Sing it, Willie

Well, I’m on the road again, and this post comes to you from an airport lounge in San Francisco* where I just finished reading all the wonderful comments about Meg and Alex’s good news (it’s not twins, btw, that’s just how the ultrasounds look) and thank you, thank you for all the good wishes. It’s a very, very exciting time to be a knitter, let me tell you.  I haven’t started yet (though there is yarn in my suitcase) and I can’t wait to let the wild knitting rumpus begin. For now, I’m knitting socks and a cowl as I journey along. Christmas is still coming, babe or no.


I’m on my way to Portland and the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival,  which I’m sure is going to be awesome, and then Monday, I go gloriously, delightfully home, and frankly, I can’t wait. Once I get there, I’ve got nine days before I leave again for the Strung Along November Retreat* and it feels totally luxurious.

it’s been a wild week since Rhinebeck. I couldn’t go home afterwards, because I was waiting on the paperwork that gives me my permission to work in the US (I do things properly) and I’d been given an extension on my old visa while they worked on the new one, the catch was that it let me stay in the United States, not come and go. So, here I had to stay, until I had the new paper in hand. This turned into a forced vacation of sorts, and after a day in Boston, I flew to Las Vegas and worked for three days, and then Joe flew down and joined me, and let me tell you this… we are not such big fans of the Vegas strip. The lights, the beeping, the noise, the bright lights (the almost complete lack of vegetarian food) the gambling… it’s not really us. (We did finally break down and put some money in a slot machine. We spent $8 and won $21 and the minute we did we cashed out and walked away. We know when to hold ’em.) The fountains were pretty, the whole scene wild and interesting for an evening or a day, but overwhelming in large doses. We did a little research, rented a car, and four days later we’re happy to report that while the Las Vegas strip might not be our scene… the stuff around it is absolutely our bag. We goggled at the beauty of it all. We saw The Hoover Dam (that thing is a trip, let me tell you) and Lake Mead, and Zion National Park, and Red Rock State Park, and Valley of Fire State Park. American friends, you really have it together in the park department.


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We hiked, we clamboured over rocks, we said “can you believe how beautiful this is” about seventy thousand times.

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“Look where we are!” we said, and “Holy Cats, do you see that?” and “Oh man, that is stunning.”

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It was so completely different from home, so amazingly unlike anything we’ve ever hiked before, and I was so taken with it that I was pretty much able to ignore the fact that the whole place is full of tarantulas. (Not kidding. It’s practically where the stockpile is. We didn’t see one, but I could feel them watching me.) It’s a miracle we didn’t drive off the road or otherwise die of the awesome beauty. I don’t know what mother nature was thinking when she made that part of the world, but it was a good day for her.

We’d never seen anything like it, and we only saw a little of it. We’d go back in a heartbeat. When we were done there (not done, but when it was time to go, I’d never be done there) Joe flew home, I flew to San Francisco for a visit with a dear friend, and now off to Portland and The Dalles. It will be just about three weeks in the States by the time I leave, and as lovely as it’s been, and as much really good lemonade as I managed to make from lemons, the idea of my own bed and my own sweet family has me delirious with joy.

*That is a lie. I started the post in the lounge but I ran out of time to do the pictures. This post has actually come to you from The Dalles. Also, I finished a Toolbox Cowl and just have to weave in the ends.


You are now fully updated.

**Though it almost never happens for the November Retreat, we’ve got two last minute spots free. (Actually, we have two hotel rooms free, and one of them is shareable if you wanted to come with a friend.) We can give you more info by email at We’d love to see you there.


I don’t remember how old I was when I found out where babies come from. I remember I had a book called “How babies are made” and I remember poring over it when I was little, flabbergasted and astonished that this was the actual nature of the thing, but I don’t remember a specific moment when I found out. My Mum, on the other hand – recalls that when my grandmother explained it to her in proper detail she went  into her room and sobbed, because she figured that if her mum had to make up such a totally insane story about how babies got started, then the truth must be too horrible to imagine. (For the record, she had been told the truth.)

While I’ve got no real memory (beyond that weird book) of learning that stuff, I remember being a young woman and finding out about where my eggs came from, and being so stunned I could hardly get my head around it, and the most amazing thing is that since I found out I’ve told lots of people, and most of them were surprised too.  I don’t know why this piece of information isn’t considered required learning, but get this: When a woman gives birth to a daughter, that daughter is born with a couple of million immature ovarian follicles called primordial follicles.  Each of these follicles contains an oocyte (pronounced “oh-eh-site”) and that’s the fancy name for a whole, intact, immature egg.  From that moment forward, thousands of these follicles die off until puberty, and then about a thousand a month die with every cycle. (If the word “die” bothers you, you can call it by its proper name – atresia.) Of these thousand that die each month, one will be recruited (actual word) mature, and be used in that woman’s cycle during ovulation.

