Well. That was lucky

Last night I was knitting merrily along on Siren Song, and I was thinking about what I’d write today about it.  I was having the hardest time thinking of anything even remotely interesting.  Projects like this aren’t exactly scintillating Blog Fodder. What am I supposed to say about it? Big knitting. Still green. Going well. Still at it. There’s nothing to say about the thing, and I’m thinking about that, and watching a movie and all of a sudden, I feel something funny in my hands. The rhythm of the knitting has gotten a little wonky. I look down, and sure enough, there’s a mistake and it’s a pretty big one. The first thing I think is “crap, I’ll have to fix that, it’s super noticeable” and the second thing I think is “Oh! Now I have something to blog.”  I went to bed then (because mistakes in lace are a good way to tell it’s bedtime) and this morning I set about fixing it.

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As obvious as I think the mistake is, I bet that it’s not really jumping out at you.  It’s in the middle of the shot, starting about 15 stitches from the right. Things get weird for about 30 stitches, and then sort themselves out again.  I poke around for a few minutes, diagnosing what’s happened, and I work out that three rows ago, I made a tiny but important mistake. The pattern’s a repeat of four stitches at this point, and apparently I failed to count that high correctly.  (Crushing, but true.) Somehow I didn’t notice, and there’s three long rows piled on top of the error. The rows, I’m sure I have mentioned, are really long – more than 350 stitches per row, and the mistake is just about three rows back. There’s no way I’m tinking back more than a thousand stitches. It’s just not going to happen.  Here’s what I do instead.

I knit over to the place where the incorrect section starts, and then – using a spare circular, I slip all of the stitches involved in the mistake onto the new needle.  Correct stitches stay on the original needle.  See what I mean?

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Then, working end to end on the new needle, I tink just those stitches -the ones involved in the mistake.  The good stitches wait on the original needle.

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When I’m done, I’ve got a big loop of yarn free…

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and because this is fine yarn and I’ll be pulling multiple rows out, I take a second to label that strand of yarn with its row number.  This one is/was row #4 on the chart, so I write that on it. The stitches on the needle are still wrong, so I tink another row out.

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I label that too. Things are still not right, so back I go, one more row.  When I’ve got three rows pulled back, I go get the chart, and figure out where I am. I’ve pulled out what was a row four, and a three, and a two… so I need to knit across these stitches with row two of the chart.  I know where I am in the repeat by checking the stitches still on the old needle above, so I just pick up the strand of yarn labeled “two” and knit row two of the chart, using the loop as my yarn source.

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It’s a little bit awkward, and it gets a tiny bit tricky as the loop gets shorter and shorter, but it beats the snot out of tinking back a thousand stitches, so I’m cool. When I’m done, I pull the circular through to the right, go back to the beginning of that section of stitches, and knit across row three of the chart with the yarn labelled “three”.

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At the end, I repeat it with the yarn for row four, and bingo. Everything is fixed and tidy, and correct, and it only took about 15 minutes, and wasn’t scary at all, and is so much better than going back three rows would have been.

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Ta dah! You’d never know it had surgery, and I got a not-too-shabby post out of it while I was at it.


Get thee behind me

I took a picture of Siren Song today, and I had the post all planned out. I was going to tell you how I feel about the fact that no matter how much I knit on this thing, nothing changes. That the ball of yarn is getting smaller, time is passing, but that the knitting isn’t any further along. I was totally going to say that I was in the black hole of knitting. Then I looked at the picture.

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It’s bigger! It’s most definitely bigger, and you know what? I’m on the last section of the three charts, and even though it was feeling a little hopeless, I think I’m actually almost done. I looked at that picture and realized that it’s possible that I might even knit something else some day. I started to get excited about that idea. I thought about maybe a sweater, a cowl.. oh, there’s a few little baby things that need making and I could totally bang out a pair of socks on the subway and I was halfway into the stash, pulling things of of shelves, looking at books, contemplating Ravelry… and then I stopped. Stopped dead with a sweet little ball of merino in my hand, and I put it back on the shelf.

Those feelings, I know what they are. They are the unclean sprout of knitterly infidelity poking a tendril of temptation in front of me, and I  know what I have to do. I squashed them. No way. No way am I knitting anything else until this thing is done.

No way.


(PS. I found the kitchen. It was sort of buried, but still there.)

Randomly on a Wednesday

1. Thank you, thank you, for your lovely response to our blogiversary. We’ve been together such a long time now, but Blog, you made the day chock full of magic. I loved the idea of charities being inundated with $12 donations. Count on you lot to always figure out the right thing. Thank you.

