A little exploded around the edges

Whenever we run these camps/retreats, things tend to come a little off the rails.  Not the retreat you understand,  that keeps on going rather nicely, but the things around the edges, like sleep – knitting, spinning.  Those are all getting done haphazardly.  My spinning looks exactly the same as it did a few days ago, (that puts me rather dangerously behind on the tour de fleece) and yesterday I didn’t even complete a full row on my knitting. 

Must do better today, was hoping to finish it tomorrow. (Haruni in Luscious, colour "copperline".)
In the meantime, we’ve been having all manner of fun.  I soaked the seracin off of silk cocoons and made silk hankies,  we all painted silk scarves at sunset, and we dipped silk into an indigo bath. We’ve been having classes in spinning, knitting and dyeing silk.. and I think everyone is having a wonderful time. 

More about it tomorrow.  I think I’m supposed to be somewhere now.

Tour de Fleece

On a whim, last week I decided I’d play along with the Tour de Fleece.  I had fun doing it a few years ago and stashbusted a big chunk of my spinning fibre. Sadly, nature (or me) abhors a vacuum, and the stash is right back where it was.  The idea of the Tour is that you spin along with the cyclists in the Tour de France, beginning the spinning when they do (July 3rd) and finish when they do (July 25th).  Everybody has a different spinning challenge, and mine this time is (just like last time) a certain weight – 1400g to be precise.  (I think that’s around three pounds.)

By my calculations I thought that meant that I had to spin about 62g a day, and that seemed doable.  I was feeling pretty good about it, since before I left for Port Ludlow and the silk retreat on Tuesday I had already spun about 300g of some gorgeous Spinners Hill stuff from the depths of the stash.

(Don’t ask for details, the tag’s long gone.)
I was feeling really properly proud of myself, I mean, that’s a pretty good head start, and I know that over the three weeks of the challenge I’ve got a retreat to teach/manage and two travel days and lots of other stuff going on, but really… that was like… 75g a day and that put me huge ahead.  Huge.

I actually managed to feel smug before I remembered one thing.

Plying.  Whoops.  That’s going to throw off the daily count.  Pictures of the red yarn when it’s plied, and when I’m back home.

For now I’m making good time on some 226g of BFL. I have tons to do for the  retreat, and I’m a little behind, since time is really at a premium when you’ve got a crockpot of cocoons on the boil (the smell is really something) but it’s hard to complain that you only have a little time to spin when the view is so nice.

400 grams down… only 1000 to go, and just over two weeks to do it in.  Anybody else got a challenge?


On my flight from Toronto to Vancouver this morning, I was knitting along having a lovely time.  (Sort of.  The guy next to me needed a discussion about personal space and what exactly constituted his "dance space" but someone else will have to improve him as a person.  It was too much for me.)   I had a couple of conversations with the two flight attendants.  Mostly regular knitty stuff like "What are you making?" or "That’s pretty."  Point is that knitting was discussed with both attendants at several points during the hours and hours. (I sort of like that one of them noticed it was "actually bigger!")

At the very end of the flight, Flight Attendant A came by and told me that I would have to stow my knitting because it was "very dangerous" to have pointy things out during landing. I pointed out that really, it’s no different than a pen, and Mr. Crowdy-McCrowdsme sitting next to me had one… but she said that there were NO flight attendants on ANY flights who would EVER  let ANY knitters knit during landing.  I sighed.  I don’t agree, and I have knit about a gajillion times during landing on this airline,  but since it’s not my plane and I don’t make the rules,  I stowed the knitting.  (When knitters have private jets, things will be different.)

Two minutes later, with me sitting there looking at loose ends, Flight Attendant 2 comes by, stops, looks at me and says "Hey, how come you’re not knitting?"

I don’t mind the rules.  I really don’t.  I just wish they’d make up their minds.
Waiting for my next flight now. 

Everyone agrees you can knit in the lounge.

Two Beautiful Things

This morning I rode over to the park and took a few shots of the Summer in Kansas Shawl so I could show it to you in all it’s glory.

That is a lie.  I took 93 pictures. 

I couldn’t stop. 

I was not even deterred when a small clutch of elderly gentlemen stopped what they were doing (playing chess) and came over to interrogate me in a language I don’t speak.

I managed to convey, using a graceful series of gestures and the sock in progress that I had in my bag,  that I had knit the shawl.

They managed to convey – through words I didn’t understand and kindly pats on my arm that they thought that was great. 

One of them stroked the shawl, and then tapped his forehead with a finger,  beaming at me in a stern sort of way, which I took to mean that he thought I was clever.

This was revoked when I laid the shawl down for those last two pictures. I don’t speak Ukrainian (I think it was Ukrainian) but it was clear he thought I should get it up out of the dirt. (I was tsk-ed at.)

