it is too early for this

I got up early this morning, 4:50am – and I hear that’s normal for some folks, but I’m just terrible at it. Terrible.  Later this summer when Jen and I start training for the Bike Rally in earnest I’ll get better. It wasn’t so bad when the sun was coming up and off we’d go, full of purpose, riding 40 or 50km before work several days a week.  This though? Getting up, the world still dark, no purpose beyond a trek to the airport? This is not my best thing. I’m fragile that early.  I drink coffee slowly, go over my class checklist one more time…

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I got into the taxi when it came, and the cab driver made a few tries at conversation, and I tried but couldn’t summon up much.  I was polite, but couldn’t quite get the groove of it, and after a few minutes he said “Ah, it’s still nighttime. Let’s go quietly.”  I sat in the back and knit on my sock, staring out at frozen Toronto, and thought about the cat, who was looking at me with a curious rage when I left. I think she noticed that Joe and I both had suitcases out. He’s leaving for the Junos and I’m for the DFW Fiber Fest (which is sort of like the Junos, if you approach it the right way, which I do, although travelling together would be cool if it happened) and when I left I am pretty sure the cat was trying to figure out who’s side of the bed to pee on as revenge.

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As much as leaving again unsettles me, so soon after the book tour, I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I love teaching and speaking, but really, I’m serious about the marketplace this time.  I was going through my stash the other day and realized that a lot of my yarn is wrong. How you can have that much and have pretty much all of it be breathtakingly, spectacularly wrong is beyond me, but I’d noticed over the last year or so that a theme was developing, one where I think about knitting something, go to the stash and then mysteriously find myself in a yarn shop with a big bag and a vaguely dirty feeling.

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I think I’ve regressed, fallen back into a nasty little single skein habit, thinking that it saves me money to buy a little of what I like, when in reality it doesn’t save me a dime. There’s no savings if you buy the single skein one day, then the sweater’s worth another day. I see that now.

teabuttonscuff 2014-03-27I’m going to fix some of that this weekend.  They’re calling my flight.  See some of you in Dallas.

(PS: Yarn: Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks Weld/Indigo. Pattern: Tiny Tea Leaves. Buttons: Aren’t they perfect? Vintage buttons from my grandmothers button bin.  Perfect tiny tulips on a spring sweater for wee Myrie.)

 

 

Blocking- a little sweater

All right, here we are. This post is going to be about blocking a wee sweater, not blocking all the things in the whole world. (If you’re truly in the weeds about blocking, can I recommend Kate Atherley’s crafty class about blocking? It’s solid. I’ve seen it.)

Four important things about blocking that are totally true

1. Blocking and stretching are not synonyms.  They do not mean the same thing. Blocking can sometimes involve stretching, like with lace, but most of the time it’s important to remember that blocking in knitting is like blocking in the theatre. The director will block the scene, choosing where the actors go, and putting things in their proper place – and that’s a good comparison for knitting. Blocking is finishing the piece, and that usually means a) getting it clean and b) putting all the elements in their proper place, whatever that place is.  I don’t know who started the idea that blocking and stretching are the same, but I think it screws a lot of knitters up, because they think that if something doesn’t need stretching, then it doesn’t need blocking – which is totally inaccurate.

2. Blocking will not fix essential problems with the construction of your knitting.  For example, if you’ve chosen a pattern or type of stitch that curls, unless you’re using a fibre that’s easy to convince and has little mind of its own (think of silk here, and the way it just lies where you put it) blocking will not fix the problem. Some knitted fabrics curl because stitches have a flat side and a curved side, and if you put all the curves on one side then that thing is going to curl up, and blocking can tame it a little, but cannot change that reality.  Similarly problems with rowing out can’t be fixed with blocking, and only very minor problems with fit can be truly fixed with blocking – if a sweater’s too small in the bust, then you can stretch it there, but the fabric is going to look different in that area if you take it too far.  (That’s because of #1. Stretching is not blocking. It’s stretching.)

3. Blocking involves cleaning. Yarn is dirty when you are done with it. Sometimes it has spinning oils or sizing in it, sometimes it sat on a shelf for a while, and it certainly picked up oils and dirt from your hands while you were working on it.  Yarn is effected by the spinning process, often compacted – and it doesn’t reveal  its true character until it’s been washed. Remember, blocking is finishing the work, and if it ain’t clean, it isn’t finished. For a lot of stuff, washing and laying things out nicely is all the blocking they need. Even if I am going to steam block something, I wash it and let it dry first – then go in with the steam. Think of blocking as an activity that is all the stuff that you do to a project after it’s done – not just something you do with pins and wires.

