That will be all.
That will be all.
Though I’m not yet ready to concede defeat, it’s possible that Dibs on Ribs is kicking my arse. (For those of you who asked, it’s a free pattern in the “Subscriber Only” section of the Interweave Knits Website.)
I reknit the sagging triangle and it’s ok now.
I was feeling pretty good then, so I moved onto the back. The other side of the sweater has two more of these triangles, each knit pointing to the side, and then seamed up along the long edge in the centre back. I couldn’t see any advantage to the seam, and I knew deep in my heart that no matter how careful I was, I would never get the two halves to match – stripe wise, and I also knew that this would make me insane. So insane that I would re-knit it forty-nine times and still think it sucked. I decided to head it off at the pass and knit both halves at the same time, in the round.
Brilliant, yes? Oh yes. Round and round I went, tossing in the extra increases that I had used when I fixed the sagging front triangle. I congratulated myself several times on my general cleverness, finished it up and cast off.
Le sigh. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that how you want the back of your sweater to look? A huge honking uni-breast wanking off the back.
For a collection of reasons, there is no carpenter here today and the front of the house remains…er, absent.
Even though this is not anyone’s fault, the reasons are very sound and even though nothing at all can be done about it….I am sincerely annoyed. Mostly I am annoyed with myself, infuriated really, for believing that this whole reno was going to go off without a hitch.
Why would I think that? Why? When no renovation, improvement or even so much as a light bulb change has ever gone without a hitch in this house, why would I consistently sign up for this stuff and then be surprised when it’s got some trouble. Why?
Optimism. That’s why. I’m forever thinking that everything is totally going to work out. I’m starting to think that I’d have fewer crushing disappointments if I expected the worst. Last night, I lost my patience with the Erle baby sweater and set it aside.
This one won’t be off the radar for more than a few days, but I needed a fast success. Something that would be really satisfying really quickly. Quickly enough to feed my sense of optimism and make me feel like it’s possible for a project to be accomplished without a whole lot of trouble. I found just the thing. I’ve been looking at “Dibs on Ribs” (scroll down on that page) for a while, and I think the construction is really interesting and I’ve had my eye out for a good yarn to do it in.
You knit two panels of a really interesting shape for the left front and right front,
Then sew them together in the front,
then pick up and knit a triangle of decreasing ribbing into the void.
Except it’s not supposed to suck like that. Clearly I must have missed a decrease or two in that section or it wouldn’t be sagging like somebody’s great grandmother caught without a bikini top.
Turns out that the idea of a quick fix satisfying sweater was a little bit optimistic. If you need me I’ll be sitting on a pile of lumber in my backyard, ripping out a sweater.
You know, there’s a reason that I’m not the person in charge of building stuff around here. Because there’s so much that I misunderstand about house construction. There’s a new renovation (or two) going down Chez Harlot. Both driven not by the urge to improve our home, but by the urge to not have it fall to bits. The front porch was as shaky as a go-go dancer when I moved in 10 years ago, and we’ve got to replace it this summer or the letter carrier is going to fall through it one morning.
Jean, our family carpenter, (whom you will remember from such classic hits as “why does the back of my house have weather?” and “Oh my, what a big nail gun you have“) turned up, assessed the damage…declared that the porch (in any form) was really not going to make it, and this is the front of my house.
Whoa. Dude is not screwing around. When the porch was dismantled, I found three guys standing around the front of the house.
They looked pensive. What were they looking at? This.
A hole in the side of my house. A huge hole in the side of my house. A place where the bricks have fallen right out and there is …let me be perfectly clear about this….a HOLE in the side of my HOUSE.
