I would like a typo better

In my post the other day, I wrote that there would be 1600 rows in the edging, and Katie (who is surely a hopeful person, full of optimism) wrote and said “Surely that’s a typo.”  Vickiebee even said “Maybe it’s 1600 stitches?”

No, my petals, not a typo, and not stitches – though maybe not as bad as you’re thinking. I am cleverly drawing pictures here, so as not to take detailed pictures of the blankie that would give it all away to Alex and Meg. (Plus it’s really scrunched up on a circular.)  This is a pretty classic way of approaching this,  if you’re thinking of Shetland Island shawls, which, like most normal people, I always am.

First, I cast on provisionally, and I knit the centre.  (That’s a lie. First I knit a swatch, wash it, and block it. That tells me how many stitches to cast on, and how long to carry on for if I want it to be roughly square.)

begin 2017-03-23

When the centre is finished, I pick up stitches all the way around, and unpick the provisional cast-on, pick those up too, and now I’m equipped to work in the round. (Here, you will note, I make that sound like cake. It’s totally not – in the classic sense, this picking up business is pretty easy. The Shetland Shawls are garter base lace, and so the ratio for picking up is 1 stitch for each ridge. I threw that simplicity and ease on the fire and tossed on a litre of gasoline, by knitting the centre in stockinette based lace. To pick up all the way around I took my gauge, and did the math. The number of stitches widthwise (let’s say it’s 20 to 10cm.) divided by the number of rows per 10cm. (Let’s call that 25.) Then it’s just a matter of representing that as a fraction (stay with me, I know that’s a math word) putting stitches over rows. 20/25. Then I reduce that fraction (cast your mind back to middle school, you’ll be fine) and it’s 4/5. (See that?) That means I have to pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows. In practice, that’s pick up 4, skip one, pick up 4, skip one…. You dig? Usually I practice this on the swatch, then do it on the blankie, marking the corners as I go.

Then I choose my stitch patterns (or invent them, in many cases) write them up as charts, centre them along the sides, and start knitting. I increase one stitch either side of the marked corner stitches ever other row – so I’m increasing by 8 stitches every other round.

and next 2017-03-23

This makes fetching mitred corners, and means the blankie gets bigger all the way around, every round. When it’s big enough (who really knows when that is) I choose or invent an edging (in this particular case, it’s a bit of both) and begin to apply the edging.  I cast on (provisionally, again) however many stitches are in the edge (in this case, it will be about 20) and then start working back and forth making a long skinny edging. Every time I work a right side row, I knit the last stitch of the edge together with a stitch from the body of the blanket.

finallyedging 2017-03-23

That means that every two rows, one stitch gets consumed. When I’m all done, the final row of the edging is grafted to the provisional cast on of the edging, and I’m done.

So, back to the point up at the top? 1600 rows? I was wrong. I’ve currently got  898    stitches on the needle (or will, when I’m done with this little garter band) and with 2 rows to consume each one? (Plus extras to get round the corners, but let’s not quibble.)

1796 rows to go, with an average of 20 stitches in each row, that’s 35 920 stitches left to knit.

And that, my brave friends, is not a typo. I counted. May the force be with me. The edging begins in 4 and a half rounds.

It’s Not Early

My friend Debbi has a great expression. When a task is daunting and spread out in front of you, and you’re getting that slightly crampy feeling in the pit of your stomach, she’ll look right at it and say “Don’t panic early.”

I find this a really lovely way of saying “don’t panic”, which I’ve always found dismissive and always makes me want to say something like “I’ll panic if I bloody well want to” or “WHAT IS YOUR OTHER PLAN.”  When Debbi says “don’t panic early” I feel like she’s respecting my right to panic, isn’t taking anything from me, but wants to be sure that my timing is right, and I don’t waste any energy while we’re still in a  phase that could have some solutions other than panicking.

