Boys of summer

Many thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday! I think I thanked all of you…if there was anyone I missed, know that I was beyond grateful for your comments and well wishes. (Mum was flattered that you all liked her guest blog, but please, for the sake of the family, don’t encourage her.) I had a beautiful day yesterday with friends, family, knitting and cake.

The Hankman blew out my candles.


(Hank really likes blowing out candles)

And I was lucky enough to have my party attended not just by one Spiderman, but two.


Hank and Leo are seen here assuming the position, which includes full on “webslinger fingers”. Leo is more conservative, but still ready. He is more subtle about his webslinging intentions. Leo and Hank were instant friends (what with being able to identify each other, thanks to the uniform.) and when they parted at the end of the evening, it was enough to tear up a seasoned Marine.

As the car pulled out of the lane, a tearful Hank called out to a frantically waving Leo “Good bye Leo….I love you!”

Leo’s Mum Teresa is also the mother of the Snowdrop (remember her?)


seen here just a few months ago. (Don’t you just want to squeeze her?) Teresa is making me a new baby. I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I’m suddenly in a hurry to finish Birch.


There’s a wicked crop of babies breaking out around here, one in very short order…and I’d better be moving along. I designed a shawl to wrap the Snowdrop in when she was born, and I’ll start thinking on something for this new baby. I’ve got until early November for that one. No trouble.

The other baby however, will be along in just a few weeks, and I know he’s a boy. I’m perplexed about what to make him. I’m having trouble thinking of an appropriate gift for a baby who will be born at a time of year when knitted wear seems cruel.

I suppose I have two choices.

1. Ignore the time of year, knit the wee beastie an heirloom and don’t worry about it. Winter comes, air-conditioning is overly enthusiastic from time to time and the thought is better than the reality anyway. A beautiful layette or blanket lasts forever, and the fact that it won’t see much action in the first weeks of his life doesn’t matter. (I don’t know about this one. I think I could get over it with a blanket, since he won’t outgrow a blanket….but a layette might be seriously stupid. What’s the point of lovely lacy woollies that are on the kid once for the requisite picture? I feel bad about that anyway, I mean…no baby needs to be roasted for my thank you note.)

2. Figure something else out. Given that I don’t like to knit cotton, (though to be fair, I haven’t knit with *all* cottons) it would have to be an interesting something though. Suggestions?

What do you knit a summer baby boy?

Happy Me!

It is a Rule written in the book of Stephanie that I do not work on my Birthday. Thusly, today is a day off


that will look like this.

Last year on my Birthday Ken guest blogged. This year, my mother emailed me the following, which makes her this years guest blogger. (If you are an Andersen reading this, then you can save your breath. I know doing something twice makes it a tradition.)

Hello Dear:

I thought you might like a top ten list that you didn’t write, so people

could get the real skinny on ya!

1. She is a kind, loyal, generous and giving person, even when she’s not Harloting, or knitting. (I think these are different, at least some of the time, aren’t they?).

2. She is a wonderful mother, daughter, aunt, niece, sister, partner and friend. AND she’s easy to please, which may be her greatest gift.

3. Damn, she’s funny. And that wicked genetic mouth!

4. I have never seen the Harlot panic. Well, okay, almost never. Rarely, then. Absolutely almost never twice in the same day. Totally never twice in the same day about the same thing. Except if there is a knitting deadline, like Christmas Eve, or a birthday, or something cataclysmic like that. Or a writing deadline. Or spiders. Or when those girls of hers drive her to it. The point is, she is in no way a drama queen. (see previous exceptions)

5. She has a most sunny and optimistic nature (see exception above), never holds a grudge, and returns to her sunny self faster than a speeding bullet, even whilst the on-lookers still have their hair straight-on-end from the blast.

5. She makes her family and friends the most wonderful gifts…beautiful, thoughtful, intricate gifts, that are always worth the wait for the second half, or the initial delivery.

