One Knitter to Another

It is one of my favourite things to knit for other knitters.  I know that seems counter intuitive, I suppose on some level you think that if they already have a pathway to knitted stuff that they aren’t going to want to get a gift of knitting. I mean, if you already had a blender, or in our case it’s more like you own a blender factory,  then a blender is going to be a pretty crappy gift.

It turns out though, that at least in my experience, knitters love getting knitted gifts. (Admittedly they also like yarn as a gift, but that’s to be expected.) In my knitting career it hasn’t been unheard of for the recipient of a knitted gift to not meet said gift with the enthusiasm that I’d like them too.  I hand them the box, they open it up, take out the pair of socks or scarf or whatever it is and say “Oh wow. Nice socks. Thank you, I love them.” That may seem like the right thing to say and non-knitters, it is enough gratitude, I assure you, but it is nothing compared to what happens if you give a knitter a pair of socks, which is that they totally get what has just happened. They know what you’re giving them, they know how long it took to make it, they know that you just took however many hours of your life that you could have given to anyone on this earth and gave it to them. That you couldn’t think of anyone else that you would love to give this container of love and time to, and furthermore, they are usually pretty damned impressed that this love-vessel fits.

Over the years I’ve trained most of my common victims in the mighty ways of knitters. They know now when I give them a knitted thing what they’re really worth, and they know how to take care of them (or return them for care) and they appreciate knitting properly. Still, there is no joy like bestowing a piece of knitting on someone who’s going to notice… well, everything.  So it is with this sweater for Ken.  I finished it the other day and after it was done I left my house (how weird is that eh?) and I went over to Ken’s house (he lives very close by) and I put this sweater on his porch, and then texted him, and backed up onto the path so we would be distanced when he came out to get it.  (I cannot &^%$ing wait until I don’t have to treat the people I love like they are potential poison. It is so hard on the heart.)

He came out and was delighted to see it, and tried it on right away, and noticed all the things that he was meant to.

I took that woefully inadequate physically distanced picture of him, and asked him to selfie a few shots of the thing for all of you, and I waved to him (what a nightmare this is) and took myself off back home.  Ken did take some great self portraits (or it is possible a housemate helped him)  and because he’s a knitter, he took pictures he thought that other knitters would like.

Pattern: Rift.  Yarn: Good old Cascade 220, in 8400 – charcoal.

He’s showing you the details of the seams, how it looks under the arms – he’s commented on how beautifully it fits, and it should. I took his measurements back in March before I wasn’t allowed to touch him.* He loves the details on the side, he’s made an appropriate amount of fuss about the tubular cast-on at the bottom and sleeves, and he’s asked how the neck is right, why it’s not stretching out of shape… did I reinforce it? (I did not. I just always pick up stitches at a bound off edge so that it’s nice and strong, which was 100% an answer he cared about.)

The point is, Ken knows exactly how big and nice the love container I knit for him is, and that means that when pulls it on, it should feel like the full breadth of my love is there. Only another knitter could feel the sentiment behind a tubular cast on. Only a knitter.

Until we’re together again Ken.  Wear the sweater.

*There is some hope on the horizon here in Ontario. We’ve had low/declining cases for a while now, and we’re going to Stage 1 of easing restrictions on Tuesday after the holiday. It means certain kinds of businesses will be able to open if they can meet the strict public health rules, though the rules mean that open isn’t really open, they can take so few customers.  No restaurants yet, and no schools or daycares, certainly, and it’s been made clear to us that we’re ages off of being able to get a haircut. We are hoping that there’s some easing of the distancing rules and group size rules (we’re at no more than 5), and that you’ll start being able to have contact with people outside your household bubble.  We’ve got our fingers crossed that the coveted “double bubble” might not be far off for this province, though Canada’s commitment to letting the science lead the response might mean we all have to be apart a little longer. I can’t wait to hug Meg and Elliot. (Ken it will be you right after. Triple bubble.)

