The thing about Madrona

The thing about Madrona, is that even though it is supremely organized, cheerfully run and as easy for the teachers/speakers to navigate as possible, something about it kicks my ass and leaves me for dead. I think it starts with the time change. I was tired when I arrived that night, woke up earlier than I meant to, then stayed up later than I should have. It is so much fun, and there are such wonderful people and so many of them that I end up trying not to waste time sleeping. Avoiding sleep is a decision that totally comes back to bite you on the arse later, as there was one evening where I was forced to go to bed when I didn’t want to, since the risk of falling over in public seemed more plausible by the moment. There is SO MUCH rammed into every second that you are at the retreat that….well. Between the wool fumes, the knitters I wanted to meet and the ones who wanted to meet me and the lack of sleep I was on the edge of complete collapse before I left Tacoma and the hotel on Monday morning at 6:30am and arrived home about 6pm. (Hence no blog that day.) Yesterday I tried to blog but the needs of my corporeal self and those of my family won out…as it should be. I put the whole day down, stayed in my jammies and did only what I had to. Feeling much better today. It would take forever to tell you everything so I’m just hitting the high points.


Mount Rainier from my hotel room window. Nice eh? Also cool was this crazy fog in the morning. I would wake up and look out the window and it would be like the world was gone. Totally slipped into a void. We don’t get a lot of fog here in Toronto, so I found it fascinating. (Fog is something about warm air plus cold air plus moisture. We don’t have that. We have cold wet air, and warm wet air, not usually at the same time. We are a city of extremes.) I thought about taking a picture of the fog and the way it looked like nothing, and then realized I was on the brink of taking a picture of nothing and thought maybe I didn’t want my standards to slip that low.

Knitters. I got to see most of my FT friends again (though I slept through one of the meet-ups by accident.) Saw many, many wonderful people. Big shout out to Erica. (She was one of my favourites.)

Anita Luvera Mayer on women’s transitions. Sincerely. If you were there for her talk, I’m sure that you will agree with me that this was seriously a high point of not just Madrona, but your life. Discuss.

The Mittens of Rovaniemi class with Susanna Hansson. This was a super challenging class to learn how to make these.


I’ve got to catch a bus so I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. Stunning crazy knitting. Crazy.

Discovering that Fiona Ellis and I were on the same plane home and bargaining for window time for days. Fiona slighted me on Saturday (not really) and I took a demerit of 15 minutes of window which she earned back by doing my homework (for her class) on Sunday. We went back and forth the whole weekend long, 15 more minutes window time for her, then a 15 minute demerit for me…on and on and on, only to discover when we got on the plane:


No window.

(Maybe you had to be there and/or sleep deprived for 5 days, but we could hardly get a hold of ourselves. Dudes, it was really funny. )

Madrona: Day one

Ten things to make note of:

1. Dude, if we are on a plane together and you hit on me for five solid hours and each time you try (although, really congratulations on your tenacious nature. It’s really a gift for you) I say things like “Thank you, my husband thinks so too” or vaguely wave you away for my movie or put on my headphones or stare really intently at my knitting, the answer is still no. Thanks anyway.

2. Pilot? If you remind people to check for the exits closest to them when you begin your descent? That makes us think we are going to need the exits.

3. If anybody tells you that you are crazy for taking more than one knitting project on a plane, then laugh them off. I finished Joe’s socks with 20 minutes left and (perish the thought) no knitting. Luckily, that left me free to defend myself from my neighbours advances and check my exits. I am taking way, way more knitting on the flight home.


Joe’s socks, my basic sock pattern, upsized to 72 stitches around and knit in …oh nuts. The ball band is at home. Any guesses?

4. I am signing books here at Madrona Fiber Arts on Saturday from 5-6. There is no reason you are not welcome, even if you aren’t signed up for the retreat. Furthermore, there is nothing stopping you from shopping at the market. I am going to try not to, so it is very important that you all buy a lot so I can live vicariously through you.

5. There is a three hour time change. It is kicking my arse. I couldn’t stay awake last night (I had big plans to seek out social knitters, but had to settle for meeting Teyani in the lobby. It was lovely.) and this morning I am awake at, by Tacoma time, at a horrendously early hour.

