Cookie Boy

I know, from the reaction to the pictures of Hank that I posted yesterday on Twitter, that many of you are as concerned about him as I am.  I don’t want to get into the details, but you’re all right.  There is a problem with Hank – namely that he is indeed 11 years old, and appears to be as tall as me and growing up quickly.  I have attempted to explain to him that his is the youngest child in the family, and that it would be best for all concerned if he would remain emotionally and physically stunted for many years to come, but he appears helpless in the grasp of growing. I took several steps yesterday to retain his loyalty in the face of impending teenagerness.  First, I bought him french fries, and onion rings, and an adult sized burger, even though I knew there was no way he could eat it.  (He didn’t.)

Then we went shopping for a present for his mum for Christmas, which is something we’ve done for years.  While out, I purchased an olive grabber, and a bag of tiny, tiny little oranges.

These were immediately combined in the hoped for manner, and in public, a process which I not only condoned, but encouraged. 

I believe that these things together got me enough buy-in, and Hank enthusiastically spent the rest of the day making cookies.  This year he was old enough to work the cookie press – a machine that thrills all kids perpetually.

(I was shocked last night to discover that not everyone knows what a cookie press is. I have this one, but there are lots of them. It’s like a caulking gun that makes cookies. They’re so interesting that you can keep a teenager in the house for up to 45 minutes at a time if you have one.)

Hank elaborately decorated all the gingerbread, and started to learn how to bake.  (New skills – leveling off a cup of flour with a knife, knowing the vital difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.)

It was a great day, made even greater by knowing that any minute now, there are going to be a thousand things Hank would rather do than spend a day with Auntie Stephie. For now though,

He’s still my cookie boy.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 17

All right my non-knitterly friends, I’m having company tonight so we’re going to rip through these two days.  It’s all perfectly simple anyway.  You know what you’re knitter likes?  (Pro tip: We’ve been over this.)  YARN.   You know what they would like a lot?  If yarn that they didn’t pay for came to the house at regular intervals thoughout the year.  Although this is going to sound strange to you, there are clubs that knitters can join that will mail them yarn throughout the year. There are a lot of them – and don’t look at the screen like that. In a world where you can get an Olive Oil of the Month Club,  Bonsai of the Month Club, Beef Jerky of the Month Club or a Necktie of the Month club, you really though that there wouldn’t be yarn? C’mon.    Here’s a couple I found for you.  Look through them and see what your knitter might like.

Rockin’ Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber arts, looks to be a fun one this upcoming year. One skein of yarn comes with two patterns, one for socks, one for an accessory.
Sweet Georgia has several clubs, and her stuff is lovely, and Canadian, if that’s on your list.
Cookie A’s got one (that one comes with sock patterns, yarn and cookie recipes)
Anne Hanson has two (The Bare Naked one looks cool) and I like the look of the Tanis Year in colour (another Canadian company.) Twisted has a shawlette club – I could go on and on, and I bet that the knitters in the comments would be thrilled to list some of their favourites.  Check there for more ideas.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 18.

You know your knitter really well, so you’ll know if this is right for him or her, but can I suggest a manicure?  A gift certificate for a manicure or paraffin wax treatment, hand massage… or some other total pampering thing for your knitters hands.  Our hands are very hardworking this time of year – and they’re the most valuable tool we have.  It would be nice to give them a treat. 
If that doesn’t sound like your knitter, how about some lovely cream/lotion for their hands?  My current favourites are Lo-lo To-Go from Bar Maids and the Everything balm from Goodies Unlimited (actually, anything from Goodies Unlimited.)  Good hunting. 

Starting to look a lot like moose cookies

Today finds me midway through the 48 hour push that I agreed I’d do before I freaked the frak out about the Christmas knitting, and so far it seems like a good decision.  Last night I finished a mitten, made a whole Icing Swirl hat, and got the Christmas sweater body and arms joined together, and I’m just beginning the yoke, which means that if I don’t have any sort of knitting emergency, tomorrow might dawn bright and full of festive hope.

I went to the grocery store, I bought the makings for the gingerbread, and now there’s just mixing, rolling and baking – and midway through that, my favourite job of all…

deciding which shapes out of my cookie cutter collection I’ll use for Christmas this year.  Some are perennial, I’ve no choice but to use angels, trees, gingerbread "persons", snowflakes and stars, but since I’m baking by myself this year, I feel that I have total freedom beyond that.   Gingerbread moose?

Reindeer? Sheep?

Porcupines? (I happen to know a little girl who would think that gingerbread porcupines were spectacularly fabulous – and I’m not speaking here of my inner child, although she’s pretty keen too.) Hank’s coming to decorate tomorrow.  Would he like apples? Chickens? Foxes? (Perhaps chickens and foxes!) Squirrels? Moons? Santas? Rabbits? Boots? Butterflies?

The mind reels at the possibilities. What shapes do you make at your house?

