yarn existed again, I kept going with the replacement, following alongside the existing yarn.  It wasn’t perfect – not by a long shot, but I think that nobody but me would be able to find it, and frankly, sometimes I need to lighten up on knitting perfection when it’s like that. This shawl has thousands upon thousands of stitches that were executed perfectly, and three that were replaced imperfectly, and that’s a test score of about 99.99%, and any way you slice that grade, it’s pretty awesome. I’m not going to harsh on myself about it.

mended 2014-08-19

See? Pretty good, if I say so myself. When it was done, I thought about lashing the overlap with thread and sewing it in place, but it really didn’t seem to need it. I did some tugging- the sort of pressure that I thought it would take while being worn, and it looked absolutely secure.  I trimmed the ends carefully, and then I blocked it again. This time, since it had already been washed prior to the first attempt, I just pinned things the way I wanted, and then steamed it a bit. I just used my iron, hovering over the knitting with the steam on high.

steamblock 2014-08-19

When it was absolutely dry, I unpinned, moved to the next section, and repeated until I had the whole thing done.  That’s no small feat, since in the end, this shawl measured over 2.5 metres (that’s almost 9 feet, for my American friends.)

finished3 2014-08-19

I took about a million pictures of it then – although I’m not going to show you anything but a few little pieces, because I can come clean now about what it’s for.  My sister is getting married. Pretty soon actually, just about five weeks from now, and this shawl is for her to wear over her gown.

finished4 2014-08-19

Now, generally speaking, I love surprising people with knitted gifts – and my sister’s no exception – but this gift is a little different.  It’s for her wedding day, and brides have really clear ideas of what they want to look like that day, and my sister and I have tastes that have about as much in common as avocados and porcupines, and I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear it, just because I made it and she felt obligated. I knew the whole time I was knitting it that this was a risk.

So last night, I wrapped the whole thing up, and took it to her house.

wrapping 2014-08-19

Yeah, it’s five weeks before the wedding, but here’s the rub. If she didn’t like it – if it wasn’t what she imagined herself wearing- if it wasn’t absolutely perfect, then, I told her…

wrapped 2014-08-19

I am prepared to make another one. One that’s perfect. Sure, this one is bison, and silk and over 1000 glass beads, but I still want it to be just what she dreamed.  I knew the whole time that I was making it that there was a good chance that this wouldn’t be what she imagined, and I set myself a deadline so that if it wasn’t right I wouldn’t be angry, or put out, or really challenged to make another.

finished5 2014-08-19

That didn’t stop me from hoping that this was the one though.  Erin opened it, and she loved it. She thought it was beautiful (and it is) and elegant (and it is) and the right size (and it is) and that the beads were just perfect for the yarn (and they are) and….


She’s not sure it’s the right colour. It contrasts her dress, and while I think that’s perfect (and it is, no matter what she says – how else can you see the lace pattern?) that might not be what her fantasy wrap does.  We were looking at it in the evening, in a darkened bedroom – and I think she might feel differently when she sees the combination in daylight, like it will be for the wedding.  I am committed, however – to staying neutral on the decision. It’s her dress, it’s her wrap, it’s her day. (It is perfect though, and I hope she thinks so in the end.)

I’ve given her 48 hours to consult with my mother (who always knows what’s perfect) and then let me know. I’m standing by with different yarn, another 1500 beads and a good attitude. Cross your fingers. If she’s going to wear it, I’ll show you the whole banana after the wedding, and if it’s not right, I’ll show it to you sooner.

finished2 2014-08-19

It is perfect -  although maybe just for me.


The Moment

Saturday I finished the shawl. I cast off all day, and I’m not kidding about that. I cast off for a few hours the evening before, and then I cast off for about five straight hours on Saturday, and when I finished I was filled with a glee that I could barely contain. Maybe this contributed to what happened next. Who knows.

curlingup 2014-08-18

I trotted it outside to take a few pre-blocking pictures, and really, I was pretty happy with the thing. The whole time I was knitting it I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough, and as I cast off it became obvious that this wouldn’t be its flaw. The thing is huge. A little surprisingly huge – although I don’t know how surprised I should be – it happens to me every once in a while when something is bunched up on a circular needle.  It looks too short, and so I over-react to that by making it too long, As I cast off, this was revealed in increments.  I had to remind myself as it kept coming off the needles that I’d wanted it to be long. Super long. Super long is the goal. Don’t panic because it’s long.

castoff 2014-08-18

It’s long. Not too long, I didn’t think, but really long. Maybe this also contributed to what happened next.  I was anxious about the length, and wondering how much length would turn up in blocking, and so I rushed off to block it that minute.  I gave it a wee soak in the sink, then got out the wires and pins.  The first problem was that it was too big to fit on my bed. (Hint #1 that it is big.) Even diagonally, it wouldn’t fit, so I thought for a minute about other places to block it, but they all involved vacuuming,  so I decided to block it in parts.  I’d block the left half, letting the right lie fallow, then unpin the left, shift the shawl on the bed, and pin and spray the right half.   I wasn’t going to block it hard anyway – I wasn’t looking for much stretch at all.  Partly, I wanted a soft block because it was already big, but mostly because the yarn Sexy, is part bison (a short fibre and so not super strong) and part silk, which is a strong fibre, but not when wet.  This seemed to me like a reasonable plan.

readyforblock 2014-08-18

In its original incarnation, this shawl was crescent shaped.  I changed that for most of it, and after I’d modified the pattern the shawl had a straight section in the centre, then a gentle crescent shaped section on each end.  If I could have figured out how to make that section less crescent-ish I would have done that too. Maybe that had something to do with what happened next too.) I threaded dressing wires through the left half of the top section, and then set about pinning the curved part of the top edge.  It curved. It curved a little more than I wished it would, and so I was gently easing it into something less curvy, when I came to a part that was quite curvy, and at this exact moment, I took full leave of all my senses.  In a decision that can only be described as complete stupidity, I took hold of the top edge between my two hands, and ever so gently, pulled it a little.

