The Room Itself

There have been several times in the last few days, the days since the stashroom got finished, that I’ve wondered if it’s really finished.  I wish I had a little table and chair to go in front of the window, I wish all the shelving units were the same size, I wish I had more pretty boxes and bins. I wish that I could have pulled up the linoleum that some nutjob put over the old pine floors.  I wish – in short, that the budget for this overhaul had been unlimited, or even bigger, but despite all these things, and despite the fact that this is sure to be the most disappointing reveal of all time, I love this little room.

I love the colour of it, this celery green that goes with the rest of the house so beautifully.  It was a can of paint we had in the basement from a paint store error last year, and I kept it, thinking it would come in handy someday.  It did, and I love how updated and fresh it looks, while still not seeming at all out of place in this little old house.  

I had one big old Ikea storage thing.  Tall, white, the ones that have storage squares in them, and that was the start of the whole storage plan.  I didn’t want to have to get rid of something good (and it reminds me of a yarn shop) so that went into the room and I tried to match everything else to it.  That didn’t go very well, since that piece is sadly discontinued at Ikea, but I got one very much like it for a song, and so that went in next.  

One of the things I hated about this room before (other than the fact that it was a pit) was that I found it really hard to store spinning fibres.  I keep all my yarn and fibres in ziplocks (partly for to keep them dust free and partly as protection against incursion) and that means attempts to store them on shelves resulted in a lot of fibre avalanches.  All storage attempts were hopelessly tenuous. (This did, however, create the charming effect of yarns or fibres periodically leaping off the shelf at you when you were in there, as though they were volunteering for service.)  I got around that by buying some pretty green boxes, and some neat white nylon storage bins that fold flat when you’re not using them.  (I expect I shall never fold them flat again, but they would if I wanted them too.

Magazine holders were bought, though I had some before, so things are a little mismatched, but the budget was tight and I couldn’t justify pitching them because they had the audacity to be plain cardboard instead of tidy white, so they stayed.  The important thing is that they now contain magazines, more or less in order.  Step two is to label the boxes and further organize, but that’s a mission for another day.  

I bought three white bookcases with adjustable shelves for all the books, and that was my main expense.  ($69 each.) I love books and objects mixed together on shelves, and making little pictures of what goes together pleases me to no end – fabric next to a jar full of ribbon next to my sewing books…

Jars of roving standing prettily next to the yarn books, just for inspiration, all my lace books on one shelf, all the sock books standing together.. a wee tin that holds a few buttons sitting between the books…

and a whole basket just for knitting beads and pins and nonsuch.

It’s enough to make a knitter think that she could find what she was looking for in a pinch.  The tall case got the upstairs yarn – including a whole bin just of mitten yarns, and the second case holds spinning fibre, with big bins atop the whole thing for fleeces.

It is not perfect, but I love it- and it makes everyone (especially me) feel calm and happy to see the fresh little room full of yarn and books.  Even the new white curtains (replacing spectacularly horrific old navy ones) make the room seem brighter, cleaner and … well.  Saner, which is a top priority if you’re putting that much knitting related stuff in a room, since it tends to be poorly understood in general.

I especially enjoy how this room look at night.  Until now there’s been no light in that room – making yarn re-con a strictly daylight manoeuvre, unless you went in with a flashlight, which I am not at all ashamed to say I’ve done.  Now there’s a little light atop one of the bookcases, and when I come up over the stairs and go down the hall, the wee cozy room with most of my favourite things in it glows at me, inviting me in to have a visit.

Costs of my glorified closet? Paint – free. Labour – sweat. Storage $340 (including the bins) Sense of calm and the ability to find yarn and a Vogue winter 2007 in five minutes flat without needing a shovel and to notify the RCMP that you’re going in? 


The Pause That Refreshes

Yesterday, after that rather traumatic run-in with the sweater (it is headed for the frog pond, I feel sure of it) I was bundling off to Knit Night and was scrambling for something to take with me.  I do have an October Self-Imposed-Sock club sock underway, but wanted something else. Something that was the knitting equivilent of oatmeal.  It’s been cold, rainy and nasty here, and I’ve been watching Megan begin to dig through and wear her hats, and all of a sudden, that seemed right.  A hat.  A nice, simple hat.  Maybe something that would look good with her jean jacket for fall, but be warm enough for winter.  I grabbed a pattern I’ve been thinking about, some yarn I’ve been thinking about, and my set of WEB’s interchangeable circulars  and jumped on my bike. (I know one of you will ask, so yes.  I like the WEBS set a lot.  I find them a smidge on the blunt side for my personal taste, but I still use them, so they can’t be all that blunt. I love the case they come in, and that’s a big enough plus to make up for them being not the sharpest needles in the drawer.  Joins are good, price is right.  I like them.)

When I got to the shop, Rachel H poured me a glass of wine (I love the way that lady does things) and opened the magazine to the pattern.  I was very quickly convinced – and they were all only telling me what I already knew, that the yarn I’d brought wasn’t enough for the hat I’d picked.  That left me with a burning desire to knit the hat, and no yarn to do it with.  I perused the shop and came up with this. 

