Day one

Day one is over and done. It’s actually the morning of day two. I’m in my tent, listening to the rally wake up all around me. Day one was hard, but not the stuff of nightmares (except for the pain- but best not to even think about it.) Best moment- Sam and Ken hoist the tandem by the shores of lake Ontario at around 80km.

Today is the longest day, 126km. I bet you know exactly what I’m thinking.


I was packing, and I was on the phone with my sister.  I was putting things in my bag that I  never thought I’d own, never mind worry about leaving behind.  Things like chamois cream, or energy gel, or tire levers.  The whole time I looked for my black and white cycle shorts (because they are my lucky ones – I’ve never fallen down wearing them) and my anxiety was coming to a terrible head.  I’ve been frightened this whole time, but I’ve managed to hold it together. I’ve had little mantras that I tell myself, to keep going.  I tell myself things like that I don’t have to do this well.  I just have to do it. That you guys donated a ton of money, and that this is the exchange. You do your best, and I do mine.  I have to be honest. Almost none of it makes me feel better. Erin tells me it’s going to be fine. I know I should believe her, because she’s done this before, but I sort of don’t.  I busy myself with organizing my stuff and try agreeing with her, but I’m trying not to cry.

After the flurry of phone calls and I’ve filled a big hockey bag with stuff to take to the trucks, I go to bed early, but I can’t sleep.  I’m on the edge of sleep when part of packing day dawns on me.  In the morning we’ll put all of our stuff on a truck, and then you go home and sleep.  The next morning we all meet downtown at Queen’s Park, group up as riders, and leave – all 300 of us.  The trucks with all our stuff leave after that, and drive ahead to our first stop in Port Hope – this is our route, if anyone is wondering…and that’s when we’ll see our stuff again.  That means that I suddenly realize that I have to put my purse and shoes and stuff on the trucks in the morning, and won’t see them again.  I have to get up to put my shoes in, and twenty minutes later I was up again to find other shoes to wear while I pack my shoes.  I almost fell asleep, and then got back up when I remembered that I shouldn’t pack all my bike shorts, because I’ll have to wear some until I get to the trucks. The whole night went like that.  I don’t know if I’ve told you, but part of the crazy on this whole bike trip, is that all 300 riders camp each evening.  *You ride, unpack, set up camp, sleep, clear camp and  repeat from * for six days. It’s nuts.

This morning I woke up  (or is it really waking up if you’ve been awake for hours?) and did the last few crazy things.  I packed my camping stuff, and Sam’s camping stuff and there was another flurry of texts and calls as we made sure everyone had everything… and then we headed down to "Packing Day." 

At packing day, you make your way through "financial" (where they make sure you’ve raised your minimum – we breezed through that. (Thank you knitters!) and then through "forms" where they make sure that you’ve filled in all your health forms. (This is Canada, so all we have to do is make sure the rally all has our provincial health numbers.) Then we got our jerseys (everyone wears matching jerseys the first, second and last days) and then they assign you a truck, give you two bins, and you  put all your camping stuff in one, all your yarn worldly goods in another, and the "Rubbermaid Wranglers" load it all in, and that’s it.  You’re done.  You’re officially ready for the rally – or as ready as you’re going to get.
We all stood there, took a deep breath, reflected on the realness of the whole thing, and then somehow weren’t ready to let go of each other.
We did the only reasonable thing and went to brunch.  (We’re Torontonians. Brunch is huge here.)

We talked and laughed, old hands and new riders, and said encouraging things to each other.  Everyone eventually let go- we did a few last organizing things, helped each other with a few bike dilemmas (Ken managed to get my pump on my bike, which was great, because it kept me awake the night before.)  Now we’re all alone, each in our own houses, and I don’t know about them, but I’m afraid. 

I made myself feel better by refining my sock-in-progress bike system…

and went around the block to make sure it worked.  (It does – and it also holds my iphone, which I’ve figured out how to blog from, so if fair winds are with me, I should be able to update from the road. If not, watch my twitter feed, on twitter if you’re on it, or on the right in the sidebar if you’re not.)

Now I’m here, and I’m supposed to have a dinner that’s "carb loading" but I’m not sure what that means, and I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be, and today about a hundred people told me I was ready… and I’m still scared. I feel like if anyone thinks I can do this,  they’ve just fallen for some crazy glamour that I’ve wrought, and really, I am as bad as I think and….and that tomorrow morning I’ll find out what I’m made of, and I hope it’s half as good as everyone thinks.   It helps that I have two daughters and a sister with me, because surely we’re made of the same stuff… but tomorrow morning at 9am,  300 people trying to change the world a tiny little bit will ride out of Toronto, and we’ll just see what happens after that. 