Just as I’d hoped, the edge stretched the tiniest bit, reducing the curve and giving me an edge way closer to what I wanted.  I think more than anything else, that success contributed to what happened next – which was that I decided to pin that edge quite firmly. I put in one pin, then took hold of the next spot and moved it to where I wanted, gently pulling it a little farther.

Suddenly, the edge was straight! For one wonderful second I smiled, congratulating myself on my blocking prowess, and then, with a sinking feeling of nausea, realized that there was no way that the threads in the top part had suddenly stretched more than I needed – there was no way that they could suddenly be that compliant, and I realized, in a horrible and complete moment of understanding what had happened.

edgebroke 2014-08-18

I’d broken the yarn.  Yup, the worst nightmare that blocking has to offer, right there, and even though I 100% knew better, I did it.The second I realized what had happened, I walked away. I couldn’t think of anything that would help right that second, especially since it was still wet, so I left it until it was dry, and then unpinned it carefully, and then moved it to a safe spot like it was a case of nitroglycerine.  Right that minute the only plans I could think of were either sobbing helplessly, or getting rather drunk, and neither are a look I embrace. I did take an hour long bath with a large glass of wine while I contemplated how it could be that a knitter with my level of experience and knowledge could pull such a completely idiotic move, but after that I tried to wade over to the side of the pity pool rather than keep on swimming.

A few days later, with a bit of perspective and contemplation, I think it’s going to be okay. It looks to me like just one thread snapped, so today I’m attempting a little surgery. I know it doesn’t look that bad, but we all know how knitting goes – one broken spot and the whole piece is at risk.  I’m not quite sure how I’ll tackle it yet. So far everything I think of shortens the yarn a little, and that’s not going to help with the top edge problem in general.  Right now, I’m leaning towards threading in a replacement chunk of yarn, one that overlaps with the existing yarn, then takes the correct path along the edge.  I’ve got lots of other edge to use as an example, and I think I can figure it. Then I just have to figure out how to secure that piece. I think I’ll look for a matching thread in my sewing box, and see if I can’t lash them together with a few well placed stitches.

Once that’s done? Sigh.  I guess I take another stab at blocking. This time though, I think I’ll be a lot more careful.

Forever and ever

Finally. I had two projects that I wanted to finish before I went all the way to crazy-town with brand new exciting stuff, and I’ve been such a virtuous and dedicated knitter. Jen’s socks are finished, and that meant the only thing left on the needles was the “priority shawl”. This shawl is Sweet Dreams, except I changed a few things.

That’s a lie. I changed a whole bunch of things. I had more yarn than was called for, and the yarn was the superlatively delicious Sexy, from the Buffalo Wool Co. This yarn is so nice that once I decided that Sweet Dreams was my pattern, I couldn’t stand to waste an inch… so I altered the pattern to make things work for me.  I change the width, I changed the way I cast on… I did a crazy voodoo short row thing to make the whole shawl less crescent shaped, and frankly, at this point there’s no way to know if this shawl is going to work, or if I’ve just spent tons of knitting time, brain energy, beads and beautiful yarn making a shawl, or an extremely oddly shaped table runner. (Truth be told, if this thing is a train wreck, I won’t even use it as a table runner. I’d rip it out and start over. The ingredients are too delicious to waste on an inanimate object with no nerve endings.)

bindingdet 2014-08-15

This shawl is on a deadline.  I don’t need a shawl to be finished for awhile, but if this insane amount of modification doesn’t work, I need time to reknit it all, and so this thing should really have been done a few weeks ago.  I knew this, and was feeling a little hysterical about it, so I really applied myself over the last few days, and this morning, wrapped in glory and delighted with my progress, I finished the very last beautiful row, placing a rather bonkers number of beads as I went.

binding 2014-08-15

Now all that’s left is the bind-off, which frankly, I hadn’t given a ton of thought to. Bind-off, I thought.  No biggie. Wrong again.  There are currently 600+ stitches on my needle.

I have no explanation for why I thought that this bind off wouldn’t take a million years, but when I counted it up, I stroked out a little. That would have been enough, but then I took a look at the instructions for the bind-off, and the bottom fell out.

It’s a picot bind off.  Cast on three, bind off five – and that, my knitterly compadres, is a bridge too far. I see now that this is going to take forever – or at least until Sunday. This bind-off is going to take so long that the world will have a different population when I finish. People will die, babies will be born… I am going to be casting off forever. I see that now.

moredet 2014-08-15

I’m off to start. Today is my daughter Meg’s 23rd birthday (I KNOW. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN) and the family converges here in just a few short hours. I’ll make a dinner, light candles, make it beautiful, and start. Binding off. Forever.

What’s the harshest bind-off you ever did?


