The Numbers Don’t Lie

On the weekend, I was feeling pretty good about the blanket situation. I’d completed the centre, picked up the stitches all the way around it, worked the first garter border, the ring lace, the second garter border, the first big border, the third garter border and was just a few rounds away from finishing the second big border. That just left the final garter border and that’s just eight rounds, and I’d be staring the edging.  Sure, the edging takes a while to knit, a million years or so, but it was seeming all so possible.  So possible in fact that I worked on some other stuff. I worked on a little onesie I’m knitting, and I even contemplated starting something else – a little merino shirt for the baby to wear in the early days.  I went on a dive into the stash and didn’t come up with just the yarn I wanted but I did find some hand combed merino top (a gift from MamaCate more than a decade ago, combed with her own two little hands) and It seemed like just the right thing. I didn’t have the yarn I wanted, but I could make the yarn I wanted, and I gave the blanket a little glance, told it to essentially knit itself for a bit, and pulled out my wheel.

It’s been a while since I sat at it, and it was such a pleasure that the next thing I knew I’d spun all my singles, and plied, and voila –

By yesterday afternoon I had the sweetest little skein of two-ply merino, about 200m of a light fingering weight, just the right thing for the idea I had. I thought about getting out the needles right then, but the blanket was lurking, and I thought to myself that since I only had about ten rounds to go before the edging, I should just put in few rounds.

Now, the blanket has, at this point- about 900 stitches per round, and that increases by 8 every other round. Sitting down to do “a few rounds” isn’t a small chunk of time. It’s lace, too, so the idea of getting this bit done and moving on to the edging/casting off phase is pretty motivating. Of course, I have no real idea when the baby will come, but I do know that I should get a move on, and I did.  Last night as I was hanging out with the family, chatting after Sam’s birthday dinner (she turned 26 yesterday!) finishing the last lace round, (JUST NINE ROUNDS LEFT) I spread the work out on my knee for a minute, and had a thought. The thought was not good. The thought was that the border I was looking a wasn’t tall enough.

I turned to Sam and asked her what she thought.  Could I stop? Did I need another repeat?  Sam looked at it and said that she thought another repeat wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but that if I wanted to be done with it, she thought I could stop if I wanted to.

Wanted to be done with it? Yes. That is what I wanted, so I celebrated, called it done, and went to bed, happy to be waking up today in a world where there are just NINE ROUNDS LEFT.

This morning, well rested but with a proper sense of panic around the blanket, anxious to finish those NINE ROUNDS, I pulled the behemoth onto my lap and started to work.  As I started, I thought about what Sam had said.  “If you wanted to be done with it” and then I wondered about having asked her at all.  Are those the actions of a confident knitter? Does a someone who’s sure they’re right ask for help getting out of knitting a bit more? I drank my coffee, and thought about revisiting my blanket math.  I’ve got a sketch with measurements and a plan in a drawer in my office, a sheet of paper with the measurements from Elliot’s blanket on it, and equivalent calculations for this one – because I have this crazy idea that they should be about the same size. I didn’t go get the paper, because I know what it says on it, and I know what it’s going to tell me. I know that math. It’s my math – and although my mathematics skills are total crap, my memory is just fine. I looked at my measuring tape, and I thought about measuring, knowing full well that if I did, it wouldn’t be nine more rounds.  It would be TWENTY FIVE MORE ROUNDS, and well – have a look at Meg.

Exactly.  You see the situation.  So, here I sit, measuring tape in one hand, the truth in the other and I’m trying to bring myself to accept the whole thing.  I do not think, if I decide to go the long way, that I will outrun this baby.  I do think that I might be happier with it in the end though, and this child will have the blanket a lot longer than it’s going to take to knit those rounds, and while do I want to be “done with it” I also want it to be perfect.

Maybe I’ll just look at that little skein of merino for a bit.

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie

I wasn’t going to blog today because I didn’t have much time, but a short post is better than no post so I’m going to write this, but I’m not even going to try to make it coherent.  Let’s do a list, shall we? Here’s some things.

1. We had Megan’s baby shower on Saturday here at the house.  I thought that you were only supposed to have a shower for your first, but the girls said I was being old-fashioned and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to celebrate getting a baby, so we did.

2. I made cookies.

3. I also made a romper (the pattern is this one) and then I hadn’t run out of yarn so I made a bonnet (no pattern I just know what babies look like) and the I still had yarn so I made shoes.

I am out of yarn now. All that from one skein of Rosy Green Cheeky Merino Joy – which made it a very good deal indeed.  (Colour was 62, Isar Pebble.)

4. The shoes are from 50 Baby bootees to knit, which is a book I love now and always have. It’s paid for itself a thousand times.

5. Elliot is staying here for 3 days and two nights while his parents celebrate the last gasp of relative freedom they have before the new baby thows them back into lockdown.  I admit, I’m a little nervous – we’ve been doing sleepovers to practice for this – and so that he can have people to hang out with when the little usurper arrives, but two nights is a long time for a boy not yet three.  I hope it goes well. Today was the first and it went just fine. We cooked dinner together, and he went to bed like warm butter on hot toast, so let’s just see if it lasts.  (I have purchased treats and are willing to use them.)

