Interlude

You know how sometimes, you’ve got these friends, and they totally love that you’re a knitter, and they really think that it’s terrific that you knit, but they’re kinda fuzzy on the details?  This is a story like that.  I know this guy, Barrett, and a while ago (I am unclear how this happened, truth be told) Barrett came into possession of a bag of yarn. He was thrilled. Delighted really, because he knows me, and I know what to do with yarn, and he presented me with this bag of yarn – all smiles, and asked if I would make him a scarf.

For reasons that I can’t even begin to explain, I agreed. (Actually, the way I remember it, I only sorta agreed, but then he agreed to be a Team Lead for the Bike Rally and I said it was for sure then.) The problem, other than that knitting a scarf is actually tons of work, was this.

I don’t know if it’s clear from that picture, but there are two problems.  One is obvious. Those colours don’t really “go”.  The second problem, and I this is the one I think you can’t spot… it’s dishcloth cotton. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how I was going to make Barrett a scarf that was a) remotely good looking b) not so heavy that it didn’t threaten to break his clavicles.  I thought about it for a while, and by a while, I mean months. Maybe a year.  (Okay, it was a year for sure.)

A few weeks ago, I got this idea. I’d pretty much firmly established that I had no interest in knitting this yarn, but I still kept it around in the canopy of the stash, right at the top, where I had to feel guilty about it. I’d told Barrett it would be a scarf and I didn’t want to tell him it wouldn’t be, and frankly, part of me didn’t want to give up. I decided that if I couldn’t/wouldn’t knit it, then maybe there was another way to make it into a scarf?  I started playing around with it, making different piles, wondering how it could go together… then I got my little loom.

I made the yarn into two piles, in the end and did a bit of math to make sure my plan was going to work.

Then I wove,

then I warped it again.

When all was said and done, I felt like I’d done a magic trick.

It has occurred to me, while I think I’ve pulled off quite the charm, that I’ve likely done very little to teach Barrett about good yarn, about what can be a scarf and what can’t be and he remains a person walking the earth thinking that you can just bring a textile person anything and have them turn it into something pretty good.  I wondered, as I handed him the scarves, if I should have said something. Something like “You know, this is actually very impressive” or “You know, this was practically alchemy dude, that was dishcloth cotton”. Instead I just forked them over, and he looked pleased, and said he loved them.

I didn’t say a word, but we’ll all know.  Magic, I tell you.  Magic.

Garden Party

It’s Victoria Day, a holiday in here in Canada.  Victoria was the first Queen of Canada,  and the day was originally to honour her, but over time it’s become the day that Canadians celebrate the current Sovereign’s Birthday – even though the Queen’s birthday is in April. (Don’t look at us like that. The weather in April is dodgy, this makes way more sense, and you can’t have a federal holiday moving around every time you get a new King or Queen. How on earth would you plan anything, and besides, the Brits assigned her a birthday in June. We’re not alone in this.)  Here in Canada we like to further complicate this holiday by referring to it as the weekend of the 24th –  as in “What are you doing for the May 24th weekend?” even though the weekend doesn’t always fall on the 24th.  Technically, it falls on the weekend attached to the Monday before the 24th, and as complicated as that seems when we try to explain it outside of Canada, it makes total sense here.  (As does calling it “the May long” or “May two-four” – to get that last one you need to know that in much of Canada a case of beer has twenty four bottles in it, and thus is called “a two-four”.)  It’s a traditional start to the summer, a day for (most) Canadians to put in the garden, open cottages, crank up the barbecue for the first time of the year – generally enjoy being outside after the long winter.  I say most, because it’s still snowing in Nunavut, and the warmest place in the whole country today is in Grand Rapids, Manitoba where it is only a balmy 20 degrees. (That’s 68F for our American friends.)  In many cities, tonight there will be fireworks.  (Edited to add that the forecast I looked at was clearly wrong! It’s much warmer than that in lots of places, including here.)

Here in Toronto it’s just sixteen degrees (edit: it’s twenty now!)  but that’s not stopping me. I’m feeling a bit better, shingles and all (or maybe I’ve just got better drugs, who knows or cares) and before we visit Joe’s mum in the hospital today, Joe’s headed to the Marina to paint the bottom of the boat (this is, apparently, a yearly thing) and I’m going to our tiny back garden to try and make sense of it.  Last fall my Mum had just died when it was time to prune everything and put the garden to bed, and it didn’t get done at all. That’s a shame, considering how much mum Mum loved to garden. If she were here she’d have had words with me already about the state of the thing, and as a matter of fact, I think this might be the first time I prune the rose in the back myself. My mother’s always done it for me. Lucky for me, it was always accompanied by a lecture, so I feel sure I know how.

Not much is in bloom in the garden just now, a trillium or two are blooming under the tree, the snakeshead fritilaria is finally out (every year it’s late enough that I worry it has died) violets are everywhere, but the real star is the Bleeding Hearts. They love it in my garden, and have spread everywhere, and this week of the spring is the reason I don’t pull any of the volunteers out.

