Patience is a Virtue

It is about 1100 kilometres (or about 700 miles, if that’s how you think) from Toronto to Raleigh, North Carolina.  It takes about 90 minutes to fly there, and I know that because on Friday at lunchtime I got on a plane in Toronto and flew straight there, and then I had a terrific time. Really great, and for a bunch of reasons. First, it was warm there.  It was super warm there on Friday, and then on Saturday and Sunday it was less warm, but I still thought it was an upgrade from the weather at home.  The locals kept saying it was cold, but let me show you a picture I took. 

Right? I was so blown away that I emailed that picture to just about everyone in my family with a note that said "Look! Flowers blooming in December!" (The response from just about everyone was "where they in the ground?" It boggled our Canadian minds.)  Then there was Mary and her fabulous staff at the two stores, they were helpful and kind and accommodating and everything you’d expect from a shop in the South.  Then there was the knitters.  See them?


They were pretty awesome too.  I don’t know if you’ve been to the south, or had a lot of contact with knitters from there, but they are smooth.  They’re so smooth that it’s about 15 minutes into a conversation with them that you realize that the charm is just a cover for the fact that they’re delightfully bonkers… and although it sounds strange, one of my greatest wishes for every  person is that they have the experience of being criticized by a Southerner. They’re so good at it that it’s about three days before you realize what happened. (Pro tip – "Bless your heart" isn’t always good.)

It was awesome, and then yesterday morning I packed myself up and went to the airport (thanks for the lift, Mary!) and breezed through security, and got told a very funny joke by a really nice officer, and that, my friends, that was the last thing that went right.  When I book flights to and from shops, I try to get the most cost-efficient ones I can.  Arriving in Raleigh I had the talk on Friday night, so I took a direct to eliminate the chances of having a connection screwing me up. Heading home I don’t worry as much, and the flights with connections are much, much cheaper.  So off I headed, with a flight from Raleigh to Washington, Washington to New York, New York to Toronto. 

Things started to go wrong in Raleigh.  The inbound plane was late, then we sat on the tarmac so long waiting for a fuel-top up  that I knew there was no way I was going to make my connection.  In a way, I like knowing that there’s no way in hell that you’re going to make a flight.  As long as there’s hope I feel compelled to try, to rush, to keep checking the time… once you know all is lost, you might as well knit, really, so that’s what I did.  Arriving in Washington, I discovered that it had snowed there the day before, and even though the snow was gone, there was no ice and the ground was dry, they were dealing with being screwed up from then, so there was a million people there from a million cancelled flights and the lady at the airline just about laughed at me when I asked when I was going to fly to New York. 

It turned out that she didn’t have a basically optimistic nature though, because I did fly to New York, although that flight was delayed (also on the tarmac – why can’t they delay you before you get on the plane? It’s like all day steps were taken to come between me and food)  arriving there last night at 5:24, which was sort of good, because at least I was one step closer to home, but sort of bad because my connection to Toronto left at 5:30, but closed it’s doors at 5:20, so I knew I’d missed that too.  The nice lady at the desk told me that they’d rebooked me onto a 6:30 flight, and the 7:30 as well, just in case I couldn’t make the 6:30 in time – and all I had to do was get to the other terminal so I could switch airlines. 

It turns out that to do that there’s lots of stairs and and escalator and a strange hallway that it felt wrong to be in and I had to ask for help three times and take a bus that I waited for outside.  Then I had to do security again, and by then it was past the time that I could maybe get on board for the 6:30 … but I didn’t panic, I just kept going as fast as I could because I was sure they’d just bump me to the 7:30, on which I was so conveniently booked.  I arrived at the desk, sweaty, jumbled, hungry and tired, and handed my now vintage boarding pass to the agent.

I knew the minute I saw her face that I had a big problem.  "I’m not booked on the 7:30?" I asked her, and she nodded.  I was – or at least my name was on the list, but she explained, the fact that the other airline had "booked" me on that flight didn’t magically create a seat to put me in.  She scanned the list of flights with a deepening frown.  They were all oversold and overfull, although she decided to put me on standby for the 8:45, because it was the least screwed up, and there was a slim chance.  The place was packed so I sat on the floor and waited, until she came and found me at 8:00 and told me there was zero chance I was going home.  We rebooked me on a flight for this morning, and she told me to go back to the other airlines counter, and they would give me a hotel voucher.

