Also the server didn’t work

I  know someone who used to say that in their family, if you did something twice, it was a tradition.  This used to be a sort of a joke, where you’d do something that the family or your friends enjoyed, and you’d think to yourself “note to self, so-and-so really liked that” and I’d write it on the Christmas spreadsheet to make sure it happened again, and everyone would laugh, and say “watch out! You’ll have to do it forever!”

Little did I know, that my family is so sensitive to tradition and ritual, and the little things we always do that make our family special, that for us, it doesn’t take twice.  If the thing you did was really good, and it resonated, and everyone loved it, then whammo. It was an instant tradition, this time of year not the same without it.   Such was the case with the Advent Calendar I made for Lou’s family two years ago.  I thought I was making a calendar, but it turned out I’d made an instant tradition, so much so, that this year everyone asked. “Myrie is three,” they said. “Isn’t this the year for her calendar?”

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I sighed, and started with the knitting of the tiny things again.  All last month, tiny thing after tiny thing came off my needles and it was sort of a secret. I didn’t say out loud that it was Myrie’s calendar, but everyone knew. The whole thing culminated last weekend in a flurry of sewing and applique and a general sort of hysteria. I always remember too late that the sewing machine and nine oceans worth of felt is a bit of a production.  I cut the whole thing out, and I embroidered all of the numbers on the pockets – I’d forgotten you can embroider over tissue paper then rip it away. Way easier.

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I sewed those parts on, and then sat down to sew the buttons on, and in that moment, realized I didn’t have any.  A trip to downtown and the button store later, I had all I needed, and sewed every single one of those twenty-four buttons on. (I tried to do it with the machine first, but after I broke two needles and the ones I’d done fell off anyway, I decided to rock it old school. I sort of had to, once I’d broken all my needles.) When it was done, I hung all the tiny things from the buttons, and then moved half of the buttons to the right places.  (Little problem with the order of operations there.)

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Then, I loaded it into the car, and did something I almost never do.  I drove somewhere.  Myrie doesn’t live very close to me, but she had to have it for the 1st of December, so off I went, wending my way along the highway, over the big hill to Myrie’s house.  When I got there, Myrie’s mum Robyn opened the door and said “I think I know why you’re here!” and I went to the car and got the thing.

There is a danger in giving a gift to a three year old, unless you have your head on straight. The three year old could not like it. They could be afraid of it. They could cry and refuse to look at it, or they could promptly flush three tiny things down the toilet because they’ve just learned how the lever works.  You cannot care. Gifts to three year old’s need to be freely given, in the spirit of the thing, and without ego.  I marched in, hung it on the wall, and waited for NOTHING to happen.

It was my lucky day, as an auntie.  Something did happen.  All the ornaments were taken off, exclaimed over, cuddled, taken out of pockets, put back in pockets, and though I have no doubt that the kid has no clue what it’s for or how it works, she was delighted, and so was her mum, and that was enough for me.  Robyn’s reported back since then, and apparently the star was hung on the first with much enthusiasm, and today the candy cane went up. (Unlike her cousin Luis, Myrie seems to be keen on doing them in order, and the candy cane was in the day two pocket, after all the shuffling.)

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I didn’t know when I was making the first one that there would be a second, but I’m clear now that there will be a third. When my grandson is three. I’ve got three years to get it together.  (That’s right, a grandson. We’re completely shocked and thrilled, Megan is expecting a boy.) I can’t wait to find out what tiny things he’ll like.

Santa Mouse for sure.

(PS. I know too that Gifts for Knitters is a tradition, and I’ll get right on it. Give me a minute, I’ll catch up.)

Get thee behind me, tiny things

I am finished knitting the tiny things. I feel like there should be a parade, or some sort of party, or a telegram from a dignitary tasked with congratulating people who undertake this sort of business. The last two tiny things were a little intense, especially when day before yesterday, I thought I had knit the last of them, displayed them all proudly, stood there looking over all I had wrought feeling chuffed and relieved, and then realized that there were only ^%$%^&ing 23 of them.