6. I have no plain socks to knit. I may drop by the Blue Moon booth. If you see me with more than one skein, please take me down with a sedative blowdart like in Wild Kingdom. (Am I the only one who thought that Jim had a really hard go on that show? I mean, it was always “As we can see from the safety of the jeep, Jim has attracted some unwelcome attention from a pride of hungry lions. )

7. Tonight I am giving a talk about Knitters Without Borders. I am going to try not to suck. It’s at 7:30, and you could come. If you do, then you get a double treat. Not only do you get to see me song and dance, but you can listen to Diane Formoso talk about Caring for Kids.

8. Someone sent a bottle of Plum Mead to my hotel room. I don’t know who you are, but it is very yummy, and I love you.

9. Amanda, if you don’t clean your hampster’s cage before I get back I will not speak to you until you do. In some countries, you would be old enough to have 3 children, four goats and be scrubbing your husbands laundry on a rock in the local river. There is no reason for that aroma to be wafting delicately out of your pit room.

10. I forget what 10 was, but I’ve got to fly. I’m taking a class on The mittens of Rovaniemi in an hour. Susanna says it’s advanced and to bring patience. I’m unreasonably excited about this.

Ps. There is a big mountain right outside my window.

In lieu of

I am not packed. This is a problem, considering that my flight leaves in a few hours. (I had to go into the stash for some yarn for a class…I thought it would only take a minute, but…well. I had to go deep.) In lieu of a blog today, I give you a podcast.

When I was at SOAR at the beginning of November, I recorded this very giggly interview with Amy Clarke Moore. (It is very giggly. In our defence, it was the last night and we were both a little overcome by fun and wool fumes.)

The interview is here. Enjoy, and remember that you don’t need an ipod to listen to podcasts. It will play right on your computer. When you get done listening to me, there’s one with Amy Singer here.

I’m going to go pack. I’ve made the very virtuous decision to only take unfinished objects with me. Maybe if I have nothing else to knit I’ll make some progress.

See you at Madrona!

Good news, bad news

Good news: My laptop is fixed and will be ready for me to take with me tomorrow. This a big relief and really quite grand.

Bad news: Level one data recovery from the busted hard drive has failed, meaning that the laptop, while it is working and back, is an empty shell of its former self. A shallow husk of electronic dissapointment. Joe and I are discussing level 2 data recovery, which is expensive. The pondering of possibilities will continue, though at the moment I’m quite crushed.

Good news: I reknit the delicato mitt on smaller needles and using fewer repeats and it is indeed a lot smaller and fits like a dream.


Bad news: Right after I finished knitting it I reached for the larger one to frog it and start it in the new smaller size, unravelled the thumb and suddenly thought “Well now. It really does look smaller without its thumb” and had a realization.

I had frogged the wrong one. Yessiree, I ripped out a perfectly good thumb.

Good news: This entertained Amanda to no end.


Bad news: I am apparently still striving for perfection as a mother, since her reaction (pictured above) made me want to ground her for a full month (and possibly make her sit in the naughty corner) despite her being almost 18 years of age.


1. My youngest, Sam, has safely made it to Mexico on her babysitting/Hank helping gig with my sister. I am worried about this, this, and this. I am trying not to think about it, but I have also considered this and this.

2. I understand that it is a psychosis of motherhood that allows us to believe that our presence makes all situations safe. Intellectually I know that the fact that I am with my child is not enough to guarantee safety, but emotionally? Try me.

3. I have decided that since Erin is there and is responsible for Hank, that likely the same volcano preventing rules will apply. Also, Erin has a perfect parenting safety record.

4. Sam’s email said that she “ate at a Mexican restaurant.” I laughed for an hour.

5. The Sweet Sheep is selling yarn that has helps make money for Knitters without Borders.

6. In my internet travels this week I have found the cutest baby sweater ever. I understand that this reveals how far behind I am on reading Anny’s blog and I am willing to suck it up, so cute is this sweater.