Thank you for all your crazy donations. It really made it worth it. Even if I suck, you guys have made this whole thing a success.

(PS. I’m going to try not to suck.)

With Love

Dear Blog,

I love you guys.  Yesterday when I posted about hoping for another thousand, to get a matching thousand, I was hopeful.  Today I’m inspired- and truthfully, a little stunned by the collective power of knitters.  I was so shocked at the outpouring of decency and goodwill and willingness to help others, that last night I was almost ashamed.  I don’t know why, but I sat there looking at the donations and kept thinking that I don’t deserve this help, and that I’m way too ordinary, and that if any of you really knew how terrible I am at riding my bike you’d never count me among your own, and I almost posted "Guys. It’s too much. Please stop. I can never, ever live up to this." and a friend stopped me.  I was getting weepy on the phone with her, and she said something important. 

She said "Nobody is giving you anything.  You have agreed to do your best with fundraising and riding, and in exchange they’ve agreed to do their best to make things a a little better for people with HIV/AIDS who are coming to the end of their lives.  It’s all kindness Steph.  It’s all kindness.  Don’t you dare stop them.  It’s more kindness in the world, and you have nothing to live up to, and for s**t’s sake. Can’t the world use all the nice it can get? "

I don’t know if I totally believed her, but I didn’t post.  I just let it happen, and today, knitters are still doing something amazing, and I just don’t know what to say, or what to do, or how to ever thank you, or how to tell you that someone who is one of the crappiest riders going to Montreal is now the top fundraiser for the whole rally… or how to tell you about the look on peoples faces when I explain that it’s knitters. It’s just how knitters are… and how much what you’re doing is changing the idea of who cares about this, and how crazy wonderful knitters are, and how I think it’s because you’re knitters that you do this.

I’ve been telling people for years that knitting changes your brain. Changes the way you think and teaches important lessons, and that one of them is the idea of cumulative action.  Cumulative action is the idea that small actions aren’t unimportant if they are combined with other small actions. It’s a lesson that not everyone learns.  Some people go their whole lives thinking that unless you can do something big, there’s no point in doing anything at all… and they have trouble seeing how one small action in their life could ripple and matter.  They can’t see the possibility, and so the don’t do what they could.  The problems seem too large for a small action to change anything. 

Here’s the thing though, there are no knitters like that.  None.  Knitting teaches you that one small action does matter. That one small action, like knitting a stitch, isn’t unimportant. It’s vital.  One small action repeated many times is a sweater. Or a shawl. Or a pair of socks to hold the feet of someone you love, and that idea? The concept of cumulative action? It makes knitters the most remarkable fundraisers of all.  Other groups, they have to rely on the part of their community that understands that… knitters? Our whole group gets it.  Our whole group sees that one small thing – put together with many other things can create something enormous, and wonderful, and magical.

Why are knitters like this? Because they knit, and they have learned everything they need to know about little things mattering.

I love you all, and I don’t know how to thank you.  I guess I’ll just do my best, and hope that whatever small gestures I can make really matter.

Fondly, and with great affection and awe,


(PS. Lise, who clearly has this whole giving-knitter thing down, has very, very generously offered her amazing Tread Softly as a bid item. It’s a gorgeous beaded circular shawl, and she’s willing to let it go in exchange for a donation.  As before, if her beautiful work is meant to be yours, please send an email to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca, and I’ll let you know if it’s your destiny.  You’ll make the donation, and Lise will mail it to you, because darn it, she’s nice like that.)

(PPS. Did I say I love you?)

Break an Egg

I love this shawl.  Even though it’s name is spelled funny (I still think it should be Omelette, but who am I to argue.)  I took it out on a little field trip yesterday, so that I could photograph it somewhere pretty, and I ended up in High Park. 

Yarn: Space Cadet Superwash merino Laceweight, in Honey.
Pattern: Omelet. By Joyce Fassbender.

Now let me tell you a little thing about taking pictures of knitted things in public.  It’s poorly understood, or it must be, because in all the years that I’ve been outside hanging skeins of yarn from trees, or nestling socks among hostas, or laying shawls over rocks by a creek, not a single soul has ever asked me what I am doing. Even my neighbours don’t get into it, and they see this behaviour several times a week. They walk by, they wish me good morning, they might say something like "nice weather" or "your lilies look great" but nobody has ever said "Hey Steph,  I notice that you frequently need to put mittens in a cherry tree and take pictures of that.  Can I ask why?" Realistically, I think they’re afraid of the answer.   I feel like they’re worried that I’ll say something really crazy, and then it will be uncomfortable.