Yummy.  Tosh Dk in Mourning Dove, and Schulana Kid-Seta held together.  It is every bit as soft as it looks – and it is comforting and reassuring, and nothing short of gloriously glowing and cushy in the brioche stitch variation of the Sweet Honey Beret.  (That’s the Interweave link.. there’s a Ravelry one here.)  Thanks to my neatly organized stash room, I was able to find my copy of the magazine pretty quickly.  (I’ll show you the stash room soon. Keep forgetting to take pictures, and while I love it, it’s not really all that impressive.)

I love this hat. I love everything about it.  (Okay. I didn’t love the first four rounds of the brioche thing while I was figuring it out, but I got there. I take the swearing back.) It makes me feel like winter coming isn’t really the death of hope, and I can’t wait for it to be finished, which might be tonight, given the rate it moves at.  When it’s done I might make another one for Sam.  Or Amanda.  Or my nieces, or all of them, just because it’s fun and because, my friends…  it’s not that sweater. 

I know a temper tantrum when I see one

I’ve been plodding away on the blue sweater, and I’m not sure what’s happening between us, but I can tell you that it’s not magic.  It’s awkward and weird and I keep making mistakes.  In short, it’s like grade 9 all over again.

I plugged away the other night, and trudged haplessly through the back of the thing, making mistake after mistake.  I find this stitch pattern difficult, mostly because it’s worked on both the right and wrong sides of the work, and the wrong side keeps going all wrong.  I’d finish a wrong side row, turn it around and then see the mistakes – where the slipped stitches were slipping in the wrong direction, and I’d have to tink back a row, correct it and carry on.  I eventually realized that I just didn’t have my head in the game hard enough, and I summoned the focus of a laser and started to work on it with a fever.  I counted stitches, I put the chart right in front of me, I turned up the lights and I abandoned my glass of wine for tea.  (Desperate times, desperate measures- all that.)  I stuck to that diamond shaped repeat like glue, and after several hours of knitting like I really meant it, the back was finished. 

Hope renewed, I cast on for the left front and stuck to that.  It was all going pretty well until I got to the decreases, which I attempted, only to arse them within an inch of their lives.  The seam side increases, and the front edge decreases and both of those happen at different rates and a different number of times and the instructions are written in that way that sends me screaming into the woods. It says –

"Inc 1 st at side seam edge of next and 4 foll 8th rows and at same time dec 1 sts at slope edge of next and 5th foll 4th rows, then on every foll 6th row."

See what I mean? I executed that once and realized I’d gone too far and had too few stitches, then ripped back  partways to where I thought I was right and took another run at it, only to end up with an even rather than odd number of stitches, which meant I’d done something off again, and then realized that I’d decreased on one row where I should have increased on that row and that row was way, way back and at that point I called it a night, but not before doing a few reassuring rounds on a sock so that I could feel like a knitter.

The next night I gave both myself and the sweater a talking to, and took another run. This time I assembled a row counter, post it notes and made myself a little chart of the increases and decreases. I did the whole shebang again – this time entirely ending up with the right number of stitches, only to find this instruction:

Left front now matches back to beg of armhole shaping.

It did not.  This, I interpreted as some sort of vicious knitting joke – or at least that’s what I told myself I as I ripped the shaping part back into oblivion.  The next run ended me up at the same place (with some rows tinked back for slipped stitch errors) and I decided then just to knit another stinking 6 cm to get it to where it had to be.  I know that’s a copout, but the other choice was setting fire to the whole thing while dancing over it in a fit of rage, which Joe frowns on in the living room, and it was raining too hard to make a bonfire work outside.

That done, I spread it on my knee and admired it, somewhat unhappily. It was at this moment that I remembered that after six repeats of slipped stitch diamonds, I was supposed to switch to slipped stitch zig zags, and a quick count revealed that I’d gone too far. I had seven repeats, one too many.   I successfully resisted the urge to gnaw the cast on edge of it as an expression of frustration, but instead I very maturely ripped back a diamond, and began the zig-zag part.

Doing that part of the chart felt really fresh, really new, really interesting, and for a little while I felt better about it, until I realized that it shouldn’t feel fresh and new, because it’s the same pattern on the back.  Six diamonds and then a zig-zag- and if I’d already done this, then why was it charming? 

I reached for the back, already knowing the truth. Sure enough, I’d been so focused on get the diamonds right that I’d gotten them right all the way up.  Not a zig-zag in sight.  That means, gentle readers, that I’ve got to rip the back all the way back to the top of the sixth diamond and try actually following the chart. 
Bugger it all. 

Awash in hopelessness for this sweater, I went and got a glass of wine (abstaining sure as s**t wasn’t helping) and returned to the front.  I’d do that right, then at least have a finished part before I had to do the demoralizing work of ripping up the back.  Right there, after the sixth completed diamond, I started the zig-zags, all the while reminding myself that knitting is relaxing and I like it.