4. You know how some people’s work always looks beautiful, smooth and even, and you think they’re probably a much better knitter than you? If you’re not blocking, then the odds are that they’re not a much better knitter than you. They’re just doing the last step that you’re skipping.  (This is 100% always true when we’re talking about stranded colourwork. In that case, it’s not just tidiness. You can’t even tell if you’ve done it right until you block properly.)

So, here we have a wee sweater. I took it off the needles, wove in the ends, tidied things up and placed it on the table, letting it be what it wants to be.

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Clearly, it wants to be untidy. The fabric isn’t particularly smooth or even, the yarn has a lot of body and opinion, and the edges don’t want to lie down.  It’s also a lot smaller than my (washed and blocked) gauge swatch told me it would be. Nothing is wrong with this sweater though. It’s just not finished.

Step one: Bathtime. I filled the (clean) sink (I’d use the bathtub if my sweater was bigger) with tepid water and a little wool wash. (I like Soak and Eucalan equally – depending on what I’m washing.) I tossed the sweater on top and walked away.

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It’s important for knitted stuff to be fully wet to both get clean and be persuaded, and wool in particular takes a while to get really wet through. I wait for things to sink of their own accord, and that usually tells me that they’re good and wet. I let it soak for about 20 minutes, and sometimes a little longer.

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Step 2: I retrieve the wee sweater from the sink, and hold it all together, all its parts supported, and squeeze out the water gently.  Then I put it on a towel on the floor, roll it up inside, and press on the towel to dry it a bit. If it’s a sturdy thing I sometimes step on the towel. I think the fabric looks better already.

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Step 3: I lay a clean towel down somewhere flat and big enough, and start blocking.  This sweater has no elements that I want to stretch (like lace) and nothing that needs opening up. As a matter of fact, this sweater has that delicate ruching on the yoke, and if I stretch it, it won’t be as textured and pretty.  That means that for this, I won’t need any pins. The most important part of blocking has already happened for this sweater. The bath has smoothed and evened the stitches, helped the yarn settle in to its new shapes, and finished the wool.

Step 4: I spread out the back. I make it straight along the bottom hem, patting everything gently where I want it to be.

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Step 5: I close the front, lining up the necklines front to back, and making sure that I’ve closed it so that folds at the sides fall between the decreases that tell me where the sides are.  I fart with the sleeves to make sure they’re the same, folded truly along the midline of the sleeve.

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Step 6: I make sure it’s all lined up. Front edges to front edges, patting them into nice straight lines, sleeves extending at their natural angle, I pull a little horizontally, at the bottom edge and the cuffs of the sleeve, for this sweater I don’t want those parts to pull in, but flare a little, so I show the edges how I’d like them to be, fully releasing the cast off edges.

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Step 7: I get out the measuring tape. Are the sleeves the same length? No? I pat and push them until they are. Are the two fronts the same length? (You can usually tell that without the tape – but still.)

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Step 8: Finesse. Look for anything that isn’t quite right. I noticed this:

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The knitting was twisting a little, the sides weren’t even. See the little spiral? Fixed it by just patting the sweater front over a little. Now it’s a nice straight line.

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That’s it! Now I just leave it to dry – which in my house involves

Step 9: Keep the cat from lying on it until it’s dry.

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Wasn’t that easy?

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Convinced? I hope so. That’s a pretty big change for ten minutes of effort. Other kinds of garments will take more effort, or time, but really there’s not much that isn’t improved by this simple sort of blocking, if that’s all you have in you.

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There were a ton of blocking questions in the comments yesterday, so I thought I’d answer a few here:

Alison: But Steph, what happens as soon as you wash something? It needs blocking again. Right?

Yup, but usually the first time is the hardest, and after that it’s just lying it flat in a tidy way.  Lace would need a bit more, but well. That’s just the way lace is.

Josiphine: While you’re at it do you want to give me tips for blocking lace in the round?

Go here and have a look at how Judy Gibson did it.  It’s perfect. (I know that link is sort of old school, but it’s still pretty awesome. Judy’s on Ravelry as TiaJudy. You should look at her doilies.)

Robyn: i assume we’re speaking of wool here, not acrylic. which is what i use 95% of the time, with the hats i make and then give away. However, i do wash and dry every hat i make before i send it off to charity, so does that count?