Yesterday, as I hung Omelet over trees, railings, fences and the like, not one, but two people told me it was pretty.  They still didn’t ask what I was doing or why, but I think that the fact that people were willing to speak to me while I was doing something that’s normally ignored very studiously,  means that they were moved by the beauty of this thing.

They should be.  Omelet is so lovely that it really hurts to follow through and give it up like I said I would, but I’m trying to remember the phrase "Give until it hurts."  (I thought that the last time I landed on the road on a training ride too.)  To be completely truthful, I’m also thinking about knitting another one, if there’s too much of a pang as this one heads off to its destiny.  If you are this shawl’s destiny – email me.  Highest offer before I post tomorrow takes her home. (To answer a quick question from yesterday, No.  You can’t re-offer if someone outbids you.  I know that’s how it works on Ebay, but here I really like the idea of someone offering truly what they think it’s worth and can afford, without getting caught up in competition or craziness. Make a bid that suits you and your pocketbook, and see what happens.)

Finally let me tell you about something wild.  There’s this amazing knitter named Lisa, and she sent me an email the other day that just about knocked me to my knees.  I was so stunned I called Joe in to read over my shoulder.  Lisa’s email says that if I raise another $1000, she will match it.  That means $1000 can turn into $2000, and that’s a lot of money my friends.  A lot of money.  I know you’ve all given what you’re able, and I’m very, very grateful and please don’t feel any pressure at all,  but if you haven’t given yet and you were thinking about it, now would be a great time.  Even $5 put with a bunch of other $5 adds up like stitches on a sweater.  Thanks for thinking about it.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  There’s another shawl to bid on, and this one has beads.

PS. I’ve had the opportunity to explain to a few people on the Rally where the fundraising money is coming from.  I really, really wish you could be with me when our family explains that we’re representing knitters.  It’s priceless. 

Fleece Fini

Sunday marked the end of the Tour de Fleece, and right up until the last minute I was spinning like a fiend.  (Actually, I kept going after the end.  I was in the middle of something, and I really want it done.)  I felt a keen pressure this year.  I always give away all the yarn that I make during the tour.  I know, it’s weird, but it has always been a stash busting thing for me, and so it makes no sense to just move it from one category of stash to the other- or at least that’s what I tell myself.  I spin a whole heap of different yarns, and out the door they go.  This time was a little different.  I wanted really, really pretty things, because I knew I was going to be  (mostly) giving it away as Karmic Balancing gifts, and I thought that it would be great if they were unusual or especially pretty handspun.  I also knew I wasn’t really going to have that much time – that this year really wasn’t going to be my most impressive year, so I went for quality over quantity.  Here’s what I had at the end.

All the North Ronaldsay, in all its colours. 

That started out as 500g of roving, and now is about 1100 metres of the prettiest 2 ply fingering weight yarn – perfect I think, for an Icelandic shawl – one of the ones like The Brimnes Lace Shawl (except for you could make two with this yardage) or Svinavatnshyrna (I have no idea how to say that.)  You could even do something like my Jacob Damask…. or rather, that is to say that Megan C could do something like that, and I hope she does, because it’s her name that I just pulled out of the hat.
(Man. I really hope she’s not into chunky blue cotton.)

This was a nice quick and dirty spin.  A friend saw this in the stash recently, and fell promptly in love. It’s BMFA’s BFL – in a colour that I can’t name (I bet Tina can.) In exchange for a donation, she asked for a woven scarf, out of this roving, handspun. 

Phase one is now complete. Weaving’s up next. 

Next up, I wanted something a little fun.  Spinderella’s Thrums to the rescue, as always.  (I love this little company.  It looks like they don’t have batts right now, but maybe soon.  I hope so anyway, because this was my last one, and although I know the point was to use stuff up,  I suddenly feel lonely for these batts.)

This one was called Confetti on Ice, and ended up being a charming and quirky little skein, not more than about 175m of a two ply.  I think it would make amazing mittens, but it will be up to Rosemarie R to figure out.  I hope she thinks this yarn is as fun as I do.

Finally, last but certainly not least, and also not done, is this little beauty. 

That’s one half of what should be one really luxurious yarn – 50% merino/ 50% yak down.  It’s so soft it makes babies seem like sandpaper, and it was the only thing I really wanted to finish for the Tour – but I’m not giving up.  Gimme a few days, and some knitter’s going to score big on that one.