6. She has big, gorgeous, curly hair, just like absolutely nobody else in the family. We love it. Even when it’s muggy and bigger than a VW.

7. She is a multi-talented and competent woman, and we are proud of her. As a writer, advocate, knitter, spinner, cook, gardener, seamstress, handy-person, appliance-fixer, carpenter, gingerbread maker. You name it, she can do it, or she will get a book from the library and you’ll never find out she didn’t know how.

8. She is a sorcerer, who can very nearly make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. She can make a dollar scream for mercy, and turn a very few dollars into an exquisite present, an unbelievable kid’s birthday party, the best costume ever, a garden, a piece of furniture, a funky room…whatever. And all the while, she’ll never even once think to wish she had more money to make things easier.

9. She will find the good in almost anything or anyone and she works like a Trojan. We’re not crazy about slackers around here, and Stephanie leads the way.

10.She can talk the ear off anyone, and has had that capability since the age of 18 months. And very nearly all of it makes sense, at least at the time.

Happy birthday, Stephanie. Harlot on!!!!!!

Love, Mum

Happy Birthday Mum!

The Birthday Parade continues over here at Chez Harlot, with today being the birthday of our esteemed Matriarch.


Mum is seen here wearing her brand spanking new Silk Vee, which fits and looks lovely on her. (You didn’t really think that I was giving up on knitting Birch because it was hot, did you? I mean, c’mon, I laugh in the face of heat, I embrace air so thick you can see it, I mock humidex temperatures of 36/97. I care nothing that my hair is the size of a VW bus and I can scarcely knit for the enormous shadow that my freakishly frizzy hair throws across my work…I, I…Okay. It’s a little warmish. I’m knitting mohair anyway. I thrive on adversity.)

Kindly ignore my Uncle Tupper lurking in the above photo. We have a problem taking good pictures of Mum. She looks lovely for about 2 seconds, then looses patience and looks away or talks. Really, the talking is the problem. Luckily, Tupp has been her brother long enough to know how to handle this McPhee trait.


That’s really what it takes.

The top 10 reasons you should wish my Mum a Happy Birthday.

(Yeah…I know. Same format as for Ian. It’s hot.)

10. The Silk Vee fits. (Ok, that’s not really about her, but I’m really happy anyway.)

9. Mum is looking for her lost keys. I can write this in the present tense because I know that wherever she is and whatever she’s doing right this minute, if we asked her for her keys we would be waiting a while.

8. Mum could run a country and never have unrest. She’s the best mediator in the world, empathetic, respectful, honest and assertive.

7. There is no point in arguing with my mother. (See above.)

6. I have never seen my mother panic. Not once, and you have no idea what we’ve put her through. (Scroll down to point #2 from Ian’s birthday, then use your imagination, then know that you are underestimating us.)

5. Mum makes a wicked ice cream float. (Oddly, I didn’t know this until she was a grandmother. Funny that.)

4. Mum had 4 kids in 5 years, then raised us first while being hampered by a spouse with divergent goals, then on her own when he…er….”moved on”. While she did this, she also got a degree from University and worked full-time to pay for the costs of the aforementioned 4 kids. Plus she did laundry. (If you are a mother of little ones, please know that the sharp intake of breath and then the low whistle that escaped you is normal and a healthy sign of respect for how totally tough that must have been).

3. She makes good cake, doesn’t knit and somehow leads a full rich life anyway.

2. Damn she’s funny.

1. She taught me about being practical, about being decent and about working hard. She also taught me how to write an essay, why you wash towels alone and what you do about slugs in the garden. Mum showed me that you can do absolutely anything if you can get a book from the library that shows how and that women are…well. I feel proud to be one. Mum also taught me manners, that you can’t have too much bleach, and that it ain’t a party ’till everybody’s dancing.

Happy Birthday Mum. Hope you still have pie.

Happy Birthday Ian

10 reasons to wish my little brother a Happy Birthday.

