That Flat Scout

Some time ago (too long really, but I plead book related insanity and shortages of time) Flat Scout came to Toronto. Flat Scout is the two-dimensional buddy of the Real Not Flat Scout, who did a fabulous job of shepherd(ess)ing me around Albuquerque when I was there. Since The Real Not Flat Scout was not coming anytime soon, she sent her way less interesting envoy. Flat Scout. Our Mission? Show her Toronto. We did our level best. Our first attempt? We gave Flat Scout and a camera to the children and sent them out into the world. This was not as effective as one would have hoped. (Next time we shall send the children with Flat Scout, a camera and spare batteries.)Several wonderful opportunities at The Canadian National Exhibition (it’s like a county fair, but for the whole country) were lost, though the girls did try to get Flat Scout and the Canadian International Airshow in the same shot.


Those planes are fast though. Undaunted, the girls stopped in to see Hank. Undaunted by laminated cardboard hotties, Hank immediately grasped the importance of his guest and dressed up in his Spiderman muscle suit for the occasion.


From there, Joe and I took over. Armed with fresh batteries and faced with an epic rainstorm, we took to Toronto’s streets. What the hell. We do it all the time with a sock.

Where to go first? Our favourite…


Little India. I thought that since Flat Scout was used to hanging around fibre artists she might enjoy an Indian silk shop. She was moved I think. (That’s more than I can say for the owners. Their son tried to translate about what we were doing, but the words “Flat Scout” “New Mexico” and “Knitbloggers” apparently don’t translate well into Punjabi. We settled on calling her a “Tourist”. )

We continued East and went to The Beach,


and proved to Flat Scout that there is surfing on Lake Ontario.


We like to pretend she was stunned. (Frankly, not much seems to impress her.) We took her to Toronto’s Historic Distillery District.


It’s Toronto’s only pedestrian only district and full of galleries, arts centres, dance and things to do. (There’s a Spa too. Flat Scout made some noise about that. We looked the other way and went to Chinatown


where Flat Scout did no better at identifying vegetables than we do.

We hit Old City Hall (1899)


New City Hall


We took her to Yonge Street, the longest street in the world, and to the Financial District.


Joe wanted to take her to eat a breaded eggplant sandwich in St. Lawrence Market


but I pointed out that she needed to still be “Flat” Scout when she left. (If you do nothing else in Toronto, eat the eggplant sandwich at Mustachio’s at the bottom of the stairs in the centre of the market. I hate eggplant, but I love these. Turns out just about everything can be yummy if you slice it thin and deep fry it.)

We were almost done with Flat Scout, but there was one more thing we wanted to do with her.


We took her for a pint (or two) at the ‘Shoe. The Horseshoe Tavern (Do call it “the shoe” if you want to sound local) is a club that’s been open since 1947. On any given night of the week this clubs got the cream of the crop hanging out, and there’s no end to the interesting people you’ll met. Flat Scout sat in a room that’s hosted Blue Rodeo, Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip, Melissa Ethridge, The Watchmen, Big Sugar, Amanda Marshall, Wide Mouth Mason, Great Big Sea, Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Band, The Blues Brothers, Prairie Oyster, The Police, Hootie & The Blowfish, Wilco, Ben Harper, Leahy, The Ramones, Cramps, Dick Dale, Bruce Cockburn and, in one of their surprise Toronto events (1997) The Rolling Stones. (The Stones actually have a close relationship with Toronto.) In any event…Flat Scout seemed unmoved by all of that too…and unlike Real Not Flat Scout, she can’t really handle her beer.

We pitched for home, where Flat Scout hung out on top of the piano for a while (I was writing a book and getting married) until today, when I showed her that I had finished some socks:


Opal colour 226, 2mm needles, my standard sock recipe

That I was thinking about some more socks with some really special yarn.


More about that on Monday…


and I proved to her that I’m still working on the Wedding shawl, even though it missed the wedding.

Who gets Flat Scout next?

One row handspun scarf

( If you’re not a spinner and you don’t want to be and you don’t want to wade through this, the recipe for the scarf is at the end.)