Overall, I’m not ridiculously displeased with how much I spun – I guess. It was an interesting thing, doing it without a real goal.  In the past my goal has always been a certain amount.  1500 grams one year, 1400 another. This year I only produced 900 grams – although I did ride my bike almost 400km during that period.  (I hate the part of me that just added 900 grams and 400km and decided that was only 1300 grams (???) and that it was still less.  How did I figure that?)  The decision to have no goal this year, to just "do my best" was one that didn’t sit well with me at all.  It turns out that I don’t just use goals as motivators – but also so that I can tell when I’m done, or if I did well, or if I accomplished anything.  Without a goal, I really wasn’t sure whether or not this yarn was "enough", which is Stupid with a capital S. Of course it’s enough.  Of course when you have a lot going on it’s okay to just do what you can – I just wish I’d set a lower goal than usual, and then met that.  Maybe I’m just someone who needs to be able to see the finish line.  

I’d like to thank the two knitters who made donations in exchange for the beautiful hat and scarf yesterday.  You guys are amazing.  Also amazing? Tomorrow’s bid item is Omelet.  (At least I hope someone thinks that’s amazing) and there’s still more Karmic Balancing gifts coming… from my stash and wheel too.  I hope I have time to fit them all in.  4 days and 17 hours until the ride.  Not that I’m counting or can’t stop thinking about it or anything. 

The Actual Monday Version

Welcome to the second last edition of Karmic Balancing gifts for the Bike Rally donors.  We leave on Sunday, and I know that it’s been all Rally, all the time around here – it feels that way if you’re me too.  I have mixed feelings about leaving Sunday.  I’m terrified, and thrilled.  Terrified because I am still largely sane, despite this decision, and thrilled because I don’t know how much longer I can take being terrified and it just makes sense to end it.

This week the training tapers off so that riders can be well rested, my bike goes in for a really good tune-up (here’s to wishing there was somewhere I could drop myself off) and our little family will gather their camping things and buy inner-tubes and try to find an air mattress that will fit in the tent but not weigh a million pounds and install yet another bag on the bike to see if I can get knitting in there… I think that one is just me.

It’s almost over, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.  That means there will be a round of Karmic Balancing gifts today, and then more when I come back.  (There’s still tons of stuff.) Sam’s scarf was adopted for a beautiful donation, and she was blown away by the response.  Thanks for all the bids guys – Sam really feels like her effort paid off, and she’s proud.  (Proud enough that she’s still knitting, but we’ll see if it lasts.)   In the meantime, I give you this weeks round of gifts – and all our thanks.  


First up, five, count ’em five lucky knitters are going to choose their favourite tie-dyed drawstring bags from Benita and Sandy at Dyed in the Wool.

These handy project bags will go to Nancy H, Cerridwen J, Kyle P, July H and Jan B. 

Laura, of Laura Helton Designs, would like to pass on two sets of custom stitch markers.

Kristine M and Kelly A will be choosing their favourite colours and styles.

Genia went into the stash and came up with 546 yards of Plymouth Earth Ranch alpaca, that she’s graciously going to mail to Amanda I.

A knitter who wishes to remain anonymous has donated four beautiful skeins of Handmaiden Seacell. 

I know. Right? One set will be going off to Katherine S (our lovely Presbytera of the comments) and the other to Elizabeth M. 

Nicole has a great gift.  A brand new, beautiful photo album, and she’ll throw in pre-cut scrapbook paper in whatever colour is Amanda B’s favourite – to be photo mats or journaling boxes.  (I love this gift.)

Kathleen Dames has offered up what she does best:

Both a digital and print copy of her pattern book Avast No. 1, she’ll be sharing it with Carol T.

Jeanne makes bags for her friends – and they’re pretty as all get out.  For the purposes of today’s karma today Beth B is her friend, and Jeanne will be sending her a beautiful bag like this.

(There’s actually another one. Beth will be choosing. How nice is that?)

The Ladybug Fiber Company has two great gifts.  Dutch Tulips is a (be still my beating heart, you guys know how I feel about this) SELF STRIPING merino/cashmere/nylon yarn that’s going to live with Michelle H.

and this skein is Quinoa. Kettle dyed sock yarn. 

Gorgeous, and going to live with Faith N.
I am going to try hard to be happy for both of them.

Kit over at Insouciant Studios has a gift certificate that she’s throwing into the universe…

and Beth R is catching it.  Good luck choosing. There’s a lot of nice stuff there.

Riin over at Happy Fuzzy Yarn (a long time friend of the show) has a generous gift.

