Randomly On Thursday

1. Thank you all very much for your support of Amanda and her ride yesterday. When she met her fundraising goal she said it was the best birthday present ever, and was grateful in the extreme.  So am I.  The Bike Rally has a fundraising minimum for each participant, and while grown-ups are fairly well prepared to meet it,  for the kids on the ride, finding a way to raise $2200 can be more than daunting.  Our family team this year consists of my best friend Ken, my sister Erin, me, my daughters Amanda and Sam, Amanda’s young friend Katie, and Megan’s friend Pato.  (You remember Pato, don’t you? For those of you who’ve asked, my Meg is unable to ride this year because her job can’t give her the time off.  It’s a grown-up problem. Sam’s helping her out by taking her place.)  The grown-ups are committed to helping the kids every way we can – because, well.  The money all goes to the same place, no matter who you pledge it to.  We’ve already held one fundraiser to help the kids out, and there will be more hosted here.  For now, know that I’m planning something, and it will involve Karmic balancing gifts mailed off to knitters who donated to anyone on our family team.

2. I’m donating part of my stash for that, but if you’re a yarn company or just an amazing person who would like to help out, you can send me an email at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca.  (Replace the AT with @ and the DOT with .  I just do it like that to try and throw off the spambots, which is probably totally pointless.

3. Further to that, Amanda’s asking that if any of you are still inclined to donate for her birthday, that you fling it the way of her little sister, Sam.  (Further to that, I can’t believe I have an 18 year old willing to give up her weekends to train for this. It’s amazing.)

4. Omelet continues apace – and in the spirit of #2, I’m planning to give her away when she’s done.  Surely there’s a non-knitter who’d like to have her in exchange for a donation?

I’m onto Chart D, which gives me immeasurable hope for the future.

5. I’m leaving now to go to the bike shop, to try and get them to swap out my snazzy new clipless pedals for ones that are slightly less fancy, and therefore slightly less likely to fling me to the ground at random intervals – because both of my knees are scabbed up like I’m five years old, and it’s starting to freak me out.
I’m a pain coward. I’m totally willing to do what it takes to make this ride possible – and I’m brave enough to try, but the falling down has got to stop.  I’m too chicken for it.  I’m still going clipless, but trying mountain shoes with a recessed cleat,  instead of race. (If that means anything to you.)

6. Further to #5, I am, rather unbelievably, taking the subway to the bike shop. Those pedals have me scared to death.

7. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to not evaluating a day in terms of how many times I did or didn’t fall down. 

8. Have a great Thursday. It’s my favourite day of the week.


Dear Amanda,

I know I write more Birthday Blogs to you than I do almost anybody else, but the truth is that your birthday has always been a pretty big deal to me.  23 years ago today you were born, and made me a mother,  and that makes today a double whammy.  I could tell you all the stuff I think is amazing about you, like that you still make me laugh all the time (and on purpose) and that I think you’re smart and gorgeous, but you know all that – or at least, you know I think it, even if you don’t some days.  I could tell you all of that, but I want to tell you some new stuff.

One year ago today, you took your college education to work, and it was so new – the idea of my kid having a full-time job, that I worried.   I never should have. I’ve heard clients say that they wish the Studio could clone you, because you’re that amazing. You should know too that sometimes Joe forwards me work emails you write – just because you’re so good with words.  I’m proud of you for that.

Over the last year you’ve moved out on your own, leaving the family umbrella and getting your very own place, all by yourself. 

Did you know that’s something I’ve never done? Lived alone?  When I thought about you going home alone at night to an empty house I was pretty freaked out, but you’re amazing.  The idea that you’re more independent than I ever have been fills me with joy.  

What else? You learned to drive a car.

I had started to wonder if any of you girls would bother, and it was sort of fine with me if you never did – on account of you know how I feel about cars and driving, but there you were all of a sudden, behind the wheel and doing fine.  Relaxed, confident – it was amazing.  I think you’ve inherited some other gene for driving, because you know that relaxed and confident isn’t how I do that particular thing.  It’s stunning to me to watch you turn left AND right and talk about it like you don’t even have to think about it that hard.

I’m so impressed with who you are, and how you’re turning out, and how you’re one of the hardest working, most thoughtful young women I know, but I wanted to tell you about something.  You know how I’ve been having a hard time learning to ride the road bike? I’ve been training so hard, and trying so hard, and well.  The truth is that I really suck a lot.  I can tell that.  I could tell it again this morning when I slowed down, failed to unclip and fell over like a tree and was just lying there in the dirt again.  AGAIN. This time I didn’t end up bleeding, but it was pretty freaking demoralizing.  I’d just struggled up a hill, and I don’t seem to be getting better at that, and sometimes when I’m training all I can think is that there’s a really good chance that I’ve made a mistake signing up for this, and that’s what I was thinking this morning.  8:15 in the morning. Lying in the dirt. Really thinking about crying and going back home – and I told myself the one thing that’s been making this possible for me. 