I’m sure that this is a subtle element of my personality and that nobody has really noticed, so I’ll point out to you that I may be just a smidge on the obsessive side. This wee quirk occasionally pays off, and my fixation over the last 24 hours with the Grafton Fiber batt has totally encouraged this trait. I loved the progression of colours, and I was determined to have a project at the end of it that reflected that.

This can be sort of tricky with spinning. How you pull something off the batt, whether you spin woollen or worsted, pre-draft or not…they all effect the result you get, with occasionally unpredictable results. (I actually have to credit Deb Menz with helping me to figure this out. Her book Color in Spinning really helped me learn how I could spin to get what I want, instead of spinning the way I like to and learning how to enjoy the element of surprise. I recommend it.) It totally worked. I took strips off the batt, working from one side to the other, spun singles 1/3 the grist of the final yarn (or what I thought would be the grist of the final yarn), navajo plied it as one continuous yarn, and knit.







(I feel so clever I can hardly stand it.) It totally worked, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the end product. Wanna make one?


Yarn: About 12 wraps per inch, or roughly a worsted weight.

Needles: 5mm

Gauge: I got 20 stitches to 10cm in pattern.

Size: Mine is about 13cm (5 inches) wide, and about 135cm (53 inches) long. That’s pretty little, but it’s enough to go round my neck, knot in the front and tuck into my coat. If I had more yarn I would have gone on for another 15-20cms (6-8 inches).

Start: Cast on 26 stitches (to make it wider or narrower add or remove stitches in groups of 4 )

Row 1: *knit 2, knit into the back of the next stitch, purl 1. Repeat from * till there are 2 stitches left. Knit 2.

Repeat that one row every row until you can stand it no longer, your scarf is long enough or you run out of yarn, whatever comes first.


Cast off.

This pattern is quick, easy, has only one row to learn, is reversible, looks good in any gauge, is easy to make wider or narrower (making it awesome for handspun) and looks (I believe) fabulous.

Final step?


Put it on, note how nicely it goes with your fall coat and go walk around Bloor West Village (or some neighbourhood near you if you don’t live here) pretending to buy vegetables while waiting for someone to ask you where you bought your scarf.

Gloat. (Nicely)

Dead to you

Dear Linda Diak,

Remember me? I’m the polite Canadian spinner who keeps politely coming to your Grafton Fiber booth at all of the fibre shows and quietly buying your cool looking batts and then bringing them home and using them for decorative rather than spinning purposes? Ringing a bell?

In any case, I had a couple of your batts that I dearly, dearly loved and I was not at all sure what to do with them, such was their beauty.


Yesterday I wanted to give my new wheel a test drive (Yup. New wheel. An Ashford Joy so I can spin on the road. I don’t know if you know, but I have mentioned before that my knitty friends at Lettuce Knit are the best sort of human beings and threw me a really cool shower for my wedding…but I digress.) and I staggered into the place where I keep all my fibre and this batt was sort of on top (or at least in the “canopy” of the spinning stash) and I grabbed it and brought it down. I opened it out into a big sheet of fibre onto the chesterfield…


and started tearing off strips, working one end to the other, taking each strip in the progression you carded them into and spinning them into a reasonably fine single.


I say “reasonably fine” because as with all new relationships, my wheel and I will need some time together to work out the kinks. Our love affair is presently a little teenaged, and it’s all sort of fast, giggly, and lacking in finesse. In any case, as I reminisced about old boyfriends I Navajo-plied it into a three ply to keep the colours in the order that I spun them and you carded them.


I won’t pretend I did a good job (I blame the tender relationship with the new wheel) but I was still simply gobsmacked by the resulting yarn. The colours. The softness…the ….well Linda, the everything. I was so taken with the yarn that I did something I don’t do (often). I cast on for something with it straight away…forsaking all others. Forget the sweater, forget the gansey, forget the shawl. Me and my new scarf…


Two for the open road.


I devised a quick reversible scarf pattern and I am in love. Complete and total love. I am so entirely smitten with this plan of mine that I feel inspired.