Remains of the day

When I was finished Jen’s socks, I had two little balls of “beige” leftover.  (I’d weighed the yarn and divided it in two, to make sure I had enough, which was ridiculous, since Jen’s feet are petite.) Now, when it comes to yarn leftovers, I am without virtue. For years and years I dutifully stored and hung onto all of the scraps and partial balls that were the remains of whatever projects generated them, and I thought good thoughts about what I was going to do with them.

I dreamed of a BeeKeepers Quilt,  or a Sock Yarn Blanket, or a Scrappy Scarf… I had bags and bags, and I just knew that I was going to use them and turn them into all sorts of awesome, or at least have them to hand for darning and repairs, and I really, really didn’t think of myself as the sort of person who would throw away yarn, you know what I mean? I love yarn.

The absolute truth is that I never did any of those things, and so quite some time ago, I took to abandoning the leftovers.  If it was sweater yarn, I handed it over to someone who cared, and If it was socks, I left the remainders where I finished. (I’ve left at least 20 partial balls of sock yarn on planes, tucked into the seat pocket. In my mind I think the person who finds them has to spend a minute thinking about knitting, and that can’t hurt the world.) This time though, when I finished Jen’s socks, I couldn’t bear to part with the leftovers, and with news that there may be a baby on the horizon in my circle, I knew just what to do.

bootiesedge 2014-08-13

A little pair of Cutest Booties. Yarn: Indigodragonfly Cariboubaa in Beige. Needles: 2.25mm. Finished in a single evening, except for the fun of trimming pom-poms. I actually had to make five pom-poms instead of just four, since in an effort to to get one of them perfect, I trimmed it into oblivion.

bootiesstraight 2014-08-13

They’re still the cutest booties I know how to make, and now? No leftovers. At least this once.

Hey Jack, the good people are here

Every year on the bike rally, I take knitting- and I don’t just mean that I pack knitting along for the evening or when I’m off my bike, I mean I pack knitting.

knitting on bike 2014-08-11

Never, ever at a break or pause in the cycling have I reached down into that little case and pulled out a sock so I can do a couple lines and take the edge off, but there’s something about being able to look down and see it that reminds me that I’m still me, and makes me feel more comfortable with the riding. (Also, I’m pretty sure that one day I’ll need something to knit while I wait for the ambulance to come, or once I’m waiting for my x-rays.)  I put my little bit of knitting onto the bike every morning, and I took it off every night, and then I would have a bit of a knit after we got the tents up and the bikes sorted and before dinner and after/during whatever team things we had to do.  It wasn’t a lot of knitting time, really – but even though I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot done, I wanted to be knitting on the right thing.

sockattalentnight 2014-08-11

Knitting is like that for me. It’s hard to explain what I mean, it’s like knitting isn’t just knitting. It matters when and where and what I knit – like the knitting soaks up a bit of the places and people and things that were present while I was knitting it.  Years later I can look at a pair of socks or a scarf and say “Ah, yes.  The summer of 2014, I knit on that sock in Montreal when I was with Jen and Ken.”

montrealpoutine 2014-08-11

Once I realized that everything that I knit came to have this association for me, I started to be thoughtful about what I knit when. I came to believe that there was resonance – that I could use yarn that was special because of some reason, and knit it in a place or time that was related to that yarn (at least in my head, if not in reality) and make things extra special and meaningful. Like… taking yarn a friend dyed on a trip somewhere that I wish they were with me, or knitting something for someone during a time that they had trouble, to try and be with them figuratively, if not literally.  You know what I mean (or maybe you don’t, and I’ve just revealed the entire depth and breadth of my crazy, and now you’re just sitting there shaking your head and cut and pasting this entry into an email with the heading “I told you she took knitting way too seriously.”

Knitting isn’t always like that – it’s not like I sit around trying to figure out what yarn would be the most spiritually significant thing I could take to IKEA, but when something seems like it might be important? Yeah. I think it over.  This year when the rally came around, it was so easy to figure out what to knit, and what to knit it out of.

socksdone2 2014-08-12

I made socks – and I know they look like plain socks, but let me tell you what they really are. They’re freakin’ symbols of the way people can be awesome. That yarn is Indigodragonfly Cariboubaa, and it’s in a colour they dreamed up, called “Beige.”  Kim and Ron (They’re Indigodragonfly) invented the colourway not too long ago, and sent a skein to both me and Jen- because they’d decided to support the Rally and the people who need it by donating a portion of the sales of every skein in that colourway.  They didn’t even advertise it – just quietly made a commitment. Then, as if that wasn’t enough (and it really, really was) they sponsored our team tee-shirts.

teamshirts 2014-08-11

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Knitters, you haven’t lived until you explain to the non-knitting portion of the bike rally (pro-tip: that’s most of it) that you’re sponsored by a yarn company. This look comes over them for a minute like it had never occurred to them that it was even remotely possible that yarn people existed in that sort of very real way.  They all said “Yarn?” and then stared at the logo on the shirt, because Hell yes, our team was the first bike rally team to be sponsored by a yarn company, and you betcha their logo was on our shirts.  I just loved it.

indigologo1 2014-08-12

Once all of that happened, it was easy to decide what yarn to take. What else? Kim and Ron did so much for the rally, and for so little glory, and they’re such very, very good people, and they quietly make such a lovely difference in the world and I wanted that with me the whole way. It’s like that yarn was what the rally was all about. You know what I mean? I knit that yarn and wore that shirt and looked at all the non-knitters wearing the shirt and I was just so freakin’ proud of our community, and the way knitters change things for non-knitters, whether they know it or not… and by the way,  Kim and Ron? If you read this?  Jen and I  have shirts for you. You’re officially on the team. I’ll pop them in the mail.