Like watching paint dry (exactly)

Ken’s sweater is all done, but for the making up, and the neckband. Honestly, I can point at a million projects of my youth and tell you that the number one thing that stood between me and greatness back then was laziness and a lack of patience.  Everything I’ve ever made that was just exactly as I’d hoped, everything that’s a 10/10 is that way because I resisted some urge to take a short cut, and so as is proper, all the parts of Ken’s sweater have been blocked before the making up. Everything goes together so much nicer when this step happens first, so I’ve been walking by them since yesterday morning. I keep walking by and giving them a pat and waiting for them to be dry. They are not, and I’m not sure the constant patting is making a difference but I intend to keep it up. At best it’s got to be helping the air circulate.

While I’m waiting I’ve been pounding out a pair of mittens from the handspun – I settled on Signal Hill because it was so well suited to four colours and because I’ve knit on top of that hill more than once, and it’s nice to remember. (If we are ever travellers again, you should go there directly.) I’ve got one done, it’s a pretty fast knit, and I am grooving pretty hard on the 70s vibe these have.  I really like them…

they remind me of tile in my grammy’s bathroom when I was growing up. (They went perfectly with the avocado green bathtub and I don’t care what you say, that was cool.)

One to go- though I thought I might wind up spinning today, but after a few minutes of reflection I can tell you that I am hereby reaffirming that the rule is that I will spin when it rains – not when it (*&%Cing SNOWS.  (Let us pause and reflect here that while May snow is technically legal in Canada, it seems like a bloody insult when we’ve already got a pandemic and murder hornets. This plot is overwritten.) I decided to ignore the snow, which is the way that my mother taught me to handle rudeness.

Moving along, I also fixed a pair of Cameron’s socks – he’s got a pretty good sock drawer rocking these days, and he and I can’t be the only ones who think so, because he went into his sock drawer a while ago and found that three pairs of handknit socks had been thoroughly munched. He returned them to me for rehab, and I’ve started making my way through the repairs. (What the hell there is still snow.)

The first pair I tackled had the simplest damage – just the heels had been chomped, so I picked up stitches round the heel –

Snipped it off.. (relax, it’s not that bad)

and knit new heels,

then dumped them off on Cameron’s porch.  Many thanks to the gentleman for helping me out with finished object photos – who knew that physical distancing would mean that he’d have to rise to the challenge of photographing his own feet. He did really well for a rookie.  (There are two more pairs to go, I expect him to get better with each.)

I’ve fixed the next pair, and this time I took videos of how I was doing it – talking a bit about the process, and that brings me to the next thing, and it’s a thing I feel a bit awkward about, though as I talk it through with Joe and friends (mostly friends who are also textile teachers) I’m starting to come around.   I have figured out (although my natural optimism really did slow this process down a lot) that it is going to be a long time before I can go back to work – before most knitting teachers and public speakers can go back to work. Starting with the problem at it’s most basic, the border is closed, and any way you slice it I think it will be a long time before the it opens again, and even if it does, I think it’s going to be quite a few months before travel based teaching to groups is safe, easy or fun.

I thought about “virtual” teaching, I know some other teachers are trying it, but it doesn’t seem like my jam, and so I’m going to try my own thing, even though I am not completely sure what that thing will be. To that end, I’ve started a Patreon. If you’re not familiar, it’s a platform where artists (that’s me) connect with people who like what they do (maybe that’s you) and you pay X money per month (man the Canadian in me hates this money talk) and I provide some of what I make for you. (So awkward.) The traditional set-up is that some people pay $, and they get a certain amount of content, and then other people pay $$ and they get more, and then other people pay $$$ and they get even more.

I don’t know about you, but inequity feels super wrong to me right now (ok most of the time) when some people have money just because they’re lucky and other people are broke because they happened to have the wrong job at the start of this and I don’t think that if a roll of the dice happened to mean that you’ve got more than someone else you should necessarily get more than someone else and yes, my little socialist Canadian heart is beating hard here) so I’ve decided that while I will do a Patreon, there is only going to be one tier, and that everyone gets all the same content at that tier.  There is an option to pay more if you feel like it or you’re Bill Gates (in which case lay it on me sir I will spread it around) but I’ve settled on a price low enough that I hope it’s as accessible as it can be while still being worth my work. It’s $6 a month. I’ve decided to keep the price low so that I can keep production values… um, similar. (I have a lot to learn about video editing, for a start.)