10. He will let me take Birthday blog pictures. (Even though it is really pretty clear from this photo that this irritates him to no end.)


9. He picked a really nice wife. Ali is sweeter than pie. I will always be grateful to him for deciding to pledge his life to someone you actually want to see.

8. Ian shaves his head at random intervals. Like today.

7. Ian’s cell phone ring is a chicken noise.

6. Ian worships at the altar of the felted clog, being the biggest fan of the noble footwear since the dawn of time. He thinks everybody who can knit them is pretty smart too…

5. He gardens and is a marvelous cook.

4. Ian has travelled all over the world, months in Europe, Africa…India. This means that he speacks 14 words of almost every language on earth …and it means that he is an invaluable member of the McPhee family crossword team. (6 letter word – smallest of the African mainland states? Gambia. See? Ian would know that. He would also know that the guy who ran the hotel in Banjul, (the capitol of Gambia) had a sister who got married when she was 22. Ian really gets to know people.)

3. Ian is one of the hardest workers I have ever met.

2. Ian loves to set fire to things. (Mostly in his adult life, this is not a problem.)

1. Ian is (as Hank would say) “a pretty nice guy. He could be Spiderman.”

Happy Birthday Dude.

I’m off to Columbus to sign books at TNNA, see you Monday.


I’ve finished the front of the Silk Vee


or have I? I have sneaking suspicions that this Vee is plotting a revolt. My feelings of unease started last night, when I finished the front and thought…


Doesn’t that vee look a little shallow to you? See the distance from shoulder to armpit? That’s only 7″ and the vee is only 6″. Doesn’t that seem short? (Am I the only one thinking that it’s possible that the thing stopping this from being a vision of elegance may be that your arms turn blue while you wear it, due to the circulation being cut off by the 7″ armholes? Am I the only one worrying that it’s pretty enough that I would wear it anyway?)

The instructions say that you should knit until the whole she-bang measures 20″. I’ve done that. It also says that it will block to 24″ in length when I wash it, which would make it long enough. What are the chances though, that enough of the 4″ will make it into the straps to make them long enough? It seems like an enormous risk…What you think? Can I expect distance? How long should the straps be to avoid amputation?

I haven’t cast off. I await input. Maybe I should wash it before seaming up….

In other news, the sock and I had a great time at Knit Wits (a very charming shop) in Greensburg PA.

We hobnobbed with the local knitters.


We met Harriet


who bought the book at an Air Force Base in TURKEY. (This impressed the sock to no end. Imaging my humble home dwelling book, written in this messy living room (by a knitter who gets lost on the way to the bathroom ) finding it’s way to TURKEY. Who knew?

Remember the underbed storage bins that wouldn’t fit under the bed? Remember how every American told me to go to “Bed, Bath & Beyond” to get mysterious “bed risers” to put under my bed? After receiving your sage council I phoned around. Not only does Canada apparently not have “Bed, Bath & Beyond”, every shop that seemed like it would be like it answered my question about “bed risers” by saying “You want to do what with your bed?” Apparently “bed risers” (even if you call them “bed lifts”) are in short supply in Canada. Imagine the thrill that the sock and I felt then, when we were driving through Pittsburgh and saw this.


I ran through the store like a woman on fire, practically dancing when I set eyes on the fabled “bed risers”. They are mine.

(My apologies to the driver of the car, who clearly felt that anyone who could be excited enough about this store to leap from the car and take a picture of it was likely unhinged, and definitely excitable.) My bed will be higher shortly.

