Are you sure we are friends?

That’s what I thought when Norma gave me this yarn.


It was a profoundly confusing moment. On the one hand, here we have someone I like giving me yarn. Yarn giving is (at least in my world) a special show of affection and an excellent hint about the sort of person you are dealing with. Someone cannot be a bad person and be giving you yarn. It’s not possible, it doesn’t make any sense. When it comes to yarn related behavior I am a predictable simpleton. If you are giving me yarn, then we are friends.

On the other hand, she was giving me Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I love this yarn, but it drives me to distraction. Feeling the way that I do about flashing and pooling, yarn dyed in very regular intervals can drive me around the bend, leaving me a few jalapenos short of a zippy salsa, if you catch my meaning.


The trouble is that yarn dyed in regular intervals DOES things at regular intervals, and it’s a complete crap shoot about what that might be. Alison got Shazaam lightning bolts. Sheila got beautiful swoops. Me? Blotches.


I can forgive a yarn many things, but not blotches. The offending yarn was stolen out of my car stuffed in the back of the linen closet in a fit of frustration, though I have many times considered sacrificing it down by the old river under a willow tree and a full moon in an attempt to ward off future variegation insurgencies.

When Norma gave me more yarn that will not obey my will, I was perplexed. Here we have Norma doing something I love, giving me yarn in colours I adore, at the same time as she’s clearly trying to drive me berserk.

I could see what was going to happen laid out in front of me like a vision. I would have to knit the yarn, because Norma gave it to me, and she would be eager to see it knit up because it was such a generous gift and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Then, despite all my best efforts the yarn is going to blotch or flash or do something incredibly unattractive, because I am me and I covet Lorna’s Laces and so it must vex me, and then I’m going to do something horrible that will make Norma hate me, something like complain on the blog, or, in my desperation to get out of knitting blotchy socks without hurting her feelings….. be reduced to lies about a large bird.

That’s it…a really big bird. I was sitting in the back yard, knitting on the socks (which I really loved because suddenly I was all about the blotchiness) drinking coffee and really reflecting with fondness on Norma and all she does for me, when suddenly, a shadow fell across me. Startled, I looked up and horror swept over me as I saw an enormous bird (freakishly large really) careening out of the sky with wings as wide as a trailer, eyes as red as blood and a dark evil soul that read like murder.

I ducked, instinctively covering my head with my sock holding arm to protect my eyes when it hits me…..I must save the sock yarn Norma gave me. I twisted then, arcing my yarn holding hand away from my head toward the ground and safety. As I did, the mammoth raptor snatched the back of my sweater (which really gets me mad, since it’s an aran.) and suddenly lifted me from my feet. As I was rising through the air toward the clouds and certain death, I panicked and in a terribly moment I will regret for all of my life, I did something that I will always remember with shock.

I wound the yarn, Norma’s precious special gift to me, around the birds talonous leg and lowered myself to safety, defending myself with my DPNs and my upper body strength. Which totally explained why I still have my favourite super sharp sock needles, but sadly, the blotching sock yarn is lost to me…lamentably carried away …having saved my life.

Right after I tell Norma this, Norma is absolutely going to tell her blog about it. Someone is going to be a bird expert and they are going to be all “Hey Norma…I don’t want to stir up any trouble between you and Steph, but really, for the sake of accuracy, the biggest bird in Toronto is a stupid pigeon.” Norma is going to know then that I couldn’t take the Lorna’s Laces heat and she’ll know its a lie and that will be it.

We won’t be friends anymore.

I could see all that stretched out in front of me when Norma handed me the Lorna’s Laces, and I took it…sort of choked up because it was so beautiful and it looked so innocent and it was going to ruin everything and there was nothing I could do. I brought it home and then yesterday I got to thinking that I might as well get it over with. The only thing worse than these socks ruining our friendship is having Norma bug the hell out of me for 6 months beforehand, so I dejectedly cast them on, wondering to myself how many rows it would be before the blotching would be so bad that the bird would arrive. I knit around and around…each stitch bringing me one step closer to the moment that it was sealed…feeling weepier with every round. Why me? Why had Norma done this? Was it innocent? Why couldn’t my Lorna’s laces be as beautiful as everybody elses? Why does yarn taunt me with it’s regular intervals and unattainable patterns? Why couldn’t I get swoops or stripes or…or…


Oh. Ahem. How embarrassing. Never mind.