I want to be totally transparent here – I don’t know what is going to happen over there.  I know I’ll do some tutorials, convert what of my class material works in that video format, which means that at least once a month I’ll teach you something (or try to, most of you are pretty skilled) and I think that $6 is pretty reasonable for a mini-class or tutorial. I’m also thinking about some audio stuff – I’ve got an unemployed audio guy sitting right here (pantless) so maybe some story telling would be cool, or maybe I’ll take advantage of how many very neat people I know, and try introducing you to them. Maybe I’ll do something else – I don’t know. I can’t promise I’ll do anything in particular but I will produce some forms of entertainment overt there on the regular, and more than that, I promise that if I include another maker in an offering, I’ll compensate them properly. There’s lots of teachers hurting, and there’s got to be a way to help some of them with my platform, so I’ll try to do that.

What I can promise is that this blog is going nowhere. This is blog is my home life, who I am and my connection to the broader community and I can’t live without it.  The Patreon is work – a replacement for what I did when I was on the road, and so you can expect things to stay pretty much the same here – you don’t have to sign up for the Patreon to stay in touch with me any more than you had to sign up for a class before.

I don’t know if this is the right thing to do. It’s been a hard slog over the last several weeks figuring out what my work is going to look like, how I’ll make ends meet, and I’m just so grateful that Joe and I have savings and resources to pad things while we get through this, I know some of you don’t, and my heart is so with you.  This is a hard time for so many, even if it is not snowing where you are.

I love all of you, and I hope you’re safe.

Less like a slog

Yesterday was dreadful. I was a misery case for much of the day – no need to go into any details, I’m pretty sure we’d all have no trouble thinking up a few good reasons to feel crappy at present, if you wanted to sit down and make a list. I did all the right things, went for a walk and a run and got some sunshine on my face, and I made a nice dinner and I knit myself silly, and took lots of deep breaths, remembering that for better or worse, all states are temporary. I got a good night’s sleep and this morning I feel more like myself – more hopeful, more optimistic and with a clearer ability to see that it’s all not as bad as it could be, and the up side of being capable of not much more than knitting yesterday?

I’m almost done the sleeves of Ken’s sweater. I’ve got about 14cm to go on one of them, and only maybe about 5cm on the other, and then I’ll start the shaping and they’re as good as done. Yesterday I was convinced that Ken had long and stupid arms, but today his arm length seems completely reasonable.  I don’t know if it’s because my mood is better today or that I’m just so close to done, but I’ve almost entirely stopped mumbling about him being built like an orangutan. (He’s not. I think I was just crabby.)

(Someone always asks what the strands of yarn are, weaving in and out of my knitting – they’re running markers, how I keep track of rows or compound instructions. I flip a piece of yarn back and forth between my needles every so many rounds and it counts where I’m at for me. I’ll show you sometime, but it’s how I make sure things that come in twos are the same.)

Moreover, it rained on the weekend and so all four of those little skeins are finished, and now I’ve just got to figure out what they want to be. There were lots of good suggestions on instagram yesterday, and I think they want to be mittens. Which mittens? Too soon to tell, since nothing is singing my name too loudly at the moment, but maybe I’m just not listening. If you’re in the suggestion business, each of those little skeins is about 75m (for a grand total of about 300m, if you don’t feel like adding) and the yarn is rustic and sturdy, so I think the mittens should be too. Maybe something like the ones from Saltwater Mittens? Rigged for four colours? Who knows. It will come to me, I hope.

In the meantime, that sweater is going down. This is no time for grey, but it’s definitely a good time for the joy of a finished thing, and an even better time to put a friend in a new sweater. There’s still plenty of chilly left in Canada.

