Not The Harlot

Pssst. Over here.

No, here. In the corner. That’s right. Hi.

I’m Rams. And I’m going to (no, Stephanie isn’t here right now) to ask you to cast your minds back (Soon. She’ll be back real soon.) to your babysitting days. (She went for a little bike ride, okay? And she’s going to bring back lots of nice…)

Now see here. Get a grip.

No, wait, my fault. The baby on Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” used to react to alternate caregivers (like his father) by shrilling “NOT the mama! NOT the mama! NOT the mama!” and anyone filling in for Stephanie’s got to anticipate a similar response.

As I see it, I have two choices, Imitation and Distraction (Uglification and Derision will be along in a minute.) On the one hand I could start adding “u” to any word ending in “or” in a valourous attempt to add local colour. I could allude to Rick Mercer’s blog, complain that the kids dripped poutine on the chesterfield, show no surprise that a “combo” at Tim Horton’s means “with coffee” and say “arse.” (Okay, that last wouldn’t be much of a strain.)

Or. There’s Choice B – Distraction. This is where the babysitter puts in the Thomas the Tank Engine tape, pulls out all the pots and pans to bang on and even starts sharing her Mint Milanos. Of course this is too transparent a technique to use with sophisticated adults. (LOOK! A baby panda!) Greater subtlety is required. For example:


Well, one incomplete sock isn’t going to do it, right? To simultaneously distract, suck up and impress/horrify you, I need to come up with spectacle. Now, granted I just finished teaching a sock knitting class and felt it was My Duty to have a sock at every possible stage of completion, just in case, um, you know, someone needed a demonstration of what came next. Still, that may not quite explain my compulsion to cast on every ball of sock yarn in the house and order


three new colorways (oops, colourways) of Blue Moon Socks That Rock.

(Actually, this feels more like the knitting equivalent of the Locking Yourself Out story, where everyone competes to prove they were even dumber than you were. I once had to burgle my own house because I had a pot of water boiling on the gas stove, but my friend Lynn left her locked car running in the teacher’s lot all day long and even returning to it after school just wondered why every car was covered with snow but hers. My boss, however, holds the current title, having stopped to check his country-road mailbox and locked himself out of his car which was running, in the road and nearly out of gas. Not enough? He also locked himself INTO our store’s former “air lock,” between the shop’s back door, which automatically locked, and the outer door, which at that point had a deadbolt. Keys on his desk. Gotta love that man.)

No, no, wait. Don’t wobble that collective lower lip at me. No lemur eyes! (What would Stephanie do, what would Stephanie do….)

I know! A vote! (I’ve always suspected her polls are a way to get us to play quietly while she gets some work done.) All right, how about this — No, really, I need your help….

A lot of us love handpainted yarns, the variety, the colors, the plot, the way the project just sings along while you wait to see what color comes next. Yet when all’s said and done, too often you step back and look and that schmatte might just as well have been knit of Red Heart Mexicalli. Okay, so Gretchen Huggett, the head of textiles at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and I have been experimenting with dying intervals, spinning techniques and patterns in which handpainted yarns would be indispensable, not an afterthought. We tried producing self-patterning sock yarns, some successful


(Why yes, there are two of them – thanks for noticing,) and some less so, like those blue and yellow ones in the group shot (Shut up. They were supposed to be Pansy Socks, purple and blue with a touch of gold, but that chrome yellow makes everyone in Michigan start humming “Hail to the Victors”) Then we moved on to bigger things.

We dyed parallel lots of merino/tussah/alpaca roving in identical colors,


then took them home to spin


and knit into completely different stoles. We’re working on an article (well, two articles of clothing, but you know what I mean,) so I can’t reveal too much, and nothing at all about what Gretchen’s up to, but I’m stalled. I’d never liked modular knitting until I saw Barbara Venishnick‘s ingenious top in the summer 2004 Vogue Knitting. Adapting its diagonally-migrating diamonds for my purposes, I envisioned a rectangular stole with tapering ends, each end deeply fringed (so the fringe would taper, too) and knotted.

