With Some Difficulty

1. This morning when we got up the brand spanking new coffee maker was broken- and yielded only beige hot water that smelled slightly of coffee… as though it had considered it’s intention to become coffee and thought better of it.

2. This was evidenced in the worse possible way, as the coffee maker made all the coffee maker sounds, and then brightly announced that coffee was ready – when in reality it was all a lie.

3. That felt dishonest.

4. I am less than three weeks from a book deadline, which means that I am pretty much a total crazy person. I am not sure that books can be finished with out coffee, and I don’t think I’m a strong enough person to find out.

5. I feel proud that the people around me yet live.

6. When I had recovered from the shock and gotten coffee from the shop nearby, my next door neighbour phoned me from my attic. It is disconcerting to have someone call from your attic.

7. We live in a semi-detached, but our attics are fully attached. This makes it only slightly less disconcerting to be called from your attic.

8. It turns out that there our squirrels living in our joint attic. This surprised me less than it would someone who does not have a longstanding antagonistic relationship with squirrels. 

9.  I went outside, and he waved at me through the hole in our roof that is the point of invasion.

10. I thought about switching from coffee to scotch.

11. I didn’t. 

12. Instead I cast on for something out of a nice pile of chunky baby alpaca.

13.  I cast on more than 200 stitches.

14. I knit about six rounds.  That’s about 1200 stitches.

15.  That’s relevant because it is about the point at which I noticed that while I had joined, being very careful not to twist, the alpaca was twisted anyway.

16.  I am still not drinking scotch, but I did consider gnawing the snot out of the stupid dishonest alpaca.

17.  Didn’t. Still proud.

18. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to my American friends. 

19. I am glad it’s not Thanksgiving here, so I can get a coffee maker and get someone to fix the hole without contending with even the idea of "Black Friday" which sounds like a nightmare for those who are forced to shop in it by circumstances involving coffee, squirrels and duplicity.

20. I forgot to ask my neighbour if – while he was up in the attic,  he saw any of the yarn and fleece that #$%^&*%ing squirrel was stealing from me a few years ago.

21. I hate squirrels.

22. I am none too fond of alpaca at the moment either.

23. Sadly, still love coffee.

24. Happy weekend.


I got up before the sun today, and so it happened that at 8:30, when the light was absolutely perfect, and the sun was shining, I was sufficiently caffeinated to be able to notice – and I went straight out the door, camera and shawl in hand.

Laminaria and I headed for the park, and I found a perfect spot to take pictures.

While I was taking pictures, the wind started to blow.  (It is very windy and grey now.  I absolutely got the best of the day.)

As I kept shooting, the wind pulled it free of the rail..

…and landed my shawl on the stone bridge.  I ran to pick it up,

but it looked so beautiful lying there that I couldn’t help myself.

I almost left it there, it looked that perfect.

Pattern: Laminaria, (I invented a size halfway between the scarf and shawl. It was easy, you could too.) Yarn: Silk Thread II (much less than one skein) Colour: Pondscum.

Tea Time

Still raining here, still grey, cold and drizzly, and unable to head out for a photo shoot for my knitting, I sat at my desk to work.  At about three, as is my custom, I put on the kettle. 

Tea time.  Most of my friends do it I think… I know that as I put on the kettle at my house, That RachelH and Denny were both setting theirs on the stove at the about the same time, getting ready for that most restorative cuppa, the thing that sorts the afternoon, hits the reset button and fortifies you for the rest of your day.  Especially if the weather is foul, a cuppa tea at about three or three-thirty is a comforting and nearly necessary thing.. isn’t it?

I remember being a little girl, coming home from school in the snow, ice or rain, and the pot being poured as I came in.  I got a cup of hot tea (mostly milk) and toast.  (If my mum was feeling generous, this toast would have cinnamon and sugar melting into the butter.) When my girls were little, I did the same, and even now they all drink oceans of tea, especially in the face of disaster.

