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.)

Well Look at That

After arriving here yesterday (I’m in Port Ludlow, where we’re merrily setting up to be invaded by knitters for the latest retreat) I finished the latest socks, which sounds like I got something done, but I didn’t really, since I actually finished these on the tour – mostly. 

I can’t remember where I was exactly when these were almost finished, but I do remember that I was on a plane, went into my change purse for a darning needle, and came up empty handed.

I figure it was because I had an episode in the Baltimore airport days prior, when while standing in line for something I’d accidentally flipped the change holding part of my wallet over – except it was open, and a shower of change (and my darning needle, apparently) hit the ground.  I would have left it all but for two things.  1) If you are Canadian your change can be a lot of money, because we have one and two dollar coins.  2) I guess it’s a sort of littering, and I wouldn’t want to be that person, so I scrabbled round on the floor of the airport, taking great care to pick it all up and somehow missing the darning needle. 

Miraculously I had the presence of mind to grab another one yesterday before I left, and today it was just a quick matter of grafting the toes, and so there you have it.  A finished pair of socks.   They’re basic socks, no pattern really, just round and round and a short row heel on half the stitches, then round and round a bit more – but it makes me so incredibly happy that it randomly worked out that one chunk of colour made half the heel, and the next chunk made the other – absolutely perfectly.  How does that happen? It’s like a miracle that my particular gauge over that particular number of stitches (60, if you’re going to ask and I know you are) gave me heels that perfect. 

Amazing.  The yarn was String Theory Continuum, and I love it. Partly it’s the base yarn (merino, cashmere, nylon) and partly, it’s just the stripes.  I love the wide, simple stripes.  There’s gonna be fierce competition when I get these home, and actually, I think I might keep them well hidden through the retreat too.
Knitters can be sneaky.

Randomly From the Airport

 1. I can’t believe these two guys in the airport lounge.  They’re the biggest weenie-heads I’ve seen in a long time.  They’re getting loaded on Bailey’s Irish Cream and having a wide ranging conversation that is absolutely remarkable in its ability to be so consistently offensive.  Thus far one of them has said that he would sleep with his co-worker if she was just a little smarter… because he’s worried she would accidentally reveal the affair to his wife, and now they’re onto how poor people aren’t really as bad off as everyone thinks they are because poor people have lower standards and don’t need much. They aren’t used to it, and they wouldn’t know what to do.  Like, they just need some sort of shelter and electricity – they guess. Especially if they live in a warm place where they can "forage" for food.  They also seem to feel that your race or citizenship is related to how much you need or can realistically expect in the world.  Not everyone can expect to have a life like they do. There isn’t enough.  The best people are going to get the best stuff. It’s survival of the fittest.

2. I totally want this guy’s wife to sneak a wire into his coat so she could know he’s an unfaithful jerk – or at least that he’s trying to be.

3. Maybe she knows he’s like this.  I bet they’ve been to some parties that got seriously awkward.

4. Now they’re talking about vegetarians. The guy on the left, his boss is a vegetarian.   Apparently vegetarians are stupid and weak. Not eating animals "says something about a person."  Oh, wait.  They think there’s a lot more vegetarians in Canada.   (We are in Canada at present.) 

5. Guy on the right (the one who wishes his co-worker was smart enough to have an affair with him – which totally seems like it would work the other way with this dude) feels that there is a connection between "What Canadians are like" and the fact that he’s decided that now we’re mostly vegetarians. 

6. I can’t hear what Canadians are like because they’re getting more Baileys. 

7. I really hope they’re not on my flight.

8. You gotta wonder what on earth goes through someone’s head that they would talk this way in public. For all they know there’s a blogger sitting right behind them, with a camera in her purse and the overwhelming urge to write down everything they’re saying (because I’m leaving out tons because I don’t use language like that) and put their picture right on that blog post.

9.  I’m not that blogger, because I just don’t have it in me to do it, but really, I could be some other blogger with way less self control.

10.  The whole thing makes me wish I was the sort of person who would say something to them, but I can’t imagine what that would be.  I’m old enough to know that pointing out to them that they’re racist, sexist, dishonest and unkind, and so far away from representing the best that humanity has to offer that I really wish they’d just at least lower their voices, especially during the parts where they’re saying things so bad that it makes us look uncool to the aliens watching us and deciding if we’re worth warning about the big comet coming our way….I know that won’t work.  People who are jerks from a distance are usually just bigger jerks if you speak right to them, and really, they’re not going have a change of heart if a vegetarian Canadian says something.  It’s pointless.

11.  I just wish there was something to do about it. 

12. I’m knitting now. Probably the best way to deal with my disappointment that me and these guys are part of the same species. 

