Little Things

I’ve got a little parade of finished things. I know that two things doesn’t really seem like a parade, but I’ve finished things that come in pairs, and considering how hard it is to beat SSS (Second Sock Syndrome) or SMS (Second Mitten Syndrome) I feel like I should be celebrating four finished things. (Also, these are Christmas things and considering that there are 42 Knitting Days until Christmas left -that’s if you count today and not Christmas Day, I feel especially pleased.)

First up, the mittens from Selbuvotter are done.


These are the romantically named “NHM #7” mittens, knit from Shelridge Farms hand-dyed sock yarn (the pink/red) and Sisu in white. It’s a fantastic pattern, and has only whet my whistle for more mittens. I love mittens. Way faster than socks.


Speaking of socks, these are Rotating Rib socks, finished.


These were knit from my standard issue sock pattern, but I subbed in a short row heel instead of my usual flap heel because the recipient likes tall socks, and short row heels take less yarn than flap heels. Using less yarn in the heel lets me make the leg a little longer.


I made the ribbing “rotate” by doing regular 2×2 ribbing, then moving the ribbing over one stitch every 6 rounds. Works like a charm, and is sort of cool looking without being difficult at all. (Except for the part where you have to wake up every 6 rounds and shift the thing. Turns out that counting to six is harder than it sounds.)


When I got to the foot, I put 1/2 of the stitches on one needle for the top of the foot, and the other half on two needles. I kept the rotating rib working all the way down the top of the foot, and changed the bottom to plain stockinette. Love them. The yarn is STR lightweight in “Downpour”. A big success.

I love these socks. I may knit them another few times before it’s out of my system entirely. Not today though, because today is Tuesday, and I’ve got a date with my spinning wheel. I’m aiming to finish up the carded wool I have for Joe’s gansey, and then make an assessment about how close I am to done. (I have a feeling it won’t be good news. This project is never-freakin-ending. If it is ever done I shall likely collapse in a fit of shock and emptiness.)

PS. Sorry about mentioning the 42 Knitting Days until Christmas thing, but it’s sneaking up on us and someone had to say it. I won’t mention Hanukkah. (Hint: it’s way sooner.)

The Royal

Here in Toronto, we have a great big agricultural fair each November called The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, though I’ve never heard anyone call it anything but The Royal. I’ve always loved The Royal, and the older I get the more I love this big country thing happening right in the middle of the largest city in Canada, because The Royal happens at the Exhibition grounds, and that’s just about downtown. You can take the streetcar there. My daughter Sam and I went yesterday, met up with a knit-posse, and took lots of pictures for you folks who aren’t fortunate enough to live close by.

Here I give you “Reasons why you should go to The Royal…or be really sorry you can’t”

1. Canadians aren’t stupid, so we aren’t about to hold a “Winter fair” outside. This is the main building for the fair,


and this is The Horse Palace. (I think the fact that there exists in the world such a place as “The Horse Palace” redeems humanity a little.)


2. You will see lots of animals. This is pretty fun. There are cows from the rear,


Cows from the front.


and cows arranged in rows. (We only stopped with the cows because it seemed appropriate, not because we ran out of cows.)


3. If you don’t like Cows, you had a lot of other choices. Do you want chickens?


or Pigs?


Maybe you want piglets?


How about this pig?


(Sam and I were unable to definitely state that this pig had eyes. We couldn’t find them. )

4. They have a totally awesome petting zoo. (Sam told me that she thinks the petting zoo at The Royal was “intense” and “hardcore”, and she’s 13 and pretty hard to please.) It must be good though, because I had a lot of trouble dragging not just Sam, but Rachel H. out of there.



5. Perhaps you like dogs more than other animals? We saw this.


6. I hear you. You don’t like animals. You like vegetables. Well yee haw cupcake because The Royal has that too.


7. You further discriminate and are only interested in Giant vegetables? Ok.



8. I hear the rest of you. You’re saying that you’re a fibre person and you’re only interested in fibre things. Gotcha. Well, that’s why I went to The Royal. There are fibre animals everywhere. (Click to make big)


Even Angora bunnies so furry that they look like they are cubed in their cages.


9. You can see a sheep to shawl contest where the teams start with a raw fleece, and pick, card, spin, ply and weave a shawl in less than 4 hours.


