Attitude is most of it – Right?

You know, I try to have a can-do attitude.  I’m reasonably clever, I know how to read, I’ve got access to the internet, and that means that most of the time, I look at a task ahead of me and I think “Well. How hard can it be?” This usually works. I’ve changed the brake pads on a mini-van with just a library book and some borrowed tools, I’ve ridden my bike really far, and I can make all sorts of things. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in over my head – but it usually works out. The problem is that since I usually feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I don’t recognize it when I actually am. I’ll be chugging along, feeling a wild and vague sense of panic and hysteria, and then think, well, that’s not too bad – and the next thing I know voila. I’m actually underwater.  Examples? You betcha.

I sat down last night to pick up all of the stitches around the edge of the shawl, and two things happened. First, it turned out that I’d counted hopefully rather than actually, and as a result, I had six rows to go before I was really done. (No problem. Will only take a minute.) The second thing was that it turns out that I’d tried a new provisional cast on (How hard can it be?) and I didn’t do it right. How do I know?

snips 2017-03-03

It took about an hour to unpick the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, snipping it into little pieces as a went along, punctuating every sixth or seventh one with unladylike language of a pretty creative nature. The sides didn’t go much better, and I finished the one stinking round that it took to get everything sorted at 1:40am. (How hard can it be? THAT HARD.)

Then,  I decided that I’d do something special for Meg’s baby shower on Sunday (yes, yes it’s that soon, yes I know, knit faster) and after cruising Pinterest (MEGAN LOOK AWAY)  I bought some special cookie cutters and signed up to make some fancy cookies. Like this. Or this. Or those. Up until about 10 minutes ago it hadn’t really occurred to me that I don’t actually know how to do that, and my general sense of “How hard can it be?” was dashed when a friend said that if I got “color flow mix” that would really be good and I realized that I don’t know what that is, and now I feel nervous. Also? I think maybe it takes longer to make them than I thought. I’ll let you know.

Finally, I kept meaning to post and say that Debbi and I have good news and bad news for Strung Along. Good news? We unexpectedly have some spots free at the Strung Along April Retreat, but the June and November retreats have waiting lists. Usually things move around and open up on the lists (that’s what happened with this April one) and there’s a chance that we’ll have some spots, but – particularly for November the list is long, and it’s not looking great, and the truth is that if you were hoping to get to a retreat with us this year, we think April is going to be your chance. We don’t have many spots, but we’ve love it if you could come, and I know you have questions.

Question: Hey, there’s like… 8 million retreats. Why would I go to yours?

Well, ours is different in a few ways. There’s three full days of classes, and everybody goes to all three classes. It’s two days of knitting, and one day of spinning, and some relaxed, fun, optional stuff in the evenings. You’re in a tiny class (only 10-15 people) and you move with that group through the three days. Some retreats have more time for socializing, but we’re all about the classes. To our way of thinking, a fibre arts retreat should be all about the learning. If that’s what you think too, you’re probably going to love it.

resort 2017-03-03

Question: Who are the teachers? What are the classes?

This time, the teachers are me, Debbi Stone, and Judith MacKenzie. (She’s the spinning part.) Our theme is “Around the world in three days” and it’s going to be all about techniques and materials from the world over. We’ll talk about the history and traditions of knitters and spinners worldwide, and what they use, and how they use it. It’s going to be pretty great. We’re excited. (Can you say Latvian Braid? Oh yes, you can.)

shopping 2017-03-03

Question: I’m a brand new spinner, and I’m not that experienced a knitter… am I going to be okay?

Yes. Absolutely. We’ve got artists of every range coming, and you’ll fit right in, no matter what your skill level is. The classes are tiny enough that we can really personalize. You’ll be fine. We promise. (Also, if you don’t have a wheel, we can loan you one for the weekend. Don’t panic. We’ve got ya.)

ball winderr 2017-03-03

Question: If I’m going to go away for a treat, I want it to be nice. Is is nice?

Dudes, it’s super nice. We’re ridiculously proud of the wonderful food, and there’s optional paired wine flights with dinner. There’s a fireplace and Jacuzzi bathtub in all the rooms, and the staff at the resort is fantastic. It’s nice. It’s so nice you won’t want to go home.

dinner 2017-03-03

Question: I’m sort of an introvert and I would be coming by myself and I won’t know anyone. Do people come by themselves? Will it be weird? Will I be lonely?

