In which the deer mock me

Made it through another night, this one easier than the last, partly because I was more tired, partly because I’m getting used to how things sound here, and partly because I was hugely entertained with reading all of the comments on yesterday’s post. It was pretty gripping reading, hearing about the differences in people and how they feel about being alone. To answer a few questions:

1. No. I don’t have a firearm and dude, do I feel good about that.

2. Yes, I thought about bringing the chainsaw and axe into the bedroom, but considering that I don’t know how to use a chainsaw and (as I proved yesterday as I attempted to cut up some wood for the fire) I have no talent for the axe (I hit the log about 1 time out of 10, and even then, never in the same spot) bringing those items into the bedroom only arms the axe murderer. (Who I presume would have not gone into this line of work did he not have pretty mad axe skills.) I left ’em in the shed, where there is at least a locked door between me and them.

3. Yes. I agree. Zombies do not rampage in the freezing temperatures. Far more of a summer risk.

4. Yes. Braving the night and the cold and my fear to see how many stars there are? Totally worth the angst.


I spent the better part of yesterday writing, but was so interested in the woods that I took a bunch of hikes. This place sits on part of the Canadian Shield and the ground is mostly made up of huge rocky outcroppings, crevices and slides. (It’s Precambrian Rock, some of the oldest on earth, been here for somewhere between 4.5 billion and 540 million years.) In the summer, it’s treacherous to walk on, you wouldn’t do it in the dark for sure, and in the wintertime it’s extra dangerous, since the places that are good to walk on are hidden by snow, and so are the bad places. A section that looks like billowy soft snow is actually rocks, and It would be very easy to step into a rocky crevice or off the edge of a big rock with it’s edges disguised by snowdrift.


Luckily for me, this place is filthy with deer (and something else that I keep seeing the tracks of. Maybe bobcat?) and the deer know way more than I do. To walk in the woods I just get on a deer track and don’t step off. I walk where they walk.


I was out several times, because temperatures were so low yesterday that I had to be careful not to be outside for more than 20 minutes. (The weather station actually said 15 minutes, but I didn’t think that they allowed for my layer of alpaca and wool.) I would hike out 10 minutes, then turn around and come back, warm up and try again.

On one walk I tried to make it to a ridge I could see, one that overlooked the river, but I couldn’t go straight there (the deer are apparently not plotting their routes for efficiency.) I stood there in the woods, with the light of the day fading, my feet and cheeks starting to get very cold, and I looked for deer track that would take me where I wanted to go. Over to my left I could see the track of one deer who had gone off on her own, and I stepped off of the broader deer track (it’s like a deer highway there are so many footprints) and went that way. I hadn’t taken more than ten steps when I came to a place where the deer had taken a long stride, and I (with my legs that are not quite as long as a deer’s) stepped between her hoofprints.

Instantly, my leg shot down into a crack in the rock, and in the beat of a heart I’d thrown myself forward (just like if you fall through the ice. LIE DOWN.) and stopped falling. I crawled forward, my heart pounding and looked back at the crack. It wasn’t very big at all and I felt immediately stupid for having been so scared. I sat there for just a few minutes, gathering myself and looked back at the deer track. There, right before the crack, were two deer prints exactly side by side. That’s not a step. That’s a jump. The deer, in her infinite wisdom, had jumped over the crack, and I had failed to notice. I could have easily broken an ankle or gotten my foot caught, which is a bonehead move at the best of times, but could be deadly in temperatures like this.

I picked myself up and brushed most of the snow off so I didn’t get colder faster, and I started to walk back to the house, following the deer track precisely, stepping exactly where they had stepped. As soon as I could, I got back on the big deer track and I stayed there.

Back in the house I made tea and knit for a bit, while I watched night come, and I thought about what it’s like to be isolated like this in weather like this. It just won’t suffer fools, and I can see how it would be pretty easy to kill yourself just by getting lost. I’m sure that given an unlimited amount of time I could always find my way back, but when it’s cold you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to apply your intellect to the problem. If I get lost up here I’ve got twenty minutes to solve the thing and after that it could cost me a toe or two. I think this must make you smart, because if you’re not smart enough to realize that there’s no way to really get the upper hand on nature, then natural selection is going to take you out….


and I’m pretty sure the last thing you’re going to hear is deer laughing at you.