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A quick consultation with friends (can there be two mice? Are two mice allowed?) and this little thing joined the ranks.  I am not going to pretend I was cheerful about it, nor will I contend for a moment that I had any positive feelings about knitting the wings and star out of wire. I’m pretty sure I pouted actually, and even though I was alone, the last little bit of making up and sewing together was punctuated by loud exclamations of “OH COME ON”  and “(*&%& THIS”. It is a very, very good thing that I don’t believe that knitted things carry the feelings that you have while you knit them, or that little fairy mouse would be an itty-bitty avenger and a toxic plague upon the earth.

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I felt great about finishing for 10 minutes, and then got out the felt, sewing machine, rotary cutter and tissue paper, and set about phase II.

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I’ve got most parts cut out, and the next step is embroidering all the numbers on the pockets. I can admit, I dallied briefly with the idea of cutting the numbers out and hot glue gunning the thing together, but in the end I took a long view. I’m trudging through the last of this with one idea in mind… I’m not making this for a child, I’m making it for the adult they will become, standing in front of it when they’re grown, and maybe a knitter, and looking at all the work in it, while they think to themselves “Wow. That Steph is a lunatic who has always really loved me.”

Gauge is still a thing

I bet, if I told you that I was going to knit a tiny snowflake, that you’d think that was no big deal. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? I mean, I can knit, and I’m getting pretty good at the tiny things. The main barrier to knitting a snowflake would be (you would think) that it might be a little fiddly… and you would be right. It would take a little time, you might suppose, to muck about with wee needles and wee yarn and what proved to be a teeny little chart, and all those things are true, and I saw them coming, and so on the weekend, when I was alone, and I’d already knit a few tiny things and was working up a good head of steam, wait… here’s the tiny things I knit to get warmed up.

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That’s a tiny sock, and a tiny mitten (I faked it, using these and the sock charts)  and a tiny bluebird.  (The bird still needs eyes. Overlook it for the moment, will you?) I tossed a quarter in there for scale.  So I was feeling pretty good, and I found patterns for snowflakes – and I got to it. I got my tiny needles (2mm) and some white laceweight and with very little fanfare, I knit a snowflake, and blocked it. Now, while I was knitting it, I thought it wasn’t all that tiny. In fact, it seemed sort of big, but by the time I was blocking I’d committed to the thing (and I guess there was a part of me that thought something might change, though blocking lace never makes it smaller.) When I was done it was perfect….

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and too big. A lot too big.  “Gauge, you bastard” I thought to myself, and looked around for what I could do to make it smaller. Smaller needles, naturally – and I went into my needle bin and came out with a set of 0000 DPNs (1.25mm) that I’ve been saving for a day I was feeling particularly lunatic.  An hour later, I’d thought of wonderful new ways to combine filthy words, had wept some, had loudly and bitterly complained to the cat about the difficulty of a central double decrease on needles that size, and had a much smaller snowflake, but I had a feeling it still wasn’t tiny enough.

As I walked to the kitchen to block it, I made a decision. I decided that this had gone far enough. I can get a little weird about the knitting, sure, but there’s a line and I was perilously close to it.  If it was small enough to fit in the pocket of the advent calendar I was stopping, I told myself.  I had a little chat with myself about perfectionism and how the pursuit of same isn’t always totally healthy, and as I took out the pins I congratulated myself on letting go. It isn’t totally characteristic of my nature. I may have even thought something about how glad I was that the snowflake interval was over… and then I started to block it.

The first few pins went fine, and then as I stretched one of the points out,

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I found a dropped stitch in the worst possible way – as it sprung loose, and ran.  Now, you would have thought that I had invented all the way to put swearwords together while I knit that, but you would be wrong. Very wrong. I thought about getting a tiny crochet hook and trying to fix it, and then I got the bourbon out of the cupboard.  At the last possible moment I remembered that attempting to fix knitting problems with hard liquor doesn’t work.  (It’s not a moral problem, just one related to accuracy.)

I went back into the living room, swore one last time, admitted that I probably didn’t get gauge that time either, and since I was already using the smallest needles I had… I got smaller yarn.  This time, success was mine.  I won’t pretend that there wasn’t bourbon after though.

