It Did End

Lyrica Euterpe is off the needles, finished and lovely and with only a single glitch.  I was mostly able to knit it out of the two skeins of darker bison, but in the end I needed just a few rows of the lighter one. 

I’m leaving it for now… there’s something about that slightly lighter edge that I like. It reminds me of icing, or perhaps frost licking along the edge of leaves on a cold morning.  Sam begged for possession of this when she wound it round her neck today – it matched her coat and it’s a cold day. 

Pattern: Lyrica Euterpe, 4.5mm needle. Yarn: Buffalo Gals 70% bison/20% merino, 2ply.

This was a treat to knit. The pattern was clear and fun, and I love the little wrapped bunchy stitch that gathers the base of each cluster into a little bouquet. 

I upsized the yarn considerably, going with a light worsted instead of a fingering, and as a result it’s really big, even though I only did one repeat of the second chart.  More like a big scarf, than a shawl, it’s come out exactly as I’d hoped – a smooshy, cushy 2.25 metres (7.5 feet)  long. Brilliant, and a Christmas gift off the needles.   For reasons that should be obvious, I can’t say for whom.  You know about this time of year. A knitter has to have some stealth going on. 

For the record, I didn’t cast on everything when I finished that shawl. Just four things.  A sweater, two hats and a pair of socks.  I may cast on the rest later. As Mae West said, I like restraint, if it doesn’t go too far.  

Cast Off Without End

Last night I was knitting on Lyrica Euterpe, and it was all bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely thing, oh – so lovely.  A beautiful, well written pattern that would have even perhaps have been termed "quick", relatively speaking, you understand – had I not had to essentially re-knit it when I had the dye lot mishap.  I love the yarn, and though I wouldn’t wear it myself, I even adore the colour.  The bad part came when I was trapped in the last few rows. The last few rows are always long, and even longer when they’re the long side of a top-down shawl, but it’s more than that.
I went shopping yesterday for the few balls of yarn that I needed to begin the finale of the Christmas knitting, and all of those skeins and balls and plans were sitting there mocking me. 

I thought, several times as I tried to power through those last few indeterminable rows, rows without seeming end, that it might be better to stop. Not to give up, you understand, because I want to see this shawl done, it is a Christmas present, and I do really, really love it – but somehow I felt like if I put down the shawl and instead cast on the eight (8) projects that I plan on completing before Christmas, that at least those things would be underway. I thought that might make me feel better. I thought that might actually make me feel great.  All of them, underway and steaming towards the finished line.  Somehow I believed that casting them all on wasn’t just going to be fun, but necessary, and fantastical, that once I cast them all on, it wouldn’t seem sisyphean anymore. It would seem like giving that boulder a shove down the right side of the hill, knowing that it would all come to a rest in the right place on Christmas Eve.

I came to my senses, of course, about 10pm when I realized that it was a way better idea to use casting on everything as a prize. A prize for completing these long rows. (I also realized that the yarn I ordered for one of the Newphew sweaters hasn’t arrived yet, and that I therefore couldn’t cast on everything, and that took a little of the wind out of my sails. Honk if you’re looking forward to the day when yarn you order will simply materialize inside of a hole in the wall like Earl Grey tea, Hot, on Star Trek. Can you imagine? "Merino worsted – sky blue" Zap. There it is. A better world awaits us, I tell you. A better world.)  I plugged on, and this morning I did a few more rows with my coffee, and today I have only the unreasonably long picot cast off to manage.

After that? I’m casting it all on. Or most of it. Or whatever is already in the house.  All the projects – cast on, and awaiting only the knitting time that will make all of them real by the 24th.  What the heck. Only two of them are sweaters.

Now I have a Spreadsheet

A few years ago, I got sick of Christmas being a train wreck. Not for the family, the family always had an awesome Christmas, but by the end of our big, fancy holiday, I was always a shattered and exhausted shadow of my former self.  I am, like, a lot of women, the keeper of Christmas.  Joe does a lot to help me, but that’s what it is. Help – because I’m the one in charge of the thing. I set the budget, I decide on the presents, I co-ordinate with Santa Claus to fill stockings for the children. I buy ornaments, I do the baking, I make sure there’s enough paper and tape and I keep track of the schedule and make it all lovely – and even if people take on some of those tasks for me, it’s still a ton of work just keeping it all on track. I tried to think of what I could do to change it so that I enjoyed the holiday as much as the people I was trying to make it for did.

