A Problem in the Wiring

I have been thinking this for a while, but I just want to throw it out there. I think parenting is totally f***ed.

I think it’s way too hard, and I don’t know why any of us do it. It’s dirty, loud, expensive, painful, has long hours and no labour laws, and I don’t know if you’ve figured it out yet, but it totally costs you money. Oh sure, I know… at this point a whole bunch of you are going to say “but what about the wonderful rewards?” and I’d like to point out that I am the mother of three two teenaged girls, and dudes, while it certainly has its incredible moments, and I would be the first to tell you that raising beautiful, strong, incredible women is absolutely something that the planet needs – I just want to say that from where I’m sitting today, I can see that there’s a downside to to fostering intelligence and independence in your children, and if I had known that it would end this way, I might have thought through my parenting techniques a little better so as to have more control at this point. See, this is what happened last night.


That’s Amanda, my beautiful and clever 20 year old daughter, and she’s in an airport, because last night, after months of finishing school, and working three (that’s 3) jobs to raise the money, last night she went to Australia.

That’s right. AUSTRALIA, and she isn’t going for just a little while either. She’s gone just about as far as you can go from Toronto, and she’ll be back at Christmas. Four (4) months. Four months without laying eyes on her – and really, this is where I think parenting is a total hose-job, because last night, after months of knowing she was going, helping her get ready, talking to her about it and really… really believing with every single molecule of my body that this is a good, good thing…

I wanted her to stay.

Despite having given unlimited lectures on the benefits of travel, of independence, of seeing the world and learning all sorts of things that you can’t learn if you stay put… despite having parented for two whole decades in a manner that would make it possible for her to do something like go to Australia…. Despite really thinking that she’s going to come back an even better woman than she left… despite believing that now – before she has a career, mortgage and family is absolutely the time to go… Despite the fact that I would go with her or hell – instead of her if I didn’t have a career, mortgage and family… Despite the way that I really believe that travel only ever improved people… Despite the fact that she’ll be with family for much of the time, despite how capable she is… despite how much I think this is going to be a miraculous time in her life…

I still wanted her to stay, here, with me, where I can see her – forever, and that my friends, is why parenting is f***ed, because that’s the whole set up. The whole thing. Nature hard wires you to want them close and worry about them for their whole lives, and then demands that if you’re doing it right that they then really boldly walk away into their own destinies and leave you standing there, still feeling like you’re totally in charge of whether or not they live or die or get a sandwich, and then, they get on a plane and there’s nothing you can do about it except for — get this, this is rich… HELP THEM GO AND TELL THEM IT’S A GOOD IDEA. Which is exactly what I did, and I just want it on record that I think shouting “Have a good time! Be careful! Be brave! Have a ton of fun!” at the back of a departing 20 year old is just about the most nausea inducing juxtaposition of crap I’ve ever had to do

— since all I wanted to yell was “Stay here!” or “I’m coming with you!” or “For the love of god be careful every minute because I’m suddenly worried that I didn’t list everything that you should be anxious about and I might not have warned you properly and I’m not sure that I mentioned that I’m a little optimistic and I should have told you that some of humanity isn’t as kind as I might have led you to believe, and also not all men are decent to women and you’re really pretty so remember to use your brain when you deal with them, even if they are a sheep shearer because, well – who wouldn’t understand that, and also did I tell you that Australia has more species of poisonous EVERYTHING than anywhere else on earth and holy crap this is the worst idea ever please, please, please don’t go, just stay here with me but not actually with me because I think you’re too old to live at home but really close by was awesome.”

All of that ran through my head, and I smiled, and put her toiletries in a ziplock for the plane and got her a credit card in case anything really terrible happens and then off she went… to Australia, and it’s not that I miss her already, because she really hasn’t been gone that long, it’s that I’m acutely aware that one of my girls has never been this far from me before and it feels like it’s too far, and I don’t know if that’s because I’m a control freak, or because there’s some invisible bond to your child that lasts your whole life, or because (as I believe I have already stated) parenting is f***ed.