Gifts for Knitters, Day 16

To balance out yesterday’s gift, which I freely admit was a pricey one, today’s idea is one that you should be able to pull together for a few dollars and a trip to a nearby store.  If you live with a knitter, you’ll know what I’m about to tell you is true, and if you don’t live with a knitter, then you’ll just have to take my word for it – but knitters have a lot of paper.  Magazines, leaflets, patterns they printed out – and a great gift would be a way to organize some of that stuff.  Magazine holders are a great thing for knitters.  You can get fancy ones that match the decor, or if you’re not the sort of family that has decor you can just get them out of your way.  If you’re feeling particularly broke or crafty, you can even make some.  To hold your knitters leaflets and assorted single patterns, go to the store and get a regular 3 ring binder, and a whole bunch of page protectors.  Put a little note on it so that they know what it’s for, and if you really want to score points?  Add a coupon promising that you’ll do the organizing. 


For days I’ve been staring at the pile of yarn on the dining room table – yarn that should be presents, and murmuring little reassuring things to myself.  Things like "It’s okay, there’s lots of time" and "You can do it" and "Just stay on track."

Last night, after purchasing the last of the yarn that I needed at Knit Night, and then having a long walk home in the rain during which I had a good long think, I realized that I might have the wrong attitude. After carefully examining the amount of time remaining before C-day, and the amount of work left to accomplish, it would seem that these simple little reassuring messages I’m giving myself as I’m moseying through holiday prep are a collective pile of do-do.  The message I should be giving myself is actually PANIC.  FREAK OUT.  YOU ARE OUT OF TIME and YOU SHOULD BE HYSTERICAL.

Still, this seems drastic and not particularly festive, so I have decided on another course of action.  I’m going to hunker down hard on the knitting front for the next 48 hours.  (This won’t be easy, considering that I have made a similar decision to hunker down on the cookie front, but I believe that Hank’s help is forthcoming there, so even though it’s a conflict, I have decided to ignore it entirely.) I’m going to spend 48 hours doing my level best to knit as much of that pile as I can, and then I’m going to re-assess and decide whether or not I should PANIC or FREAK OUT.   I wouldn’t want to waste time on unnecessary feelings.  In my experience, a proper Christmas freak out takes at least twenty minutes – since it must contain certain key phrases (YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THIS HAT IS) allegations of poor behaviour by supporting family members (MAYBE IF YOU EVER DID LAUNDRY I WOULD BE DONE BY NOW) along with various pessimistic views of the inevitable crappy holiday everyone is going to have if things don’t change, which of course… they can not.  (WHY DON’T YOU CARE THAT CHRISTMAS IS RUINED.)
Long story short,  I don’t want to go there unless I really have to, so I’m going to make a huge pot of tea and re-double my efforts.  (After I get back from the next round of errands and grocery shopping. Whatever. You know what I mean.)

Gifts for Knitters Day 15

Dear Non-knitter who loves a Knitter,

I’ve been trying to be pretty good about suggesting lots of different gifts at lots of different price points, and I’m even keeping in mind that as of now, the mail-order deadline has pretty much past.  (You’ll see a shift in the next few days towards things you can buy in local stores, or make yourself.) Since I’ve been so diligent, I’m just going to come right out and say that this next gift is pricey.

It’s an ipad.  I’m not even going to link to that because if you don’t know what an ipad is then it’s really the wrong gift for you to be buying.  (Also, see your doctor.  You might be dead.)  I also don’t think you should buy an ipad just as a knitting tool, though if your knitter has ever expressed an interest in one, you should know that they are an amazing knitting tool. Not only does an ipad surf knitting blogs, Ravelry, etc, there’s also a lot of really great apps for knitters – not the least of which is my favourite, Goodreader.  Goodreader turns an ipad into a powerful pattern manager.  Not only can you connect to Ravelry and export your entire pdf library to the ipad (yeah, that’s right)  once you open a pattern you can create a copy that you can mark up.  You can circle things, highlight things (like your size) or leave yourself little notes (like that you did an extra decrease.)  You can create a line, then slide that line up a chart as you complete each row – like a post it, only it never falls off.  I used to be a hard core paper pattern gal, but now – my whole pdf pattern library with me all the time?  C’mon.  Your knitter would love that.   An ipad can also function as an ipod, so your knitter can listen to tunes or an audiobook too, and it’s also an e-reader, so all his e-format knitting books can be with him too.  It’s also a camera to take pictures of their knitting, and a great way to use social media to ask questions about knitting.  I’ve got an app that functions as a needle gauge, another that’s a very fancy row counter, and if I were the type (which I’m not) I’d be hunting up an app that tells you how much yarn you need for what.  There’s even a Ravelry group for knitters with ipads.  

Now, I know that right now, some of you are thinking that knitting is the exact opposite of an ipad.  That knitting is cozy and that knitters are grannies and that people who understand wool really well might not be that technologically inclined.  I don’t have time to explain it really well, but let me just tell you this. 

