A Small Parade

The hunt for unfinished things, and the desire to move them to the other category yielded up a few things in the last few days. The urge to tidy the box holding UFO’s didn’t go away.  It’s such and unusual feeling that I thought I might recover from it – the same way you get better from a cold, but nope.  I looked to the socks first.

I know that picture is blurry, but you have no idea what it took to get a good enough shot of my own feet.

My Lenores have been sitting on my desk, waiting only for the ends to be woven in for months.  I have no explanation for why someone would stop just short of doing a two minute job – but there are many things I still find a mystery. 

They’ve finally made it into rotation.  Pattern is Lenore, yarn is Lenore as well, in STR lightweight.

Next up, the January socks for this year. I love these.  They’re just my colours, and I find that no matter how much I knit them, I just love self patterning sock yarns.  You’d think that after this many pairs the charm of watching little stripes appear would be lost on me, but nope. Thrilling every time.

Pattern: Basic Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules , and the yarn is a discontinued one from the depths. This is a peril of a well aged stash.  Sometimes by the time I figure out I like something it’s already gone. 

It’s Online Supersocke 100 "Sierra Color" #893… The closest thing available now from the same company seems to be this one.  (Wow. Almost bought that.  Sometimes my own links are dangerous.)

That tidy up meant that the only socks around are the cashmere ones…

and I’ve finished one of the pair there.  They’ll be joined tomorrow by the February socks, I supposed, though truthfully I think I’d rather finish these before I put anything else on in the basket.  Such is the grip of finishitupitis.

This leaves me… because I haven’t cast on the second sock of the cashmere pair yet.. with (you might want to sit down for this one) no socks on needles.  It won’t last- in an hour or two when I take a break from work I’ll cast on the mate in this set, but right this minute? No socks on needles.   It’s sort of shocking- like spontaneous cleanups executed by teenagers or small children who want less screen time and candy.  I know it happens… just. Wow – and yes.  I feel fine.

Tomorrow – finishitupitis and the mitten portion of the basket. 

Then the sweaters. Oh, and the shawl… wait… I think there’s a hat…

This might be harder than I thought.

Surprising Diagnosis

I’ve joked a lot of times about how contracting the occasional case of Startitis wouldn’t be such a problem if I ever contracted its awesome sister-disease of Finishitupitis.  I frequently get the urge to launch madly into a thousand projects or tasks, but that’s usually where it stops.  A bunch of stuff gets started, then the feeling passes, and the UFO (UnFinished Object) pile sits there- everything I began waiting for it’s turn in the queue to come up again. 

Now, since I really don’t feel like having a limited number of knitting projects on the go is a moral victory, or that I’m a better person if I say no to starting another hat… I have to say that this doesn’t bother me a lot.  I’m occasionally motivated to try and tidy a few things up if the basket gets too full, or if I really want one of the things in the basket, but that’s really more of a question of space or practicality.   Overall, I’m totally fine with having a lot on the go.

Note: This is just a random picture of the January Socks in progress- almost finished.  I put it up because I thought this post needed a picture and I haven’t unpacked the suitcase with my camera cord in it yet… and Yes,  I was knitting in the car and trying it on to see if it was long enough.  No, I’m not the driver. Put your pitchforks away.

Imagine my shock this morning then, when I woke up, had a cup of coffee and then thought about how much I wanted to finish all my knitting projects.  All. Of. Them.  It was the strangest feeling.  I started thinking about all of them, and even began looking around the house for what was on the go and started putting it all in one place, assessing what needed to be done on them and imagined the order in which they would be accomplished. 

There’s a pair of mittens that only need thumbs, another pair of mittens that have likely only a few hours work on them,  a sweater that I’m knitting in a little game with Andrea – that’s got both sleeves done.  How long could the body take? There’s socks that just need to have one of the toes done, that cashmere pair… upstairs there’s a third of the Wild Apples bohus….

I surveyed all that I have on it’s way to being finished, and for one perfect, clear moment, I imagined it all finished. I imagined myself standing in front of an empty workbasket, and in this vision – I was so incredibly happy.