This means that when you are pregnant with a girl, your body makes all the eggs that she’ll have in her whole life. Your body is all “Spleen – check, four chambers for the heart- good job, ligaments to support the liver – check… yes, yes, that’s a good length for the phalanges of the feet….. oh, and now let’s make the potential for the next generation of humans. Throw that in there. It will be nice to have it out of the way.”  The mother makes all the follicles that will be the root of her daughters fertility, and her health, age and nutrition all play a role in the quality and quantity her daughter is born with. (No pressure.)

This means that my mum made the egg that became her granddaughters when she grew me, and twenty six years ago, when Meg was within me, the very egg that will become our grandchild grew at the same time. It has existed as long as she has – and now thanks to the contribution of another single cell…


Megan is growing her grandchildren.

I’m just so glad I ate well.


Last week brought with it all the magnificent wonders of Rhinebeck, and what a great time it was. I can’t tell you how much I love that time of year, and the people I spend it with.  Both days of the festival turned out to be sweater weather, brilliant for people watching (I took a lot of notes about the beautiful things I saw people wearing) and for wearing my own sweater – finished and blocked on Rhinebeck eve.

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I did the festival with a bad cold this year, and though I fear I was patient zero for the annual Rhinebeck Crud that seems to make it’s way around every year, me and my box of tissues managed to have a pretty good time. (Apologies to any of you I met on the weekend and refused to hug or shake hands with – I swear I was just trying not to spread it around. Extra apologies if it didn’t work.)



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Sweater: Little Wave, Yarn: Blackwater Abbey in Pippin. (5 skeins) I love how it turned out – it’s a bit big, but I wanted a workhorse of a sweater, a cozy grampa kind of thing, and it suits perfectly. (Photo Credits to Caro)

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(As an aside, I didn’t know my hair was that grey until I saw those pictures.)

When Rhinebeck was all said and done, I went back to Boston with friends, and awaited some papers that need to come through before I leave the US. I had big plans to rent myself a cheap spot for a while, hunker down and work, and have a good look at Boston. I thought it would be lovely. Apparently I’m not the only one who thought so, because when I went looking for a place even slightly affordable, it was a total bust. I got on the phone with Joe, and while we were chatting, we had a crazy idea. We looked for cheap flights and cheap hotel rooms, and well.  It was Las Vegas.  In a move that was totally and completely unlike me in every way, at 3pm I bought a ticket to Vegas that departed at 6pm, booked a hotel that had a sale, and left for the airport.

All the way to the airport, I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I’m a planner. A person who thinks ahead, a person who absolutely doesn’t buy a same day plane ticket and who certainly doesn’t buy a ticket to Las Vegas. Still, there I was… the plane was a little delayed leaving Boston, and I worried about missing my connection in LA- but we made up the time in the air, and landed in plenty of time to make it, and I would have made that connection too, except there was no gate to pull into. We sat there on the tarmac, with me anxiously checking the clock every fourteen seconds, until I watched the plane I should have been on push back from the gate, taxi away, and take off without me on it.

Now, despite lacking spontaneity as a personality trait, I am a pretty seasoned traveller, so I didn’t panic straight off. Heaven only knows what time the last flight goes to Vegas. I’ve seen lots of movies and it seemed to me like anything would be possible. I sat there on the plane for 75 minutes, until we pulled into a gate, and I disembarked, and hustled straight to the help desk. I won’t tell you the whole thing, but suffice it to say that it had been the last flight to Vegas that I’d been booked on, and they were very sorry, but there were no flights with room on them the next day either – the best they could do was to bump me to another carrier, and put me on an 8am flight out. I sighed, accepted the vouchers for the shuttle and the hotel, and went to find my luggage.

Things got worse from there. It took a long time for them to retrieve my bags. There was no shuttle, and when I got to the hotel, there was a problem with the voucher that took a while to resolve. I stood there, leaning on the desk and finally convinced the guy that maybe he could work on the problem while I was sleeping? If I gave him a credit card as insurance? He agreed, and I fell into a bed of questionable quality at 2:30am.

When my alarm went off at 5:45am – just three hours and 15 minutes later, I couldn’t help but wonder if spontaneity was for me.