Knitting is binary (knit/purl.) Knitting is technology, engineering, and construction, and your knitter has a knack for it. Your knitter is a probably a geek.


I’m finding it super  tricky to blog about my knitting right now, since most of it is super-sneaky stealth knitting for people who peruse the blog. I’ve asked some of the recipients not to look, and they said they wouldn’t, but they’re lying, so pardon me while we go a little light on the pictures for a bit.  I missed blogging yesterday because I forgot who I was for a minute, and went to the mall thinking that I could wrap up the rest of the Christmas shopping.  I was there for two hours and bought only seven pairs of underpants and a bar of soap, and would have left sooner except that I couldn’t find the door that I came in so I could go back out.  The mall always does it to me.  There’s so much choice that after 15 minutes of exposure I can’t think of anything I want, suffer some sort of breakdown, enter a vague fugue state where I can’t think of anything in the world I need, eat something strange and leave.   It was catastrophic, and just left me sitting in the parking lot when it was all over clutching the bag of panties and wanting those hours of my life back.  I’m recovering today.  The only saving grace is that Joe has the fortitude for mall shopping, but not panty buying – so at least I nailed that part of our daughters stockings, and can turn the rest over to someone with the strength for it.  I have no idea how people stand it. I’m going back to the things I can manage today.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 13

Yesterday’s gift for knitters is a scale.  I know, my gentle non-knitters, that you’re wondering what use a knitter has for a scale, but let me tell you – they’re fabulous.  Beyond the obvious (being able to accurately divide a ball of yarn in half for a pair of socks) they’re also fabulous for estimating how many metres of yarn is left in a ball (if the skein was 100g and 210 metres, and now you have 50g, you have 105 metres left) you can also use it to weigh something you’ve made and see if you have enough yarn to make a second one. (This can bring a someone who has a second sleeve to knit and isn’t sure if he’s going to make it a great deal of personal peace.)  Just about any scale can work, but it should be small enough to store decently, measure in both grams and ounces, and be able to weigh very small amounts accurately.  The ones they sell in corner stores for purveyors of illicit substances  work very well for knitter purposes – and can be snagged at the last minute if you’re desperate. I had a little one like this but now I’ve got one a bit bigger, and I use it pretty constantly.

Gifts For Knitters: Day 14

How about knitter related Christmas ornaments?  There’s some great ones here from Kyle Designs, but this glass sheep would do fine, and I’ve seen some amazing ones in the local knit shops.  If however, you’re a kid, or you know a kid who loves a knitter, you can make some pretty cool stuff without too much trouble.  Craftster has instructions here, and when Megan was little, she made me some wonderful ornaments by just balling up a little bit of yarn, sticking round toothpicks through them to be the needles, and gluing beads onto the ends of the toothpicks. They were charming, and I loved that she made them for me. (If there’s a grownup willing to source a few ingredients, these pom-pom sheep would be perfect too.)    If you think your knitter is the right type, there’s also a bunch of ornament kits that you could buy for them.  Knit Purl has cute tiny mitten kits, Mary Maxim has Angels, Blackberry Ridge does hats and mitts, and Noble Knits does a beaded ball. If you knit yourself, then 55 Christmas Balls to Knit looks fun, and a whole lot more festive than the mall.  Just saying.

We all know where this leads

While I am doing my level best not to be smug about it, but I think I might have turned the corner on this Christmas.  I know, I’ve lived this dream enough times to know that as soon as I say something like that, the washing machine explodes, but I really do think it’s going well. The thing is that I have it in my head that this is an "important" Christmas – that this one is somehow significant or more meaningful than the holiday usually is.  There’s been a few like this over the years – the first year with a new baby in the family, the first year in a new house, the last year I’ll have the total buy-in of a little child – something that makes me think that it’s especially important to get it right and make new memories, and that they be exactly the right sort of memories.  Happy, sane, proper family memories. Memories where, when I bake a hundred gingerbread cookies and announce that we’re going to decorate them all together, just like we always have,  the girls will say things like "Oh Mummy, it’s so wonderful to be home and be with the family I love so much, the time you take with our traditions warms my heart" instead of "For s**t’s sake Mum.  NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE COOKIES I’M ON THE PHONE." 