Linda? This inspiration is dangerous. See, I really like the batt I started with. I really like the one or two upstairs too. I like them so much that I want to do this over and over again. I labour under the delusion that the next one will be even better than this one, and I’ve already gone upstairs and tried to find the other ones that I thought I had. (Suddenly, I am deeply concerned that I may have given them away as gifts, and I’m not comfortable admitting to the petty feelings that realization generated. I’m sure I’ll find them.)

Linda, here’s where you can help me. I am likely going to email, call or accost you soon. I have no intention of calling you now, and I truly believe that I am not going to email you and order 20 batts anytime soon. I think I can handle it. The problem Linda, is that we both know that I am a weak person, and that you are probably going to be at Rhinebeck, as am I. While I have every intention of holding myself together, for the sake of my mortgage, my family and my closet space…there needs to be a back-up plan for when my strength fails me when I see this fibre in person, and this is going to be your job.

When I come up to you at Rhinebeck (or SPA, or a thousand other places where we will surely meet) please, please DO NOT sell me that fibre. Do not speak to me, for I am charming and convincing when I need to be, and I will say what I need to in order to procure the goods. Do not trust any of my known allies, and be suspicious of other bloggers purchasing large amounts of your batts, possibly in my favourite colourways – I am not above enlisting other agents to do my bidding. Do not agree to send fibre to suspicious addresses and do not believe me when I try to tell you that I am buying it for someone else and have no intention of using it myself. Reject my arguments that I am only “holding it” and that I am “in control” and “don’t have a problem” or that I am “only getting a little bit” or that I am going to “share”.

I’m not.

Linda, if you feel anything for me at all, I need to be dead to you.

fondly, as ever


(PS. I was thinking just now and maybe we could agree on a number or something. Like …two. Two batts would be fine…right? Two batts at every show. Per month. Something.)

(PSS. Maybe you should mention this to Tom.)

Go on, Dare me.

Yes, yes indeed, I did fix the green sweater problem. I was actually totally down with the suggestions given in the comments (several of you all came up with a brilliant solution) of finishing the sweater, then taking off the offending hem, picking up the bottoms of the stitches and knitting down in a smaller gauge. (I know. If you’re a new knitter that just made your head hurt. Don’t worry, it’s actually way, way easy.) This idea fit right in with my general philosophy of knitting which is based on “I’ll worry about that later”. Just the thought that I could keep on trucking while I had correct gauge and fix the hem at the last moment – very appealing. Appealing enough actually, that I kept knitting for a bit. A little bit. Just long enough to notice that I seemed to be messing with the stitches a lot just to slide them along the circular. Now, circulars are not my first choice for needles, I’ll use them if they are the smartest way to get things done, but I far prefer straights, and the perpetual vague annoyance that circulars cause me means that sometimes I miss other genuine annoyances. Like this one.


Idiot. You know that instruction? “Join, being careful not to twist?” Yup. Again. This never happens on straight needles. It was however, the nail in the coffin of the green sweater, which had now pissed me off in every way that 5cm of a green sweater could. I thought all the ways I could solve the green sweater problem, and then I fixed it.


Voila. New Sweater, problem solved. (Sometimes you just have to walk away.) Bonne Marie’s Ribby Cardi, out of Diarufran, a pretty sincerely thrilling yarn I got in Rosie’s Yarn Cellar the last time I was in Philadelphia.


It’s a chained yarn (totally wild) and really, honestly, sincerely the most astonishingly light and soft yarn you could ever want to hold in your hand. I have developed an extraordinary relationship with it during the last 48 hours, and when the gauge on the Ribby Cardi wasn’t working out (I knit the better part of a whole sleeve before I could accept the truth)…..


I solved that problem too. Enter another new sweater. I decided the only answer to my complete failure to get gauge in any sort of way that doesn’t make me want to pull out nose hairs instead of cope was to work up something simple that reflected the actual gauge I liked with this yarn.