Once I had the yarn chosen, the rest was easy. Socks, because they’re so portable and I wouldn’t need to keep track of a pattern, and I would make them for Jen.

socksforjen 2014-08-12

She was the most amazing co-lead I could have gotten. Let me tell you this: If you need something run, and you need it run well, with a minimum of drama, a maximum of efficiency and a large magnitude of fun… Call Jen. Actually, I think you can call most parents 40 and older, but I called Jen – and it was brilliant. One night in the tent – it was after the rather crippling ride in the rain (the one where we didn’t take the bus)  Jen got up at 3am for a brief crawl and whimper to the facilities. When she got back, we tried to get back to sleep, and I sighed, or maybe it was a moan, my legs were killing me. “What?” Jen said.  “I’m just trying to figure out what this feeling in my legs is.” I replied.

Jen thought about it for a minute, and I think I heard her rubbing her own sore legs. Finally, she answered.  “Is it regret?” she asked? “Is it the actual physical manifestation of REGRET?”

We dissolved then into helpless smothered laughter, trying not to wake anyone in the nearby tents, and that’s what it’s like with Jen.  I’m lying there trying to figure out whether the pain in my legs is the feeling of damaged muscle, growing muscle, or the absence of enough muscle, and Jen’s nailed it.  She was like that every time, and she’s a big part of how something so hard ended up so awesome.

socksnot 2014-08-12

So she gets socks. Socks inspired by Kim and Ron, and good people, and hard work, and the days that we spent on the rally. It’s all in there.

I know they look like regular socks, but they’re really not.



Whew. Thanks so much for forgiving my absence on Thursday and Friday knitters. Joe and I took a mini break, and headed up to hang out with his family at a cottage for just a little bit (20 hours, really) and we had a blast.  We went swimming with Lou – and blew bubbles and played cards and hung out with Kelly and Ben (home from Madagascar, just for a little bit) and watched Carlos try to sail a little sailboat (Carlos wants you to know that in that picture he’s deliberately capsized the boat, so that he could learn how to handle that situation. He did not, I repeat, did not take a dunking that wasn’t of his own choosing.)

carlosover 2014-08-11

kellyreads 2014-08-11


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We knit (ok just me and my niece Savannah) and had a great meal and stayed up late and in the morning, before we came home, I convinced my very charming Mother-in-Law Carol to be a sock model.

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It turns out that she was pretty keen on it (that’s what happens the first time. They’re thrilled. The charm wears off after you ask them a bunch more times) and she was a natural.

starrysockssole 2014-08-11

To boot, the socks fit her perfectly, which is a bit of a shame, since they were intended for me, but such is the lot of a knitter.  It was just one of those times that the sock chooses someone else.

starrysockswhole 2014-08-11

Pattern: Starry, Starry Night Socks. Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Blue label in Natural for the light colour, and the blue is Indigodragonfly’s Merino Nylon Sock in “People Are Particularly Stupid Today, I Cannot Speak To Any More Of Them”.
starrysocksdeck  2014-08-11

What happened with this sock is the curse of the small footed.  Usually, a small footed sock knitter has nothing but advantages.  It doesn’t take me long to make a pair of socks for myself, and I never need extra yarn.  It’s awesome. The only drawback is illustrated perfectly by this pattern.  It comes in one size, that size fits most, and I am not like most. I could make them fit lengthwise, but not widthwise, not without changing the gauge, and I like the gauge they’re at, and well. Into the Christmas box they go.  (I bet you can guess who they’re probably going to end up for.)

carolstarrysocks 2014-08-11

Still, a gorgeous, fun knit.  I love ‘em. I might just knit them all over again.

Presents? Yup, I’m still working through the pile:

For Dawn W a beautiful kit for a knit your own bracelet from The Sitting Tree.  Charming, am I right?

Rusticbracelet 2014-08-11

Thane, a very generous reader, will be sending this duo to Sherilyn F.

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It’s one 4oz braid of Raven Ridge roving in a wool/alpaca/mohair blend, along with 4oz of coordinating Corriedale (Thane thinks you should try to say that five times fast).

Diane over at The Knotted Bag has a gorgeous sock sized project bag to give.

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Dana Z will be enjoying that.   Diane also (because she’s just that nice) has a Market bag to give away, and isn’t it nice too?

marketbag2 2014-08-11

Diane says “It has open handles that knot together -the longer handles to create an adjustable bag, the shorter handles knot together to close the bag. It has pockets inside as well.”  I think it’s really neat, and so will Barbara B.
Susanne Visch is a designer, and she’s got some patterns to give away.  First up, The Sweet as Pi cardigan will go out to Carolyn S (I hope she knows someone who would love a baby cardi this delightfully geeky.)

sweetaspi 2014-08-11

Lee Anna E gets a copy of Handspun Delight. (Great for stash busting)

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and Susan B’s going to look forward to The Easy Going Shawl. (Charming pattern for any gauge.)

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Each of those three charming knitters will also receive a copy of Zomer Zilt:

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Thanks Suzanne!

Behold, amazing gifts from Trish at Forest Mill Farm!  This is a gorgeous 200 yd, 11.2 oz skein of Aran weight alpaca yarn from Trish’s beloved alpaca “Mugsy” and I think that Joy H is going to adore it.