2. I thought things weren’t so bad over here, but I was wrong. When I got sick during the week I was supposed to use to catch up from being on holidays something went really, really sideways over here.  There’s not a single room I can go into that doesn’t make me flinch with undone work. This place is a mess. My inbox is a mess. My desk is a mess.

3. You know that thing where someone tells you their place is a mess- maybe you’re knocking on the door, and they say “Ok do come in, but I apologize, the place is a disaster” and then you walk in, and immediately realize that the two of you don’t share a meaning for the word “disaster”? Like, you wish your place was as tidy as their disaster? This is not what I’m talking about here. This place is trashed. I’m at the pretend-not-to-be-home-when-the-doorbell-rings phase.

4. All attempts to get my life and the place I live in back under control have resulted in either knitting or naps. My to-do list now spans three large post-it pads, and I’ve started writing things on it like “get control of life” or “fix everything”.

5. This is as effective as you imagine.

6. I’m still plugging along on Siren Song – I’m just over halfway done, which surprises me because I feel like I’m knitting on it a lot, and being super faithful to it. It’s a lot of knitting though – long rows, and the only way I can actually tell that I’m making progress is that I’m onto the second ball of yarn.

7. I didn’t take a picture because it looks exactly. the. same.


This morning I got up, grabbed a coffee, and sat myself down at my desk to write this post. Well, it wasn’t this post, I was going to write a different one, but I took a minute to check my inbox before I started, and I had blog mail.

Have I mentioned blog mail? It’s an umbrella term that we use around here for any emails that are about the blog, for the blog or from the blog. A fair bit of it comes every day, and there’s several different kinds. Some I like, some I love, some annoys me, and some is so bad I delete it right away and go for a walk.  Here, paraphrased dramatically, are the usual blog emails I get.

1. Dear Stephanie, I am a freelance writer who’s having trouble getting started, can I write a guest post on your blog to help me get things going? I have no audience, so it would be super awesome if I could borrow yours.

(This is both sweet and ballsy, but it can’t happen. There’s too many of you.)

2. Dear Blogger, we’re a company that provides advertising to amazing bloggers exactly like you, and after looking carefully at your blog we can tell that we are exactly the right company to provide ads for you.

(If you looked at my blog for four seconds, you’d see I have no ads. Have a great day.)

3. Dear Stefanie, I make a great product, and I would like to pay you to feature it on your blog.

(I don’t really “feature” products on my blog, I just sort of… use stuff I like? If you want to try with another blogger you should spell their name right though.)

4. Dear Stephanie, I didn’t want to say this in the comments, but what you’re knitting right now is stupid, ugly, unflattering and you have absolutely no taste.

(Thanks for sharing?)

5. Dear Stephanie, I didn’t want to say this in the comments, but you’ve gained some weight and it doesn’t look good on you/ you would look so much better if you wore a little makeup / I saw your armpit hair in a photo and even though I live a thousand kilometres from you it really upset me / Keep colouring your hair the grey makes you look old/ Please take care of yourself.

(I don’t answer those.)

6. Dear Stephanie, I just finished reading the blog from the beginning to now, and I’d like to thank you for the trip. It was great.

(It was my pleasure.)

7. Dear Stephanie, something you wrote meant something to me, and what I have to say about it is too intimate for the comments.

(You are the whole reason I write.)

8. Dear Stephanie, I have been reading your blog for a while and I really enjoy it. You should write a book! 

(I have never, ever figured out how to answer that one.)

That’s pretty much what blog mail looks like. 6, 7 and 8 are the ones I like best out of all of them, or the were untll this morning, when I got a new favourite kind to put on my list. It was the first thing I read this morning, and it blew me away.  Dramatically paraphrased, it said:

Dear Stephanie,

This morning I made a donation to your Bike Rally fundraising as a way of saying thank you. I know today is your blogiversary, and I’ve been reading your blog for all twelve of those years, and I wanted to find a way to show you that I’m grateful for the time and energy you put into the blog. I don’t have a lot of money, but I did manage $12. That’s one dollar for every year, and I wish it could be more, but it’s at least symbolic, and I think you’d like that.  Love,

The Blog.

I was gobsmacked. I did know today was my blogiversary. That’s what I was going to write about, of course. Like in years gone by, I was going to try once again to explain the magic and transforming effect The Blog (that’s you) has had on my life, and once again I wasn’t going to be able to say anything more than that it’s been an amazing ride, and I love you all. Then I read that, and I wiped any ideas I had from my head, and knew I wanted to say this: Thank you, not for the effect that you have had on my life, but for the effect you have had on the lives of others.