This feeling is bizarre.  I stood there, trying to figure out what the hell it was.  I’m well acquainted with the urge to start new things, and I really want to finish single things all the time, but to have no urge to start something new and want only for things to be tidy, finished and put away?  That’s like getting the urge to clean out your closet- not because you’re afraid of ending up as an episode of Hoarders, but because it would be fulfilling.  I was stunned. Still sort of am.

I think, my friends, since suddenly developing a split personality overnight would be unlikely,  that I have contracted – as mythical as I’ve believed it to be until now… Finishitupitis.  (Now that I think about it, developing a split personality where one of the personalities wanted to start things, and the other on cared about finishing would be a pretty lucky thing. Especially if the finishing personality also liked cleaning- which is probably too much to hope for.) Getting my knitting done is all I can think about. Even while I was up in the little stash room this morning, a place that usually triggers some pretty serious feelings about starting about eighty-nine things… I was –  GET THIS – completely unaffected.  No urge. None. Nothing.  I went in to get a book, I got it.  I looked at all the pretty yarn and fabulous patterns and I thought something I’ve never thought before.  I thought "Isn’t that nice" and then I walked away- headed for the unfinished mittens in the living room. It was like the stash had no power over me, and yes, I’ve checked myself for a fever. I appear to be fine. 

I think maybe, as I sit here at my desk telling you about it, that there might be some hints about how I finally contracted the disease.  I have a to-do list that is so long that it makes virtually no difference to spend a twelve hour work day on it. Sock Summit is such a mountain of work, that even busting a serious move in its direction seems like only a small step on a long road (which it sort of is, or at least that’s 50% accurate, and I say that because Tina has a similar Sock Summit pile on her desk that I try not to think about.)  and I have a new manuscript on my desktop that is in its infancy, a very long way from done. I have about thirty-five letters that need writing, contracts to send, bills to pay and I’m really, really far behind on the laundry and I think that I just wish so desperately that some of those things were finished so I could feel like I was winning this game, that much like I always do, I’m using knitting to feel great about it.

With so much on my plate that is so far from finished, I think my brain looked at the stuff on my desk, then the stuff in my knitting basket and said "Dude.  I’d go for the mittens.  You stand a better chance."

Expect a flurry of finished things shortly- and also? Don’t expect that one of them will be the laundry. I’ve got Finishitupitis.  Not a complete shift of my priorities.


Woke up this morning to a pretty snow and since it didn’t look like much to me, I left for La Guardia Airport anyway.  Juno was more suspect – but humoured my good natured Canadian belief that this was not much snow and wouldn’t be a problem.  Turns out the scale is a little different here, and it is, indeed, a problem. What should absolutely have been less than 90 minutes to the airport (complete with mandatory traffic) stretched way out past two hours and then some – and I arrived thinking I’d probably missed the cutoff for my flight.  When my sister-in-law texted that the flight was delayed I was thrilled and delighted, which in retrospect, may have sent the wrong message into the universe, since there’s been another delay since then.

I’m fine though.  Unlike the couple sitting opposite me at the gate, I’m entirely calm because a delay is really just more sock knitting time. (This couple keeps pacing, sighing and saying things like "This is unbelievable" in a tone that implies that they clearly think that Air Canada and The city of New York should have done some way better planning and simply not permitted it to snow while they were planning on flying.)  I would normally be annoyed by all this…  but I have cashmere, and it gives me all sorts of tolerance for things that are less soft.  Meet my Artyarns Cashmere Sock sock. 

This is a genius little yarn, and soft like nobody’s business. Two strands of single cashmere lie alongside a two ply of wool and nylon, and it gives it the most charming texture.

I don’t know if you can see what I mean in that last shot.  A dark airport with a little camera doesn’t give the best detail shots.  I rigged a simple slip stitch pattern to try and keep it from pooling (which hasn’t worked, really, but I still like it) and I love, love knitting it. There’s starting to be a beautiful halo coming up on the yarn just from handling it, and that’s only going to be more pronounced as I go along. 