As I churned out the zig-zags, I was struck by a thought.  Maybe future trouble with this sweater could be prevented if I spent a little time studying the pattern and looking for trouble spots.  I went and got a hi-lighter, and started to mark up the pattern.  I marked all the spots I tell my students to mark.  Words like "at the same time" and "also" and noting the number of repeats of things and the correct stitch counts that the sweater should have at certain points to give me landmarks.

It was while I was doing this, that I happened to notice something.  Seven.  Seven was the number of diamonds before the zig-zags.  SEVEN.  Not six, not none – SEVEN.  That means that the back is entirely wrong, and that the front was right until I ripped it back and re-knit it so it could be wrong and it was at that exact moment that I put this entire sweater into an opaque bag, so that I don’t even need to see it’s smarmy little stitch pattern staring at me and mocking me through the night. I can feel it smirking and enjoying all the attention and reknits, and well …   It can suck it.  It can just take it’s little balls of yarn and sit in time out for a while, and maybe forever because really, even though I might not be smart enough to knit this – and that’s pretty much a bummer, because it’s not that hard boys and girls, it’s just not.  All you have to do to knit this sweater is read the instructions and do what they say, and I’m not blaming the sweater for my failure to do that.

I just don’t think it needs to enjoy beating me so much, and there’s other wool in the world, and for that matter, a lot of that wool is in this house. This sweater  can bite me hard on the hind-parts, because this is supposed to be what I do for fun.  I’m a forty two year old woman with working class breasts, short legs and bad hair.  I don’t need my self-esteem any lower and I’m certainly not lowering it myself.  I have bathing suit shopping to do that for me, and I don’t need it from a hobby.

Somebody pass me my sock.


Silk and wool on the wheel from the weekend.

Stockpot on the stove for soup tonight.

Natalie on the stash room.

Have I mentioned this?  A little while ago I hired Natalie to be my assistant, one glorious morning a week.  It took me forever to do it, mostly because hiring help – even if I really need it, makes me feel lazy. In my heart I think I should do it all with no help from anyone, even if that means I’m crazy and exhausted and not actually doing it all.  I confided this to a friend with a small business a while ago, when she asked why I didn’t hire help.  There was stunned silence on the other end, and then she asked me if I thought she was lazy because she had hired some part-time staff.  "Of course not" was my instant answer, and that stupid thing I do with myself hit me again.  It’s reasonable for other people to have help or staff, but a failing if I need it.  I’ve been doing a variation on this one for years and years. It makes total sense for other people to have a babysitter, but I have to be with my kids. Busy working parents can take their clothes to a wash and fold, but I wouldn’t be able to let myself off the hook.   It would be nuts for you to make your own yogurt and bread, but I have to make all of mine. (I got over that one.) I have high standards for myself, but I don’t hold other people to them at all.   The Natalie experiment is an attempt to … well.  Get over myself.  If I don’t think that other people should work 70 hours a week, then maybe I shouldn’t either. 

Natalie comes on Monday mornings.  She drinks tea and applies herself to all the stuff I think is really important that doesn’t need to be done by me so that I can do the stuff that can only be done by me.  It’s a little bit brilliant.  She answers emails in the Knitters Without Borders inbox,  she drops things at the post office, she files things and she manages the media and clippings I’m not sure what to do with… and it’s a miracle.  It really is.  I wasn’t sure  if four hours of help a week would change anything, but it has – which is great, because I really couldn’t afford more.  Natalie’s hours are directly converted to writing time for me, and that’s pretty outstanding- but there’s another advantage that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s that Natalie doing all this stuff that I always mean to do and never get time to do and bugs the snot out of me on a daily basis, means that I’m a lot less worried and stressed out.  Being less worried and stressed out means more writing, even when she’s not here. 

It’s a big step, and I know you’re all probably thinking it’s funny that I would have so much anxiety about four hours a week of part time work – but the decision was really crushing for some reason.  (Essentially, Natalie hired herself, which was a big help.)  Big step or not, completely neurotic wingnut or not, it all comes up to Natalie being up in the new stash room, sorting books by subject and height (she totally got where I was going with the plan) and I am starting to really like Mondays. 


Dear Blue Yarn that will be Jolie, 

It is with my sincerest apologies that I write to you today, not to tell you that I am a senior civil servant in Nigeria who needs your confidential help transferring my dead father’s millions out of my country, but to say that I’m really sorry I’ve been leading you on like I have.

I know I gave you every impression when we met that we were going to have a short, intense fling that quickly ended in a sweater together, and really I thought that was what was going to happen.  I know I cast you on really quickly and knit halfway up your back like it was a commitment and then wandered off like I don’t care, but I do. 

The truth is that as romantic as our time together is in the evenings, you’re a really dark yarn with a stitch pattern happening that I need to see to do, and – well.  No matter how hard I try I just can’t see you in the evenings.  I’m sure you noticed that I’ve been hanging out with socks at night, and it’s not that they’re better than you or sexier, or younger or anything like that, it’s just that they aren’t very demanding –  I still think a sweater can still work between us, but you have to admit that you’re pretty needy and  I need better lighting if I’m going to see you at all.   

Let’s do lunch.