10. You can eat an apple dumpling with caramel and ice cream.


(Sorry, that one wasn’t fibre related, but we had to keep our strength up.)

11. Best of all though, you can go to the fleece auction. The best fleeces I have ever had came from The Royal, and this year there were some very nice ones. I gathered with my peeps:


and we came up with a gang sign for spinners.


We examined all the fleeces and made choices about what we were going to bid on.


Denny and I really liked this one. A beautiful white corriedale.


Then the auction starts.


Denny successfully outbid – well. Everyone to get us the one we liked (at like…$6 a pound. That’s a great deal.) and I got into a bidding war with Lorne from Wellington Fibres over a seriously good looking coloured fleece that Rachel and I are going to split. (We got that one too. It’s a beauty.) Mel got a bunch, Laura got some too. We cleaned up, actually.


The fleece auction is a lot of fun. A. Lot.

12. I’ve saved the best thing for last though. The best thing?



The butter sculptures.

Don’t you wish you could have come? Me too.

PS. Apparently some of you are getting a spyware “dangerous site” warning when you visit here? If you are, could you drop me a line at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca (change the words to the symbols) and let me know what warning software you’re using? My liquidweb tech person (Stephanie, she just learned to knit) is saying it’s a database thing that she can fix.

One for the geeks

I have just suggested to Karen, the very nice tech goddess at Liquidweb who is trying to figure out why the server has spontaneously decided that today is not a day that I am allowed to have email, that she make something for me.

I would like a wee virtual button for my desktop that says SMACK MY SERVER.

It doesn’t even have to have a script attached to it that actually does anything to the server….it would just be like the buttons at crosswalks. We all know they don’t do anything except for give you something to push while you wait for the light to change anyway. I could call tech support, they could work on the problem and I could sit here and push the button (perhaps it could make a nice firm “thwack” noise) and I would feel like I was doing SOMETHING VENGEANCE BASED AND HOSTILE TO MY *&^%%$!!!!&&ING SERVER instead of just sitting here waiting for it to release me from its digital hades.

Never mind. Look at wool.


Wool never break down. Wool never need upgrade. Wool have no port settings. Wool have no hostname or DNS.

Wool Good.

Three things

Even if I am boring…it turns out that Knit Night is always going to bring me blog fodder.

1. Remember how we had all those pregnant knitters? Here’s the latest delivery. (Well, there’s one more, but she was too young. Maybe next week.) Mel (the Mama on the right) brought us Liam, and it’s pretty easy to tell that this is a baby cherished by knitters.


The wee dude is just covered in knitwear. (He appears rather bored right there, but he’ll get used to it.)

2. Hey…Cari? I know you were worried about your friend Anneliese and her moving to Toronto from far away and not knowing anybody. Frankly, we were worried about her too…I mean, you were sending us a non-knitter to play with. How would we relate to her? What would we do with her? What would we talk about?


We figured it out. She’s fine now. No worries.

3. Also at Knit Night last night, we met Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, in town and visiting Village Yarns. She’s lovely, but gave all of us a little bit of a brain melt. She didn’t have any knitting with her (shocking thing the first) and so she picked some nice yarn and some nice needles and cast on for a sock. Well I’ll be darned if we didn’t all turn around and see this:


Just look at the expression on Amy’s face.

She’s got the whole skein just draped over her knees. It’s HOW SHE KNITS. Several knitters just reeling in shock offered, nay, practically insisted that the skein be taken to the ball winder, but Cornelia declined. She doesn’t wind the yarn into a ball because Cornelia thinks that the cakes of yarn that come off a ball winder are ugly. She prefers the aesthetic of a nice hank just draped on her lap. She gracefully unwinds as she goes. We were stunned.

I stared at her like an antelope had just walked into the shop.

I don’t know about you, but in the life I lead, that set up there is a one way ticket to the land of crazyville. It would last about 14 seconds before I had the whole thing canked up into a big whack of maddening tangle. What happens if you take that on the bus? What happens to it in your purse? Cornelia shrugged all of this off. It works for her. Totally works. I mean, she knits, she designs, she owns a freakin’ yarn shop, so obviously it’s not just like she hasn’t hung out with yarn enough to see the peril that she’s in. I thought Denny was going to knock her down and take the skein to the ball winder by force. Rachel H. was practically sweaty on Cornelia’s behalf, and the whole time she was sitting there I think I had a vein standing out on my head as I looked at that skein, just lying there. It was like waiting for a time bomb to go off.

