Turns out I am like that

I like to think I’m largely immune to knitting fads. That when everybody is making something, that I make it or not, based on my own whims… not because I’m falling victim to some version of knitting peer pressure. I don’t like to think of myself as a sheep, someone who’s falling for a yarn because everybody else is, or liking a pattern because everyone else does. That means that sometimes I know I resist something just because everyone else likes it, which is really, really stupid, because when you think of it, not liking something because other people do is just as lame as liking something because other people do and isn’t really any more of a statement of my individuality. (Yes. I’m 40. Yes, I’m just getting that now. Yes – I’m sometimes as sharp as jello. Got it.)

That means that last year when the Noro striped scarf made the rounds, even though I really, really liked it – I didn’t knit it. Kate did. Norma did. Mary Tess did. Monika did. Trish did. Cheryl did. Teresa did. Brooklyn Tweed did, and that one was really hard to resist, because he could photograph a pile of dog doo and make it look like it was elegant and interesting. Alarming Female did. Mollie did. Maryse did. Carole did. Miriam did. Nelson did. Andi did. Sandy did. Kate did. Kay did. Kmkat did. Jackie did. Jessie did. Anny did. Courtney did. Cassie did. Everybody did… or at least it seemed that way to me. (Also – doesn’t the word “did” look funny to you now?)

I didn’t. I resisted. All I did was look at the Silk Garden Noro every time that I went into a yarn shop. Not for any reason though, because I’m not like that. Then I put it in my Ravelry queue. Not for any reason though. Just so I could sometimes look at it and think about it – and I did think about it. I would think about it, notice that there were 1841 knitters who had already knit it (that’s a real number- taken right from this scarf’s Ravelry link at 12:50 today) and then I wouldn’t want to anymore. I’d be over it, because I’m not like that. I’m not the type. No way. I’m an individual, and I knit to make unique things that nobody else has because that’s one of the points of knitting for me. It’s a way to get things that are unique and just mine and don’t exist anywhere else and seriously if I wanted something that was being mass produced I would just wander off to the store and buy a scarf – for less money even.

Then I noticed that every single one of those scarves – go click on those names – or flip through this Flikr group… I’ll wait here.

They are all different. All of them. There aren’t two the same. Even if two knitters used the same colourways they ended up different because the yarn came together another way. It’s a beautiful thing – and all those scarves are a beautiful thing. There isn’t an ugly one in the bunch, and I had another epiphany.

Sometimes something isn’t a fad because it’s neutral enough to have broad appeal to the masses. Sometimes – it’s because it’s really, really good.

Then someone mentioned they would like a scarf for Christmas.

Then they said they loved stripes.

Then – it was just a matter of choosing from among the bizillion combinations possible. (That took three hours and a half bottle of wine) and bingo.


Silk Garden #267, and #245. Which I already think might not be the best ones and I may or may not buy several more other colours before the day is over so that I can make another one.


Two minutes of silence

At the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Canadians pause to mark two minutes of silence in remembrance of the sacrifices made by those who paid a terrible price to right horrible wrongs.


My Grandfather, Lt. Colonel James Alexander McPhee, was a pilot in the second world war, and he taught us this. What was done in the great wars was awful. Human life, lost or taken in any cause is always tragic and wrong, even when necessary. He was not proud of what he had done, nor did he want to be thanked, although he understood our nations gratitude for his willingness to do it. The regret that he felt that it had been necessary, and that he had done it was the genesis of our family’s pacifism.

Were he alive today, he would have done as he did on all the Remembrance Days following the war. He would have stood in his uniform, the bravest, strongest and most beautiful man that I ever knew, poppy pinned to his chest, and he would have wept for the loss of his friends, the loss of those whom he fought, and the loss of a life where he didn’t have to face it.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

If you didn’t mark two minutes this morning. Please think about making some time. The motto for remembrance day in Canada is twofold. Lest we forget, and never again.

Real Mountains

The Fall Retreat was, without a doubt, absolutely wonderful. Well organized, tons of fun (at least from the teacher perspective, the students looked like they were having a great time) and full of the quirky stuff that makes things memorable. I’ll remember these two, Lorie and Tracy (Auntie and Niece)


both tatooed with a line on their foot that tells them to start decreasing for the toe.


I don’t think anyone will forget the team-building guy who ran in from the other conference when he heard us singing Happy Birthday to Nancy Bush – and forced us (heaven knows how. Likely some Canadian inability to refuse to co-operate- you know that joke? How do you get 50 drunk Canadians out of your pool? You say “Would you please get out of the pool?”) to put our arms rapidly left and right while yelling NANCY! (arms right) NANCY! (arms left) NANCY NANCY NANCY! (arms quickly right, left, right.) At the time we all (especially Nancy) thought the guy was a bit of a wiener… but 48 hours later when ever person was being celebrated with it every time we thought well of them…


(Here you see the group of knitters at dinner – engaged brightly in “AMY — AMY — AMY AMY AMY!” ) We all had to admit that out team had been built, and that this guy who had run in out of nowhere for 2 minutes had totally changed the weekend. Bizarre – and I can see it sticking too. When the retreat was over, and we all had a little time before flights – Amy and Sandra (owners of Make One) decided we (them and the teachers) should all take a quick trip to Banff. We set out in a couple of cars and hit the road. Amy missed an exit, and we were on the wrong road for a bit, and when she got us back headed in the right direction, the whole car broke out with AMY, AMY, AMY AMY AMY. (I almost did it to a flight attendant who got me a drink on the plane last night. Addictive.)