I am a lucky person. I have an education and a great family and I was born in a safe and prosperous place, and have a great deal of good fortune on my side. Without you, my life wouldn’t be anywhere near as amazing as it is, but I wouldn’t be sick, or dead, or hungry.

That isn’t true for the people who use the charities we’ve supported over the years. That $12? That’s just changed someone’s life, maybe saved it. Because all of you have chosen to be The Blog, the world is a better place, with more safe and healthy people in it. Because you have chosen to be The Blog, there are charities who talk about how to thank you, how to show you their gratitude.

I am proud of a lot of things over the last twelve years of blogging. I am proud of the community I’ve tried to build, I’m proud of the attitudes I’ve tried to promote, I’m proud of the body of work that I’ve produced, and I’m really proud that I’ve been doing it for twelve years. Mostly though, I’m proud of you.

Thank you for the last twelve years, and to the person who sent twelve dollars to PWA this morning? Thanks for everything.

B is for better

And Boring. Boring, boring, boring.  This week has had few charms, my pets, and worst of it is the horrible monotony of being sick. I do feel better today (much, actually) and tomorrow there’s things I have to do, but in the interest of being as well as possible for that, I decided to take another indeterminately long day of rest.

That’s another day of tea. Another day of audiobooks. Another day of this insanely boring green thing that I swear I am about to bite into a thousand bits and swallow.

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See that? See how it looks completely the same? I’m onto a whole other chart, my friends, and you cannot stinking tell. It looks just the same. Another row of 300+ tiny little stitches that just sit there smugly getting no bigger, while the ball of yarn gets no smaller, and I am just about ready to snap.  Now, to be clear, this is not the fault of the pattern (which I suppose I still love) or the yarn (which I can’t really tell about right now) and more to do with what was a grievous error on my part. You cannot mix a boring work in progress (no matter how lovely the result will be) with days of tedium and monotony.  I started this shawl on the way to Costa Rica. I knit it by volcanoes (!) by rivers (!) while nice people brought me champagne by a pool (!) It was brilliant then, didn’t seem at all boring, but now? Now, on day four on the chesterfield, this is just…

Look. I don’t want to use foul language here. It’s unbecoming a knitter, but I did want to explain why there’s every possibility that when you come back here again – that shawl may no longer be with us.

The ginger didn’t really help

Well, I should have known. There were a bunch of little signs, like that on Monday I couldn’t get warm, no matter how hard I tried, or that in the morning I didn’t want coffee, and that in the evening I turned down a glass of wine. That night when I went to bed I had a fever and a bit of a cough, and on Tuesday morning when I woke up, I had a whole bunch of a cough. That evening it was all I could do to play “let’s pretend to be sleeping” games with Lou, and by the time I got home after dinner, the whole scene couldn’t be denied any longer. I was sick. Hugely, magnificently sick, and I did what I usually do, which is tuck up into bed with a bit of knitting (more for holding, than for knitting) and tried to sleep, and drank four thousand cups of tea, took some herbal stuff that usually feels great,  and hoped for the best.

I held on like that until this morning, when after yet another sleepless night, and ribs sore from coughing and a fever and chills still raging, I did something that I almost never, ever do.  I went to the doctor. She walked in, saw me there and said “Well, I never see you!” and I did something I’m really not too proud of. First, I cried (that’s the lack of sleep talking, I’m sure of it, I’m normally a lot stronger) and then (through hacks, wheezing and tears) I said “Listen, there comes a time when even a hippy has to say F- you, slippery elm bark tea” and asked for help.

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(That’s what I’m knitting, by the way. It’s the Siren Song wrap – though I’m doing it out of laceweight, so it won’t be as big as all that, and it’s going reasonably well, considering that the last few days I’ve had problems with counting.)

Help she did. I’m home again, with a few modern drugs that have already helped a whole lot. I can (mostly) breath again, I’m just about to lie down for a nap and think I might actually sleep, rather than just lying there on a raft of self-pity that was sinking fast. I’m having (another) cup of slippery elm tea, because – well, I’m still me… and a bit of a knit. More tomorrow when I’m assuming the modern medicine I so frequently mock will have healed me entirely.