It’s just lovely, and even with sitting here wondering when I’m going home, I’m really just thinking of how nice a time I’m having. I think if I had some of this yarn for everyone in the airport – even if they just held it and patted it like a wee pet – we’d all get through this delay a lot better.

If this flight doesn’t go (it’s in the air from Toronto – but they aren’t sure they can land- they may turn around and go back without stopping) then I am going to likely be here until late tomorrow – which I can still sort of figure out….

As long as I don’t run out of cashmere.

Sock in the City

Vogue Knitting live is finished, and I don’t think that I could sum up the whole thing, so let’s go random Monday on it.  (It is Monday- right?)

1.  I did a booksigning at Barnes and Noble when I got to New York.  I checked into my hotel and tried to figure out what to wear and then went downstairs to get in the car and the next thing I know I’m in a car with Nicky Epstein and Debbie Bliss and they are both funny and bright and the whole time I was in the car all I could think was  "Wow, I’m in a car with Nicky Epstein and Debbie Bliss". It was sort of surreal.

2. At the booksigning, I met Nicole who knit a beautiful version of the snowdrop shawl and brought me the best cannolis I have ever eaten. She was lovely.

3. Also at the booksigning was Melissa, who had me sign her knitting journal, and it was an incredible experience. You know how all knitting teachers/books are always going on about what a great idea it would be if you had a knitting journal, where you kept notes about your projects? You know, a page or two where you keep track of what yarn you used, maybe stapled in the ball band, a swatch, a picture of the finished thing, a little bit of the yarn and some notes about how you did what? You know how we all agree that would be awesome, and some of us even buy knitting journals, but none of us really write in them more than once or twice before the habit falls off?

Melissa does it. All the time.  It was wild.  Like meeting a unicorn or something.

4. Debby Bliss held my sock.

5. Nicky Epstein held my sock.

6. Vickie Howell held my sock.

7. Debbie Macomber held my sock, and talked about reading my blog.  I don’t remember anything after that because I couldn’t think with all that blood rushing around in my head.

8. Iris Schreier held my sock, and then gave me some really beautiful and interesting yarn.   I liked her.  (Probably would have liked her even without the yarn, but I have to tell you that it helped.)

9. I’m almost done with my January socks.

10. That’s good because I’m obsessed with the yarn that Iris gave me. It’s cashmere sock.  I can’t stop thinking about it.

11. It snowed while I was in NYC, but it turned to slush really fast.  I know it’s a pain in the arse for New Yorkers, but it was really beautiful. The January Socks loved it.  (In as much as an inanimate object loves anything.  I may have been projecting.)

12. Teaching at VKL was pretty awesome, but dudes.  Busy. Crazy busy.  Whole days full, morning to night.  Great students.  Sore feet. Big fun.  Major exhaustion – which must explain the camnesia that I suffered. These are really all the pictures I have.

13. I went to dinner with Clara and we showed the sock Times Square.

14. I bought exactly one yarn in the Marketplace.  It was from Solitude, and I couldn’t help it.

15.  I like to think that it was a moral victory that I didn’t buy more, but really, I just didn’t have time.

16. After Vogue Knitting Live I was spaced out and exhausted, and Ms. Toomuchwool and I went to my absolute favourite restaurant in New York. 

17.  That’s HanGawi, and I’m sort of sorry I told you that, because now it’s going to be even harder to get a reservation.  I love it there, and it’s the spiritual opposite of being in the Hilton for three days, no matter how good a time you had there.

18. After that, which was really the icing on the top of a very knitterly 4 days, I took the train to Juno’s house.

19. We’re knitting.

20. Last night we went to yoga, and there was a knitter there.  That meant there were three knitters at yoga, which makes me feel like we’re everywhere and slowly taking over, which I had sort of suspected after the Vogue thing. 


This post was supposed to be about the knitting I’m taking on the plane to Vogue Knitting Live today, but it turns out that I made a bunch of rookie mistakes when I got to the airport, and as a result I’ve only got about 10 minutes to get it together, instead of more than an hour like I planned.  (I was also held up briefly at customs while the dude and I had a discussion about the concept of "Knitting Conference" and yes, I was going to one, and no.  I won’t be alone when I go there.)