PS. Thanks for the sock yarn Norma.

74 thoughts on “Are you sure we are friends?

  1. Fucksake, Rosanne Rosannadanna Pearl-McPhee, you really had me going for a while there. I have tears in my eyes from the laughter. May the giant raptor stay away through the finishing of the FOOT…AND the second sock, so we won’t have to sever our ties completely. (no Lorna’s Laces pun intended)
    I do believe, on another note, that this particular sock pattern is THE magic one for making variegated yarns behave. Isn’t that amazing??

  2. I’m just hysterical over the bird, one of those things, I suppose. Perhaps the other Lorna’s Lace could be retrained by the same pattern as Norma’s choice? Just a thought.

  3. Oh my. That was hilarious! But boy oh boy, I’m going to be looking over my shoulder at every pigeon I see from now on . . . the yarn and its resulting socks looks just fabulous . . . Wow, that “blotching” came out great.

  4. My baby was fussing for more apple, but I just HAD to finish the story about the big birg and the yarn. Fabulous! Love it. Beautiful yarn! : )

  5. I also have blotch issues but never giant raptor issues yet. I have found the Crusoe pattern works well for breaking up the nastiness, but I have had to do the pattern with more stiches than called for to make it fit over a normal person’s ankle.

  6. You just crack me the hell up. You really do. And the socks are gorgeous. I’m actually a little jealous. Can’t wait to see the finished product (even if there’s only one)!

  7. you are just too funny (wait…is it possible to be TOO funny? hmmmm). thank you for the great laugh. that sock is just beautiful.

  8. Love, love, LOVE reading your writing – its the timing and the adjectives for me – “the biggest bird in Toronto is a stupid pigeon” scored diet pepsi all over the laptop screen!
    Any chance you’ll reveal the name of the Lorna’s Laces taming sock pattern?

  9. I think that this was all part of Norma’s grand plan when she bestowed the yarn on you. She not only wanted to give you beautiful yarn (knowing full well that it would not pool, flash, blotch, etc.) she was aware of the furor it would cause you. She knew, as part of the plan, that it would make for great blogging material, thus sending all us readers into a fit of laughter, making our day. In the end, Steph knits up beautiful socks, keeps her friendship with Norma, and does not have to sacrifice delightful yarn to giant Canadian raptors, all the while giving the blog world a good chuckle. All part of the plan.
    Right, Norma?

  10. Stephanie you always make my day. Thanks so much for the “Raptor” story…
    ps. Your book was a fabulous success as a gift to my Mum. Keep ’em coming!

  11. Very funny. Actually, I think the biggest bird in Toronto is probably the Canada Goose (or are they just hanging out in gangs out here in the burbs?). I guarantee those suckers are vicious enough that your story might just be valid. Don’t mess with ’em.
    P.S. Aren’t you glad you went with Option A – it’s a really, really pretty sock.

  12. I’ve learned my lesson over the past year or so. It’s just best to trust Norma. Norma knows best.
    (Which would be infuriating if she didn’t also give the very best hugs.)
    And I really didn’t need more sockly distractions, but between you and Cassie, dammit, now I need some feather and fan socks. Gah.

  13. Very funny story. I discovered your blog a month ago and naturally started at the very beginning. I caught up to you as of last night. It’s been a wild ride.

  14. Steph…the Lorna’s Laces sock is beautiful! I, too, secretly covet Lorna’s Laces and am contemplating a stash-enhancement purchase for a super-secret project that HWSRN must not know about!