In any case, Aussie knitters, look to my girl, will ya? She’s a sweet, trusting, clever, very funny 20 year old Canadian, and she’s yours for the next 4 months. If you see her, give her a hug and buy her a pint (one) and tell her that her mum says … well. Just tell her I said to have fun and be brave and that I miss her a lot, but not so much that she should worry or come home or anything, and certainly don’t tell her I cried. Just watch out for her. You’ll be able to spot her…


She’s got a sock.

Mission: impossible

Well, look at that. It’s a wee mitten missing it’s cuff, which is doubly sad because that mitten totally had a cuff last night.


I knew when I was casting on the mittens that there might not be enough yarn. I even asked Denny if she thought there would be enough yarn and she said (rather confidently) “No. That is not enough yarn.” I then rambled off things about small hands and little mittens and not putting much of a cuff and making them narrow and Denny looked at me and said “Still won’t work” and I said something about how I thought it would work but it would be close… and Denny looked at me, smiled and said “You can if you like”, and I knew then that I was hosed, but I started to knit anyway, because darn it, I do like to be right and there was a chance I was. Mittens are quick, so by about 10:30 I had a finished mitten, and trotted back to the scale to weigh the remaining yarn and the mitten itself. The mitten weighed more than the ball (although not by much. My victory was so close.) and if a mitten made from yarn weighs more than the yarn left to make another one, you are.. to put it poetically, entirely screwed. I felt badly about it for a second, Denny smirked about it for a minute, and then I dealt with it. This pictures is bad, but you can mostly see what I did.


I snipped one tiny stitch above the cuff, and began to weasel that strand out of the work, revealing live stitches above the row I was removing, and below. When I had the whole row pulled out, I picked up those live stitches from the mitten part, and I’ll ravel the now detached cuff to give me enough yarn for the other mitten. Since someone will ask, the reason that I didn’t just unpick my cast on edge and ravel it that way, is because ribbing cannot be ravelled from the cast on direction. Something about the knit/purl combo means it absolutely doesn’t work. (I know there are some of you who won’t believe that and are going right now to knit a little swatch and try it, and I encourage that. It’s exactly what I did when someone told me it wouldn’t work. Go forth and test.)


Now I’ve got a wee cuff I can ravel in the expected manner and also what’s left of the ball, and that’s enough (I weighed) to knit the second mitten. I just need to decide what I’ll make the cuff out of, and knit it downwards from those picked up stitches, and upwards for the other (nobody will be able to tell) and bingo. I’m once again grateful that I screw up enough to have developed a posse of skills to help me cope. The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.

Random because I want to be

1. Laptop has gone to the Apple store for fixing. I miss it more than I can say, and feel chained to the desktop computer on the main floor, which I cannot pick up and take to my office or room. (We should all hope this doesn’t last long, because I’m not good with the lack of privacy that this creates, and leaves me yelling things like “Why are you BREATHING LIKE THAT”. Good times.)

2. I have to go renew my passport, but have successfully managed to procrastinate on this at the Olympic level. Today I managed to convince myself that I couldn’t go because we were out of toilet paper and for the love of all things holy, that was way more important and fixing it could have taken all day. That may not seem like some fancy procrastinating to you, but it takes some serious denial to believe that when the corner store is 30 seconds away and has toilet paper a-plenty. Still, I accomplished it.

3. Turns out that even though Tuesdays have always been for spinning, that actually spinning on Tuesdays totally resulted in… er…actual spinning.

Beautiful batt (Gold Dust Woman) from the Enchanted Knoll.


Beautiful singles, spun long draw and a little thicker than usual to show off the remarkable fibre content.


This batt contained wool, tussah silk, recycled sari silk and angelina. (Angelina’s the sparkle.) I thought that all that stuff would show up better and be funkier if the yarn was a little on the chunky side – and so it is.


It’s a wee skein, only about 64m (70 yards) but I quite like it and think it will make killer mittens. I like the idea of them sparkling away in the snow like a personal sunshine supply. (I also like the way I can actually think romantic, fun thoughts about the Canadian winter as long as it’s August.)