You’ll be fine.  From one introvert to another, it will be fine. Lots of people come alone – most people, actually, at least at first. We’ve got lots of knitters who came by themselves and made friends with other knitters, and now they look forward to seeing them at the retreats. It’s a welcoming, open place, and there’s lots of time to yourself, if that’s how you like it, and I promise you won’t feel weird.

bathtub 2017-03-03

Question: I have other questions. What do I do?

Write to us at and Debbi or I will answer you. There’s lots of information here on our retreat page too.

Last Question: I’m not able to come, but I hear you guys have goodie bags, and I wondered if I could put my stuff in it?

We do have goodie bags, and we’d love it if you put stuff in it. We’re happy to showcase anything you’d like knitters or spinners to see. Your product goes in the bags, and on our social media feeds, and we’re as grateful as you can imagine. If you’d like to talk about it, email us at, and we’ll get you the details.

75 thoughts on “Attitude is most of it – Right?

  1. Dear Stephanie,
    Sorry to hear the baby blanket has had some “issues”. The only good thing is that you are the person who understands enough about knitting and will be able to sort them out … I sure never could! As for fancy cookies … they are really cute things … and, while not wanting to take away from the fun of a shower … I figure everyone loves president’s choice chocolate chip and it’ll save you a lot of time and anguish to just pick up a package. I know. The shower is for your own “baby”, and you want it to be wonderful … and I think you are far more talented at making lovely party things than I’ve ever been (and I’m some years older). Changing the “pick you battles” phrase a bit, perhaps “pick your joys” according to your time? Very best regards, Maureen

  2. Oh my gosh I wish I could come to the April retreat, but alas I spent my fiber fun money on madrona! (I’m the lady that threw the book at you 😉 ) I had so much fun last June. I want to send out an invite though, to those of you retreating, to feel free to come relax at my home in Gig Harbor. It’s about 45 minutes south of port ludlow and we have an awesome yarn shop in town (Rainy Day Yarns). Good luck with your blanket. I’ve had many projects come back and bite me when I think everything is perfect!

    • Maria, I visit Battle Ground, WA annually to visit my son, dil, triplet grandchildren. Is your yarn shop near there? I keep hoping i can pair a retreat with a grandchildren visit, some day – the best of both worlds.

      • Gig Harbor is about an hour and a half north of Battleground. If you are looking for nearby yarn shops I’d recommend Vancouver or Portland from there.

      • Elaine, there are some FANTASTIC yarn stores in Portland, but it’s a bit of a hike from Battle Ground. If you think you can get to Portland, e-mail me at jcwellesATgmailDOTcom and we’ll figure it out together.

  3. I think we have all been there with a provisional cast on at one point or another. I’ve learned how to do one that always seems to work out okay for me, but it’s taken years and a lot of trial and error. If the worst thing that happens to you with this epic project is that you had to pick out the provisional CO rather than zip it out, I think you’ll be okay!

      • has a video, I think. Staci suggests tying a knot in the slip knot end. Then when you go to remove it, unzip from the end without the slip knot. Also, the first stitch needs to be picked out, then the rest should unzip readily.

  4. I often feel that I have jumped into something. It is part of the joy, meltdown when reality hits and you are paddling as fast as you can, and travels of life. Hang in there. If I had to vote on the cookie choices I would go with the big cookies leaded with chocolate chips in the first picture off to the right. My eye went there and then only after a few seconds did I notice the cute baby-themed cookies.

  5. Just don’t ever say the words “tubular cast-on” to me. Though if I ever am found saying “Nah, a regular cast-on will probably be fine…” sit me down in front of YouTube and save me hours of work on a scarf that gets opened and tossed aside with every (deserved, but wtf) sign of disgust. Tubular cast-on.

    • I can do tubular cast on, if I talk very firmly to myself first. However, tubular bindoff (kitchnering) is about to be the death of what would otherwise be a beautiful cowl. I will not finish it in this lifetime.

  6. I would be highly entertained were it not for Megan, whom I assume is not so excited about the whole ‘blanket-before-baby’ thing.

    (Sorry, Meg. I cannot tell a lie. I am in fact extremely entertained.)