The lesson I’ve learned about a thousand times is that perfecting things doesn’t perfect people.  There’s actually not a huge correlation between them.  If I make perfect cookies, the children will not behave perfectly.  If I get so-and-so the perfect gift, and wrap it perfectly and give it to them perfectly,  there is still no guarantee that they won’t say something breathtakingly bitchy, thus spoiling someone else’s fun who then has a hissy fit in the kitchen because they’re tragically misunderstood by someone who always misunderstands everyone and thank all things woolly that we only have to negotiate our relationship with them a few days a year.  Making things perfect (while profoundly tempting for me- especially when I’m feeling pressure to make an "important" Christmas perfect and memorable) actually does almost nothing to help.  I’ve spent the last week being really super careful to keep my expectations in check, to remember the humans I share the Christmas with are imperfect, and that I am too. To remember that when I think of all the stuff I like about Christmas, there’s actually not a lot of stuff, and that not once, ever, in all the years that I’ve been worrying about it, not once has any person ever told me Christmas was ruined for them because I didn’t get the right wrapping paper, or because I used the regular napkins instead of the ones with holly on them.  NOT ONCE, and frankly, there’s been the same amount of regular family crap no matter what napkins I get out. I’ve even ironed them, and there was still some trouble some years.

I think I’ve turned the corner on this Christmas because I’ve worked it out.

Perfecting things doesn’t perfect people.  Even if you have the perfect napkin rings, a really beautiful gift,  eighty-seven candles and a fabulous side dish.  Give up now.  I promise it doesn’t change squat about people’s happiness or ability to get along.  Either your Uncle Frank is gong to be a dick like last year, or he’s not, but I swear to my stash that I’ve tried getting the perfect pinecones for the centerpiece to make sure he isn’t a jerk to your best friend….  and it doesn’t work. Go knit instead.  You’ll be happier.


Gifts for knitters: Day 12. 

Non-knitter, I’m keeping this short and sweet.  Your knitter has a problem, because they are a knitter there is an excellent chance that they are small-tool repellant.  This means that they likely have trouble putting their hands on tape measures, darning needles and the like, despite having purchased hundreds of same during their lifetime.  That means that going to the yarn shop and buying ANYTHING SMALL is a good idea.  Stitch markers, tape measures, little scissors, darning needles… anything small.   If you want to be posh, get a Knit-kit.  (Super cool.  I wish I had one.) or one of these neat tool tins from The Sexy Knitter.

Gifts for Knitters Days 10 and 11

Day 10:

Today’s gift for knitters is and easy one.  It’s knit related pottery. I’ve done all the hunting for you.

First up, all the knitters know who I’m going to say.  Jennie the Potter. Her etsy shop is here, and stuff goes fast, but everything she makes is beautiful.  I’m a huge fan. I love the mugs, the bowls – everything. Anything.  If you sign up for updates (on the right hand side of her site) you can get updates about when her stuff is going up. 

If you can’t get that, how about a great knit/button mug from Caractacus Pots?
This tall ceramic mug that looks like knitted fabric – from ReShape Studio (That would be a great decorative knitting needle holder) Here’s a great mug from Knit Purl, made by Leigh Radford. It’s a mug cast in a handknit mold. Very cool.

Don’t forget yarn bowls too – although their purpose maybe arcane to you non-knitters, to us they look like a really great way to keep a yarn ball from roaming around while you knit.  There’s these, from Knit-Witch,  There’s beautiful yarn bowls (and bells– I love the bells) from The Blue Brick – carried at The Purple Purl here in Toronto.  Darrielles Clay Art looks to have some beautiful ones…and so does The Mud Place but here’s a link to follow for a million of them.

Day 11

This is a simple one, and requires only a little detective work or investigation on your part.  One of the best things to give a knitter is stuff that gets used up, and after yarn, the number one thing on that list is some sort of nice wash to clean our (and yours, now that I think of it) woollies in.  There’s several good varieties out there, and all you need do is hunt around the house, see which brand your knitter already has, and go get more of it.  They have it at the local yarn shop.  If you can’t tell which sort your knitter has, then just go ahead and buy one of these that appeals to you.  They’re all good.  (PS. If you put this in their stocking, they would think you were super dialed in this year.)

These are some that I’ve used and think are quite good.  (These are also the ones that are in my house right now.) There are others- if they sell it at the yarn shop, it’s probably just fine.

Soak: Soak is a no rinse wash that comes in several different smells.  If you don’t know what scent your non-knitter would like, go check the laundry detergent that they have now – it might give you a hint.  If it’s unscented, then get the scentless soak.  (This is totally unrelated, but Soak also makes temporary tattoos for knitters, which could be a big hit, depending on your knitter.)

Eucalan: Ahh, Eucalan, you charming old standby. Eucalan is another no-rinse wool wash, and I love the lavender one.  They’re all scented with essential oils (except the unscented one. Duh.) and the eucalyptus (a nice manly smell) and lavender both claim to be moth repellent, which isn’t something any knitter can be opposed to.

Finally,  if you do decide to get your knitter some wool wash, remember this:

Nothing is a better gift than learning how to wash your own (and your knitters) woolies with care and respect. There’s a tutorial here at Exercise Before Knitting, and of course, you can always count on Clara.  Go learn – then dare to impress.

Expletive Deleted

That Christmas sweater? Yeah. I gave it a few hours last night and this morning I had 16cm, which is behind schedule, but still a good haul.


Rip-o-rama.  This isn’t going well at all.


