Just stuff that laundry behind the piano

When I was a young mother, and the girls were all little, I was part of a mothers group. I was a La Leche League Leader back then and a Wednesday morning playgroup sprang out of that. We’d all get together and the kids would play and the mums would talk about parenting and (literally) how to make your own granola. (Yes.) To be completely honest the other kids would play, and the other mums would talk and I would spend the entire time following Amanda around with a baby on my hip, ready to pull her bodily from encounters the minute she started to open her mouth. The kid was a biter. In any case, we moved this little playgroup around, and when it was my turn to host it, I would start getting anxious days before – cleaning and scrubbing and stuffing dirty clothes in closets and hiding dirty dishes in the oven and generally freaking out, so that by the time the other mothers arrived, it looked like I was a pretty perfect mum who could not only juggle three kids (one of whom was a vicious land-shark) but also had a clean house, a freshly baked whole grain cake made with wheat germ (it was the 90s. Anti-oxidants hadn’t been invented yet. We just had to put bran and wheat germ in things) all while knitting the children their own sweaters, cloth diapering, growing my own vegetables, and helping run a charity without even breaking a sweat.

This, of course, was a lie. Like anyone who’s trying to do even a third of those things, the housework was absolutely on the bottom of my list.  In any toss up between littles and babies who need something and washing a floor, the kid won every time. There was always dishes in the sink – the bathroom was right on the edge of a health code violation all the time, and if I did get three minutes when I didn’t have to care for another person you can bet I was knitting, not dusting something that was only going to get dusty again. I mean, I like a tidy house, but let’s get real about what your priorities are like if your day has that much to do with other people’s bodily fluids.  Still, even though every parent on earth knows this, I felt compelled to disguise this reality when those other parents were on their way. It was just what I did. You clean up before company comes over, am I right?

So, one time I’m careening through the house, hiding the mess and trying to get the place ready, and my mum was over, and she was sitting there drinking coffee (I know I’ve told this story before) and she watches this for a while, and then tells me that she thinks I’m being mean. That everything I’m doing isn’t just cleaning up for company, it’s giving the other mothers the impression that I can have three little kids, a leadership role in a charity, bake all my own bread and have it all be no biggie. She wondered aloud if they felt inadequate when I pretended I could do it all, when in reality I’d put a bag of diapers that needed washing in the garbage can in the backyard because I was too far behind.  (I washed them later.)

I think about that often. About how my mum thought that pretending wasn’t kind, and I try to live in a way that’s… kinder. For example, I can tell you that something in my fridge smells funny right now and I don’t know what it is, that this morning I found underpants under a chair in the kitchen, and that I totally screwed up my knitting. I wasn’t going to tell you that last one, because once I saw what I’d done I though I could just fix it and nobody would ever know, but then I thought of my mum, and know that right now there’s one of you who’s sitting there realizing that you knit two left mittens and trying to reconcile that with your self esteem, and well.

This weekend I was away.  I spent the weekend with some friends I don’t see often enough, and we hunkered down and cooked together, and ate together and knit together. We call it Yarnclave, and because we were together so close to Christmas, we called it Yarnclavemas. We made a pie.

yarnclavemasbetter 2017-12-08

So, I’m knitting on Elliot’s sweater at some point, and I’ve finished the body, and cast off, and finished the first sleeve, and I’m picking up the held stitches for the second sleeve, and I’m thinking something positive about how it’s all going so quickly, and there it is.

elliotsstripesbad 2017-12-08

Way back when I divided for the sleeves and body, I was careless, and I put the sleeve stitches on one thread, and SOME of the other sleeve stitches on another, and then put some of the sleeve stitches on the needle for the body along with the body stitches, and then carried on. Coyotes in the wild have knit better.  The body was therefore too wide, and the one sleeve too small. Unfortunately, the fates had a good giggle about that, and I just so happened to pick the correct sleeve to knit after the body, so got that whole sleeve done before I realized what had happened.  Now, if I’d have happened to notice sooner, I could have just pulled back the body, given the sleeve stitches back to the sleeve and reknit the body, but because I didn’t notice I had to rip back the sleeve, and then the body, because the body won’t unzip all the way because I picked up stitches for the *&^%$E#$ing sleeve from it.

mistakesleeve 2017-12-08

The worst part isn’t just that I had to rip back everything but the yoke and start over, the worst part is that I even took a picture of the sweater while it was dead wrong, posted it on the blog, and didn’t notice – although may moths beset the first one of you who giggles, because it’s not like you noticed either.

right there. 2017-12-08

So, it’s days later, I’m still knitting the sweater, it’s just a few weeks before Christmas and even thought I am a reasonable, grown-up, middle-aged woman, I just got reminded that haste makes waste, pride goes before a fall, and my mother is always right.

backontrack 2017-12-08

I think I’ll have a lie down, or something, before I get slapped around with any other clichés.

199 thoughts on “Just stuff that laundry behind the piano

  1. Thank you for ‘fessing up, it makes me feel less inept about my own knitting struggles lately. Made a hat, all went well. Tried to make a little hat out of the leftovers, and the yarn just refuses to cooperate with every pattern I’ve tried, so far. Maybe it’s the busy time of year that’s messing us up. (I often hear my Mom in my head and my Grandmother, too. Though they’re long gone, they’re still giving advice.)

    • A friend was wailing over having to rip back several rows of her current couple of hundred stitches to a row project.
      I told her I get a little happy when I frog- its like turning the clock back-I tell myself I get to be a few stitches younger and really…how often do we get the opportunity to set something right? Who knows what else we are setting to rights in the Universe?

  2. Thank you. Your story reminds me of having moms and kids coming to my house and being on my knees scrubbing the accumulation of various things off the kitchen floor because for the previous week my kids and my knitting came first.The sweater will be beautiful when it is finished. We all have these moments and it is a comfort to know others do too. I wish I’d known your mom. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  3. Your post compelled me to download that exact pattern and knit it for my cousin’s first grandkid, who came into the world just as he was facing a New England winter for the first time.