Back at the airport, I lined up for my new flight, and when I found myself at the front of the line, I presented my ticket, issued the night before, and stared blankly and somewhat dumbly at the clerk as she told me I wasn’t booked on that flight at all. I showed her the ticket again – pointed at the place where my name was clearly indicated, showed her the time… and she agreed that all of those things were right, but that there was no record that matched.  I’d have to go back to the other airline and figure out what happened, she couldn’t help me.  I went outside the terminal and waited for the bus (because I am of course, at the wrong building) and thought about what my approach would be when I got back to the offending airline. Would I start with the gate delay that had wrecked the connection? Maybe the problem finding my luggage, or the 3 agents that were there to help 40 people who missed connections, or the vouchers for the shuttle that wasn’t running, or the messed up voucher for the hotel, or would I just focus on the fact that they’d not properly fixed any of that. I got angrier and angrier as I wrestled my two suitcases off of the bus, and was close to tears of fury when I finally made my way to the right desk.

Unbelievably, right when I was about to lose it all over this unsuspecting clerk, I remembered that she hadn’t done anything wrong at all. She’d just gotten up and gone to work, poor lamb, and here I was, about to rip the living snot out of her. None of this was her fault. I took several deep breaths – literally, and then I told her that. I told her that I was so sorry. I told her that I’d had three hours sleep, and that I was going to try and be as nice as humanly possible about the problem I was having, but that I couldn’t have any more problems. I really needed help, I told her, and then I blurted out the whole thing, inserting as many apologies as I possibly could, sprinkling it with as much gratitude as I could find, and generally tried to be as charming as I know how to be.  She listened carefully, and then she said “that sounds like a pile of ****.” (Accurate.) Then she apologized, and started typing and making phone calls and figured things out, and I kept thanking her and telling her she was wonderful, and somehow, magically, I was on the 8am flight to Las Vegas that they had told me was impossible the night before.

I could have kissed her on the mouth, and if I didn’t still have a cold and there wasn’t a counter to tall to scale between us, I probably would have. I’m so glad I managed to contain the rage that was seething inside me, heard my mum’s voice telling me that you catch more flies with honey, and remembered what it was like to be in the service industry when someone was feeling … like I felt. It paid off.

So… long story short, greetings from Las Vegas. I’ve got a couple of days on my own here, and then Joe’s taking the plunge and meeting me for an adventure, and bringing some more appropriate clothing, which will be a huge relief, because I packed for autumn in Boston.

Until then, if you see someone knitting, wearing jeans, wool socks and boots while googling “what do you do in Vegas if you don’t gamble” know that I’m doing the best I can. There’s four sweaters in my suitcase. It’s hard to fit in.

(PS to Joe: Bring sunscreen.)



My Rhinebeck sweater is not done, but it is almost done. All that remains is a single pocket and that’s only 28 tiny little rows, and then there’s a little bit of sewing, and I’m done. I’ve even got most of the ends woven in – and I remembered to pack the buttons, and a needle and thread.  All of that seems like a small task, and absolutely doable tonight, and then I can wash and block it tomorrow, and it should properly be dry by Saturday.  I am so confident in this that I decided not to bring it on the plane. It’s too big, and too unwieldy, and people are bothered enough by knitting on a plane without bringing some ginormous thing that’s going to be spilling out of my lap all over the place. There’s little enough room on a plane without the sweater, and besides, it’s only 20 minutes worth of knitting, so I’d need other knitting for the flight and… well. I did something radical.


I checked it. I put it in my sweater, and I gave it to the Air Canada gods, and now I am truly obsessed with the idea that they’ll lose it. I check bags all the time and I never, ever worry about them, but there’s something different about packing your knitting, isn’t there? I’m obsessed, and worried, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Is this the thing that goes wrong? Can you have a Rhinebeck sweater without drama? IS THIS THE DRAMA?

Anyway. Me and my sock are thinking about it.


Rhinebeck ho!

Under the wire

I’m just going to say it. I know that I’m probably supposed to say something really beautiful here about Thanksgiving, and how lovely it was and how much I love my family and all of that, but stuff it. It’s almost Rhinebeck, and I think it might be my favourite holiday.  I know, I know, I’m supposed to gush about the sanctity of family, and how nothing is more important than being with them, and that’s true, but dudes.  RHINEBECK. That most glorious of fall weekends, full of friends, and wool, and chips on a stick and sheep and sweaters and by day I will walk among our people, and by night – well. That will be my people too.  I love my family, but they don’t know this part of me, and there’s only so enthusiastic they can pretend to be about an amazing skein of rare breed yarn, and they are yet to meet any conversation about knitting needle types with any authentic zeal. I appreciate that they fake it (when they do) but …. Rhinebeck.  I’m totally on track this year too, I think.  The detour to make my little niece a sweater went beautifully. I think I broke a land speed record on this one, going from yarn to sweater in just over 48 hours.


(I did sew the buttons on in the car on the way there. It took a while to dry after blocking.)