7. Remember these babies? Babies grow.


Their now knitting mother and I (She made a very good hat. I’m so proud.) took them to a new yarn shop in town this weekend. We totally got in the way and ate good cake and squeezed yarns and put babies on their floor and they took it all very well. (That’s a sign of a good yarn shop.) My favourite part of the whole thing was Lily’s reaction to the whirling swift. (Forgive the bad picture.)


She was beyond enthused. (That’s exactly how I feel about my swift.)

8. I tried another fingerless mitt design of my own divining.


and I frogged it, accepted defeat and from among the billions of suggestions you guys gave me, I chose these. Ann’s lovely Delicato mitts.

9. I think that all Ann does is sit by her computer waiting to do your bidding. I know this because I paypal-ed her the money for the pattern and it was in my inbox before I had a new cup of coffee. I don’t know if you can expect the same service all the time, but I will try buying another pattern at 3am and report back to you how quick she is then.

10. I am pretty darned sure I have the right pattern now, though I might size it down a smidge.


Ann is very clear about the size that the Delicato mitts will turn out. It is me that has body issues and thinks I am much bigger than I am. I have a lot of trouble remembering my actual size. (This happens a lot with pants too. Apparently I’m way off about the size of my hands and completely deranged about my arse.)


11. Amber has done something darned handy and gathered all of the fingerless mitt suggestions in one place. Clever knitter. You can find it Here.

12. If you live in Toronto or the GTA you should get involved with this. It’s really cold here, and Streetknit is on the right track.

That will be all. Move along.

I love this yarn. (Really.)

This Christmas, after I had taken out the chocolate and socks and new pens from my stocking, I found a single beautiful skein of yarn curled elegantly in the toe.


I love it. (In the interest of accuracy and not screwing over brand new knitters who are going to be left wondering what the difference is between a skein and a ball, and will then send me email saying “If that’s a skein, what’s a ball?” .. this is not the skein. The skein has been wound into a ball for the purposes of knitting and a photo. ) This is one little skein of Alchemy Alpaca Pure, and for a time it’s just hung around. It sits on the desk. I pat it. It’s a pet skein.

Now, I don’t have any problems with pet skeins. I think they serve a valid and noble purpose just as they are. Not all yarn needs to be knit up to have a reason for existing. I mean, does anyone stand in front of Sonia Delaunay’s Tango Bal and say “Yeah…but what’s it for? I mean, is it holding up the wall or something?” (I take it back. I know there are those who have no feeling for art, but they are soulless and dead inside and I’m not bringing them into this conversation. You can not like some art, you can even think it’s ugly, but pointless? Dead. Inside. That’s what those people are. )

Back to the point. This skein has been sitting around, fulfilling its purpose of being beautiful and art, and I’ve realized that’s a mistake. Joe bought that skein for me as a gift, and he doesn’t quite yet understand about yarn as art, and I realized that if I didn’t knit it into something, he was going to think (was thinking, actually) that I didn’t like it or want it. I certainly wasn’t doing anything to reinforce his yarn buying. I decided to knit it up. I thought I would love to have some pretty fingerless mitts and I winged it. Behold, not the first, nor the second, nor even the third attempt, but the fourth attempt at a pair of simple, simple fingerless mitts which I am now going to frog because they are ass. Complete ass.


The first ones were too big. The second ones were less big, but still not related to my hand size in any way at all. The third ones were ugly and this time, this time I have outdone myself. These are ugly AND too small.


All of that comes down to me violently ripping alpaca last night, and Joe stating so simply, “I don’t know if that yarn makes you happy…”

Obviously, the foul language I am using when I am near this now cursed yarn is not doing anything to help Joe understand that I value it greatly and that I really enjoy his forays into yarn purchasing and would like him to repeat it as frequently as possible.

Anybody got a pattern suggestion? It’s a fingering weight alpaca and I’m clearly not cutting it with the “winging”.


From the comments: Sonya asks:

Will you do another knitting olympics??

Absolutely. I might do a few things differently next time, (Things like finding a better way to manage the list of names. A way that doesn’t include all that crying.) but there’s no way that the Winter Olympics could go down in Canada and I couldn’t do it. Lucky for me I’ve got a couple of years to figure it out.