Back I went, this time changing terminals by way of a longish walk outside in the dark, until I somehow found the airline counter, where to make a very long story short, they first said that I wasn’t getting a voucher because I was late for the 5:30 flight (I don’t know what I said in return. Something incoherently corrective) then said I wasn’t getting a voucher because the delay was due to weather – even though the weather wasn’t at the airports I was at, there was weather somewhere that impacted my flights so no dice. (I did point out that this policy meant that they would never, ever have to give out a voucher, and they had nothing to say to that.) They gave me a number to call to get a hotel room that at least had a discount, so I went staggering off in search of a payphone, where the hotel broker phone thing put me on hold for 30 minutes and never gave me a room, at which point I sort of snapped a little, hung up the phone and staggered over to a really nice information lady and said "I need help solving this" and promptly lost control of a few tears, which was both humiliating and apparently effective.
She helped me, I got a room, and a shuttle and an hour later I was lying face down on a bed where I stayed for five hours before reporting back to La Guardia to watch the snow start to fall, because it would appear that now I’m in the middle of a snowstorm.

Me and my sock are waiting now, and I’m sort of tired and so far we’ve been delayed four times, to the tune of four hours…  but it’s not snowing that hard. Right?  No matter. I have a whole other skein of yarn and it has to stop sometime.  I’m just going to knit, and list all of the things I’m not in charge of.  Let’s start with how it can take 90 minutes to get to Raleigh, and more than 30 hours to get back.  

I guess the hat is stupid too

Here I am, writing to you from Raleigh, North Carolina where it is about 26 degrees.  This came as a total surprise to me, because when I glanced at the weather for here last night I assumed it had defaulted to Fahrenheit, which apparently it didn’t, because when I stepped off the plane today my hair instantly frizzed, and the warmth swept over me, and I saw the concrete shimmer, and I thought "Oh man. Look at that.  I have finally managed to get my computer to default to Celsius" because it was obviously that  26, not the Fahrenheit 26, one of which made tons of sense for December, and one of which is actually summer.  

I adjusted quickly (and happily) but someday lets talk about how all of the things I’ve brought with me are stupid.  Hold on. I’m just going to shove my mittens in my bag. 

This morning before I left (and right before I packed three scarves that are taking up real estate in my suitcase for no damn reason) I packed up my knitting. This time of year is no season to be unprepared for knitting, so I had everything bagged and ready. 

See that? The picture of varied and prepared sneaky Christmas knitting (socks, socks, sweater, sweater) and seeing it there gave me my idea for Gifts for Knitters: Day 6. Bag it.

Now, if you’re a non-knitter, let me tell you something about your knitter that you might not know – or you might know it in your heart but not quite have owned up to it.  Your knitter doesn’t just like yarn. They like carrying it around with them.  They like shoving it into little bags and stashing it all over the place, and because most knitters are usually knitting several things at once. they like to have a lot of bags.  As a matter of fact, I think that knitters and bags go together like Thelma and Louise.  I’ve got a bunch of them pictured up there, but trust me, oh trust me – I have more, and I still don’t really feel like I’ve got enough.  If you left me to my own devices it’s possible that I would individually bag every bit of yarn in the house, and I’m not so sure that I’m unusual. 

The blue and white gingham one up there is a Della Q project bag, charming, simple, inexpensive,  but can you stand how cute this one is? (Ok. If you’re a non-knitter you might not be feeling it, but trust me.  That’s cute.)  They’ve got a little pocket inside, and they’re soft cloth that keeps everything clean and together.

The black and white one there is a classic Tom Bihn stuff sack, crazy useful, and don’t get me started about the fact that they have a clear bottom.  Super useful. As a knitter, I have multiple projects in multiple bags and being able to flip it over and see what’s in there without opening it? I love that little feature, and these are extra double plus good for knitters who have a gift for misplaced liquids.  They’re pretty much waterproof.

The brownish one with the knitting fabric is a winner from MisoCrafty. It’s a gorgeous box bag with a handle on the top and like the yellow one from Splityarn next to it, it holds nice big projects and all their stuff, plus your knitters wallet, if she or he were just stepping out for a minute. (Also, because some knitter will ask, Yes. Splityarn is also where you get those funny tee shirts. For the non-knitters, yes.  That shirt is funny.)

Other options? Slipped Stitch Studios has, as always, a killer assortment of fabric bags with pockets and spots for your mobile phone and are reversible.  Sock bags, two skein bags, great big bags.  Awesome stuff, and so many fabric choices that there just has to be one that reminds you of your knitter. (Maybe bikes? Oh, wait. That’s me again.)

