Randomly on a Wednesday

1. I had a really great post all written and was adding pictures and then it my computer crashed and took the post and a bunch of other stuff with it because I am 43 years old, reasonably tech savvy, and still can’t remember to hit the freakin’ save button.

2. I hate that about myself.

3.  I decided to do this instead of hating myself. I don’t have time for self loathing today. 

4. I decided to make myself a sweater for Rhinebeck. Two weeks ago.  The yarn still looks like this. 

(Shelter, in Embers)

5. Because I am a crazy person. I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to expect it to look like this in 17 days.

6. Instead of knitting on that sweater, I made an almost four year old girl a pair of socks. 

7. They are cute as a little buggins, and they took a little extra time because I had to avert my eyes from the colourway while I was knitting.  It’s a little blinding.

8. When Melissa gave me this skein of yarn at Sock Summit (it’s Lolli Socks MCN) I sort of wondered what on earth I would do with it – considering that the colourway looks to me exactly like it would if Barbie and My Little Pony went on an acid bender and barfed up cream soda on a unicorn.

9. Oddly, that’s not the name of the colourway.  It’s really "Pink Lemonade".

10.  I had no plan for it until an almost four year old girl needed socks, and I remembered that there is no colourway more beautiful in the world to an almost four year old girl than "Barbie and My Little Pony went on an acid bender and barfed up cream soda on a unicorn."  She is going to LOVE THEM.

11. Natalie sort of does too, though she isn’t four years old. (On the outside)

12.  All of that means that my sweater still looks like this:

13. And now I’m sort of worried that the previously reasonable idea of turning it into a sweater before Rhinebeck (in 17 days) is not totally and completely crazypants, and I’m going to end up doing some really twisted sweater race.

14.  Again.

A Colourful Plan

Knot Hysteria’s Colour Retreat

The glory of summer is fading away and being replaced with the splendor of autumn. Tina and I have both noticed the first hints of gold and orange starting to sneak into the trees and garden, so it must be time for what we are happily coming to think of as our fall knitting retreat. From November 4th to 8th we would love it if you could join us at Port Ludlow, for another wonderfully good time.

We’ve done our Silk retreat a few times, so we thought it might be time to mix it up with a whole new theme, and we let the season guide us. This time, we’ll be knitting, spinning and dyeing with a focus on colour and all that it means to us as fibre artists, and we can’t imagine a better time for a colour retreat then the middle of autumn surrounded by all the fall colour at our lovely little knitter-friendly Resort at Port Ludlow in Washington.

It’s been such a pleasure to have master spinner, author and all-round-genius Judith MacKenzie with us for the retreats, that we’d be mad not to have her back for this one. Judith is brilliant with colour, and in the spinning room she’s got a lot planned. Judith will show you how to spin a painted top, and how to combine a rainbow of gorgeous solids – at the carder, and at the wheel. The only bad thing about this all day intensive is that it’s not nine days.

In the knitting room with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (that’s me) there’s an all day exploration of knitting with colour. We’ll work on perfecting your stranded knitting, investigating fair-isle, working with slipped stitches to create fancy patterns that only use one colour per row, firmly grasp the principles of intarsia and talk about stripes. We’ll even talk a little about how to choose colours that go together, and how you tell if they do. If you’ve ever wondered how to better manage colour in knitting- this is your class.

In the dye room Tina Newton will take you on a guided journey into the emotional and psychological aspects of colour. We’ll delve into our personal colour depths and comfort zones. We’ll take a mood, memory, moment… and express it in colour on yarn and roving. We explore compliments and contrasts on the colour wheel as it applies to dyeing for spinning and knitting. Bring an apron it’s sure to get messy!

The weekend begins when you check in on Friday night, and we all have an opportunity to talk, hang out (maybe have a drink) get to know each other, chat with the teachers, and you’re assigned to one of three small groups.

Saturday, Group one goes with Tina, to a big bright room with a floor covered in plastic and loaded with dye and fiber goodies.
Meanwhile, group two goes with Stephanie to knit.
Over in the pretty room overlooking the water, group three sets up their spinning wheels (or spindles) to spend a day with Judith.

That evening, we gather to play with carders, learn how to make batts, and play with all sorts of colourful fibre.

Sunday, the groups rotate places for the day classes, and then after dinner we’ll have a discussion on inspiration and a show and tell. The teachers will share what inspires them and a bit about their own creative process and show you some wonderful pieces, and if you’re so inclined, we’d love to see what you’ve done with colour also. Please bring your best, and don’t feel limited to bring only knitting.

Monday we rotate for classes again, and Monday night we have a wonderful social gathering for Q&A and talking about all we’ve learned, bid you farewell, and the retreat ends that evening.