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Now, Trish isn’t the sort of person who’s going to see a spinner left out while she can help it, so look at this!

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That’s a 7.3 oz. batt of alpaca roving from her big boy “Noah”. (I love knowing the names of animals that the fibre comes from. Don’t you?) Laura M should have a blast spinning it. It looks delicious.

Priscilla at Madsen Originals is going to make Liz W very happy.  She’s donated a skein of her sock yarn, and isn’t it pretty?

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Barbara B is going to have a nice day.  She’s the lucky recipient of a collection of patterns from Jennifer at Will Run 4 Yarn.

syreni patterns 2014-08-11

It includes A Tremulous Light, Brisen, Low Tide Explorer, and Seaflower. Pretty, so pretty.

Finally, last (for today) but certainly not least, Jill has gone into the stash and come up with two beautiful gifts.  First, a skein of Gales Art super wash sock yarn 90/10 wool/nylon 450 yards in “notes”, that she’ll be sending to Debbi M.

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Second, she has this great trio of yarns.

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Jill had planned a really great Color Affection for it, but ran out of steam, and thinks it should go onto a good home.  It’s 3 skeins of cascade heritage silk, and Denise W, we hope it’s right up your alley.

There’s still more gifts to come, but that’s it for today. Thanks, as always to everyone. I think you’re great.

All the yarn are belong to me

For a few months now, I have been holding the month of August in my heart like a sparkling, precious jewel. For the last while, I’ve had to say no to about a thousand things. The combination of work, training for the Rally and Team Leading really did a number on my life.  I can’t tell you how many invitations I turned down, how many fun things I’ve skipped, how many times I declined to help Joe with a crazy project he’s been on.  More than that – and I know this will be the one that you all get – I knit way, way, way less than I wanted to.  It is cycling’s greatest failing that you can’t knit while you ride, and I haven’t figured out typing and knitting, or teaching and knitting, and let me tell you , by the end of that last stretch I was definitely getting a bit weird, and every time I thought it was too much- I just thought one word.  August. In August I will knit.  The rally is finished (almost – just a few loose ends) and my workload is deliciously light, and in the name of everything that is a natural fibre, I swear to you that this month is my reward.  (I am trying hard not to forget two things. First, a week of it is shot already) and second – I still have a job, just not a crazy one.)

So far, I’m trying to show a little restraint in the knitting department.  Not in the amount, you understand, because I am going to knit the everloving daylights out of this month, but I’m trying not to immediately cast on all the things, and order all the yarn, and spend all my time wallowing in the yarnroom like a hippo who’s found a good mudhole on a hot day. (I actually don’t know if hippos do that, but I’m not wasting knitting time looking it up.) This morning I caught myself on Ravelry perusing the patterns for about the 54th time in two days, and that’s the number I’ve got it down to by exercising self-control.

I’m showing restraint, because there’s two things that need finishing before I take off into the wild blue yonder. (Do you know, I have EIGHT projects lined up for his month? That’s delusion. Scrumptious, fabulous delusion.) This pair of socks need to be done yesterday, because they’re part of a plan.

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(IndigoDragonfly CaribouBaa, in “Beige”) I feel like these will fall quickly.  Joe and I have a long drive today and tomorrow (and if he thinks I’m driving, it will be a crushing disappointment for him) and that should do it. Next up after that is the beaded shawl I’ve been working on for a while. I’m actually nowhere near deadline on that one, but I changed about 87 things in the pattern and any one of them could spell disaster, and I want to leave myself time to re-knit it, in case it’s crap. Once these are done? You just better get out of my way. All new knitting, all the time.

Guys, thanks so much for the compliments and the amazing things you had to say about the Bike Rally. It was an epic freakin’ thing, and I am proud as punch of all of us for riding it, and super proud of all of you for giving meaning to the whole thing.  There’s still a pile of Karmic Balancing Gifts to give away, and I’ll be plowing through those over the next week or so. Your generosity is hard to keep up with, but I’ll get there! The gifts are fun to do, but a little time consuming, so look for them to appear in chunks, but not today – I hope you’ll forgive me, but family, fun and knitting beckon, and I’m helpless to resist. I’ve got a wee nephew  who’s waiting for me to arrive.

These words are like birds

Once, when I was little, I was trying to write something, and I couldn’t find the words. My grandfather came up to me and said “Are the words like birds?”  It was the perfect description, and it’s where I’ve found myself for the last few days. No matter how carefully I sneak up to the ideas and stories of what happened on the rally, the words that would let me tell you fly off as soon as I get too close.  I can see them as they swirl around and away, but they take off as soon as I am near to them. I’ve managed to catch a few, but I’m not sure they’re in order.

I was confident about this years rally.  Did I tell you that? Could you tell? It was to be my third, and I knew from the two before what it was going to be like, and I trained and I worked hard, and I packed really smart, and I thought that all that preparation was going to make it the easiest time ever.  Please note that I did not say I thought it would be easy. I don’t think the rally can be easy, but I thought that I was totally prepared, and it would be a challenge that I was ready to meet.

I don’t know how to catch the right words to explain this.  I was wrong. The rally this year was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I said that to a friend a few days ago, he boggled.  “Really? Harder than being a mother? Harder than having a baby?” I nodded.

Let me tell you how it started. We met downtown on Sunday morning, the whole rally. Crew, riders – hundreds of us gathered up, and we took a few pictures, and then we were off.