  15. Steph.. you are the Anne Shirley of knitting! Heheh
    How’s that for a Canadian Compliment!
    Now now! Be nice.. Lorna is my mentor!! She is the one who got me reccomended for my patern bookbookbook deal!
    So cherish the loverly yarn from her former company!! And uh.. make those socks for a size 6 and send them to Ohio!!

  16. No no no… thank *you* for the sock yarn.
    Heh.. sock yarn… pun intended. At least I amuse myself. You amuse so many. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I believe that American Turkey Vultures have begun to migrate to Canada. Not that you would ever need that excuse or anything, I’m just sayin’ that the pigeons may not be the only birds in the sky. *ahem* Guard your knitting

  18. I was cleaning my house last week (shocking, I know) and I found a little piece of gorgeous yarn on my floor.
    Hmm. Looks like koigu, but I don’t have any in those colors. Hmm – oh right, that must be from Cassie’s feather and fan socks. And I tucked it carefully away because, after all, it is a 6-inch piece of koigu and I can’t throw. it. away.
    And now I realize I have a piece of one of your socks in my yarn closet and I don’t known why but that seems terribly, terribly odd.
    And as for the LL – have your considered perhaps one of their semi-solid colors? It might be less upsetting for you to get started that way.
    And apparently the feather and fan pattern is the secret to sock happiness. They look wonderful.

  19. That Norma’s a pretty great friend. Beautiful yarn for a beautiful sock. Thanks for the great story and it’s kind of comforting to know that even the great knitters amongst us have doubts and issues from time to time.

  20. wow, THE solution for self-organizing sock yarn (you know, if patterns appear for no apparent reason, but thats only because you just dont know what triggers the pattern formation…). But now I can stop thinking about where to get this incredible pattern. The yarn is just beautiful…

  21. … use the preview button….
    substitute: can for definitely CAN NOT stop….

  22. my my my!! At first you had me goin there.. What lovely colors of lornas laces.. Love them!
    Your way to funny!! Great socks too!

  23. After all that, I think I’m going to lie down.
    I already AM lying down. Oh dear.
    Which pattern is it that tames variegation? That would be a useful pearl of wisdom.

  24. That sock top came from that blob of strangely coloured yarn?
    Great story. Hard for me to explain chortling (sp) at the office though.
    Now can you (a Canadian) tell me why you’re not coming to the west coast of Canada. But you will be gracing the west coast of the states. Whywhywhy???

  25. I think Cassie should get the credit..she KNOWS a great sock when she sees one. Norma most likely meant to make you crazy…what are freinds for. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Huh that must be a magic pattern. I may have to unearth the lorna’s I have hidden away so it could no longer taunt me.

  27. Notice the sock yarn waited until *after* you came up with that elaborite story to behave decently. Sometimes all you need is a good threat.

  28. Oh, pretty pretty. I love those colors too. I am thinking about wanting that pattern (between you and Cassie I can feel myself being sucked back into sock knitting). I need more yarn.

  29. The socks look beautiful (and I especially like how the white vees in the center bottom ripple look like little hearts-the socks obviously love you too!) If you ever do have a sock that doesn’t behave as well, I have a rather large falcon/hawk/raptor-type bird that occasionally hunts squirrels in the field behind my house and bald eagles that nest along the Hudson River nearby. Not that I believe you would ever purposely subject yarn to a possible random raptor snatching or anything….

  30. Lorna’s Laces is also tamed by the Branching Out scarf, in case anyone doesn’t do socks..very nice gift. Norma can be my friend, too.

  31. Hey, Harlot, where did your links list go? You know the one that listed all the people whose blogs I didn’t bookmark because I always hit yours first anyway?

  32. I am jelous of those who can get weird verigated yarns to pool and puddle and all that. I think I cried when you gave up on the doublin bay sock.

  33. Now through all that I’m thinking — knit the feather and fan socks! Feather and fan is so much gentler with the variegation… And you did. Lovely.