The price includes all three classes, evening fun, all materials (except wheels, spindles and needles), and breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The food is fabulous, and we promise that there will be very good vegetarian options. Our lovely Chef Dan is very excited about having colour as the retreat theme, and we’re expecting even more beautiful food from him than usual – and that’s saying something.

Accommodations are separate and you will arrange those on your own. We have negotiated special prices with Port Ludlow, and there are some shared accommodations (condos and town-homes) if you’d like to come with your friends.

Simply call Port Ludlow and tell them that you’re with Knot Hysteria and the knitters, and they will help you get sorted with the special knitter price. They are lovely and helpful people.

Price for the three day/three class intensive with meals:
$735. (Credit card or paypal are fine) All Materials (except knitting needles and spinning wheels) included.
Gift bags, presents and surprises forthcoming.

(If you’re a vendor and you’d like to talk to us about putting a little something in the gift bags, just drop us a line. We’d love it.)

If you’d like to come and are thinking about your skills, keep in mind that you don’t have to be an expert spinner, but you do need a basic working knowledge of a spinning wheel, spinning basics and should be able to spin a continuous thread. We’re not saying that you need to do this well. An advanced beginner would be very comfortable. As a knitter, you’ll need to be able to cast on and off, knit, purl, increase and decrease easily and be comfortable with most knitting instructions. You don’t need to be experienced with colourwork. The point is to learn.

To register, simply send an email to registration@knothysteria.com with “Colour Retreat” in the subject line, and include your name, address and phone numbers, and we’ll call you to arrange it. The first 45 knitters are in, and we can’t wait to see you.

In Which The Score Is a Little More Even

Last night That Rachel H. and I got in the car and drove off to Aurora, for my what-is-supposed-to-be-annual-but-isn’t trip to the York Region Guild.  It’s one of my favourite gigs, partly because it always starts with a pot luck, complete with beer and butter tarts, partly because they do awesome things like make a donation to MSF for me, and partly because I get to spend time with people I adore, like Curlerchik Sandra, and Helga, and Tove.

I’ve been ready to do this for a while, and tried to figure out how I would entertain the guild during the evening meeting.  It’s a small guild, so a formal talk seemed odd,  but a really informal Q&A didn’t seem right either, and so I hit on the idea of reading from my new book .  It was perfect, I thought – because so far as I know, I’ve got the only copies in Canada, and me, my agent and my publisher are the only people in the world who have them.  The publishing date is the 18th of October – so it would be, I thought, a cool sneak preview.

Imagine my shock, when (after beer, butter tarts and a ride in a convertible) I walked into Needles and Knits, and there was this:

Dudes.  A WHOLE BOX of the new book.  A whole box.  I just about fainted.  Then a I had a little worry about what on earth Tove had done to procure them before the pub date, and then I decided that was her magic and that I didn’t care, because all I could think of was one thing. 

Every time I have a book come out, the first people to get it are Americans.  This is all fine and dandy, and the way it is, because my publisher is American, but as a Canadian, it always stings a bit that my family, friends and co-knitters are always the last to see it in a store. (This has always galled my mum, who feels that it is her right to see it in a shop straightaway, and stalks the shops to achieve this.)  I always get tons of mail from people in Canada writing to say "but you’re Canadian, why do Canadians get it last?" or "Can’t you get them to ship to Canada early, so at least we get it at the same time?" Sadly, I have very little to do with the rules of customs, the border or the shipping schedule of a publisher.   I have even less to do with the fact that the publisher in the US has to first ship it to a distributing publisher in Canada who then ships it out to Canadian stores.  It’s just one more stop for the Canadian books… and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Further to that – you wouldn’t believe how little I have to do with the population of Canada, and what that means to how many books get shipped or events executed here.  We might be a country larger than the US, but we’ve got a comparatively tiny number of people, and that’s just a reality when it comes to business.

That’s what I was thinking about last night, when I saw that box of contraband pre-pub date books.  I was thinking that somehow, through some miracle – the first people in the world to have the book live in the not-at-all-bustling-metropolis of Aurora, Ontario…

and I laughed.

For the US, I’ve got a more-or-less finalized tour schedule up on the tour page.  I hope I’ll be near you.

New York New York

From the time that I was a young woman, me and my sister and my mum have always said that we’re going to go to New York together.   After a decade of planning and wishing and saying "we should go" Erin and I decided to save our pennies, and give my mum Bonnie a birthday present of New York City. 

Me, my Mum, my sister Erin, and my remarkably fun honourary sister Julie left on a jet plane Thursday morning, and we went to the city that never sleeps, because baby, you only live once, and there ain’t any of us getting any younger.