As a matter of fact, no matter what your knitter is into, I’m pretty sure that you can find someone who makes a project bag that reflects that. Squirrels and RabbitsFunny little owlsDots? Not those dots, these dots?  One like a tardis?  One with a lot of Tardises? (Tardii?) This one has yarn on it.  This one is plainer. This one closes with a knot. This one too.  This one is sort of scary. This one has bunnies. 

Keep looking. Your knitters bag is out there.

Stealth

I think I’ve been pretty clear about how it is that I like to get through the holidays.  I find that the more I do in advance, the more organized I am, the more that I engage in this time of year like it’s "Operation Ho Ho" than a holiday, the better a time I have.  Ironically, since I started pulling this thing together with a list and a schedule and a real sense of how much work it is, we look a lot more like a family and less like a group of shattered people helplessly wrapping things at midnight while silently holding each other responsible for the nightmare it’s all become again.

So far, so good this year. There’s a tree up in the living room. It’s naked, but it’s there, and thanks to the system, it is exactly the right height.

(We started taking a measuring tape to the tree place, which sounds obsessive and weird, but it’s a lot less weird than having a tree that won’t fit and hacking bits off of it with a strange old saw while trying not to have Christmas argument #4 – Working Title: Why do you care so much about the height of the tree/What is wrong with you that the tree has to be a specific height.) Sam and I will decorate it this evening, and then tomorrow I’m off to North Carolina for the last trip of the year (there might still be room for the talk, I’m not sure) and then when I get home, it’s full steam ahead on the holiday.

I feel bad this time of year, because the blog sort of dries up knitting wise.  Here I am, knitting a veritable mountain, and there’s almost nothing I can show you, because it’s all sort of stealth.  A lot of the things that will be coming off the needles are gifts, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s surprise, but that makes things a little boring.  I think you’re going to have a lot of shots like this one to look forward to – if it’s possible to look forward to a shot like this.

That’s a little sweater for Christmas, coming right along as I flew home earlier this week. (Before someone asks, the fab box bag is from Splityarn.) Extra bonus points in the boring department go to me, on account of the picture is also blurry. 

I’m relying on Gifts for Knitters to make things just a little more interesting, so here we go.

Gifts for Knitters Day 4: Good Tools.

There’s a few things that your knitter uses all the time, or if they don’t use them, they probably wish they were.  A decent ball winder, swift and scale are pretty basic places to start.  If your knitter doesn’t have these three things, then I can pretty much promise you that any one of them would be appreciated and used.  If your knitter is just starting out in the tool department, then good places to start are the Royal Ball Winder,  a pretty nice umbrella swift, and a pocket scale .  If your knitter is seriously into yarn, and they already have this stuff, then think about upgrading them to some seriously fly gear.   I have a Hornshaw wooden swift, and I love it.  I make do with a plastic ball winder (I know it’s almost used up because it’s started making yarn breasts, rather than balls) but when I allow myself, I dream of a Strauch.  The scale of a knitters dreams? Lee Valley has it – if only because all their stuff lasts forever, and it weighs in all standard formats, plus pennyweights, and who wouldn’t want that. It’s charming.

Gifts for Knitters Day 5: Jewelry

Oh, the lovely things there are if your knitter is the type.  How about something knitting themed, like these earrings, or these ones, and if that’s too cute for your particular knitter, how about something more subtle, like this or this. Wait! This is nice too!  Got a funky knitter? Then maybe they’d like this necklace, or this one, made from sliced up knitting needles.  When in doubt, remember. Most knitters feel an affinity for sheep

It’s Day Three

Is it just me, or is anyone else feeling December slip through their fingers in a way that makes their breathing a little tight? (If you’re wondering, I haven’t nailed my 3.7 hours of knitting even one day while I’ve been in Fort Wayne.  It turns out working is as incompatible with knitting as it ever is, even when ones job is talking about knitting. Today I’m going to knock it out of the park though. I’m travelling from Fort Wayne to home – and so far, both of my flights have been delayed.  Primo knitting time. I noticed there were lots of questions in the comments, so how about a little Q&A today?

Sue G asks: Do you prefer toe up or top down socks…or does it depend on the pattern?

I prefer top down, because it gives me more choices for the heel and fit, but when I have a special yarn and I want to use every inch, or when it’s a super-stripey yarn and I want the stripes to stay the same through , I’ll do toe up.  This yarn (String Theory Continuum) is both, so toe up it is.

Lisa B asks: What pattern do you use for your toe-up socks?

I totally fake it.  I cast on 16 with my own version of JMCO, then increase to however many I need (68, in this case) then carry on until it’s time for the heel, then do a short row heel on half (I use the one Laura does) and then carry on until the yarn is almost gone, and then whack some ribbing on there.  Done.