Better late than never

I swear that I had meant to post about the Portland event the day after I did it,  as I made my way home, but something happened the minute I did the last event… as the relief that the whole tour was done and the realization and that I was going to get to go home came over me, and I crashed.  I was a zombie in the airport, and I tried to do it on my layover, but all I could do was sit there, trying to stay awake.  It was like I suddenly had permission to be tired, and all I’ve done since then was sleep and rest, which has been amazing because (deep breath) I leave again in the morning to do the Colour Retreat up at Port Ludlow, which will be a heap of fun, but really turns coming home into a quick three day stop at home just to unpack from the tour, do laundry, and repack to be right back on a plane to the Pacific Northwest and yes – I do know that it would have been easier to just stay, but today is Joe’s birthday, and I really wanted to be home for that. In any case, here I am, and here is the Portland report. 
(Apologies for anything I get wrong, by the way.  I’ve discovered today that one of the problems with doing the reports a few days later is that I have trouble deciphering my notes. I scrawled something about a flub, for example, and it was only a minute ago that I realized I meant flute.  The pictures help.  Flute you ask? Yup. You’ll see it when it goes by.)
Behold! The knitters of Portland!

Look! It’s Judy Becker, and she brought me a copy of her book , which is amazing.  You’ll love it.

I didn’t take her picture, but Laurel Coombs brought me her books too – booklets with socks Inspired by the Lord of the Rings. (Number one and two) Very geeky, and very nice.

I got to see some nice future knitters and their knitter mama’s, like Katie and Ellie,

and Jane and Gus,

Rochelle and Christine

(There is nothing I like more than babies in woollies.)

and a whole family of knitters,  three generations of them.  This is Debbie, Bonnie, Shega, Christina and Renae – all knitters.

(I don’t even want to think about what the competition for stash is like around their place.) 

Libby brought Gertie (9) and Ira (7)

Both fine knitters. This is Timothy, Laurie and thier family,

the lot of them showing up to show off all that Auntie Amanda has made for them.  (Say it with me…. Awww.)

Eileen, let me tell you about her.  This is her blanket, but really, this blanket is much bigger than it looks,

because  she had to knit a big chunk of it twice after a the first swing at it was stolen out of her car.  (I know.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who starts the same thing again after that.  I’d have been two demoralized by the loss. The only thing you can hope for is that it was stolen by some poor desperate knitter out of yarn.  That would be a comfort, but since they took everything else out of her car too I don’t think that was it.)

This is Katie, and she played us "Mary had a little Lamb"

It was a perfect choice. (And she knits.)

It was close to Hallowe’en, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the very crafty Margo masquerading as the very crafty Molly Weasley…

and yes, she did make her top, and also? She dyed her hair to make it perfect- which is it. 

Jae got a present for Roxanne. 

And Karen showed off her first pattern, The Bridges of Marion County.

Then there was the predictable parade of first socks, which also predictably, got unpredictable.   Fox showed off her pair – which are only sort of a pair in her mind, but she had a tiny cute sock, so who cares. 

Lisa brought her first socks, and Kevin showed off his first hat – which is also the only knitted thing he’s ever produced.

Jen had first socks,

and so did Laura and Barry.

This is Marta’s sock, which isn’t her first sock. She was just showing off, which I think is wise, considering how nice that bad boy is.

and this is Caitlin, who didn’t have her first socks, but brought these to be their spiritual stand in.

Denise knit these socks for her husband Marion – and heck yeah, that’s a lot of knitting.

Laia, perhaps inspired by the tiny chicken the other day, had no first socks but brought a knitted Kiwi instead.  (I know. What can I say? There’s a small knitted bird thing developing that I can’t really explain.)

and Laurie brought her first sock, which is not at all the size tha
t she wanted it to be…

and Karen brought a first sock that remarkably, came out exactly the size she wanted.  (I think she said it was a Christmas stocking.  Man, I hope that’s what it is.)

and with that… it was done, except for one great moment that I loved. The knitters were clearing out, and Tina noticed a piece of paper on the floor. She dashed over and picked it up, and sure enough it was a chart and pattern.  Worried some knitter was going to be desperate when they discovered it gone, she asked around, and then went to the info desk and asked if they could make an announcement – because this knitter really was going to want this.  They agreed, and we all had a smashing moment, when over the store loudspeaker system we heard:

Would the knitter who was knitting gnomes, please report to the red info desk.  WE HAVE YOUR PATTERN.

Couldn’t  have been a better way to end the tour.  Worth it just for the looks on the faces of the regular customers.  (The knitter did come back, by the way. It’s a happy ending.)  

So that’s it.  One book tour under my belt, many knitters met, many books signed and talks given, and I want to really thank everyone who came out, and every one who bought a book or showed me support in anyway at all.  The kindness of knitters made the whole thing a remarkable event in my life – and the coffee and chocolate some of you brought made it possible. I’m deeply in your debt.  Even if your contribution was reading the blog and hanging in with me, I thank you.  It made it less lonely in my hotel rooms to have you guys with me, in a virtual sort of way. 

Thank you.

(PS.  Thank you extra actually, because as of a few days ago, this book was on the New York Times bestseller list, and it’s all because of the power of knitters.)

(PPS. My sister won the furnace wars this year.  Joe wimped out on account of "the cat looked cold" and I wasn’t here to stand between him and the thermostat.  Victory belongs to Erin this year. Next year, game on. )