We had big plans to be the most remarkable women in New York (which is hard, the competition is rather stiff) for the whole four days. Naturally, as a woman who owns limited shoes and foundation garments, I was nervous.  I was super freaked out.  Freaked out enough that I  packed a cocktail dress I didn’t even know I had a purpose for, and freaked out enough that I had to raid Erin’s closet for shoes and a black bra before boarding a plane, but oh, the wonder of it all.

We walked and walked,

we shopped and shopped (I have never been more in touch with my height, age and station than I was on 5th Avenue – it goes without saying that I bought nothing there… actually I bought nothing the whole time I was there – other than experiences and food) and we ate some wonderful things in some wonderful places. 

We stayed at the Waldorf, we stood under signs that said No Standing,

… we stopped in zones that said No Stopping. 

We tried (very badly) to stalk The President, in town for UN week – but the secret service is (just ask Erin) SUPER unfriendly.  I took Erin to Times Square for the first time in her life…

and one night we wore little dresses and shoes and pretended to be elegant. (That was mostly me.  My mum, Erin and Jules are actually elegant.)  

We loved New York, and baby, it loved us back. Oh the places we went, the things that we did – it really is one of the world’s remarkable places.

We’ll go back, and this time, we won’t wait decades.

If you had a day in New York…   what would you do?

A Welcome, With Thanks

It has been a while since I was at a birth.  I stopped several years ago, because the work I was doing outside of birth didn’t let me devote the time that I believe families deserve though the childbearing year.  I have missed it often, and with  fondness. 

There is a miracle that happens at births, and I don’t mean the miracle of life, because heaven help us all, that can happen without much. 

Some birth workers like watching people become a family, right before their eyes.  Some birth workers like being present when life enters, and takes its first big breaths, and don’t get me wrong-   Both of those things can take me to my knees in an instant and are so meaningful to me that I have a deeply private and important list of the names of people I have known since that first moment, but that has never been the reason that I do it.

I could tell you about the logical reasons.  I could tell you that I feel it’s profoundly important for healthy mums and babies to have healthy, low intervention births, and that having skilled midwives and doulas makes it all the more likely.  I could talk to you at length about how I think those low intervention births stack the deck for easier bonding, easier breastfeeding and dyads who bounce back from birth faster, and with more joy and less work – and I swear to you in the name of all that I hold dear, those things are absolutely true – but they still aren’t why I love to be there.

I do it, because nothing else… nothing else, compares to watching a woman move mountains with her own self,  to watching her rise to a challenge and meet the moment with all she has, and that experience is only enhanced when she is supported by those who care for her, respect her, and want her to be empowered by the journey. 

There is nobody, out the other side of that sort of strong birth, who is not better prepared to meet the absolutely remarkable challenges of parenthood.  When the power and trust is transferred to the mother,  when she delivers her child, rather than "is delivered" when she chooses, rather than "is allowed", no matter what sort of technical birth she has, she is stronger, fiercer, and better.  After a trip like that, you would kill for that child, and you know you can.  

This is all a long way of saying that I have missed it.  The miraculous moment when a woman owns the living daylights out of her own body, and moves something incredible through it.  It breaks my heart with the strength, the dignity and the bravery of it. 

Thanks for allowing me to be there Jen,  and welcome to your achingly beautiful daughter Marlowe.

You are both a miracle.

PS.  Jen kept her end of the deal.  I got to hold the baby,

so she got all the knits.  Straight exchange. 


Here we are poppets, on a fine and glorious Monday of Babywatch 2011. All is quiet on the Western Front, so it’s another set of booties for your viewing pleasure.

These are my standard booties,  easy to knit, use only a little sock/fingering yarn (about 100m, including the pom-poms, it would be less if you used ribbon for the ties) and can be knocked off in an evening – if you’re dedicated.   These ones are knit in Koigu KPPPM, in a colour so old as to be irrelevant.  I think I bought it when Lettuce Knit first opened,  around the time I met Jen – so years and years.  The pom-poms and ties are a little leftover Baby Ull, and I think they’re heartbreakingly sweet.

These booties are easily figured if you own Knitting Rules – it’s my standard sock pattern scaled for babies, but so many of you asked me for the pattern last week that I decided to put one together for those of you who aren’t inclined to do the math.

I hope that link works. They’re cheap, cheerful and fun, and I hope you have a good time knitting them – if you want.   I understand that not everyone is under the sort of baby knitting pressure that I am – or Jen is,  depending on your perspective.

Until tomorrow.  I’ll be knitting booties if you need me.

And Sunday

I know what’s happening at this point.  You’re all pretending to drop by the blog to see what I’ve made, but it’s not my production you’re interested in.  As can be determined by the knit below, we are all still participating in Babywatch 2011.
Since there is not yet a tiny human (and I’m starting to wonder about Jen’s intentions there) I’ve come up with another tiny human knit.
I know this one’s coming a little late in the day, but truth be told I had a bout of false labour yesterday with this sweater, and had to rip out and start over.  Second time was the trick, and after a few hours and a little dedication, I had one of the manta ray shaped pieces of knitting that the experienced among you will instantly recognize as a Baby Surprise Jacket. 