It goes right under the bay window in the front (which is apparently the best place that there could be to have a hole in the side of your house. Really ideal.) and it’s huge. Two skunks could walk through that side by side. Hell, they could bring a raccoon, some snacks, a couple of cold ones, build a swimming pool and a skunk manor in there. It’s a BIG HOLE. Me? I don’t like the hole. This hole seems like a poor feature of my home. I’m no real estate agent but I think that this hole would not be a selling point. The hole (Jean explains) is caused by the fact that the 120 year old mortar holding the bricks of my home together is…well. It’s gone. There is none. Let’s try to figure out what the reasonable response to this news is. There’s a big hole in your house and you think:
A. Oh, good. No worries. Carry on. (Said in a relaxed and pleasing voice, as you gently prune the roses.)
B. Holy *&^%$#!!! There’s a *&^%$ing hole in the side of the house? What the %^&* ! are we going to do? How does that happen? The mortar is gone? The bricks fell out because the mortar is gone? #$%^&*##….Wait….this is a brick house! *&^%$!!@!! (Said in a voice that is the exact opposite of relaxed and pleasing, as you fall to your knees imagining yourself hemorrhaging money as every brick in the house falls out and you have to start selling the stash and maybe your youngest child on ebay to pay your contractor and you can’t even ever make it stop because nobody will buy a house with a big HOLE in the side of it. )
That’s the one I went with too, but I did it all in my head as the gentlemen assessed the nature of my destiny. Imagine my surprise when the verdict was…
No worries. Jean is going to stuff some insulation under the bay window, but the basement doesn’t start until further back, it’s just dead space under there, and there’s no reason for me to be upset. None. Those bricks? Nope. They (I swear this) aren’t structural. Jean will put them back in with some mortar just to make me feel better and keep out the vermin, but the bricks? Useless. Who knew? Guess what’s holding up the bay window? Go on. Guess.
The roof! The roof is holding up the window, plus it’s attached to the house, so it’s not like it’s going to snap off (apparently) and the roof (It’s a good roof) is holding up the bay.
I’m stunned. Completely stunned. There are no words for how this is the opposite way that I thought construction worked. You know when you are little and you play blocks and you pile a whole bunch of them on top of each other and then, if you take the bottom ones out, the whole things falls down? Even if you have a really good roof? That’s how I thought it worked. I could not be more surprised to learn that along with the roof…”Force of Habit” is holding up my 120 year old house. That’s right, Force of Habit. Don’t believe me?
It has to be true, because this is what’s holding up the porch roof.
Right. Time for a lie down.
It would appear that I am going to live, though I’m still not sure if I’m ok with that. I always know I’m sick when I find myself just holding my knitting instead of working on it, and last night I didn’t even bother to pick it up. This morning though, I feel slightly more alive and my will to knit is restored.
This is the first of the baby sweaters for the girl/boy set arriving soon.
It’s Rutelilje from this book. It’s blocking now, despite only having one button band knit on, but I suffered a crisis of faith when the one buttonband didn’t lie flat in it’s pre-blocked state. I decided to block it before I knit the other one so that if it turned out to be badly wrong I would only have to rip back one. Turns out that after a very gentle blocking (It’s still wet in that picture) that it’s right after all. (I chalk this lack of confidence up to the fever and a general suspicion of all button bands.) When it’s dry I’ll knit the second one to match and re-block the who shebang.
While I’m waiting for it to dry I started the sweater for the boy.
This is Erle, from the same book. It’s an eyelet pattern faux cable, interspersed with double moss, and I had been convinced (until I started knitting it) that it was quite manly. Now I’m wondering if it’s only the flu that’s letting me put the word “eyelet” with the word “manly”. Is this sweater too feminine for a boy?
This leads, naturally, to all sorts of questions about gender, gender roles and expectations and what exactly I think would be wrong with someone who weighs seven pounds wearing something a little bit girly. I like to think that I treat boy babies and girl babies the same, and that we (as a culture) don’t raise girls and boys differently, but it says something that even as I attempt to be enlightened about these things that I still apparently think, on some level…that it’s important to be able to tell the difference between a boy and a girl based on what they are wearing.
Thinking further about that (and remember…I do have a fever, so it’s possible that none of this actually makes sense) the only reason I can think of that I would want boys dressed “like boys” (whatever that means) is that I do treat them differently and worse than that, does it mean that I think that a baby could be influenced by the stuff they are wearing? I’m pretty darned sure that we’ve advanced far enough as a civilization to let go of the idea that putting a baby boy in a lace sweater could influence his gender identification, especially since he’s not old enough to have any idea what sort of sweater we’ve plopped him into.