The Alone Experiment

I’ve been working really hard on the book of essays that comes out in the fall, a book like this one, and it takes some alone time for me to do it. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a solitary writer. I think best when I’m undisturbed, and I write best when I am entirely lonely and bored. That sort of situation is hard to come by in my house, since my objective of being alone in the house is constantly in competition with the goals of the rest of the family, who don’t ever want to leave it (or me). Joe working from home for the last year has added a new dimension to the challenge, and I’ve come to really appreciate whatever time alone might come my way. At best, I could have a four or five hour workday at home, and that’s only when the stars align and everything comes together. Most often I’ve got two or three hours, and when it’s like that I I have trouble jumping to work, since it’s not long enough to achieve lonely and bored, just a sense of relief. (Imagine a small house with two adults, three teenaged girls, one phone and one bathroom and ask yourself if two hours would even begin to be enough. I’m surprised I don’t just go sit on the bathroom floor because I can.)

Enter my clever husband, who had a client who’s sort of broke. Dude wants to make a record, but he’s a little short on the traditional wherewithal. Joe happened to know that the guy’s family has a place in the woods, far from everywhere, a place where a writer could really get lonely and bored, and he worked out a trade. The guy is getting the start of his record made, and I am spending six days here:


Here is pretty far from my home. Here is a place in the woods where I have never been so alone. Here is a place you could really get some writing done. As a matter of fact, I feel like that’s what this place was built for.


I’ve been here almost 24 hours now, and I have never, ever been alone like this in my life. This isn’t like being alone in the city. This is Alone. If I wanted to see another person, I would need to hike a kilometre to the road, then about 6k to the store, which is one of those crazy little stores that are liquor store, beer store, coffee shop, grocery store, post office and gas station all in one small building. (The population of this entire township, if you add together all 48 towns, is just over 9000) Then I’d need to turn around and come back. That’s about 14k (or 8.6 miles) to go if I run out of anything or want to see somebody. About 14k and it’s about -30 out there, and I think I’d be a fool to try it without my snowshoes.

I do have a phone, and a woodstove, 20 000 books, and internet access, but other than that it’s me and the woods. No music, no tv, no neighbours….


This was pretty charming for the first several hours. I looked out the windows. I made tea. I looked out at the river and listened to the ice. I knit a little bit. I puttered around. I wrote, I made my dinner. I thought about how great it was to be alone. That there is something really compelling about spending time with yourself. It really lets you think. I wrote more. I realized that this is just what I had been needing.


This experiment in Alone was really going to be exceptional for the writing. I knit, I wrote, I ate.

Then, something happened that I hadn’t really considered. It got dark. Really dark. It doesn’t get dark like that in the city. It got crazy dark out there, and suddenly the house felt like it was on an island. I began to feel vulnerable. I began to feel nervous. I stared out the windows. (A deer’s eyes glowed back at me and just about finished the experiment.) I began to feel a little bit panicky. it started to remind me of when you’re a little kid and you’re going up the ladder to the top bunk of a bunk bed. As you put your foot on the first rung, it occurs to you that there might be something under the bed. At the second rung, you’re pretty sure there’s something under the bed. Third rung, your heart beats faster and adrenaline pumps because you KNOW there’s something under the bed and it might grab your feet. Fourth rung and it’s all over. You leap the rest of the way so that the thing that’s definitely grabbing for your feet right now with it’s long fingers and yellow nails can’t get you and once you’re safe up there you turn to look back…. and of course, there’s nothing there. Nothing but your sister leaning out of her own bunk and saying “You freak.”

It was like that. Only you know. With knitting and some deer. By midnight I was almost beside myself. I triple checked the doors. I thought about sleeping in the bathtub. (I don’t think you’re supposed to to that for axe murderer protection though. I think maybe that’s about something else.) I wondered why I’m more afraid of the empty woods than the full city, and why I at least once a week I walk through an alley in the dark, but am having an entire crisis about being alone in the woods. By 12:30 I’d poured myself a glass of wine and I was starting to think about how many horror movies start with a cabin in the woods and end in disaster. (How about The Evil Dead? I’ll never get over that one. If you want to be afraid of trees for the rest of your life, start right there.) I made it through the night, and nothing bad happened. (Double checked this morning. Both chainsaws and the axe are still in the shed.) This alone thing though? It might have a learning curve.

Do you like to be alone? Would you like to be this alone?

Five more nights.

Is it serendipity if you go looking

Yeah, well. It always happens like this, doesn’t it? I’ve made this wee promise to myself that I’ll use up a cubic ton of the stash before I make any more serious yarn investments, and already it’s not going well.