Pattern: Demoiselle Arc-en-ciel (Little Miss Rainbow) Yarn: Galway worsted #435, exactly two balls, and assorted scraps of Cascade 220.


The gauge for this pattern was 17 stitches to 10cm/4″ and Galway is pretty sleazy* at that gauge, so I knit it where it wanted to be, at 20sts, and adjusted the pattern accordingly, working the size 4/5 for my petite little Myrie, but with the appropriate lengths.  I had a minor setback when it turned out that Myrie’s arms are longer when she’s awake when asleep, and after her mum re-measured I ripped back and added some length.


It fits perfectly, and the buttons are just the thing, and the little Miss liked it quite well.  (She’s pretty easy to please, considering that the gifts she requested for her birthday was “flowers and leaves.” A sweater was over the top.)

It did put me a little behind on my Rhinebeck sweater, but I still think I’m going to make it. I’ll be blocking it at the last minute, I see that, but I’m one row of the buttonband/collar away from done, and then there’s the i-cord bind-off that I’m really not married to at all. This yarn is a little heftier than the suggested yarn, and I think it might make it too robust. We’ll see.  After that, there’s just the pockets, and the buttons (note to self: pack buttons) and I’m home free,


If you call blocking a sweater in a car speeding towards a sheep and wool festival home free… and I do.   I’m off to pack. See you tomorrow.

*Here’s your fibre trivia for the day, “sleazy” is actually a textile word, referring to fabric that is particularly loose and open.  You can see how it got borrowed for its other use.

I know how it looks

Okay. Fine. I know that this is going to look unreasonable, but the Rhinebeck sweater really is going so well, and there’s tons of time and I feel really good about it, and I swear that this isn’t at all crazy, and it doesn’t feel at all like I’m lighting the world on fire, and I can usually tell when that’s happening, I just ignore it is all.


I’m going to turn that, into this, by Sunday morning.  If I do the yoke today (which is sort of almost done)  and the body tonight, and the sleeves tomorrow… boom. A day for it to dry after blocking even. It’s going to be fine.  Rhinebeck is ages away. It’s a little sweater. It’s worsted weight. I shouldn’t even break a sweat.


Hold my beer, and watch this.*

*That was for Rams.

Fate is starting to pay attention

I could feel what was happening while I was at Knit City. It began the morning I left, when I had just cast on for the first sleeve of my Rhinebeck sweater.  I knit in the airport lounge, and on the way to Vancouver…


and when I arrived at Savannah’s, I’d finished that sleeve, and was just beginning the next.


Fast forward through three days of teaching and speaking, and somehow, even though I just about knit a pair of socks at the same time, I had two sleeves.


Now, let’s be clear. This pretty much isn’t how a Rhinebeck sweater goes. You don’t just cast on and knit the thing without anything going wrong. Nature abhors deadlines and does her level best to see me crushed in the face of them, so that I can be perfected in my humility. That’s how Rhinebeck sweaters go. This one? I don’t know what to think.  I was worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn, so the universe granted me a seventh skein. I was committed to getting gauge no matter what it took, so I got both stitch and row gauge on my first try. I was worried I wouldn’t have time, and now it’s flying along, practically knitting itself, and get this… I finished the body of the sweater, and I knew that I wanted it to be longer than my brown sweater, so put it aside until I could measure and knit the extra. I did the same with the sleeves, knitting them until they were just short of where I thought I needed them. I knit some socks until I could get to the brown sweater in question, and measured both and do you know what?

They were perfect. Not just shy, not almost… not close enough for company work, they were bang on. I was so shocked I measured three more times and then actually laid the green sweater parts on top of the brown sweater because I thought maybe the measuring tape was malfunctioning.  I had guessed exactly right, and I was ready to join the sleeves and the body to start the yoke, and I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but that was Monday morning that I was just starting that part,  and now… well, I’m almost done.


I still have to do a bit more of the body and upper sleeves, and the saddle shoulders, and I don’t want to get cocky and ignore the giant collar or the pockets, but I’ve pretty much got ten days to do that. Ten days!

It’s like a Rhinebeck miracle. Everything has been so perfect and pretty and worked out so entirely without flaw, that I’m starting to think that I should be keeping this sweater in the back garden at night, in case it bursts into flames or lightning strikes it.  I have noticed a few things though… Monday night I tried to get out of a cab without it, and only the driver noticing saved me. Today I just about left it in a shop, having put my bag down to pay. That first time my passport was with it, and today my wallet was in the same bag, and that got my attention. It’s like nature’s finally figured out it’s a Rhinebeck sweater, and doesn’t care if she takes out my other possessions or my short term memory to do some harm to the thing.

I’m going to start being more careful, and you might not want to stand to close to me for a bit. You know. Because of the risk of lightning.