I decided to let it be itself. Plain stocking stitch sleeve, part of what will be a very plain pullover. Pattern cobbled together from a variety of sources and my handy dandy calculator. I am enjoying it beyond all reason. The thing is just whipping along too…which must be a side effect of getting my life back when I finished the book. I’m thrilled with it. Which doesn’t mean that I won’t solve a problem with it by getting out the new sock yarn, if you know what I mean. If I were the new pullover, I’d be watching my step. Mamma’s got a hair trigger.

For now?


This Tuesday is for spinning.

Side effects

How to Start a Sweater

1. Determine sweater of choice. Trash the stash while looking for yarn to go with it. Tell the children it is not a mess, but a “reorganization”. (Pretend that the five bags of wool that won’t go back in the closet are out because I need them.)

2. Make a Neo Citran, Knit swatch. (That’s a lie. Start sweater, call it a swatch.) The sweater has a hem (That’s also a lie. it has ribbing but I don’t care for it.) and hems need to be knit at a tighter gauge than the rest of the sweater to keep it from flaring. The sweater needs to be at a gauge of 24 stitches to the inch…the hem needs to be less than that.

3. Notice immediately that this sweater is too big. Understand, thanks to many long years of screwing up knitting with incredible variation and surprising inventiveness, that my gauge is off and this sweater will definitely be too big.

4. Measure the gauge. Curse as I discover that I have 20 stitches to 10 cm instead of 24. (Or less…since this is the hem.)

5. Decide that I like it that way, and that I don’t want the stitches any tighter. Make an educated decision to knit a smaller size, and to cast on 10 fewer stitches.

6. Rip back.

7. Cast on 215 stitches instead of 225. Knit two rows. Think “That still looks like a lot”. Do a quick bit of mental math. Remember that I can’t do mental math and get a calculator. 5 stitches to the inch – 215 stitches = 43 inches. I have a 37 inch chest.

8. Rip back. Take more Neo Citran.

9. Decide to cast on 110 stitches (thus removing another inch.) and go down another needle size after all. Worry briefly about what I will do about the shaping when my numbers are so far off and decide (sometime around when my good buddy pheniramine maleate kicked in) that I will worry about that later.

10. Knit for a while. Wonder how it is that I can be knitting a sweater on smaller needles than before, with fewer stitches than before and still be getting a sweater that is way, way too big.

11. Measure gauge again and discover that despite all of this, I am now getting 22 stitches to 10 cm (instead of the 24 I was aiming for.)

Curse violently and loudly. Consider setting a match to the whole thing and then remember how bad burning wool smells.

11. Take the sweater off the needles and pull it up over my hips. Confirm that it is way too big. Way too. Wonder absently, since I am drinking so much neo citran, and because I have taken a lot of measures to make this sweater smaller…. if I am shrinking.

12. Decide that I don’t give a crap and I will just have a big sweater. It might be cold at Rhinebeck. I may have to layer. I’ll put this sweater on over…..I don’t know. 12 other sweaters. I keep knitting.

13. I purl a turning row and change to the larger needles. (I realize that this will make the sweater bigger, but it turns out that I would rather have a sweater the size of the last Dell Recall than rip back again.) I continue knitting.


14. When I am about ready to begin the first little bit of colourwork, I pull out my measuring tape to make sure that I have knit enough. Absently, I also measure my gauge. Imagine my shock when I have 24 stitches to 10cm.

15. Sit in stunned silence and try to figure out how my gauge went down when my needle size went up. I examine things closely and notice that the sweater does indeed look smaller now.

16. Realize with stunned horror that I must have the wrong needles. Instead of the sweater getting bigger after the row, it is smaller. This is the opposite of what I was trying to do with the hem.

17. Realize with further horror that I have 225 stitches instead of either the 215 I believed I cast on originally, or the 210 that I cast on after that. Feel burning bitter irony, since 225 was the number that the pattern suggested I cast on in the first place.

18. Measure the circular that I started with and the circular that I’m using now…discover that (you aren’t hardly going to believe this) that they are THE SAME SIZE. Two distinctly different gauges over the same number of stitches using the same type of needle.


