Like I am Fourteen Again

Dear blog,  I feel like I owe you an apology for how long it’s been between posts, and I didn’t even realize how long it had been until I got an email from my mother this morning.  (Truth be told I didn’t even know what day of the week it was, never mind how many posts there should have been.)  My mum emailed and pointed out that she was watching the blog to see what I was up to, but that I wasn’t posting.  She stopped just short of saying I’d be grounded if I didn’t get it done, but I could feel the vibe.  I can’t really explain what happened to the last several posts, except to say that I think that maybe a 72 hour turnaround between a book tour and hosting a retreat might have been easier on paper.

As an aside, it’s like there’s three phrases that I say that should be a tip-off that something is about to be to be a ridiculous challenge for me.

1. No – I think I can do that.  I know it looks bad, but I can handle it. 
(Lesson: this will test the limits of human endurance and caffeine consumption.)
2.  I’ve done that before.  It was okay.
(Lesson: by "okay" I mean that I escaped with my life, not that it was a good plan.)
3. It shouldn’t take that long.
(Lesson: it is going to take way, way longer than I imagine, plus some. Forget sleep.)

All of those things were true over the last week, but then the other thing happened, the thing that keeps making me do it… and that’s that it was all worth it.  Totally worth it.  The retreat was amazing, I’ve been very busy and I took a few pictures for you.

We had the dye room set up the way we always do – it was a colour retreat, but Tina’s always about colour. 

Judith MacKenzie had a beautiful spinning room, with more colours of top and roving than I could imagine

and arranged them all in the colour wheel…

And in my classroom, there was a riot of colour everywhere.

The hotel got in on the scene by trying to make even our meals colourful,

Our staff was – as always.  Colourful.

and knitters filled the inn to overflowing, and spilled out of every nook and cranny.  They gathered in the bar, in the lounge, you couldn’t swing a skein of yarn without hitting someone knitting or spinning, which is just how I like to construct my little universes.  
On Tuesday the knitters went home, and we cleaned up, and then Tina, Judith and I went for a walk.  We had the loveliest time.  Judith tried to convince me everything was edible. She thought these were:

She though these weren’t….

The best part about any walk with Judith though, is that you find out what plants are spinnable.  Fireweed, for example?

Judith showed us how to spin the fluff (that’s almost an inch of fireweed two ply)

and the bast fibers from the stalks. 

In the end, I decided that Judith would be a pretty good person to have on a desert island with you, and the whole thing is sending me back to the woods today with a baggie for the fluff, because all of a sudden a fireweed/cashmere combo seems awesome, and I don’t think there’s fireweed in Toronto.  (Is there?)
Yesterday, I reflected on my good fortune, slept, and then woke up and knit most of a baby sweater.

Now you’re caught up.  How was your week? 

(PS.  Sorry Mum.  I’ll do better.)

99 thoughts on “Like I am Fourteen Again

  1. Am I first? So glad you are back in blog mode! Absolutely love the new book too~my 16 year old daughter took it to school to read during her study hall~instead of knitting her hand mittens 🙂

  2. My week, knitting-wise, was full of stupid mistakes on Catkin. I thought of you. I think that the issue with that pattern is that it lulls an experienced knitter into false security because it really is so simple that all of a sudden, oops! really should pay attention to that handy thing known as a chart. But, screw housework and grading papers tonight, I’m on the home stretch!

  3. Not as busy as yours! Looks like you had a great time!
    (Your Mum must have been picking up on your readers’ vibes…)

  4. Have to admit that I was a bit worried about you. But didn’t want to send an email as that would come across as nagging…and my boys say I’m a champion nagger.
    Glad you had a lot of colorful fun! Thanks for the blog post today.