On Friday, I took a look at the blanket, and I took a look at the date, and I took a look at Megan and something happened.

megbig 2017-03-21

I panicked. Now, there is still some time to finish, I know that. I’ve got a few weeks I think, before there could be a baby, but I’m still on the last border pattern and after that there is another border pattern and then there is all the edging and… I felt sure that panicking was the right thing to do.  I set about getting really hysterical about the whole thing, and then I channelled my inner Debbi, decided it wasn’t time, and set about knitting. That was my weekend. I’m happy to say it mostly panned out. I’m six rows from being finished that border, and then there’s just the second border and then there’s the edging and….

blanketnotbig 2017-03-21

It was time to panic. I felt sure of it that time. I went on a search for my inner Debbi, couldn’t find her and called the actual Debbi instead. (Sometimes only the real thing works.)  Debbi listened carefully while I explained what needed doing, and she looked carefully at the picture of Meg, and then she said something very real, and very accurate.

Panic.

That’s what she said. Panic. She also said things like “*%#%&^ how many rows are in that edging? 1600? IS IT SIXTEEN HUNDRED?” and she said things like “IT IS BIG ENOUGH DON’T MAKE IT BIGGER DO THE EDGING” and she also said “holy (*&%$#^, you need to panic. Do it now.”

“It’s not too early?” I asked her, hopefully… wondering if maybe Debbi had just come unglued for a minute and didn’t have her wits about her. It happens to the best of us, especially in the face of laceweight baby blankets, they’re pretty discombobulating. “Debbi, isn’t it too early to panic?”

Debbi thought about it, and then very calmly, she said:

“No.  I think you’re late.”

I’m going to get right on it.

Proof of Life

I sat down yesterday morning with a cup of coffee and the intention of writing a post to you, and then realized that though I don’t believe in jinxes, and I didn’t really think I could make myself fall down by typing about what a great ski trip we had, I do really hate revising writing and so I put it off until now, simply in the interest of not needing to delete a post about how awesome it was and instead write about how charming the Ski Patrol is and how sweet the doctors in the emergency room in Banff are, and how much less scary it was to be airlifted out of the Rocky Mountains than I thought it would be. Turns out that I’m out the other end of the thing, totally intact.

We skiied during the daytime, with me taking lessons and Joe off doing wild man things, flinging himself off the top of mountains and doing double blacks, while I timidly made the transition from green runs to blue ones. I had a very nice instructor named George, who consistently told me that I’m a much better skier than I think I am, I’m just too nervous. “Relax” he told me over and over. “You just need to relax.”  I’m not sure I have the trick of it yet, because all I did then was really concentrate on relaxing, and I don’t think that’s what George meant, and there were moments (more than one, I’m afraid to report) where I stood a the top of a slope George wanted me to ski down, looked at his intentions, the steepness of the thing, how far you would fall to the bottom with a misplaced ski, and cordially looked him in the eye to say “What the actual f**k, George.”

meandgeorge 2017-03-16

Still, at the end of the three days, George presented me with a certificate outlining my skills, and confidently decreed that I could ski any groomed run. “Any” he said, as long as I managed this elusive relaxation. I looked at my card, and immediately noted an error. Muttering, I approached George, and explained that I wanted him to tick off the box that said I could manage small jumps. He looked at me a little confused, and I reminded him that he’s been on lifts with me, surely he’s noticed that I’m five feet tall, and that means that getting off a lift isn’t a simple matter of standing up.  I have to jump. (This made for a dramatic first dismount from a lift last year, by the way, when the instructor told me to wait until my skis touched the ground, then stand up. Never happened. I almost went right round the thing.) “George,” I proclaimed. “You’ve seen me. You know I’m jumping. I want that box. That’s a jump. Tick it off.”

georgeboxes 2017-03-16

George agreed, though even now I’m unclear on whether or he truth thought it was right, or was just a little frightened of me. He sat down, put a proper checkmark in the box for small jumps – and added a little note. “On lifts.”  He also told me that skiing with me had been a lot of fun, but in the comments on my report card, I noted that it just said “Been a lot skiing with you this week” and at first I thought the “fun” was just missing (he had several to fill out) but I’ve been told before that I’m rather “a lot” and I wonder if George is breathing a little easier now that I’m headed off his mountain.