A cup of tea is still the only thing I can figure out to do if things are bad, if something upsetting has happened or if there’s been a shock of some kind.  I can’t imagine pouring someone already rickety or sad a cup of coffee – unless of course they were sad that they had no coffee, which has been the case many a morning of mine. If someone turned up at my door upset and excited, I can’t imagine saying "Hold on while I make the coffee. What you need is to turn this energy up to ELEVEN." Tea is what you drink if you’ve been dumped, if someone’s died or if the plumber says that the dripping noise you’ve been hearing all week is going to be really, really expensive.

Coffee is gas for the engine, a sort of hi-octane jittery energy that scrapes you up and jump starts a day, and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t want to live in a world without it, but a plain good cup of tea, poured at just about three in the afternoon is nothing short of liquid optimism, and I feel always after I have it that things are a little better, and I can’t imagine that a cup of tea has ever made anything worse. 

Travelling recently, I noticed that aside from Tina (who may or may not have had the habit before I ran into her) almost nobody set about finding a cup of tea in the afternoon.  I wondered if it was an American/Canadian difference, or if it’s simply a matter of difference in who I usually hang out with – perhaps tea-drinkers self-select in peer groups?  (I think there’s got to be an element of culture to it.  I have never, ever, been anywhere in Canada where a request for tea brought anything other than a pot or cup of strong, black, hot, good tea and a little jug of milk, and it’s available day or night everywhere you go,   but all over the US the request for the same seems to be a variable.  Ask for "tea" and you might get a cup of hot tea, you might get iced tea, it might be sweet, it might not…in one memorable stop in the south, the best efforts of a charming server couldn’t even produce a tea bag at all.)  

I explained to Stephen (the fine young hire we’ve got on now for Knot Hysteria) that Ilove my afternoon tea, and that working from home has a terrible lack of structure, and since I have no boss, no timeclock and almost nobody to be responsible to but myself, I’ve come to cling to little structures and traditions that straighten out my day, remind me when it’s time to work and time to play – and that the afternoon tea is an important part of that.  At three I get up and stretch, put the kettle on, knit for a few minutes as the water comes to boil and then I have a my tea.  (Sometimes I have cookies too, but I try to keep it meagre.  I harbour a suspicion that having cookies every day would make them less special, and I really love cookies. Wouldn’t want to spoil it.)

After my tea, I know it’s time to go back to work…time to reapply myself to the desk.  It’s almost as though without that cup of tea I fear I wouldn’t go back to work- or that if I didn’t  stop to have it, I wouldn’t know when to quit. 

Stephen seemed a little charmed by this.  I thought perhaps it was because he’s newly working from home and trying to firm up how that works, and maybe that’s the reason why I’ve just found out that suddenly, and out of the blue, Stephen has a tea time.  He puts on the kettle, warms the pot, and makes himself a little cup of fortification.

It makes perfect sense to me, and I bet it serves him as it does me.  For today, my cup of tea is finished, and it’s back to work.

Tea time.  Do you have it?

Art for Arts Sake

So far, I have spend my first day home trying to pull everything together while pretending that it’s not all a mess. It’s a mess. After my appointments today I got groceries and I’ve started tidying so at least it doesn’t look crazy around here.  I’ve noticed that if it looks crazy I feel crazy.  When the physical stuff is sorted, it helps me be sorted too, so I think that when I catch up with the abject disaster that is our home at present, I’ll be able to move in some straighter lines.

Joe (who really put a big dent in the disaster last night before I came home despite being so overloaded at work that it would be a human rights violation if he wasn’t self employed) took the good camera to work today, so the Laminaria photo shoot will have to wait another day or two.  Instead, all I can offer you is proof that the November edition of the self-imposed-sock-club is churning along.   This is still sock number one, which is a bit of a bad sign, but I did work on it in the airport –

and on the plane on the way home.