I wasn’t able to explain to them why I was taking pictures of it, which was the part they seemed to find perplexing – but we had a pleasant, if mutually befuddling ten minutes. I’ll tell you what I couldn’t tell them.  Pattern: Summer in Kansas, Yarn- the rather classic Zephyr wool/silk in "Ice Blue".  4.5mm needles, which I wish had been 4mm, because I think this shawl could only be improved were it a little tighter. That’s personal preference though, and I’m not really disappointed at all. The big needles also mean that it’s a monster. About 2.2 metres along the top edge, and just over a metre down the centre line.

Beautiful thing the second?

These guys.  That’s my daughter Megan, her buddy Pato and our hero Ken (Ken is the technical genius who makes this blog go).  The three of them have, as they did last year, signed up for the Friends for Life Bike Rally to raise funds for the People with Aids Foundation. The three of them will, with about 400 other riders, embark on an epic journey, riding the 660km from Toronto to Montreal over a week in July. 
Last year Meg and Pato were the two youngest riders (17 years old)  and as proud of them as I was at the end of it (and I was stupid, crazy, wildly proud) I wasn’t sure they would do it again.  It was long, it was hard, and they’re young.  Young people change in their priorities all the time.  (Also, I can’t even talk about the way that Meg was chaffed, and where.  She’d kill me.  Trust me, it was ugly.)

This year, you could have knocked me over with a skein of cashmere when the three of them were among the first to sign up. Ken and Meg are kicking it up a notch, riding a tandem together. This makes them (as far as I know) the only KNITTING TEAM on the rally! (Pato doesn’t knit- yet…  but he is wool friendly. I’m thinking about forcing him to learn to get a bigger pledge from me. Would that be wrong? Knitting’s a life skill.  I’d be doing him a favour.)

Last year, your knitter support put these three squarely in the top fundraiser slots, and all three of them got the gold jersey for their efforts.  The organizers were stunned by two things.  First, the fact that the two youngest riders had raised so much, and second, by the statement from the three of them (That’s Team Knit to you) that "you can do anything if the knitters are behind you. The Knitters are a force. You don’t understand about knitters."

This astonished most of the other riders, and the organizers, and well… not me.

I am almost never surprised by what knitters can do – it is what my kid and friends can do that thunderstruck me.  A shawl is pretty rip roaringly easy compared to a 660km ride.  The three of them are training dutifully, getting ready for the big ride to change some lives, and I’m just so impressed that they are decent like this.  (Ken’s been decent for a good long time now, it’s the younger ones that seem to be really turning out.)  If you’re moved to support them you can do so by clicking on the links below.  They will be ever so grateful.


The True North

Happy Canada Day! As has become my tradition I use Canada’s Birthday for an opportunity to provide a little education on the nature of this place.  I feel lucky to be a Canadian and extraordinarily privileged to have been born in a country with such wicked wealth and extreme charm.  In past years I’ve done quotes about Canada, lists about Canada, random stuff about Canada – and this year – this year is about what Canadians are.

Canadians are living in a a very peaceful place.  We rank 14th in the world.  (New Zealand is #1.  Iraq is last. It’s a really interesting map.)  I think most Canadians would agree both that they are very proud of being at peace, and that the number would be super different if we hadn’t won a gold medal in women’s and men’s hockey at the Olympics this year.  Interestingly, Canada invented Peacekeeping (which is sort of like an international version of standing between two people who are having a fight and not letting them hurt each other.) You can read about it here.

Canadians are living in an extraordinarily developed country. The Human Development Index (from which we get the term "developing countries") ranks Canada as the 4th most developed place in the world, coming only after Norway, Australia and Iceland. (Frankly, I think it’s the wool and knitting that’s doing it.)

Canadians are the worlds largest consumers (per capita) of Kraft Dinner. (Same stuff as Kraft mac and cheese in the US.) We can’t explain this at all, but there you have it.

Canadians live in a country where the universities don’t award any entrance scholarships for athletics. 

Canadians are all about the water.  We have the worlds longest coastline 243,977 kilometres (151,600 miles), 1/4 of the worlds fresh water,  and two million lakes. We’ve got the worlds largest lake within a lake, the worlds highest tides. It’s no wonder that Canada is the birthplace of the kayak and the canoe. It has been said that this country was built from a canoe.  (For the record, National Canoe day is June 26th.)  All this water might explain how we feel about skating, hockey and our exceptional navy, which marks it’s 100th anniversary this year.   The Canadian Coast guard is a really big deal and responsible for operating over ocean and inland waters of over 8 million square kilometers. (That’s almost 5 million miles.)