I’d give up and blog when I got there, but there might not be time, since I have to be at Barnes and Noble for a "Meet and Greet" almost immediately after arriving- and from there, the next few days will likely happen at breakneck pace. In any case, if you live in NYC or going to VK live and you’re already there, I’ll be at that Bookstore tonight with a whole lot of knitters a lot more interesting than me (Click the link. It’s true.) and we’ll all answer questions and meet and greet and sign books if you have any.  I’d love to see you, even if you’re only there to meet Debbie Bliss.  You could wave at me- or show me your sock. I like that.

If You Are A Knitter

If you are a knitter, then conversations like this make total sense.

Me: Man, what a day. This dumb thing happened then that dumb thing happened then I got my feelings hurt and the bank wasted my time and then this other dumb thing happened and it was all just crappy.

My Friend:  I lost one of my beautiful lined Fiddlehead mittens.

Me: You win.

A Little of What My Mum Wants

Over the weekend I was tucking things away and taking things out (I’m getting ready to go to Vogue Knitting Live in NYC this weekend) and I was desperately looking for something fabulous to wear, and I took this great skirt that I knitted out of my drawer- and realized that I’d never blogged it.  I knitted it (blog entry here) and had Tina take some pictures of it at last year’s Madrona when I was wearing the daylights out of it.  It’s Ruth Sørensen’s  Claudia Skirt (Ravelry Link) and while hers was knit out of Evilla yarn, I wrangled mine out of three skeins of Kauni – knitting the three skeins at once, cutting and choosing the colours so I could have one sequence of black to pale grey over the whole thing.

Here I am, wearing the skirt last February, and demonstrating my impeccable fashion style-or lack thereof, depending on your perspective.  Now, I look at that and think I’m not doing too badly, and I am rather charmed that I have thought of a way to have a blog entry even though I don’t have anything new to show you really, and I also think of a great truth.  Somewhere, right now, my mum is looking at this picture and thinking several things.  1. RED SOCKS? 2.  THOSE DAMN BLUNDSTONE BOOTS AGAIN? and finally 3. I HOPE YOU ARE WEARING A SLIP.  Undoubtedly, she is also thinking that the skirt is the wrong length. There are skirt length rules that my mother has tried to explain to me several times, and I remain oblivious. I just know that my skirt is always the wrong length.  (Usually she tries to tell me my skirts are too long, but I wonder if the fact that I knit this skirt might have rescued me.  I wear the others too long because I’m short and too lazy to hem, but this time the laziness might have paid off.  I think I quit knitting before it was too long.)  My mum will also wonder why I have two purses. (To be clear, I don’t have two purses, I have two Tom Bihn knitting bags- although I have a feeling she won’t see that as much more stylish.)

I have no defense for the Blunnies and the red socks.  Somehow that morning I thought it just looked really put together. (I still do.)  I have very little fashion sense, and what little I do have is moderated entirely by wanting to be comfortable.  This is poorly understood by my Mum, who always looks fabulous (and never wears Blundstones)  frequently reminds me that a little pain for beauty isn’t always a bad idea, a concept that’s poorly understood by me. The only thing I have to make her feel better about this failing on my part is that I am indeed,

wearing a slip.


As though it were a Chinook, the knitting mood I was in at the beginning of the week has passed.  On Monday I couldn’t get enough new projects and started about eighteen things by the time it ran its course… and now the urge has faded, and with it, the rationale for why I started all those projects.

At the time, the green sweater I began seemed like the only thing that would scratch the itch, and just this morning I looked at it and tried to figure out what the hurry was.  That vest? Was I really going to knit that? Out of that yarn?  Really?  Knowing full well that the only person in the family who needs a hat is me… what’s up with that pile of circular needles – each with two rounds of a hat for everyone but me on them?  What – I think, as I survey the stacks of projects that startitis got off the ground… what was I thinking?