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In between death defying runs down the slopes, I knit. I had lots of time in the mornings, and in the car on the way places, and at dinner, and in the evenings,

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and I’m happy to report that the first little border on the baby blanket is done, as is the second larger one, and today on the way to the airport I’ll finish charting the third, big one, and by the time I get home tonight, it should be well started. I’ve big plans to apply myself diligently to that thing over the next week, try to really break the back of it. There’s more than 680 stitches to a round now, so progress feels like it’s slowing down all the time, but it’s still a lot easier than skiing.

The Hand of Destiny

I sat down, all ready and organized, to tell  you pretty much nothing. The blanket is going fine, I’m passed the first little border and I’m ready to move on to the next one. I have it charted and swatched and it all seems to be ticking along just fine. A little slowly, I admit, but I’m almost ready to start the second ball of yarn, and there’s more than 700m per ball, so clearly I’m making some sort of progress, no matter how daunting the whole thing feels. I was sitting here, trying to find something to say to you, something remotely interesting, and couldn’t come up with anything at all, so I went to organize some yarn and think about it.

Joe and I are leaving for a ski trip in the morning, and I’d gone upstairs to grab a skein of yarn for socks from upstairs. It was a special skein, part of the little yarn club I joined this year and I know that I should be working on the blanket only, but it’s fussy, and there’s a chart, and while I’m certain that I’ll get lots done on the flight tomorrow – I need something with me to amuse me when it’s dark, or when I don’t want to ignore Joe by gluing my eyes to the thing. So, socks it is. I’m upstairs, and I have the skein of yarn in my hand, and then I realize I should throw in a load of laundry – so I grab a basket, toss a load of whites in, and trot directly to the basement get it started and come back upstairs to wind the yarn.

On my way back up though, I get a text from my sister-in-law who needs a little babysitting help, and I tell her sure, and start organizing myself to leave. Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that mornings aren’t really my jam, but they’re not – so I get another cup of coffee so I stand a chance of keeping up with a toddler and a five year old, and then I go to wind the yarn, except it’s not where I left it on the table by the winder. I look around, realize I’ve probably put it somewhere stupid, and then Katie’s here and I have to leave, so I do.  I’m in the car before something terrible occurs to me. I didn’t… put it in the washing machine, did I? I start reconstructing the morning in my mind – all while convincing Luis that we’re going to go to the park and it’s going to be a blast, and I decide that there’s no way I did that. None. I had it in my hand, and then I put it down on the bed – I think, while I got that laundry together. There’s nothing for it anyway, and Luis and Frankie and I go to the park (where I remember that most of taking a toddler to the park in the winter is trying to keep them from licking metal things) and then I go buy a new bra (really intense morning, thanks for asking) and then I grab the streetcar back here, and go directly upstairs to fetch my yarn – but it’s not on the bed. It’s not on the kitchen counter either, nor is it on my dresser, where I could have put it down. It’s not anywhere, and with a sinking heart, I go to the basement.

I can see it through the window of the washer. It’s there. A sprawled out tangle of handpainted ramen, exploded through the washing machine. I curse, and I open the washer, knowing two things for sure. 1. I’m an idiot and 2. A skein of yarn can’t come back from that. You can’t put a skein of yarn in the washing machine. I’ve wrecked this fantastic skein of yarn. I take the laundry out, and I carry it upstairs and it looks like a nightmare. It’s tangled, it’s a disaster, and start untangling it from tee shirts and underpants and I’m just heartbroken. (I’m also pretty grateful that the dye didn’t bleed, because that was a load of whites and it’s a brightly coloured skein.) I extract the yarn – and I stand there, with this shredded disaster in my hands, and it occurs to me that it’s not felted. It’s superwash – so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, but I am – and it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, if I dry it, I can untangle it. (It does occur to me that this will take hours and hours, but I really like the yarn and I’m feeling optimistic.)