One time, she had to go to the loo, and she just picked up the skein, re-twisted it into a hank, went away, returned and unfurled it on her lap again. Just like that. I asked her if she would do that if it were a thousand metre skein of laceweight, and that time Cornelia looked at me like I was an antelope. “Sure” she said. Just like it was the most normal thing in the world. I asked her what she would do if she was doing colourwork. What if there was two skeins?


In that case, she puts one over each shoulder.

I asked about cats, I asked about children….she had an answer for everything. It made me twitchy as all get out. She seems pretty smart, and she’ s certainly charming, but I’m a little disturbed by this.

I’ve been working all day on acquiring some perspective and an emotional version of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but I can’t quite shake the persistent urge to fly to Sweden, break into her house and wind all her yarn.

I’m not saying that’s right, or legal. Just a persistent urge.

I got nothin

I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to write something gripping, but it’s time to admit…

I got nothin. I’m not even vaguely interesting today. I’m even boring myself. There’s me and some work and the laundry…the same stuff I’ve been knitting for a while. In an incredibly bad move in the blog fodder department, I even knit the same thing last night that I knit the night before.


Another unoriginal hat, this one out of Liberty Fibers hand-dyed merino, held double. This colour is “Summer Mountain” . Judy, the dye artist who made it says you can get it here.


It’s really beautiful, soft and a treat to work with. This hat was the perfect thing to do with it, even if a set of mittens would have broken up the monotony for you guys.

In the fine tradition of knit blogging, having nothing to write about leaves the blogger with only two possible solutions. The cat wouldn’t stay still for a picture, so that leaves me with the other.

Q & A

Stephanie M asks:

Umm… do you get anything for winning the furnace wars?

Of course. What sort of idiots would do it for no reason? We get GLORY and the priviledge of hanging something over your siblings head for a whole year. (We also get a lower energy bill, and the good feeling you get from doing the planet a favour…. but did I mention the GLORY?)

Saranlap (and she wasn’t the only one) has a question about the charts and “no stitch” for the Unoriginal Hat:

Help! Love the hat but I’m confused by this ‘no stitch’ stitch…what do you do when you get to this placeholder? Just slip the stitch without doing anything to it??

Nope, you ignore it. If you ever see a “no stitch” or greyed out spot on a chart, you just pretend it isn’t there. It’s usually a result of a decrease on a previous row that sort of disappeared the stitch that would be there. If you have 14 stitches on a chart and on a row you decrease four of them, then there has to be a way to handle the missing stitches on the next row of the chart. That’s what the “no stitch” does. It says “There used to be a stitch here, but there isn’t any more. Move along. Nothing to see here.”

If you come to a “no stitch” stitch on a chart, just go to the next square that isn’t greyed out and carry on. Pretend it wasn’t even there.

Karen asks about my new charting software:

That is an amazing piece of software. And does that fact that you are using it mean it is Mac-compatible?

A-yup. It’s a miracle. You need a minimum of Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run it. I’m still boggling about the price. With the Canadian economy booming so fast and the US economy….well, being less so, the Canadian dollar is worth $1.09 US today. That means that not only did I get good software for the Mac, I feel like I got it on sale.

(I’m starting to understand the line-up at the border.)

Kassia is looking for the yarn:

Where did you get the yarn, though? I looked on Blue Moon’s website and they don’t have a yarn available called “Leticia.”

It’s true. I have it on good authority that they have a boatload of the stuff, but it’s just not up on the website right now. It’ll go up there really soon, in a lot of colourways. I got some the last time it went by.

UPDATE: Apparently I just don’t pay attention. It’s up now, and the page is here.

Finally, a whole bunch of you asked for the gauge on that yarn. The label on Leticia says that it’s 2 stitches per inch on size 10 needles (which I presume is US sizing.) There’s 80 yards (73 m) to 3.5 oz (100 g).

Happy Hunting!

An Unoriginal Hat

Yesterday morning, when Sam’s buddy Emily turned up to walk to school, she was wearing a cute, bulky knit cap. When I asked her who had made it for her, she looked at me like I was crazy like a bag of wet weasels and said “The store?”