It’s always been compelling to me that knitting is so many things.  I know it looks simple, but it’s just not, and the motivation for doing it at all can be just as diverse.  Ever have that thing where someone asks you if knitting is relaxing.. and you’re about to say yes… because you’re thinking of how relaxing it is, when suddenly you remember that episode with the bobbles that wouldn’t stay on the right side of your work and how you ended up actually crying fierce, hot tears of frustration?  Crying about bobbles? That wasn’t very relaxing, was it?  How about gauge? You find that relaxing? How about that time that you spent all that money on that yarn and then couldn’t work the stitch pattern for the sweater you were working on because there was an error in the pattern.  That was absolutely MEDITATIVE, wasn’t it? 

When people say stuff to me about knitting, characterizing it as… whatever they think it is (calming, hard, relaxing, stupid, tricky) I just say yes.  

"My goodness, you must have the patience of a Saint- that’s so precise!"
I say yes.
"That looks really complicated, it must be hard."
I say yes.
"Oh- aren’t you lucky.  Being a knitter must be so relaxing."

Truth is that it’s all of those things.  When you’re getting shafted by brioche stitch, knitting is as frustrating as trying to train cats to work calculators. Trying to interpret an intricate bit of lace – it becomes fiddly and challenging.  Starting six new things is nothing short of exciting, accomplishing a neat bit is absolutely encouraging…casting off a sweater generates something else. (That’s a tricky one.  It could be pride and fulfillment …or soul crushing disappointment. No way to know in advance.)  I can agree with all of them because knitting is all of them, at one time or another – and that knitting can be many things and serves many deeply personal motives, is really too much complexity to help your average non-knitter come to understand in a few minutes as they admire your sock in an elevator.

I suppose then, that it might be too much complexity for me to entirely understand too, as much as I think I do.. because here I sit, surrounded by a mountain of things that it was vital I knit on Monday… 

…and it is snowing outside, the CBC is on the radio, my kettle is about to sing, and for the life of me, I can’t tell you what I thought I needed with any of that knitting,  other than a nice, plain sock.

Knitting, you are a deep and fickle mistress.

The Steph School of Slightly Less Crappy Knitting

A few days ago I got an email from a knitter who said something like "My colourwork is crappy, yours isn’t, please tell me how to stop knitting crappy colourwork."  We emailed back and forth, and it turned out that what was happening was that she was working a colourwork mitten (these ones, if you want to know) and that she’d ripped out her work about sixteen times before finishing even a single mitten, all because she was really unhappy with how it looked. We went back and forth, and it turned out that she was doing a bunch of stuff that made the whole thing really hard.  I offered her a few tips, and I’m going to pass them along to you. 

1. Are your floats floating? Floats are the stretches of the unused yarn that travel across the back of your work. 

You knit four stitches (or however many) of one colour, then six of the other, and the unused yarn spans the distance between the last time it was used, and the next.  The leading cause of crappy looking colourwork is puckering – and that’s caused by tight floats.  The stretches of yarn aren’t long enough, and they pull the fabric together.  If you spread the stitches out nicely while you make the float and make it even a little longer than you think you need, you’ll probably be a lot happier.  The longer the float is, the harder it is to get this right. If you’re new, think about choosing a pattern with small floats. (Few stitches between changes.)  Further to that, a pattern like the one I’m working makes nice floats harder- sort of, because the starting and stopping places for the floats are stacking on top of each other. If you’re learning, trying picking something where the floats are staggered, in both length and location.  It will help disguise your learning curve.

2. Are your needles working against you? If the goal is to spread the work out nicely to make that float the right length, then slick metal needles can make that harder. Sometimes changing to wooden needles with a little grip can help you spread them out, and keep them there.

3. Have you blocked it?  Before you decide your colourwork is crap– are you sure? While there are a few knitters who don’t find it to be the case, and I am envious of them, for most of us, colourwork looks a lot better after a bath and a patdown. (Remember that blocking isn’t defined by stretching. Just putting things in place.) I’ve blocked colourwork when it’s half done on the needles just to see how it’s going.  It can be a miracle. While this sample isn’t really dramatic, I think you can see the difference between my blocked and unblocked mittens below.  (I cheated and didn’t even really block the one on the right.  I just steamed it with my kettle a little, and gave it a nudge.)