Amanda did it.  If Amanda can do it. I can do it.

Every time I say that to myself, I feel a bit better, and I get up out of the dirt, and I start riding again – and if I make it to Montreal this summer, it’s going to be because I’m too inspired by you, and too proud of you to quit on something you didn’t let yourself quit on – and I know you wanted to quit about a thousand times, because I’m 43 and I want to quit, and you were 22, and where a 22 year old gets that kind of moxie, I just can’t say. 

I love you.  Thanks for who you are.  It’s a pleasure to be your parent.


(PS to the blog. Amanda’s riding to Montreal to support the People with AIDS Foundation again this year, and most of her friends are too young and poor to really sponsor her.  If you feel inclined to throw a little birthday love her way – I bet she’d love a donation.)

Just give me a minute

I had a lovely time up in North Bay this weekend, and if you get up that way, you should totally go to Stix and Stones – the owner’s got great taste, and the Fleece Artist selection would be hard to beat. I was there on Saturday teaching, and as I worked the room, moving from knitter to knitter, I had to pass this sample sweater Rae had about a thousand times.  Every time I walked past it, my enthusiasm grew and by the end of the day I’d snapped like a twig and the yarn for it was in my bag.

Yarn: 2 skeins Cotton Flamme from Americo. Sweater intention- Amiga. This is the version that set me off.

I swear to you, that I had every intention of finishing Omelet first.  All the way home I thought about that yarn burning a hole in my trunk, and I kept telling myself that Omelet was first. First I would finish Omelet, and then I would knit a little cotton sweater that was so, so the perfect shade of olive green, and so, so perfect for a summer evening, and so, so the right thing to maybe wear to Squam, and so, so the right kind of post-apocalyptic-my-clothes-are-all-chic-rags.  After Omelet.

When I came home, I even unpacked the yarn into the stash room.  I didn’t put it in deep, but I did put it in, and I did walk away, and I did go downstairs and I did pick up Omelet, and I did apply myself to the last of the four repeats of the chart.  Then I had this thought, and a smarter knitter would have realized it was over right then. The thought was "I should knit that sweater.  It would only take a minute."

Now, you know and I know that we all think that way, and that it’s always a big slice of crazy pie.  Crazy pie a la mode, none the less.  Sweaters, no matter how big or small (and this one is pretty small) don’t take a minute.  They never take a minute.  A sweater (even if it has three quarter length sleeves which makes them a lot faster) are never a momentary diversion.  Sweaters take at least a few days. More like a few weeks, or a few months, all things considered – but they never, ever take "a minute".  It never, ever makes sense that you would put down a shawl "for a minute" and knit a sweater. That’s nuts- and I know it’s nuts and that doesn’t change, even if it is a top-down quick cardigan on 5mm needles with 3/4 length sleeves and how can that take any time at all sort of sweater.
I kept knitting on Omelet, and when I reached the miraculous and triumphant end of the four endless repeats, I found my will to go on. The sweater stayed upstairs and I started the next chart – although it didn’t go that well.  After trying twice to get through the next row- it just wasn’t working.  I tried counting, I tried markers – it wouldn’t work, and after a good long think, I decided to do something radical.  I read the pattern. 

Shock washed over me as I realized that the instructions weren’t to knit rows 1-20 four times.  They were to knit rows 1-20 four times – and then rows 1-10 once more.  This my friends, was more than any sane knitter could tolerate, if she was sick to death of a chart and felt like it would never end.  I sat there, I reconciled myself to 10 more endless rows, I screwed my patience to the sticking point…

and let me introduce you to Amiga.  It’s a little sweater, and it will only take a minute.

Not What I Planned

I started writing  a really long post this morning, then just now glanced at the time and realized that I can’t be writing right now, because I have to leave for North Bay in about twenty minutes and though I can’t be sure, I think most of the people there would like it if I bathed and tossed some toiletries in a bag.

It’s about a 5 hour trek north to North Bay, straight up through some of the prettiest landscape Ontario has to offer, and I’m really looking forward to it, the last time I was in North Bay it looked like this…

and it really wasn’t that long ago, now that I think about it. It will be nice to see the Lake all blue and green.  Can’t wait. I’ll be at the North Bay Museum this evening, speaking at 6pm.  (Details here.)