Two skeins of her gorgeous merino/tencel fingering weight yarn in Purple Kale are going to live with Stephannie R. (As an aside, Riin is working on a cool Local Wool Project.)

Patti’s stash has offered up something wonderful (I suspect it was actually Patti)

It’s an incredible skein of Wollmeise "We’re different" Lacegarn.  300 grams, or an amazing 1575m.  When Heidi A gets it, I feel like she’s going to make something great.

Last, but certainly not least, Danielle  is offering a nice gift.

This is her pattern Shipshape, and it’s just an example of what you can get in her shop, which Tania H will soon discover, since Danielle is making her a present of three Makewise designs. 

Finally, last but not least, I’ve got two amazing gifts that aren’t yarn – so I don’t want to give them away the same way.  The idea of someone winning one of these gifts randomly and not really, really loving them is too much for an avid knitter to bear, so I’m going to do it the same way as Sam’s scarf. If you want them, email me with a bid (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I’ll have the donors mail these wonders to the highest bidder.  Only I will know what you donated for it to come and live with you (again, I like the karma on that better.)

First, Patti B has knit this amazing shawl.  The pattern is Gale, and the yarn is Loft, and damn, isn’t it the prettiest? 

This would make a great scarf/wrap for the winter, and I just know there’s someone out there who’s heart just turned over when they saw it. 

If you love this, then email me (not a comment) about Patti’s shawl.
Not to be outdone, lookie what Lisa sent.

For those of you that don’t have your own way of getting one (
either because the thought of purls in colourwork makes you want to chew your own arm off, or because you don’t know how to knit, both are valid) that there is a Bohus hat, made from the green meadow kit, and it’s amazing.
If you want to keep your ears warm in style this year, email me about Lisa’s hat.

A special thanks to both Patti (who is this Patti) and Lisa (who is Lisa Kobeck of ST-2 and Retreat fame) for these amazing gifts.  It’s hard to part with something that beautiful, and I’m impressed with both of you.

Stay tuned tomorrow, when I’m summing up the Tour de Fleece and trying to be as gracious as the two of them are.  I’m going to try and give everything I made on the tour away as a karmic balancing gift. 


For the Non-Knitters

One of the big challenges of the bike rally is the fundraising.  Thanks to peculiar and wonderful characteristics of knitters, our little family team has done very, very well in this regard. (Thank you very much, a thousand times, thank you.) For the kids, this fundraising can be really, really tricky.  When you’re young, most of the people you know are young, and the young are notoriously poor. (Or, they are as poor as their parents let them be, which is, in this family, pretty poor.  We think poverty supports a work ethic in the young.) The girls have done their level best to fundraise, knowing (because we have told them) that they are responsible to do the best they can – no matter what.  Recently, Sam took this message to heart.

She and I were in a yarn shop, and Sam was behaving the way most teenaged girls do when they’re asked to take part in their mother’s activities, which is to say that mostly, she was rolling her eyes, sighing loudly and tolerating me in only the minimum way necessary.  I was picking yarn for Flow and Lizette, and I was saying things like "Do you like the brick? Maybe the green.. is this a good green?" and Sam was saying things like "The brick is fine. The green is great. Get it and let’s go" and I wasn’t being rushed.  (My reasoning is that I didn’t rush weaning her, and she can not rush me in a yarn shop as compensation.) I was puttering along, and she wandered off.  I picked my yarn, and then scurried around to find her. 

Find her I did, standing in front of a stand of novelty yarn.  She was fingering a few interesting scarves, and she had that look about her.  Sometimes there are people who ask me if my kids knit.  The answer is that all of them know how (they are my girls, after all) but that only one of them knits for fun, and that would be Megan. Amanda and Sam only knit to please me, or to score points. Sam spins from time to time, and Amanda knits when she thinks it would improve our relationship, but never before have I seen Samantha stand in front of yarn and look at it like it might be fun.  That’s what I saw that day.  Novelty yarns can be a gateway drug for some recalcitrant knitters, and that’s what I saw in Sam’s face. That if knitting was socks, and hats and sweaters – she wasn’t interested, but if knitting was all this fun stuff?  She ran her hands down several ruffle scarves. 