Let’s look at the thing. I don’t think I have too much yarn. I think there’s no such thing, as long as you aren’t spending the rent money or the little bit of cash you have set aside for your kids retainer, and as long as you have room to store it. I think if you’re totally broke and still buying, or if you’ve got so much that you can’t see out the windows in your house the emergency exits are blocked, you might want to assess your material yearnings and figure out whether you’re transferring some problems you have in other areas of your life to your relationship with yarn, but I don’t want to say too much about that, since who among us hasn’t bought a little skein of something to take the edge off of a bad day?

That said, (and knowing that my stash is not as big as you think it is, and that it doesn’t block my escape from my home) I do think that there’s a lot of great stuff in my stash and I don’t want to never get to it because of a stream of new things are burying them in there, and while I don’t think I physically have got to much yarn, I can feel that for me there might be a place (eventually) where I spiritually have too much yarn, and I don’t want to get there.

The upshot is that I’m not on a yarn diet (they go just as well for me as real diets do), instead I’m just trying to adapt my attitude toward food and exercise to yarn. I eat well. I’m active. I walk or ride my bike everywhere I can. I turn up for a yoga class at least three times a week and (despite being just a tiny bit dumpy) I think I’m in pretty great shape for a woman cruising up on her 40th birthday. I’m a vegetarian, I eat whole grains. About 60 percent of our family diet is vegetables and fruit, and they come from an organic service that buys as locally as they can. This is, I think, all pretty darned good, and since most of my life goes like that, I do not feel even the tiniest little bit bad about the occasional beer and nachos, or my natural proclivity toward chocolate and red wine. Moderation, my friends, moderation. Translated into yarn behaviour, I am trying to do my best to use the stash when I am able to do so and only buying when it is something that I really think is beautiful or unique, or would make me very, very happy or if I really, really need it. Almost everything I’ve made for the last many months was stash, and as I go through my records (not looking too closely) I think that I might have achieved my goal for a little while, which is more out than in.

Then on Friday I wrote some fateful words. Allow me to quote me The pattern book also has the Urban Aran in it, which Brooklyn Tweed cardiganized and put on his blog. … What a great sweater. Maybe I should make that next…. “ and frankly, though I just sort of threw that out there, it stuck. Totally stuck. Half an hour later, on my way downtown to have lunch with a friend, I should have known I was sliding when I put the pattern book in my purse. After lunch I should have taken the hint when I couldn’t get to Romni wool (big sale on just the yarn I wanted) because of the fire. (Have I mentioned the fire? Big fire, nobody hurt.) At that point, I should have gotten a grip. I should have understood that blocking me from getting to Romni was the planets way of telling me that if I didn’t have enough chunky yarn in the stash to make that sweater, that I should choose another sweater….but did I listen? Of course not. What sort of blog entry would that be. “I did the right thing” has never been a good plot. A good idea maybe, but not a good plot.

Thwarted, I came home and phoned Lettuce Knit. I made Alexis and Laura go through the whole store looking for something that would work, but alas, nothing spoke to me. (This should have been my second tip.) I did slow down briefly then, but moments later found myself online at Elann. I resisted everything though, (translation: they couldn’t get me what I wanted fast enough) and was on the very brink of calling myself a paragon of virtue, when Joe called and the door of possibility opened wide before me.

Joe was just calling to see if I needed anything on his way home, and I said something along the lines of “nothing but 1200 meters of chunky wool in a nearly solid colour, but that’s my problem” when Joe revealed that he was actually, as we spoke, about 10 metres from The Purple Purl.

That’s got to be a sign. I phoned the shop, talked with Miko, who after scouring the store, totally didn’t have what I wanted. That’s a sign too, and I was totally prepared to take it as such and admit that this idea was doomed and I needed to go to the stash and make a different sweater, when Miko said that she was pretty sure that they were about to get in what I wanted. She made a quick phone call, called me back and lo and behold…

The yarn I wanted in the colour I wanted was on a truck from the north part of the city, on it’s way to the shop and would arrive within the hour.

Now, that’s the planet practically THROWING yarn at me (if we overlook the part where I spent a whole day trying to buy it) and how am I supposed to resist an opportunity like that? It was clearly (once I hunted it down) my destiny to have this yarn, and that puts in a whole other category.


I thought you’d understand.

PS. Philadelphia on May 18 and London, England on September 6th have both been added to the tour page. Don’t thank me, remember, my power is the same as yours, and where I go is not up to me. I, like you, have only the tools of begging, suggestion and bribery at my disposal. Thank Jayme-the-wonder-publicist, or as we like to call her around here “She who is the boss of me”.