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Gauge. It’s a thing. Same pattern, the first on  2mm needles, the second on 1.25mm, with cobweb instead of  laceweight.

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The pattern is here, if you’d like to fall down your own little rabbit hole of neurosis. (Buy bourbon.)  After that, catching up was easy.

A flower – the recipient loves flowers. (This one is from Knitted Embellishments)

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A little Christmas tree, complete with beads for ornaments. (Cast on 28 stitches, work garter in the round, decreasing  two stitches at each side every sixth row for the tree, then cast on 8 stitches for the trunk, and work garter for six rows. Cast off, sew up in the important places, and sew on beads. Voila.)

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A little Christmas light

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and finally, a wee bell. (Because someone will ask, yes, it’s hanging off the spindle of my walking wheel.)

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For the bell, by the way, you may ask yourself “Can I buy a little bell to go in this at the dollar store?” The answer is:

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No.  You can only buy a hundred.  I’m set for life.

Two more tiny things to go.

 

 

Little Things

The little things are starting to get me down.  I am beginning to dream of chunky yarn, big blankets, cozy cowls knit out of bulky… something that when I’m finished knitting it and say “it’s over there” people don’t strain their eyes in the direction of the project and say “Where?”

I long to hold needles that are bigger than 2mm. I almost snapped yesterday and knit another Encompass (they’re a pretty fast gift, and I thought it would take the edge off) but I pulled myself together at the last minute and knit another ridiculously tiny thing.  I’ve knit 18 of 24 tiny things (and yes, that does put me three days behind schedule but I had a snowflake incident this last weekend. I’ll tell you tomorrow.) The end is in sight, and every time I find myself sighing in the general direction of something else, I double down. Today there are flurries and it’s very windy and very dark, so no current pictures for you, we’ll have to make do with ones from last week.  While I was at the retreat I made pretty good time, even with working very long days and the time spent defending Santa Mouse from Judith.  That wee woolly rodent had her entirely in it’s thrall, and I feared she’d nick him if I weren’t vigilant.  We knit, we dyed things (and there was leftover indigo, so Judith had a go at Debbi’s hair) and ate,

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and everyone was making amazing things, and they were all bigger than mine.

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While I was there, I made (from left to right) A star, a sweater, a snowman, a gnome baby, an olive (inside joke, I know it’s not very festive) and a heart.  I used all the patterns linked there, with the exception of the snowman. Mine looks a lot like the original, but I upsized it significantly. I still bought the pattern because it was her idea and not mine, and that’s worth paying for.

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While I was on the ferry, I was knitting some other tiny thing, and Debbi went off for a few minutes, and a very nice looking lady sat down opposite me – in Debbi’s spot. She pulled out her notebook, started writing, thinking, enjoying her quiet space.  I knit, and looked out the window, and when Debbi came back we talked about something – can’t remember what, but I think it was a normal conversation. Then the chime rang, telling us we should get ready, and I said to Deb “hold on, I want to take a picture of all my tiny things” and I lined them up, and took out my big camera, and worked hard to get them all just so, and took their pictures, and the whole time I did, there’s this lady, sitting right there, just out of the shot on the right, and this lady is so stunned that she can hardly breathe and I can tell that she’d really like some sort of explanation, and I offer none. She watches me do this, and I say something to Debbi like “should I get out the mouse or is it cool like this” and Debbi says it’s cool and checks her phone like it’s all no big, and Debbi says the mouse is overrated anyway, and then I pack up my tiny things and leave, and the woman just watches us go.

As sick as I am of the tiny things? I’m never going to get sick of freakin’ out the bystanders. That lady is going to wonder about the mouse for weeks.

 

 

 

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The Best Policy

Knitters, thank you for the time and space to think about what to say here, and thank you too for the absolutely polite, kind and respectful conversation in the comments on the last post. It was a stunning display of civility in the face of some pretty uncivil approaches elsewhere. I’ve always thought of this space like my virtual living room, and I am very grateful when that’s how you all think of it too, like a gigantic knitting party where we don’t say anything in the comments that we wouldn’t say in person, while looking the other human in the eyes with the whole group looking on.