    I screwed up as well, and over the sleeves — but in the exact opposite way you did. Instead of assuming that all the stockinette was body, I assumed all of the shoulder was garter stitch and kept widening the garter panels out until I realized that they were 25 stitches across and should have been considerably narrower. (I’m working with worsted weight, so I reworked the pattern to go with the new gauge.) It’s very easy to get into the “stockinette=body, garter-shoulders” habit with that pattern.

    My solution was to just stop working the garter panels altogether and end up with something like the shoulders on a classic British military sweater and all-stockinette arms. It’s ending up looking nice but … yes, apparently the shoulder sections of the yoke for that thing messes with people’s heads in a variety of ways. Still a nice pattern, though.

        • It’s such a straightforward pattern that mistakes shouldn’t be a thing, but yeah those garter panels on the arms mess with your head.

          And mistakes, when applied intelligently, are just another term for innovations. 🙂 Like they say, one dropped stitch is a mistake, two dropped stitches is a pattern!

    • You may not want to hear this, but there was no need to rework the gauge. The pattern in the picture is Flax Light which is meant for fingering weight…there is also a pattern called Flax, by the same designer, which is the same sweater in worsted weight.

      • well not true worsted (4stitches to the inch). It knits more like a light worsted (4.5/1″) and lemme tell ya that .5 stitch will really wonk out the pattern big time.

  4. There’s a mum tape in my head. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. You have to learn to rip before you learn to knit. Do you think I’m going to be there hiking up your slip when you’re in university? Mind your own business.

    Yup. That’s part of the tape. My kids have heard it all. That tape will never leave me.

    • Wait, are we sisters? My mom said that same thing. I rebel against it! Sometimes it’s fine to do it adequately, not well.

  5. Thank you. I way behind where I wanted to be by today and I appreciate knowing I’m not the only one. Are we going to get “gifts for knitters” this year?

  6. As a first time mom to a happy and healthy four month old, and who had a minor freak out about not being able to do it all this week… this is so timely and perfect and I needed to hear that I’m not alone. Thank you so much.

  7. The horror :0
    I think I would have unraveled the sleeve. (If it was a big sweater I might have tried to save the sleeve bij cutting it close to the shoulder and grafting it later on the new sleeve base because I couldn’t face the prospect of having to knit it again.)
    Then I would rip back from the yoke up to the fault to save the body/largest knitted portion and reknitted it in the bigger size. Babies grow into things (and in the time it would take to fix this, it probable will fit perfectly 😀 )

  8. yes… And well.
    Thank you for confessing that you’re not perfect. I prefer the real Steph to the Pinterest impossibilities. I’m off to shovel tidy the living room as the cleaner comes on Monday and I can’t possibly reveal the actual level of filth that my house falls into between visits. Sigh.

    • I’m so glad you stated that about cleaning before the cleaner comes. No judgment but I can’t quite wrap my head around “cleaning up before the cleaner comes” I mean yeah if they DON’T clean certain things sure.. but I don’t precut my lawn before my lawn guy comes to cut the grass. That’s why I’m hiring him in the first place..
      Like I said I’m not judging as I’ve heard a ton of people say the same thing.. just trying to understand.

      • For me, it’s putting things away more than “cleaning.” I have to put things away so that the cleaner can get to some flat surfaces to clean…

      • I clean before the cleaner comes because I don’t pay her to pick up after me. When she has to spend time picking things up off the floor or trying to find my counters, she is wasting time and money. Of course, I could choose to pay her to do those things, but I’d rather not. Also, I hate for her to come in the door and think, “Ugh! This place is a mess!” It’s her workplace and I want it to be somewhat inviting.

  9. My youngest kid is 33; I have no excuse. My best friend gave me a sign saying, “My house was clean last week. Sorry you missed it.” I hung it in a prominent place and no longer apologize.

  10. Very wise, kind words of your mum’s. I’ve only got one kid, but I’ve never managed a veneer of coping (although I have managed to bake a fair bit of bread). Hearing other people’s stories of not being perfect in those early years still means a lot to me, even now that my kid has started school.

  11. Needed this today when a sock yarn that I have knit this pattern with before refuses to get gauge on any of the many needles I own.

    Don’t know if it is me, the yarn or my Mother sending me a message telling me I should be doing dishes and laundry rather than sitting knitting.

  12. Making shortbread at the weekend, and it simply would not come together or go in the tin, when my beloved grandmother’s voice was so clearly in my head…’knead it dear, and then use the back of a spoon’. She’s been gone coming up 3 years, but her advice and support still echo in my head. I love it so much. Hugs x

  13. I once knit two left fronts for a cardigan, and didn’t notice until I was ready to do the sewing up. Ah, well. I gotta say, that sweater yarn just makes me giddy, it’s so beautiful and stripey and just…!!!! I’m in love.

  14. Your honesty is why we love you. It takes a really big person to admit when they are wrong. I’m sorry there was so much frogging, but thank you so much for sharing this. Mwah!

  15. But it is such a charming sweater! It is worth whatever you put into it. And you can always give us a smile. My son once said to me: You must be reading the Yarn Harlot if you are laughing out loud at the computer. I think it was some one of the many stories about your battles with the squirrels!

  16. I do remember when you told that story before and I totally took it to heart. Thank you for sharing it again. I’m a mother of three girls 4 years old and under – and my middle is a biter too! Vicious land-shark indeed!

  17. Did I ever tell you about the cardi I began for my firstborn when he was about six months old? It was supposed to be a size three/four, as he was a huge baby. I knit for a while, then abandoned it for four years. Plus a little bit. It was a lovely blue denim yarn. I finished it in time for him to begin school! It was enormous, me not knowing much about gauge. I proudly sent him off in his new sweater, and he was happy to wear it. After school we usually visited the sulky practice track across the road from the school. Son stood up on the wire fencing to watch. When jumped down, he ripped that sweater right down the front! Oh well. 🙂

    • The first quilt I finished, my son threw up on in its first 24 hours on his bed. Looking at our very pregnant cat (who slept on his bed), I asked if I could put it away until the kittens came. He didn’t understand why (he had made her a bed for the kittens), but agreed. Sure enough, kittens were born on his bed, near his pillow, several nights later. He was NOT thrilled about the actual miracle of birth. I got to sit with cat; he took my spot in bed with my husband.