When I took that picture, camera and sock held up to the airplane window, trying to capture the clouds, the wing and the pretty colours of the sky, the guy next to me stared at me the same way that you would expect someone to look if you’d just started trying to put a whole cow into your purse.  He goggled at me, as I juggled my stuff around and searched for the right light and angle.  When I turned back around in my seat to put it all away, he shot me a questioning look, and opened his mouth – then closed it. 
"Sock at sunset." I said.  "It’s art."
"Oh." he said. 

He didn’t look relieved. I didn’t expand.

A Blocking Story

I finished Laminaria last week, and it was blocked atop my hotel room bed.  I’ve shown it off to anyone who cared to look since then, but there’s been no official photoshoot for it.  It’s not that I didn’t try, but rather that every time I even vaguely considered taking it’s picture the sky darkened and rain pelted down. (I eventually gave up. Coming to understand that the planet didn’t want it done and didn’t mind inflicting a pleuvial deluge of misery on me everytime I tried.  I hate rain.  It was a highly effective deterrent.) I thought you might like to see the pictures Tina took while I was blocking.  I’ve got a pretty simple process for silk.  Since it’s not elastic at all, it really stays where you put it and there’s little, if any point to stretching it at all – so it’s a quick block.  It’s not like with wool where having it under tension really changes the shape and character – silk does as it’s asked, once it’s had a relaxing bath. It’s all about patting and spreading it where you’d like it to be, then it just lies there like melting butter.

I gave it a little swim in the sink,  then lay it on a towel, rolled it up and walked on it to remove most of the water, then spread the thing on the bed like a mighty pondscum green wing.  I used some pins to anchor things, and to get the points I wanted on the tips, and that was about it.  A few hours later it was dry, and being silk, it stayed exactly as it was when I picked it up.

I’m hoping that I’ll have managed to ditch the rain curse by the time I’m home.  Right now it’s followed me to Vancouver, but Toronto is far from here, and my plane is fast.  Perhaps tomorrow the shawl and I can take a walk to the park.

I think you can already tell how pretty it is. 

(PS. I know I told you that I’d show you our further yarnbombing efforts today, but we’ve only just left, and I know the staff won’t have found them all yet – and that they’re bloody sneaky enough to cheat if I post anything on the blog. Let’s wait until tomorrow… shall we?)

(PPS.  Yes.  You’re right.  I am wearing my jammies in those pictures. I don’t feel badly about it either.)

It beats spraying

It is difficult to talk about the last week.  These retreats are a blast and a half, and I wouldn’t trade this work for anything else in the world, but without whining or complaining in the slightest, the 17 hour workdays associated with them does knock the energy right out of a knitter.  My apologies for the absence.  First I was busy, then unconscious.

What have we been up to?  As last time, there was silk.  Lots of silk.  Dyeing it, spinning it, knitting it, and as last time, the Inn at Port Ludlow couldn’t have been awesomer.  Tina and I started a little thing the last few times we were here. Like cats marking their territory, we began to leave a few things behind every time we left.  Mostly we expressed ourselves here as in life, leaving wee balls of yarn behind where we thought they would surprise the staff.  Colour co-ordinated and tucked into pleasant corners, vases, drawers and shelves… little balls of yarn. Once the staff caught on that we were hiding them, it became an elaborate game.  Us hiding, them finding. (Or not.)

This time, when Tina and I rolled into town, the staff had returned the favour, setting up a crazy hunt for Tina and I – beginning with (since the Blue Footed Boobie was our mascot at the last sock camp)  boobie feet leading us to the fridge where there were boobie glasses and boobie drinks and a card that began (in rhyming prose) sending us on a hunt all over the house from card to card, hunting them far and wide, and ending with a prize.  (They adopted two blue footed boobies from the World Wildlife Fund.  Great idea.)

This we thought, couldn’t have been better or funnier or more perfect for us, until the next day when we asked for a little milk for our tea.  The doorbell rang, and when we answered,  there was only this guy and the sound of a car screeching off.