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Getting a group of riders that size out of the city is a little tricky, so we had a police escort. We’d ride out as a group, with the police blocking and holding intersections so that we could just ride through them. Enthusiasm was high, and Jen and I pushed off and started to ride, excited to be finally underway. Our little balloon deflated a few kilometres later when Jen’s bike made a bad noise, and her seat came loose. We pulled over, and she got out her tools, and we stood there, Jen fixing her bike as fast as she could, the whole rally passing us by.

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By the time she had it fixed (and thank heaven she’s a resourceful woman who knows how to manage her own stuff and had tools)  we were last. Not last by a little – last by a lot. It wasn’t a good start, and we were a little dejected, but resolved to try and catch up. We started to ride again, and were immediately halted by a red light. We weren’t with the police escort anymore, so we had to stop. I signalled the stop – called “Slowing” and started to brake. As I shouted “Slowing!” I heard a voice behind me yell “OH NO YOU’RE NOT!” and a cop sped past me on a bike, and yelled “We’re going to get you caught up – SADDLE UP LADIES!”

That police officer rode like the wind, rushing ahead to every light, blowing her whistle and holding every intersection so that Jen and I could speed through, then charging past us to get to the next one, while we rode like the wind to join the group again. That cop was awesome, and she was funny, and she was kind, and she didn’t have to do that – not at all, and Jen and I were so grateful (and sweaty) and while we didn’t know it in that minute, “SADDLE UP LADIES!’ was to become the attitude that we had to take for the rest of the ride.

We reached camp triumphantly that night, if a little sore from the speeding we’d done earlier, and we pitched our tent and settled in with our team, and had dinner and sat around knitting.

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Over the course of the evening, the sky darkened, and we all started watching the sky and checking the weather on our phones and it wasn’t long before we heard thunder, and saw lightning, and we all battened the hatches, covered our bins with tarps, and did the best we could to sturdy up against the coming rain.  A few minutes before that rain started, crew from the rally came around and talked to us. The storm was going to be bad, they said. Worse than they’d thought, and could we all please take care to make sure that we were as prepared as possible? There was – they said, a tornado warning, and while a tornado was unlikely, they let us know that if we were worried, we could go to the trucks  and take shelter inside. Then the rain started, and the rally all climbed inside their little tents, and tried to sleep.

Nobody slept. The storm was incredible. Here in Southern Ontario, we have thunderstorms all the time. They’re common, and as torrential as they can be, there’s one thing we know about them – they don’t last. They’re intense and amazing and huge and then they’re gone. I know we all thought the same thing, cowering in our tents… It couldn’t last.

Wrong again. The storm raged all night. The whole thing. Even with your eyes closed you could see the lightning, and the thunder was so loud, and the sound of the rain beating on the tents was incredible and I can tell you it was more than a little scary.  In the morning it was still raining, and not just a little. The rally emerged from their tents into the cold and the wet, and Jen and I discovered we’d been lucky – our tent hadn’t leaked. The same couldn’t be said of Pato’s tent, or of Amanda’s. They’d spent the night sleeping in puddles, with soaked sleeping bags and clothes, and nobody had gotten more than an hour or two of sleep.  We were cold, and worried, and we went to breakfast to find out what was going on.

Not much, was the answer. The generators weren’t working, so there was a cold breakfast, and no hot drinks. (Fear not for the coffee. Jen and I – having been screwed by a non-functioning generator the year before had taken matters into our own hands to guard against just that moment. I’d packed a camp stove, fuel and a pot, and Jen had a french press, and we made pot after pot for anyone who asked.)

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Usually we pack our bins up and go – but that morning we waited. Road safety was out surveying our route to see if it was safe for us to ride, and we were waiting out the lightning. Cold and wet, we huddled together under the big dining tent, everyone mostly worrying about how this was all going to work. it wasn’t just that we were facing a day of riding in the rain, it’s that we were facing the longest day of the rally – 130km, a challenge at the best of times, and even harder to face in bad weather, with only the prospect of a wet tent and clothes at the end of the day. We waited, and waited, while the rally leadership did an amazing job of trying to figure out what to do.

A long time later (it always seems like a long time in the rain) we had an answer. We had a choice. The riding was going to be hard, but it was safe if we were going to be careful, so if we wanted to, we could ride. The words “wanted to” hung there for me. Wanted to? What other choice was there? There was an answer for that too. For the riders who didn’t feel safe, or were too tired, or too wet, or whose stuff was too wet, there was an alternative. You could get on your bike in the rain and the wind and the cold, OR you could wait, and a bus was coming, and the bus would take you to a community centre where you could dry yourself and your stuff out, and HAVE A HOT SHOWER. That was the choice. Ride, or skip it, and be warm and dry and clean.  I stood there, wet, and cold, and muddy and I took about nine deep breaths.