  7. Don’t be intimidated by the cookies. You just need Betty Crocker royal icing (aka cookie icing). I have friends who make those kinds of cookies and that’s what they use and swear by. Might take you awhile but you’ll make awesome looking and tasting cookies!

  8. I know it’s too late for this project, but you can use Judy’s Magic Cast On for a provisional cast on. I love the results I get when I do that.

  9. oh emm gee, i may be quoting you, but those cookies “made my ovaries cramp” (well, it would have if i still had them)


    looking forward to seeing the finished ones, because you always seem to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. after spinning the angora.

  10. Have fun with the cookies–no matter how much you despair over imperfections in each individual cookie, the grouping *always* looks cute and impressive. Also, I have found that putting the icing in squeeze bottles is infinitely easier than piping bags. Not sure where you get them at the last minute–dollar store?–I ordered mine from Amazon and they were cheap. Oh, right, anywhere that sells Wilton baking stuff will have the Wilton version. May be a little more expensive, but at least get-able.

  11. You will pull it all off and look great doing it! Blanket and cookies.
    I, on the other hand, would be trying to figure out how to convert the blanket into a high school graduation gift for that first grandchild! That would give me an extra 18 years, which might be enough time to finish it!

  12. The retreat looks amazing! Unfortunately I live on the other side of the world so my treat will have to be the $5 massive cone of laceweight yarn I inexplicably failed to buy in the charity shop yesterday. If it’s still there. What was I thinking? Twitch, twitch.

  13. Have fun at the shower. Blame the cookies on the squirrels. Hope the retreat goes well (I’m pretty sure it will). And — drum roll, please —

    Use worsted weight for the next baby blanket. (Joe, keep the coffee coming –I had to “touch” the clock to post this.)

  14. I couldn’t go to any of retreats, because I am deaf. I need an interpreter for any classes. 🙁 🙁

    I am huge FAN of you. I love you as a knitter. I am knitter too. I do know how this feel likes in frustrating knitting a shawl.

    • I don’t think my sign language skills would be fast enough to get you through a class. And a retreat just isn’t in my budget right now, considering airfare, etc.

      However – I’ll bet there are knitters and spinners out there whose skills are up to the task – you just need to figure out how to find one.

      Wonder if there is a school for the deaf in that area that you could contact – or maybe there is a facebook group that could help put you in touch with someone?

      Best of luck finding an interpreter. You’ve sparked a little something in my brain that says I should really work on my skills and then make use of them!
      Chris S in Canada

      • My first choice public school for my daughter next year (she’ll be starting Kindergarten) does ASL as a second language and has interpreters in every classroom.

        Our 2nd choice school is bilingual Spanish.

        Languages are starting to be more available in US schools, but it will be a while before ASL is a regular offering unfortunately. Still, you should know that schools that do exist, and are in high demand.

    • Jenna, Seattle Central Community College is our local school for interpreter training….we’re just a short ferry ride away from Port Ludlow…..

  15. I’m really fond of using a circular needle cable for a provisional cast on, unlike scrap yarn you don’t have to pull it out and pick up stitches, you can just work across it. Maybe it doesn’t work for everything, but I haven’t found a cowl or infinity scarf yet that doesn’t work with it.

  16. You do gingerbread in December, yes? Use your nifty new cutters to make baby gingerbread. Don’t kill yourself over this. Grandbaby wants a well rested grandma!

  17. I’ve made probably the exact same mistake with a provisional cast-on, or at least one with the same consequences.

    Just an hour ago I was mentally referencing your advice that if it’s going to bug you, rip it. You’ll feel so much better. I did and I did, and thank you.

  18. I would love to know where to get a cutter for the baby pajama cookies shown in the third link. Can find onesies, and carriages, and clouds, and rainbows, but not the pajama. they are so precious. anyone have an idea?

  19. If it’s any consolation, it actually helps the rest of us feel better about our knitting snafus when we see that you also have those moments of unladylike cursing. I have frogged much more than I knit this week. At one point I was so stuck that I just could not wrap my head around it anymore. I grabbed a random single skein of sock yarn and power knit my way through a vanilla slouchy hat. Then I was calm enough to work it through, finally. Your retreat sound like a dream. Enjoy!.

  20. One suggestion for the cookies – I’ve found that candy melts provide smooth, even piping for complex shapes. Or not complex ones when I’m feeling particularly tired.