Hooking because I have to

I apologize right up front. If you are a non-knitter, then this is one of those tech things that is just going to leave you weeping with boredom. (If you already know how to reinforce knitting with crochet, then this entry will have a similar effect, although I swear to you that I have attempted to discuss this matter in as gripping a fashion as possible.) Still, If you’re bored now, or if you start getting bored, you have my sincerest apologies. Read Rick’s rant this week instead.


Here is a nice piece of knitting. Small, but nice. Knitting is, essentially a stretchy thing. It’s the reason that knitting is the fabric that we choose for clothing that we would like to be stretchy, like pantyhose, tee-shirts… socks, underwear, the list goes on and on and on. Virtually every person on the earth who owns commercial clothes owns (machine) knitted things, and mostly, this is a huge advantage of knitting. The stretchiness and give of knitting is something knitters love about it.


Here’s the same piece exhibiting that stretch, but A-HA! See the cast-off edge? See how it’s not stretching? That’s because it’s essentially a locked chain across the top of the fabric. This locked chain is less elastic than the rest of the knitting. This chain is the reason that we are often told to “cast-off loosely”, to avoid a part of the knitting that doesn’t stretch as much as the rest of the thing, or as much as it needs to. You don’t want that stable chain holding back the stretch.

This very stable chain is also the reason that designers put cast-offs in places that seem really stupid to the knitter…until you learn it the hard way. Ever see a pattern for a sweater where the designer has you cast-off the neck stitches, then in the next breath has you pick them back up again? Ever think “Well that’s dumbass. I’m smarter than that. I’ll just put the stitches on a stitch holder and keep them live. Then they’ll be sitting right there for me. HA HA! I am so much smarter than the designer.” Yeah. Did you notice what happened next? Without the stability of that chain across the back of the neck, that neck stretched out. When the neck stretched out the shoulders slid ….and, well. The whole thing got sloppy and ill-fitting. Same thing with when you first learn Kitchener stitch (Grafting). You look at the shoulder seam and think “Dude. This would be so seamless and beautiful if I just grafted these two sets of shoulder stitches together” and you do, and it is seamless and beautiful, until you put that bad-boy on, and the whole weight of the sweater is hanging on a stretchy fabric. You can imagine how that ends. Yet…. there is hope. See this?


Crochet. Crochet produces a very stable fabric. It is nowhere near as stretchy as knitting, and that stability is what makes it good (or better) for things that benefit from stability, like tablecloths or bags, where (most) knitting would succumb to it’s essential stretchiness and fall out of shape. Knitters who say they don’t care for the fabric that crochet makes are usually reacting to this stability. Crocheters who say they don’t care for the fabric that knitting makes are usually reacting to the lack of stability. We’ve all got our preferences for a textile. Knitters sometimes use the wrong word to describe this quality and say that crochet has no “drape”. Crochet can have tons of drape. (Conversely, knitting can lack drape. I just had a sock worked at the wrong gauge hit the frogpond this weekend. Its lack of drape was so profound it almost stood up by itself.) What knitters usually mean is that crochet has less give than they are used to, and this strikes them as being too stable for their taste- which it is, and denser than knitting…which it is. Even crochet in the hands of a master is always going to be those two things, more stable, and more dense, and if you don’t like these qualities, you’re not going to like crochet. Crochet has this stability because it is essentially, when we look at it’s construction, a series of chains stacked on top of each other.


One with each row. Always. That same stability we knitters get with a traditional cast off, crocheters get with each row they work. What this means is that you can use this “make a stable chain on each row” structure of crochet to stabilise knitting anywhere you want to. Shoulder seam stretching out of shape? Crochet across the seam. Got too smart for your own good and took out a bind-off where it turns out that you needed one? Crochet one in place. (This is really, really good for across the backs of hoods. You know how on some sweaters the back goes right up into the hood and it gets really sloppy and stretched out across the back of the neck? Hello, Central Park Hoodie? I’m looking right at you.) Whack a crochet chain in there and restore order. Conversely, while you can be rescued by crochet as a knitter, you can get shafted too. It’s important to remember that a crochet edging put on a knitted object needs to be done with great care and thought. The knitted object will have a different rate of stretch than a crocheted one and you don’t want a blankie that ends up looking like a jellyfish because the edges won’t stretch and the middle did. Swatch, swatch, swatch.

How to take advantage? Get a hook and some matching yarn. (I’ve used not matching yarn so you can see what I’m doing.) On the wrong side of your work, and going in through the purl bump on the back of a stitch, pull a loop through.