  34. Oh my gosh, I may just have to hop the next large bird that flys by, come up to Toronto and help you get rid of that horrid yarn! No really, I would be glad to help you out of this prediciment.
    Hehe, you have to let go of the socks if you want this to work. *tug* Ah, please? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Simply gorgeous. Your friend is not only kind, but wise.

  35. And here I was about to persist in your delusion that the Lorna’s Laces yarn was going to drive you to something unspeakable and suggest you send me that nasty hank of yarn for me to exorcise it from (er for) you. But alas, you’ve already discovered the secret of the yarn. Beautiful sock.

  36. That is the most beautiful patterning of sock yarn I have ever seen. That’s the Broadripple pattern, from Knitty, right?

  37. completely beautiful. is that the feather and fan patter from socks socks socks? i haven’t tried it yet.
    marie in florida
    bad bird ! bad bird….go away you nasty overgrown piegon
    if it’s broadripple from knitty i’ll try it, i have some opal tiger stashed away and everytime i see it on ebay for 25 dollars or more, i gloat.

  38. Bee-joo-tee-fool! I love how the colors are behaving for you.
    I have two skeins of that same colorway in the bulky and worsted weights. A hat and scarf are in their future.
    W. ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Okay that’s it! I’m casting on for a pair of LL Broadripple socks when I get home tonight. They arent the exact same pattern that you used, but it’s close enough damnit. I love those socks!

  40. A totally great story that you now owe to Norma, along with debts of gratitude for the yarn. Good thing she pushed you out of your comfort zone so we would all get a very entertaining read and some pretty knitting to swoon over.

  41. I would say this proves that Lorna’s Laces can be tamed, but it was just the luck of the draw huh? I almost picked some up today actually, but I just couldn’t. The blotches would’ve happened to me too

  42. Damn! How’d you do that? Is that the same yarn? I have some LL stashed and I am pulling it out right now! I’ll see if it attracts raptors in Te_.. oh, that big state down south.

  43. What fortune! What good luck! Just when I thought I could possibly swindle that yarn out of you it BEHAVES!!!!!!! only causing me to want it all the more. I’m off to nag Norma about where she got it. I love.Those.Socks.

  44. Ooooh, I sooo almost bought some of that LL at MD S & W- now I have to go find some! Funny, right as I started reading this fall-out-of-my-chair- hilarious story, a vulture perched himself precariously on a tree outside my window- I wonder if I closed the car window, there is a variegated sock-in-progress…
    Thanks for the much needed laughs!

  45. Wow! You certainly turned that lemon into lemonade! Good on ya! That is a fine-looking sock.

  46. That was a lovely piece of writing. My son (now 11) and I were talking about writing this morning. He was reading a book and was upset by how uninvolved the parents in the book were by the children’s missing dog. My take was that the book was about the children and the dog, and the writer had not wanted the parents to be important right then, and had not intended that he be distracted from the story by that. We had a great discussion of writer’s intent, and being thrown out of a storyline by a misstep on the writer’s part, and the idea of suspension of disbelief. I then read him your post and he loved it. Nice flow, very funny! I wonder if it’s hard for you to do or it comes naturally? It also scans well when read aloud. ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. That sock is AWESOME!!! What pattern did you finally find to make the yarn “behave” so well??? The rest of us Lorna’s Laces fans are DESPERATE to know!!! Do tell!

  48. You’re scaring me, Steph! Are you sure it wasn’t a pterosaur? I got menaced by one of them. Even go the pic to prove it! LOL
    I hope my new sassy stripe LL turn out as well as your colourway has!

  49. Wow! I am inspired by the socky goodness. Just when I was starting to be discouraged by my current SIP (not even varigated yarn!) I am inspired to finish it so I can attempt this beauty!

  50. I got Lorna’s Laces in Mardi Gras colorway. Dark green, yellow and purple. When I knit it up, I had a sock in which on side was green and the other side was yellow and purple stripes.
    Frog, frog, frog…

  51. breathe… must remember to breathe while laughing. Stephanie, could I get an option on the “Yarn Harlot” movie rights? Something along “Romancing the Stone” meets the “Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival,” meets “Jurrasic Park.” Our heroine travels the world knitting madly and saving the world one sock at a time. While fighting off big (freakishly large really) birds and uncooperative varigated yarn.
    Think we might find an audience?