Gifts for Knitters, Day 9

Dear Non-Knitter who loves a Knitter,

Today’s gift is the gift of organization.  I bet, if you share your home with a knitter, that you have noticed that they have a lot of needles, darning needles, gauges, all manner of bits and bobs.  I bet too that at least once, as you noticed the proliferation of said items, that you wondered if your knitter really needs that many needles.  The answer is yes, and the reasons are way, way to complex to explain to someone who’s never decided to knit a sweater on 4mm needles only to discover that their other three pairs are already in projects. (I know, now you’re wondering why a knitter would have three other projects in progress, but trust me. It’s just the nature of the beast.)  The point is that it is normal and important for your knitter to have a lot of stuff that goes along with knitting, and if they do have a lot of unmanaged stuff, you can bet that a gift of containment would please them.  To figure out if your knitter would like to contain tools,  look for these signs.

1. Does your knitter have a drawer/box/area  needles that resembles a nest of spikes?  Do they ever use language unbecoming a knitter whilst navigating this pile?

2.  Does your knitter ever seem upset while sorting through a pile of pointy things and scream about something called a "needle gauge?"

3. Has your tearful knitter ever told you that you don’t understand their pain, and that they really, really need a darning needle?

4. Has your knitter ever suggested to you that you should leave a social engagement or location because they don’t have the particular needle/object that they need to continue a project, and are therefore "screwed"?

5. Has anyone in your family ever attempted to extricate something (even an knitting needle) from a container of knitting needles while thinking that there has to be a better way?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, your knitter might enjoy having a needle/tool/organizing case.  There’s lots of them.  Della Q makes a beautiful cloth case that holds DPNs (the short sticks with points on both ends) and circulars (two spikes connected by a cord.) It holds a lot of them too, and the pockets are numbered, which means less (not none) screaming about gauges.  This is a great answer for a messy drawer of needles. They’ve also got a great hanging case for if your knitter mostly has circular needles, and I’ve got this one by The Circular Solution, and that’s made sense of a bad scene.

I own several needle rolls, and if you haven’t seen one of these in your house, it might be a great thing. Lantern Moon has a funky one for straight needles, and another for circulars or DPNs and straightsDig all these gorgeous ones on Etsy. (Personally, I don’t own, but am digging most everything from Lena Brown.)   (Pro tip: if you’re a sewer who loves a knitter, you could make one.)

I have to say though, that I’m grooving pretty hard on the brand spanking new Jordana Paige Tool Case.  Like their bags, it’s classy, and for knitters who knit a lot away from home, I think it’s a good idea.  I do knit a lot away from home (which is probably why the nice lady there thought to send me one, very kind of her) and I can see this solving a bunch of problems.  It’s pretty big – but not so big that I can’t see it fitting in my knitting bag, it’s made of vegan leather (not that I’m opposed to leather, but your knitter might be) and that means that needles won’t poke through it. It’s got a bunch of pockets that would hold circular needles, and has little windows to put a label in, so that you can see which one is which, and that reduces a lot of problems for me.  (I don’t know about your knitter, but on a bunch of my needles, the size marking wore off.) It’s got several other zippered pockets and spots to keep other tools (along with a wee one to put stitch markers and darning needles in) and slots for DPNs or scissors.   I think I could easily pack a whole book tour’s knitting tool needs in there, and I can only see two drawbacks to it.  First, that it won’t hold straight needles, so for a big fan like me, it means I’ll still be trucking a needle roll, and second, that the promo stuff claims that if you get one, you can "carry your entire needle collection with you" and for knitters like me, that’s not true….Nobody’s made the case yet that will hold what I’ve collected.

Think all these options over – because almost all knitters struggle with containment issues and remember, if you’re on a tight gift budget, a box of large ziplocks, or container like this storage box, or this one, or even an inexpensive tackle box or tool box could help make sense of your knitters stuff. Take a couple of needles from their collection to the hardware store and see what you can do, and if all else fails, I bet some knitters will tell you what they like and I missed in the comments. 

Point Form

-Computer ate really long post.
-Stupid computer re-starts itself at random intervals.
-Probably not personal.
– Feels personal.
-Am doing point form to save time after post consigned to abyss.  

-Lettuce Knit Anniversary/Christmas party last night fun.
– Adult sweater started, to finish by Christmas.
-Have convinced self that sweater is fast since it is "chunky"
-Knit 10cm of sweater last night without swatching.
-Thought about math.
-Actually did math rather than just thinking about it when sweater looked very, very tiny.
-Math proved sweater quite wrong. Quite wrong like the way me being a dentist would be wrong.
– Sweater ripped back.

– at midpoint of rip, only ribbing remained, and Megan tried to stop me from ripping by saying that everything was okay, because "The neck looks big enough"
-Hope destroyed when I told her that sweater was not top down.
-Ribbing is  hips.  Not neck.
-Hips (sadly for knitter, happily for recipient) much larger than neck.
-Rest of sweater ripped with peer support.