"Is this knitting?" she asked.
"Yup" I replied, being careful not to display enthusiasm.  (Enthusiasm only puts teens off.  They can’t know you’re in favour of their ideas. Takes the shine right off it.)
"Could I do it?" She queried. 
"Yup" I said, again, appearing disinterested in every way.
"If I got this, could I knit it into a scarf for a Rally fundraiser?"
"You bet" I said, and I took a slow, deep breath.  Caution was needed here.  If Sam sensed that I approved, then all could be lost.  I decided to apply maternal reverse pressure.  "It’s pretty expensive yarn." I said,  "I don’t know if I can buy that for you."  That worked.  There is nothing more delicious to the psyche of a teenaged girl than the idea of driving their parents into the poorhouse, and me shying from a pricetag made the genesis of the idea take flight within her.
"Please?" she said. 
"I suppose." I said, and my heart leapt, but I covered it.  We travelled home, and Sam asked for needles, and for information on how to knit this ruffle yarn.  I didn’t help her.  I did loan her needles, but I suggested that she look the rest of the info up on the internet.  (You don’t want to get in a girls business like that. Better to let her own it.) 

She did look it up, and I promptly looked the other way, resisting the urge to be helpful in any way.  (This is a hard thing about mothering for me.)

"Mum, how many stitches do I cast on?"
"I don’t know Sam.  You decide."
"Mum, should I use it all? How long is long enough?"
"I don’t know Sam.  You decide."

She did decide, and lo.  The child has knit.

The end product is a beautiful long scarf, out of the spectacular gateway yarn of her choice, and Sam’s offering it up here for anyone who wants it – preference given to those who can’t make it themselves. 

It has all the frustration, glee and delight that an 18 year old committed to fundraising can put into it, and here’s how the fundraiser will work (according to Sam.)  If you want it, you can email me at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca (replacing the AT with @ and the DOT with .) and tell me how much you would like to pay for it.  The highest bidder wins, and I’ll email that person and tell them they’re in.  That person will then make a donation for that amount to Sam’s fundraising page, and Sam will pack up the scarf, and mail it to that person.

(That look is "Blue Steel" in case there’s any Zoolander fans out there. Sam’s career as a model is still developing.)

I’ll be the one looking at the amounts and making the call, because Sam’s a kid, and really just practicing knitting, and the amount non-knitters (or maybe knitters) think her work is worth should maybe, probably be something that her Mum knows, and not totally her. (Experienced knitters know we’re undervalued as artists, but maybe not the new kids.)

I’m feeling proud of her tonight.  It’s hard to fundraise as a kid, and really, how do we even talk about the awesome that is a teenager looking out for others? This is supposed to be the most self-centred time of her life… the time she has the most difficulty seeing the needs of others, and if this is what being a teen looks like on her? Taking part in a 660km rally for the People with AIDS foundation?

She’s going to be amazing.

Bid away. Feel free to leave comments about the compelling nature of her work, but all bids for the scarf should come in email.  (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca)

Thanks friends. 

Clarity is Everything

Yesterday I was walking home from an errand, and I passed through this little park at the corner.  There was a bunch of kids playing, and one of them was bananas.  He was running a little too fast, playing a little too rough, laughing a little too hard… every experienced parent can take one look at that scene and think "Well.  That’s a game that ends in tears" and two seconds later that’s just about what happened.  He went to playfully push at another littler kid, but he was too wound up, and without meaning to hurt anyone, he knocked the kid over and then, just to add insult to injury, accidentally stepped on his arm. 

The other kid started to cry, and the first boy tried to say something about how he didn’t mean to, and then he was off running again, and the parent in charge stood up off the bench and shouted "BILLY!" (Name changed to protect the innocent)  "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF."

I cringed, the kid froze, then started running again, and shouted something unintelligible and then started trying to figure out how to be next on the slide, and distract everyone from what he’d done, and was just even more crazed.   The kid knew from the tone that he was in trouble, I mean, the kid’s not an idiot and the mum was yelling – and he did knock someone down and then step on them, which is frowned upon in all polite societies – but he clearly had no idea what came next and he was just all over the place.  He was in the process of removing a four year old from his path when his mum stood up again and yelled "WHAT DID I TELL YOU!"  She watched him for a few minutes, and then he shoved another kid out of his way, and she charged over, scooped him up and sat him down on the bench for a time out.  He pouted, and she said "I TOLD YOU TO STOP PUSHING" and with that, I lost it.  I lost it on the inside, naturally, because I’m not about to get in some poor mum’s face about her parenting, I mean, unless she’s doing him a terrible injury, like beating him or trying to chain him to a park bench or something,  but in that moment my heart went out to the two of them.  I remember those afternoons, and I suddenly wished we had the kind of society where more than one person was charged with raising kids, so that on a scorching afternoon when no mum could possibly be at her best, somebody who’s lived the dream could come up and say this:  "You know what might help? Better instructions, because I know you’re tired and you’ve probably told him a thousand times before today (or maybe even today) but technically, you told him to get a hold of himself, and that instruction is nothing like "stop pushing".  Now why don’t you have a cuppa tea and a lie down and I’ll read this lunatic a story before one of you has to go into protective custody in Belize."