4. I though this was so much fun that I am still spinning something else.

5. Except I’m stopping because I’m going out and taking my wheel on my bike sucks.

6. I know this because I tried it.

7. Maybe I’ll knit mittens.


Suddenly, Tuesdays are back. I’m not sure where they went really, but for a while there, all the days of the week blurred into one big work-fest and knowing what day of the week it was became not just a challenge, but irrelevant. It didn’t matter if it was Thursday or Saturday or anything. Only the almighty post-it to-do list reigned supreme, and I got up, consulted the post-it pad and started with the first thing on it. There was teaching and writing and the Summit and then the garter stitch and the wedding and the associated festivities/obligations and really, Sunday night after I got home from the post-wedding party where I delivered the blanket, I sat down (first stunner) and realized that I could knit anything that I wanted to. Anything. A sweater, a shawl, a hat.. .maybe get a jump on Christmas, or maybe- hell. Screw that – maybe I would knit something that had no deadline at all. Just something fun that nobody was expecting for any reason at all… and I was just about giddy with it.

I went into my wool room (shut it. I’m a professional. Nobody looks at a carpenter funny when he has a workshop) which is really an overgrown closet and I started looking at books and pulling out yarn and I noticed that actually, I really needed to move a lot of spinning fibre out of my way to get at some other stuff, and then I realized that this isn’t the half of it, because Rachel H and Denny and I are actually going to Wellington Fibres to pick up some stuff that we had processed, and as a tower of merino fell onto the floor in front of me, I wondered how this happened.

Ok, I mean, I don’t really wonder how it happened. I understand what I do and how it got here. *Steph saw fibre. Steph gave fibre people money, fibre people gave Steph fibre (repeat from * until house is full.) I get how this happened. It’s not like it was a terrible, terrible accident or some sort of fibre seizure and gosh I can’t imagine how this room got full. It was a choice. I put it here… but really, there’s a lot of it, and it doesn’t seem to be coming and going with the same sort of regularity that it used to. It’s just… um, coming… and coming, and coming. Not a lot of going, and for the life of me I stood there wondering what was up with that. What changed? Where’d the turnover go?

Then I heard that little voice in my head. The voice of my own simple intuition that so often guides me gently along my path, and that wee voice said “Hey Dumbass? You used to spin on Tuesdays and you don’t now. Who did you think was going to use up all this stuff?”

Oh. Right. Tuesdays are for spinning. I’m going to sit at the wheel now, and this is my first victim, a beautiful Enchanted Knoll batt. (Love her stuff – and I have the stash to prove it.)



Remind me next Monday that I’m sticking to this… will ya – right before I’m the subject of a headline that reads Toronto woman found buried in mountain of fibre, husband says “we all tried to tell her it was a Tuesday”.

Thing Finished and Thing Started

That title sounds like it should be more like “Thing one and Thing two” doesn’t it? (Ok. Maybe just in my head. I’m used to that. Never mind.) This weekend moved at breakneck pace for our family, as Joe’s younger brother Chris finally took the plunge and married his beloved Robyn. The wedding was on the Toronto Islands, and it was a very wonderful thing to have family from near and far gathered for such a happy purpose. Joe and I hadn’t seen a lot of the family since our wedding a few years ago, and we just had the most wonderful time. We really did.

My girls were lovely and charming, and were a sight to behold in the company of their cousins – who are also very beautiful girls. It worried us – that many pretty girls in one spot. I’m surprised they weren’t beset upon by teenaged boys from miles around.


Joe was Chris’ best man, returning the favour Chris did him at our wedding, and the pride they had in each other was evident to all. Those of you who know us will take a moment to observe the unbelievably rare event of Joe in a suit. He didn’t even wear one for our wedding. When he walked up to his sister Kelly, she looked him up and down and said “Joe!? You look….. ” and Joe finished for her. “Unusual?”






It was a pretty day, followed by a really grand night – and it was even fun taking the water taxi back towards the sparkling city after seeing the last of the guests off.


Now I bet that some of you have already figured their wedding present out, or at least you are guessing. It was two-fold. We commissioned my talented Uncle Tupper, a woodworker, artist and carpenter, to make them this beautiful wee chest – made of cedar and pine… it’s beautiful and smells wonderful.


Inside? No surprise to you, I bet.. but a wonderful surprise to them.