6. I have their dog too.  See above re: treats.

7. I taught Elliot how to peel a carrot. Together with the potty training (he is better at that then the carrot) he is just about employable.

8. I do not care to discuss the blanket (or lack thereof) today.

All that I survey

This morning, before I packed my bags and got ready to head for the airport, I spread out my knitting and had a little sigh about it. I brought three projects with me on this trip – and I didn’t meet my goals on any of them.  I forgot how completely exhausted I am after skiing, and what it’s like to try and juggle my other responsibilities with that.  Joe always says that the great thing about being self employed is the flexibility.  You can work any 14 hours a day you want, and both of us were feeling that.  If we were in the hotel room we were on our laptops, trying to get stuff accomplished and pretend to the people we had commitments to that we weren’t playing on the slopes, and I only managed to carve out about an hour of serious knitting each evening.  I did manage to get a few hours of non-serious knitting in each day as we travelled back and forth to the ski hill.  We like taking the bus once we’re there, and it gives you some pretty good knitting time, although I couldn’t bring myself to bring the blanket on the bus and then stuff it in my ski bag.  I’m too far along for it to get dirty or what if someone stole my ski bag? There would be no coming back from it.  I kept it in the hotel room – resisting the urge to put it in the safe.

I had three knitting goals this trip.  I wanted to finish the romper.

This did not happen.  It might happen today as I make my way home – my flight’s been delayed twice thanks to a snowstorm in Toronto, and it’s farther along than it is in that picture since I knit on it on the way to the airport, but mostly I’m behind.

I brought this little white sweater (pictured in the corner above) It’s a plain white cardigan knit on 2.25mm needles which is, rather predictably, taking forever.  I aimed to finish the body and start the sleeves. Even brought needles for the sleeves, but it was a total bust. While I thought about it a lot, it’s had the audacity to stay about the same, only a few centimetres longer than it was when I left Toronto. I suppose that I would have made better progress if I’d knit it instead of thinking about it, but I was so demoralized this failure that I didn’t even pack it in my carry on. It can think about what it’s done while it’s squashed in my suitcase.

The blanket…. that was the big fail.  My goal was to finish the border I’m on now, accomplish the little garter band before the next border, and be finished the next border, which is smaller than the first.  Sadly, not only did I not get this done, I fell way short.  I’m on the last round of the first border.  I think I forgot to take into account that this blanket is growing rapidly. Right now there are about 712 stitches in a round – but that grows by 8 stitches every other round.  Predictably, those rounds are taking longer and longer.  Still, I’m on to 8 rounds of garter now, and then 20 of a lace pattern much simpler than the last, so maybe there is some hope.  I’m going to work on it all the way home today, and it’s a 4.5 hour flight, so maybe?  It’s making me anxious, I’d like to make some real progress, but I’m going to avoid setting a crazy goal that just generates more knitting deadline anxiety.

Whew! almost done, which is good because I’m off to stand in the Standby line and see if I can get myself anywhere close to Toronto, but one last thing.  Debbi and Judith and I have had lots of questions about the retreat, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that if a couple of people write to ask us, then a lot of people are wondering about it, so we thought that we’d take a few minutes a few days in a row to answer questions. (We’re speaking here of the Strung Along Spring Retreat. It’s March 20-23rd, and there are details on this page.  There’s also details about the June and November retreats there, but please note that those two are full, with a wait list. We can put you on that wait list, but for November in particular, those odds are not good.  If you were hoping for a retreat this year, March is your baby.)

I’m answering today- because this is a question we get that could be sung from my own little heart.

I would love to come and I wish I was the sort of person who could, but I feel really anxious about going alone and not knowing anyone and I’m not sure I can do it without a wingknitter.  Does anyone come alone? What’s it like if they do?

Knitter, my little cowardly, introverted, nervous self hears you.  There was a birthday party for someone really like last week and I had trouble going because I wasn’t sure I was going to know anyone there. It turned out absolutely fine, but I hear you. I actually AM you.  I can tell you a few things about the retreat that might make you feel better.  First, yup.  About half of the retreat is brand spanking new to the experience, and coming alone.  You wouldn’t be the only one, for sure.  Second, almost everyone else who’s coming is a repeat retreat who came alone the first time that they did, so they understand how you feel.

Next, this retreat was set up by someone who’s as nervous as you are (that would be me) and someone who’s pretty normal socially.  (That would be Debbi.) We’ve got it arranged so that it’s pretty cozy.  On the first evening you meet everyone in a big room, but you don’t have to talk to them or do anything, Debbi and I take the heat.  From then on, you’re in a small group with 10-14 other knitters, and they’re the same ones every day.  The whole retreat gathers for meals and evening activities, but you’ve always got that little group that you’re with every day, and almost everybody makes buddies in that group.