Too hot to handle

It’s hot. It’s too hot to knit Birch. I want to knit Birch, I love knitting Birch, but I’m here to tell you that Kid Silk Haze is the wrong thing for hot, sticky weather. I realized this yesterday afternoon when I noticed that my gauge had changed and the shawl had taken a turn for the tiny, because my sticky hands weren’t letting the fine, fuzzy yarn slide on my fingers. Since Casa de Harlot has no air conditioning, I was a little put out. I don’t have anything against hot weather, in fact…I really like it. The way I see it you are destined for misery if you live in Toronto and hate the cold and hate the hot. Toronto is a city of extremes. All winter long (What’s that joke I kept hearing south of the border? Canada has 9 months of winter and 3 months where the skiing is a little off.”) and the winter is admittedly long, I hear “It’s so cold, it’s too cold, I can’t wait for summer.” then the minute that summer arrives and it’s 30 degrees (86 for my American friends) plus staggering humidity, you start to hear the opposite. “It’s so hot, it’s too hot….”.

I say pick one….hate it more.

Me, I hate the winter. Loathe it. I hate that you need a big plan to go to the corner. I hate shovelling snow. I hate that if you lock yourself out of the house you could die before you have a new plan. In as much as winter is really glory days for the knitter…I could do with a little less. Therefore, I have made the carefully considered decision to hate winter more, and not say one little word about the heat, except as it pertains to Kid Silk Haze, which is clearly a cool weather yarn.

Lucky for me, Lettuce Knit had a brand spanking new delivery of this.


HandMaiden yarns (the HandMaiden is the daughter of my most sacred Fleece Artist) is producing a new line of yarns. This skein is enough to make a totally snazzy vee neck tank, in cool, slidey silk. (I understand that my decision to dump the beautiful and much coveted Birch for the first fancy-arsed yarn that waggles down the yarn shop isle at me makes me a fickle, fickle knitter. I’m ok with that, I switched teams as fast as I could wash off the cloud of mohair stuck to me. )


Considering that the sock is fine upstanding Canadian wool, I’m surprised that it’s hot weather instincts are so good.


A shady corner of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, resting before doing this…


The Rosie’s Yarn Cellar gang shows me their knitting. (Note: Rosie’s does not have spectacular stained glass. Due to the tiny size of the shop, we met in a synagogue down the street, though if this really was a yarn shop, I would live there full time. ) Philadelphia is a beautiful city, and very, very different from Toronto. The narrow streets and architecture remind me more of Europe or Vieux Quebec and the sock and I were wildly charmed.


I leave you with this picture. Look closely. This is a group of knitters gathered together at “The Black Sheep” pub in Philly, enjoying knitting, beer each other’s company and Juno’s story about her birthday yarn. See the looks on their faces? The shock? The glee? The desperate, wild-eyed, excitement of knitters who understand her urges and wish they had her nerve?

This my knitterly friends, is the exact moment that Juno told them that on her birthday she had called Virtual Yarns to buy herself a sample card, a wee giftie to herself, and on discovering that they were all out, had done the only thing that a drunk knitter on a birthday high in desperate need of a yarn reference could do.

She ordered one skein of every possible colour.

Atta’ girl.


The sock and I left Pittsburgh (which we actually thought was very pretty. I mean, you don’t think “pretty” when you hear “steeltown”, but it’s been 30 years since Pittsburgh had steel and the city is lush, green and filled with rivers and bridges.) and headed for home.

We couldn’t stop looking for home.


We were ecstatic to find it (and may have cracked a nice cold Canadian beer to celebrate).


This trip is remarkable in many ways. For the first time, I think I managed. It’s not that I don’t know how to travel (well, maybe it is) but I’ve always travelled with family. Joe knows half of the stuff and I know half of the stuff and when I need to know all of the stuff by myself….let’s just say I have a new respect for Joe’s half of the stuff.

(One of the Joe’s things is luggage. I have to tell you that after slogging an enormous suitcase, the Remote Blogging System and my backpack through several airports that I have a new and grateful attitude toward this extraordinary contribution.) Knowing and doing all the stuff all the time is exhausting. Also remarkable is that this is the first leg of the tour where all parties concerned feel like they coped. Joe and the girls got on really well, totally getting their groove together. Also pretty unique is that this is the first time that I have got home that Joe has not met me with flowers in the airport. I take this as an incredible sign, since he didn’t have time to get flowers because he was washing the kitchen floor instead. Joe may finally be catching on to the ideas behind the quote “No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.”