As I spun, though, and calculated (and recalculated – I’m an English major, so shoot me,) I began to get nervous about having enough yarn (this despite the reality that spinning it was taking decades of my life.) And we all know two things about fringe: a) it eats up a lot of yarn and b) there’s no going back once you cut it. So I chickened (didn’t hurt that one skein, spun while watching A Night at the Opera, came out way too thin) and decided to do my favorite lace trim.


I forgot about that point.


Now, even the best of us sometimes have to make a couple of running starts at points before we round them. But see how adorably (read: accidentally) the lace-so-far mirrored the sequence of colors of the shawl? Until it all began to go horribly, horribly wrong (pink began too early, didn’t go on long enough, one point should really be three centered ones but then there REALLY wouldn’t be enough pink…) To further complicate matters, this stole builds diagonally, so that mirroring won’t happen on the right side.

So, possums – what should I do? (I mean, “rip out and get that point right” is a given, as is “block that lace SEVERELY – how can we tell anything from this picture?”) – suck it up, rip it back, spin more pink, round the point symmetrically and finish the lace? Or go for glamour and fringe it? How about lace on one end, fringe on the other? Help me – I’m flailing.

83 thoughts on “Not The Harlot

  1. Glamour! Fringe! Fringe all the way around. Lots and lots of fringe. Pink fringe. That would be a nice distraction indeed.

  2. Hmm…yeah, you’ve got to rip and re-knit so it’s a corner. But enough of that…what is the pattern of the shawl itself? Is it entrelac? Mitred squares? I love the “quilt-iness” of it (yes, I know, English major here too and that is NOT a word — conveys meaning though, no?) I think the pink will line up ok, just not turn the corner…

  3. I’ve been casting on socks like crazy. Maybe it’s something in the air. Looking at your pile of socks makes me feel much better. I’m not alone in my desire to see how every sock yarn I own knits up.

  4. What a wonderful post! Makes missing Stephanie a little easier! Still, I wouldn’t pass up a Milano, if you’re offering…
    Isn’t there a way to fringe without cutting? Perhaps a nice loopy fringe? That way, no stressing about the corners being pointy…

  5. SShhhhhhhhhh . . . the pandas are sleeping!
    They look like they could use an afghan. A pretty, hand-dyed blue and pink and purple one . . .

  6. Stick with the lace. Fringe just attracts more attention from playful kittens, and that’s never good for knitted things.

  7. Oh my gosh, love those socks! As for the shawl discussion, yeah um let me get at least 2 years under my belt before I try to start guessing at solutions to complicated problems though I have to say, not really so much a fan of fringe and didn’t Stephanie say something recently about how much she loves an instruction to “severely block”?

  8. Rams! “Look a baby panda!” ??! Oh my word! I was laughing *out loud* at that one. Too funny.
    I have absolutely no idea what to suggest about the stole, but I will say that you are a suitably funny (temporary) replacement for Ms. Harlot, and do you have you own blog??

  9. Cookies? Works for me! I would suggest working in more pink at the corner by rewinding your ball to reverse the color order (starting with pink) in a possibly successful attempt to line up the border. By the way, great job for “Not the Harlot!”

  10. I would just rip it back and knit the lace edging and if the colors don’t match up screw it….isn’t all knitting “art” after all is said and done?

  11. Fringe! What beautiful colors all around 🙂 I love all the socks too! I should send you some of my dyed self-striping/patterning sock yarn to knit with … though its not nearly as pertty at yours!

  12. 1. You need a blog. Or rather, I need to read your blog;
    2. Something that has a name as elegant as ‘stole’ needs a fringe.
    Well done!

  13. Oh, my word! I had completely forgotten about the baby dinosaur. My daughter was an infant at that time and my best friend tried, unsuccessfully, to teach her to screech “NOT the mama!!” incessently.
    Oh, and speaking of that blue and yellow sock yarn, what happened to the rest of the dye lot? Just sayin’…

  14. Glad to hear I’m not the only one still obsessing about Barbara Venishnick�s ingenious top. Still contemplating what to adapt her pattern to.

  15. I vote that you rip the lace back completely, and start over, making it deliberately *not* match, and if after that, it starts to match… oh well, it’ll still be beautiful.
    (Of course I have to add: I LOVE the way fringe looks, I just find it impractical in the washing and wearing.)