I considered a bunch of options. I thought about doing less, or cutting back, having fewer celebrations or making fewer gifts, or giving more of the jobs to other people, but as I went down the list, I realized something important.  I like it. I like all those things, and I love having a big celebration and I like making all the gingerbread and knitting presents and I like having ironed napkins and I wouldn’t like a Christmas that didn’t have those things, and I also wouldn’t like it if I wasn’t the Keeper of Christmas in this house.  I love doing that for everyone, and it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do it… I just wanted it to be less exhausting.   I talked about it with my friend Jen, and it suddenly occurred to both of us that if we could efficiently manage big projects for work – Then there was really no way that we couldn’t efficiently manage Christmas.  We just had to think like project managers.  Thus, the current approach was born. Start early, have lots of lists, schedules and spreadsheets. I note where a gift is going to come from, so we can make one shopping trip to that store or area. I plan the cooking so it all gets done early and some of it can be frozen… This weekend I added up all the knitted things that I want to give people, and I went through the box I’ve been tucking things in all year to see what I’ve already accomplished.  I feel like a ninja. A Christmas project managing ninja, and let me tell you this too… I thought that treating Christmas like a job might take some of the fun out of it?

Nope. Not one little bit.  It’s the Christmas prep that I’m treating like work, and that means that I get the part of Christmas that I love back- the part where all that work pays off, and I get to enjoy it without being a sleep deprived lunatic with tape stuck to her hair.  This year, if all goes well, will be like last year – or even better.  Organized, tidy, and complete – but like any good project manager, I’m always looking for ways to make it even better. My plan officially launches in a few days – and I’m excited to make it great.

Are you the keeper of your family’s holidays? What do you do to get it all done?  Got any tips?


I’m leaving again shortly, a quick jaunt to Newmarket to teach at Unwind Yarn House. Newmarket is super close to Toronto, but because I can’t drive at night, and because the earth is on a tilted axis, there’s just no way that there’s enough daylight to let me drive there in the morning, or come home tomorrow night on my own.   This is, to put it mildly, a bummer.  I can’t drive at night year round, but this time of year? It makes Cinderella’s midnight look like freedom.  I’ll leave the house shortly, to drive and arrive before the bright shining day star sinks below the horizon and stay in a hotel tonight. Joe’s being an amazingly cool guy and taking the train to meet me tomorrow, and drive our car (with me in it) home again so that it’s not two nights away.  We thought about doing it the other way – me taking the train, and him driving to get me, but until you’ve seen the sort of luggage a knitting teacher packs, you wouldn’t believe it.  Silk, cocoons, needles, yarn, samples, computer projector… it’s better this way, and he’s super nice to do it for me. 

I can admit that I was a little sad about sleeping away from home again, and had the tiniest bit of a pout about it, sort of grumping and wondering what I was going to do in a hotel room from 4pm until 8am the next morning, and then I came to my senses. Since when don’t I know what to do when there’s nothing to do?

I’m a knitter! I never have nothing to do!  I’m going to knit and watch a movie and I’ve already packed my little picnic to take with me, and I might even stop on the way and get one of those little single serving bottles of wine – actually, I might cut loose and get TWO.  I’m going to plow through a big chunk of the Lyrica Euterpe shawl that should, by all rights be finished, and I have even contemplated grabbing my travel wheel on the way out the door.  Instead of being sorry that I can’t be home, I’m going to take this evening for what it actually is.  A gift. A wonderful opportunity to make a serious dent in a project or two.  I’m looking at it as a mini-mumcation. A whole night with no responsibilities – except to a few balls of yarn.  No laundry! No dirty kitchen floor to make me feel guilty about knitting! (Not that I go wash it mind you, I just feel guilty while I knit.) Hell, I might even have a bath.  Write something without being interrupted! Go to bed early! Plan Christmas! Make nine lists! (I love lists.) Get a grip on my unreasonable use of exclamation points!