Poke the crochet hook through the next purl bump over (working right to left, just like knitting) and pull through another loop of the working yarn…


This time though, pull it through the purl bump, and then keep right on going, pulling it through the loop of working yarn sitting on the hook too. One chain made.


From here on, just repeat that last movement. Pull a loop through a stitch of fabric, then through the loop on the hook. Over and over.


When you’re done, you’ve put a crochet chain across your work and that line now has all the stability of a cast off edge chain, but it doesn’t have to be at an edge. (Hint. This does not need to be a straight line, nor does it need to be done on the wrong side of your work. Think decorative.)


Here’s the right side. As you can see, there’s very little disruption to the fabric, which makes it idea for a place like the back neck between the body and hood of a sweater. You can have a beautiful continuous fabric that has stability, without compromising the look by casting off and picking back up again.


If you look really, really closely you can see little peeks of the pink yarn, but if you worked the chain in the same colour it would be imperceptible. You can do this to join pieces of knitting together, you can do this to restore shape to knitted seams that have lost their mojo over the years. You can even do this to create a shir or ruffle, since there is no law that dictates you must pull a loop through every knit stitch. You could grab every third one and really contract a piece of knitting where the chain was.

In short, even if you don’t enjoy it (and nobody says you have to) being a hooker is a good way to solve some of your problems quickly and easily, especially if you happen to be loose.

(I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.)

Deadlocked on socks

To say that I am going to be “busy” over the next two months would be an understatement. March is the last month before a huge deadline (I cannot tell you what sort of fortitude it took to not put the word huge in capitals and make it another colour or something) I have to prepare for a new tour at the same time (that schedule has me so freaked that I have actually started working out more to increase my odds of survival) and in April itself I am only home for three nights, and they are not even consecutive. Me being me, I have begun to handle this sense of impending doom and crushing workload the way that I always do.


That, and I am thinking about a new sweater (and a hat, oh…and that skirt, and maybe some mittens, and spring will be here in two months and maybe something out of hemp… ) but all I am achieving is socks. Socks, socks, socks. There’s something about the progress possible with socks that makes other deadlines and a sense of impending doom rather manageable.

On the plane on the way home from Madrona I started these:


Rivendell by Janel Laidman, part of a sock of the month club a while ago. (I “procured” it right from Janel last year with a patented technique that I cannot reveal to you here. We can’t all have my secret weapons or I would have nothing left but my charm and speed, and those won’t take me far.) I love this sock, but sadly, the colourway is “glacier” and that was a poor choice for February, and I have decided to put it aside. I’ll be back to this one, as soon as there is grass or flowers to pose it in.

Those were replaced by these:


Almost plain socks in a STR lightweight rare gem (one of a kind colourway). I love this one. I’m not sure how Tina at Blue Moon makes the rare gems (I suspect that they may be her mistakes and experiments given a charming name) but for once I’m glad it’s not a regular colour I could buy…. because I would. The pattern is my plain vanilla sock pattern, with a 1×1 twist embedded in two of the ribs that are carrying on down the leg. I’m at the heel now, and I’ll have to make a decision soon about how far (or if) the twists will go down the foot.

Then (I think I might be starting to appear a little fixated) I am beginning another pair of socks.


STR (again) in Ravenscroft, sort of a black/blue/olive/green colourway. Very manly. They are destined to become some cabled socks, started as soon as I meet my word count for today and earn the right to go anywhere near my ball winder.

This almost meets my sock needs. I’ve got one that’s good for the bus and while I’m thinking (that’s the one with the twists) one that replaces thinking (that’s the cabled one coming) and now all I need is a totally plain one to do at the movies or on the phone. I’ll figure that out later.

Q&A from yesterday:

Marcia said:

“I have had that pattern for years. So, you’re telling me I should actually knit it?”

Yup. This is an awesome pattern, and for those of you who think it’s a hard one, it really isn’t. Not at all. Seriously. The pattern is intuitive, you’ll have it memorized in no time at all. The hardest parts are only establishing the patterns so that you can see where things are going, and you can get through that bit with a cup of coffee and an hour of reasonably distraction free knitting. (If you find it really hard, have someone “read” the first rows out loud while you knit them. Makes it dead simple.) Once that’s done, you’re on fire and there’s no slowdown at all until the sewing up, which isn’t even that bad because….well. Sewing up just isn’t that bad. (I know some of you don’t like it, but your sweater deserves it, and I know you’re smart enough.)