I used to say stuff like "Get a hold of yourself" all the time.  Megan was the kid who cured me, because she was so literal.  I’d say "Cut it out!" and she’d say "Cut what? With scissors?" If I said "get a hold of yourself" she might have crossed her arms in a hug – "Simmer down"  would have brought me a blank stare.  She knew I didn’t like something about her behaviour, but what element exactly – and really, how was cutting something out going to be better?  Meg was the kid who taught me to be clear.  "Settle down" became "please don’t run right now" or "No pushing! It is not your turn. Your turn is after Susan. You’re next."  I didn’t learn it with Amanda, because she was my first, and just the fiercest, fastest kid ever, and her whole childhood was spent with me trying to keep her from killing herself or others, but I think it would have helped her – and me to have known to say "you may not try to put something in the cat’s nose" instead of "Be nice."

I was thinking about this today, not because I was still worried about it (that mum is a good mum and she and that wild animal will be just fine) but because I’ve been wandering around the house for two days trying to put all my ducks in a row, and failing miserably.  The kitchen is still trashed, there’s a mountain of stuff on the dining room table, I have no idea why my half unpacked suitcase is still in the living room – I’ve been trying to find 30 minutes to block a shawl for two days and it’s still sitting crumpled on the shelf outside the bathroom, and I’m dinner tonight is going to be pretty weird if I don’t get to the grocery store, and really, I can’t tell you how close I am to finishing the white North Ronaldsay on the wheel – which is in the middle of the living room, next to the vacuum I’m clearly not using… and I stood there in the middle of the whole thing and couldn’t get any of it done, and I caught myself thinking "What is this scene? GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF."

Then I remembered.  I need better instructions than that.  I’m going to make a list.


Yeah.  I know.  It’s not Monday, it’s Wednesday – although it does have a wicked Monday vibe to it. I came home from Oakland on Monday after a really amazingly great time at Verb, and then – well then I have no idea what happened.  I got hit by a train, I think.  As always, everything here at home was in complete disarray upon my arrival, made worse by the minor flooding we had in our basement during the last big rain.  There’s been dudes outside for the last few days doing some other improvement/change/waterproofing, and I love how they talk. They seem completely convinced that this will be the time that they stop the basement from leaking.  I don’t believe them.  Not even a little bit.  At this point, every time the basement leaks I just can’t understand why we don’t give up.  Take all our stuff out of there, put the laundry on the second floor, and then seal over the damn pit of despair that is the whole cellar, and get on with our lives.  That’s what I think,  because really, if it leaks again after this, it’s more likely that the tide of my hot bitter tears will do more to damage the place.  (You can see now why Joe’s the one talking with the guys outside.  I can’t go near them.  I  would yell things like "LIAR, YOU’RE LYING" or "STOP PRETENDING YOU CAN FIX IT, WE ALL KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO."

I’ve got a million things to show you.  I leaned some crazy knot tying thing, and you’re going to love it.  I’m done Omelet, I just need a half hour to block it, and I’m almost done Flow, and almost done Lizette, and although no spinning at the wheel happened while I was away, I got a little done last night and want to show you that.  I’ve got a ton to blog about, and all that has to happen is an extra 16 hours in this day, and I’ll be all organized.  (Maybe today isn’t the day it all comes together.) 

For now, I have three things I can show you.

1. The knitters I met at my talk in Oakland.   (They were nice.)

2. A really huge plant. 

This freaked me right the frak out.  I feel like that plant is a houseplant, a tiny little thing that sits on your desk, and you give it a sip of water once a week. This version, the California version, is a behemoth.  Look.  I’ve added knitters for scale.

See that?  (That’s Kristine and Adrienne, owners of A Verb for Keeping Warm)

3. I can show you this week’s karmic balancing gifts, and my gratefulness to all those who donated to our little family team so far.  We leave in a week and three days – and your generous donations are almost enough to distract me from my terror. 


Two beautiful gifts from Susan at The Spinning Bunny.  First, a kit in the colour of the winners choice for the lovely Santa Clara wrap (including needles and everything!)

and that will be going off to Rebecca K, then (as if that were’t enough!) a Spinning Bunny Bare Bones Toe-Up Sock pattern plus your choice of color and fingering yarn (Panda or Woody) plus two 24"/60cm US 1/2.25mm orange Dreamz circs  and Susan will be sending it to lucky, lucky Marie W.