  16. Dude, my head is swimming. Can I have a mint milano? The address for the contact person at the BPP (Blogger Protection Program) is over here….

  17. Hello Rams! I always look forward to your comments to the Harlot, to give me an additional daily chuckle. And now it’s a full entry, wow! But I think your distraction technique worked entirely too well on me. I’m not sure what I’m voting on – but can I add my Lock Out story? I locked myself out of my running car, air conditioning full force – and my radio blaring! I was so into a song, I left the car singing it and forgot to shut everything off and lock it, sigh.

  18. I say rip it back to the corner and leave it unfinished…start from the other edge towards the corner so that the colorway can be mirrored a little better and then at the corner where they meet you can make a point or tassel for fun.

  19. Suck it up, rip it back, spin more pink, make the corner pointy, finish the lace.
    I like fringe myself, but there would need to be a lot of it, and clearly you’d have to make it match the color gradiations and well, I just think that…oh, I am so full of shit.
    You should totally make the fringe and color grade it. How cool would that be? And the linear nature of the fringe would be a completely fabulous contrast to the geometic brickwork of the pattern.
    So please, on my say so, add 100 hours of work to this project.

  20. Well, in the interest of ever wearing this stole in the near future, I say no fringe. Wicked yarn eater, and if you’re me, you accidentally dunk your fringe in your drink. Not good. You’ve already so carefully chosen the dye job there–why mess with perfection?

  21. Seriously, Rams, you need to find your own place in the “blogosphere”. I’d read you every day then pester you with emails if you didn’t post. (Sounds like fun, right?)
    I LOVE the socks. The shawl is darn pretty. Fringe I think, would be the easy way to go, Trying to match the colors up in the lace would drive me batty. But, if you’r up for the challenge, I say try it.

  22. Hi Rams: If it were me, I’d eschew pink in any of the lace trim. (Oh look, Pink at the Point!) Methinks the resulting triangle-shaped patch o’ pink draws the eye away from the wonderful rhythm of the rectangles…

  23. Brilliant guest post! Add my vote to Fringe, please. Like Juno said, what with the linear and the geometric and the gradations and stuff. I’m not sure the lace edge with the square blocks is working for me, but love the colours! You gonna be back tomorrow? Please?

  24. It looks pretty just as it is. If the rest of it is a patchwork of color, then why can’t the edging be that way too?
    Love the sock massacre picture. Thanks for the laughs.

  25. I love the “colours” of the stole. Not a big fan of fringe (too tangly and either the cat or the kids are always pulling on it), but I can’t get the picture of a long, elegant fringe out of my head either. My 20mth old son (at the time- he’s 23yo now) once locked the 16 yo baby-sitter out of the apartment when she went downstairs to help unstick the stairwell door for a neighbor (luckily she had the 4mth old baby with her). By the time Matt unlocked the door, she had half the stairwell neighbors with her while they alternately tried to jimmy the lock using their keys, hairpins, screwdrivers… and bribe/threaten/entice him into opening the door. He finally opened it (with a big smile and a “TA-DA!” expression) when he had finished off the chocolate advent calendar hanging on the wall(which he had accessed by pushing a chair against the wall and climbing up the chair’s ladder-back!). Thankfully, she still baby-sat after that, but kept the key in her pocket! Maybe if she’d had a bag of Milanos….(BTW, I only share the plain ones, NEVER the Mint!)

  26. Rams, you really must get a blog of your own. I’ll be glad to see Stephanie again of course, but I think I need to hear from you more often.
    And thank you for making me feel better about my compulsion to cast on a fifth sock project after finishing one pair, instead of, you know, finishing another. (Oh, and the pandas? So freakin’ fabulous.)
    As for the edging, I think you should practice acceptance, but then I’m like that. I think that trying to control the behavior (behaviour?) of variegated yarns, at least after they’re dyed, is the path to madness and ruin. I don’t, however, think that will stop you, or most of the rest of us, from trying, from time to time.
    Looking forward to hearing more from you. You know, the fun babysitter. Gimme another milano, or I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue (and pink, and purple….and POOL)!