  52. They have very big birds west of you, right? Or why would they have called those mountains the Canadian ROCkies?

  53. I am SO glad I’ve learned not to be drinking anything while reading your posts, I’m getting tired of cleaning my screen…lol.
    Flying Raptors. I think we’d better add that to the list of Canadiana eh? ahhh…there’s no place like home.
    The sock is looking lovely, I wonder if your previous LL colourway would do the same in this sock pattern?

  54. In the middle of knitting socks using Brown Sheep’s handpainted Wildfoote (much nicer yarn than the regular Wildfoote, by the way). One skein for each sock, same dyelot — one has a beautiful scattering of the wild red and purples in the colorway, the other… splotches.

  55. There’s a very nice article about Steph and BookBookBook in the “Style” section (go figger!) of the Ottawa Citizen today. Great to see the Harlotty goodness spreading around!

  56. OOOHHH, JEEESH LOUISE!!! please tell us what that pattern is!!! S.O.S….save our sanity! ๐Ÿ™‚

  57. ROFLMAO!!!!
    You do have an amazing way with words and stories, i’m in tears here! Thanks for the good laugh!!
    Both photos posted in your post are perfectly lovely, no matter what you may think. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I started re-teaching myself to knit last evening due to many bloggers who’ve inspired me to set the crochet hooks away for a while. I’m newly obsessed! I’m 26 rows into stockinette on 1 of 2 rectangles for a poncho for my niece and am having a marvelous time! Taught myself how to purl last night, i’d known how to knit since i was about 8. I’m feeling quite proud and accomplished today.
    Your socks are all so wonderful and i’m dying to try a pair…oh where to begin?!! thanks for the inspiration!

  58. GOOD LORD! I spent 6 hours at the softball field today in the sun – it took me a while this morning to realize what that incredibly bright light was in the sky, since it has been absent for so long – with the sun came warmth, lovely soothing warmth ….. dust, bees, mosquitos etc. etc. NO flying raptors, and now I know why – they were with you! roflmao THANK YOU MS. HARLOT a laught was just what was needed tonight! The socks are wonderful and your humor is as well!

  59. Well, we know the giant bird can’t be a Canadian goose, because they all live in DC year-round now in a secret Canadian plot to destroy the US government by burying it in goose poop. Which is a decent plan, really, and should be embraced by all right-thinking Norteamericanos with no sense of smell. But Canada has fearsome things like moose and bears and… sasquatches… and.. um…. stuff. So there COULD be giant yarn-snatching pterodactyls. I’m just sayin’.

  60. Please can I put another plug in for your Harlotness to come to Nova Scotia? And also so we Nova Scotians can make plans to welcome you both – on different days!
    I just saw this on the Gaspereau Valley Fibres website:
    “We’ve confirmed that Cat Bordhi, who wrote a Treasury of Magical Knitting, is coming to Gaspereau Valley Fibres on August 30th and 31st. She will explore with workshop participants the world of Moebius knitting. Details are being worked out as I type, if you would like to be informed of the workshop outline, price and other fine points please email me at

  61. I second Janey’s motion to have the Yarn Harlot come to Nova Scotia! We’d love to have you down for a visit in the Valley. You can visit family and friends, pop into Halifax, drive down the Valley, hang out at GVF, we’ll take good care of you, and I’m sure there are a couple of people in the area who might come to join the party…
    Julie Rosvall
    Gaspereau Valley Fibres
    Wolfville, NS (where we now have 20m x 40m of canola and sunflowers planted in my field for biodiesel education. The Maritime Biodiesel Co-op didn’t use the whole space we prepared, so 20m x 40m of flax is going in this week, hope it grows, the seed is old, but the ground it tilled, so might as well try.)

Comments are closed.