I’ll be taking Omelet, who grows steadily larger.

That’s three of the four repeats done, although the rows are starting to be longer – this next one might take a while. The driving and speaking will interfere with the knitting for the next day or two… though I do have a sidekick this weekend – and I might be able to scam her into driving for a bit.  Now that I think about it though, it was probably stupid to choose another knitter as co-pilot.  It’s way harder to get knitters to take the wheel.  Way harder.

Have a lovely weekend all.  If you’re American, enjoy your holiday. Canada had one last week and I can’t say enough nice things about it.

Amost until that minute

I love knitting.  I think I’ve probably mentioned that at some point on this blog. 
I really love knitting.   I like all sorts of things about it.  I like how ridiculously cool it is to use such incredibly simple tools to make such incredibly complex things.  I love how you can make three dimensional objects.  I’m head over heels for how bizarre it is that every stitch pattern is driven out of the idea of one stitch- made so it faces the front or the back.  I can’t get over how great it is that knitting uses yarn  (I love yarn) and that there’s so many kinds of yarn.  I love that it’s an act of creation, when you knit you’re literally making something that was not there before, and how cool is that?  I even love (most days) that knitting is sort of slow. 

What? You don’t? C’mon.  Knitting is a time container.  You knit something, and it’s this huge investment of your time, and when you’re done you can look at it and be all proud that you did it, and it took so long and there’s like – a hundred of the hours of your life jammed into that thing, and you did it all.  If society had proper built in respect for knitting, or we lived in a culture where every time you finished a pair of mittens and showed them to your friends they all said "Holy S**T! Look at that! Those took THIRTY hours to make.  Can you even believe that? Thirty hours.  This is art man.  You’re a craftsperson.  Knock me down and keep me from kissing you knitter, because you are so made of awesome that I am moved to ardour. "  – If we lived in that culture, you wouldn’t mind how long it took to make mittens.  You really wouldn’t.  (Well, maybe you would around Christmas, but that’s a delusion I can’t help you with.)

All I’m saying is that usually, I don’t mind how long knitting takes, and in fact, I mostly like it.  When I finish something I say all that great stuff to myself, and I know exactly what I made is worth, and I feel totally proud that I stuck with it, and that I’m the sort of person who is happy to put a hundred hours in something and bring something that valuable into being.  Every phase of a project brings something new into focus, and holds me in its thrall.

I totally think that.  I think it all the time, and it’s something I love about knitting.

Right up until I have to repeat a single chart four times.  Then it’s all dumbass.
Almost two repeats done, almost two to go, and I’m out of my mind with how slow it is and can’t wait to be onto the next chart.  Thrall, shmall.  I’ve already been on a journey of discovery with this chart, and I’ve already stinking brought it into being almost twice, and that’s long enough for anyone.  The whole time I’m knitting it I just keep thinking NEXT.  It’s part of the problem with second sock (or mitten) syndrome.  There’s something amazing about making something. Less so making something again.  You’ve already done the magic, and doing it again is like watching Soylent Green for the second time.  It feels a little pointless.  You know it’s people, and you can’t unknow that stuff, and that’s what repeating a chart four times is like.  Like re-watching Fight Club, or The Sixth Sense.  You know the plot twist, and there’s no way out.
Four repeats of a chart is like that. Exactly.

PS. The new shawl on the needles is Omelet – as per several suggestions in the comments.  Good thinking knitters.  I’m trying to get used to the name though.  I didn’t know there was an American spelling of Omelette until I saw this pattern, and to me spelling it omelet makes it sound like it’s a young bird.

PPS I’m in North Bay this weekend – just briefly.  I’m pretty sure the class is all full, but I’m giving the "This is your brain on Knitting" talk on Friday night, and then there’s a pub thing. If you’re in Canada’s near north, I’d love to see you.  Details are here.

The Money Shot

Little Lou’s sweater was dry and done this morning, and so I packed off to deliver it to him. 

I know everyone will want to know what pattern it is, and I can’t help you there. This whole sweater was built on a wing and a prayer, with just a few measurements from his mum.  I really did just do a quick sketch and then launch. This did lead to a few troubles (like that may only look like two button bands, but it’s really four because I had to re-knit the first one a few times to get the rate right) but mostly, it worked beautifully. I decreased the sleeves at a rate that simply seemed right, and it was.  I decreased for the cuffs so that they looked like proper wee cuffs, and they were.