Heather: Those are cute sock needles! What brand are they?

Signature.  They’re my total favourites. 

Labrista: What bag is that in one of the pictures? I love the yellow interior.

It’s a bag from Crumpler, and I’ve had it for years since my genius friend Ken gave it to me for Christmas.  I think it’s the "Considerable Embarrassment."  It’s fabulous for travelling. Has a laptop sleeve and holds lots of knitting. I both love and hate the way it closes with velcro. (Easy to close, even when it’s full, but hard on yarn.)

Barbara wonders: What bind-off do you prefer for toe-up socks?

I use a sewn bind off, every time.  Works a treat and is both super stretchy and neat and tidy.

———————

Gifts for Knitters, Day 3: Paper Goods.   If your knitter seems the type (and I bet they do) pretty paper for knitters might just be their thing.  Tilly Flop (big surprise brings us our first candidate, note card versions of the Knitting Rhyme poster from yesterday.  (I admit it, I love it. I’m actually pretty bonkers for everything from this company.) There’s a collection of greeting cards for knitters here at Buffalo Girls, and I adore these beautiful print cards that are transfers of knitting textures – although you’ll have to contact her to find out how you might get some.  I’ve seen them in person, and they’re quite beautiful. These letterpress cards with cables on them are charming (to a knitter, I swear it.)

As always, Knitterella has some pretty amazing cards and tags (and they’re on sale through today, just a heads up) and KnitLove has a set of graphics you can buy your knitter so they can print at will. I think your knitter would love this design journal, if they’re the type that’s always drawing on graph paper.  If your knitter loves to make knits for others, how about these great custom tags?

Finally, depending on your particular breed of knitter, or the Christmases you’ve lived in the past, you’ll know if your knitter could use this one

(PS. Wrapping your knitters present in this paper could get you major points.)

On the road with a sock

Good Morning knitters. Just a little hello from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where me and a sock are drinking coffee, waiting for the sun to rise and getting ready to teach the last day at Simply Socks (I expect the sock to contribute little.) I don’t have a ton of time, so I have two things for you.
First, a (possibly) funny little time lapse of my journey,  starting in a cab in Toronto, and winding up in speaking to a crowd in Indiana.

Second,  to distract you from the fact that the funny little time lapse of a sock isn’t really a blog post of any weight, I give you the return of Gifts for Knitters.  I’ve done this many years in a row now, and the idea is that you can direct your friends and family to the list and help them get some ideas for what a knitter might enjoy getting for Christmas – or you can do what I think is actually happening every year, and buy all this stuff for yourself. 

I’ve tried to put it in order, so that your family actually has time to get this stuff if they want to, and there will be one category or idea per day until the day itself. Happy Hunting!

December 1st. Art for Knitters. Yeah, that’s right. We like knitting enough that we don’t just want to do it all day, we want to decorate our homes in a way that shows the world who we are.  No matter what breed of knitter you’ve got, one of these will work for them. As always, TillyFlop is a big winner.  Keep Calm and Cast On, a Knitting Rhyme Print, or "There’s no such thing as too much yarn" I love everything from this shop. 
Fringe Supply Co. has a charming Yarn Pyramid poster, and there’s gotta be a knitter out there who loves bright colours and whimsical prints who would adore this Working Girls one.   If your knitter things less is a little more, how about The Knitter?  How about a poster for an edgy knitter? Viva la Yarnolucion? No? Maybe your knitter has the sense of humour that means they’d love to hang up this Knitters Eye Chart? (Trust us, it’s funny.) 
If you want bonus points after you get one of these, have it framed. We’d love that.

2. December 2nd. Body Art for Knitters.
Ok, so maybe we lack the nerve to get a real knitting tattoo (although trust me, a LOT of us don’t) but the fake ones are always fun.  A cool stocking stuffer,  temporary tattoos for knitters are a winner.  These ones from Soak are tried and true (and get some Soak wash while you’re there, that’s good in a stocking too.) Tilly Flop has one I think is cool, and Kate Broughton has a great yarn one. (Her stuff is particularly great if you’re seeing a lot of sewing stuff around too, as your knitter has turned out to be bi-craftual.)

I’m sure there’s more out there, so check the comments.  Happy Shopping, and remember, knitting stuff isn’t a silly gift for a knitter. We have this much because we really like it.

PS: Because I posted pictured of me knitting on a plane, I feel compelled to link to this entry.  Yes. I knit on planes. Yes. It’s allowed.