Finally, this trip is remarkable because the house is trashed, the laundry is mountainous, there is no food in the place…

and not one of us cares, not even a little bit. Not one. We are happy. We are together in our home, we are knitting Birch.


Oh wait…maybe that last one is just me.

The sock gets around

I’m beside myself, or near myself, or something. I’m so tired that I had to look at my birth certificate to be sure of my middle name today. It’s a sorry excuse for not blogging, but when I get back to the hotel room I keep falling asleep by accident. I have a few minutes here in the Pittsburgh Airport (Did you know Pittsburgh *is* Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood?) so I’ll tell you as much as I can before they call the flight. Here’s what I’ve been doing.

Wednesday Evening I was at home in Toronto for this…


That’s Sam playing the french horn. (She’s really quite good.)


That’s the sock figuring out how long the concert is. (It is important to use the schedule to work this out. It is impossible to properly judge the length of a school concert since they warp the time space continuum.) Wednesday evening was the last normal moment I remember.

Thursday afternoon:


The sock at Habu Textiles in New York City. Note the change in my location, Toronto – New York. (The sock loves Habu Textiles. It’s like the best buffet in the world. You pick what you want from the sample skeins on the wall and then a lady disappears into the back and comes back with your stuff. It’s like all you can eat for knitters. The sock suffered near fits when it realized that there was Shropshire laceweight to be had for about $1.37 per 307m. Cassie and I felt that the sock was not under-reacting, and we each now own….


a lot. Almost 3000m. I have conflicting feelings about this amount of yarn. I stood there in Habu trying to figure out if it was *too much*. During a weak moment I actually asked Cassie if she wanted to split one before we both came to our senses. At this price there was really no reason (except for that it’s an incredible amount of yarn) to not have it. 3000m for less than $12 pushes some kind of button for me. I see the price, the world goes a little black around the edges, I see flashing visions of enormous lace extravaganzas and next thing I know I’m on a NY sidewalk with 3000m of laceweight and a slightly dizzy feeling. I dare a laceknitter to go in there and come out without it. (The new laceweight is seen here reclining gracefully on the carpet in the hotel. I have a theory that there is only on carpet supply place for all hotels. It is almost eerily identical everywhere I’ve been.)


The sock saw The Empire State Building. I really love NY, it reminds me of Toronto, except that it is so iconic that you are stunned at every turn. You round a corner and think “Oh, I’ve been here” then realize that it’s really just that you have seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or that you watch way, way too much “Law and Order”. It’s a wonderful place. (I haven’t forgotton I owe you the pictures from the first NY event.)

Reeling from our score, Cassie and I headed off to The Yarn Connection, a charming little local where I got nothing, but did work some voodoo on Cassie to get her to buy Kid Silk Haze for Birch. (We were back in the hotel room before she knew what had happened. I’m that good.) On the way back to the hotel we were walking along when I realize that I recognize a lovely wee baby in the stroller out front. I was trying to figure out what episode of “Law and Order” she was in when it hits me…


It’s baby Jaime from CurlsandPurlsNYC! With her is her charming Mummy Elisabeth, who I didn’t recognize straight off, but that baby!

What a treat. (Lets try to overlook that knitbloggers are now roaming the streets in sufficent numbers to run into each other at random moments, and that I can recognize the daughter of a complete stranger at 10 paces, and that I made an innocent babe hold the sock. It was lovely.)

Whoops….there’s my flight. More when my feet are on the ground.

Goodbye Pittsburgh, it’s been a slice.

Whoa there…

I had today’s entry all ready to go when I noticed that Carrie had made a comment on yesterday’s entry that needed addressing.

There’s no point in pretending that this won’t cause some reaction, so I’m just going to meet it head on. We are all just going to deal with this like adults with respect for each other. (This will likely be hardest for me, since I’m not very adult on a good day, but let’s give it a try.)