Finished in the nick of time, and I do mean that. In classic knitter style, the thing was cast off the morning after the wedding, washed in the bathtub, spun in the washer, and then dried on the rack of my dryer for two hours before it was presented to them at their post-wedding party.


I love it, and hope it finds a nice spot in their home. I’d make one for myself if I thought I could take that much garter stitch heat again without feeling the need to drink heavily or strip myself of all my clothes and run in the rainy street screaming “I just need something INTERESTING”.


Log Cabin Moderne, from Mason Dixon Knitting. Cascade Ecological wool, purchased at Lettuce Knit, several of the undyed shades. 5mm needle.

I hope the blanket lasts as long as their lives together will, and that it plays host to many happy days.


They’re a great couple, and they deserve all the best.


Joe’s younger brother Chris is getting married tomorrow, and the family is all on a mad tear, and I really don’t have time to write, but I just wanted to share that out of sheer panic, pressure and the strange survival urge that comes over me after three hours in a mall, I have just purchased a dress on the advice of a 15 year old daughter.

This is either grand… or terrible.

The more things stay the same

Randomly on a Tuesday:

1. I am home. I got home late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning, depending on your perspective.)

2. It is very hot here.

3. I have reclaimed three of the eight rooms in our house.

4. Mill St. Belgian Wit is my new favourite beer. Has coriander and orange in it, and while I usually resent any adulteration of my beer (or coffee- for that matter) this one is really, really delicious. Maybe the heat is messing with me.

5. I still hate flavoured coffee though.

6. Since I got home I have had a party to be at everyday. I would like to lie down now.

7. I am knitting a big, neutral coloured garter stitch blanket. Again. Still. Forever.

Dear Tina

You’re out walking on the beach this morning taking pictures of the gross ocean stuff you love so much, and while you’re not here I’ve finished a little present for you. Surprise, surprise, it’s a pair of socks.


I chose the beautiful ST-1 colourway that you made for us, the one that has all my favourite colours and yours, and over the course of the Summit, I’ve been knitting them for you. You and I know now that there are a multitude of people on earth who will get this, that a pair of socks is more than a pair of socks, that a simple project like this can hold so much more than the yarn that it contains, but even beyond the fact that I knit them, these socks are special.


I wound the yarn before I got on the plane, and began them in the cab with Denny and Rachel H, as we all got ready for the big adventure. I knit them on the plane and then in the car coming to your house.


I took their picture when we looked at the big reader board with “Sock Summit” on it,


and I took the to that really scary “pre-con” meeting where there were all the heads of the Convention Centre departments, cookies and me, you, Rachel and Debbi.


I knit on them as we looked at the empty marketplace floor and imagined it filled up.


I took them with me to meet all the teachers at the teacher dinner.


I knit on it while we were at the opening ceremonies, that day that we were so tired that we couldn’t even see straight. (Oh, wait… I guess that doesn’t really narrow it down.)


I even got its picture with you (which I think means you have one of it with me.)


I knit on it while our friends were transformed from the remarkable women they already were into some sort of knitterly-organizational special forces unit that wore headsets and used walkie-talkies and broke our hearts with awesomeness every time we turned around.


I knit on the sock during my classes, filled with wonderful students so charming and eager to learn… I don’t have pictures of that, so you’ll just have to know that those stitches are in there.

The sock met people too. Betsy McCarthy held it. (Did you get to spend much time with her? She’s wonderful.) So did Amy Singer.



I took it to the Luminary panel, and while we stood there and listened to all of those incredible women speak, I knit the better part of the foot. Right there, with you on one side of me and Meg Swansen on the other.


Then (and I know you’ll love this as much as I did) then that lovely lady, Barbara Walker, put some stitches in for you, and she did it while telling me what a wonderful time the whole summit had been for her. (I somehow managed to stay conscious the entire conversation, which was a miracle, considering that the voice in my head was screaming OH MY GOD BARBARA WALKER IS TALKING TO ME along with BARBARA WALKER IS KNITTING ON TINA’S SOCK!) She’s a very graceful lady. (That was about 9 seconds before she hugged Rachel H and just about made her head explode.)