  5. mmmmmmm… look at all that colour AND crafty fun all in one place!!! so again, for purely selfish reasons i will request: how about some awesome knitting retreats in the muskokas of ontario, offered during summer time when i am on vacation?! pleeeeeeeze? 🙂

  6. Glad you’re back! I started knitting Fernfrost, so I’ve been stalking the blog for an update on how yours is going.

  7. (I typed that looking out the window at a magnificent spider web. In the spring, the wrens seek them to strengthen their nests with. I wonder… Nah, fireweed sounds better.)

  8. I figured you were just having a grand time at the retreat, but Moms are good for making us check in now and again. Welcome back to blogland!

  9. I don’t know if there’s fireweed in Toronto, but there definitely is in Haliburton. A few years ago I did a plant study of all the plants I could find around my cottage, and did watercolour paintings of them, including fireweed. But that was in the summer. I’ve never seen it in the fall when it’s gone fluffy. I wonder if you could use milkweed fluff, if you took all the seeds out? It’s beautiful and silky.

  10. I finished knitting a couple of Christmas presents, and read your new book, so I didn’t miss your posts as much as I might have. Those were the good parts of my week, don’t ask me about the rest.

  11. What a lovely place you were….I am glad you reported in…. I have finished a felted cozy for my new I Pod, finished a lace headband/hat as a gift, started an the another puerperium cardigan for charity projects and am part way through the second installment of both of Wooly Wormhead’s mystery KAL hats…other things on needles but they are hibernating. (Oh and I am doing this all lever knitting… thank you Stephanie…)

  12. That is one gorgeous sweater that Judith is wearing. Do you happen to know the pattern name?
    P.S. Fireweed is the official flower of the Yukon – it is one of the first plants to regrow after a fire.

  13. Oops – hit post before I finished my thoughts. Welcome back, (and no I am not being sarcastic). So, I miss you when you take a hiatus, but I certainly understand that sometimes you just have other priorities – sometime even doing nothing is a higher priority.
    I did a blog while travelling for 3 months last winter, and that taught me that blogging can be a bit relentless.
    Thanks for your posts, whenever they come.

  14. Fireweed is VERY invasive, by the way. Sorry to disappoint you. Can you use milkweed fluff?? or dandelion fluff, or Queen Anne’s Lace fluff instead?
    Our Canadian environment will thank you.
    YES — fireweed is in Toronto and ALL OVER.

  15. Fireweed also prevalent in Quebec, especially at the beginning of the Gaspe peninsula (summer cottage). We had a ton of fireweed grow after the stormy seas took out a chunk of the beach last December. Sure enough the fluff was everywhere this September. So, next time you feel like some real Quebec poutine, combine it with a fluff-gathering trip to Metis-sur-mer, QC 😉
    Cheers, Barbie O.
    PS still having lots of post-class “glow” from KnitEast–especially when I borrow husband’s hand to check sock measurements–best tip ever!

  16. Judith is absolutely right about the mushrooms – first one is a shaggy parasol (edible for many people, some get stomach upsets), but i would prefer it a little younger, the second one is a little brown mushroom growing on wood that is best left on its own in the woods.
    the retreat sounds wonderful – every tried mushrooms for colour? many give gorgeous colours, but not the two of your pictures.

  17. my week? well, it was one of those where I went home every night wondering why I didn’t have the sense of humor and knitting skill the Yarn Harlot has so I too could write books and teach retreats and knit….. or have a sheep farm. Or how much could one make for a living teaching people how not to make the silly mistakes I make!
    My highlight of the week – I got to give the organic cotton baby blanket to the Mom-to-be – the one that Stephanie knit some stitches into at the Baltimore MD book signing – Mom-to-be loved the blanket and immediately wrapped herself up in it – so sweet. Now to wait on baby and see how he looks in it 🙂

  18. Glad to see you back – I was getting worried!
    Fireweed – that’s rosebay willow herb, isn’t it? Or similar? Grows on mountains so the climate shouldn’t be a problem, and likes waste ground. It’s not fussy about untended gardens either, but your neighbours might start looking at you funny if you start raiding their gardens for weeds!

  19. Looks wonderful. But as someone who lives in California and is always being told not to bring plants in from outside of the state or the country, I was wondering what the rules are from the U.S. to Canada for fireweed.