It’s going to be a treat.  I know your answer will probably be pretty close to mine, but if you had an evening in a hotel room by yourself, what would you do?

Why is it always Green

One day about ten years ago, the washing machine stopped working.  It just sat there, breaking in almost the worst way a washer can break, which is full of wet clothes and soap, with the water refusing to drain.  (I say almost the worst way a washer can break, because all you have to do to get top spot is substitute diapers for clothes, and you’re there.)  We called a guy to come and fix it, and as he was working on the machine he said something like "Ah, it seems that the pump is clogged with something" which I thought was super interesting until I remembered that I had been felting clogs in there, and that there had been a lot of green fibre floating in the water – stuff that had come off of the clogs, and it hadn’t really occurred to me that the clog fibres might actually clog the washer.  I was suddenly possessed of a wish.

As the repair guy we could ill afford disassembled the pump, I started to send a hope out into the world. "Don’t let it be green wool. Don’t let it be green wool. Don’t let it be green wool." I sent that hope out as he opened the pump, and turned to face us, the innards of the thing displayed, and clogged with green – well.  Clog bits.   Joe made a tight face, but he didn’t say anything, and I’ve been really careful to put the stuff I’m felting in a pillowcase or something like that ever since then.  That was a really expensive pair of felted clogs.

This morning I went to vaccuum the living room, and as I turned it on I heard a terrible noise. The grinding, churning noise of a motor trying to turn and not being able to, and so I shut the machine off straight away and flipped over the power head thingie.  There was no smell, which is usually a good sign and I couldn’t see anything keeping the brush gizmo from turning, so I got a screwdriver and took it apart. The brush was on a cylinder, the ends of which terminated in two yellow doohickeys which fit into the main vaccuum head widget. I lifted that out and looked closely at them.  One of them looked fine, and that’s where the belt that was driving the thing went, but the other one had yarn something wrapped around it. 
I got the scissors and a knife and a knitting needle, and started snipping, cutting and prying off the green fibre which – yeah… turned out to be yarn.
Still, I don’t know what your experience of the vacuum is, but often I find stuff wrapped around that brush (that isn’t yarn) and have to clean it off, so I wasn’t really all that concerned.  I snipped and cleaned it up, then put it all back together, and turned it on. Same problem.

Joe came downstairs and had a look.  He’s better at fixing things than I am.  He’s got that engineering education and understands how machines work. I have to rely on intuition – it’s way less effective.  Anyway, he spots the issue straightaway. The cylinder ends go into the yellow doohickeys and as Joe pointed out, the doohickeys stay still, and the cylinder turns. Therefore the yellow doohickey should turn freely- which it doesn’t.  Joe conducts an experiment with the other side to see if the yellow thing comes off, and it does, so he tries to pull the other one off. It doesn’t want to come though, and as he’s pulling he says "Damn, it’s like there’s something in there, wound around it."

I freeze and start wishing again.  This is a pretty new vacuum, and I am now pretty darn sure that Joe is going to get that thingie off and there’s going to be yarn in there, and he’s going to make that tight face, and I’m going to feel terrible and he’s going to not-so-secretly wonder why I can’t keep track of my yarn/fibre in a way that doesn’t keep breaking appliances, and I’m going to say I thought I was, and that’s really only two major appliances in 10 years, which is totally not bad (right?) and it’s going to be a thing.  A total thing. I’m going to end up saying something like "maybe the vacuum wouldn’t have yarn in it if you ever vacuumed" which is totally a low blow… Oh, I can feel it. The whole marital thing is written in stone now.  I’m me and he’s him and it’s just the way it’s going to be. I vow not to let it be that way. I vow to keep my mouth shut. To apologize and not say a thing, no matter what he says. There can be peace, and it can begin with me.

He struggles to get the end off, and says it might be too tight to get off "because of whatever is in there" and we both know what’s in there now, and I keep thinking "don’t be yarn, don’t be yarn, don’t be yarn" and then there’s a crack, and Joe swears, and looks in his hand and the yellow thingie has broken off, because it was too tight because of what’s in there, and what’s in there?

Of course. It’s yarn. It’s totally yarn.  I take a deep breath, Joe takes a deep breath, and he looks at me, and I look at him – and I think we see the way it’s going to go, and then Joe says "Well, the yarn was really around that… " and he pauses, and says "…not that this is your fault."