Gifts for Knitters- Day 8

Yarn. I know – you have some issues around that.  We’ve already talked about how having a lot of  yarn means that you like it and would like more, so let’s talk about the real issue.  You’re afraid to buy yarn.  I get it – it’s scary.  There’s a lot of kinds and colours and thicknesses and cotton and wool and so we’re going to see if maybe there’s some way you can get some help.  Watch for the following.

1. If, somehow, someway, your knitter just happened to leave a knitting magazine open to a certain sweater with a post it on it that happened to note their size, then you could do the following. 
-take the magazine to a yarn shop, show them the magazine,  tell them your knitters colour preference (that might be written on the post it too – you should check) and then stand back and let the yarn shop do their thing.  Be sure to replace the magazine where you found it.

2.If your knitter is the sort of knitter who has a relationship with a certain yarn shop, then you could do the following:
-Walk into the yarn shop.  Say "I am InsertYourName. I would like to buy yarn for InsertKnittersName.  I have InsertAmountOfCash.  What has she/he been thinking about buying?"  Then buy what they tell you to.

3. Keep an eye on the family computer.  There is a website called "Ravelry." If you walk by any computer in the house, you might see this website.  There is a page your knitter has been keeping, called "Queue."  It’s a list of stuff they’d like to make, and what they would like to make it out of.   If you saw this page open, you could feel very confident that if you wrote down what yarn your knitter had already chosen for that project, that you could then get online or on the phone and order that amount of that yarn in that colour and know that your knitter would be thrilled.  They’d also think you were a big of a sneak, and most knitters would like that.

PS. Pro tip:  Other knitters can see your knitters Ravelry queue.  If your knitter hasn’t left it open, but you know other knitters, they can go look for you.  This would get extra sneakiness points.

PPS. If you have to make a colour decision, watch your knitter for 24 hours, and know the following.  They do not hate the colour of the hand knit scarf they made to go with their coat. They do not hate the colour they are knitting right now (unless it’s a gift for a child.) They do not hate the colour of any garment in their closet that they bought in the last year and paid more than $40 for. They do not hate the colour of that sweater they made that they wear all the time- you know.  The one that’s getting sort of ratty. That one.

PPPS. A skein of cashmere has seldom done a relationship damage.

Random Wednesday

1.  I can’t believe it’s Wednesday. I swear I thought today was Tuesday, which is sort of odd, because I knew yesterday was Tuesday, and I know there aren’t typically two in a week, especially back to back. Still, I got up this morning and swear that I’ve misplaced Tuesday and been unjustly dealt a Wednesday.

2. This could be because I am behind on the Christmas knitting and feel like a second Tuesday would help.

3. Yesterday was intensely busy, and all I got done (besides making this SLAMMING veggie Shepherds Pie for company) was that I finished a first sock.

4. This would be better if it was a second sock and four mittens.

5. I had big plans to spin yesterday, and I’m not sure how that went wrong, except for see #5. 

6. That means that I should go spin now, except for that won’t work because I have to sit at this desk until I’m done this work. 

7. Just to clear up one thing from the wildly interesting and thoughtful comments yesterday – Doctors in Canada are not unpaid.  We go to the doctor, the doctor and I decide what care I should have, and then the bill goes to the government who pays it.  It’s called "single payer healthcare" and we pay for it with our taxes. Health care is then "free at the point of service." 

8.  I bet that makes more sense than when some of you thought that I was saying that test knitters should get paid, but not Doctors.

9. I don’t have a tree yet. I’m really falling off the curve here.

10.  I’m working on a pattern for the mittens. I’m just hiring a (you guessed it) test knitter/tech editor.

11. If I could churn out 7 knitted items in the next 24 hours, that would be amazing.

12. That is probably impossible.


Gifts for knitters, Days 6 and 7.

Dear Non-knitter,  I skipped yesterday, so because I said we’d do one gift idea per day, today I owe you two.

Gift idea #1: Blocking wires.  I know, you have no idea what those are, and therefore have no idea if you should get them.  Here’s some idea of how to tell if your knitter would like blocking wires. 
a) Do you hear the word "lace" a lot?
b) Has your knitter ever tried to explain about shawls to you?  (It doesn’t matter if you didn’t understand why shawls are cool… just that you’ve had the conversation.)
c) Are knitted things frequently pinned to your bed or carpet? (The key here is pins. Are there a lot of them?)
d) Have you heard the word "blocking" in conjunction with a complaint or filthy but expressive language?

If you’ve answered "Yes" to two or more of these questions, then your knitter might like a set of blocking wires.  I’ve got two sets, and they’re ridiculously handy. I can vouch for the awesomeness of the Handworks set, and it looks like the Inspinknity set is amazing too.  There are other sets, so as you hunt around, I think the priority should be that they don’t rust, that the set comes with wires of several lengths (that helps a lot) that some of the wires are flexible, to help your knitter manage curves.