  21. I know you’re a maker, but if it were me, I’d find a really good baker and procure this time around. Good procurement is an art in itself. If you were local, I’d recommend the perfect place.

    And the blanket – it’s gonna be great. Can’t wait to see it, and the baby who’ll be cuddled in it.

  22. For ideas, tips and recipes for the cookie project check out She gives great step-by-step instructions and her recipes work and taste good. And a word of advice from someone who has been there on a decorating cookies project: estimate how much time you think you will need, then double it and be prepared to go over. Don’t forget they need to dry too.

  23. Hey Steph chin up. Persevere with the shawl all will come good in the end. The cookies will taste fabulous. If they don’t quite represent the original who cares they are original to you and made with love.

  24. Meringue powder is the base for the icing of the cookies. Its fun but laborious intensive.

    Do you have a waiting list for the retreat in June 2018? I have a new job so no time off this year but could go next year. Tx.

  25. Your shawl will be fine…(as long as it doesn’t have to be done in time for the baby shower!)…can’t wait to see the end result! wrapped around a wee special person…
    For the shower instead of making cookies (time, woman, time), you could make ” blocks” out of cake and arrange them stylishly, decorated with A,B, C…etc…iced with the appropriate icing of course and it is one hell of a lot easier than cookies…imho!! Cdn Living mag…check their website they had something and I made it for my nieces baby shower…it was a hit!

  26. The baby blanket will all turn out great in the end because it’s a labor of love. Having met you and following your blog for year I know beyond a doubt that you are a person who is filled with love. Plus this blanket now has a story to go along with it.

    The cookies are great and ambitious. Also remember there are bakeries that can also produce these. Which gives you the opportunity to support a local business while retaining your sanity. Either way, it will work out. Enjoy the day. 🙂

  27. Having been to 2 of the June retreats, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, the classes (and teachers) are terrific and the resort is world-class wonderful and right on the water. Could you ask for more? This year, however, I need to skip the June retreat as a trip to Texas is in the cards to see my fiance’s 89-yr old mother and his sister, who has terminal brain cancer. So, Stephanie, you can move someone off the wait list in June. I’ll send a notice to the Strung Along email too. See you in 2018.

  28. I’m coming to the June retreat, bringing my husband and two little children all the way from Australia and I could not possibly be more excited!

    • That’s awesome!!!! Care to tutor the rest of us in how to swing that, so we can try it next year? Have an amazing time.

  29. When I decide to attempt something like the adorable but total time suck cookies, my beloved always says, “Or maybe you could just increase your meds.”

  30. I have only very specific times when I may travel/miss work. So I can only watch your retreats from the sidelines as they are planned while I am tied to work. However… I retire in 2020, if all goes to plan. Then watch out, baby! See you there!

  31. I like the idea of group decorating–a lot of those shower “games”(aka torture) are silly.
    Re retreat: Normally, if I were in funds, I would jump at the chance. But these days, travelling to the US is not on. So sad.
    Perhaps you can explore a Canadian retreat for at least one occasion a year. Or maybe we all head to Iceland….

  32. When you started the baby blanket, I knew there was going to be a saga of some sort in there. There always is. You need to get it done so Megan can deliver, the shower is a distraction.

    Cookies – I confess that I’m not a big fan of heavily iced cookies. They look very pretty, but most times iced cardboard would be just as tasty. Maybe that’s because they take so much work, they’re often made way ahead of time, and they are just over by the time they are eaten. The commercial ones are made to withstand handling and shipment. I’m not a fan. A plain good sugar cookie cutout is far superior, as far as I’m concerned. A friend recently put a lot of work into cookies for her parents’ 50th anniversary. They were vacationing in Florida at the time, and she was going to be going to join them, but not till after the anniversary date. She shipped them, and they received – pieces.

  33. It is win-win as far as I can see, it goes like this …

    Attitude is most of it, sure … skill counts for a lot of the rest, with luck playing a part (and sufficient time helps a lot)!! You have the first two with bells on – and the Blog is rooting for you so the positive vibes are all there … the last bit is up to impending grandson and Megan!

    But I’m sure you’ll have this done soon – if baby wins the race, what a story that will make for him of how he is the first baby to beat Grandma to the blanket – what pride he can have about that – so a double gift. If you win, well, you get the pride: but either way there will be a beautiful blanket and a beautiful baby so it seems to me you are into a win-win situation!