I grab the yarn by one of the ties, and give it a snap, and this happens.

skeinfine 2017-03-10

Yup. Perfect. Completely, astoundingly, amazingly and unpredictably perfect. It’s not tangled – there’s not a strand out of place and that, my friends, is a straight up supernatural event.

I thought you’d want to know. The world is a mysterious, beautiful place, and my yarn is almost dry.

(PS. It’s from Gauge Dye Works (That used to be CaterpillarGreen) and I’d like to personally thank them for tying it in three places. I bet some days that feels like overkill, but it’s not. You’re awesome.

Blur

No time. Only pictures.

lois 2017-03-07

Luis listens to Megan’s baby.

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I made a million cookies, and piping icing is hard. (But I win, because they’re still cute.)

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Ken is 51.

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I spent a ridiculous amount of time with a peeler and made this tart. I thought I was crazy then Meg said “Oh Mum, I love pretty food!” and then it was all worth it.

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Jen (knitter, cyclist, student midwife) brought her fetoscope. Best baby shower favour ever.

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This picture is okay, but it’s not as good as the one I should have taken, which was 2 minutes later, when the baby moved, and Pato pretty much fell off a chair.

We are excited.  I am knitting.

Attitude is most of it – Right?

You know, I try to have a can-do attitude.  I’m reasonably clever, I know how to read, I’ve got access to the internet, and that means that most of the time, I look at a task ahead of me and I think “Well. How hard can it be?” This usually works. I’ve changed the brake pads on a mini-van with just a library book and some borrowed tools, I’ve ridden my bike really far, and I can make all sorts of things. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in over my head – but it usually works out. The problem is that since I usually feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I don’t recognize it when I actually am. I’ll be chugging along, feeling a wild and vague sense of panic and hysteria, and then think, well, that’s not too bad – and the next thing I know voila. I’m actually underwater.  Examples? You betcha.

I sat down last night to pick up all of the stitches around the edge of the shawl, and two things happened. First, it turned out that I’d counted hopefully rather than actually, and as a result, I had six rows to go before I was really done. (No problem. Will only take a minute.) The second thing was that it turns out that I’d tried a new provisional cast on (How hard can it be?) and I didn’t do it right. How do I know?

snips 2017-03-03

It took about an hour to unpick the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, snipping it into little pieces as a went along, punctuating every sixth or seventh one with unladylike language of a pretty creative nature. The sides didn’t go much better, and I finished the one stinking round that it took to get everything sorted at 1:40am. (How hard can it be? THAT HARD.)

Then,  I decided that I’d do something special for Meg’s baby shower on Sunday (yes, yes it’s that soon, yes I know, knit faster) and after cruising Pinterest (MEGAN LOOK AWAY)  I bought some special cookie cutters and signed up to make some fancy cookies. Like this. Or this. Or those. Up until about 10 minutes ago it hadn’t really occurred to me that I don’t actually know how to do that, and my general sense of “How hard can it be?” was dashed when a friend said that if I got “color flow mix” that would really be good and I realized that I don’t know what that is, and now I feel nervous. Also? I think maybe it takes longer to make them than I thought. I’ll let you know.

Finally, I kept meaning to post and say that Debbi and I have good news and bad news for Strung Along. Good news? We unexpectedly have some spots free at the Strung Along April Retreat, but the June and November retreats have waiting lists. Usually things move around and open up on the lists (that’s what happened with this April one) and there’s a chance that we’ll have some spots, but – particularly for November the list is long, and it’s not looking great, and the truth is that if you were hoping to get to a retreat with us this year, we think April is going to be your chance. We don’t have many spots, but we’ve love it if you could come, and I know you have questions.