Gift idea #2?

Knitting bags.  I know, I know. Your knitter has a knitting bag, you’ve seen it.  Trust me.  I’m pretty sure they want another one.  Hell, I’ve got about seven, and I STILL want more.  I co-ordinate them to my outfit (sort of. It’s my own system), I choose them according to the kind of project that I’ve got going on, I love knitting bags, and I bet your knitter does too, and good news.  No matter what your knitter’s personal style is? There’s a knitting bag that they’re waiting to get.  There are far, far too many for me to show you them all, so I’m going to hit a couple of my favourites, tell you why I like them, and you can click around on these websites until you see something that screams your knitters name. Most knitters use a knitting bag as their bag, so keep in mind they might want a pretty big one.

1. The Tom Bihn Swift knitting bag.  I’ve got a big one (or two) a little one, and (be still my heart) one in cork.  (The cork one is so beautiful that strangers comment on it all the time.)

2. Jordana Paige. These bags are super classy, and pass as a purse while having knitter friendly features.  I’ve got the L.J.Kaelms, and’s is a fab go-anywhere do anything bag (with two sections, so I can put knitters stuff in one side, and my regular stuff in the other) but they’ve also got a guy friendly Knitters Messenger bag, which is cool. I reach for my Jordana Paige when I need a "dress" knitting purse.

3. Namaste Bags are slightly more casual to my way of thinking, but also deeply beautiful and functional, and while I’m saving up for the Monroe in Lime, there’s several there that are unisex.

4. Della Q.  The only thing I can tell you about these bags is that I used mine (one like the Agnes) so much that it wore out and I had to get another one.  They’re beautiful, functional, and hold a big laptop too.  Perfect for travel.

5. Any bag you think your knitter would like that doesn’t have velcro.  Trust me.  Velcro is a knitter’s natural enemy.

Unexpectedly Controversial

I believe that I have finally reached an age and station where I largely see stuff coming.  Most of the time, I say something, and if a few people go bananas, I’m pretty much not surprised. We all know what topics can be guaranteed to set some people off, and we even usually know who those people will be.  There’s hot button issues for those people.  We all know what they are – Religion, politics, human rights being equal for all humans – the biggies.

That means that if I say something like "I believe health care should be free and equal at the point of service for all people" I can expect to hear something about that.  Probably I’m going to hear from people with strong political views, and they’ll say that reduces choice, and that if you have money you deserve better/faster care, or that they don’t want other people in charge of them.  I’m going to hear from people who’s personal system of ethics dictates that a human’s independence is more important than their health, and finally, I’m going to hear from a few people who are going to tell me that I don’t understand anything about how the world works, and that my point of view is impossible, and where the hell did I get a crazy idea like that anyway?

The point is, I know if I say that, that I’ll hear about it.  You can expect some topics to be controversial, and as I said, mostly I know what those are.  I still get a shocker every once in a while though, mostly when it’s something that seems really, really clear to me and I can’t imagine there’s any debate. (That happened last week when I said that I thought it was entirely unethical for a medical professional to give a happily breastfeeding mum formula "just in case." and someone violently disagreed. Shocked the snot out of me – but that’s a conversation for another day.)  My point (and I do have one) is that it’s pretty rare for me to get taken by surprise, but that’s exactly what happened this morning.

This morning I was pondering hiring a test knitter, and wondering if what I pay is in keeping with what other people pay, and I Tweeted asking if anyone knew if there was an industry standard pay scale.  Imagine my shock, when not only did I discover that there isn’t, but was immediately inundated with offers to test knit for me… FOR FREE.  Very kind, I thought, but not the way jobs work.
I expect someone to do a job.  I consider proper test knitting a skilled job, and it’s part of producing a product.  Every product anyone would like to sell needs to be tested, and that’s part of the cost of doing business.  I declined the kind offers, and tweeted:

"Thanks for the offers all, but I don’t need free test knitters. I think it’s a job, and should be paid."

That was fine.  Nobody got up my grill, but there were quite a few people saying "Gosh – why?  Knitting is fun and we’re all nice" (I’m paraphrasing)  so I took to twitter again, and said:

How can we expect people to take the knitting industry (and those in it) seriously, if we don’t? #professionalismFTW

That, my friends, is when it all got really unexpected.  The private emails and tweets started pouring in, and while I don’t have their permission to post names or content here, I can tell you that I got some answers and attitudes to that tweet that were more surprising to me than the urge I got last week to iron, and that’s saying something.  I’ve already taken up the answers with the people who wrote, and they know I was going to post about it, because it’s been my experience that there’s seldom one person with the same questions or attitudes.  Usually the comments/tweets/emails I get are rather representative… so here’s some of the questions and comments, and my answers.  (Again, I’ve paraphrased.)