  18. It helps all of us lowly mortals to know that even the Harlot lets her mind wander while knitting and makes whopper mistakes. I punish myself too much about knitting errors (partly because I am so bad at correcting them and therefore DREAD making them). Your baby sweater is a work of art and even more inspiring now that I know the story behind it!

  19. I have a 10 week old puppy who is a major biter and demands my constant vigilance…not much knitting getting done except for right now on vacation with his “dad”. I’m on my 2nd hat in 7 days only because someone else is babysitting . The sweater is gorgeous and well worth the ripping to have it be perfect.

  20. So? We know you’re not perfect. After all, you used the eraser on your pencil, didn’t you? It’s OK. We love you anyway.

    Now, spill the beans. Whose underpants were under the kitchen chair this morning, and how did they get there???

    • About thirty years ago, I was helping someone do the early morning set up at an arts festival. There, in downtown Salt Lake City, less than a block from Temple Square (main HQ of the Mormon Church, so hardly a salacious neighborhood), there was a parking meter draped with a pair of men’s underpants. I have wondered how that pair of tighty-whiteys got there ever since.

      Sometimes we are destined not to know. This means we’re free to imagine exactly what we want!

  21. Thank you.
    We were part of a playgroup when the kids were little. About a year into it, we Moms all quit cleaning (or pretending to clean) for each other. Those women saved my sanity. And I learned to wait until afterwards to clean.

  22. Oh thank you for seeing the humor and priorities of us knitters. I needed that reminder. I am making two gifts for Christmas. The first sock for my husband was too tight when I was just about to start the toe decrease. It had fit him fine the rest of the measurings. Well no it didn’t, but he did not want to admit it because it wasn’t too bad and maybe it would stretch out more. Yeah so I ripped it all out, got new yarn, and a different pattern. I started a lace scarf for a good friend. 55 stitches across with a 37 row repeat pattern. I have tinked out at least two sets of the pattern until I finally got a better understanding of it. The scarf will probably get done. The socks won’t but hey there is always January.

    And the broken bone in my foot is healing.

    Thanks I needed a laugh and a slap of reality.

    • Mine waited until both socks were completed, before he told me they weren’t tight enough!
      Size 1s, black sock super wash so no shrinking them on purpose

  23. Your mother’s thoughtful notion of kindness is lovely. It expresses such a gentleness towards one another, one that I can only hope to someday approach. I, also, needed this example of generous gentility in this season of darkness. Thank you

  24. I made a solid color flax (my first) for my one year old last month. My other two children requested one in rainbow. So, I am currently making my second flax sweater for my 4 year old in two inch rainbow stripes. I was quite delighted to see the self striping flax post, thinking to myself what a fantastic idea that is! This second go around, though, I have been quite careless because I’ve been beyond tired and still thought I could sit and knit once the kids were in bed. I have had to rip out my first red and orange stripe three times. I just didn’t knit for a few days to get some rest. Two nights ago I made it to the yellow stripe without incident. I was very comforted to read your post – thank you!

    • I meant to say I was comforted by your post on so many levels – the knitting mistake by such a pro, raising small children is a messy endeavor that is not supposed to be publicly messy and your mother’s words of wisdom. When I have others over I say that my house has three young children in it, I will do my best to make it not sticky but that is the most I can do

  25. Thank you so much for this reminder! It is so true. I have several times told a friend that if they had arrived 30 minutes earlier they would see the real me…my real kitchen before I stuck all the unwashed ziploc bags into the dishwasher to hide them or cleaned up the leaning tower of magazines and mail that was a breath away from an avalanche. I just so like to seem like I have my act together. It’s almost like a lie!

  26. Once again thank you for your honesty. And I needed the cautionary tale as I start my afterthought heel. The socks are for my husband’s birthday which was last Sunday. (Sigh) but I’m in the home stretch.

  27. I’m putting my hand up too.

    I read your post with interest, smiled a little too smugly then went back to decreasing the toe of a sock for my daughter.

    Forgetting that I had divided the stitches into thirds, not 50/25/25 as I usually do, because of the patterned instep.

    I didn’t realise until I’d nearly finished the toe.

    Sigh. Rip.

  28. Thank you. I needed to hear that after barely surviving the miserable grind that is the final week of university before exams start.

    On Thursday I cried when the bus arrived to take me home from campus, I am just that tired. I tried to hide it then, and I needed to be told that hiding our struggles is unkind to the other people at that campus bus stop that also needed a good post assignment pre exam cry.

    Have a good weekend <3

  29. Mother of two little boys (5 and 2) here saying yes, yes, yes to somewhat gross bathrooms and very dusty corners and socks in weird places but getting the knitting done and the granola made 🙂
    And we all make knitting mistakes, every one.

  30. Glad you’ve got your mum in your heart guiding you along. Stupid me, I was one of those people who didn’t join knitting circles or parenting groups because I knew I wasn’t good enough at any of it. Luckily, I did come to realize that most of the very successful ladies often had no children, no husbands, or full time household help.
    I’m glad you goofed up your knitting. We can all be human now.

  31. I needed that. I meant to clean house yesterday. It didn’t happen. Today we took both cats to the vet than I decorated the Christmas tree. I was going to vacuum once I was done with that, but my big fragile male cat came up to me, wanting love, and I didn’t have the heart to turn the vacuum cleaner on and scare him again. I’ll clean tomorrow.

  32. I don’t have kids, unless you count my cats, but I definitely appreciate your Mum’s sentiment. I ripped about 4 inches out of a 458 stitch cape earlier this fall because I’d managed to “imagine” the pattern more than follow it. So I fessed up ion my facebook feed and friends have been kindly cheering me on when the proper updates are announced. Not bad having your own cheering section when you’re honest about it. Now to finish it and only several thousand more scarves this year….