What’s that? A few of you saying “But what about the Summer Olympics! The Knitting Olympics can happen every two years, not four!”

I don’t think so. When you have an event….a sport, you only get to go to the Olympics every four years. It’s part of what makes it epic. Bobsled? Four years. Skiing? Four years. Running? Four years. Knitting? (I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.) I say that the Summer Olympics are for other sports. Maybe the Crocheters should have the Summer Olympics?

I’ll listen to the radio

My mother is an extremely intelligent and educated woman. Her wit and ability to problem solve are formidable indeed, and seldom have I seen her completely overcome by a situation. (We shall excuse the years that she had four teenagers. Now that I’ve got three I don’t think it’s fair to bring it up.) I think that’s why I find her reaction to a power outage hysterically funny. She can’t quite get that the power is truly gone, all gone, everywhere in the house. Mum just keeps trying everything that plugs in and is disappointed over and over. When the tv goes off, mum says “Never mind, I’ll listen to the radio. Oh? Radio’s out too? Nevermind, I’ll turn on this light and do a little reading. Oh….crap. Well, now’s as good a time as any to catch up on the laundry. Damn. Forget that, I’ll just get online and do some work while I wait….”

It goes on and on, and up until today, as I entered the first 24 hours of laptop withdrawal, I thought it was really, really funny. Laugh out loud funny.

Then there was today. I made coffee and went to check my email to find out what time I had an interview. Damn. Nevermind, I’ll just sit here and wait. I’ll do a little writing while I just wait for them to call. H. E. Double hockeysticks. Can’t do that either. Screw it. I’ll write on paper, I’ll just print out the outline from the …..Son of a !!!, Chuck this. What time do I have to be at the dentist? I’ll open my scheduler and….of for the love of all things holy… FINE. I’ll phone the dentist and …oh yeah. Can’t open the address book. Well. I’ll just load an audiobook onto my ipod and go for a walk….

You get the idea. Turns out the apple might not fall so far from the tree.

The laptop has gone to the computer doctor and he’s pronounced it. Deader than a doornail. Totally bricked. It’s still under warranty, so Apple will be sending along a new hard drive but that takes three to five business days. Once the new drive is in they are going to try data recovery from the old drive….and we shall see. I’m pretty worried (if we understand that by worried I mean sort of weepy and fragile) about two things. Firstly, that there will be no data recovered, since – and I’m only going to say this once…I had no backup. (I know. I know. I am being punished. Turns out that I had some pretty strange ideas about computer memory and servers and…well. You don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it. I do think that they should come up with another name for all that “memory” you buy for a new computer if it doesn’t remember anything….but that’s a fight for another day.) Secondly, I’m getting on a plane on Wednesday to go to Madrona Fiber Arts, and if the computer isn’t fixed by then I…I….well. I don’t know if I can go away without a laptop. No blogging? No surfing? No internet chat with Joe and the kids? Five whole days of writing on….paper? (A friend reminded me today that War And Peace was written on paper. There’s a sobering thought, sort of gives me a hand cramp just thinking about it. Can anybody write by hand faster than they type these days?)

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

In the meantime I’m back on the old eMac, vying for time and space with Joe and the kids, patched together right here in the middle of the main floor. There’s (sort of) email capability, though I don’t have access to all of the emails I had in my inbox, just brand spanking new ones, I think that I can post to the blog…I guess I’ll know in a minute, and



Oh look! I was going to say that I couldn’t do pictures but I figured it out. That’s the finished yoga bag that I gave my sister-in-law. Nice, eh? (Cat bonus at no additional charge.) Wait….


Yo! A new hat. Noro Silk Garden in colour 84. It bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Steph’s hat pattern, and it would bear an exact resemblance except I couldn’t look it up on her site because my laptop is a brick applied a little creativity to it. Mine is knit flat, with fewer stitches and different decreases. Totally inspired by Dr. Steph though. Actually, now that I think of it, she designed the yoga mat bag too….All Steph, all the time around here.

Now, if nobody minds, I’m going to go and call the computer store to ask about the data recovery and see where the hard drive is for the 457th time. I’m pretty sure it’s helping keep them on track.

PS. If this works I’m totally going to have a celebratory shot of good scotch.