  20. Always good to see a new blog post from you – wish my daughter posted on hers as often! Her posts are always fun though. She’s at “”

  21. I’ve been neglecting my spinning wheel quite a bit lately. I had all these good intentions after taking my spinning class but I’ve hardly touched my wheel. *sigh*
    I’ve been having an affair with my knitting because I need to finish Little Man’s baby blanket.
    I’ll get around to spinning…someday.

  22. Thanks, Stephanie…I was missing you. Your posts always make me feel better and I especially needed that today; my last week and a half has been very long! Glad you had fun. Wish I could have been there!

  23. I think we were all hoping you were recharging your jets after two big events. Glad you got to discover a new spinning fibre and literally immerse yourself in colour.

  24. I worked, and worked, and worked some more. I got a day off and mostly I just cleaned the house and did the grocery shopping (*sigh*) I did some knitting during the evenings I was off work and finished the back (or front, they’re identical) of a complex cabled aran sweater, so I feel like I was pretty productive, though the dog keeps looking at me like I’ve been neglecting him and I’m trying to ignore the pile of laundry lurking in the closet… And another week down!

  25. Wonderful pictures; so glad you had a great time! My Christmas knitting is coming along with very goof-proof projects, Noro stripe scarves, Turn-a-Square hats, moebius cowls and some bambeanies. I feel like such an underachiever, but they’ll never know the difference!

  26. Fireweed is the official flower of the Yukon, and it is in abundant supply here in the summer. Let me know if you need some gathered next year — no need to worry about getting it across the border. Cheers!

  27. Thanks for the lovely post, thank your mother for me too.
    I have been looking at milkweed fluff and have played around with it out in the field. Next year I will have to have a go at it, because we have a ton of it.
    Welcome back.

  28. My week was stressful but it has a fabulous ending, no doubt owing to the pulchritude goodness of the full moon. I can’t believe you had to sit in those chairs. They don’t even have lumbar support. You guys need better cushions. I bet you’ll be glad to get home. I wish you a better schedule next year!

  29. Great to see you back!
    Pretty please, picture of and info on the sweet Dale of Norway baby sweater?

  30. Thanks for posting pics — almost made me feel like I was there. Sounds like it was yet another unforgetable Port Ludlow Hysteria weekend. Despite the disappointment of not making it off the waiting list, my week turned out great. I learned about cable suckage, the most amazing 5-color cast on, and was deeply inspired by Alice’s talk about her life and color. Not at all a bad way satisfy an insatiable knitterly itch.

  31. Glad you’re back to the Blog. I found pictures of Fireweed near Sudbury, but the caption said that “the seeds blow on snowy-white wisps” in September, so maybe not around now. Something to remember for next year.
    I’ve been working on Diamond Bambu Boa scarves for Christmas – found a skein at the Woodstock Fleece Festival and LOVED it! I ordered 10(!) skeins from Patternfish so all the females in my family will be receiving one for Christmas. Also, gentle reminder, six weeks from this Saturday is Christmas Eve.
    Did you ever find a poppy at YVR? Lots here in Southern Ontario, however some low-life criminals are stealing the money boxes from Tim Horton’s – how low can they go, stealing from the money donated for the veterans who fought for our freedom?!

  32. I’m sure this is a very strange comment but I like that Canadians spell colour with the “u”… it always bothers me when its “color”…
    Oh, I’m Australian and we are fond of the “u”.
    I’m also very jealous of the knitters who got to go on the retreat!

  33. You forgot the fourth phrase:
    “Hey! You know what would be a good idea?”
    (Lesson: This is going to be highly entertaining for Presbytera.)

  34. Like your mom, I was also wondering where you were, checking the blog daily. Missed reading your posts, but I assumed you were having fun at the retreat. Wish I could have been there. My week was nowhere near as fun.