I respect all of you. I think that’s clear, and I’ll always be interested in your points of view, and appreciate that you are not the same as me – not even those of you who voted the way I would have, were I American, and entrusted with the privilege. I think honesty is the best policy, and you’d see though me after this many years anyway, so I won’t pretend that I am not disappointed in the outcome, much the way I’m sure some of you who are interested in our politics were disappointed when Canada chose the opposite direction.

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  I think of my Grandfather all day long, and I held his memory especially close to me during the minutes of silence. It’s also Veteran’s day, and since I’m here in the US for the Strung Along retreat, I’m really noticing how different the two days are. All day I’ve heard “Happy Veteran’s Day!” and I have to tell you, I was initially horrified. In Canada, we don’t put the word “Happy” in front of Remembrance Day. It’s a day of mourning, and the day we express the sadness we feel that war or fighting was necessary. That’s how my grandfather felt, he wasn’t at all proud of what he had to do. He thought the war he fought was terrible, and horrible, and…. necessary.  There is no celebrating in Canada today, just sad somber faces at the Cenotaph, poppies, gratitude for the sacrifices, and two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

You can imagine then, with this being our vision of the day, how I felt when people here told me that Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Day were the same thing, and then saw sales, banners, parties and cupcakes, I thought (since I am being honest) that it was… wrong. Fine. There’s no other way to say it. I thought it was flip, and too lighthearted and I couldn’t understand it at all, and I tell you what, I didn’t like it either. Then I figured out that it’s not the same thing at all. Other than the fact that the two events both have to do with Veterans (sort of) that the point of them isn’t the same at all. They’re totally different, and that makes it not jerky at all to say Happy Veteran’s Day.

Then I started thinking about the election, and I decided that the same way that making a batch of Veteran’s Day cupcakes looks like move only someone dead inside would make, that’s only true if you think it’s the same as Remembrance Day (when, for the record, there are no sales or cupcakes or parties… at all. “Remembrance Day Party” doesn’t get a single result on Google. Not one.) I was gutted about the election of someone I think is neither respectful nor kind, and I wondered if maybe I just don’t get it. I’m certainly in no position to fully grasp the thing.  I do know that my ethics being what they are, it is not possible for me to think that President-Elect Donald Trump is a good person, and that is still true if I disregard the media entirely, and only listen to the actual words that came out of his actual mouth.  We simply are not in agreement on a human level, all politics aside.

Most of my disappointment around the election happened when I assumed that most people who voted for Donald Trump agreed with him. I was sad, because I thought that a person who voted for him voted for all the things he said, and agreed with them. I know that I’ll probably have a hard time explaining this, I’ve been looking for the right words all day, but over the last few days, as I listen to and talk with Americans, I’ve come to understand that many people who voted for Donald Trump see it differently. Some of them were single issue voters, and the way the feel about one issue defines where their vote goes, regardless of the candidates other positions. Some of them are heartbroken that all his views came in one package, because they know that he shouldn’t have spoken that way about women, or people who have faiths different from their own,  but they did what they thought was right because that one issue was so important to their heart. Others were concerned about something else – things I understand less well, but they are well aware of the things he said and did, but feel the way about him that my grandfather felt about war. That voting for him was terrible, and horrible, but necessary, and I’m doing my level best to understand them. I don’t now, but they talk like good people, so I’m listening respectfully.

The last group is the one that I thought was the largest, and actually seems like it might be the smallest. People who chose him not despite the many hateful things he said, but because of them. People who are racist. People who are bigots. People who are mysogynistic and sexist, and liked the things he said.  I can neither listen to them, nor respect them, and thankfully, it looks like there aren’t very many of them either.

I’m going to end this now, and tell you that I really waffled about whether to write about this or not. I decided to do it because in the end, I think a big part of the solution to the way everyone feels about each other is kindness, tolerance and understanding (except for that last group, nobody needs to tolerate that sort.) I also was impressed with the way that you’ve all been talking to each other, and I trust you to continue that. Silence just didn’t seem right, and I wonder if deciding not to try and talk, listen and understand is part of what got everyone so mad in the first place.