Yes! That does count.  For acrylic, washing and drying is usually all the blocking it needs. It gets it clean, and helps the stitches smooth out. Acrylic totally looks better after blocking. Note: Acrylic (and nylon and polyester) yarn shouldn’t be routinely steam blocked – it’s heat sensitive, and can create permanent changes in the yarn.  There’s something called “killing” acrylic that you can do with steam/heat that makes it lie down forever, but it’s a one way trip, and you should experiment with a swatch first.

Jo-Anne: I have a cowl I just blocked, and the edges are still curling. I am thinking of blocking it again.

Sister, I have a little bad news.  Remember true thing #2 above? That blocking won’t change the essential character of your knitting? If it’s mostly stockinette (or any stitch that has most of the purls on one side and knits on the other) it’s probably always going to curl a bit.  Still, hope springs – it might be worth another shot if you didn’t fully block the first time. (Sometimes if things don’t get really wet because you were rushing you can have poor results.)

Several People: I don’t block because it often makes things worse, if by worse you understand that I turned a sweater into a dress with blocking or my hat turned into a hood.

I’m going to state an uncomfortable truth here. If you have a sweater or garment that gets way, way bigger after you blocked it (and it’s not superwash, which can be unpredictable)  then you had a sneaky gauge problem. Your garment was knit too loosely.  Sweaters that expand when they hit water are just revealing what’s been true about them all along – and if you didn’t block them, then gravity and movement would have just revealed that a little more slowly while you were wearing it.  Sometimes swatches lie because knitting is three dimensional. The roundness of the stitches makes it look like you’re getting gauge when you’re really not. When the work flattens out – through washing or wearing, then you discover that your gauge was way off.  This is the reason that you wash swatches. Make them reveal as many of their filthy lies as you can – before they sucker-punch you after the fact.

Again: Almost always -sweaters and garments that get sloppy and loose after washing/blocking aren’t a sign of a blocking problem.  They had a knitting problem you’ve just discovered super late.

All right, there you have it, and I have an almost finished sweater, so I’m off to root through the button bin until I find two perfect little ones. What colour do you think?

Yeah, I said it and I meant it

A little peek, my pets, at a not quite finished sweater.  Well, let me be clearer – the knitting part is all finished, but in my books the last step of knitting is blocking.

littleleavespreblock 2014-03-25

I’ve taught all sorts of knitting classes and blogged all sorts of knitted things here, and I’m always amazed at the number of knitters who don’t often block, or think blocking is optional, or think that blocking means stretching, or block with steam only, or block… well, to be frank, any way that I don’t.  In my not inconsiderable experience, blocking is to knitting as ironing is to quilting – the step that makes your work so much tidier, and shows off your skills to their maximum. I’ve heard lots of knitters say that they don’t block small things, or things that are all in one piece or things that “don’t need it” or things that “don’t need fixing” (here, I suppose the misconception is that blocking fixes knitting problems, which it usually – and sadly – does not)  and I put forth here that everything needs it. All knitted things – with the rarest of possible exceptions, need one form of blocking or the other, and I think (and if you’d just kick that soapbox over here where I can climb up on it) I think that if you don’t believe in blocking, or don’t think it matters, that you might not have all the information, or might not be doing it right.

I’m going to start showing you as much about how I block (and why) as I do how I knit (and why) in the fond hopes that someday, I’ll won’t ever hear another knitter say “I never block, it doesn’t make a difference.”  That wee sweater is off for a blocking.  I’ll show you how I did it tomorrow.

That thing where it’s all a lie

I felt it a few days ago, and I fell for it. The first tiny possible edges of spring. I was walking to the store and I saw water on the ground, seeping out from under the icebergs. The sun was shining, and bought a ticket on the crazy train.  I bought tulips. I got my bike out, I vowed that from now on I would ride it everywhere I went, and then it snowed, and then yesterday morning when I got up the whole city had frozen over again into a wasteland of despair from which we will certainly never be released. Joe and I were heading out yesterday morning, and when we opened the door, we both uttered spontaneous expletives.  It was -18 with the wind, and as we walked, our hearts sank. We glared at the dirty old snow, scowled at the mountains of ice pushed into the cities corners… I did my best to remember where we live, and that this is normal for us, and tried reset my expectations. Of course March is horrible. It’s usually horrible right into April. It is so unreasonable to expect Spring right now that I can’t believe I fell for its flirty little overture.  Spring is a nasty little tease, and today (when I drag my bike across the ice field that is my back garden) I’m going to vow not to get too excited. If this is Spring, it is the beginning of it. It is the part where you go outside without a hat because you so desperately want it to be true, and then worry about frostbite on your scalp.  It is spring in name only. It is a lie.