(You realize don’t you, what it is if a Blue Footed Boobie delivers your milk?  Boobie milk, naturally.)

Clearly, a game was afoot – and who would we be if we didn’t retaliate find a way to pay back the favour?  We thought and thought about what we could do, and a day later when we were walking through the lobby and saw that some intrepid knitter had given a wooden duck a scarf…

it totally came to us.  A full scale yarn bombing.  We invited our students to help – encouraging them to help us mark our territory, and well.  You can imagine what sorts of things happened next.  Since every room in the hotel was occupied by us knitters, it was like an all access pass.  All over the hotel- things started happening.  A little yarn left here, a silken cocoon left there… The longer we were here the more things started to turn up, and as always, the knitters did us proud.  A sampling?

Knitters tagged statues, taps, handles, beds, cupboards, candleholders… it was a sight to behold, and Tina and I did our best to keep up. 
Look up…

There’s a candle cozy.

A knitted flower came somehow to be tucked amongst real ones…

There was a peppergrinder cozy.

These little hats….

Ended up here.  Can’t see them?

And somehow a little sock ended up as a tip.

We’ve done a bunch in the house too.. but we don’t want to blow the surprise for the staff by blogging it here.  More tomorrow as I journey home.

Waiting Well

I am sitting in the Vancouver airport, waiting for my next flight, and knitting silk hankies into pretty mittens. 

I’m enjoying doing so in front of ordinary people, many who are perplexed and interested, watching me pull a single cocoon layer off  the hankies, peering while I draft and knit, then looking away quickly when I look up. The woman in the seat next to me all the way here was out of her mind with curiosity, but couldn’t bring herself to ask. 

I didn’t tell her.  They really need to take the first step before I go all missionary on them.

What are you doing?

Ramen or Chow Mein

Finished, finished, finished… or mostly.  I cast off Laminaria last night, and right now this shawl is particularly underwhelming. 

Lace almost always looks crappy straight off the needles, and in my experience the finer the yarn, the bigger the holes, the more it looks like you’ve knit noodles, and the more dramatic the transformation is in blocking.

I’m flying to Port Ludlow for the Silk Retreat tomorrow morning (my flight is so early that every time I think about getting up at 4am to make it work I think about throwing up) so I’m going to have to put off blocking until I get there.  There’s no time today but I have to admit that I’m unreasonably excited about it.  I can’t wait to see what this shawl is really like, once its been to the bath.

Now, who would have thought that yesterday’s challenge would have revealed such a burning desire to write Haiku?  Not me, and certainly not my ISP.  When the blog repeatedly crashed under the weight of all the poetry being thrust upon it, I found myself on the phone with the charming Kevin, who by several interesting twists of fate, keeps being who I end up with for support, and who also has a girlfriend who’s a crocheter.  (I keep calling her a hooker, just to throw him off.) He’s usually pretty good about accepting the idea of "a big knitting blog" which most support guys seem to think is an oxymoronic statement  (I believe it is his yarn experience that has brought Kevin to acceptance.)  but yesterday even Kevin was a little surprised.

Kevin: I’ll just check the comment database and see if I can see why the load is so high.
Me: I think the load is high because there’s a lot of comments.
Kevin: That would be weird.
Me: Try not to judge Kevin, we’ve talked about this.
Kevin: Sorry.  I’m just looking at your comment log.   How come all the comments are three lines?
Me: The readers are writing Knitting Haiku.
Kevin: …… what?
Me: Knitting haiku.  They’re writing it.  That’s why there’s so many comments.

The pause that followed was delicious.  I could tell that more than anything else what Kevin wanted to say was ARE YOU SERIOUS THAT IS SO WHACKED but instead, placed in a dilemma of a professional nature, Kevin said the only thing he could.

Kevin:  …..Of course they are.