  33. May karma grant you lots of make up knitting time for your kindness in sharing. I may have gasped out loud for you as I was reading about the sweater rip back and so now I am sending you positive knitting vibes to balance it out. May your needles click swiftly and true.

  34. Housework is never done. Martha Washington (insert a well-known woman from your country) has been dead for over 200 years and someone is still cleaning her house.

    So many people and things are more important than a clean and tidy house.

  35. Yes, your mom is right. It was your candidness in “Knitting Rules” about all the mistakes committed by knitters that let me know that I, also a fallible human being, could also be a “real” knitter, mistakes and all. Thank you. Really, THANK YOU. Knitting is the only thing keeping me sane right now, with 3 teens in the house and no cute babies to love me unconditionally.

  36. Mom’s are usually right. But I can tell you, I do the same, the mad clean up ritual when company is coming., half my in-laws do it, most of the Women of my acquaintance do it. We don’t want to be judged. Some will judge and some won’t. Fair or not, this is what life has become. I wish there were enough hours in the day to do it all. Of course I also wish I could peek back into yesteryear and see how those women did it.

    • I have a friend who is a great cook. She fixed a great dinner for her in-laws, and had, of course, done the cleaning ritual. After dinner and dessert, they are sitting I living room. MIL points out a cobweb that my friend had missed. My friend informed her that she hadn’t missed it; she left it there to give MIL something to look at. MIL never made another comment about housecleaning.

  37. So here’s what I think: the knitting gods knew how very much you love that yarn so they ensured you would make mistakes so you could keep knitting with it! Over and over again! In my line of work we call that change of interpretive meaning “reframing!

  38. I’ve always treasured your mom’s opinion of MarthaStewart recipes. I’m trying to knit Christmas present hats with my own handspun as it was this year’s new useful skill, but my grasp of gauge is completely different with handspun and I keep having to start over so as not to get giant hippie hats that resemble throw pillows. Thanks for fessing up to being human. We love you for it so very much.

  39. I just love the TREES on that pie!! The rest could happen to anyone, including your mom! This will be part of the ‘remember when’ chats you will have with your friends in the future when you giggle over a glass of wine. Peace be with you.

  40. My house has the “lived in” look. If the people who come to my house are judging me by the cleanliness of my house then I probably don’t want to spend much time with them. Much as I like a clean house sometimes there are other things I’d rather be doing and housework can wait until another day.
    PS I wasn’t going to comment but I had to touch the woman which seemed fitting.

  41. My house is a horror show right now as well. Glad to know I have company.

    What is stupendous about this mistake is that the magical yarn striping STILL LOOKS PERFECT in spite of a glitch. You are the intrepid test knitter of this genius yarn combo – and even with a mistake it all still lined up perfectly. I think the beautifully lined up colored stripes lulled you into complacency and hence the “error”.

    I blame the yarn.

  42. 1. I didn’t notice the mistake in the post.
    2. Probably because it never occurred to me to
    look.
    3. I’m retired now but was a single, employed,
    mother of 2 in Law school, trying to keep
    a relationship going.
    4. My house was a mess and I didn’t even
    know it I was such a wreck.
    5. I hire someone to clean now about which
    I’m embarrassed but, trust me, she does
    a much better job than me.
    6. Your Mom is right but being human is so
    hard! Hugs to you. The sharpness of that
    pain eases with time.

    • I couldn’t stand the mess that was my house when I went back to full time work, so now I have two cleaners who come once a fortnight. Do I feel guilty? No. Do I love coming home from my knitting group on Monday nights to a magically clean house? You bet I do.

  43. You described my life perfectly, back when I was much much younger, around forty years ago. I know better now: the best place to hide the dirty dishes is the oven; the rest can go under the bed. But this year, when my stove blew up 24 hours before a dinner party for people so didn’t know, and I had to serve a dinner made entirely in the oven,and I totally lost it. The worst company dinner I have ever served and really, it didn’t matter, people stayed late, we all talked and I will do better the next time because new stoves generally don’t blow up till the warranty expires which buys me some time. In the grand scheme, these things are small and our mistakes are comforting to others because they are a reassurance that they happen to us all.

  44. A good friend always has a slightly messier house at least half the time :0) That’s what my mum told me all those years ago, “to be too perfect isn’t being a good friend”-kinda similar.
    Our mums were wise women and both are sorely missed.
    Thank you for sharing, I’m tired, my knitting is sitting more than finishing and lets not discuss the tubs of Christmas leftovers after decorating the tree(we usually have two) that have not been packed away again yet, not enough baking is happening and I have to organise two graduations in the next week(yay, but what do I wear)
    Thank You for being real,
    Much love, Mel in Australia

  45. Somehow, right now, this is the perfect thing and I love every word of it. Thank you. Now at last I can go rip out every row I knit yesterday of that soft but loosely stranded and awful to knit black nubbly splitty yarn that I totally hashed the pattern on because I tried to do it without enough light. Matte black.

    Elliott’s sweater looks a whole lot more fun to the eyes.

    And I did the crazy mad-dash attempt at cleaning today for the washing machine repairman. Who I am sure understood the pile of ironing next to us just fine.

  46. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Finished knitting the first Windsor fingerless mitt in a Knitcircus gradient, only to discover I didn’t like where the color started, so on the second mitt I changed it. Went back to rip out the first and start over, and discovered ripping out the two twisted stitch ribs that run the whole length of the mitts doesn’t work from the bottom up. Sigh. (Turns out it unravels easily if you work from the top down. Of course.) The mitt is now in the trash in many pieces, and the second is with it. I’ll be starting over as soon as the replacement yarn gets here.