Knitter, know thyself

Years ago I saw this thing – I think it was a dogs alleged diary contrasted with a cats. The dog is all “8:45, eating breakfast, my favourite thing! 9:15, going in the backyard, my favourite thing! 9:30, I see a bird, my favourite thing!” and the cat’s begins with “Day 887 of my captivity….”

This, essentially, sums up how Joe and I are making our way through this lockdown thing. Joe is (except for how much he misses our family and the unending stress of trying to keep the studio from going under while it’s closed) living his best damn life.  He into this. He’s home all day with me and we have unlimited time together,  he hasn’t had to put on pants in forever, when he does have to do a zoom meeting or something he can still do them pantless, three meals a day just sort of arrive and he doesn’t have to be traffic or navigate the busy city, and he could not possibly be happier not to have to deal with humanity en masse and in person. I’m serious, he’s the dog in this.

Me, I am definitely, absolutely 100% the cat, and as I watch other places start to have more flexibility in who can see who and what can be open, I’m fighting bitterness along with my captivity.  Last night on the news there was a film clip of a Nana in Newfoundland embracing her little grands for the first time since this thing started, and while most of me was so happy for her and her grandchildren, a tiny little part of me wanted her to fall off her porch. I can’t wait until we can “double-bubble”. We’re all still restricted to just seeing the people you live with, and so it’s me and Joe. All the time. The two of us. Every day, all day.  I can’t tell you how much I miss the family and my friends and working and knitters and back when Joe used to wear pants and I went… well, anywhere.  I’m sure lots of you can identify with the fight to stave off a foul mood settling like a black cloud during this thing.  I’m walking and running and watching too much TV (I think maybe I have seen everything) and consuming way to many audio-books and baking more bread than anyone needs and contemplating what comes next – since it looks like this is the way things will be for a while yet. So far mostly so good this week – and even the spinning plan worked to keep my spirits up when it rained. Before it rained I had this:

That’s 200g of Abundant Earth Fiber signature blend – wool from the fine state of Washington.  Usually I’d have been out that way a few times this year already, and I miss my friends there, and how green it is, and those weird skunk cabbages and the way that foxglove grows wild in all the ditches – and I miss the retreats at Port Ludlow (and Debbi and Judith) especially. Spinning a bit of wool from that part of the world felt nice.

It rained two days, so that was enough to get three of the four colours done – and it’s looking a bit cloudy today, so we’ll see.  I’ll have to figure out what to do with it when it’s finished. Each little skein is working out to be about 75m of worsted-ish weight yarn and I think those four colours go well together. (Clearly, I’ve thought that for a while, since they perfectly match some pillows from the living room.)

When not spinning (or running, or walking, or inexplicably cleaning something that’s already clean) I’m working on Ken’s sweater.  It’s Rift, in a colour that I truly regret right now. Remember Denny’s rule? The one that says that you don’t want to knit something grey during the wintertime because it’s just too hard on the heart? I’d like to amend that rule to include not knitting miles of grey stockinette in a pandemic.

I have no idea how I’m doing it, considering the layer of recent bereavement on top of it, I feel that right now I would be much better off knitting more rainbows and bright pink and maybe a little yellow, ya feel me?  I really love Ken though, and it’s hard for this family to soldier on separately like this, so I’m committed to finishing it as a show of my affection. I’m done the body, and am now (as if this project could be any more of a test) settling in on Sleeve Island.

As I cast on the first one, I felt something come over me.  Something that is a bit of my normal reaction to sleeves – a gentle wish to put the project down and start something more fun, and also a feeling a perhaps a little more pandemic induced, which was a rather strong urge to take it into the back garden and have a smallish bonfire. I realized suddenly that this feeling was only likely going to become more pronounced as I got to the second sleeve, and I realized that this project is in serious peril. If I can get through the first sleeve I am not at all sure I can rise above all that and knit a second one, love or no love.

Therefore, in a move that reflects great self-awareness, I am doing something with the sleeves that I have never done before.

I’m knitting both the sleeves at once.  I can’t be trusted right now.