The other thing I like about this bad-boy is that it looks really different on everyone. If you cruise the Ravelry files on it, you’ll see that it really changes with the colour, the yarn and the knitter.

A whole bunch of you said:

“Stop taunting me with this pattern because it only comes a limited range of sizes.”

I know, and I’m sorry. (Not that it’s my fault, I didn’t write the pattern) but because I feel your pain. I was at Old Navy with Sam yesterday trying to buy pants and you don’t even want to know about how pissy I was when I left. I would have had to cut 40 cm off of any pair of pants in the store to make them work. Now, everything can’t fit everybody, and I am sorry about Patons shrunken Canadian sizing, but on this blog, down the left hand sidebar, there’s a .pdf for upsizing this pattern, should you need to. You’ll still need the pattern, but at least now it can come in your size.

A whole bunch of you said:

“You did what to stabilise the neck? What are you talking about? Explain how.”

Okay. I’ll show you on Monday, since I’ll have to take some pictures. Plus, I’ll really need a couple of days to get over the irony of me being asked to show how to do a crochet anything.

Even more of you said:

I can’t find the pattern!

There were a lot of possible sources listed in the comments here on this entry, and one or two in yesterdays. It’s a current booklet from Patons, not at all discontinued or anything. If you go to the Patons website they have a Store Locator here, and you can find stores that carry the line in your area. There’s even a list of internet sources here. I swear it’s out there, you might need to order it, but it’s out there.

(The pattern book also has the Urban Aran in it, which Brooklyn Tweed cardiganized and put on his blog. It might be backordered just for that. What a great sweater. Maybe I should make that next…. )

Dear New Cardigan

I love you. Let me count the ways.


Must Have Cardigan from Patons “Street Smart“. 6 balls Valley yarns “Northhampton” in light grey. 4.5mm needle’s. Size medium.

1. I love you for fitting me exactly right. I thought maybe you were going to be too small but I’ll be darned if you didn’t wash up exactly the size the swatch (Ok. The sleeve.) promised. I can’t tell you what it means to me that we aren’t beginning our relationship with a bunch of lies to overcome.


2. Your pattern was easy and near perfect. I did shorten your sleeves by two inches, but it can hardly be your fault that I am not very tall. I also mirrored the cables (your pattern had them all crossing the same way) because that sort of thing really matters to me.

I did notice last night when I test wore you, that because your back neck stitches aren’t bound off and picked back up again for the neckband, it was starting to stretch out across there.


This morning I took 5 minutes and a crochet hook and put a chain of stitches across there to stabilise it.


It worked brilliantly, and doesn’t show at all from the right side.

3. You took exactly 6 balls of Valley Yarns “Northampton”. I thought you would take five so I called and got two more, but six was enough, and that makes you a $30 warm, cozy, soft, wool sweater. Since I am totally cheap, that thrills me.

4. I think you are going to match everything I own and be a fine upstanding sweater. Classic enough to be worn all the time, and neutral enough that you could be a little bit funky if I knew how to dress that way. I believe in you enough that I am thinking about knitting one of you for my sister, who is a little bit funky and does know how to dress that way. This must mean that you are a very adaptable sweater.


5. I think you are a little bit elegant, and considering that I am not, I sincerely appreciate the effort.



PS. Don’t take the fact that I’m about to start another sweater personally. It’s not you. It’s me.

Button, button, who’s got the button

It’s not quite dry, and it needs the buttons sewn on, but the Must Have Cardigan is done.


Aren’t those fabulous buttons? I have great button mojo lately. The ones that so many people (including me) loved yesterday on the Kauni Cardigan were from Fabricland (a big chain Canadian fabric store) where I seldom find anything I love but totally scored this time. These swirly ones are from a beautiful button and ribbon store in downtown Portland – I can’t recall the name now, but someone will help me remember, I’m sure. It’s a totally fantastic shop. Edited to add: Ahh, the wonders of the internet. The store was the Button Emporium & Ribbonry, and in fact, these very buttons (and the ladybird ones in the picture at the bottom of this post) can be had on this page.


Buttons drive me nuts. I love them, I think they can make or break a sweater, but they have to be procured somehow, and I’ve never been much of a shopper. I never think of buttons until I don’t have the ones that I want, and then nobody does. I’m forever cruising from shop to shop in the village, my sweater jammed in my purse, engaged in a hopeless search for a button that only exists in my imagination. (I buy dresses the same way. Decide what I want, then go looking. It never works.) I have better luck shopping the button bin I inherited from my grandmother than I do shopping the stores.