  47. Your friend who dyed the yarn for you will get a good laugh. We knit for the pleasure of doing so. I say, double your pleasure, rip it back. correct the mistake, and reknit. Otherwise it will bug you every time he wears it. Jan 6 is twelve night, so presents are not late before then. My sister always sez that, as she mails mine after Christmas. It’s kinda fun to carry on the party for a few more days every year. My daughter has declared Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannuka, her Birthday (Dec. 26) and New years all fall on DEC 10 this year, as she owns a doggie kennel, and her business is nuts on Holiday weeks. So, I’m all done…except of one extra Christmas stocking I added in at the last minute for the new granddaughter, which I will finish on the drive to her house. I kinda like this early deadline. Actual Christmas will be calm, just me and the DH eating Chinese food.
    Love, Julie in San Diego, where my house is safe from fire. A stable lost about 30 horses, the dry devil winds were doing 60 MPH and the fire came so fast, they did not have time to release the horses from the stable. Horses .will run from fire if you give them a chance and you can round them up later. In a stable full of dry hay they have no chance. This one makes me cry to write it. Many houses lost.

    • I am crying with you, what a horrible thing to happen to any animal. I can’t imagine the terror they felt or the grief of their owners.

      I’m holding all the residents (human and non-human) of your part of the world in my prayers.

      Chris S in Canada

    • We sometimes need to be reminded what real tragedies are. They are not a mistake in the knitting, a chip in the windshield, an overcooked dinner, an untidy home, or, or, or … Annoying as they are at the time. So glad, Julie, that at least you are safe!

  48. At least it is a small sweater. 🙂 I’ve only done a few seamless sweaters and how they come together is still a mystery to me. So even after your explanation of what happened and why it was wrong, I still couldn’t see it in the picture. So no giggles here!

    If it helps, I’ve never thought folks whose lives seem orderly are being mean or dishonest (in fact, it never occurred to me not to take them at face value). I just assume they have better time-management skills than I do or they don’t have fiber love affairs the way I do that prevent them from cleaning house.

  49. Hey lady,
    I’m a working mom of three too… last year around this time I took all the Icelandic beautiful and bulky yarn my husband’s coworker brought back from her trip and was 12 fingerless pairs of mittens in. All the kids’ teachers, family members, friends got a pair. I was on the ball and loving my crafty life, the sense of fulfillment and -I’ll be damned- ahead of schedule. WITH 3 KIDS! This year I weep the tears of a clown…We can’t have it all always, so I drink a glass(es) of wine, reminisce about my bad ass self last year and move on. Happy Holidays to all you wonderful crafters. We are blessed.

  50. I can relate. A couple of weeks ago I finished a pair of socks for my two year old that contained so many basic mistakes from constant miscounting. In the end, she had a huge growth spurt and the socks no longer fit anyway. That’s what I get for trying to make socks for a toddlers while I’m at the end of a pregnancy.

    Thanks for being honest about what it’s like to be a mom at home. Your blog helped me at lot as I adjusted in my first year with my daughter and I’m sure it will help when the next one arrives too.

  51. That’s what we teachers (are trying desperately to learn to) call “growth mindset” and create in our students (and of course in our overworked, crazy, flawed, loving, imperfect selves) so they (and we) can live healthy, fulfilled lives in this crazy world! What a great post. Thank you.

  52. I just had a friend and her two kids over yesterday after school. Before they arrived, I texted to appologize for my house being messy, because I’d spent all morning working. She wrote back, saying she was so happy I hadn’t bothered, because it makes her more relaxed to know her friends are human too!

  53. It makes me feel so much better about myself to know that you, a woman who seems to do so much and do it so well, have moments when you have spectacular fails — and also aren’t afraid to admit it. Sorry about the sweater, but at least baby sweaters are small?

  54. ❤️
    I totally agree with your mum. I was a LLL-leader too, in the Netherlands, about a lifetime ago. It was one of the things I preached, how all those young mothers that fit in their jeans six weeks after giving childbirth, and all the babies sleeping through the night after four weeks are just fairytales meant to make other mothers insecure. Not that I didn’t make those mistakes myself, expecting far to much from me (and my children, I have four). How I wish I could do it again, knowing what I know now.

    That said, I am sorry about the sweater. Don’t ask how I know how you are feeling . The good thing is that at our age knitting is so much more about the process than it was when I had to cloth four little children. And no, I did’t notice the mistake. I was just impressed with the colourfull yarn…..

  55. One time in a top down sweater, I divided the stitches and put in an extra shoulder. Right in the first row. Took me until i divided for the sleeves that i noticed. It looked like a sweater for Quasimoto. Nothing to do but rip back to the first row.

  56. That is a serious bummer. I’ve done the two left mitten thing before, only it was booties not mittens. But I am knitting mittens right now so thanks for the reminder.

    My floors need mopping but I just can’t bear to do it right now and I don’t even have kids.

  57. As a young mother counting down the minutes until people show up for brunch I really needed to hear this today. Also I need to get my butt off the computer.

  58. I’ll never forget the smell…. I’d tossed the dirty dishes, including some Tupperware pieces, into the oven just before our kids’ group arrived. The next morning, we turned on the oven to preheat and ….. We ended up having to throw away both oven racks and a few pots/pans/dishes because the Tupperware melted on to the top rack & nearby dishes then dripped to the next rack. Once it cooled, it was permanent. And I do mean Permanent!

  59. If it makes anyone feel better, I tried to finish knitting Dad’s scarf late at night when I was A) exhausted and B) still in the midst of the Cold from Hell.

    The last 24 rows of cables are knitted on the wrong side of the scarf.

    *le sigh*

  60. Can I just say this makes me feel so much better about life. I have my first little one, just a bit younger than Elliot, and I feel like I can get nothing done in my life beyond keeping this little person alive. It’s nice to know that a) it isn’t just me and b) once the cloth diapers are in the wash at nap time, prioritizing knitting time is not weird.

  61. And this is why you are my favorite blogger. This literally brought tears to my eyes, as I walk past my crazy, toddler-mess of a bathroom (okay, the whole house is kind of a disaster). Thank you for being so real and so funny and so relatable all the time (no pressure).

  62. I’ve been trying and trying to knit Wyatt for my grandson, and having a hell of a time. Finally decided to put it in time out and give it to him for his Feb. 23 birthday, when the time pressure is less. Thank goodness for winter birthdays! (And now I have to find something else for a Christmas present.)