Peace out, I love you all. Go do something nice for someone. It will help no matter who you are.

Distractions

It took everything I had to turn off the election news just now and come sit at my desk.  I thought it would help to watch, but there’s no information, and I don’t know why I thought there would be, and once it started cycling through the same stuff over and over, it was time to bail.  (Cue the American’s wondering why a Canadian is gripped by the US election? The answer of course is that what you choose has a huge impact on us. We share the world’s largest trade relationship, more than $670 BILLION dollars passed between our two countries last year, and we share the worlds largest border. The people and policies you choose are super important to us. Add in that politics is practically our national sport (our politics, yours, anybody’s) and that your system is so fascinatingly different than ours and it’s safe to say you have our attention.  Case in point, tonight the CBC will be covering your election. You wouldn’t believe how interested we are.)  As gripped as I am, I bet some of you have feelings that are way more intense, so how about I show you some knitting and for just a few minutes you can pretend like today is no big deal?

Three more tiny things since we saw each other last, and if I knit one today, I’ll be right on track. First up, on Saturday I made a tiny candy cane.

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I used this pattern, and like I remembered last year, it was incredibly fiddly, which I don’t think is the fault of the pattern… I think it would be way less maddening at the gauge it’s written for (worsted weight) rather than the gauge I knit it at, which was fingering weight wool on 2mm needles.  Still, I got through, and the real trouble didn’t start until I tried to put a pipe cleaner into it so that I could make it bendy. The problem was that the end of the wire was too sharp, and kept getting hung up on the floats inside. I tried taping it, I tried folding the end over, I tried putting two through to make it stiffer… I tried everything until Joe reminded me of how they fish cables through small spaces at the studio. I threaded yarn onto the end of a big, blunt darning needle, pulled the needle through, then tied the end of the yarn onto the folded over end of the pipe cleaner, and whoosh. Through it went.  Engineering for the win again, although really, it would have just been easier to knit the tube around the thing – something I didn’t think of at all.

The next day Joe and I went for a hike up Rattlesnake point, and inspired by the woods and how much the recipient of this gift likes being outside, I knit a little acorn. Pattern here, and I knit it as written, except for you know. Tiny. (Back to the 2mm needles again.)

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It went fine, and needed nothing shoved up it at all.  Next up, a little gingerbread person.

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This little dude is the same as the one I made last go round, once again resurrecting an old Canadian Living pattern I like.  (Except, tiny again – and 22 stitches instead of 32 – height of person adjusted to match. Wouldn’t want them not to be proportional.)

You’ll notice too, that I ripped off a clever little idea from the tiny bear, and am doing it with all the ornaments I can. That pattern has you make the ribbon hanger, tying the ribbon ends in a knot, and then slipping it inside the ornament before pulling the stitches into a cinch at the top. It beats the pants off of sewing them all on afterwards, I tell you that.

Today I should be knitting another tiny thing, and I guess I am – though of another sort. I know that you’ve all be expecting me to go all crazy-knitting-grandma for Meg’s baby, and I’ve been resisting. Meg will know the sex in a few weeks, and I’ve been trying to hold off – but I finally snapped.  I don’t really truck with the idea that you can’t dress a baby any way you want to anyway, so I’m just starting.

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One itty-bitty, teeny-tiny sweater headed this tiny person’s way. The softest merino I know (Greenwood Hill Farms DK) in a lovely silvery colour, warm and cozy.  I found it hard to start knitting for this little one. I am not a reluctant grandmother, nor am I a surprised one – but I have been worried about making a beginning of it. Truth be told, I was a little anxious about opening the floodgates, and that turns out to be exactly right. As I run my hands over this while I work, and measure tiny sleeves and figure proper lengths, I can feel it coming over me. Next a bonnet, then some booties, and a hat, and a soft, fine shirt – and a blanket, maybe two. One for good and one for every day, and another sweater for sure, and maybe a pair of pants and soakers… wait, will she need soakers? Are those too old-fashioned? (Note to self. Ask Meg if those are too old-fashioned. Don’t want to burden her with pairs of wee things she doesn’t need.) Maybe a pram cover, and …

I think we can all see where this is headed.  Totally crazy-knitting-grandma, unleashed.