One Down

It’s cozy here today, a day for the computer and catching up.  I was out yesterday for a bike rally function, came home late, and it was -20 out,  and I’ve spent most of today drinking tea, snuggling under a blanket on the couch, and trying to get warm while doing laundry with the power of my mind.  (No luck yet, will keep you posted.)  Though winter was late arriving in Toronto, it’s here for sure now, settling into real cold and flurries, and an inside day was just perfect.  It is a very good day to think about wool. I’ve got a laceweight shawl on the needles, and all day I’ve been looking at it and thinking it’s not right. Not defence enough for what’s out there, and I’m thinking that (even though I have a date to finish it in mind) that I should have big wool on the needles. Something bulky and fierce to knit along with my hot tea. I’ll make up my mind a little later when I sit down to knit, but for now, wanna see a hat?

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It’s the Peacock Tam, available as a kit from Mrs Knitter, though I’m pretty sure I bought it at a shop somewhere in my travels. The kit was the perfect thing for a project like this, one that takes only a little bit of lots of colours of yarn – a lot cheaper than buying full skeins of the Jaggerspun Maine Line 2/8 that it calls for.  I had a lot leftover after knitting it too – maybe even enough to knit another, though it feels a bit risky to try.

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I knit it while we were on holiday, mostly when I was sitting still, rather than bumping along on crazy roads while trying to juggle a chart and multiple wee balls of yarn. It was the perfect project to have with me – the blue was like the ocean, the green like the trees – it’s a silly thing to enjoy matching a project to your surroundings, but it amused me to no end.

I finished it up when I got home (those ends! I felt like I was weaving ends in forever) and blocked it over a dinner plate, plunked down near a heating vent in the living room. (It is a constant source of joy to me that Joe no longer inquires about scenes like that. A plate with a hat on it in the living room, and he doesn’t say a word.)  I’m really happy with it, and the best part, is that it’s January 18th, and I’ve just finished the first Christmas present for this year. Shazam.  One down, so many to go, but at least it’s a proper start. I told you, this year is going to be different.


We’re home, though you might have figured that from the picture of snow on my instagram feed. We walked through the door late Tuesday night, and things have pretty much been on fire since then.  Taking a week off seemed like a good idea  – well, truth be told it was a good idea, a great one even, but Joe and I are both self-employed, and we don’t get vacation time, and nobody does our jobs when we’re gone, so we both walked back into our lives so far behind it would make your head spin. This morning Joe sat on the edge of the bed and contemplated another 14 hour workday, and turned to me and said “I want to go back to Costa Rica.”   I didn’t say anything. It was wonderful to be away, but by Monday night I could feel the work I wasn’t doing breathing its hot fetid breath on the back of my neck, and I don’t know how much longer I would have lasted.

We did have an amazing time.  In the span of a week we hiked the rainforest, swam in hot springs (which are not as hot as you would expect, what with being fed by a volcano and all that) ate our own body weight in fresh fruit every day, snorkelled at Isla Juanilla (I got stung by a jellyfish, which made me feel like a serious snorkeller) rented a 4×4 and drove to the top of a volcano, hiked through a chunk of Rincon de la Vieja National Park, saw 2 deadly snakes, got bitten by ants, ate Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) with just about every meal, drove on white roads, swam at least 10 times a day, drank champagne in a hot tub (a few times) had whole conversations, saw monkeys, walked on the beach, and took several nauseating selfies a day to send our children.

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It was amazing. It was the perfect mix of adventure and margaritas by the pool, and after a few years of learning Spanish, I had the satisfaction of being told by one gentleman that I spoke “as well as a nine year old.”  (Considering that Luis speaks Spanish a thousand times better than I do at three, I know this to be a lie, but it was a flattering and charming lie, so I took it.)

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We slept, we ate, we saw things we’ve never seen before, and we came home planning the next one.

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Other than the mess it left our regular lives in, I can recommend it.  I did knit lots too, but I’ll show you later. It’s blocking.


Briefly from the pool

We arrived in Costa Rica yesterday, after a day that started at 4:30am and -19, contained a decently long flight, several amazingly bad cups of coffee (none of which have been in this country. They have their coffee scene together, let me tell you) and had a bus ride from the airport that was one of the most amazing things ever.  The roads curve around  mountains and volcanoes and every so often the driver would pull over and say “mono” and gesture wildly out the window.  It turns out that “mono” is MONKEY and there they would be, hanging from the trees, swooping along from branch to branch, a few even with their babies on their backs. One for the bucketlist, right there.  There were howler monkeys, and spider monkeys, and apparently there are white-faced monkeys, but the guy cautioned us against going near any monkeys at all, but especially not the white-faced ones, which he claims (and it is possible that this was a mistake with his English) are “bi-polar.” (Your guess is as good as mine for what that means. I will avoid the white-faced monkeys until I figure it out.)   Not only does the road curve, and occasionally become rather steep, one whole section of it was… you know what? I’m not so sure it was a road, at least not in the modern use of the word.