  63. I do think that there is something about knitting that is a life lesson. I am a pretty impetuous woman and learning to slow down and think about what I am doing before I just charge ahead is something I’ve worked all my life to cultivate. Can’t say I’ve gotten there, but I keep trying!

  64. Love hearing someone who is a much neater house keeper than I that cleaning for company is ok. Also, your Mom was always spot on!! But the best giggle came at the end of your blog as I didn’t notice anything wrong with your sweater although.. I thought I would share the story of the self-stripping yarn with my husband. Hubby is a wonderful person but a virulent non knitter. I thought yarn that self-strips is pretty ingenious so what would be the harm? All he kept saying is “I don’t get where the arms should go” and I kept saying “you just don’t understand drop sleeves”. After reading this blog entry he thinks he is pretty smart & I am going to let him think that for as long as it takes for me to gather the money to buy that yarn to make that sweater for my Granddaughter. Thanks to you. It’s great to giggle.

  65. Aha – I knew it: your mom is NOT gone. She is with you forever, and isn’t that wonderful? I have those same tapes as everyone else, too. If I stop before I get resentful of it, I can make it feel like a hug.

    I was in a kaffeklatch of women long ago, all of whom had known each other since kindergarten, all of whom were in their 30s and had at least two kids each, and I was 21 and had a barely-walking toddler. Unfortunately, even though I cleaned my house like a crazy person before the day I hosted, they were mean people, and made sure I felt less-than and Outsider at every opportunity. I get so angry now, thinking about that, I wish I could go back and slap every one of them silly. I wanted so much to fit in, and they made me so miserable and insecure. (Happy ending: I started a community theatre group and built my own family!)

    Thanks for all you do. I hope you know you’re loved!

    • I have been in this situation with a bunch of mean women. Striking out on my own was the best thing I have ever done and as a result we have a mixed group of knitters, quilters, beaders, embroiderers, crocheters, weavers and spinners that meet once a week.

  66. Your mom was so right. I am older than you so old enough to know better, but the urge to put on a good face is still strong. Let’s keep fighting that urge.

  67. Fellow LLL Leader and parent of a biter. The one day Thing 1 was bitten (rather than being the biter) I almost rejoiced. The other parent apologized over and over and I considered it cosmic balance. It did not stop my kid from biting.

    It was a happy day when he started talking more often,
    but that was after age 3 (at 2y9m he had very few words and I worried that he’d start biting the new baby).

    I spent many LLL meetings following my baby/toddler around (kid walked at 9 months) and periodically offering information or suggestions over a shoulder. I was thankful for many co-Leaders who could do more direct helping while I hopefully modeled positive-ish discipline/problem solving.

    My BFF taught me about hiding dirty dishes in the oven. This works unless you forget about them and turn on the oven to make lunch and melt tupperware in there.
    I’ve done that twice.

  68. It’s so funny that you mentioned the granola. I pulled out my La Leche cookbook just last weekend and made the granola recipe (so good!) that my kids grew up with and I hadn’t made in a long time. I like to have a clean house when I have company because it helps me relax and have a good time. Otherwise I am worrying what the house looks like; it’s easier to do the work ahead of time and enjoy the visit. You tell the truth and make me feel like I’m doing okay. Thank you.

  69. The pie is a beauty! And the (temp?) tattoo is pretty.
    I hear what your Mom is saying, and I just reread Amazing Things a few hours ago when I couldn’t get back to sleep, and although I largely agree, when we are in such a whirlwind of Stuff That Needs Attention, it is refreshing to have someone think better of us and our state of hidden chaos, if nothing more than encouraging us that Better Days Are Ahead.
    And every woman that has been there knows you don’t preheat anyone’s oven without looking inside or you might set their filing system afire.

  70. I read your post this morning and I had just screwed up the Kitchener Stitch on a headband for my cousin. You made my heart light and you made me feel one of a tribe of knitting mistakers. Thank you.

  71. Thanks for posting this so I could read it as I frogged my garter stitch shawl that I was already 40 rows into before figuring out that I messed up the stitch counts…

  72. I didn’t get much knitting done this week, but I had Adventures in Sewing that pretty much mirrored yours. Attaching pieces wrong side out. Sewing the wrong section together. It was pretty much a parade of seam ripping, but I got the project done on time and the recipient was very happy. A reminder we can always start over.

    And every time I have my knitting group over, I remember your story and your mother’s words, and try not to “be mean.” They still come over, so I guess they’re ok with my mess. Thank you.

  73. How amazing! I was a La Leche League leader, we put together a play group, and I used to pretend to be perfect! Good for us, getting kinder and realer 🙂

  74. It happens to the best of us.
    I actually burst out laughing over the “two left mittens” comment. I just did this. With mirrored cables. Just put the thumbs on the same side.
    Fortunately I had another ball of the same yarn, so made another pair of mittens, with the thumbs on the right side, and mirroring the cables.
    Fortunately I have two friends with the same size hands.
    I called my project Double Trouble, on ravelry.

  75. Whenever I’m preparing for visitors I remember your story and allow myself to relax. I remind myself that I want to cultivate honest, meaningful relationships, and I can’t do that if I’m hiding the evidence of my daily life. My house is a reflection of my priorities and cleaning is definitely not one of them! I am so much more proud of the knitting and children’s artwork than I am of a clean floor.
    I always tell people that someday my children will look back on their childhoods and realize how much they were loved, appreciated, and valued, but I doubt they will ever wish I had cleaned more. Nor will I.

  76. A little poem I learned in LLL as a 38-year-old first-time mom with an unhelpful spouse and (after six months) a full-time job saved my sanity:
    “Cleaning and scrubbing can wail ’til tomorrow,
    “for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
    “So quiet down, cobwebs; dust, go to sleep.
    “I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”

    Like your dear Mum, Stephanie, you are a wise woman indeed.