Sigh.

Thinking Small

Two more ornaments, done and dusted. I’m resisting the urge here to say things like “it’s all going so well” and “so far so good” and generally putting down my feelings of success and well-being like they’re a lame horse. That way lies madness and the sort of downfall that can only be brought about by confidence. The best I’ll say is that I’m on track. Fourth of November, four ornaments, and I expect things to go to ruin over the weekend as I pull together the last of the retreat details for next week. (PS – I mentioned it on Instagram and twitter, but forgot to do it here, if you make things and wanted to put something in our goodie bags, let me know. We welcome everything, even weird things. Shoot me an email at info@strungalong.ca)

First up, a little cloud and rainbow, and the first one I didn’t use a pattern for, but I can walk you through.  (And, I know – it’s not very Christmassy, but the recipient will like it, and it’s all about them, not me.)

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I took a handful of white roving, muddled it into a pile, and went to the kitchen sink with it.  I added a single drop of dishwashing soap (not too much, or it won’t felt) and started rubbing it in my hands in hot-ish water.  When it was cloud shaped (I pulled at it a bit) I lay it flat to dry, and knit the rainbow. I knit it (more or less, it’s not precise) like this:

Cast on 12 stitches, in purple, knit a row.  Join blue, and knit two rows. Join green, and knit one, M1, knit 3, M1 – all the way across, then knit one more row. (I made one by doing a yarn over, and knitting into the back of it to twist it on the next row.) Join yellow, and do the same, doing a M1 about every three stitches, then knitting a row plain. Same thing with orange, and the same thing with red.  Done! 12 rows of knitting, changing colours every two rows. (Except for that first purple one, I did the long tail cast on, so it counts as a row.  Then I got a needle and thread, and stitched the rainbow to the cloud. Didn’t even do it neatly, because it’s on the back. Other than the time spent waiting for the cloud to dry, it was a snap.  (If you don’t have any roving, I think you could just knit yourself a little garter stitch cloud, increasing and decreasing to make the shape. Fake it. Clouds come in all shapes. 

That done, I scanned through the comments, and found that Teague had suggested these little Holiday Mice.  How could I resist?

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I knit my wee mousie from fingering weight yarn on 2.25mm needles, and followed the instructions completely.  The only hold up was that I didn’t have any pale pink yarn for the ears, so into the kitchen I went.  I soaked a little butterfly of yarn in water for a bit, then mixed a drop of food colouring into a bowlful of water, added the yarn for a swish, and took it out when it was the right shade of pink.  I rinsed it twice to make sure the colour would stay,  let it dry, and bingo. Ear yarn.

I know there are purists among you who will be disappointed that I didn’t heat set the dye, but this will never be washed enough for it to matter, and all’s fair in love, war and advent calendar knitting. Besides – look at that little mouse. Can you stand it? I made a tiny pom pom for the red hood, transforming it into a Santa Hat, and now, do you know what that bitty rodent is?

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Santa Mouse– The star of a longstanding Christmas Eve read for our family.  It couldn’t be more perfect.  The only shame about it now is that everyone wants one (actually, Sam wants five) and I feel bad that there isn’t one on Luis’ calendar.

I guess I’ll just make one when he loses something else.

I think it was a bus

I came home Monday. Late Monday night, if anyone is keeping track, and I walked through the door of my house after a whopping 20 days away, and let me tell you, if it was possible for things to be on fire without the smoke detector going off, that’s what was going on here. Joe had spent the day tidying up, and trying to get all the ducks in a row, and so intent was he on this task – a clean bed, towels, a tidy kitchen (it was) that he actually forgot to pick me up from the airport.  I landed, and all my texts were met with crickets, until he responded to the last one with swearwords and the suggestion that I get a cab. (By then I was in a cab.) When I arrived, things were orderly, and not too bad, considering my negligence and the fact that after three weeks away nobody knows what way things go into the cupboards. It’s like the house de-evolved while I was gone. The next day was Joe’s birthday, and I hit the ground running with dinner for 12 pulled together while I was jet-lagged and strange, but somehow it all came together, and all my people were in one place, at one time, in a slightly dusty but tidy home full of food – and that was Tuesday.