Last, I can tell you two things- there is lots of time to go to your room, regroup, knit quietly and gather yourself before you return to the fray. On the other hand, if you’ve made a friend or twelve, there’s lots of cozy living room style space to hang out and knit together.  We’ve got a little lounge that we hang out in.

The other thing of those two? We have knitters who have been coming for years, because it is the one time of the year that they see the friends that they make at Strung Along –  it is a point of pride for Debbi and Judith and I that the retreat is a ship that has launched a thousand friendships.  It is a beautiful thing.

If all else fails, you know me. I’ll be there.

If you want to come, email info@strungalong.ca and we can talk about it.

The Voice

This post comes to you from Banff, Alberta. Joe’s been working out this way a bit, and so I flew down to meet him, and we’ll have a quick ski before I go home and he goes back to work, and then the two of us are grounded soon as we enter the “On Call” phase for Megan and the impending grandbaby.  The on call phase is quite long. I had that crazy mad dash to make it home when Elliot decided to make an early appearance, so we’re not taking any chances with this baby.  Could be as shifty as her brother.

I think this pressure, this worry that the baby will be here soon and I’ll run out of time and nothing will be done contributed to a fairly disastrous knitting week.  I’ve got the blanket underway of course, and a romper and I sort of think I could finish a onsie (if I started a onsie) and they were both going really well, if by really well you understand that there was progress, but I was having some sort of dis-associative episode where The Voice tried to deal with me.

This is one of my best tricks – ignoring The Voice. When I was a younger knitter it was easy to ignore the voice.  I’d be knitting along, and The Voice would say something like “This looks a little big” and I’d say “what the hell do you know?  You are The Voice of insecurity, of doubt, of low self-esteem. Get off me.” Then The Voice would say “You know what? You’re right, either one of us could be correct here. Good luck.”  At some point it dawned on me that The Voice was almost always right. The Voice was actually helpful.  It would whisper tips, like “that gauge looks a little funky are you sure you want to skip washing the swatch?”  Or it would humbly offer something like  “Hey, can we take a minute and connect our knowledge of the size of your bust and the size of this sweater and see if we’re still both onside with this?” Or “That increase looks like crap and you know it.”

Over time The Voice has proven that while it seems like a pain in the arse, its prime directive is really nice knitting and it doesn’t need to shush up and not talk to me. It is me. It is not my low self esteem, it isn’t interfering with me, it’s not trying to wreak my fun, it is yay verily the voice of my experience and it is trying to run quality control on my knitting.  I am interested in making things that are nice, so now I try to listen to The Voice.

(Someone will ask, the romper is the Spring into Summer Romper)

I can only assume then, that when earlier this week The Voice said “Hey wow. You’ve chosen the wrong border for this blanket, it’s going to be way too tall.” And “Yo, Steph, the gauge on that romper is bananapants that’s the size of a toddler not a newborn what the hell.” (The Voice has poor punctuation skills. Always has.) When The Voice said that – I blame the stress of the impending baby for what I said to it, which was “No, no, we’re good.”  The Voice (which counts persistence among its skills) said “No Steph, that border is wrong and the romper is huge.” And I’m pretty sure that I replied with something like “HEY C’MON VOICE DON’T PULL THIS I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME”.

This might have worked.  I might have been able to bully The Voice, but The Voice (which is, after all, me) has a rather amazing secret weapon.  Truth.  The Voice simply replied with “Oh.  Cool.  I wouldn’t want you to run out of time for to knit substandard junk for your grandkid. Peace out.  Mwah.”

With that, I went and got a tiny skinny knitting needle, counted all the rounds back to the beginning of the border, picked up the last round of stitches before I started it, and then attached the whole shebang to the ball winder.*  When I was done, I went and got the romper (which I had charmingly blocked to try and make it smaller – protip, nope) and ran that through the ballwinder too, and pulled out the whole thing.  I even let Elliot have a go.  He must have been bothered by the whole thing.  He had a very serious face on, like he was part of some sort of sad event, and towards the end as he turned the handle at the romper funeral, looked up at me and said “Why Grammy? Why winder?”

I told him the truth.  I had made some mistakes and the knitting was no good. I didn’t do it properly. It hadn’t worked.   Elliot looked at me, patted my arm and said “It’s okay Grammy.  You can just try again.” **

Thanks buddy. Tell it to The Voice.

*I know this seems a little funny, but it is the fastest, easiest way to pull back a project with a million complicated stitches.  It’s sort of like a lifeline after the fact.  If you’d run a lifeline, this would be even easier.  Run the super skinny (like 2mm) needle through all the stitches of the lifeline, then rip back. Voila, the round is on the needles, with no chance of messing up the lace. I pull out the upper, working needle as I pick up the round below. 

**I complimented Meg and Alex for this, for working on raising a nice resilient kid, and Meg gave all the credit to MagnaTiles. 

(PS. We still have room for the Spring Retreat – details here, though I’ll talk more about it soon.)