  77. My first thought upon reading this was that I love you, and what a wise woman your mother was. I had my fill of the other moms with their perfectly kept homes and disapproval of my lack of housekeeping skills. I would love to have that clean home but there always seems to be something better to spend my time doing.
    That being said, I will take some moments today to try and make some kind of order in the house before spending the day with my teenager. I’m having to remind myself that this part of childhood is also over quickly, and cherish the good parts of it!

  78. We can all learn from your mother’s wisdom! Thanks for sharing.

    PS. I never put the laundry behind the piano. Too risky, someone might go there. Instead I put it under the bedcover….
    🙂

  79. Your mother was very wise. I wish my mom had said that so that cleaning hadn’t been her priority. But I’m going to be a first time Grandma soon and I can change that for my daughter and her little one. I’m so grateful for you.

    • I don’t think you’ve ever been to my house (pretty sure I’d remember), but if you had you would have seen that on my fridge!

      After the last 4 months of looking after an elderly sister in the hospital (on top of a full-time job and a full volunteer schedule, plus my hubby) I feel like I may be the least dull woman on earth.

      Here’s hoping I get things under some kind of control soon and become at least a little dull.
      Chris S in Canada

  80. Dear Stephanie,
    Your honesty in sharing your mistakes with the world has helped me so much over the years to persist, to correct, to start over again (mostly with knitting, but other stuff in life, too). Last week I cast on, knit a few rows and screwed up, frogged and started again, six times. Without exaggerating, before I began reading your posts, I would have just given up by the third attempt, thinking “this is just too hard” or “I’ll never get it”. But you make mistakes and you are an awesome knitter! It happens to all of us! You are my inspiration to just sort it and get on with it (memory of two beautiful left hand gloves floats into my head). Thank you.

  81. Steph,
    My mom was just the opposite. She EXPECTED the house to be cleaned up before guests came over as she thought it was rude to have a dirty house and have folks see that you did not clean. She said it was polite and decent to always have a clean home when people came over. It showed them respect. Even if you were busy, guests deserved the best so…CLEAN THIS HOUSE UP! was her mantra. I do it to this day. It’s the tape that stays in my head at 60 years old. As for knitting…THAT is my “it does not have to be perfect” place. Some mistakes I leave in just so that I know I am not perfect, nor do I have to be.

      • What is funny is, I don’t mind the tape. And I have had folks over who always tell me that they wish their house was as clean as mine. I just say, do a bit each day. Don’t try to do it all when everyone is supposed to be over in 2 hours. Yo won’t make it. Do 15 minutes a day. Pick one place, do 15 minutes and stop. The next day, pick a second spot, do 15 minutes. That is all I do. It’s not rocket science. If you don’t get there..okay. But STOP trying to do it all at once, expecially if you have to work. I worked until my husband asked me to stop in 2014 because of the giant federal tax liability we were incurring. So, here I am at 60, doing what I did when I was in my 20s, 15 minutes each day, one area…just one. Might be a bathroom, or one bedroom. I did that when the boys were small and it always worked. 15 minutes was all I had anyway when they were small.

  82. Dear Stephanie,
    You make me feel so much better – as you have for years. I just had to rip back a grandson’s vest ribbing. Wrong needle. A few months ago I had to literally make almost 4 easy vests (of this same pattern) for my two identical twin grandson’s, because of thoughtless mistakes – usually using the wrong needle ( don’t know HOW) or not counting correctly.
    Thanks as always for being real. And thanks to your wonderful, admirable Mother too.

  83. I love all of this. We are at same places in our lives, after following similar paths, and I, too, do a lot of reflecting considering what my daughter will take into her own adult life, especially if she chooses a family path. And I know I have written scads about how other’s false presentations of their lives have sent me to the dark side in self-love more than 1000000 times. Or the litany of liturgies I gave my adored class about mistakes not being failures, and necessary to be better people – not failures of ability in existence. That alone changed how I presented myself. If I expected them to be comfortable with fallibility, then I needed to be transparent about mine (within context). I would purposely make mistakes for them to catch. When I discovered unintentional ones, I outlined step by step how I was going to remedy it and encouraged their input.

    It is my thought that one great way we might address shifting impossible perceived expectations by the next generation(s), is by documenting our own foibles and our attempts to right it.

    Thank you for being tribute to a beginning.

  84. Thank you so much for sharing this! I remember you telling that story about your Mum before and it changed something for me. I’ve tried since then to find the blog post, but no luck. I puke don’t your books and looked in there…nothing. Could you remind us where to find that original story? I’d love to read it again. The first time I read it, it really struck home and offered me comfort at a time when I thought I was failing at being a “good” mom to my four kiddos. It’s a message people need to hear sometimes. I’ve often wanted to share it with a friend and just can’t find it anywhere. Thanks to you (or anyone!) who could point me in the right direction. 🙂

  85. Wish I had read this before I had to rip back the toddler sweater I am making. For reasons lost I the midsts of time (but may be related to TV watching) I started the neckline at the same level as the divide for the back buttons. Result ultra low cleavage – for a toddler!!

  86. No giggling here, just lots and lots of identifying with everything you said. Thanks for helping me start what I am sure will be a challenging Christmas season Monday. She was always right, we know that!

  87. Holy Smokes that tattoo is Amazing. I have a button on the inside of my wrist but I really want the wool symbol now too! Is it yours? please can we have a blog post dedicated to yarn based tats?

  88. That lovely little sweater is going to be just the thing in the gloom of February (no matter how many times you have to knit the sleeves). Thanks for sharing, I appreciate your work and your voice. 🙂

  89. I absolutely love that being yourself in front of others—hot mess and all—is being kind. I am incredibly kind, I guess!!! I would claim to have given up trying to keep up appearances, but the truth is I never even tried. I had three babies in three years, one of whom was autistic and a biter. It was all I could do to keep them alive! Thank you so much for your honesty. It keeps me feeling a bit less awful about my own hot mess-ness and a lot more lovely about how kind I must actually be! <3

  90. REALLY hoping the story behind the underpants under the kitchen chair is a good one! (And not that they just fell from the laundry basket on the way to or from Mr. Washie.) Now, I don’t really need to KNOW the story, I respect your privacy and all that, but just gimme a “bow chicka bow bow” and we’ll call it good.