Then we gathered our forces, you and I and (after that brief period where your car wouldn’t start and we wondered if we would ever be able to leave the convention centre) and we retreated to…well, a retreat. Where all the incredible friends we’ve never been able to gather, did gather, and we all sat in the sun for one glorious day and knit together, just like we’d always wanted to. That morning the first sock was finished, and I started the second one. I had help knitting it.

Abby Franquemont put in some stitches for you.


Sivia Harding put in some stitches for you.


That powerhouse of good humour and sense, Amy Detjen, put in some stitches for you too.


Deb Robson knit on it for a little.


Meg Swansen added a few rounds.


Cat Bordhi put her stitches in (even though the sock was on DPNs.)


Denny smiled and added all that I wanted and more, just like she always does.


Anne Hanson knit for a bit.


Nancy Bush contributed…


and Stephen Houghton made sure he got his in there too.


Anna Zilboorg knit for a good long time while we talked about life, the universe and everything.


Lucy Neatby knit, and even put a trademark hole… you can see it on the leg.



Finally, Judith MacKenzie McCuin placed some loving stitches for you too.


After we kissed friends and ST-2’s goodbye, saw them all off to their planes, trains and automobiles… I took the socks back up again, and knit all the way to where we are now, at the beach, where I’ve finished them for you, while we’ve walked and recovered and communed with the sea and the blue heron we think of as “ours”.

I know these socks are as cool as I can make them, that they hold all the intentions and respect that so many people hold for you.. and that you’ll be impressed with all the mojo that’s within them. Know this too.. that they aren’t even a fraction of what I wish I could give you, just to come up even with what you’ve given me. This journey we’ve taken together has been one of the most incredible things of my life. Empowering, strengthening, mighty, fierce, humbling… and not one minute of it would be here without the fact that you, my friend, are all of those things.

I hope you like them. I sure like you.

Things I learned at Sock Summit

I’ve been trying and trying to write about Sock Summit, and two things keep stopping me. The first is that I am still so tired it makes me delirious, and the second is that it feels ridiculous. I keep wanting to say things like that it was life-changing – empowering or something, and then I realize I’m talking about a knitting conference and a bunch of knitters being in one place, and I feel stupid coming forth with platitudes about knitting and knitters and walking amongst ones own kind and what it was like to meet so many people I look up to.. or even gather them in one place.

Planning this thing has been extraordinary. Simply the size of it was crazy, and I don’t mind telling you (and I know Tina doesn’t mind me telling you either) that this has been really, really scary. It’s scope has been huge, and there were times when we were really alarmed and overwhelmed. It’s been an organizational Everest and I think that without the help of post-it’s and a thousand notebooks and staggering Canada/US phone bills it would have even been possible. There were 40 teachers, 1800 registered students, more than 150 vendors… and a comparatively tiny staff. Through all of it, here’s some of the things I learned.

1. It is possible to live on bites of stolen food and appetizers for 4 days, but it leaves you with a deep longing for food that comes on plates and is served with cutlery. This longing lasts for more than 4 days. Food (and the time to eat it in) was so hard to come by at the Summit that you wouldn’t have believed it. We ate scraps of odd food with our hands for four straight days. By day 3 all the STs were joking about wanting “to get some of those things we’ve heard some knitters talking about. They bought some and said they were really great. What were they called again? Oh yeah…. MEALS.”

2. There is no sleeping at Sock Summit. In the days leading up to the Summit ST-1 and 2 were totally wiped out, and kept ridiculously long hours to get ready. Once it started, there were about four or five hours of sleep per night, just to keep up with the workload. I think that I spend a couple of days in a complete fugue state, and I know that more than once Tina and I agreed that we thought that babysitting newborn quadruplets would offer more rest.

3. Rachel H was born for a sock hop. Just saying.


4. With a few remarkable exceptions, most people held up to what Tina and I believed during the planning of this, which is that if you treat people as well as you possibly can, most of them will behave as well as they possibly can. All through the Summit I was amazed by the generous, kind and fun vibe. Almost every person I met was fantastic.