The surprise being, of course, that with a little knitterly origami, that thing becomes this thing.

EZ’s Baby Surprise Jacket (the pattern dates from the year I was born) in STR Mediumweight in Falcon’s Eye...

the whole shebang made entirely and totally irresistible by the addition of two fantastic little sheepie buttons that I collected at some point.  I’m glad to see the wee blokes off to a good home. 

Now, before I go off to knit the next thing (no way to know how long we’re all in this for) I want to answer a few quick questions, since they’re coming in at a rather fierce clip.

How will you tell us when Jen’s labour has started?

I won’t.  I choose life.  Mine.

When is/was/will be Jen’s actual due date?

That is extremely privileged information, and besides, due dates are utter and total crap, as evidenced by the fact that only FIVE PERCENT of babies go to the trouble of being born on them, which means that babies think they’re crap too.  If a healthy mum and a healthy baby have been enjoying a healthy pregnancy, the baby will come when it is time.  When’s that time?  Only destiny knows the real due date.  

Will you live tweet/blog the birth because even though I don’t know Jen, I find that I really suddenly care about what happens a whole lot. 

You’re sweet.  Caring about Jen when you’ve never met her is a really loving and compassionate thing. It means you’re a good, good person.  However, if I live tweet/blog the birth, Jen will very appropriately END ME (as I would emphatically end her, were the relationship reversed) and trying to get me killed would make you less of a good person.  We’ll all have to live with knowing that this is private, lovely and everyone will know when it is time for us. 

At the very least, you’ll know something when the baby knitting stops.


I don’t usually post on the weekend, but I figure that if Jen has to keep going, then so do I.  Behold, the next wee knitted thing.
It’s a tiny little hat, made beautiful by a ring of ladybirds.

Marihone. A Dale of Norway pattern from the book Soft Treasures for Little Ones though I see from the Ravelry link that you can buy the pattern alone from Patternfish. It’s part of a set, with an equally charming sweater, but if the goal is an item a day, the sweater seemed like a smidge too much to bite off.

The hat was easily made in a day, and did burn through a little of the Baby Ull stash,  but it does need a blocking. I’ll wash it now, and put it in the sun to dry so it’s all ready for whenever this baby arrives. 
I sort of have this image in my mind of Jen and this kid someday going through all their baby things, and the kid says something like "Mum? How come I had so many woollies when I was born?" and Jen smiles at her/him (I’m open to both possibilities) and says:
"Darling – you know how your Auntie Steph is?
Well, she’s always been like that."

Second verse same as the first

Wednesday at Knit Night I had Jen pick yarn.  I thought it might be fun for her to choose some yarn, and then watch and see what it would become.  Megan fetched all manner of things, Jen made her choices, and went home. Sadly, I am a fickle, fickle knitter and mere moments after she left, I had a different idea, trashed all the yarn that she chose, and picked something else totally.
(Jen, blame Andrea. It was her idea. Sort of. Okay, not really.  Blame her anyway.)

I had a cute little cardigan in mind – and yes, I know they’ve all been cardigans.  It’s because of my own memories of trying to pull something over a newborns head.  Their heads are so big and the neckholes are never big enough and they don’t really have necks, which complicates things even more. The head wobbles around and it’s hard to pull their arms through, and the mum gets nervous and the kid gets upset and then, when you finally get a pullover onto them, you’re rewarded with the realization that now you aren’t really going to be able to get it off without the same thing happening in reverse – only the baby is undoubtedly going to be hot or sleepy or wet while you do it.  I feel like pullovers aren’t entry level baby dressing.  Best avoided until the baby (and sometimes the parents) are more experienced. 

So Jen left, and I bought myself one ball of Cascade 220 in a dark grey, and one ball of Noro Silk Garden in a nifty rainbow colourway (number 87, for those who like to know) and yesterday I churned out a sweetie of a little cardigan, perfect for the newly born and neckless.

It’s the Puerperium Cardigan (so named, because the puerperium is the period immediately after birth) and I admit being completely inspired by this version.

I manipulated the colourway to suit me, taking out stretches of colours I didn’t like or didn’t want – or just rearranging the order they went in.  This means I had a bucket of ends to weave in, and an odd little collection of coloured leftovers, but I think it was worth it to have control over how it looks.

Last night I blocked it, this morning I sewed on the little buttons, and whammo.
Another something for the baby.  Who is still not here – but really, these things can’t be rushed.  (Well, I suppose technically they can be, but that hardly seems wise when everyone is healthy and hale.)  
Besides.  The next thing is already on the needles.