Wednesday was laundry, and email, and the first proper Bike Rally Steering Committee meeting for this year, and I got home last night, fell into bed, and woke up this morning aghast that it was Thursday. It’s usually my favourite day of the week, but this one was rugged. I’ve spent the whole day at my desk, typing and typing, and I still think that despite all my efforts, Friday is going to be dodgy at best.

Let me tell you the best thing about 20 days away from home… the knitting time. There’s no housework or laundry (except for washing things in the bathroom sink) and so I came home having plowed through a tremendous amount of knitting, considering that I was pulling down a full time job at the same time.

I finished: A pair of socks (I have no idea what the yarn is. The ball band has long ago departed for parts unknown.)  A timely investment for the long range planning box, which is now the short term planning box as winter bears down upon me. (Edited to add that Joni, in the comments below says the yarn is Berroco Sox in 1436 Lidores. She’s smarter than I am.)

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A second pair of socks turned up shortly thereafter:

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This yarn I know, Regia Pairfect in “wood” #07116. (If they happen fast enough, I can’t lose the ball band.) Another contribution for the impending doom of Yule – and another pair of socks is pretty much halfway done.

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Then almost instantly, so fast it would make your head spin, a Toolbox Cowl.

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I used Madelaine Tosh Unicorn Tails… in Mandala, Charcoal, Ink, Worn Denim, Glazed Pecan, and Silver Fox.

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So fast, so fun, and was supposed to be another contribution to the box, but I might maybe have worn it with my coat today. (I really like it.)

I was feeling so good about how many things I was tucking into the Christmas pile, that you could have knocked me over with a feather when on November 1st, my computer reminded me that this year, I have a plan to knit a lot of tiny things. One a day for the whole month of November.  I’m on it.

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It’s time for another advent calendar for a young friend. Anybody with me?  If you’d like to play along, that’s the wee bear from here, and the tiny hat found here. I’m casting about for today’s plan. Ideas?

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Sing it, Willie

Well, I’m on the road again, and this post comes to you from an airport lounge in San Francisco* where I just finished reading all the wonderful comments about Meg and Alex’s good news (it’s not twins, btw, that’s just how the ultrasounds look) and thank you, thank you for all the good wishes. It’s a very, very exciting time to be a knitter, let me tell you.  I haven’t started yet (though there is yarn in my suitcase) and I can’t wait to let the wild knitting rumpus begin. For now, I’m knitting socks and a cowl as I journey along. Christmas is still coming, babe or no.

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I’m on my way to Portland and the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival,  which I’m sure is going to be awesome, and then Monday, I go gloriously, delightfully home, and frankly, I can’t wait. Once I get there, I’ve got nine days before I leave again for the Strung Along November Retreat* and it feels totally luxurious.

it’s been a wild week since Rhinebeck. I couldn’t go home afterwards, because I was waiting on the paperwork that gives me my permission to work in the US (I do things properly) and I’d been given an extension on my old visa while they worked on the new one, the catch was that it let me stay in the United States, not come and go. So, here I had to stay, until I had the new paper in hand. This turned into a forced vacation of sorts, and after a day in Boston, I flew to Las Vegas and worked for three days, and then Joe flew down and joined me, and let me tell you this… we are not such big fans of the Vegas strip. The lights, the beeping, the noise, the bright lights (the almost complete lack of vegetarian food) the gambling… it’s not really us. (We did finally break down and put some money in a slot machine. We spent $8 and won $21 and the minute we did we cashed out and walked away. We know when to hold ’em.) The fountains were pretty, the whole scene wild and interesting for an evening or a day, but overwhelming in large doses. We did a little research, rented a car, and four days later we’re happy to report that while the Las Vegas strip might not be our scene… the stuff around it is absolutely our bag. We goggled at the beauty of it all. We saw The Hoover Dam (that thing is a trip, let me tell you) and Lake Mead, and Zion National Park, and Red Rock State Park, and Valley of Fire State Park. American friends, you really have it together in the park department.