Well. I grabbed my camera and took a picture of it, then went stash diving until I found a skein of yarn that would work.


then sketched out what I wanted,


then I knit a swatch and knit the beast up.


After that, because I was so pleased and because I have a brand spankin’ new copy of Knit Visualizer (which I love with a deep and burning affection.) I charted my graph paper scribbles into something that you can use too, and now we can all make Unoriginal Hats.


(For anybody worried about copyright, I assure you that my “copy” is merely inspired by and eventually rather different from the original hat…and that there are no worries.)

Please note that this is my first charting escapade, and that it has not been test knit. I think it works though.

An Unoriginal Hat.

Materials: I skein Blue Moon Fiber Arts “Leticia” (Mine is in the colourway “Rooster Rock”)

5 double pointed needles, size 7mm.

Gauge: about 12 stitches to 10cm, measured over cable pattern.

Size: It fits me (ladies small) and Meg (ladies medium) If you wanted a bigger one, you could go up a needle size.

Hat: Cast on 56 stitches, and distribute evenly (14 stitches on each needle) over 4 needles. This hat is worked in the round.

Set up row: *K4, P3, K4, P3 repeat from * around. (The set up and cable pattern runs over 14 stitches, so if you divide it onto 4 needles you will work the set up sequence and the chart once on each needle. Simple)

Work rows 1-16 of the chart twice, then the rest of the chart.

Break yarn, thread through remaining stitches, pull tight and fasten off. (Note: Until I can figure out how to fix it on the chart, please note that on row 20 , stitch 9 should be “no stitch”. You’ll end up with 4 stitches across the row.)




(PS. I turned my heat on yesterday morning. It was very cold, very windy, raining and appallingly damp. Still, November 5th is a new family best… and we won the furnace wars.)

That’s got to be why

So my seven year old nephew Hank came over yesterday, and we did some stuff.

We did a little of this.


Then a little of this…


and then, because Hank had been so very, very good, demonstrating good listening and good manners, real helpfulness and even some small measure of caution around danger…Hank was allowed to do a little of his most favourite thing at my house…


Using the ball winder. We determined, Hank and I, that his ball winding skills (you can see the focus there) are almost such that we may introduce the use of the swift soon. This would allow Hank to wind hanks into balls, instead of just winding balls into balls, and Hank winding hanks? That’s something which little dude thinks is pretty funny, and you would too, if your name were Hank and you were seven.

He wound that ball into a ball about seventeen times, and was finally coerced away from the ball winder by Sam, who offered to bake cookies with him. Hank thought that baking cookies was a pretty pale substitute for playing with yarn (which is something I agree with entirely) but conceded to help Sam, mostly out of politeness.

They went into the kitchen and chose a cookbook off the shelf. Now, if I had not been playing with wool myself right then I might have steered them in another direction, because they plucked a Martha Stewart off the shelf. Now, I’ve got nothing against Martha, and if I want to make a watercress soup, she’s the first lady I’m looking up, but I’ve noticed over the years that her baked goods don’t always work out. They require a certain finesse or something, and it seems to me that any recipe that requires that you have your eggs at a certain temperature or that you blend things with any sort of precision can end ever so badly for anyone who isn’t Martha, and combined with the talents of a seven and thirteen year old simply reeks of vanilla extract and impending doom.

I was playing with wool though, so I didn’t come on the scene until the two of them already had butter in the mixmaster. I supervised enough to know that they had put everything in, and followed the directions with a remarkable amount of responsibility…but even with my suspicions about Martha’s cookies being what they are…

Even I was surprised by what happened next.

Sam and Hank measured out the very ordinary looking dough into the two tablespoon lumps that Martha proposed. (Precision is everything.) They placed them as far apart as directed, and they put the cookie sheet into the (pre-heated) oven and set the timer. Then they hung out round the oven door and watched in horror as the cookies spread like a lava flow that ran right off the sheet in places.


They cooked it for as long as they could, but even at it’s most cooked, the whole thing was beyond inedible.

Poor Sam tried to cut it into cookies and rescue it….


but it was hopeless. She scraped the whole thing bitterly into the compost bin while Hank watched with sadness.