  27. I vote for more pandas.
    (and for you to get in touch with Stephanie’s agent and write a book. you too could have a wildly stressful life of multiple multi-tasking!)

  28. Oh, Rams! You’re truly a Michiganian (sounds almost as bad as Michigander, doesn’t it?) after my own heart! Yes, many knitting viewers and listeners in the Upper and Lower access CBC, and have cultivated an appreciation of Rick Mercer, Nicholas Campbell, Sheila Rogers, and Jurgen Goth. And you’ve been down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass as well! I prefer Chessmen to Milanos and never take bread-and-butter with my tea, even if it’s the very best butter…

  29. heehee it’s nice to hear from another ‘local’ (even if you are across the state and have the unhealthy tendency 😉 to sing ‘hail to the victors’…definitely NOT the right song for my neck of the woods lol…you got somethin’ against green and white? *grin*)
    i recognize that colo(u)rway of socks that rock…nice stuff isn’t it? 🙂
    i haven’t anything constructive to say re: shawl/spinning/fringe etc…and i don’t envy you the problem/decisions 😐 wish you good luck on it though…and would love to see it when it’s finished
    great post (even if you’re ‘NOT da mama’ lol)…i’m with the majority–you ‘really oughta blog’!

  30. rip, it’s good for the soul. Builds character and you don’t have to forever look at the item and say, I should have ripped it!!

  31. well, I will probally get knitting needles thrown at me for this one, but what about a solid color for the lace border?

  32. I vote against lace or fringe. I am not a fringe fan and certainly not on something as sophisticated as you have knit. I think I would look at Nicky Epstein’s books – On the Edge and Over the edge. I like the idea of a solid color and not the pink.
    Locked out stories – dropped off older son at daycare, put younger son (about three months old) in car seat in the back seat behind the driver’s seat, slammed the door with a finger of my left hand in it and the doors locked. I had the keys, but could’t reach across my body to put them in the lock. Luckily, another parent showed up. But going off to the ER to have a finger X-rayed with a baby is NOT fun.
    I’m a Kalamazoo College grad out here in California.

  33. Oh, Peg, I did that in a parking lot when I stopped to talk to a friend I ran into there, so I wasn’t paying any attention to the slider door on the minivan as I shut it. He looked at me, when I gasped, looked at my finger, and went, are you all right? I handed him my key and said, oh so wonderfully calmly (and in a very small voice) could you please unlock my door? (He did.) Thank you.
    I’m totally no-fringe, myself, on that one; the design is solid, the fringe to me just wouldn’t go. Wrong mood.

  34. Rams, you made my day. Being relatively new to blogging myself, I have nothing but the deepest admiration for people who manage to have funny yet interesting and insightful things to say day after day, never mind people who are daring enough to sit in for an already revered blogger and manage to do so in style. So hats (and socks) off to you!
    As for the stole, I feel like it may seem too blanket-like unless you do fringe. But I am also attracted to the idea some others have had about a solid, non-lace non-fringe border. Either way, I agree you should try to keep the pink out of it if possible. Absolutely gorgeous, though!

  35. I’ll take Kat’s suggestion one step further over the edge (into the fringe?): Black and white checkerboard border with the varigated yarn used as an outer I-cord edge.
    That’ll knock their eyes out.

  36. I’m not sure about the lace. The colour patterning on the stole is so geometric, I think fringe might work better. I love the way the colours go, BTW. Very nice.
    And I completely get the problem with the ‘pansy’ sock yarn. Despite being Canadian, I have a very good friend from Michigan. He recently got a dog which he named Blue. He wanted to name it something even longer which would give M GO Blue but his fianc�e, thankfully, put a stop to that.

  37. Since you’re only asking about the lace to distract us, I say do whatever you like; we’re distracted enough already.
    The Mock Turtle said to say Hello.