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We hiked, we clamboured over rocks, we said “can you believe how beautiful this is” about seventy thousand times.

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“Look where we are!” we said, and “Holy Cats, do you see that?” and “Oh man, that is stunning.”

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It was so completely different from home, so amazingly unlike anything we’ve ever hiked before, and I was so taken with it that I was pretty much able to ignore the fact that the whole place is full of tarantulas. (Not kidding. It’s practically where the stockpile is. We didn’t see one, but I could feel them watching me.) It’s a miracle we didn’t drive off the road or otherwise die of the awesome beauty. I don’t know what mother nature was thinking when she made that part of the world, but it was a good day for her.

We’d never seen anything like it, and we only saw a little of it. We’d go back in a heartbeat. When we were done there (not done, but when it was time to go, I’d never be done there) Joe flew home, I flew to San Francisco for a visit with a dear friend, and now off to Portland and The Dalles. It will be just about three weeks in the States by the time I leave, and as lovely as it’s been, and as much really good lemonade as I managed to make from lemons, the idea of my own bed and my own sweet family has me delirious with joy.

*That is a lie. I started the post in the lounge but I ran out of time to do the pictures. This post has actually come to you from The Dalles. Also, I finished a Toolbox Cowl and just have to weave in the ends.

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You are now fully updated.

**Though it almost never happens for the November Retreat, we’ve got two last minute spots free. (Actually, we have two hotel rooms free, and one of them is shareable if you wanted to come with a friend.) We can give you more info by email at info@strungalong.ca. We’d love to see you there.

Plus

I don’t remember how old I was when I found out where babies come from. I remember I had a book called “How babies are made” and I remember poring over it when I was little, flabbergasted and astonished that this was the actual nature of the thing, but I don’t remember a specific moment when I found out. My Mum, on the other hand – recalls that when my grandmother explained it to her in proper detail she went  into her room and sobbed, because she figured that if her mum had to make up such a totally insane story about how babies got started, then the truth must be too horrible to imagine. (For the record, she had been told the truth.)

While I’ve got no real memory (beyond that weird book) of learning that stuff, I remember being a young woman and finding out about where my eggs came from, and being so stunned I could hardly get my head around it, and the most amazing thing is that since I found out I’ve told lots of people, and most of them were surprised too.  I don’t know why this piece of information isn’t considered required learning, but get this: When a woman gives birth to a daughter, that daughter is born with a couple of million immature ovarian follicles called primordial follicles.  Each of these follicles contains an oocyte (pronounced “oh-eh-site”) and that’s the fancy name for a whole, intact, immature egg.  From that moment forward, thousands of these follicles die off until puberty, and then about a thousand a month die with every cycle. (If the word “die” bothers you, you can call it by its proper name – atresia.) Of these thousand that die each month, one will be recruited (actual word) mature, and be used in that woman’s cycle during ovulation.

This means that when you are pregnant with a girl, your body makes all the eggs that she’ll have in her whole life. Your body is all “Spleen – check, four chambers for the heart- good job, ligaments to support the liver – check… yes, yes, that’s a good length for the phalanges of the feet….. oh, and now let’s make the potential for the next generation of humans. Throw that in there. It will be nice to have it out of the way.”  The mother makes all the follicles that will be the root of her daughters fertility, and her health, age and nutrition all play a role in the quality and quantity her daughter is born with. (No pressure.)

This means that my mum made the egg that became her granddaughters when she grew me, and twenty six years ago, when Meg was within me, the very egg that will become our grandchild grew at the same time. It has existed as long as she has – and now thanks to the contribution of another single cell…

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Megan is growing her grandchildren.

I’m just so glad I ate well.