I look at Joe and say "Thank you for pretending that might be someone else’s yarn." and he looks at me and says "No problem" and laughs, and I realize that we’re getting pretty good at being married (that took a while) but that Joe probably does wish that I’d stop letting yarn get somehow into appliances. 

Me? I just once want something to break because it has his wire around it.  It would really help.

Just so you know

The second time through, this pattern is a lot less inspiring.

That probably explains the wheel behind the shawl – which may or may not have seen a little action as a relief pitcher.  I was just wondering sort of absently how it is that the shawl is going so much more slowly this time… and realized that I was spinning while thinking that. 

Pro Tip: Knitting goes faster if you knit. 

Maybe it is not like that

Re-entry was, as far as re-entry goes, as epic as the time away was.  I knew things were going to be decidedly bumpy when my plane landed at 1am, and by 1:30 I was in a 24 hour Sobey’s with Joe, because I was totally wrong about Joe and Sam being perilously low on toilet paper. They were not almost out – they had none.  (Sam was away with a friend, and her absence had allowed the toilet paper problem to reach critical.)

Since that horrible shopping trip (during which I was the absolute model of patience, only coming ever so momentarily undone when Joe suggested that since we were in a grocery store at 1:30am, we might as well nail the weeks shop, instead of just grabbing the paper and leaving)  I’ve done just what I said I would. Moved slowly, moved deliberately,  I’ve started cleaning up the house, moving from one room to another creating good, deep order out of chaos. Done right, I realized that I can dovetail my re-entry plans and my Christmas plans and have the whole thing come together faster than a teenager can spot hypocrisy – which is pretty damn fast.

I am not, however, off to a magnificent start. I was short knitting at Port Ludlow, but Port Ludlow was not short of yarn, and so I bought two skeins of a gorgeous grape coloured bison from Judith with a plan to make Lyrica Euterpe.  (That second word is pronounced Ewe-ter-pee. I looked it up.)  The yarn I got was Buffalo Gals 70% bison, 30% merino, and it’s a two-ply a little thicker than fingering weight.  Now, that pattern calls for 393m, and two skeins of my yarn came to 394m, and a metre of leeway seemed a little tight, especially when you’re changing gauge and dealing with a hand-dyed yarn that it’s hard to put your little hands on, so I panicked, grabbed one more skein from Judith, and scampered it back to the house.

Once there, I wound up one of my three, and started knitting.  I knit fiercely, taking advantage of the free time at the inn, and then the free time in the car, and then the free time on the plane. 

Somewhere over Regina, my first ball ran out, and I joined the second one.  I knit quickly, thrilled at how fast it was all going, delighting in the fact that it was likely only going to take a few days to knit the beast.   I knit all the way home on that dark plane- then all the way home in the car, then tucked it inside that pretty bag (courtesy of Leslie at Stash-ems, Mark-ems, by way of the goodie bags. No website, but she’s heyillini on Ravelry) and left it there until the next evening.

That night, I powered through the rest of the first chart and half of the second (and last) chart, and felt pretty good about it too. I admired it often, checking for mistakes.  Back into the bag it went. 

Yesterday was Sunday, and I had time to knit in the daytime – such as it is. There’s not a lot of daylight this time of year, and so even if you knit a lot, not a lot of it happens in good clear light – and I took the knitting out, snuggling up on the chesterfield with tea and good intentions.  Two more days, I thought.  I can be finished this in two more days, and I spread the lace out on my leg to see all that I had wrought.  That’s when I noticed.
Right there, just where the garter stitch began to give way the lace… an odd shadow.  I peered at it again, not quite believing what I was seeing. For a minute, I thought that it was a mistake – that I’d somehow knit a line in, but as I looked closer I realized it was something far worse — I moved over to the window and there it was.

A clear line of demarcation between the first and second balls.  They are not the same dye lot. Not even close, and considering that it’s all I can see now, I can’t believe I missed it. Now that I look, I can see it in the picture of the skeins – now that I look it’s the most obvious thing in the world, but oh no, it’s winter in Canada and that means that it was too dark to tell for days, and now here I am, a few weeks out from Christmas with that scene on the needles.  I checked the skein in the bag – the one I hadn’t used yet, maybe wouldn’t use, and it’s the darker shade as well.  That was disheartening, but before I ripped it out and started again,  I sent the picture off to a whack of knitting friends – relying on knitter instinct. 