I don’t know squat about knitting.

Sedating antihistamines do not go with knitting calculations.

I will never, ever believe that gauge is my friend.

Now, completely by accident, I have the right gauge, over the right number of stitches and I have to rip back anyway because the freaking hem is all wrong, even though it was knit on the same size needles.

All suggestions as to how to proceed accepted. (Including the wool burning one. I’m too stuffed up to smell it.)

Answers, questions and tea

Holy crap guys…you all really approve of a wedding! Many, many thanks for the lovely well-wishes, gentle teasing and lovely congratulations. Joe and I read all of them, and loved each one. It’s an overwhelming party in the comments, and we’re so very, very grateful. Thanks for starting us off right!

You get questions and answers today me lovies, since I’ve caught a wicked bad cold since the wedding and simply can’t be arsed to put any more of an effort into it than that. I’m here on the chesterfield with knitting, and blankies and strong tea (I never drink coffee when I have a cold. Just tea…I always know when I’m getting sick since coffee starts to taste funny to me. It’s my cue to go buy a box of cold medicine and take a kilo of vitamin C.) Here’s questions from the comments and private mail…

1. It’s you and Joe that got married…right? Yup. (Although wouldn’t it be funny if it was someone else?) After all this time Joe and I took the plunge. We’ve been common-law under Canadian Law for years and years and years, and though that makes him my husband, and me his wife…and though that affords us almost all of the privileges of legal marriage (pensions, taxes…etc.) there were a few rights that only marriage conferred. (More interesting stuff here about being married or not, though it is largely American info.)

Mostly, our reasons for choosing to marry now are reasons of the heart, and as such, are entirely private. I can assure you with full enthusiasm however, that I am absolutely not knocked up.

2. How’s it feel to be all “mainstream”?

Had you been there (and some of you were) that this wedding was not at all mainstream. I wore red, Joe wore boots. The guests laughed, the piper played “Love me Tender”, people were knitting, our girls got rings too and we were married by a lovely woman who was Humanist Officiant. (That means it’s legal…but still godless, to answer the “are you giving up the godless thing” question.) Still, the ring on my finger is oddly comfortable, and Joe keeps talking about how “really, really married” we are… so I think it feels pretty good. I love too, that unlike in our shacked up days, someone has written down and registered in a big official book that we love each other and are a family. I didn’t think that would matter to me, I thought I was too much of a hippy to care if anyone knew what I did, but it turns out that entering that information into the public record really meant something.

Who was it who said that a wedding was a public declaration of a private intention? It feels like that. Oddly raw and human.

3. Pictures? Eventually. I promise you some lovely ones when the get here. We’re still waiting for people to send them to us. I do have a sock picture or two, taken by my lovely friend Julia, to whom sock custody was relinquished for the evening.


(In which Julia helps me to prove that my dodgy sock pictures are clearly not just operator error.) From the far left, our daughters, Samantha, Megan and Amanda, my Best Man – Ken, my Maid of Honor – my sister Erin…then me (the short one in the red) then Joe (the big guy with all the hair) …Joe’s best Man- his brother Chris, then his groomsmen, Lorne, Jeremy and Jody. You can see we married by the lake and it was a big crowd. Friends and family from as far as Kelowna in the west and Conception Bay in the East, from the states…Joe’s sister Kate and her partner Carlos even came from Spain. It was the best part really. All of those fantastic people in one place was completely staggering.

I’ll tell you more about it as the pictures roll in. (I’m sure you’ll be thoroughly sick of it and the pictures by the time I’m done.)

4. Was there knitting? Yes knitters, there was. The place was filthy with them. I laughed and laughed when someone told me that one of the servers was pretty flipped out by all the knitting. The knitters knit while they waited, they knit during the service (not just allowed, but encouraged) they knit during dinner, they knit after dinner…..


it was brilliant. (That’s our lovely Juno, and I don’t believe those are all her beverages, but it could be so.) One of Joe’s uncles said to me “That knitter over there never stops. I’ve never seen a thing like it.” I followed his finger and lo and behold…it was That Laurie. Made perfect sense. (Both That Laurie and I had a good laugh last week that I was posting for her while she was blogging for me while I was writing a book and she was flying to Toronto.)