Even though I got a grip on myself pretty quickly, one little part of it stuck. The urge to knit something quick and springy and fresh, but still warm and cozy, and I realized that if I want to knit a spring thing that fast, there’s only one person in the family little enough for me to pull it off, and that’s my new niece, wee Myrie.

myriesweatertulip 2014-03-24

I grabbed something springy from the stash – gorgeous superwash wool, dyed with weld and indigo from Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks, and settled on a quick Tiny Tea Leaves.

I thought I could knit it in one day, but it turns out this little sweater isn’t that quick. First, maybe you can knit that sweater in a day, if you actually sat down for the whole day to knit, which I didn’t. I don’t know who I think is going to do all my other stuff while I’m sitting there, but I couldn’t make it happen. Also, I chose the size two, because that Myrie, she’s growing faster than crocuses sprout (when they finally turn up, that is) and sizes for babies tend to run small.  So many parents with six month old babies dress them in a size one, or larger – and I didn’t want to have it be too tiny, too fast.

tealeavesdet 2014-03-24Let it here be noted that this pattern isn’t lying at all. It is an honest to goodness size two – so it’s a little more knitting than I planned. (And might mean that if I want Myrie to have a spring sweater, rather than an autumn one, I might have to knit another littler one after this. We shall see how it fits the little Miss- and besides, she’ll be bigger by the time I finish this tomorrow.)  Third, and I can’t stress this enough, the way this pattern works is yarn and knitting intensive – the ever-so-charming gathers on the yoke are created by doubling the stitches, then decreasing again after several rows, and you wouldn’t be expecting there to be many rows with almost 300 stitches on them in a tiny little sweater, but there it is.

tinytealeavestulip 2014-03-24

Despite these three things absolutely being obvious from the get go, I was a little surprised when after knitting for ten minutes, I didn’t have a sweater.  I think it’s doable today, but then again, I also thought it was spring, that Adriana would finish herself while I knit this, and that the smell in the fridge would go away if I didn’t think about it.

Clearly, the winter has made me delusional.

PS: For anyone keeping track this episode of the annual “snap like a twig and knit a baby a spring sweater” appears to have happened two weeks earlier than the similar one last year, which I blame on the outstanding performance of this winter in the category of “harsh.”

PPS: If you’re in Toronto, don’t forget that Rachel Herron is making a book tour stop here this evening.  She’s lovely.

 

 

Randomly on a Thursday

1. I am still knitting Adriana, despite my feelings. A bunch of you in the comments are right though, Adrian must die. I’m going to wind the whole thing into a ball and toast his demise.

2. Even though I am still knitting Adriana, you cannot tell.  I am in a black hole.

3. I am thinking about stepping out on her with my spinning wheel for a little. That’s not the same as cheating.

4. Who cares if I cheat anyway? It’s knitting. I’ve made no vows, nor promises. I’ll be as adulterous as I want to be.

5. Sort of. I would really like to wear Adriana in Texas, although in thinking about it, I can tell you I’ve done that weird thing again, where I knit an accessory, but have no idea what it goes with.  What outfit do I think I’m going to wear it with?

6. Thanks for the questions about the retreat that landed in the Strung Along mailbox. You’re right, as always, it would be better if I described it here. Less work too.  Here goes. The Strung Along April retreat is designed to be a spectacular treat, and a chance for textile artists to recharge their creativity by dipping their toes into some interesting stuff.  Our theme is “Where the wild things are” and Judith MacKenzie will be with us to teach you about dying with wild things, and spinning them too. I’ll be teaching “wild” knitting – an exploration of some stuff you might not have thought about before – in terms of materials, and techniques. Debbi Stone is teaching creativity in design, taking knitters for a walk in the woods (there’s a waterfall) and then bringing them back to explore how you can translate the things you’ve seen in the wild into creative designs, stitch patterns and ideas.   As always, there will be wonderful food, as always, there will be fun extras. (Debbi’s totally going to teach some great stuff about ipads, if you have one) and there will be a community marketplace, and some easy, low key, fun optional mat-less yoga for knitters.  There are only a few spots left, so to get more info than that, you can email us at StrungAlong@yarnharlot.ca.  (Beginning knitters and spinners are welcome, but you should have the beginning basics down, just so that it’s fun for you.) The Resort at Port Ludlow is the location, and it’s pretty gorgeous this time of year. (Pro-tip. No snow.)