Yesterday I wrote about the quilt code. Several people wrote to tell me that they felt it was folklore/legend/inaccurate.

Emmajane felt badly that this was being discounted and replied to those people.

Now, whatever happened after this, it is important to know that what Emma meant was that she has the perspective of someone who has visited the cairn and spoken to it’s creator…she did not mean to imply any race based perspective, and I don’t believe that she did.

She said she had a different perspective, and she does. We all do.

In response to this, Carrie clearly got her buttons pushed and wrote a strong reply. Firstly, I’m not going to ban her. I’ve had a few rules on this blog, and though I’ve never had to use them, since I really enjoy healthy debate, maybe now is a good time to let you all know what they are, right quick before this gets any bigger.

1. This blog is my virtual living room. Welcome. Please act as you would in my home.

2. The internet is made up of real people with real feelings that need respecting.

3. Everyone has a right to an opinion, even if it differs from mine. As long as you state your opinion without impinging on the right of another person to hold an opposite view and are respectful of them as people, you are fine.

This concept needs to be really clear, so I’ll give you an example.

Fine: I believe that my politics/ cats/ my straight needles are better than other politics/ hamsters/ circular needles and they are all I will ever, ever use or believe in.

Not Fine: I believe that my politics/ my cat /my straight needles are better than your politics/ your hamster/ your circular needles and if you don’t think so too, then you are stupid.

Back to the problem at hand. Carrie and Emmajane are illustrating for us a main drawback of the internet. The lack of interruption. If Carrie and Emmajane had begun this conversation on the phone or in my real living room, Carrie would have only got the first sentence out before Emmajane would have had a chance to say

“Holy crap, that’s *SO* not what I meant to imply!” and Carrie would have said,

“Oh, oh really? *That’s* what you meant? Oh, my….nevermind.”

Since they are both reasonable, intelligent people who seem to be able to communicate well enough to get through something like this, then they would have had a talk, possibly a debate about the quilt code and the evidence in both directions and agreed to disagree. Instead, well. We could be keeping score here.

Emmajane would have lost a point for not being perfectly clear (although really….I don’t know how I would feel about my score most days) and Carrie would have lost a point for reacting strongly without more information and clarification about Emmajane and her views.

That said, I do think that if Carrie re-reads Emmajane’s comment that she’ll realize that she may have picked up a little more steam than she intended and gotten off on a really good rip that might have been over the line. (We all know that I am exactly the sort of person this happens to, so I am sympathetic). Since these sorts of misunderstandings are common on the internet, and all it really takes to reel them back in is fresh perspective, I will hope that it ends here.

Finally, about the Quilt Code (who knew it was such a loaded topic?) all I will say is the following.

There are those who believe that the quilt code was not real. There are those who believe that it was. Since the continuation of humanity does not actually hinge on discovering the truth about this, I have made a simple choice. I chose, during my visit to the Black History Cairn in Owen Sound to respect the right of the Black Community there to tell their story the way that they believe it to be true. You may tell your history the way you believe it to be true as well.

I have a flight to New York tomorrow to begin the next leg of the bookbookbooktour and today will be spent getting ready, if by “getting ready” you understand that I mean “buying groceries that I will not eat” “cleaning a bathroom that I will not use” and “doing laundry I will not wear”. I have this idea that if I leave Team Harlot in good shape, when I come back the damage won’t be so astonishingly complete bad. At the best of times the house looks like it’s been ransacked by an army of drunken Roman Warriors, (after the pillaging, but before the burning) but when I come back it looks like I should contemplate an insurance claim.

Tomorrow’s flight takes me to New York for BEA, then Rosie’s Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia on Sunday from 2-4 and Knit-Wits Inc. in Greensburg PA on Monday from 5-7.

(Details…as always, are on the tour page, and also as always I am excited and flipped out. Is anybody free Saturday evening in Philadelphia? I am…. )

More about wool tomorrow, Play nice.