As if all the knitters weren’t enough, I had a knitted guestbook,


made for us by Emma. It’s a hand bound book made from her own handspun yarn. It’s beautiful.

5. Gonna change your name? Nope.

6. How do you do all this? I am not alone. Joe (who I deeply regret calling Bridezilla during part of the organization of this wedding- it was a bad day) did most of the work and our families were fantastic. Every time someone asks me how I accomplish anything at all I point to the team around me. I’m a loser who couldn’t manage her way out of a paper bag. They, however…are spectacular.

(Also…my house is trashed and not one person in this house has a pair of clean pants.)

7. Are you on a Honeymoon? Nope, but we did have 10 great hours at the King Eddie. Pillows excellent, ceiling height impressive, bed size staggering, bed-mate equally top notch.

Other than those hours, Joe and I are both back at work. The timing on a honeymoon wasn’t right, and since we as a family got married, then we as a family wanted to honeymoon…and that was financially over the top. We’ll get there.

Since we’re right back in our real lives, I trucked myself (cold and all) down to Lettuce Knit last night, hoping to catch some special company. ( Did I mention that I missed Tracy Ullman and Mel Clark at the Museum of Textiles this weekend and I shall never be the same? I love Tracy Ullman. I am ashamed of my feelings for her. I could have given her one of my books, I could have explained who I was…(I’m certain that would have gone well.) I could have babbled like an idiot and said things that would have had me lying in the road afterwards out of shame. I could have a signed copy of their book, I could have told Mel I really like that Euroflax skirt in there. I would have laughed at all of Tracy’s jokes. I would have asked them to hold the sock. Why don’t people tell me when this sort of thing is happening? I know I was busy getting married, but I could have worked something out for Tracy Freakin Ullman.) In any event, sick or not, I wasn’t going to miss out on anyone else. I scored big too.

I found Amy Swensen, author, designer and Yarn Shop Owner, fresh in from Calgary:


Amy’s got a crochet book out there and she’s doing a new one on all sorts of felting. She’s buckets of fun and contaminated me with a burning desire for the incredible yarn she was knitting, Curious Creek wool/silk handpaint. (Take me now.) I’ve been trying to stay off her shops page all day so I don’t hurt myself.

If Amy weren’t enough…


Jillian! Jillian was in town working on the photoshoot for the latest collaboration with our own Knitty Amy, a follow-up to Big Girl Knits.

I really adore Jillian. She’s centred and calm and funny and ….I just really really like her.

(I don’t know who else besides me would be stunned by this, but in addition to meeting those knitters, I also met Linda “Coach” Smith. If you don’t travel in IBCLC circles that might not mean much to you, but for me it was breathtaking. She was right there. Knitting like an ordinary person. No soft glow coming off her or anything.)

It was totally worth limping out and back with a box of Kleenex, especially to see all of the Lettuce Knit regulars, who I can’t thank enough times for the yarn shop wedding shower last week (see? It’s not just me who can keep a secret!) and for the wonderful gift they all chipped in for. I’m a lucky, lucky knitter.

For now though, this lucky knitter is going to curl up with season 2 of Lost, a big mug of tea, a whack of rather intense cold drugs and a new project. New projects heal. Pass the Neo Citran and that set of 4mm needles…will ya?

I did, I did not and I do.

I did finish the book. (Or very much close enough. It’s gone to the Editor and I feel an ethereal lightness. I don’t think Joe could be any happier either.)


I did not finish the shawl before our event on Saturday.


Nor did I finish its companion, Joe’s gansey. These two projects were intended for greatness this weekend, and sadly…the limits on this knitters time were too much. It’s quite funny though…that out of all of the times that I have pulled off a completely wild amount of knitting on an insane deadline, it strikes me as hilarious (and perhaps a smidge ironic) that these are the two projects that didn’t make their intended event. The event?


Any Guesses?


How about now?