The whole thing fits him beautifully too.  It’s a little big, which is spectacular, since he’s growing so fast it would take your breath away.  The sleeves need to be rolled up now, but that will mean they can be unrolled in the autumn.  I think he likes it too…

Although he does have one question, which might be related to the fact that I packed him into a sweater on a hot day.

"It’s summer.  Why the heck did you make me an Aran?" 

I don’t know Lou.  I don’t know.  The ways of knitters are a mystery some days, and our passions are odd.
Enjoy the sweater.

A Reward for Good Behaviour

Today’s Victoria day here in Canada – the reigning monarch’s official birthday (no matter when their actual birthday is) and the unofficial start to summer.  It’s the traditional weekend to open cottages, plant the garden and do outside things.  Lucky for me, Toronto weather got the memo, and this long weekend has been a lovely one – hot and sunny, with everyone outside making the most of it.   I took advantage of it by getting in a 60 km training ride on Saturday, and spent all day yesterday gardening, and then squaring away the back garden so we can sit out there when it’s hot and nice, which today – it is, which is bloody brilliant, since after a day of riding and a day of gardening I’m just about paralyzed.

Since I’d done everything I had to do (let’s overlook the condition of the inside of the house – the outside is smashing) today is a reward for good behaviour.  I sat and finished up Lou’s sweater and set it to dry in the back garden, and then decided to keep it company. 

A hot day, a cold beer,*  the start of summer, the start of a new project.**
It’s pretty nice over here. 

*Someone always asks.  The beer of choice today is Black Oak Nut Brown.  It’s good and local.  A little dark for summer, but I’m late switching to something lighter.

**I know. I didn’t give you the details of what I’m making. We can talk about what project I settled on tomorrow. Right now a beautiful day is calling me.
Have patience, Grasshopper.

Slightly Conflicted

I think I mentioned that I’m knitting little Lou a little sweater.  His mum Katie knits a bit, and has a great appreciation for the hand-knits bestowed upon the  guy.  He had a good cache of sweaters going on when he was born, but he’s growing fast, and Katie has been unsubtle about his need for some new ones.  His Auntie Kelly knit him that little grey and white one a few weeks ago, and I sewed it up – so he has that, but when I gave Kate the sweater, she sighed a little and said some magic words.  "Oh – now he only has ONE sweater."
She said it exactly like one sweater wouldn’t even begin to cover his needs, and I immediately started planning a little something for him.

It’s a tiny little aran, and I’m knitting it out of some beautiful yarn that I got at Rhinebeck last year.  It wasn’t labeled when I bought it,  and I didn’t label it, because I was sure I would remember where it came from.  (I bet someone who was with me that afternoon can remember. We were shopping in a little herd of knitters, and we all fell down at that booth and bought some.)  It’s wonderfully soft and cottony, and the perfect thing for a little guy. 

I have no pattern,  I just did a quick swatch, guessed at his chest size and cast on what seemed like the right number.  I think cardigans are infinitely more practical for those who can’t dress themselves or even sit up to help – so I cast on 25% of that number for one of the fronts, 50% for the back, and the other 25% for the other front.   I was travelling at the time and didn’t have all my stuff with me, so I sketched a quick cable chart on the hotel notepad,  filled in the gaps with double moss stitch, and set off. 

After one repeat of the chart, I could see that the sweater needed to be three repeats tall, so after one and a half repeats, I divided the sweater into two fronts and a back, and knit those up separately, then did a little shaping around the neck to allow for his charming double chin.  (He’s still too young to really have  a neck.  His chins just sort of give way to his chest.) I sewed up the shoulders, and now I’m picking up stitches around the armholes, and knitting wee sleeves down – and I’m having a really hard time.

It’s not the knitting. The knitting is easy peasy – it’s that the whole time I’m knitting it – this other yarn is staring me in the face and whispering things to me like "Vests are nice."

I’m trying to hold on, but while I’m determined to finish the sweater before I start with the lace, it’s super hard, which is bizarre, because this yarn – It doesn’t even know what it wants to be.  It’s Space Cadet laceweight, and I have about 750m.
Do you know what it want’s to be? 


Wingspan is done, and I like it a lot – I might not like it for me, but I really, really like it.

It’s got everything going for it.  It’s a quick knit, simple, but with an interesting construction. Perfect autopilot knitting, and paired with a charming colour changing yarn? Buckets of fun.

Pattern: Wingspan.  Yarn: Kauni EF. Needles: 3.5mm.
Mods: 2 extra wedges, and wrapped my turns to avoid holes. I don’t like them.

It suits Natalie to a tee.