4. Is the yarn you’re using adding challenges?  Wool is lovely, forgiving and remarkably plastic. It can be blocked to rethink it’s position more easily than other, less malleable fibres, and responds way more to subtle suggestions. I’m not slagging on other yarns, like cotton, silk or acrylic, but when it comes to colourwork, especially for beginners, the elasticity of wool (and how it can be convinced to change it’s mind about things) can be a really big help. 

5. Have you woven in your ends? I know it seems obvious, but it is the tension on the yarn that prevents holes. The stitch where you start a new colour is going to be loose and crappy looking until you weave in the end to tidy things up. Those holes that make the work look crappy and unfinished aren’t the result of crappy knitting. It’s the result of it being unfinished.  Weave your ends in before you decide it doesn’t look good. It can change a lot. While this picture is a little crappy, you can see how much better things look on the right, than they do on the left, and that’s just weaving in ends – and a light steaming.

This next one is a big deal.

6. Are you bad at this (right now)?  This comes up in classes I teach all the time. Knitters being really, really hard on themselves. They’re learning a brand new thing… something they’ve never done before, and they suck at it. They’ll angrily exclaim "Why can’t I get this!" and I always answer the same way.

I say "Yeah. That’s weird.  I mean, you’ve been trying this new skill for 10 minutes.  You should have it absolutely mastered by now. Bizarre that you’re not perfect at it yet." 

The truth is, that if you’re brand new to a skill, you probably suck.  You’ll likely suck less tomorrow.  Don’t throw in the towel because your first (or tenth) try at something isn’t successful.   Sure.. you suck.  You’re new. Keep trying and you’ll suck less.  Later. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at colourwork.  It means you don’t know how. 


News Item

Toronto, Canada– Sources are reporting that a remarkable outbreak of "Startitis" has been identified in a Toronto knitters home.

Thus far, the disease appears to be limited to this one knitting environment, but authorities report that the infected crafter appears to be "absolutely reckless" in her attempts to spread it.  Despite the shocking disorganization and lack of focus the disease inflicts on knitters who contract it, patient zero has boldly claimed that she "doesn’t care" about the consequences to other knitters she may infect. Despite repeated pleas for her to "rein it in" and "stop talking about mittens" the knitter in question is still emailing links of patterns to other knitters, offering them yarn, and sending notices regarding yarn sales to other victims. 

There is some indication that patient zero was showing signs of the illness last week when she texted her sister in law about an alpaca yarn sale at a nearby shop, and suggested that it was more than reasonable for her to go in and buy twenty or thirty skeins, despite clear evidence that Kelly her sister-in-law would have little ability to use same in a lifetime.

Symptoms include: Unpacking the yarn stash into the kitchen and claiming that it’s "part of a plan", stacking a considerable number of  knitting books in the bathroom and calling it "research" and casting on two pairs of mittens in as many hours, winding at least seventeen skeins of yarn into balls and insisting that their use was imminent – all while beginning a two pairs of socks, a hat, a blanket and even a new sweater, despite two being underway at present. The subject is also showing limited ability to resist small scarf patterns, and is showing some worrying signs of a break with reality, as she was overheard telling a knitting friend that she has "no 4mm needles" when it is well known that there are multiple pairs in her possession. (A witness has postulated that the knitter was misunderstood, and that she was not suggesting that she didn’t have the needles, but that they were all presently in use, which is equally disturbing.)

She can be identified by the alarming amount of yarn that has recently been released from confinement in the stash, the stack of patterns, yarn and needles on every surface of the house, as well as the multitude of knitting projects spilling from her project bag – along with her cheerful but delusional insistence that they will all be finished by Friday.

Sources close to the victim indicated that she appeared to be holding her own against the infection until this last weekend, when a series of incidents appear to have catapulted her into full blown infection.  (One family member said "I don’t know what TNNA is, but the tweets and blog posts about how much yarn was there really didn’t help her.")

As Startitis is believed to be viral, no treatment is required, but to avoid spreading the disease, the knitter should be approached with caution until the outbreak resolves.