7. Lou has hidden my ball-winder.

8. Wait, did I show you the pictures of Lou in his new sweater?

lousweater1 2014-03-20

Photo’s courtesy of Kate and Carlos (that’s mum and dad to Lou) and I know they’re a little blurry in spots, but you gotta trust me. It’s still dark in Toronto, and Lou’s a fast moving kid who shows little interest in a formal knitwear modelling career.  It makes it hard to get good snaps.

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This sweater fits like a dream. Actually, all parts of the sweater are dreamy.

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The pattern is Lancelot, which was pretty easy and fun to knit although there is a bit of a whoopty-do around the short rows for the neck. It’s totally fine if you just follow the directions like you aren’t thinking.

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The yarn was perfect too. Soft, warm, a gorgeous colour.  Klickitat Hand-Dyed wool from the Artful Ewe.

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I think he’s going to wear this one for a while.

Dear Adriana

I am so sick to death of knitting you that I could die. I look at your endless linen stockinette and I think terrible things. I think of a small fire. I think of burying you in a shallow grave. I think of you “accidentally” being snipped over and over again into a million tiny little pieces with a guillotine paper cutter. (I would need to buy this piece of equipment for this terrible mishap to be possible, but I am starting to feel that this would be a prudent purchase.)  I wish I had a dog so I could set you carelessly on the chesterfield, perhaps smeared in bacon fat.

adrianastill 2014-03-19

It isn’t that you aren’t a great knit. I think you are, and although there’s snow forecast over the next little while, I do know that summer is coming, and you’re going to look great and totally be worth it.  The thing is that even though I haven’t technically knit you before (just your tricky masquerading brother – Adrian) that is not how it feels. It feels like you and I are in a relationship with no goals. No future. Just me, you and unending stockinette in linen, and the fact that I’m unravelling your previous incarnation as I go makes it feel even more like you’re a Sisyphean task. I unravel a row, then knit it into a row, then ravel a row, then knit a row.  I’m starting to live for the decreases that happen every so often, because they break up the monotony, and that’s just sad. An SSK is nothing to pin your dreams on.

I want you to know – I’ve started looking at other yarns. Soft yarns. Woolly yarns. Yarns with potential and charm and a colour that isn’t the same as yours. I am starting to feel just fine about the swearwords that have become a natural part of our relationship.  I feel like you deserve them.

I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.

love,

Steph

Nothing to See Here

Oh petals, I am, as my friend Debbi would say, a husk.  I’ve got nothing. I got home yesterday and pretty much fell over, and today I’m setting the house to rights.  I slept in my own bed, this morning I drank my own coffee, today I’m vacuuming my own cat’s hair off my own carpet (that’s less thrilling, but still part of being home.) I’m cooking a Saint Patrick’s day dinner, and dusting and contemplating having a beer mid-afternoon – which is so decadent I can barely speak of it.  I swear I’ll get back on the blogging train tomorrow, but for today there’s email to catch up on, kids to talk to, family to touch base with, and I really, really need to find out what that smell in the back room is.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about knitting, shall we?  I’m so very, very glad to be home.

(PS. I keep forgetting to mention that the next Strung Along retreat is the weekend of April 11th, up at the Resort at Port Ludlow.  There’s still a little space, which is probably because I keep forgetting to mention it here. So many things I’ve forgotten to do over the last few weeks. Our theme is “Where the wild things are” and If you’d like information about attending, please shoot us an email at strungalong@yarnharlot.ca.  We’ll get it right out to you.)

All Good Things

This morning I’m travelling home, and I had these big elegant plans to finish up the last of the tour posts, and make everything nice and tidy before boarding the plane, and then I’d arrive home and everything would be beautifully finished.  Sadly, I’m still me and the planet still thinks that’s hysterical, so it would appear that I’m going out with a whimper, rather than a bang.