Now, knitter instinct is a good thing.  Knitter instinct does a lot of great stuff for us, like get you to grab that third skein, tell us (mostly) who is knit-worthy and who is not… but the best thing that knitter instinct does is get you out of ripping back.  Ripping out work is the last thing your instincts want you to do, and even if yours is off kilter, other knitters will often be able to tell you that you can get away with it, or just rip back part, or come up with a solution. Heck, lots of the time other knitters will point out that it’s only obvious to you, and that you’re being that crazy person again, and that you can just keep going because the two dye lot thing? It’s only you who can see it.  So I sent off that picture, and I waited.  I didn’t even tell them what I thought was wrong.  Maybe they wouldn’t see it, I rationalized, and then I’ll know. It’s just me, and I don’t have to rip back.

I sent the picture, and I waited.  It didn’t take long before I got my first response. I heard my phone ding, and turned it over to read:

"That is interesting and quite lovely. Why are you doing it in two colours?"

That sound you hear? It’s the sound of heartbreak and bison in a ball winder.  I’ve started again.

Homeward Softly

I know what’s waiting for me when I get home.  I know that the fridge is going to smell funny, and disorder and chaos will reign, and that Joe and Sam will have a bunch of strange takeaway leftovers but will be perilously close to being out of toilet paper, and that my family will be so glad to see me, but that the cat will not look me in the eye. 

I know that even though there’s been frost and a sprinkle of snow, and nobody minds raking up the leaves, nobody will have raked them up, because it’s me that says "Shouldn’t one of us rake up the leaves?"

I know that we’ll need groceries. I know there will be a big pile of mail I have to sort out, and ninety-two errands to run, and a largish pile of bobby pins will have migrated from Sam’s room to the coffee table, where they’ll be nesting with the elastic from every newspaper that’s arrived in the last month. (The newspapers will be scattered round the house, in every room Joe has read them in, and Joe being Joe, that will be all the rooms.) 

I know Sam will have her homework scrambled, although there will be a homework station in the dining room, where Joe likes her to do it. They’ll have caught up on going to the movies, because they like that more than I do. The two of them will have nine new inside jokes that I don’t get, and the whole family will be talking about the dinner they all had fun at the other night when I wasn’t there. (It will have been the most fun EVER.)  There will be lots of vegetables in the fridge – waiting for me to make something mum-ish, and the kitchen floor will be clean. Joe always washes it right before I get home. He know’s I like it, and he knows it’s better not to see what they’ve done to it while I was gone.  Exactly half the carpets will be vacuumed, and the other half will have more cat hair than some cats.  (Joe was born with a genetic defect that doesn’t allow him to see cat hair, even when it roams the hardwood like great furry tumbleweed.)

I know that one of my kids will have ripped off at least two articles of my clothing, and will now not recollect it ever having belonged to me. Even if said tee-shirt reads "best mum ever" I will have to fight to get it back.  Possession is nine tenths of the law when it comes to teenaged girls and your things – and I didn’t possess much over the last month as I’ve gone from hotel to hotel.  My mittens will have wandered into another coat’s pockets, and I’m pretty sure all my shampoo will be used up. 

It’s going to be days and days before my feet are under me there, before I’m in the right time zone, before I have the house sorted and nice, before the cat will look me in the eye.  There are consequences to being gone this long, and losing your grip on a place is one of them.

I know too, that when I walk through the door, my nice husband will hand me a glass of wine,  and ask me if I’m hungry and offer me some of the strange takeaway leftovers. I’ll go upstairs and settle into my big clawfoot tub, and that will be a clean bathtub, because Joe knows that I can overlook cat hair, but a dirty bathtub makes me crazy.  I’ll have a soak, I’ll drink my wine, I’ll eat some leftovers, and then I’ll go upstairs to bed, and that bed won’t just be my bed,  which would really be enough at this point – but it will have fresh, clean sheets on it, and Joe will have turned down the corner of the duvet and I’ll have a good, solid sleep, and tomorrow I’ll start trying to get back on top of my world.  I’ll try to remember it might take a few days, and not rush myself, and I’m even going to try and not be pissed off about the funny smell I know is coming from the fridge because nobody threw out that broccoli that was going off the last time I visited the kitchen eight days ago.  I’m going to go slow, and remember that I’m super tired, and super out of sorts, and super behind, and that I don’t have to fix all this in one morning – or one day.