  38. I’m with the folks who say:
    a) suck it up and rip out that pink corner — it’s somehow garish in an otherwise exquisite piece.
    b) knit the lace edging (fringe woudl take years to spin, and then cut and then… dunk, into the coffee it goes), and skip the pink in the edge. Put in a bit more purple instead.
    Oh, and EXCELLENT blogging m’dear. Do it again…

  39. Sometimes babysitters can be better than the parents…now pass the Milanos and I won’t tell Mommy that you talked dirty on the phone to yer boyfriend all night :>)…
    BTW, there is no actual difference between unknitted yarn and partially knitted yarn so therefore start as many projects as you like…(that’s my theory and I am sticking with it…don’t confuse me with facts).

  40. It’s a complete travesty that you’ve been blogless until now.
    Forget the miles of edging, rip that part out, slap on some fringe, and call it good. That’s the field expedient method, but I’d probably not do that. I’d spin, reknit, rethink, and probably wind up even more frustrated. Good luck with it.

  41. Okay, I see I’m in a minority here, but I love the way those lace points look on that stole. Because it is very “quilty”, I don’t think the fringe would look as good as the lace does.
    But way to distract us with that “NOT the Mama” stuff. Brings me back to when we called my friend’s dad that. 🙂

  42. Welcome Rams!
    What is a Mint Milano and why do I suddenly have the feeling that I haven’t lived because I haven’t experienced one (or several)?
    I don’t know anything about stoles but I do sort of think the lace detracts from the really cool geometry you have going on.

  43. I will certainly be interested in knowing more about your handpainting color adventures – wherever that info might appear.
    And don’t feel bad about those Pansy socks – you’ve got equal time going on with the sock that looks kind of red/gray.

  44. Embrace the randomness of varigated yarn. Rip the corner, put it back properly, and enjoy what ensues.

  45. No lace, no fringe. Too much on an already lovely stole. Maybe a couple of tassles so it doesn’t look like a blanket stolen from baby pandas?
    And, Renee the Sequel? Mint Milanos are about the best cookie ever. Pepperidege Farms baby! You gotta get some!

  46. Wow! Now I have ‘Hail to the Victors’ running through my head! (If you give me a Milano, I’ll sing it for you . . . and on Saturday, I’ll probably hear the real deal wafting through the open windows.) (I can sing that other song, too – I actually went to school at That Other Place.)
    I love the pink! Whatever you do will look great, I’m sure . . . (not much help, but at least I’m distracted.)

  47. Well, Dame Edna would say “Fringe, possums, plenty of fringe” but I am not a fringe person so I say “lace”!

  48. BIL put toddler niece in the truck with the heater on, then went around the back of the truck to “write his name in the snow” instead of going around the front where he could keep an eye on her. She locked him out, then waved smugly at him while we all stood in the snow and wondered what to do. And when he sarcastically mentioned to SIL that he never knows where his spare key is because everyone *else* takes it, she reminded him that he’d gotten it out to let himself in the truck when he’d locked himself out the week before, and never put his key back…
    I vote fringe.

  49. Definitely fringe. Long fringe!! It will look so cool with fringe. Beautiful dyeing and spinning.
    You’re a very entertaining writer Lady Rams. You should think of writing your own blog after you’ve finished baby sitting for Stephanie.

  50. Rams, honey, start the ripping. Too much color for fringe. You can still block the crap out of it even with no mistakes, though, so that will be fun. And I must say that was a swell post! I look forward to hearing more.

  51. LOL! Stephanie who? I think the stole is complete without the lace(too competitive visually) You have wonderful geometric things going on.
    I spend my day as a nanny, so the NOT THE MAMA is soooo appropriate

  52. Kalamazoo is in Michigan–I am in Michigan–way cool!! Yes, I’m onto the next pair if socks too, but not circular, can’t stand to do one at a time. Using an OLD (1955) 2 needle sock pattern from Jack Frost. That way I’m working both socks at the same time and finish them the same time too!!

  53. I got nothing on the edging for the shawl, but it is fan-freckin-tastic. And I too laughed out loud at “baby panda” since the Hubby and I have a running “look, a baby elephant” when I’m trying to steal the last bite of Chubby Hubby ice cream.
    And MINI Mint Milanos? Enough for EVERYone to share. Thanks for the day brightener, Rams!

  54. You go, Rams! Your sock-knitting students did good. Some of us tried to corner the market on Blue Moon sock yarn this past week (Michigan Fiber Fest . . . how do we spell b r o k e ??) You have a lovely blogging voice!