Canadians are not weirded out very easily: Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister (and actually, the longest serving leader of any English-speaking country) was William Lyon Mackenzie King. (He should not be confused with his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, who led revolts in the 1830’s.) He was a brilliant leader, giving us the Old Age Pension, Family Allowance and Unemployment insurance.   This may be because he was a bright guy, but may be because he regularly communicated with former Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.  While having an advisor isn’t at all odd, the fact that Laurier was dead at the time and Mackenzie King communicated with him though his pet dog is sort of out there.  Still, he really got the job done and even knowing he was odd as fish, we kept him around for a long time. (22 years.)  Further to that, Canadians are living in a country where the "civil war" (if you can even call it that) was essentially a barfight led by the definitely drunken and likely insane aforementioned William Lyon Mackenzie.  According to legend, it took about an hour.)

Canadians are unaware that  labelling "homo milk" (homogenized milk) is unique. (Tip for Canadians. If you’re in the US, homo milk is called "whole milk". If you ask for homo milk they’ll giggle.)

Canadians are: loving their health care.  90% of Canadians support universal health care. “There are very few, if any, pillars of Canadian public policy of which Canadians approve as strongly as the principle of universal health care, which has been with us since it was first adopted by the Pearson government in the 1960s.” – Nic Nanos.  Personally, I can tell you that after a year in this family marked by three members experiencing serious, life threatening accidents and illnesses that required extensive and prolonged expert care… I’m so grateful none of us had to pay a dime for it.

Canadians are: living a long time.  Canada’s life expectancy is third in the world after Switzerland and Japan.

Canadians are: Not very worried about same sex marriage. We’ve had it for a good long while now.  Nothing bad has happened.

Canadians are: believing in aliens.  78% of us believe in the existence of life elsewhere, and almost one in ten of us have seen a UFO.  (I haven’t.)

Canadians are: speaking our own language. We say washroom (not bathroom)   eat chocolate bars (not candy bars) someone who’s too eager is a “keener”, a small bottle of liquor is a mickey. A two-four is a case of beer, a double-double is a coffee and we all know what a hoser is, and it’s really hard to explain- but you know it when you see it. We sit on the chesterfield, Elvis is a skater and hydro is electricity.  Pissed means drunk (or angry, depending on the context only) we use loonies and toonies to pay for things. We wear touques, carry knapsacks and are delighted when a chinook blows.

Canadians are: Obsessed with mosquitoes, and for good reasons.  There’s a town in Manitoba called Komarno (Ukrainian for mosquito) that boasts the worlds largest (and perhaps only) statue of the beast – It’s sculpted out of steel and has a wingspan of about 4.5 metres.  (15 feet) Anyone who has been to Manitoba during mosquito season will tell you that is just about life-sized.  Canadians say that the best mosquito repellant is a shotgun, and we have no end of jokes about them, which is really just a way of trying to survive – and in parts of Canada, we’re not even kidding.  Canadian researchers in the Arctic reported as many as 9000 bites per minute, which at that rate could drain half a full grown man’s  blood in 2 hours. We have all manner of describing their size here, from "mosquitoes so big they have landing lights" to "mosquitoes so big they carry off babies" to my all time favourite.  "Au chalet de ma grand-mère, les maringouins sont tellement gros qu’ils doivent se mettre à genoux pour nous piquer dans le front!" (This translates roughly to "at my grandmothers cottage the mosquitoes are so big they have to get down on their knees to bite you on the forehead".)

Canadians are: Proud of the diversity of their country.  Canada is the most diverse country in the world, and a recent poll showed that 97% of us are proud of the way this country mixes cultures, ideas and faiths and lives peacefully together, and Canada leads the world with reported tolerance for ethnic minorities and immigrants. 

Canadians are:   really educated. Canada is second only to Finland in high school student performance among OECD data.   Unicef ranks education systems and says that Canadian 15 year olds score 4th among the worlds richest countries.  Interestingly, only 8% of Canadian students attend private school, and 62% of us go on to college or university.

Canadians are online: More of us own a personal computer than anywhere else in the world.

Canadians are living in a Constitutional Monarchy.  That means that there’s a Queen of Canada. Mostly, we like that.

Canadians are the hosts of the oldest continuously-run  horserace on the Continent.  It’s called the Queens Plate, and the Queen will attend it on Monday.

Canadians are funny. In fact, it is often said that our biggest export to the rest of the world is humour. Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, Samantha Bee, Tommy Chong, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Rich Little, Howie
Mandel, Lorne Michaels, Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, Leslie Nielsen, Cathrine O’hara, Caroline Rhea, Seth Rogen, Martin Short – all Canadian. In fact, if we were to ever invade another Country (which we wouldn’t, we’re totally not like that) then an army of Comedians is what we would send to disarm them first. (You might want to note how many of those names live in the US now. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.)

Canadians are not paying outrageous taxes. (No matter how it feels.) We like to complain, but among OECD countries, we’re 20th.

Canadians are proud today.

Canadians are spending today drinking beer, knitting and reflecting on their great good fortune.   (The majority, I think. I have no stats.)