Pictured with the glorious things, a fetching pair of socks. They’re hot off the needles (well, last week) and are a pair for Carol, who was complaining of cold feet in hospital.

Yarn: Paton’s Kroy 4ply sock in Dad’s Jacquard #55714. Pattern: my own plain vanilla pattern from Knitting Rules.

Also on the needles, a spur of the moment sweater. It’s version C from Seasonal Droplets Trio, knit out of Hemp for Knitting’s Allhemp3.  I snagged this at Knit City last year, and while it doesn’t look like much on the needles, the sample had that whole post-apocolyptic-my-clothes-are-all-rags-but-I-look-great Matrix vibe going for it.

I thought it was going to take about 10 minutes to knit, but so far it’s a shocking three days. I sort of regret starting it now, because as delighted as I’ll be to have a summer sweater – there’s a fleece in my office singing my name, and I can’t wait to get to it. (It’s a little Jacob. Very exciting.)  Also on the needles:

More socks – one pair off the needles, one pair on.  I’m loving this yarn, it’s Ridley Sock Yarn from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts (I think the colourway was called “Imagine”) and I thought I liked it, but as I’m knitting with it, I’m coming to love it. It’s a cabled yarn – four plies each made up of a two-ply, and that’s a structure I really love.  Complex constructions like that are such a great way to give yarns made from softer fibres (like merino) more durability.

Rather slow going on these socks at present, just because I’m trying to make good time on the sweater, poor little things have been in the bottom of my bag for a few days. I found out about Sea Turtle Fiber Arts, by the way, because Sarah’s very generously sent along skeins for the Strung Along Retreats a few times.

This upcoming retreat is our Knit, Play, Cook retreat, and if you’ve got a business and would like to get the neat thing you make in front of our retreaters we’d love to talk to you about it.  We do it a little differently than most other retreats, so shoot us an email and we can talk about it.  (Info@strungalong.ca)

PS. We’ve got a single cancellation for the June Retreat – the only one this year that’s for knitters only. (The rest are for knitters who are also spinners.)  There’s some more info here, and you can email if you’d like to talk about that too.  info@Strungalong.ca

Impeccable Timing

Last Monday, in the middle of all the things going on here, rolling up to a tricky Mother’s Day and with Joe’s mum still in hospital, I started not to feel so well. There was a pain in my leg up at the top, and I iced it, thought that maybe I should be going to yoga and tried to get on with everything I had to do. Tuesday morning, without wanting to be dramatic about the whole thing, the pain had spread from my inner thigh up and around to my back, and I was pretty sure something had gone wrong. It was swollen, it hurt, and at 5am I could no longer tolerate the pain and I was pretty sure I was dying of something, and me – the sort of person who thinks that if you don’t feel well you probably need some kale, a bath and to buck up in general – I went to the ER.  Once I was there they confirmed that it was super inflamed and swollen (got that, hot shots) ran some tests, and said the redness was likely cellulitis. They praised me for coming in and not just having a bath and some kale, and sent me home with some high powered antibiotics. Two days later I was back – telling them that their antibiotics were completely full of it, and that I was worse, not better, and the lot of them did more tests, and sent me home with a prescription anti-inflammatory, urging patience. I limped home, and cried. By Saturday I was a mess. I had a rash, I couldn’t sleep or eat for the pain, I was absolutely unable to say the word “groin” even one more time to anybody, and I managed somehow to stick it out until Monday, when my family Doctor took one look at me and said “No wonder you’re miserable. That’s shingles.”

From there, things got better – appropriate drugs for the pain, some antivirals, and the situation came down to a dull roar. There was the day where I took the suggested dose of the pain stuff and accidentally wound up as high as &#$%&$, but I’ve got a grip on the level now.. enough to keep me moving, but not so much that I don’t dare leave the house. (I gotta tell you though, I see why somebody might abuse this stuff. I felt terrific. Really tall.) I’m still not feeling good, and we’re still at the hospital all the time, but it’s clear I’m going to live, and now I’m leaning on distraction from the discomfort.

Wanna see a sweater? Great.

It’s Elliot’s finished Birthday sweater –

Pattern: Hearst

Yarn: Alpha B Yarn “Kiwi B”, an Australian Polworth that she dyed just for one of the Strung Along retreats a few years ago. The colourway’s named for the co-ordinates of Port Ludlow.

I think it looks great on him, and he seems to love it. We gave it a trial run in the park, over by the cherry blossoms.

It’s a little big, because it’s finally warming up here, and I wanted him to have a sweater he could wear this fall, I love it.

And that’s not just because I’m kinda high.*

*I think

A Glimpse Through a Window

I know for a solid fact that I have written here before, likely with an excess of emotion and too many words, about the relationship I have with Mother’s Day.  I’ve written about how so often when the girls were little it failed to live up to expectations – mostly because children were in charge of the execution, and I was in charge of expectations,  and  I always put too much weight on it. It always seemed to me that Mother’s Day should be the one day a year that motherhood came off like it was supposed to, and it never did. Instead it always ended up with someone crying because it wasn’t working out the way they had imagined, and that person was often me. Sometimes that was a seven year old trying to make banana pancakes (it is worth noting that I really hate banana pancakes) or a ten year old who didn’t get a turn holding the cake, but the point is that so often the day got away from us, and it took me about 20 years of mothering to come to understand that the biggest problem with Mother’s Day was that it was coming off the way it was supposed to was in fact inevitable, because Motherhood is a mess.  I’ve made a tenuous peace with the day, especially as the girls have gotten old enough to fight about cake quietly.