Shana T will be getting beautiful custom stitch markers from Susan (YarnDork)

these are just an example.  Shana will be choosing her own colours and style. 

The inestimable Judy Becker will be mailing Ericka M an autographed copy of her very nifty book Beyond Toes

and not to be outdone (the also inestimable) Cat Bordhi will be sending her complete digital library – that’s one PDF copy of each of these three books –

To both Kate L, and Lynne E

It’s good news for Trish W, who has won one of the most coveted of gifts…

A stash weasel.  These weasels are the brainchild of young felt artist McKenna, over at A Tangle of Weasels, and they’re brilliant.

Charming Beckett, over at Artbeco, has offered a set of stitch markers for a donor. 

That’s just a sample.  Michelle M will be choosing her favourites.

Nina and Mark over at SoapMarked have a $30 gift certificate that they’re sharing.

Jan C is going to be very clean.

Jennifer over at Holiday Yarns is a longtime friend of the show, and she’s got three gifts to send into the world to spread the love.  A Spring is Sprung mitten kit will wing its way to Georg H.

Emily F will get a kit for the Patmore Bag (I love Downton Abby stuff)

and Kristy HM will be choosing her favourite skein of FlockSock. (I stole that picture from here- so it’s not very good. The actual yarn isn’t blurry at all.)

Jocelyn over at Deco Noir has some bloody brilliant knitter tee shirts, and she’s sharing. 

Kim S will be telling the world that she has Knit for Brains, and Peri U will be Knitting her Heart out.

Georg (yeah, the Georg who was randomly draw for a prize today, the planet loves balance) has some great stitch markers to send out.  She’s a sock designer, not a stitch marker distributor, which is too darn bad.. because …

as Lisa L will soon discover,  THEY GLOW IN THE DARK.

Jaime, who’s just the nicest knitter, has a copy of the Haapsalu Shawl that she’s going to be sending to Theresa M.

Jane Richmond has a wonderful gift.. two $25 gift certificates – one for Donna C, and one for Kelly Y so that they can choose a bunch of amazing patterns… like this one…

or any of these.

Anne Hanson over at Knitspot.  (C’mon.  You all know about Knitspot) has generously donated not just a $25 gift certificate to her pattern store, but a fabulous tee shirt.

I love that shirt, and I hope that Ann F enjoys the patterns and the shirt as much as I would.

Sally has the loveliest gift to share.  She sells Longaberger stuff (I’d never heard of this company, but it looks like they’ve got buckets of good stuff) and she’s donating a beautiful Social Gathering basket

and filling it with delicious, life sustaining coffee.   She’ll mail it to Claudia K, who I hope will just love it. 

A thousand thanks to this weeks givers.  I appreciate all you’ve done for us. 

In Case You Worry

I wanted you to know that I got needles,  not that anyone’s staying up late at night, staring at the ceiling and thinking "I sure do hope that Steph got a pair of needles yesterday" although you would, if you could see the massive queues here at Vancouver Airport today.  Me being able to knit is occasionally a public safety issue.   I went for a walk yesterday morning – after I hit the gym (so unlike me, but the rally is soon. Can’t fall off the training curve) I headed down from the hotel to a place that someone had told me might have knitting needles – Dressew.  (I know.  It’s a weird name.)

I found it with no  trouble, and went right in.   Dudes, this place is cool.  There was a huge button section (I did not succumb.  If you know me, this is a substantial triumph over the almighty power of buttons.) This is only "some" of the buttons.

There was a massive fringe section. (This held no power over me, but was fascinating.  Who knew?)

There were a hundred million zippers…

and a wig section where I found myself strangely compelled.  (I almost bought one.  What’s up with that?  Perhaps a lifetime of dissatisfaction with my hair just caught up with me, right there in Dressew.) 

I found a needle section, but there were no knitting needles…

until I came round a corner and found the tiniest little knitting needles section you ever saw. 

This didn’t annoy me, because it is a sewing shop, after all, not a knitting shop (which really, really doesn’t explain the wigs) so I just crossed my fingers that there would be what I needed.

There wasn’t. The straight metal needles went right from 4mm to 5mm, like 4.5 wasn’t even a possibility.  I ended up grabbing a pair of bamboo straights in the right size – and just resolved to be of good humour. 

I bought them, and walked back trying to let how pretty Vancouver is make all the difference.

By the time I got to class, it turned out that a rescue had been launched by a student, who had just the right needles, and let me take them.

So everything is okay.

I thought you would want to know. You know.  In the interest of public safety. 
Next stop, San Francisco.