I keep thinking about that study a few years ago where the researchers took a bunch of babies and dressed them all like girls. Then they asked strangers to interact with them. The adults assumed (because of the clothes) that the babies were all girls. When the handled them they did so gently, and used words like “pretty” and “fragile”. Then the researchers took the same babies, dressed them as boys and repeated the experiment. This time, the adults played rougher games with the babies and called them things like “strong” and “smart”. Overall, the adults assessed the “boy” babies (who were really boys and girls) as healthy and competent, and the “girl” babies as “tiny” (even though they were the same babies) and “beautiful”. It made me wonder how many assessments I make about babies based on their gender, and how I treat them without even thinking about it.
This is all a round about way of saying that I’m surprised to find myself concerned with whether or not this sweater is “too girly” for a boy, and so what if it is? (It’s also worth noting that even though I’ve just said that putting babies in girl clothes makes people think they are less strong and smart…I haven’t considered ripping out the girly-girl first sweater. I’m trying not to overthink.)
Ideas? Thoughts? Do you shun lace for boys? If so, why? Do you hold hard and fast to the ideas of girl colours and boy colours? How come? Should we be passing over lace for girls as well? How much do gender relevant clothes matter….and why?
Last night I became patient zero for a virus so nighmarish that I am thinking about calling it Wes. I am so sick that My Hair Hurts. I spent the entire night on the chesterfield, lamenting the empty box of cold/flu medicine, wondering which spawn of darkness I live with finished it up, and considering combining other medications in an attempt to cause unconsciousness. I drank 90 glasses of water, wiped my nose raw, made the tea that Norma sent me last year (I even drank it.) my eyes ran, I coughed, I contemplated how loose your teeth can feel if your sinuses have big enough trouble and generally wished for relief or death. There is no longer any difference between them.
This morning I have to take Meg to an oral surgeon to have an extra tooth removed (Yes. Meg has an extra tooth. Just like a shark. This should surprise no-one who has met my middle child.) so I staggered upstairs about 7:30 to put on clothes, opened my bedroom door and snagged jeans, realized I had to blow my nose or take my life, staggered out and then came back for my tee shirt.
As I re-entered, Joe rolled over and asked if I could please keep the door to the bedroom closed so he wasn’t disturbed. (This would be the door that I was entering though to get my clothes so that I might serve my family and go into the world clad today)
Can I ask? What is wrong with men? (That might properly be “spouses” but I’ve never been jerked around by a same sex partner in the dead of night so I don’t know if the same rules of stupidity apply.) What are they thinking? Are they thinking? What sort of person doesn’t consider that if you have had NO sleep, and they have had LOTS of sleep, that asking for MORE sleep is a serious misstep. What gene is missing in their code that they do not think that saying what they are thinking right then is a mistake?
When you have been up all night with an illness/crying baby/puking toddler, why does some self preservation instinct that would keep an otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, kind man from saying that they would like for you not to disturb their full eight hours of comfortable sleep not kick in? Where is the inner voice that says “Shut up stupid. She hasn’t slept. Look at her. She’s only glued together with willpower and tea. Look at her eyes. Look at her hair. Look at the tissue paper stuck to her cheek and Shut. Up.”
It is only because I lacked the strength to smack him that he lives yet.
Dear Employees of the TSA,
Since it is you who are repeatedly searching my bags as I travel around the United States (at least, I hope it’s you.) I thought I would take this opportunity to explain some of the stuff you keep finding in my suitcase. I understand that the presence of all of those pointy metal sticks is probably what is triggering your attention, so allow me to explain. I am a travelling knitter.
Legends are told of these knitters who knit on one thing at a time until it’s done…but these are rare knitters and you will likely encounter few of them during your luggage searching career. Besides being cursed with a wicked short attention span, it seems to me that not all knitting is suited to every minute of my day, and I always have several things on the go so that I can knit all the time. This is, despite the frowns and odd looks that you give me when we spend time together rummaging my travel bags, is normal knitter behaviour.
My first and truly mighty companion is the perennial travelling sock. I got a comment yesterday from someone who noted that this sock showed, er….little progress despite turning up everywhere I go. True enough. The first time I wrote a book, I knit a pair of socks, starting the day that the book launched and continuing slowly, a few rounds every time I went somewhere, every-time I met someone.