Because someone will ask, the shawl pin is Stepping Stones, from Tam Jai, who doesn’t seem to be selling them right now – which is a shame, because it’s a favourite of mine.

This knit (and I guess the one before it) have reminded me how much I like garter stitch.  It seems wholesome, doesn’t it? Plain and good and like you’re doing something simple and nice.  It makes me feel the same way that eating oatmeal does, or baking whole wheat bread and serving it warm to my family. Like it’s good for you. 
Maybe it is.

(I’m still sort of thinking about lace now.)

On Wings

Yesterday’s day off seems to have sort of been what I needed. I’ve still got a bit of a stuffy nose and cough, but I’ve turned a corner for sure, because it’s clear that I’m going to live, and I don’t mind that, which isn’t something I can say about every day of the last week.  I really did spend yesterday doing something close to nothing – and made excellent progress on my wingspan,  though I thought for sure I would finish it, and that didn’t happen.  Against my will, I fell asleep on the chesterfield, and as I’m sure many of you have noticed, holding knitting is far less effective than knitting it. 

Did I tell you how I came to be knitting Wingspan? Truth be told I was in a weakened state.  I’d had this cold for a week and I was right at the end of the little teaching tour, and I was in River Colors Studio in Ohio, and everyone there was so nice and so charming, and I’d been so good about not really buying anything. (Actually that’s sort of a lie.  I bought a big fleece from Beth when I was at the Spinning Loft – but I don’t think that counts.  Fleece isn’t technically yarn and besides Beth cheats.  She washes you up a lock or two, and puts the fleece near you so the fumes get to you- and this time she even spun me a sample.  That’s not fair – but it does work, and I have the fleece in the living room to prove it. )  Anyway, I was in the yarn shop and students started coming in, and a bunch of them were wearing Wingspan.  Now, I’m not blind and I don’t live under a big knitted rock, so I’d seen this pattern around – and it didn’t interest me much.  Sure it’s sort of a cool construction and it looks fun, but there was something about the jazziness of it that didn’t scream my name into the night, and life’s too short to knit things that can’t even mumble in your direction.  So that’s what I thought, and then all these students came in (clearly this pattern and yarn combination had run through the shop like a virus) wearing Wingspan knitted out of Kauni.

I’ve got a soft spot for Kauni, as I do all colour-changing, self-striping yarns, and while the rainbow Kauni in wingspan was a little bright for my taste, there were knitters there wearing it knit out of the more subtle, lovely colourways – and once I’d seen three, I started to get a little suggestible. I’d finished the Color Affection and had started a little sweater for Lou, but I wasn’t feeling it. (Never mind that I wasn’t feeling much, except for some fairly strong feelings about human frailty as it relates to viruses) and somehow, when I got into my car to drive home from Lakewood, there was Kauni in my car. 

I started it that night when I got home, and now I’m really, truly almost done, and what a fast, fun, knit this is, and I really think that knit out of a lovely subtle shade of Kauni (EF) that it’s sort of classy and cozy looking. (I totally get where the urge to knit it out of the rainbow shade comes from too. It’s supremely entertaining to watch the different wedges emerge in different colours, and I can see how that entertainment would only be more exciting with more colours. I’m resisting through.)

The pattern calls for 8 wedges, but I’m going to keep going as long as the yarn holds out (probably 9 wedges, so not a huge modification.)  I totally would have finished today, but with the Bike Rally looming (and still feeling like I’ve made a big mistake to sign up) I’m swapping out my usual knitting time with coffee in the AM for putting my bum on my bike and going for training rides.  This morning was 30km, and it didn’t go too badly, which is a big change from Sunday morning when … well. I don’t want to go into it, but let’s say the world has one less chipmunk in it, and I have one more bruise.  (Unrelated events, sadly.  It was a bad day.)  There’s an excellent chance I’m not quite built for this.  (Maybe I am. Who knows – it’s a family team this riding the 600km this year – I’m riding, Ken’s riding, my sister is riding, Amanda is riding, and so is Sam.  Megan’s taking a year off because of work, but Pato’s doing it. That’s most of us, and if my sister can do it, so can I – or die trying.)

This afternoon I’ve got a ton to do, from writing to cleaning to shopping to… well all of the stuff I should have done yesterday and didn’t, all lumped together with what I have to do today, and will.  Top of the list, tweaking my speech "This is your brain on knitting" (if you were in Sarnia or London to see me lately, you’ve probably heard it) so I can tell it to a hometown crowd tomorrow night when I’m the guest speaker at the Downtown Knit Collective. 
Looking forward to it – way more than the next training ride, and a tiny bit less than finishing Wingspan.