  35. I miss Judith. She taught me a lot while she was living on Vancouver Island. I even remember her mentioning about spinning milkweed.
    I’ll have to try to get to one of your retreats since it is relatively close to me.

  36. My week was great! My oldest son got engaged, my youngest son won a local 5K race, and I am writing my letter of intent to retire!
    Glad you’re back in blogosphere~I missed you too!

  37. I’m glad you posted..I was going to write a note to make sure you were okay after your strenuous few weeks …I thought maybe you had come down with the same nasty bugs I’ve been sick with…but has allowed me to get a good handle on the holiday knitting!! this is a long way of saying–welcome back to your blog–we missed you!!

  38. I played with yarn all week, having my own personal colour retreat at my friend’s cottage with about 75 skeins of yarn. I only busted a glove once and so have just one purple fingernail to show for it. Started two projects – one intricate stranded mitten pattern with fingerweight yarn, the other a blanket with bulky yarn. It’s one extreme or the other with me these days.
    Hope you get home to your own bed and family soon.

  39. But was their yarnbombing?
    My week was fun. Main sewer line backup, resulting in a basement flooded with yuck, resulting in a major cleanup courtesy of our insurance company (after paying a major deductible, of course). And the disturbance of men tromping through the house on a daily basis, while massive fans in the basement have been roaring for nearly 3 days, driving us all *mad.*
    It was so bad I tried knitting the somewhat unusual sock heel in Pyroclastic Socks (from the 2009 winter Knitty) three times before I gave up and opted for a standard flap heel. Apparently my brain couldn’t handle one more challenge!

  40. New job after being layed off most of this year. New job is taking up all my spinning and knitting time. Unlimited overtime is a chance to catch up on bills, buy lots of food for Thanksgiving Day and STASH ENHANCE!!! YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
    So…my feet, hands, back, and brain hurt and 60+ hours a week is taking some getting used to…but, I like being able to work again so I aint complainin…..much.

  41. To clear up a little botanical confusion–Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)is a North American native–also known as willow-herb, or rosebay willowherb. I think some people may be confusing fireweed with a very invasive, non-native plant, commonly known as Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). They look very much alike as they both tend to grow in big purpley-pink patches–especially when one is speeding along the highway!

  42. Ah, you forgot to mention the weather which was unusually dry and sunny from Thursday through Monday. It was autumn weather that almost made you think you were in Vermont.

  43. Just saw you lever knitting on youtube – you’re the only other person I’ve ever seen who knits like me!

  44. Thanks for the update on your retreat. Sounds like it was so much fun. And thanks to your mum for following up for a post. 🙂 I was checking too but I don’t think an email from me would have had the same effect. Now on to the knitting needle search so I can knit a child vest on a deadline…..

  45. If there IS fireweed in Toronto, I’m pretty sure the fluff has long since blown away. Next summer you will be able to get some. Or you could put out a call for fireweed fluff to all your readers who live in rural areas — we could supply you 🙂

  46. My mom checks up on me through my blog, too. She’s very happy that I’m posting again. My break was considerably longer than 72 hours…
    Going to one of your retreats – wow. Something to save for.

  47. Gotta say I missed you, but knew you deserved some time to yourself after all that sharing your book.
    I filled my time reading your book and just finished the second to the last chapter. It was simply your best writing ever. Thank you.

  48. Although I was anxious to see photos of the retreat I just figured you were fried, completely understandable. I got too used to daily reports on the book tour, which was great but geez, you need a break. Hope you get some quality time at home with your family, and not just doing the laundry.

  49. Maybe I’m even further behind the eight ball, but I’m still feeling shorted the final Gwendolyn photo shoot!

  50. Fireweed is more opportunistic than invasive. It favours disturbed soil, but gets crowded out by the competition soon enough after a fire. It can be grown in a flower bed but don’t let it go to seed.
    PS. Leaves and shoots are edible in spring, so even if it was invasive, you could keep it under control. It also has a lot of medicinal properties. Search under willow herb.