I thought (though I am not usually prone to these romantic notions) that it would be a really interesting way for a knitter to record an extraordinary time in her life. A pair of socks so chock full of memories that you could scarcely wear them. For me it seemed so much more apt than a collection of fridge magnets or postcards.
When I began to celebrate this new book, I did the same thing. This sock (which will eventually be a pair) was begun in Pearson International Airport as I left for the first time and has seen everything I have. I knit a little on it each time to make it last the whole extraordinary journey.
Since I’m trying to make the Travelling sock last, I need another pair or two to take the real sock knitting heat.
The trekking sock, for moments of exhaustion or conversation, when I am only capable of plain vanilla round and round stockinette,
and the Potamo-ma-pus (I simply cannot say that.) socks.
The pattern isn’t difficult but does require attention, and I’m apparently not bright enough to knit from a chart at the same time as I think about anything else. I learned this the hard way, since every time I try to knit them while watching TV or having a conversation, I need to rip out an entire freaking repeat. (You will not hold me in higher regard if I tell you how many repeats I ripped out on these before I copped to this.)
For actually knitting during the flight, I have requirements as stiff as you do. Airplane projects must:
1. Fit in my purse. No afghans, no sweaters, nothing big.
2. Be light. So light that I will not resent it as I stagger through the 5th airport in 5 days hating everything, except you, my dear airport screener.
3. Not be warm on my lap as I sit in the airplane waiting for it to taxi away while the cabin temperature attempts to gently steam everyone aboard. (What is with that? Why are planes only comfortable when they are up in the air?)
4. Be on circular needles. I haven’t run into any airline restrictions (Thanks for that.) but straight needles have a tendency to poke the guy sitting next to you, and I do try to be polite. Constantly knitting, but polite.
5. Be interesting and challenging enough that by the 5th plane in 5 days I’m not thinking about stuffing my mouth full of the wadded up pattern just to break the monotony.
Right now, the Summer in Kansas shawl is fitting the bill.
I only knit on it on airplanes, so it’s going slowly, but it has the added bonus of a chart you can spread out on your lap that makes you look very busy and can deter conversation from the guy in the seat next to you.
Finally, I need to bring the meat and potatoes knitting. This is the knitting for in the evenings in hotels, for in cars, while watching tv, out to dinner in restaurants…etc.
I’ve got a client/friend producing me a set of twins sometime soon and each of them will need a sweater. This is “Rutelilje” from Dale of Norway’s baby book # 129 and though I’m getting a serious twitch from what seems like endless seed stitch on 2.25mm needles, I’m loving it. ( I don’t want you to worry about me twitching while I’m on planes. This is on straight needles, and we’ve already determined that this project doesn’t meet the screening requirements. No worries.)
When I pack all of this stuff I take everything I need to complete all of these projects, even if I am only going for 3 days and no-one could ever finish even one of them in that length of time. This speaks to a deep fear of running out of something to work on and an even deeper delusion regarding the speed at which I knit. This too, dear TSA employee, is normal among knitters. Also normal is the tendency for knitters to pick up more yarn and needles as they travel as both stash enhancement and souvenirs. All of these things together explains why it was absolutely normal and even to be expected that there were 5 sets of DPNs, 2 circular needles, 3 sets of straights and 11 balls/skeins or hanks of yarn in my suitcase on my way home. (Oh. That other stuff is roving. Did I mention I spin? It goes with the drop spindle in my cosmetic case.)
If you feel that it would help keep your employees from looking at me like I have three heads, I would be happy to print out letters of reference from other knitters and spinners who have not only carried this much, but purchased other luggage to hold their projects and acquisitions.
Many thanks for all that you do to make the world a safer place, and please don’t touch my underpants (not even with the gloves on).
Public Service Announcement.
Claudia, everybody’s favourite orange loving knitter and spinner is taking it on the road again this year and riding her bike 150 miles to raise money for MS research. This is a cause near and dear to my heart, and I want you to give her money. (I thought about trying to think of a nice way to say that, but sometimes, directness is best.)
If every knitter pledged her a dollar. Just one….
The possibilities boggle the mind. If you can possibly afford to contribute to this wonderful cause, please do.