Question: Hey, there’s like… 8 million retreats. Why would I go to yours?

Well, ours is different in a few ways. There’s three full days of classes, and everybody goes to all three classes. It’s two days of knitting, and one day of spinning, and some relaxed, fun, optional stuff in the evenings. You’re in a tiny class (only 10-15 people) and you move with that group through the three days. Some retreats have more time for socializing, but we’re all about the classes. To our way of thinking, a fibre arts retreat should be all about the learning. If that’s what you think too, you’re probably going to love it.

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Question: Who are the teachers? What are the classes?

This time, the teachers are me, Debbi Stone, and Judith MacKenzie. (She’s the spinning part.) Our theme is “Around the world in three days” and it’s going to be all about techniques and materials from the world over. We’ll talk about the history and traditions of knitters and spinners worldwide, and what they use, and how they use it. It’s going to be pretty great. We’re excited. (Can you say Latvian Braid? Oh yes, you can.)

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Question: I’m a brand new spinner, and I’m not that experienced a knitter… am I going to be okay?

Yes. Absolutely. We’ve got artists of every range coming, and you’ll fit right in, no matter what your skill level is. The classes are tiny enough that we can really personalize. You’ll be fine. We promise. (Also, if you don’t have a wheel, we can loan you one for the weekend. Don’t panic. We’ve got ya.)

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Question: If I’m going to go away for a treat, I want it to be nice. Is is nice?

Dudes, it’s super nice. We’re ridiculously proud of the wonderful food, and there’s optional paired wine flights with dinner. There’s a fireplace and Jacuzzi bathtub in all the rooms, and the staff at the resort is fantastic. It’s nice. It’s so nice you won’t want to go home.

dinner 2017-03-03

Question: I’m sort of an introvert and I would be coming by myself and I won’t know anyone. Do people come by themselves? Will it be weird? Will I be lonely?

You’ll be fine.  From one introvert to another, it will be fine. Lots of people come alone – most people, actually, at least at first. We’ve got lots of knitters who came by themselves and made friends with other knitters, and now they look forward to seeing them at the retreats. It’s a welcoming, open place, and there’s lots of time to yourself, if that’s how you like it, and I promise you won’t feel weird.

bathtub 2017-03-03

Question: I have other questions. What do I do?

Write to us at info@strungalong.ca and Debbi or I will answer you. There’s lots of information here on our retreat page too.

Last Question: I’m not able to come, but I hear you guys have goodie bags, and I wondered if I could put my stuff in it?

We do have goodie bags, and we’d love it if you put stuff in it. We’re happy to showcase anything you’d like knitters or spinners to see. Your product goes in the bags, and on our social media feeds, and we’re as grateful as you can imagine. If you’d like to talk about it, email us at info@strungalong.ca, and we’ll get you the details.

Forever

I am going to be knitting this blanket forever. I see that now, as plainly as I understand that I am destined to never catch up on the laundry, and that email can never be truly finished. I also see that a large blanket knit from laceweight might have been a bit of an overshoot, if you catch my meaning.  I have only about a month left, and this blanket pretty much refuses to get done, despite much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

swatchblankie 2017-03-02 (1)

Today, I have gleefully and delightedly finished the centre. It’s a small centre, as planned, and now I’ve got to make a move to get this thing sorted to be knit in the round. Tonight I’ll leave the stitches at the top live, and then pick up stitches down the first side, then unpick the provisional cast on along the bottom, and pick up more stitches along the second side. I don’t have time to make a mistake, so I’ve spent a little time today picking up stitches along the side of my swatch.

Swatchblankie 2017-03-02

Obviously, one side had too many (you can see it flare out, there on the right) and the other one looks pretty good. That’s the rate I’ll be going with.

Forever. And ever.  Send wine.