  51. I’m glad that you are all right and have come out the other side of the rabbit hole with your precious sanity still intact.
    Your retreat always sounds amazing. Unfortunately I can only do one event max a year and Squam was it this year.

  52. What a serene-looking hotel, the wood bits are beautiful (guess it is mostly wood) especially with all the wool. When you don’t post for awhile I figure you are terrifically busy, taking sanity time with your family or perhaps under the weather…all good reasons to relax a tad. Here’s to quick and adorable baby sweaters.

  53. I can’t believe how much I miss you when you don’t blog, but I enjoy knowing you are out in the world living la fiber loca, unlike some of us who must knit quietly between crises at our day jobs.

  54. My first time to comment, but I love your blog! I only started knitting about a year ago and reading your blog shortly after.thanks so much for being an inspiration.

  55. I live on the prairie (Manitoba) and I’ve never seen fireweed. There’s lots of fluffy stuff on the cattail or bull rushes right now-anybody ever tried spinning it? Maybe I could try quack grass or it’s roots-they’re ubiquitous and voracious invaders. I always think that there must be SOME use for the darn stuff! (LOL) Always nice to have you back Stephanie.

  56. My weekend was *awesome* because I got to be *there* with you all! Thank you, and Tina & Judith for sharing even more than I hoped to learn. It was fabulous, and I am happy to say that I no longer consider intarsia to be a four-letter word.

  57. Glad you’re back! thought my computer was on the fritz when I didn’t see any new post. The weekend looked fun. I hope I can attend some time. Guess I better learn to spin first. Thank you for everything. You’re the best.

  58. So glad you are back I have really missed you , am so envious a whole weekend with like minded ladies wonderful.

  59. I used to grow fireweed in south florida (zone 10) to attract butterflies and bees. I dont think it would survive in Canada? In so fla, it is a native perennial.

  60. I enjoy reading your blog. I have recently tuned in! I’m reading all of them from 2004 so the weeks lapse has let me catch up to Xmas 2004. Knitting projects on the go this week are: a cot blanket (sewing up), shawl (commuting knit on the train) and a Rowan jacket (after the kids have gone to bed)

  61. I’ve been knitting an EZ ribwarmer. One of the fronts needs shortening (to prevent it from also being a thigh warmer, which is not the look I’m after). Inspired by your recent snip-and-graft activity, Ipicked up stitches, snipped and unravelled. Last night I did a test graft with yarn in a contrasting colour – a good idea, as it turns out, as I grafted a nice line of obvious stockinette in the middle of the garter stitch. Then I went and had just one glass of tasty red wine with dinner, followed by trying to watch an episode of a crime drama with subtitles. Now I know that I pulled one row back (to get me to the right point for starting the grafting, but other than that, I have absolutely no idea where I got to. I think there may be more test grafting in the near future… My yarn is a merino-cashmere-possum blend in a fairly loose single (it spit felts really easily) – it’s super-soft, although with a bit of tickle (I think that’s the possum fibres), and quite dense. It should also be really warm – I like it very much! It’s a shame it’s not very readily available outside New Zealand – although I’m not sure it really counts as vegetarian friendly, as the possums don’t come to a happy ending (they’re an introduced species there, and both extremely destructive and prolific…)
    I like the idea of spinning with fireweed fluff, even though I’m not a spinner! There are lots of different plant fluffs in nature – like the clematis seedheads I get in my garden – although I do wonder how hardwearing they would be. You should get Clara Parkes on the case, see about fibre composition and staple length…

  62. I can grab some milkweed fluff for you. When I am walking my dog, I see it every day! Although today I think it might be covered in snow.

  63. There is Fireweed in Haliburton. I imagine you could track it down in Toronto. It prefers the edge of forests, so I would check in High Park.

  64. I kept clicking on my Yarn Harlot toolbar button and seeing the fantastic striped socks. Delighted when I clicked today and saw that there was a new post.
    I have frogged most of the back of my Portland Tweed Jacket … for the second time. Could you hear sobbing coming from Colorado? This will be a thrice-knit sweater. Grrrrr.