This year, I’ve been dreading it. Take the regular mixed feelings I have about the day, throw in a dead mother and I am a wreck. Emotionally speaking, it’s been like standing on the tracks and watching a train come. I’ve been worrying about it and trying to figure out what I can do to distract myself, and feeling sort of resentful about people who still have mothers and trying to remember that I am a mother, not just a motherless child, and that my kids have expectations of that day that I should think about. (I feel like that last bit makes me super mature.)

This is pretty much where my head was at on May 1st, not coincidentally the last time I wrote to you. That evening I went to a Bike Rally Meeting, sat down in my chair and got a call from Joe. He was calling to say that his Mum had had what looked like a big stroke, and she was in an ambulance and he was in traffic and… I stood up, walked out of the meeting, and 30 minutes later the whole clan was in a nearby hospital. Carol had indeed had a pretty big stroke, and it was scary.  Lucky for us, everything went right. She was home when it happened, Old Joe was home when it happened, she got to the Stroke Centre in amazing time, and she was given absolutely the most cutting edge treatment you’ve ever heard of.  It’s been 11 days and while she has a ways to go, things look bright. Joe still has a mum. A funny, loving, clever mum, who’s still all of those things, and we didn’t lose her.

Eleven days ago, if you had told me that there was any upside at all to Nana Carol’s stroke, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have said that this family has had about enough, and that we are too fragile and too hurt to manage any of this, and I would have been wrong, because as crappy as a stroke is (and don’t get me started, it’s plenty unfair, and lousy and Pollyanna has definitely not taken up residence here with an unlimited supply of unicorn sparkles and rainbows) there’s been a few things that have been amazing. The strength of this family has been outrageous. Maybe it took a few losses to really get us trained up, but we have got this down like you wouldn’t believe. We’ve been taking it in shifts, everyone showing up and sitting with her, talking with her, being with her, and not resenting a moment of it.  Carol hasn’t been alone, she’s had her favourite foods, her own clothes and linens, and yesterday she trounced Old Joe at Hearts three times, so clearly on the path to recovery. It’s so wonderful to see a mother so loved, and a family so generous. I am so proud of them, and her, and that feeling is going around. They’re a fantastic team.

From where I sit, it was a small gift of another sort. I thought I was about to have the worse Mother’s Day of my life, and couldn’t see past the sadness, the loss, the things I didn’t have and can’t get back… all the Mother’s Day celebrations with my own mum that I’ll never have again.

I’d been looking at this picture a lot. It’s my mum and her daughters, and Carol and hers, just a few years ago. The lot of us had gone out for a Mother’s Day dinner together. Just the Mums. I’ve been caught up in how I couldn’t have that again… I was so happy that day. I’ve been looking at this one too, from just last year.

I posted it for our family at the time, and the caption read “No shortage of Mothers to celebrate this Mother’s Day!” I look at that first one, and feel overwhelming loss. I look at the second, and realize that there was a few days last week, a few days where I looked through a window to a family with no grandmothers in it, where both Joe and I have no mum, and where everyone in the first picture is broken-hearted about everyone in the second, and I managed to find a little gratitude for what we’ve still got, which is an amazing mum, who’s so fabulous that she makes me miss my own so very much, every day.

Also, it turns out that if you’re hanging out in a hospital waiting for someone to get better, instead of the alternative… you can get a hell of a lot of knitting done.

 

 

Block Party

Back from a whirlwind trip to Oregon and the Knot Another Fiber Festival, and not only did I have a very good time working there, I inexplicably got a ton of knitting done. Maybe it was just the flight there and the flight back, but I finished almost everything I was hoping I would. Elliot’s sweater pieces are all finished, and blocking. (I block before I do the making up.  I know that’s not at all in vogue, but it really gives me the best results. I’ll block it again after the sewing is done and the buttonband and collar are on. I’ve conducted an experiment or ten and really, all the knitting books weren’t lying when they said this is the order of operations. It’s a really great little sweater, I’m not going to give in to laziness now.)

I got all the ends (finally, I know) woven in on Russell Street, and that’s had a bath too..

I even managed to bang out a pair of socks… Although those aren’t blocked. They’ll do fine when I find the feet they fit.

(Pattern: I made it up on a plane. Yarn: Must Stash Yarns, colourway:  Not all who wander are lost.)

I even got to start a new pair of socks, but…

That will teach me to cast on late at night on a plane, in the dark.  I’d feel worse about it if I didn’t know the truth, which is that knitting destroys your ability to count reliably, even to small numbers.  I’ll concentrate really hard today, and see if I can make it to sixty-six.

Happy May Day.