Two things have gone wrong, more or less.  First, this morning as I packed up my hotel room and got ready to go, I noticed my notebook on the desk, and I thought “don’t forget that Steph” and then I walked away and left it there.  Like it was garbage, like it was dead to me – and I actually wouldn’t care that much about it, except I put the little notes on who’s who from the pictures I took in Exton into that – so you’ll all have to forgive the part where I can’t remember hardly any names.  (Usually I write them down so that I can remember they next day.  If you’re in these pictures, just tell me, I’ll edit the post later and put your name in.  I’m so sorry.) The second thing that seems to have gone wrong is that for reasons that can only be related to the way the universe hates for me to wrap things up nicely – the usually reliable Philadelphia airport won’t let me have any internet. So while this post is being written in Philly, it will be posted from Toronto.  I’m trying not to care. Wanna see the bunch from Exton?

exton4 2014-03-16 exton3 2014-03-16 exton2 2014-03-16 exton1 2014-03-16

You’ll notice that they’re tucked into nooks and crannies this time. The bookstore was a little surprised at the size of the event.  It seemed to me like they did their very best, considering a knitter train hit them.

Wanna see first socks? There were some beauties.
firstandcurrentsocks 2014-03-16
I wish I could remember this lady’s name, because man – she was thinking.  She brought her first and current pair, just to make sure I was up to date.  This lady – her first pair had some very charming problems.
firstsocksnoends 2014-03-16
She was a brand new knitter when she made them, and she didn’t know what to do with the ends. She didn’t let that stop her though. Not even for a minute. She just tied them all in knots.  How about this pair?
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One two inches shorter than the other. Classic! (Hey! That’s Nora!)
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This pair? Well, they were pretty much perfect. (There’s one in every crowd.)
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This pair? This nice mummy made these for her husband, and he’s a re-enactor, so to make them authentic, she didn’t use superwash – which totally explains how he felted them by accident.
weddingshawl 2014-03-16
Look at this shawl – that’s Emily (a name! I remember a name!) and that shawl is her wedding shawl, but what makes it extra special is that it was made for her by her mum and dad together. Or look at this,
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That’s Jesse and a very, very nice little ball of first handspun. (Look! I remembered a name!)
regularpeople 2014-03-16
These are regular people who came to the signing. Despite this being a book that regular people would enjoy, they haven’t really figured that out yet.  These ones were tipped off by a knitter.  (Bob. I’m pretty darned sure the guy on the right is Bob. I think the gentleman on the right is Chuck, and was the knitter Carol? My mind is a sieve. I bet those are all wrong.)
Hold on now, because I saved the best for last.
littleknitter 2014-03-16
She’s four. She’s a perfectly good knitter, and she’s the cutest thing I’ve seen in a while, and the perfect note to end on.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  From home.

Baltimore, Briefly

I arrived in Baltimore yesterday around 4pm, and I was up and gone to the airport by 8am this morning, and so what I am going to show you here is really all I saw of the place. I saw the airport, the bookstore and a hotel. (I can tell you one thing I learned – the place where I was? Not so walkable. I looked at the map when I was in the hotel, and figured out quickly that the easiest way to get to the bookstore was to walk. It was close, it would be easy, and it would be nice to be outside. Ten minutes later I’d trucked past a shocked doorman, who tried desperately to call me a cab, and I was walking along the side of an overpass and crossing ramps without lights, and five minutes later, someone actually stopped their car to ask me if I was okay. A few minutes after that, I realized there was no sidewalk into the mall, and got honked at twice while I was trying to cross the street legally. People were looking at me like I was a kangaroo. When the event was over last night, the store manager said that there was no way I should walk back to the hotel, and confirmed that he doesn’t expect any pedestrians, doesn’t look for them, and that it wasn’t smart to be one. Driving is the way it works. Coming from a city like I do, it was a really surprising thing to hear. A city where everyone has a car? Heck, half of the people I know don’t even have a driver’s license – never mind a car. I chose life and accepted the lift back to the hotel.)  While you might not be able to walk there, it’s pretty clear that the joint is chock full of really nice people. Behold! Our people of Baltimore!

baltimoreright 2014-03-15 baltimoreleft 2014-03-15 baltimorerighter 2014-03-15 baltimorelefter 2014-03-15

Hey, also behold this! I finished my pair of socks, that’s a new one in those pictures: 

socksdone 2014-03-15

The pair I’ve been plugging along on turned up finished while I was in Boston – and that was days ahead of the sock deadline for this month. The finished ones are Trekking XXL colour 538, and my basic sock pattern from Knitting Rules.