We arrived in the late afternoon, found the place we’re staying and got sorted. (It’s very nice.) Today we relaxed, got our crap together, and planned where we’re going and when, and got all the transportation arranged. Then we did nothing. Zip. Nil. Nada.  I went to yoga on the beach, Joe read a book and listened to music, and I swam and knit and swam and knit and knit. With today’s knitting and yesterdays together, I have a very pretty pair of socks all done. We did the finished object pictures for them right there by the pool.

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Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit: India, colour 2305. Pattern, my regular one.

Now, we have reservations for dinner, and Joe’s almost done his email, so there’s only so much time I can spend with you, but let me tell you this. If you would like to perplex and befuddle a few of the hardworking people of Costa Rica?  Have your drink delivered as you just so happen to be modelling a pair of wool socks by the pool.  (That drink is a pina colada. Joe’s idea.  I like myself a nice sedate gin and tonic in the heat, but Joe was absolutely sure we would have more fun with a frozen drink. I don’t know if he was right, but felt compelled to check.)

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People walked by, looked stunned for a minute, then slapped a smile on their faces and asked me if I needed anything.  Likely thinking I needed some sense, since it was more than 30 degrees here today.

More tomorrow! (I hope. We’re going to a rainforest.)

PS. I wonder if that’s the first picture of me in a bathing suit on this blog? I bet it is. Well, it was bound to happen eventually, and I would have put money on it involving wool socks.

Timing. We have it.

The tree is down. It’s down two days early for us – I like to do it on the twelfth day of Christmas, but this year I’ll be doing something different. Joe and I are leaving in the morning for Central America – Costa Rica, to be precise, and we are excited and nervous and a little flipped out.  Here. Let’s look at Joe’s (finally – man his feet are big) finished Christmas socks to relax.

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(The yarn is Into The Whirled’s Pakokku sock yarn in Cardamom, and the pattern is mine. Coming soon. Random black scraps from the stash for cuff, heel and toe.)

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I feel guilty about going somehow, I always do when I get something nice, but I’m working very hard to get over it.  Joe and I skipped the honeymoon when we got married a few years back (it seemed silly – we’d been together so long) and before this we’ve always travelled with the ladies, or me with my mum, or him with his.  (We are very charming that way.)  Between this excuse and that, and money and children and …. we realized two weeks ago that we’re always putting it off. Saying we’re going to travel, saying we’re going to see everything together, but we never do. The timing is always bad, it seems.  There’s always a reason we can’t go. My work, his work… the travel fund sits there, and we don’t spend it.  Two weeks ago we were working our way through Christmas stuff, and Joe said something like “*&%$ it. Let’s just go.”

I looked at my calendar, he looked at his, and lo and behold we each had exactly 7 days free. At the same time. I think I said something like “We can’t. That’s crazy.” and Joe said something like “Steph, we haven’t been away together on a trip – just the two of us, since we went to Hawaii for the weekend 17 years ago.  It’s not crazy. It’s the opposite of crazy.”

I took a deep  breath then, because I am sort of a little bit not good at making plans quickly like that (if by a little bit not good at it you understand that I mean I am not good at it the way that toddlers are bad at accounting) and we booked it. We got online that exact minute, and we booked it. Right then. Right there. Then we got our shots, and said nothing to nobody (because it all seemed so wild) and then about a week ago we told the family. We told them sheepishly, feeling guilty about the decadence, wondering what they would say.  They all said “Good for you.” My mum even pointed out that now is the time. The ladies are all big enough to be left, all on their own, and we have no grandchildren (yet, they can  all hold off on that for a while as far as we’re concerned) and if not now… when?

So, tomorrow we’ll fly far away, and see new things, and I don’t know what it will be like, but I promise to tell you all about it. I’ve packed all my things, and the only decisions left to make are ones about yarn.  I’m looking forward to sun and sand and rainforests and volcanoes and monkeys (and I am pretending the spiders aren’t as big as Hondas in Costa Rica) … but the knitting. Oh, there will be knitting.

I’ve got a skein of sock yarn, and…. well.  After that, the world is my oyster. What should I take?