It is hard for me to explain what went through my mind then. I knew nobody would be hard on anyone who didn’t ride. The conditions were awful, and we were all sleep deprived, and things were horrible, and there was nothing wrong with getting on the bus. Hell – it was probably smart to get on the bus, but I stood there, and all I could think of – really, was you guys. I imagined myself writing this blog post, and I imagined telling you I’d taken the bus, and I imagined all of you being really understanding and supportive and totally getting it, and then I thought of all the money you’d donated, and I knew what I was going to do, and I wanted to cry. I didn’t look at Jen. I knew she was thinking the same thing. I had agreed to ride my bike to Montreal in exchange for donations to PWA. I hadn’t agreed to ride my bike if it was nice, or if it was easy. I’d agreed to ride my bike.  I took a few shaky breaths, and then we had a quick team talk about what to do. In the end, Jen, Ken and I walked to our bikes, and Amanda and Pato decided on the bus – in Amanda’s case, she didn’t feel that she was an experienced enough rider to be safe under these circumstances (boy, did she turn out to be right) and in Pato’s – he had to deal with his stuff. His tent had been such a mess in the night that he’d had to evacuate to a truck, and there was no way he’d be able to ride the next four days if he couldn’t get all of that sorted. We all agreed that this was the right and safe thing for everyone, and we left… along with just half of the riders, the half that thought they could somehow cope, or had stayed dry enough to manage.

The minute I got on my bike I wondered if I had made a mistake. The ride was the trifecta of evil for cyclists. Cold, wet, and a persistent and strong headwind to slow you down.

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No matter how hard we rode, we couldn’t get any speed going on, and we’d just accepted that it was going to be an impossibly long, hard day when we remembered the hills. It was the day of the hills, and my heart just about broke. Somehow, we rode to the first break, and that was when we remembered that on day two of the rally, there’s two breaks before lunch. You ride 40km, and then 30, and then 20, and then you get lunch, and we’d been held back in the morning so long that the combination of the late start and the already late lunch meant that it was going to be 3pm before we got lunch, and that’s a crazy thing if you had breakfast at 6am and have ridden 90km.  I don’t know how we did it. I really don’t. My saddle had started to hurt me badly (screw you – squirrel who ate the old one) and by the time we got to I was starving, cold, wet, and my will to live was being destroyed from the crotch up.

Pato and Amanda and everyone else were already all there (what with the bus and all) and they welcomed Jen and I in, and tried to get us some lunch, and road safety tried to talk to us to see if we were okay, and then they said that if we wanted to – we didn’t have to ride the last 40km.  That if it was too hard, if it was just too much, then we could stop. I didn’t really talk to anyone. I felt like if I opened my mouth to say anything it would all well up and out, and I didn’t want that. I was trying to be tough. I listened to the other riders, and I listened to another big part of them decide that they couldn’t go on, that 90km in those conditions had felt more like 150 already, and that they were going to have to stop. Then I turned around, I went into the porta-potty, and I cried.  I think Jen did too.

When I came out I had something to eat, and that helped. I had a cup of hot coffee and got a little warmed up, and that helped too. Then Jen and I talked it over, and decided that we would try. That there was “only” 40km to go, and it couldn’t be that bad and that we’d invested so much that it was – for us, a hell of a time to get off the ride, and we joked about how the great thing about riding in the rain is that nobody can see you cry, and we decided to do it.  As we were walking back to our bikes, past the glory of the bus, someone on road safety came up to us, and told us that they’d be right with us, driving by often to make sure we were okay, and that if at any point we needed to stop, all we had to do was say the word. Just raise a hand off the bike, signal the crew, and whammo. We’d be in the car and they’d drive us to the end. No shame.

I looked him in the eye, and I felt like crying again. “Don’t say that.” I said.

“What?” he asked, looking at me like I was a crazy person, which by then, I probably was.

“Don’t offer me a way out.” I turned away from him, and I don’t know if he heard what else I said, but it was something like “I”m not strong enough.”

The next two hours were a blur. Hills, and rain, and Jen and I struggling, and road safety driving by, and encouraging us, without, thank wool, offering us a ride again. We went up and down and farther and farther and we finally got to the last set of hills before the Ferry. That’s how that day ends. We take the Glenora ferry across, and then it’s an easy 8km from there. Once you’re on the ferry, you’re pretty much done. I don’t remember those hills really well. I remember thinking that my feet had been in my wet shoes for so long that I was pretty sure I had trench foot, and I remember thinking that they would probably hurt if they weren’t numb from the cold. I remember thinking that there couldn’t possibly be another hill, and I remember being deliberately and carefully cheerful with everyone that I encountered. The world was a fragile and terrible place – it could only help to be as nice as possible. At some point in there we realized we were “being swept.” The sweeps are team leads who are assigned the task of riding slower than the slowest rider. It helps road safety know where the “end of the line” is – when they drive back as far as the sweeps, they know they’re the last riders, and it makes sure nobody gets left behind. When you’re the sweeps, you lag back – hanging behind the slowest riders.  If you’re being swept, you’re the slowest.

I don’t mind telling you, that was demoralizing. Jen and I have trained hard, and worked really hard to be strong riders, and we thought we were – or I’m here to tell you, we sure as *&%^$ wouldn’t have set out that morning. To realize that we were the slowest? Our hearts broke a little, but we kept going. We did the last hill, somehow – and came around the corner to where the queue for the ferry was, and we just about fell off our bikes. The ferry goes every 15 minutes. There were about 25 riders. Jen and I might have been slow, but not by much! A few minutes later, we realized who we were just a bit slower than… Strong riders. Gazelles. People that we know are excellent on a bike, tough as nails and fast as the wind.

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I gathered everybody in for a megaselfie. Jen and I couldn’t believe it. We all stood there, on the ferry, and everybody, these fantastic riders talked about how it had been their hardest day ever, that it had really been a challenge, and that they were tired, and it had been really, really tough, and that they’d thought about the bus the whole time, and it was so… great. I wasn’t even the only person who’d cried in a porta-potty. We felt heroic.