What does “Brick” mean to you?

I know I’m going to post this and somebody is going to say that Mercury is in retrograde and that’s why this has happened to me, but I’m starting to harbour a secret suspicion that Mercury is in perpetual retrograde.
At Christmastime, Ken and Joe had this software (software that related to a router somehow.) and the it cautioned that one must take this precaution or that one, lest one (I swear it) “brick” ones router. “Brick” as a verb.
“Brick?” I said, rather inquisitively, as computer terms are foreign to me and therefore an endless source of intrigue… “What does that mean?”
“Brick?” said Ken. “You know, brick your router.” (I may have looked pretty blank.)
“Brick?” I queried…trying to look informed and clue-less at the same time.
“Yeah” Ken (giving me that look that he gives me when something is obvious and I am dense. ) “Brick. As in ‘turn into a…’.”
Turn your router into a brick. I get it, I thought. How very descriptive. We all know exactly what that would look and behave like, a “bricked” router. I have told you this story, my lovely knitters, because about 11am this morning, I committed a crime against my computer (we shall never know what exact keystroke did me in) and I have, effectively… “bricked” my laptop.
This afternoon and much of the evening was spent in on the phone with Apple and I have been informed by a very, very nice young man named Adam that I should not be optimistic. It would seem that my new laptop hard drive is toast. In fact, when a diagnostic disk was finally inserted in the laptop, it denied that it even had a hard drive at all… and that’s a pretty bad sign. In the morning I shall take deep even breaths while Joe takes it to the computer doctor, but I am emotionally resigned to learning that all is lost. (Ok. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit, so maybe I’m not as resigned as I think I am. There’s a new book started on that computer. My email is on that. The great picture of Sam on skates… My… everything… is on that. It’s all I can do not to lie in the road.)
The only thing comforting me at all is the KWB total. I was adding things up at the moment that that Everything. Went. Wrong… but before I was consigned to the abyss, I knew the total.
$320 093.
Seriously. That is the total up to the end of the 24th December (so there is more to come) and dudes, that means we blew by the goal like Nicole Richie blows by a lunch buffet. We are so far past the goal that even “bricking” a laptop can’t be that bad. This is like the hugest afghan that anyone ever knit. $5- $10… $100 at a time, one knitter at a time, we are changing the world.
Now that I think about it? I’m just glad that I live a good enough life that I have a laptop to brick. Yeah man… that’s it. I’m grateful for my bricked laptop and I am thrilled that this has happened. Vive le MSF dudes… me and my bricked laptop don’t mind at all.
(OK. I’m not quite there yet, but I am really proud of all of you. I’ll write later when I find out if I’m totally screwed. Give Ken a round of applause for posting this. He’s such a nice boy. )

Review and Realization.

I learned something really interesting this weekend.

Lucy Neatby has secret mind powers that she can use to control my knitting through the medium of a DVD. That…or I may lack some focus. One of the two. For a while now I’ve had the Knitters Companion: Knitting Essentials DVDs that Lucy made and I thought they were pretty darned good. (If you scroll down there’s a couple of clips to watch.) I’ve been knitting fairly adventurously for 34 years. I’ve read lots of books I’ve tried lots of patterns, I’ve investigated interesting techniques…I thought that it was pretty likely that I was going to be entertained by Lucy, but not taught. Not me. Not knitting essentials. If it was “advanced techniques” I would expect to pick up something, for sure. Essentials though? No way.

Well, pride goeth before a fall because dudes I learned something HUGE in the first couple of minutes. HUGE. The woman has a cast off on there that I can’t even begin to use words for. It’s humane. It’s life changing. It’s one movement instead of two it’s …well. Juno and Cassie have seen it. They know. (Can I get an Amen for the cast off?). The rest of the DVD was clever and helpful, but that Cast Off? Life changing. Worth the price of admission right there. The DVD’s are well filmed, of a good quality and Lucy knows her business in these re-windable workshops. There’s a list of what appears on the first movie here, and there’s a great index at the beginning of the disc so that you just just jump to the Cast-off bit (or the cast-on bit or the thing about decreases) over and over again. It’s sort of like having a live knitting book. You can look up what you need to know, watch Lucy imbue it with grace and wisdom and move on. (This might be especially neat for knitters like Wendy who like to see things live and in person to understand them.) Personally, what I liked was that Lucy Neatby will never know the exact number of times I rewound a part to watch it again, where it a classroom my exact mental density would have been revealed to her each time I said “What?” or “Show me again.”