  91. Aw, c’mon, it’s not like we could have noticed from the pic you posted anyway….I am sure you will recover well and Elliott will still be thrilled what Grama made him! 🙂

  92. Oh hell no. Now I feel like a fool for not seeing it. Don’t worry, you are not alone in falling short of perfection from time to time.

  93. A friend sent me this link to make me feel better after I realized that hurrying to finish a sweater to take on the Nautical Knitting Cruise this Sunday, I had finished sleeve number two of La Jefa (Laura Nelkins’s pattern) and couldn’t straighten it out because I had “trapped” the left front inside the sleeve. Laura told me that she had done that once with another sweater using a similar construction so between that and your story, I feel much better. Misery always loves miserable company!

  94. 1. At least you get to reknit fabulously beautiful yarn.

    2. That pie is a work of art. It looks too pretty to eat, but too delicious not too.

    3. My oven has become the permanent residence for my dirty cast iron skillets. And I have no kidlets to wrangle – just me, DH. and Teh Kittehs. My only excuse is chronic back pain, coupled with my lifelong abhorrence of scullery duties. Cooking good – cleanup bad.

  95. I make my own granola. Google The Tightwad Gazette Granola recipe and you’ll find it. It is good, and inexpensive. You can add whatever you want, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I like toasted almonds and coconut. Sorry about the sleeve problem. A little homemade granola takes my cares away, maybe it will help nourish your body and soul.

  96. Oh my goodness, this is so perfect. Your mum is right (aren’t they always?). I look at people’s perfect houses and want to burst into hysterical laughter when they apologise for the mess, or for buying some part of the food ready-made. I have dust bunnies under my couch, and never enough knitting time.

  97. Steph, I think I’m living your life with a 20 year time delay. LLL stuff, doula stuff, charity stuff, cloth nappies, food and knitting. Except I have three boys. So…If you could go back in time and give yourself advice…give it to me please!

    Also…I must be kinder than I worried I was, because I am fooling nobody 😉

  98. As a writer, I’m sure that you will appreciate the word “scurryfunge.” It means the mad cleaning that one does prior to company coming over!! (It’s archaic, but I really think it needs to make a comeback!) 🙂

  99. I’m not laughing. Well, not much. Because I only get a finished garment by running out of mistakes to make (my last sweater is still in timeout, because I knitted three fronts and one sleeve) so I empathise. I tell my daughter that if you never make a mistake, you never make anything. It’s cool to make mistakes, it means you learn something. Ok, if they hurt someone you have to put that right, and sometimes you have to live with sucky consequences, but with knitting you can rip it all out and do it again (and again) and it’ll be ok. I like making knitting mistakes. You can fix ’em, no one gets hurt and it doesn’t (usually) cost anything. Given that we are living in interesting times just at the moment, I’m usually grateful it’s not worse.

  100. Maybe to help others ( but not to make other moms feel bad,) I find that the washer and dryer hold a lot of stuff when you need to hide it. Loads and loads of stuff – dishes, dirty clothes, boots, pots and pans, toys. Shove it right on in there. Even your mother-in-law isn’t going to check the washer and dryer with closed lids.

  101. You know, I HATE cleaning bathrooms and mine are always on the edge of being health hazards so I was thinking maybe we should bring back the outhouse! I mean other than being an inconvenience in winter, who spent time cleaning an outhouse??? Just think – more time to knit and not worrying about what your guests would think! 🙂

  102. Doesn’t knitting the correct size sleeve first mean that you now have a little ball of frogged yarn of the exact amount you need for a sleeve? Because I think that’s kind of cool, at least.

  103. Thank you – I have a 5 month old at home, I pretty much feel like crying all the time, my daughter does cry a lot of the time, and I’m not taking those cute monthly pictures next to a teddy bear to show how much she’s grown. So thank you, pretending isn’t kind, and I’m going to assume every new mom with a perfect Instagram account also lays down on the floor next to her baby, and cries.

  104. My mother said that there were reasons for doors to be closed and better things to do than housework. As long as the living room, guest bath and kitchen were decent, everything was cool.

  105. So many comments and replies that are about kindness and philosophy and life, so let me just say that “Coyotes in the wild have knit better” is a sentence that brings mirth to my day.

  106. She wondered aloud if they felt inadequate when I pretended I could do it all, when in reality I d put a bag of diapers that needed washing in the garbage can in the backyard because I was too far behind.

  107. Dear Stephanie, thank you for this post, I have been following you for a short time but have read a good chunk of your blog already.
    You have probably ripped back by now but in case you have not, what about “cutting off” the good sleeve – just a little surgery so you can save yourself reknitting it. After you knit up the body, you can graft it back. Don’t know whether anyone suggested it – have not read all the comments. I love you and your writing! (and your knitting of course!) Adéla

  108. The basic idea is that you build settlements and cities around the island of Catan, produce and trade resources from the surrounding terrain, use them to build more roads and settlements to expand your influence and win the game.

  109. I don’t know whether I would call it “free love”; the phrase trivializes a journey that should never be begun without care, consideration, honesty and integrity.

  110. The basic idea is that you build settlements and cities around the island of Catan, produce and trade resources from the surrounding terrain, use them to build more roads and settlements to expand your influence and win the game.

  111. I don’t know whether I would call it “free love”; the phrase trivializes a journey that should never be begun without care, consideration, honesty and integrity.

  112. Love this post. Why do we all pretend we have it all together? My house is always the cleanest before guest. It has gotten to the point that I need to invite people over to get the motivation to clean the house. Yes, I only socialize maybe twice a year just so the health department isn’t notified. Your Mom was one VERY smart lady.

  113. Takes me back to my early mothering years, though knitting was interspersed with sewing and reading. We had LLL mtgs at our home and the scenario was so very similar (down to the piano).

    Thank you and thank you to your Mother, whose wisdom lives on in you and your family.

    Your insights are keeping me sane and encourage me to embrace my knitting “mistakes”.

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