Of course they are indeed. He was having so much trouble masking his disbelief that I decided not to tell him that not only were more than a thousand knitters trying to leave a haiku comment, but that the haiku’s were cast-off specific.
The poetry though, is spectacular.  I read every one of them, and I think you should too, but if you don’t have time, I’ve selected a few of my favourites for you to enjoy. 

Some knitters got philosophical about casting off…

Binding off is not
The existential question
That casting on is.


Isn’t it quite strange
How much longer binding off
takes than casting on?


Some took the opportunity to immortalize classic cast-off crisis, of both a spiritual and practical nature.

this will be enough,
you say looking at your yarn.
and then — one yard short.


Bind off loosely, or
Your big head will not fit through
The small neck opening.


binding off isn’t
as bad as sewing in all the
stupid loose ends in.


the best part about
binding off a sweater is
starting the next one

-Amy Fish

What is "casting off"?
Self-described process knitter
dislikes letting go.


why did i leave you
incomplete but for cast off?
oh, i remember.

A few celebrated the fact that Canada has two national languages.

Cast on and bind off
Monter et rabattre les mailles
Knitting in Frenglish


Tu montes des mailles,
tu tricotes, encore, toujours…
Résultat : un châle !


A knitter who was perhaps caught writing haiku at work immortalized the moment:

Cast on promises
Joy of knitting stitches but
Bind off seals the deal!

(and in a related note:
Counting syllables
leaves coworkers wondering
what I am doing)


Some knitters expressed their frustration that the blog was throwing a temper tantrum:

blog ate my haiku
clever bind off wittiness
lost in cyberspace


Other knitters expressed the duality of casting off.  The natural happiness that you’ve finished something, but the sadness that you won’t be together anymore in the same way….

Binding off, I’m done.
Should I be happy or sad?
I might miss the fun.


What a huge relief
And yet I’m a little sad
Poor naked needles


For me it’s always
a little sad to cast off.
I hate when it ends.


In a very poignant moment, Sarah attempted to express, in a mere seventeen syllables, the very human struggle we all have in balancing our personal interests with our relationships.

One minute, darling.
We’ll make fervid love as soon
as I cast this off.

-Sarah S.

Many knitters tried (and succeeded) in capturing not just the struggle, but the inherently poetic nature of casting off.

One by one the crowd
Bows to my sceptre in turn.
Now all are prostrate.


Leaves turned fall colors,
Now trees cast them off. F. O’s.,
in their own fashion.

-Ann Hunt

Others offered inspiration:

Pretend the last stitch
is George Clooney at the end
of a long, long hall.


… And in what was a classic and hysterically funny moment for me, some paid tribute to William Shatner and his classic take on the writing of Haiku.

Casting off is hard.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.


They were all brilliant, and I’m so very glad that I said that I would choose two winners at random instead of choosing the two best, or I would be here forever.  Without further ado, the calendar is going to Louise H. and the book to Megan B.  I’ve emailed them for addresses. (If you’re another Louise H or Megan B and you didn’t get an email, it’s not you.  Sorry.)  

Thanks for the wicked haiku party, and for the fun I had last night trying to explain to all my no
n-knitting associates how grand it is to have more than eleven hundred knitting poems with your tea.  I just love knitters.


It turns out that I actually won’t be knitting Laminaria forever. 

I invested some serious time into this one this weekend, and it’s finished, but for binding off, and now I’m pretty sure that I’ll be doing that until at least spring.

To amuse myself while I cast off forever, I’ve devised a small contest.

Leave me a comment in the form of a haiku about casting/binding off (remembering that a haiku consists of three lines, with 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second and 5 in the last) and I’ll choose two knitters who do so (at random) and send them one of the two prizes being held up by the lovely Natalie below. (Because someone will ask, Natalie is wearing the Reunion Cowl. I forget where her mittens came from. She knit them.)

I had bought both of these- and then review copies showed up here, so I’m passing on the good fortune.  That’s the (rather wonderful) More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts , and Franklin’s (rather funny) calendar for next year.