I’m going to spend the rest of the trip home thinking about all those things that I know about arriving home and how things are there, and I’m going to focus on the clean sheets and not on the way the washer smells strange because Sam forgot to leave the door open and it’s moldy in there now. I’m going to remember that part of supporting my family this way just means that re-entry is often, and it’s nasty, and that my family is both grateful that I do this, and a little secretly hostile that I do this, and that getting back into the swing of a family that limps without you? It’s a lot like getting mauled by a bear or having a newborn.

It goes a lot easier if you don’t fight back. 

Warm Hands

I arrived at Port Ludlow after a long trip during which I endured, you will recall, a knitting shortage. I played with my scraps all the way here, and upon arrival I was in hard knitting shape.  Lucky for me, rescue was literally at hand.  Shortly after we got here, Tina and I began opening the boxes of delicious things destined for the goodie bags, and amongst all the amazing treats inside the boxes was a great thing from Shall We Knit. (The irony that I flew all the way here short of yarn and was then rescued by a shop no more than two hours from my house is not lost on me.) 

Inside a box were little kits for fingerless mitts called Ellie, all packaged up with yarn from Indigodragonfly a pattern from the shop, and (be still my beating heart) little glass buttons from Closure Fine Fastenings. (Not open yet, but coming soon.)  I borrowed needles from Lisa, and enchanted, I began.

It didn’t take long. It was the only knitting I had with me, and more than that… I was cold.  Cold hands, cold feet – I was under-prepared for the deep damp chill of the Pacific Northwest this time of year.  It doesn’t get cold here, not by Canadian standards, but it is a committed and fierce sort of chilly that gets right into you and can only be relieved with warm baths, hot tea and woolly things.  These are perfect. 

I think out of all the things I like about them, the buttons are what put it over the top.

When I finished them I felt that smug satisfaction that comes from knitting something. I always want to thump my chest and hold the things aloft, and boom "I made this.  Hear me – I am knitter, and these things exist because I am here! I am a CREATOR."

That’s normal, but these took on a whole other level when I sewed those dear little glass buttons on.  It made them finished, and posh, and clever.

Perfect – and my hands are warm.

(PS. I solved the yarn problem after that by buying a crapton of bison from Judith.  Done, and if I was clever I would have thought of abandoning my knitting sooner to justify it.)

(PPS: Edited to add link to the pattern Ellie, and to tell you that there are no kits, but you can get the yarn and buttons from Shall We Knit.)


Every time we have a retreat up at Port Ludlow,  I’m reminded that the word treat is right there, embedded in the word.  No matter how tired I am before it starts or after it’s over, the retreat itself is the best kind of work, and I’m energized and delighted by just about every minute that we do it.

From winding all the tiny balls I needed to teach (Tina, Debbi, Lisa and Judith all helped me. It was 675 little balls of yarn… which is, anyway you slice it, a lot of balls)

to watching knitters knit it all up,

to seeing the magic in the dye room…

to wishing I was in the spinning classroom (Judith had a similar tiny balls thing going on. We divided and balled up 59 colours of roving, for each of three classes… that’s 177 balls of roving.)

to watching Judith teach everyone how to make batts…

to the fun of seeing the staff get right into the fun, turning the inn into the most festive and colourful thing they could. 

To special projects – proudly displayed

(That’s Sarah Hauschka. She’s brilliant- and yes, that’s knitted.)

To all the students getting together, organizing themselves (heaven knows we can’t organize them, they’re a bunch of big personalities) and all knitting squares…

and then taking their free time and sewing them all up…

and then giving Judith a beautiful blanket to show her how much they cared.  (Special shoutout to Stormy for running point.)

It was lovely. It was a treat. Thanks to everyone who helped make it awesome. 

I’m going to lie down.