The rest of the ride wasn’t easy either. Not that last 8km, nor the four days that came after. It rained four out of the six days, I really did think that I was getting trench foot, and day two wasn’t the only time I cried. I shed a few tears on day five, when it was our turn to sweep, and Jen and I had to do it in a thunderstorm – riding slow and wet, and we would have been so sad, except for a big chunk of our team decided to sweep with us, and we were so impressed with the kind of people that they were that it carried us the whole way. (Sort of. Damn it was cold.) I cried when I was so proud of Amanda and Pato that I could barely breath, amazed that people so young would be willing to do something so hard for other people, and I cried when I wondered if really, they understood that they were making a real difference in the world around them. I cried when Jen and I were complimented on our leadership, because we tried so hard to do a good job, and it was so amazing that the team appreciated it.

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I cried (not in front of her) when I was so proud of Jen, the best co-lead I could have ever asked for. Strong, courageous, brave and cheerful in the face of everything.

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I cried (on the inside) when our whole family team was wearing top fundraiser jerseys, because I was so happy that what we were doing had raised enough cash to really make a difference, and because I couldn’t believe the amazing support we’d had from our family, and friends, and knitters everywhere.

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I cried tears of joy when Pato and Jen figured out how to carry enough beer for all of us.

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I cried when I had not one, but TWO flat tires on the last day.

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Finally, I cried when we arrived in Montreal – because it had been so hard to get there, and I couldn’t believe we all had.

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Back to the beginning, when I told you that this was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and my friend couldn’t believe that I didn’t think that childbirth or parenting or crisis had been harder? It’s true. Those things are hard. Crazy hard. Stupid hard, but this beat it all, simply because it was optional. Childbirth might be hard, but really, you don’t have any choice. Once you’re pregnant, there’s only one why that it can end. Somehow, some way, a baby is going to come out of your body, and no matter how it does that, you’re in it. There’s no way out. You can cry and be afraid and it can be hard, but it’s going to happen to you anyway, whether you’re brave or not. Parenting? Illness, crisis? Same deal. You’re in it, and nobody rides by in a car while you’re trying to deal with it all and asks if you’d like a ride past all the hard bits. You’ve got to do it, and you do. We all do, somehow.

That moment, when they said I could choose – I could take the bus, or I could ride, and I chose to ride, will be with me for a long time, and I’d like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. If it wasn’t for you, I might have gotten on that bus, and then I wouldn’t feel the way I do now. Proud, and tired, and knowing something new about myself and my friends, and my family.

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Thanks for everything, and see you tomorrow. I’m going to have (another) nap.

Thank you

Here I am. In less than 12 hours I’ll be awake, and getting ready to ride my bike down to Allen Gardens (That’s where our departure is from) and meeting up with a couple hundred other cyclists, and then at 9am, that’s it. At 9am we get on our bikes, and with a whoop and cry that sounds like fear and excitement all together, off we go.  More than a hundred kilometres later, we stop, put up our tents and camp for the first night.  We’ll be strangers, mostly, that first night. Jen and I have tried to get to know our team ahead of time, but there’s many people we’ll really get to know tomorrow, and by the end of the week, we’ll be a little travelling family.  It always happens, and it’s one of the greatest rewards the rally has to offer.

It’s excellent that the rally has rewards like that,  because it offers up plenty of challenges. I’m sure many of you have imagined what it might be like to do something like this.  It’s staggering.  The sweat, the tears, the exhaustion – camping in the rain, riding 660km, bathing in the lake… it is all  balanced in the end with love, and generosity, and kindness.

In these hours before we leave, it’s that love, and generosity and kindness that I want to write about.  I know I’ve said it before, and I really mean this: Riding your bike to Montreal does nothing to help sick people. Nothing.  You could do it a hundred times, and without the support of people like all of you who donated, it wouldn’t change one little thing about the world, or the way it can be for people who are suffering.  It is what all of you have done  – your generosity, that turns the action we’re all undertaking into real change. Real kindness. Real love.  So here’s what we’d all like to say to you.

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A little note about Sam, before we ride off into this adventure. We’re all heartbroken, and none of us more so than Sam, that she won’t be with us when we leave tomorrow. She’s been ill, and we were hoping that what ails her would clear up in time for her to join us, but in the last 24 hours we’ve realized it’s just not going to happen, and there’s just no way that you can do this if you’re not healthy. A sadder girl cannot be found, and we’ll miss her desperately. She’s very grateful to everyone who pledged to her, and please know the money still goes right to the people who need it. We’ve all told her that she tried, and that’s what counts. I know you’ll agree.

I guess this is it. My yarn containment system is strapped to the bike, more knitting got packed today into the bins we’ll meet up with every night, and I’ll do my best to stay in touch as we go along. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post here, but you can always follow me on Instagram, and Twitter – and it’s fast and easy to post there, as long as my batteries last!

We’re all happy, and scared… and ready.  We’ll see you soon. You can keep making donations as much as it suits you – and I’ve got a boatload of gifts to give away when I get back.  You can give to anyone on our team here, and I hope we inspire you. (I’m still aiming to meet last years goal of $50 000, and a few people down at the bottom haven’t made their minimum of $2500,  I don’t think they know many knitters.)

Thanks for everything. You’re all fantastic, and you never, ever cease to amaze me.

I think I love you.

PS, I totally finished the socks.

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