Randomly, on a Wednesday

  1. I finished the cowl that I was knitting, after several runs at it, and a mistake or two concerning gauge. (Note to self, still always knit a swatch, no matter how cocky and experienced  you feel.)

cowl peek 2017-02-22

2. I am home from Madrona, and it was, as always, the event that fills my cup for the year to come. Wonderful moments with teachers I love, students I miss, and vendors that make me give them all my money.

3. I gave them lots of money. (Hello Creative with Clay, I’m looking right at you and my new salt and pepper shakers.)

4. A big chunk of my hair is purple. I can’t talk about why, because it has to do with the Teacher Talent Show for Charity that I host, together with Lucy Neatby, and mutiny. On the upside, the show raised more than $12 000 for the Global Fund for Women, MSF, and Heifer International. That’s worth purple hair. (Also, Lucy? It’s not washing out like you said it would.)

5. The blanket proceeds apace. I’m halfway through the centre. I need to get a move on.

blanketcentrehalf 2017-02-22

6. I accidentally gave a whack of money to Habu Textiles, which is both unavoidable and normal. I also accidentally started knitting the kit I bought, but I’m putting it down. (It’s silk and paper. I can’t even.)

whoopshabu 2017-02-22

7. I’ve got to knit that blanket.

8. I leave for the West Coast Knitters Guild on Friday. (I think there are still a few spots.)

9. There’s no point in trying to fix the jet lag. If I stay messed up, I’ll be bang on for Friday.

That would be a negative

I’m at the airport, getting ready to head to Madrona, and because the universe is out to get me of a problem with my flight, I’m going Toronto to LA, then LA to Seattle. It means that from the time that I leave my house until the moment I fall helplessly into a hotel bed will be about 13 hours of travel. I’m trying to see the upside of that, which is a pretty awesome chunk of knitting time, which is great, because you wouldn’t believe the crappy knitting I did I had a few knitting problems over the last few days.  I knit the daylights out of a cowl that I’m making (no pattern yet, stand by) and was feeling pretty good about how things were going. A nice big cowl, and I had about 5cm of the ribbing done, when I was forced to admit that my gauge was complete bollocks a little off, and had to rip the whole thing out and start over.

I’m not so sure that would have completely broken my spirit bothered me, except that at the same time I discovered a nupp that was disintegrating completely and threatening to destroy the integrity of the entire blanket not quite right, and had to rip back several rows of that work too.

knitting bag1 2017-02-15

(Pictured here, the bag of travel knitting I’ll be trying to fix so that it looks like I can knit better than a drunk ferret how to knit enjoying today.)

So, there you have it, and in case you ever wondered, there are times when I spend hours knitting and am further behind than when I started  and completely waste two days of precious knitting time and my one wild and beautiful life make little mistakes. I’m hoping to get my &%#@@% together today will be a little better.

Slow Learner

I suppose what I’m living right now could be considered a failure to learn from my past, but I like to think of it as a terminal sort of optimism. Every time I book trips really close together, I look at the calendar, do the math and then think “Oh, it’ll be just fine.” It’s like I think that everything that was difficult about it every time before this is a problem that’s entirely gone away – or that I’ve suddenly become a completely different sort of person. Then my plane lands, and I start the process of a two day turnaround, and realize that I’m still me, and this is still a problem, and this is all a long way of saying I’m rushing to get out the door early in the morning for Madrona after returning  home late Sunday night, so here’s a short blog post, just to show you a finished thing.

bermuda5 2017-02-14

Pattern: Bermuda (but I faked it at the end and made it bigger so that I’d use up every inch of my yarn.)

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Yarn: The January Shipment of  the CaterpillarGreen yarn club. It was an extra large skein (170g) of shawl striping, MCN fingering.

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I finished it the last day we were in Scottsdale, and it looked so at home there that it was almost a shame to bring it home to the snow. (But I did.)

bermuda2 2017-02-14 bahamas 2017-02-14

Voila! Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go and continue semi-hysterically unpacking and re-packing a suitcase, while making a mental note that I’ll do this again next week. I expect it will go better then.