  65. Thought you might have been sick after you had such a grueling schedule the last couple of weeks. Was a little worried about you. On the other hand, bloggers should be entitled to a little down time. Here’s a suggestion: you could pre-announce a little break from blogging when you anticipate the need for recovery time–except then you’d have to be honest with yourself about how over-booked you are, and, based on today’s posting that’s completely out of character. Glad you had so much fun.
    P.S. How would milkweed fibre work? There’s tons of that in this part of North America.

  66. As someone else has pointed out Judith is right about the mushrooms!
    The first is a Shaggy Parasol and is DELICIOUS as mushroom tempura. SERIOUSLY. Discard the stem, cut the cap into thin wedges, make a tempura batter (I use rice flour, beer, and soya milk) and deep fry. Dip in garlic mayonnaise for heaven on a plate. If you want an easier job just dredge the mushroom pieces in a tiny bit of beaten egg then roll them in breadcrumbs (I use matzo meal! It’s perfect!)
    Um….that is all.

  67. Does your mum know mine? (This is not as much of a reach as you might think. My mom knows a lot of people.)
    I get the exact same kind of communication if I don’t post regularly!

  68. So thankful that the retreat into colour was such lovely fun and do-able for you even on little rest. My week: recovering from tummy troubles & knitting a l-o-n-g ribbing onto the second side of an intricately cabled shawl/scarf thing. (I think that it was begun as a sweater project so now I am not exactly sure what it wants to be, but it was on a circular needle inside of a plastic bag at a garage sale & for $1.50 I was willing to take a chance. Kamgarn Triplex wool(14+skeins, also) in my favorite color of red. Should be warm anyway 🙂 It’s to go for a little swim soon–just casting off the now.

  69. The retreat sounds fantastic. no wonder you haven’t had time or energy to blog. Catch up on your sleep now – we’ll still be here when you wake up.

  70. You should ask her about milkweed though. There’s lots of that. And it’s toxic to sheep so harvesting the fluff and seeds would be nice to sheep. sort of. though mean to monarchs. Damned contradictory nature

  71. To be honest it’s not been a really good week. Glad you have a good time a the colour retreat. Knew the reason you hadn’t posted was the busy schedule.
    Happy Knitting, Alice

  72. Three things: Gotta love the mums.
    Your lessons mimic my week exactly. And the next three weeks as well. It looked good on paper though.
    First thing I do after reading your blog? Scroll down to see what Presbytera commented. I have high expectations now, and she never disappoints!

  73. AND fireweed makes the BEST honey!!! I’ll try to remember to bring some to Madronna so you can see for yourself. I know you like good beer, how do you feel about mead?

  74. Well, I was there at the retreat and it was wonderful and better. And I didn’t do a 2 week book tour first (I really wondered about your reasoning on timing the beginning of one so close to the end of the other) and you’ve still blogged more than I.

  75. I’m glad it’s not just my mum who blog-watches. Before we were all on Facebook, if she didn’t see a new blog post in 4-5 days, she’d call to make sure I was still alive. Mums. They never grow up. =)
    Love the sweater!

  76. Definitely fireweed in the Kawarthas/Minden area of the world. Our cottage property was full of the plants. If the new owners hadn’t bulldozed nature out of it, it would still be there.

  77. Someday I hope to feel competent enough for this retreat. I can’t wait.
    My sister and I share a blog but are very spotty writers. In the past our mother has threatened to take us off of her favorites list if we don’t blog more.

  78. Sounds lovely. I will make it to one of those events, someday. I promise.
    Come down here sometime and I’ll show you how to spin Spanish Moss on an Indian head flyer. You spin it fresh and let it dry and it makes a useful cord. or novelty yarn. Or embellishment. Or swamp monster costume. Or whatever.
    100 years ago they used to collect it to stuff upholstered furniture.
    P.S. Ever spin thistle?

Comments are closed.