  55. roflol
    worthy of Steph at her most harried…well done Rams.
    If it was a conscious effort to imitate well kudos if not, hell what luck heh? 😛
    I love your socks.

  56. Thank you for keeping us entertained Rams! Life was getting a bit dull without the Harlot (but sock knitting was helping). Don’t have any locking the keys in the cars stories – although I have done it. But, my now 8 year old, dialed 911 on the cordless phone the first time a new babysitter sat with him and the police came to my house because when the 911 operator answered, the phone was hung up. He was about a year old, as I recall. I wouldn’t really have believed the story, if half the neighborhood hadn’t seen it AND my son did it to me about a month later!! I still have a phobia about my kids messing with the phones!!

  57. Rams, loved the posting, loved the optical lace, but am concerned that I’m just missing something here. Rectangular, with tapering ends…am I missing the 2nd tapering end?
    I managed to lock myself out of my condo right before a job interview. This was pre-cell phone days, and DH hadn’t arrived at the sitters with our son or work or anywhere I could reach him, so I called from the condo office to cancel my demo lesson. My interviewer came and picked me up in time for the lesson (I lived a mile from campus), and still hired me anyway.

  58. Easily distracted- the panda held me for quite awhile- though I am still waiting for my Milanos. I want it NOW NOW NOW!!!!! Have nothing to add to the shawl tips that hasn’t already been said- including that its lovely. Two locked out stories- once I was in another state helping a friend look at houses. We got out of the car at one and my friend locked my one-year old daughter in. The realtor did NOT have her cell phone with her, so she had to go back to her office to call the fire dept. All the while with my friend begging her to hurry, because she knew if they took too long I would break the rental car’s windows! Sure enough, when they showed up, I had the perfect rock ready and waiting! The second time, this daughter was 2 and I had just put the trash out the back door of my apartment, and the door closed behind me- locking her in and me out! The kind neighbor downstairs called the landlords office (just one block away) and the equally kind rental agent walked the key over to me so I wouldn’t have to walk down mainstreet in my jammies! The poor child has survived, she is now 7 and is (thankfully) in her second day of second grade!
    Love the subbing, Rams. Please get your own blog!

  59. I think the lace was a mistake. I do like the way it did match up with the points though. although it would be mean alot more work I think an edge with points,( the equivelant of prairie points on a quilt.) would go well with the more geometric, quilt like shawl. If you are staying with the lace, I agree that the pink should be left out. It takes away from the geometric design of the shawl with the triangle or diamond pink shape at the point. I wonder if rewinding the ball backwards would work tomake the other edge to match up.

  60. Get rid of the lace. The geometric pattern and color (colour) variation is gorgeous. The lace seems incongruous and superflueous. to me.

  61. I just love the socks…still haven’t completed a pair of my own…I get lost in the decreasing and heel/toe stuff…any suggestions?

  62. I just love the socks…still haven’t completed a pair of my own…I get lost in the decreasing and heel/toe stuff…any suggestions?

  63. Just love those pink socks! How do you remember when to decrease and increase? I think I need a person to sit beside me each step of the way…love your page.

  64. Don’t change it–what I love about hand knitting is the way it doesn’t have to match. I think it will look beautiful the way it is!

  65. I am SO HAPPY that someone else on this planet remembers Dinosaurs! I say “Not the Mama!” all the time, and frankly, my boss thinks I’m a couple of french fries short of a happy meal, at this point.
    I need a new catch phrase 🙂

  66. Eek!! all these SPARTANS commenting… I had to show up. Hail to the Victors valiant Hail!!! We’ve got Zingerman’s… what do they have?
    At least no Buckeyes were here. 🙂
    What about a crocheted edging? I hate fringe, hate making fringe even more, and hate cleaning up the cat’s puked up version of fringe the most. I can’t be the only cat owner/knitter that sees fringe gone bad (ingested by cats, then left on the living room floor in a gloppy disgusting mess?). So, no to the fringe.

  67. Hey Rams – not everyone in Michigan sings “Hail to the Victors”. Some us sing “Go right through for MSU”!!!

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