I stepped in at this point and suggested that maybe it needed a little more flour? Sam stirred in another half cup and a second batch went into the oven.


This batch only fared a little better, and were dubbed “cookie chips” by Hank, who agreed that these had to hit the bin too. This time Sam was more than disappointed. This time she was mad. She’d spent all this time, not to mention all of those ingredients and she felt ripped off. She blamed Martha, and thought there was no way that Martha didn’t know that her recipe was either impossible or wrong. I suggested that perhaps there was a typo in the book (it happens to the best of us) and that we add more flour again.

We added another cup and a half of flour (thus bringing the amount we used to 5 1/2 cups, a big difference from Martha’s suggested 3 1/2 cups) stirred it in and tried again.


This time…


they got cookies.

As Sam surveyed the disaster of amorphous, blobby cookies that had wound up in the bin, and calculated how far off the recipe had been and boggled that half of them had wound up in the garbage…I could see her getting really mad. Sam carries McPhee genes after all, and if we are as a clan, nothing if not frugal. It was infuriating to her to have money, time and food wasted. Her mouth was set in a firm line of seething resentment as she tried to scrape various disgusting warmish butter-goo-cookie-dough slurries off of pans. I could literally see her thinking.

“You know what?” she said to me, as she morosely chipped off bits of cemented cookie-lava

“I bet this is why Martha went to prison.”


At approximately 6:22pm last night, Ian allegedly called his competitors home and when asked how he was (he has an unfortunate cold) by the young person who answered the phone, apparently replied “Warm. I turned on my heat”.

Although his reasons for surrendering in the Furnace Wars are unclear at this time (and the rules do state that a phone call must be placed to your fellow competitors as soon as you touch that thermostat) the gentleman did make mention of some insulation being removed from a wall as part of a renovation on the neighbour half of his semi-detached home. When his sister was asked how she felt about winning this way, she happily replied “Oh, I don’t mind at all. I know he’s making a big deal out of the neighbours renovation making his house chilly, but I bet his neighbours turned on their heat to compensate. These are the Furnace Wars, not the furnace amusements. Things happen.”

This corespondent then inquired if she had turned on her heat as soon as she heard, Ms Pearl-McPhee laughed. “No freakin’ way” she snorked. “We’re sending someone over to check and see if his heat is really on. All’s fair in love and war, and Ian is absolutely capable of calling and telling us it’s on…..just so we turn ours on and he wins. I’m going to need some kind of confirmation before I so much as look in the general direction of my furnace. We’re sending over one of the kids to pretend we’re out of coffee.”

When asked if maybe she was taking the Furnace Wars a little to far this year, Pearl-McPhee replied “Oh, no. I think we haven’t taken it nearly far enough.”

(Secretly though, she is just glad that dude caved before it snowed. )

Make Hay

As a direct result of the dinner party last night, the dining room table was uncharacteristically clear of Joe’s crap today. It turns out that he’s not an idiot and even he couldn’t get around the fact that the whole family for dinner + no dining room table = an absolutely indefensible position. He cleaned it up.


I know an opportunity when I see one, and who knows how quickly Joe will have it filled back up again, so when I saw the table was still clear this morning…..


I got all of the clean gansey wool carded, even though it was not Tuesday and nobody had bugged me.


Turns out the weight of my own guilt is enough motivation some days. It remains to be seen if this will be enough carded wool to finish the gansey though, but I’m feeling optimistic. I may do one more batch, since I think having too much yarn would be preferable to coming back to this phase again. It’s taken two (three?) years, but I’m starting to be more than ready to see the back end of this project.

Q&A from the comments?

Frances inquires…

“That mitten almost makes me want to wear mittens. How do you knit colorwork so quickly? Seriously? ”

I knit colourwork with two hands, which I think is way faster than any other system I’ve seen, once you get the hang. I carry the main colour in my left and knit continental (picking), and I carry my contrast in my right and knit in my usual odd style (a variation on throwing). Works great, and quickly….and it also helps me to remember what hand I had what colour in. (Colourwork can get wonky looking if you keep swapping out which colour is in which hand.)

Anne asks….