I think that I am about to break the world record for longest post pretending to be about knitting. I’m going to catch you up on two last yarn parties (Knit! Yarn! Fun!) and show you all of the things the sock has done. Go get a coffee or a tea or if it’s night-time maybe you want a beer or something. This is going to be a humdinger. I’ll at least try for coherency.
Dudes, the knitters at this shop really had their knit together (To borrow a phrase from Knit One) From the window proclaiming “Harlot is here”, spelled out in pictures of me (which flipped me out a little.) to the spontaneous pre-harlot entertainment (Which didn’t flip me out much. I live with a record producer, everyone we know either drops guitar picks or yarn.) to the karaoke microphone, and the store dog, this event had a vibe all it’s own.
(You know, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I do want to point out that our “when knitters run the world” plan may be coming along.)
Betsy here showed off her sock and demonstrated one of the best things about being on a yarn crawl knitting book tour. Getting to see yarn. How did I not know about a handpainted Opal? (Did I know and block it for my own good?)
Kelly, who engaged in reciprocal blogging with me. (Can you do the sock shot with a sweater?)
Check this. Tisra, holding a tracing of her mate’s feet. She says she’s going to knit him socks.
Can’t see it real well? Hold on. I’ll trace it for you.
Some dizziness and nausea are normal. Knitters, I cannot stress this enough. Tisra is illustrating why it is imperative that you check the feet of a prospective mate before you develop any feeling for them. This poor knitter has a husband with size 14 feet. She’s going to need twice as much yarn as anyone else, and way more liquor than is right. Poor thing. Let this be a lesson to you all. It’s just as easy to love someone with small feet.
Hope over to Sandra D and see some reasonably sized socks that are entering retirement.
Jinjifore was introduced to me, rather compellingly, as “the fish blanket lady”. That seems like an odd nickname, even for knitters, and we call people some odd stuff, so by way of explanation, the following image arrived in my inbox.
Yo. Individually knit and then sewn together tessellating fish. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? She spoke clearly too, which I found remarkable, considering that this project (just the sewing alone) must have melted her brain and had it run out her right ear.
I left thinking that it wasn’t hard to tell that Ann and Kay had been there.
You can track them this way. They leave a trail of them in their wake.
The next morning I fueled up on coffee and the car and driver arrived for me. We had a 5 hour drive from Nashville to Lexington KY. I know it should have been shorter, but there was some sort of hold up on the highway, and we had a period of stalled progress.
Luckily for the sake of the blog, this indeterminately long break was spent in the fine company of some well-scented cattle, and I learned some stuff.
I learned that Kentucky has a castle.
I learned that it used to be true that farms raising Standard bred horses had black fences,
and farms raising Thoroughbreds had white fences. (But that’s not true anymore). I learned that a thoroughbred sired through artificial insemination can’t be registered as a thoroughbred and that stud horses only come in for the finish. A standard bred horse does all the foreplay. ( I thought that this was stunning. Imagine that. He doesn’t even have to bring her hay or speak nicely to her.)
and I learned that the first horse race in Kentucky was right by my hotel. (It was at this point that I, being sharp as a tack) began to understand that Kentucky may be a little “horsey”.
I went to the reception for the Bluegrass Book Festival Authors (I looked for Jane Fonda but she didn’t turn up.) and turned in.
The next morning I was scheduled to sign books at a booth for two hours, then a break, then an hour from 3-4, then a talk til 4. No problem. I’d had some trouble at the reception that had made me nervous though. Standing around with real authors, I had the distinct impression that when I said I wrote “knitting humour” that they other authors might have wondered how well that was going for me. Their skepticism was catching, and by the next morning I was very nervous.
Once again, knitters came through, and by the end of my morning signing, one of the writers from the night before had popped by my booth to tell me that he had decided to put a knitter in his next novel…since knitters seemed to “drive all the book fair traffic”.
Nancy and Katie, a blurry (sorry guys) mother-daughter team, showing off their matching socks.
On my lunch break, the lovely ladies of Team Thursday ( Debbie, Lindy, Dianne and Jane – shown here protecting fibre from the rain, we have our priorities) took me to lunch and told me about Dianne and Jane’s impending yarnshop “Magpie Yarns”. These ladies took such wonderful care of me all day. If I ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers, let it be these women, and let it be in Lexington Kentucky. They have kindness and generosity down to an art.