When the new ones arrived from Lucy I sat down to watch them. I settled down with some seriously boring knitting


The 75cm (30 inch) strap for the yoga bag. The first 47 cm were intriguing. I’m pretty done with it now. I figured that “Sock Techniques 1″ would be a good distraction from the limp to the finish line.

Here’s the part where I learn something other than the Latvian Twist Cuff. (Very interesting, by the way.) I had to put down the yoga strap and cast on a garter stitch hat because I cannot listen to Lucy talk about knitting and not do what she tells me.


I’m trying to work linen stitch and Lucy’s describing a how to work decreases for a ruffle on the top of your sock and suddenly I’ve got fewer stitches on my strap. It’s like I’m helpless to defy her. I switched to the Scarf Rescue hat (from my book, though if you think about it I bet you could figure it out without buying it.) because it’s just straight garter stitch and still…


Lucy spoke. I listened. I’d be chugging along knitting every stitch every row and Lucy would tell me about tubular casting on and I’d nod, listening to her speak, her using every ounce of her teaching experience and me listening carefully because every so often she says something like “snuggle your stitches” and it makes me laugh and I’d look down and Wham. Some monstrosity of knitting happening on the needles because I cannot defy Lucy. I cannot listen to one knitting instruction and execute another. I listen, and my hands obey.


This garter stitch hat has actual mistakes. Knitting 34 years, all I have to do is knit every stitch on every row…there aren’t even any decreases, and there are mistakes. I could have sworn that I could work garter stitch in the late phases of labour or while parachuting, but lo’ in the face of the dulcet instructive tones of Lucy Neatby I have no control over my hands. Lucy has the Voodoo. I’m going to try stockinette and the second video today.


I am not optimistic. Lucy Neatby is my puppet master.

PS. Lene? Thank you for the snow. It arrived last night.

PPS. New total for Knitters Without Borders coming tomorrow.

Ruining a little knitting

I’ll admit that I have never fully appreciated the charm of felting (or fulling) knitting. It has always seemed to me that it was an adept and swift way of ruining knitting. All that work to get the stitches just right, being careful to do this carefully, only to toss it in the washer and get something completely indistinguishable from some other fabrics? (Perhaps it is that usually when I take knitting to water I am striving for the opposite, and that’s pretty ingrained.)

I didn’t get it, and I still don’t – most of the time it feels like ruining my knitting. The one exception?

The Fiber Trends Felted Clogs. I love this pattern. I’ve knit it maybe twenty times, and it never fails to charm me.

This floppy weird knitting…


that is this big…


takes a trip in my faithful washer and becomes these.


Useful, beautiful, clever, durable footwear. Love it. The pattern is fast, easy and interesting. The yarn for this pair is my favourite felting yarn, Patons Classic Merino, (colours 231 Chestnut Brown and 77011 Wedgewood) and my only qualifier for the whole thing is to remember to toss the whole works into one of those zipper washing bags or a tied up pillowcase before you felt it, or it can be a very costly pair of slippers when the washer guy has to replace the wool clogged motor. (Learning this lesson cost me $300. I beg you to heed the warning. Joe still looks a little nervous when I start knitting them.)



to this.



A word today about all the outrage and upset about the STR club woes I wrote about yesterday. Remember that the Blue Moon ladies were smart enough to build the business that got into this mess, they were smart enough to figure out how to fix it, and all of us need to take a deep breath while they do the work they need to do and trust what we know, that they are plenty smart enough to do the right thing (whatever that is) when the air clears and they have met the needs of their customers. Anything more that happens, releasing (or not) the name of the bank, the possible repercussions, the revenge fantasies and the plan for what comes next should all belong to them, since while we are all offended (and clearly creative about the possibilities for said revenge), they are the directly involved party. Knit on.