    Be as gentle on yourself as you would be on anyone else struggling with an impending deadline and don’t let it spoil one iota of the fun of the shower or the knitting (or the baby).

  34. This is my faux provisional cast on that is easy and works every time. I cast on with a knitted on cast on and then pick up sts in the little loops that form under the knitted on cast on. Too late now, but for next time.

    The cookies will be no harder than your usual Christmas gingerbread. Come to think of it maybe gingerbread flavor in baby shower shapes would have a nostalgic taste for your daughter. If the decorating is simple it should not take too long. If the decorating makes each cookie a work of art, think about not sleeping.
    Julie in San Diego

  35. My current favorite line, from the movie: Incredible Marigold Hotel: “It will all work out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out yet, it isn’t the end.” Helps me through all kinds of knitting as well as life events. Keep on keeping on, the blanket will be another winner.

  36. Since your superwoman-ness knows no bounds (I saw those cookies on IG too), I’m curious, will you be participating in the birth professionally as a midwife, Stephanie? Or just as a grandmum? – from a LONNNNGG time lurker 🙂

  37. Those cookies are beautiful – but I clicked on all the Pinterest photos and they are made by professionals, not regular people. You could order some … and go back to the shawl?

  38. Erm so I am about to do my first ever provisional cast on on a sleeve and I am now filled with dread.

    You really do have a lot on your plate and I can completely identify with that mix of hysteria and panic and control.

    Good luck with the cookie cutters 🙂

  39. Don’t feel too bad Steph!

    I had a major malfunctijon on my Hansel Full Hap baby blanket and there was NO recovery at all. Had to begin all over again. So, now I am FAR behind! The shower is in May and I just saw the shower cookies and thought about the fact that the center of the Hap is not even to 144 stitches yet so I can’t begin decreasing!! It will be mid March in a week…and my husband is getting the soil for the upper an lower gardens….I have tomatoes to start and the clocks roll back in my area this Saturday….and…and Easter…and….I feel time slipping thru my fingers faster than silk thread on Addi turbos!!!

  40. I feel you on the baby blanket. I’m currently playing race the Christening on my daughter’s. The Christening is Sunday and I keep thinking, how long do I need to really have this dry? It can be a little damp, right? The thing ends with 770 stiches and the round I’m on has something like 60 nupps per side. And also, it’s laceweight. And also, she’s 6 months old, so I’ve had a long time to finish it!

  41. My what a task that was all around! Can’t wait to see the finished blanket. Thank you for always sharing your knitting blunders. Even though it’s aggravating for you, you always make it a tiny bit amusing and I always learn something from it — even if it is just to model your perseverance.

  42. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who is always, always in over her head. Sometimes, I end up drowning, but mostly tnings work out, even if I don’t get everything done. I long ago accepted that being overwhelmed with things to do is a personality trait, and has nothing to do with the actual time available anyway. Good luck.

  43. I give up. I will never get to come to one of these 8 million fiber retreats. There is simply NO money for it.

    Oh well. Such is fate.

  44. Dear Yarn Harlot, I want to bring this to the attention of the Collective Conscience of the Knitting Instructor Intelligensia Ethics Committee. The Glitterati of the knitting world preach and preach about supporting your Local Yarn Shop, but many retreats, not yours of course, are held in areas that have local yarn shops, and hold these retreats with no regard for the unspoken geographical boundaries that most bricks and mortar shops honor. The reason there are a million retreats is they make money for the organizers and instructors. Now I am assuming that most instructors believe that the organizers would never, at the expense of a LYS, hold a retreat that would be injurious to a LYS but I assure you it happens. Just as your readers have commented above, retreats are expensive and everyone has a yarn budget. So when there is only so much money in your budget and you participate in a retreat, I would venture a guess and say that the LYS, both in the area where the retreat is held and the LYS of the retreat attendee, is the loser in who gets the money. With all that said, if the Glitterati would more often than not, teach at the LYS, it would help the shop, bring the best instructors to the most knitters and create a loyal following for the instructors. So do your homework and seek out the local yarn shop owner to schedule a class before or after the retreat. So enough said. Think local. Act local. And hip hip hooray for all you brick and mortar yarn shop owners that keep your wonderful shops up and running…and pay the instructors to come to your shops. It’s worth every penny.

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