“HOW do you knit so much so quickly? Is it just that you don’t work full time outside your home? I wish I could knit at work …”

It’s partly that I can knit at work, though you would be surprised at how little it helps, considering that I’m a writer and am yet to learn how to knit and type at the same time. It’s a pretty rare day when I can afford myself the luxury of knitting much during work hours… Mostly this job (even though it is at home) is a lot like other jobs. If I don’t put in the hours, I don’t get it done and I’m in trouble. Today I carded when I should have been working, and I’ll have to make it up this evening by writing instead of knitting. Knit and read I can manage…and I probably get a half hour of simple knitting in that way each day. I knit in the evenings…or if I leave the house I often knit while I walk (but not ride my bike, obviously) or on the bus. I knit in queues, I knit on the phone…. I think I get the bulk done in two or three minute increments here and there while I’m waiting for something else to happen. There’s also the fact that I’ve been knitting for 35 years. I’ve got some practice.

Mostly though, I’m the queen of multitasking. All those 5 minute intervals of knitting really add up. In addition, I feel compelled to point out that I neglect the housework. Profoundly. Frees up buckets of time.

Now, I shall excuse myself. I’ve really got to get my carder and crap off the dining room table before Joe comes home and points out that me leaving my crap on the table after sever weeks of complaining about his crap on the table leaves me in a pretty indefensible position.

(If I want the upper hand in these disputes, I have to be careful not to damage the high ground.)

PS. Furnace War update: Ian and I are both still in the running. (Samantha got up this morning and told me that she dreamed I had turned on the heat and the whole family was mad at me.) Last night it dipped down to 1 degree, and the high today is only supposed to be 9 (48F). Tonight may not help either, as the temperature is forecasted to be a repeat of the rather nippy 1 (33F) from last night. Snow is predicted for Tuesday, and nobody has ever taken the Furnace Wars through to the snow time. In my favour… Ian has a cold. That may weaken him enough. I should have never knit him woollen clogs and an afghan. It’s like arming the enemy.

What The Blog wants

Usually when I sit down to write this, I know that no matter what I write, some element of the amorphous mass that I think of as “The Blog” will be disappointed with my performance, knit wise. (Did you know that’s how we think of you all? If I have a knitting dilemma I’ll say to Joe “Do you think this fits right?” and Joe will reply “I don’t know…What does The Blog think? Does The Blog like it?” and I’ll maybe reply “I haven’t asked The Blog yet. I’ll talk to The Blog about it in the morning.” That’s you. The Blog.) If I knit the mittens, part of The Blog will say “hey! What happened to the Sunrise Circle Jacket?” or if I knit on the Jacket then the other side of The Blog says “Show me more of those ribbed socks” and if I knit the ribbed socks some faction will surely ask me where my Tuesday spinning is. Today though, I have something for everyone.

1. I have attended to the Sunrise Circle Jacket until I….ran out of clean yarn again.


Apparently, I cannot be taught.

2. I finished a mitten


(NHM #7 from Selbuvotter)


and started the next one.

3. I worked on the Rotating Rib sock.


Pattern mine, yarn is STR lightweight in “downpour”

4. I did indeed spin on Tuesday.


Rachel H., Denny and Laura came over for a drink wine/eat soup/ spin evening on Saturday, and I started spinning this beautiful roving called “copper penny” I got from Steam Valley Fiber Farm at Rhinebeck. (All purchases will be revealed in the fullness of time.)


So smitten was I with this roving, that I didn’t ask what its content was. I would suspect mohair/wool, but whatever it is, it has a wee bit of glitzy stuff thrown in that is going to make it the best present ever for someone on my list. (I am not so much with the sparkles, but I know someone who will LOVE it.)


I finished spinning and plying this Tuesday and now I have three skeins (which should be enough for a Christmas scarf) all good to go.


5. I continued to participate in the Furnace Wars. I’d like to thank global climate change, factories and SUVs everywhere for making it possible for Ian and I to compete into November for the first time in McPhee history. We aren’t even really suffering, and that’s stunning. (Todays temperature is a little colder, but still it’s a balmy 12 degrees (56 Fahrenheit) and that’s not very hard to take.)

6. I did not work on the Gansey, but that’s only because Joe still has an office set up where I would put the drumcarder. I have clean wool ready to go….so It’s not my fault this time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got dinner for 16 (just the immediate family) to pull together.

It’s my darling Joe’s birthday, and I’ve got to figure out if I even own 16 plates.