Speaking of the trip up to Banff – Wow. What a great place.



I think it spoils you for mountains for your whole life. I think once you see the Canadian Rockies, you just spend the rest of your time in North America saying “You think that’s a mountain? That’s not a mountain. The Rockies are THE mountains.”


Cookie A touched the top.


Even Nancy was impressed, and she comes from Salt Lake, where they have some mountains that can compete.


Cookie and Amy saw an excellent opportunity for a sock shot…


and so did I.



Right to left (the way knitters do it) that’s Jocelyn (chauffeur extraordinaire) Cookie, Nancy Bush, Amy (knitty) Me, Amy and Sandra (Make One) all having an excellent time at 5100 ft. (Except for the lack of air. My only complaint about the place is that they have a dreadful lack of oxygen.) Mission accomplished, sock pictures taken all round…


Nancy, Cookie and I got into Jocelyn’s car, and were whisked to the airport. (Hey Cookie? Did you make your flight?)


To ice the cake, I finished the latest pair of socks on the plane.



STR lightweight, colour Basan. 2.25mm needles, (these are way too big for me, which is excellent, because they aren’t for me) basic sock recipe in my book, worked over 64 stitches.

It was wonderful – and I miss the mountains and the knitters.

(PS. My students were all ridiculously smart. I’ve said that to a whole bunch of people since I taught them, and I thought I should say it where they could hear me. Very, very, very clever crew.)

It’s pretty obvious

So sometimes, when I’m travelling for the purposes of knitting, I have to look for clues or think really hard about where I am to know where I am. This is not the case today.

How do I know I’m in Alberta, Canada? (Here is a map in case you don’t know where the province of Alberta is. If you are Canadian and you click on that, shame on you. )


The Rocky Mountains. (I am very close to Banff, which you are more likely to have heard of then Kananaskis – which is where I actually am.)


Moose on the carpet. (Could be Elk, now that I think of it. Very hard to tell the difference on a hotel carpet)



(Warm) Hand knits in all the shops.


Black bears (not real ones) wearing knit sweaters.


Sweaters that are patriotic.


The paper you see before you go for a walk.




(They got grizzly here – although now that it’s snowing, they are likely all gone to bed.)

Finally – in case you were wondering?


Okay then.

It is like a stargate

Tuesdays are for spinning, so yesterday (prepare yourself, those of you who have noticed I have trouble observing my own rule) I spun. I’m still churning out the singles of the polwarth roving, and now I have five, count ’em FIVE, bobbins of the stuff done.

My big plan, since I want the colours (and my uneven spinning) to come up as randomly as possible, is to do all of the spinning, then all of the plying, swapping out the bobbins at then end of each plied bobbin. This means, that if my bobbins were named A, B, C, D, E and F, then when I ply (and I’m making a three-ply) I might begin plying with A, C and F on the kate, and then, when I had a full bobbin of yarn, stop and ply A, B and D. The next time, B, D and E…. and so on.


This approach has a lot of advantages. It means that all of the skeins of yarn will have different, random colours, which overall means that they will go better together. If I didn’t swap them out, I would probably end up with three skeins that went ABC and three that went DEF, and that’s going to be two obviously different types of colourway. Mixing it up like this means that I’ll have six different skeins with six different colourways that are all basically related, and that seems like it will give me a more harmonious sweater overall.

Now, even if all of my bobbins were the same colour, I would still – if I were doing a big spinning job, mix up the bobbins like this. See… over the course of 40 hours of spinning, all done on different days, it’s really unlikely that my spinning is going to be really consistent. It’s more likely that there’s going to be a subtle shift from the beginning of the spinning to the end – a few weeks later. If I mix three bobbins, one from the start of the spinning, one from the middle and one from the end, then I’m probably going to end up with plied yarn that’s more consistent than if I plied as I went. In knitting terms, having several bobbins of yarn spun over the course of several weeks is a lot like having several examples of one colourway, dyed over several weeks. They are all likely going to be a little tiny bit different, because they weren’t made on one day.