5. I learned that there are a few people who will still break all the rules and not ask permission to do things and take advantage of a system – even if you extend them all the courtesy and generosity in the world – and that this continues to be both disappointing and confusing. We have not yet learned what to do with those people, but have learned that they are so seriously outnumbered that it might not matter all that much.

6. I learned that Barbara Walker is one of the most wonderful people in the world. Not just because I respect her work so much that I can’t even talk about it, but because she is humble, unassuming, funny, generous and clever.


Also, she wore a tuxedo tee-shirt to the teachers dinner, and in the picture above she’s wearing her “Summit Socks” that she finished the night before the last day. I just love that. I love it almost as much as an experience I heard. Two women at a hotel near the summit get into an elevator. One turns to the other and excitedly says “Are you here for the summit? Are you a knitter too?” and the other woman smiles at her ands says “Yes. I am a knitter. I’m Barbara Walker”. I think the first woman just about swallowed her own tongue and they had three floors of elevator to go.

7. All the teachers were extraordinary. Really, really extraordinary. I heard some of the most complimentary and lovely things about them, and really, I’m as proud of them as a mother hen. Tina and I popped in on most classes and were really impressed. Also, pissed off, because we can’t believe that we didn’t have time to sit and learn from them. They were teaching stuff I really want to know.


8. We learned that sexism is (in case you were wondering) alive and well in the world. We’d wondered throughout the entire process if it was our imagination that we weren’t being taken very seriously, but thought that it was the topic that was throwing people off. (Fair enough. Knitting is often not taken very seriously as a business and we did complicate it by narrowing it down to socks) We were wrong. Sure, the topic didn’t help, but one fine day as we were working on the summit, a service provider trying to give us advice (we won’t tell you who, because the gentleman in question did better from then on, and learning should be rewarded) prefaced his information to us with the incredible statement “Ladies, young ladies. Listen to daddy…”

We didn’t wonder anymore if we were imagining that the fact that we had breasts was working against us.

9. I learned that if I do a booksigning sitting next to Anna Zilboorg I can hardly spell my name. What an amazing woman.


10. ST-2 rocks. I mean it. Debbi, Rachel H, JoAnn and Debra are just about the most amazing women I have ever met, and this just wouldn’t have been possible without them. I knew they were smart, funny, remarkable and skilled or they wouldn’t have been designated ST-2s, but really, I can’t tell you how much all four of them have been raised in my esteem, which I didn’t think was even possible. They are four seriously kick ass women, and dudes, I now believe that there is nothing that is not possible with their help.

I’ve almost had trouble making eye contact with any of them since this ended, because the look of them, knowing what we’ve put them through over the last little while, how tired they were… you can’t pay people to do that. Money alone won’t inspire that much hard work and dedication. They did it because they’re fantastic, they truly understand the principles we laid out, and because they love us and we love them… although for a few days there, Tina and I wondered why.

11. I learned that given half a chance to congregate, knitters do.

12. I learned that almost everything is possible, if you do it one little step at a time. Lucy Neatby summed this up with the phrase “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

13. I learned that there is no end to the cleverness of knitters and what they can accomplish, and that this is really not anything more than a reflection of how basically good people are in general.

14. I learned that we should all be very glad that my friend Tina Newton is not evil, because surely, her might turned to the wrong side would be as terrible as it is incredible. She’s a force, and not one minute of this would be possible without her. Not one minute. I’m a flea on the animal of her formidable intellect.

15. I learned that Tina has the soul of a Nepalese spice trader. When you work with her there are two prices for everything. The price you pay before Tina talks to them, and the real price you’re paying when she’s done charming, negotiating and bottom lining. It’s a joy to watch.

16. I learned that developing the ability to say no in business is not only not rude, but necessary.

17. I learned that spending a day among friends following the summit was miraculous, even if it mostly looked like this:




17. I learned that I would do it all again. Although maybe not right away.

More tomorrow. I have a finished project to show you.

Not Dead

Just too tired to move, more or less. Tina and I are safely, finally and happily ensconced in one of our favourite spots, about to spend a few days sleeping, eating and paying Sock Summit bills. The Summit was one of the most exhausting, incredible, exhausting, terrifying, exhausting and fantastic experiences of our lives, and now that it’s obvious that we’ll live to tell about it… we will.