Baltimore was a treat, and the knitters couldn’t have been nicer. There was the now ritual parade of first socks, and as always, most of them came with a twist.

This is Judi, who finished her first pair of socks, only because she found a way to knit them flat. (Atta girl. Work what you have.)

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Here’s Kathy, with an appropriately tiny and bedraggled first pair.

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Sarah arrived with her first sock (she didn’t quite make it through the first one, and that was quite some time ago – like, years) but she brought her mum’s first pair to prove that she’s genetically predisposed for success.

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Jessica had a first pair that had.. umm, “interesting” toes? (She’s better at toes now.)

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And last but not least, Cindy’s son got deployed, and she got custody of his husky, who promptly ate the better part of her first pair.

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We had knitting sisters, coming along to the reading together… Meet Carol, Phylis and Mary. (That’s a lot of mojo in one family)knitsisterscarolphyllismary 2014-03-15

Then there was Melissa. She had one of those sock blankets that seem to be viral again:

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But my friends, Melissa got a crazy case of it.  I don’t even want to think what her viral load is like, because ladies and gentlemen, she’s not even halfway done.

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What a sight. That’s five knitters holding it up, and Melissa’s just getting into the blues.

It’s was a miraculous thing. Several of us almost fainted dead away.

And that was Baltimore. More tomorrow about Exton, I’ll write about it tomorrow when I’m at the airport, because it was lovely (although we were sort of short on chairs) and I’ll have time in the morning… on my way home. What a beautiful word.

Boston, you’re not Boring

Let me tell you something about Boston –  Not once, ever when I have been there, has anything even remotely normal happened to me – and that was certainly true this go around.  As a matter of fact, I’d have to say that Boston kicked it up a notch this time – putting the icing on the cake when the fire alarm went off in my hotel way, way too early in the morning and we had to evacuate, and then popped a little cherry on top when my flight got delayed and turned the trip into a big of a rush, now that I’m here in Baltimore. I love Boston a lot, but it is not screwing around when it decides to be interesting, I’ll tell you that for free.

Wanna see? Sure you do.  Here’s the seemingly normal Boston crowd. bostonleft 2014-03-14 bostonright 2014-03-14

It all seems pretty normal, if you call what I’m doing on this book tour anything remotely normal, but it’s not normal. See this? This is Michelle. These are her first socks.

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Seems normal, doesn’t it? SURE  IT DOES. Until you find out that they might be her first socks, but they’re also her second project.  Ever. That’s not normal.

Also not normal was the wonder that was Susan.

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Susan walked up and said it was her first sock, and I looked at it, and the thing is perfect.  Totally perfect. It’s got complex cables, it’s the right size, there’s not a mistake on it, it looks like a 1000th sock. I was totally flipped out until I realized there’s only one. That’s a little more normal.

This is Deborah. She was pretty normal, and it was her birthday.

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She was pretty normal until she handed me a challah that she’d baked, and I remembered that last time she and her husband brought me butter tarts, and I started to wonder if they’re normal after all.  I’m not objecting, in any case.

Betsy isn’t normal either, in the best possible way.  The last time I was in Boston, Betsy came and showed us this:

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It was a picture of her nephew Patrick recovering from brain cancer. She’d started trying to help by starting up PatPat’s Hats. Last night she came to do three things. 1) get a book. 2) tell me that you guys have made a tremendous difference to her cause and (drumroll please)

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Show me a picture of Patrick, now five years old and healthy.  Happily for Patrick, and sadly for a lot of kids who get cancer, that’s not normal, but I think we would all love it if it were.  (You can do some other nice knitter stuff to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer here. It’s underfunded.)

Last but not least:

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Everyone’s favourite Knitting Nuns. The sisters of the Holy Nativity Convent.  (They’re a self supporting convent, which I think is just so cool. There’s candles and stuff, but Mother Macrina makes amazing batts and roving.) I know a lot of us dream of making things for a living, and here they are. Getting it done. It’s lovely. The nuns brought me some beautiful soup, bread and pudding, and it was delicious and meant I got to skip two restaurant meals. (Plus, Mother Seraphima gave me Dr. Who stitch markers. That’s a cool nun.)

Finally,  something not normal happened right at the end.  I was ready to leave, and the bookstore events lady asked me if I would like to sign the men’s bathroom wall.  Apparently they let authors do this (but they’ve never asked me before.)

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I signed between Sue Monk Kidd and Wally Lamb.  It wasn’t normal.