The trouble here is that you can’t have as many as you would like. I find grand old buttons in here, but there will only be three when I need five, seven when I have eight buttonholes, or worse, there will be twelve beautiful old vintage buttons and I’ll be saving them for a chance when I need all twelve. (I harbour a suspicion that the reason that there are only two or three of some of these great buttons is because somebody already broke a set and what’s in there are leftovers.) Every once in a while I find something perfect in the old button bin, and every once in a while I find some in there that delight me so much that I’m inspired to make something to go with the buttons.


I love that when I sort through those buttons they’ve got a history to them. They’ve all been worn before, or at the very least, bought before, and I have great images of my grandmother and great-grandmother snipping buttons off of old clothes, or shopping for them in a store. I imagine my Gramy holding up her project to the rack of buttons just like I do, or maybe just buying them at random when they struck her fancy, and I feel like this bin is sort of a time capsule of her taste. She either liked these enough to buy them, or well enough to save them. (Although really, the thriftiness of this clan can’t be underestimated. It’s possible she just couldn’t stand to throw away something that was still useful, but even that says something about who she was.)

That bin, and that idea has inspired me to start my own button bin. I’ve started looking for buttons when I don’t need them, when the pressure is less, no sweater breathing down my neck, no set of specifics I’m looking for. The Kauni buttons and the buttons for the Must Have are buttons that I bought when I wasn’t on the hunt. They came from my newly begun button stash, which is turning out to be as much of a good idea as the yarn one was. It’s like a personal button store where the whole shop is to my taste.

My button bin is young yet, and It doesn’t take up much room. (I also just mostly wiped it out by removing the two sets of buttons for these sweaters. I don’t mix mine in with my Gramy’s, and I love the idea that someday my grandchild might own several generations of button bins.


I sure hope he or she knits or sews or something, or this whole fantasy could be a little stupid.

Do all families have button bins?

Madrona 08

I arrived home yesterday through a serious of minor miracles. I was sure I was too tired to wake up in time for the 5:30 shuttle (despite a patented “triple alarm system” I use whenever I travel) I was sure I didn’t have enough time to get through security when I saw the queues, then felt positive that the weather would cancel the flight. I squeaked through all of that by the skin of my teeth, it seems, and I’m home and so tired that I’m surprised my teeth and hair haven’t fallen out, just because they can’t be bothered to hold on any longer.

I sort of screwed up at Madrona too….suffering my first real case of “camnesia” (was that Mamacate who came up with that? I think so.) where my camera stayed in my sock bag no matter what happened, and plenty happened, let me tell you. (There was a rumour that a knitter got on the horse statue in the lobby bar. I was long gone to bed, but I don’t find this at all surprising, since I feel that there is a certain inevitability to the combination of knitters + alcohol + party atmosphere + wool fumes + a whack of your friends + a full size proper horse (his head was a lamp) in a BAR that can only result in an Annie Oakley and Target sort of episode. I am certain the hotel sensed this.)

Madrona is one of my favourite events all year, and it is (all horse rumours aside) that way because of the fabulous atmosphere. It’s a great place to teach, a wonderful place to learn and the whole time I’m there I feel as though something really important is happening. At SOAR, Jeannine had this tape she’d woven that had all of these wonderful expressions woven into it, and one of them.. the one that has really stuck with me is “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground”. So many people in this world, the fibre world, really are elders (no matter how old they are) and having an opportunity to learn from them is phenomenal. Books and blogs and all the ways we use to pass on what we know about knitting and spinning is a wonderful thing, but there really is no substitute for the incredible opportunity to sit at the feet of an elder (Metaphorically. Madrona has chairs.) and watch and learn. Since what we do so involves touch and feel, what you can get from being in the actual presence of the stuff and the teacher is very valuable. It’s sort of moving, especially having the honour to be on the teaching end sometimes. To make the most of this, and because I was teaching and speaking and learning and had the opportunity to see friends that I only see once a year….I may have attempted to put more hours in a day than is strictly possible, or wise. I’m so tired that…. I’m so tired I can’t think of how tired I am. Here’s what I do have pictures for. Forgive the fragmented thinking today.

1. A parade of great minds:


Doesn’t this look like a bunch of ordinary women on their way out to dinner? It’s not. That’s Kathryn Alexander, Lucy Neatby, Janine Bajus, Susanna Hansson, Margaret Radcliffe, Anita Luvera Mayer, Ruth Sørensen, Myra Wood, Jean Wong. Nancy Bush and Judith MacKenzie McCuin. The molecules in the wake of these women walking are educational. (Canadians…note the green grass just sitting there looking like it’s not a miracle.)