Comment: Hey lady, you’re nuts.  Knitting isn’t an industry that needs to be taken seriously. Knitting is fun, and nice and so are knitters, darn it. There’s no need to be dragging that nasty talk about money into it.  Be nice.

I am nice, and so are most knitters, and knitting is really, really fun. I’m not sure why paying people for their work would be not nice.  I think most of you like to be paid for your work, besides, people do better work when they’re paid.  The exchange of money for time and effort is a good way to make sure that people have the time and attention to do a good job, and you know what makes knitting more fun? Patterns with fewer errors because a proper test knitter did a good job.  As for the seriousness of the knitting industry, I don’t really see how you can imagine that there aren’t a lot of people taking it seriously.  I bet your local yarn shop owner takes it super seriously, right around the time he/she has to pay the rent.  I bet yarn companies (big and small) take it seriously too.  You know who else? Designers, test knitters, tech editors… all those people take it really seriously.  For you it might be a hobby, but for a lot of people trying to support their families in this industry it would be amazing if most of us could at least agree that there could be and should be an idea of what jobs are worth what money. 

Comment: Test knitting is fun! We don’t need to be paid!

That’s super generous, and yes.  Test knitting is sort of fun, but here’s what most designers need in a test knitter is the ability to   A) Work on a deadline and keep that deadline.  B) Provide valuable feedback to the designer that they can use to improve the pattern.  If you’re going to have expectations of someone, then you should pay them.  It’s not just respectful and a statement of the value of their work – it’s a commitment.  Let’s say you don’t pay the test knitter, and they do a crappy job.  They miss a bunch of things, fix a few things without making note that they had to correct it to make it work… and then give it in late.  If it’s all just a friendly arrangement, then you get a crappy pattern, the designer can have their business damaged….  the exchange of money keeps people accountable to each other.  It is not fair to have respect for someone’s work and abilities, and to have an expectation that they will do what’s best for your business without giving them something in return.    

Comment: Well, I like test knitting enough to do it for free. I’m not professional, and I’m just helping.  It doesn’t hurt anyone.

Well, it is very true that nobody can tell you what you want to do for free, and if you’re not a professional, and you’re not test knitting for professionals, then I think you’ve got a heck of a point.  If, however, you are test knitting for professionals for free, can I have a counter point?  Let’s say that Bob has spent a lot of time learning how to fix plumbing leaks.  He’s good at it.  He opens a little business and starts fixing plumbing leaks for a living. Then this guy, lets call him Marco, decides that he loves fixing plumbing leaks. He starts fixing leaks all over town, for free.  Pretty soon, everybody knows this, and Bob can’t get a job, because who would pay someone to do it when someone else will do it for free? Pretty soon, this is a town where nobody thinks you should ever pay to have leaks fixed, and those jobs disappear, along with Bob’s business.  By the way, the other thing that disappears is excellence in the field of leak fixing – because you can’t demand excellence from a free leak fixer. They’re just doing you a favour. 

Comment: Designers can’t afford it.

Most can, actually – although it would help if knitters didn’t balk at paying for patterns.  I’ve seen knitters buy an ungodly amount of yarn, then complain about the pattern not being free.  There’s some designers who are amateurs, or are just sticking a free pattern out there for sport, and I’m not talking about them.  I’m talking about the Pros. People who are trying to earn a living selling patterns to you.  Those design
ers? What they can’t afford is a reputation for having patterns with errors.  A good pattern makes them money. They can (and do) pay test knitters.

Comment: Well, I get paid in yarn.

Cool.  The barter system is an excellent way to go, as long as it’s an alternative, not an industry standard.  If two professionals want to enter a professional agreement where money is represented by yarn (or something else) that’s civil, but the amount that you’re compensating (however you do it) should be agreed upon, and more or less standard in the industry.

Comment: Are you saying anyone who doesn’t pay their test knitters is unprofessional? Or that you’re not a professional test knitter if you don’t get paid?

Let’s look at the definition of Professional. According to Wikipedia (I know) the first line is "A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee."   I’d say that if you’re asking someone to perform a task a specific way, it is then unprofessional not to pay.  If you’re asking a friend to help you out,  that’s not the same.  You and your buddy can work it out, we all help our friends, but that’s not professional.  If you’re doing something and not getting paid (somehow, with something of value) then you’re not a professional.  Helpful, yes.  Providing a service, yes.  A professional? Maybe not.  I feel like if the person asking you to provide the service is going to provide a better product and make more money because you do that task? Yup. It’s unprofessional not to pay.

Comment: Knitting isn’t like that.

Yeah, I know – but take it from me, there’s a lot of shop owners, yarn companies, dyers, designers, tech editors and test knitters who wish it was a little more like that.  Contracts, standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger, not weaker.

Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.

Maybe, and maybe I’m wrong – but don’t you think it would be a good conversation to have? 

Gifts for Knitters resumes tomorrow. I’m thinking.