On the way back, I spotted a protest. Intrigued, I followed up and talked with the gentlemen in question.
Turns out (the things Canadians are not up on just boggles the mind) that these are Vietnam Vets, protesting Jane Fonda’s appearance at the book festival based on some of her actions during that war. They spoke to me very eloquently and respectfully about their point of view, and I was struck by how much this meant to them 33 years later.
Leaving them and walking back to the Lexington Center, I met this man, Don. Don is a famous local activist and Vietnam resister from way back, and he held the sock and represented the opposite point of view.
(Never let it be said that the sock is not politically neutral. For wool, it’s remarkably bipartisan.)
Seeking the final piece of the puzzle, I made my way back to my booth, thinking that I would quickly sign a few books, and then head over to Jane Fonda’s booth and round out the socks experience.
This was not to be, however…since my line looked like this.
A whack of knitters led by Beth generously offered to undertake the mission, and made off with the sock. Unfortunately, for reasons that we will never fully understand, as they approached Jane at full speed, digital cameras, socks and assorted knitting held high…Jane was whisked off by her security team. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
They made do with the evidence of Jane Fonda left behind on her table.
I kept meeting knitters and socks…
and had the pleasure of finally putting a name to Stephanie B.’s face.
Turns out that she’s as lovely as she is talented. Stephanie’s a glass worker, and I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of her beautiful things, including….
A hand made glass wool-pig. (Mine, mine all mine.)
I gave a talk to another whack of knitters….
(which had the bonus effect of stunning the book organizers.) and went to coffee with some very nice knitters, including Zabet, one of the brains behind the Anti-craft, Janis and Brooke (who designed this and this)
Brooke demonstrated to the assembled throng that the gathering had a downright awesome knitting mojo going on, by finishing her baby sock with this much left of the green.
Extreme knitting, and a sign that all was well in the universe and that Brooke is definitely on somebody’s good side.
I owe a special thanks to Janis, who helped me locate the best vegetarian take out in town for dinner. Much appreciated, and an extra thanks to Janis for standing by, holding my sandwich and tolerating the sock rituals while I photographed this.
Anybody still here? 29 pictures and 20 links later I’m tired all over again and contemplating the bourbon balls graciously gifted to me. Tune in tomorrow when I actually take pictures of knitting…er, my knitting. I have been knitting. Really.
I sorry guys, I know you’re waiting for pictures of the Nashville and Lexington events, and I’ll get there. I will.
Today though, is May Day.
May Day is a fond holiday in this family. In fact, if you mention May Day to my mother, she will be happy to tell you (you likely won’t be able to stop her) that she was a May Queen. She may also give you some instructions on dancing a Maypole, or leaving a posy for a secret love, and she will undoubtedly lament the loss of this tradition in what is truly becoming an uncivilized world.
The winter is dark and long and, at least in this province, has a variable ending. April can be bitterly cold or wonderfully balmy (usually they alternate to try and crush your soul), but no matter how April goes, May the first will hold some promise of true, verdant warming spring. Tulips, buds and new leaves on trees, some wonderful hint of the beautiful summer to come. May Day is a wonderful celebration of youth and spring and promise.
It is also Janine’s birthday, a bonus that made May Day an occasion never overlooked in our family. She died in the Autumn, and it made so much sense that when she left, the world turned grey and the green went out of it and everything died or slept without her.
Suddenly today I find the sure and bright return of spring almost galling. How dare the planet continue without her, as though nothing has happened? How dare there still even be a May Day? I am almost ashamed to admit that somewhere inside, some childish, nonsensical part of myself may have thought that a May Day without Neen was impossible. That she would come back, like all of the roses and the tulips and the trees. It is not the shock of her death that I find overwhelming, but the permanence.
I know that grief is like this. With ebb and flow and good days and bad days, and that this first birthday we celebrate without her will be the one that stings the most, and that eventually I will be able to celebrate May Day and Janine with the joy that I used to. Today though, is not that day, and I’m going to be a little kind to myself. I’ll walk in the park. I’ll reconcile myself to the pussywillows. I’ll knit and watch the earth wake up and I’ll look for what comfort I can in the stunning way that no matter who leaves, Spring comes.