2. I took a class with Ruth Sørensen on designing with self striping yarns.


I learned a great deal and had a wonderful time, but the highlight of that class for me was seeing Ruth’s work in person. It’s very interesting and beautiful and right after I saw this skirt?


I went straight to the market to buy yarn. STRAIGHT THERE. (Shut up Denny. I do too wear skirts.)

3. I took a class on how to spin yarn for socks from Judith. As always, I now have a rampaging case of “Judith-itis” and shall drive my friends mad for some time to come saying “Judith says…” and “When Judith does it….”

We created cabled yarns, which while they seem like they would be too bumpy to make a good smooth sock yarn, are apparently ideal. Very sturdy, very elastic…and the bumps on a cabled yarn (Judith says) fit together in knitting fabric like interlocking driveway stones and make a very beautiful, very smooth surface. (I have not swatched to prove this, but Judith has never lied to me about anything else.) We started with a two ply…


That was pretty easy. I make a two ply all the time. (Even when I should really make something else.)

Then we added extra ply twist to the two ply. (As a chronic underplyer…..this gave me entire fits) and then plied those two plies together in the direction of the original singles. It makes a really beautiful yarn that looks almost beaded to me.


My first attempt was so horrible that I had to have an entire do-over. When Judith says “add more twist” in the first ply, she is not fooling around. I had to add twist until nausea overtook me, then go back and run it through the wheel to add more. There is still not quite enough. I got the hang though.

This is the same yarn but done with a ply of merino/silk and a ply of yak (de-keratinized, so it’s white.)


Look at this though. This yarn is my new best friend. The only thing stopping me from making a sweaters worth of this right this minute is that I don’t have the fibre and …. to be entirely honest, it took me about 30 minutes to make this half metre sample.


That little precious is two singles of pure silk and one of natural yak.


I’m currently using this wee strand for a bookmark and fighting the urge to eat it…. it’s that beautiful.

4. Since Ruth was there and since she’s the one who designed the Kauni Cardigan that so many of us fell for, Kauni’s were everywhere.


It was like a club.


I realized, as I snapped pictures and had other people snap pictures of all the Kauni’s that I had never posted pictures of my finished Kauni, so today I took a couple.


It’s super wearable, and I do wear it, it’s even been washed several times.


When I’m not wearing it, it’s hanging on the back of a chair somewhere in the house. It thinks it’s art.


(I agree.)

This concludes our interesting coverage of fibre people doing interesting things. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog programming. (That would be me, screwing up grey knitting while it snows. Try to control your enthusiasm.)


Thanks Joe.


I love you too, and seriously? The flowers would mean nothing to me if you weren’t back home, holding down the fort with three teenagers and a cat. The stuff you do every day to show me how much you care about all of us means the world to me. There aren’t many women who can pack off and leave a guy to handle what you do, as often as I do…and then get flowers on top of it. You’re a pretty good guy.

(PS. Don’t forget to shovel out around the dryer vent.)

To a green and happy place

1. Flight was good. Delays all round for snow.

2. There is so much snow in Toronto that back door no longer opens.


It looks like this from the air:


3. Totally irreconcilable with this:


In Tacoma, where you don’t even need a COAT. (I see what you’re talking about with the mist and maybe some days there is rain, but today it’s sunny, and frankly, if you can go outside without 17 layers and an estimate of how long you can stay there before it kills you, I think you’ve got great weather.)

4. I finished the second Revenge sock on the flight yesterday.


Rabbitworks sock yarn, in Revenge, my regular sock recipe, 2.25mm needles.


5. I didn’t start anything else yet, I am working on the sweater because this


has lifted the pallor of winter gloom from me in a way that makes anything possible.

6. I went into the market last night when it was closed, and all the booths were set up. There was a very great deal of unattended yarn, and I was unsupervised. I didn’t take any, and I didn’t touch much. (I consider this a moral victory of sorts. Not that I am usually the shoplifting type, but I always wondered what I would do in this sort of situation, and now I know.)

7. The tour page for 2008 is up. There are a few yet to be confirmed, but that’s mostly it. There are more details to come about “Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour” and some fun stuff around the Toronto Launch, but you’ll have to wait and see. We’re trying something new this time, putting all of the stuff more or less in about 6 weeks. It may be brilliant, it may kill me. We shall see. (There will be other stuff later in the year, this is the tour for this book. – PS. New cover. I like it way better.)