If you had to knit one sweater out of several dye lots, you probably would notice the difference if you used one skein for the top half and another skein for the bottom half. There would likely be a discernible line halfway. (If we actually follow one of murphy’s laws about knitting, that line would probably be in the place you would least like it to be. Like right across your breasts or right across your belly, depending on which you would rather not draw attention to.) To avoid this, as a knitter, you would probably alternate your skeins as you went, one or two rows with one, then one or two rows with another. This blending would make the difference between the dye lots not at all obvious, and that’s what this spinning strategy is like. I’m acknowledging that I essentially have different “spinning lots” and that it might show up if I don’t blend randomly. Get it?

In any case, my big plan was to do all off the spinning, then all of the plying and mix the bobbins all the way down the line. Yeah, well. I’ve been thwarted by something.


This bag of polwarth is apparently a gateway to the seventh dimension, where no matter how much I spin, the universe is shoving more into the bag through an equalizing dimensional gate. (I actually have this same problem with sock yarn.) I have spun five whole bobbins – which is totally a LOT, and I don’t appear to have less roving.

At all.

It is still a huge pile, and I’m almost out of bobbins, so I’m going to have to start plying whether I like it or not. I’ve already freed up more bobbins by deciding to ply on another wheel, which means that I can use all of the bobbins that fit on this wheel and not need to hold any back for plying.. but damn- I wish I could close that gateway and finish. The irony of course is that I started out the spinning for this sweater worried I wouldn’t have enough, am now concerned that I am going to have way, way, way too much…

and will eventually run out of yarn halfway through the second sleeve. Can’t you see it coming?

(The spinning fates like a good joke as much as the knitting ones do.)

All of this will have to wait until next week though. I’ve got to go pack for Alberta, since I’m leaving in the morning, I’m teaching “Knitting for Speed and Efficiency” (there’s another bit of irony for you) at the Make One Fall Knitting Retreat. I’m excited and nervous.

Also.. not packed. Gotta fly.

The top ten things I did this weekend

1. Celebrated my darling Joe’s 40th birthday. He’s a good egg.

2. Decided, with Denny and (Lettuce Knit’s owner) Megan, that Denny and I are going to actually do what we said we were going to do last year, and have a “How not to buy crappy fleece at the Royal Winter Fair” class at Lettuce Knit, the morning of the fleece auction. The Fleece Auction is on the 16th of November, at 2:00 in the afternoon. Denny and I will begin to hold forth on how to choose a fleece (what’s good, what’s bad – we have samples of totally crappy fleeces we have bought in the past so that you may learn from our mistakes) from 10-12 (am) at Lettuce Knit. Then we can all make our way – together or apart (Denny and I will be taking the TTC- you’re welcome to go with us) down to the Royal Winter Fair where we will all look at the fleeces at auction and attend the auction. It should be bags of fun, especially since you get the value added of watching Denny and I try not to buy more fleece since we didn’t use up the fleeces we got last year (or maybe the year before that too.)

Call Lettuce Knit for more information about how to sign up, and what it costs and all of that. (Remember too that you’ll need a ticket to the fair as well, but it’s well worth it just for the butter sculptures.)

3. Started a new scarf. Waves of grain, which I am knitting in the exact yarn ( Royale Hare alpaca lace in Moravian Barley) that the pattern calls for because Romi made a gift of it to me when I was in California.


I know it looks a little scrambled, but it’s lace in alpaca. It always looks especially rough before blocking. I have faith.

4. I could start that because I finished the vest.


Adding one more repeat gave me all the length I wanted, and I’m happy with the width as well.


(There’s a squirrel in the tree next to me) I feel like it fits well, and is another piece I can add to my “could wear it to work and look knitterly without looking so knitterly that you’re over the line” collection.


Foxhill Farm “cormo cross” (I love this yarn. Super cushy, tons of life, but I expect nothing less from the incomparable Alice Field) in “Chestnut”. I used three skeins, although I have enough left of the third skein to make mittens. Pattern was “Diamond Rain” from Purlescence. Knit the medium, added an extra repeat of the diamonds for more length, otherwise knit as per the pattern – right down to the single crochet around the armholes.

5. Remembered that one of the reasons I crochet like a drunk howler monkey on smack is the difference in terms. I get messed up with the whole “single is double if it’s American” and remembering who’s double is treble? (Or is it the other way or do they just want me to chain around the edge?) I ended up following the directions for American single crochet because I figured that was the right thing to do, since it’s an American pattern, but I really wish we could get an international ruling on crochet terms. It makes me nuts.

6. My book has finally arrived at Lettuce Knit – and I’ll be celebrating tomorrow evening at knit night. If you’d like to buy a copy or have me sign a copy you have…. I’d love to.

8. I made a very, very good banana bread and realized we are very sick of banana bread. One bunch comes every week in the Wanigan box, and nobody here really likes eating them out of hand. Any ideas besides banana bread?

9. I started another scarf.


I feel a scarf phase setting in.

10. Has anyone seen the sock I was knitting out of Basan? Can’t find it. Making me nuts.

(PS. If you’re American, please go vote. The suspense is killing the rest of the world.)