Wednesday, I think

I just turned off the TV.  For us, the escalation of the pandemic and lockdown (still locked down, thanks for asking) went hand in hand with Charlotte’s death, and in the weeks that followed I fell into the habit of waking up in the morning and getting my coffee, and then sitting myself on the chesterfield and anxiously knitting while watching the virus rip through the world, fixating on the numbers and rates of transmission and being really anxious about it all. I thought it was making me feel better – I thought information was some measure of control over an out of control world. After a while, as the fog of grief and shock began to lift and I could think a little more clearly, I realized that the TV thing was not helping. Sure, some measure of information really made a difference, I really did need to know what was happening, but it slowly dawned on me that I have never actually gotten around to picking up PHD’s in Epidemiology and Public Health, and that I was essentially unqualified for this whole thing. I decided then to concede to people who actually have PHDs in Epidemiology and Public Health (not politics) and do what they asked me to do without questioning it too much. This flies in the face of my nature, but this is an exceptional time when my opinion or what I’ve managed to cobble together from the internet really doesn’t make me qualified to come up with my own plan.

I stayed in touch enough with the news to understand that the impact the virus was having was unequal, that I had a responsibility to protect those at greater risk than myself with my own actions in my community and to help those trying to solve the broader problems it is causing in the world. Do I know what to do about the impact this is having in developing countries where poverty is already entrenched, where public health measures aren’t possible to enact, where there aren’t health care systems in place, never mind overwhelmed ones? No – but I do know that I can look to the people experiencing that, and organizations who specialize in understanding those problems, and support them as much as I am able. For me, this took the form staying home (since I am a human alive right now with the ability to do that, and can therefore make sure I’m not part of the problem) and of supporting health organizations (like MSF) community organizations like food banks and PWA. Empowering the experts seemed better than me guessing, and I wrote my politicians and told them it was important to me that they centred the people who are most vulnerable, and that it was a path to my vote or the loss of same.

To be clear, I haven’t been able to do this every day. Some days I have only been able to knit, and cry about my little granddaughter while physically distanced from the world at large, and the big picture has gotten entirely away from me. I don’t even know for sure if the things that I’ve done have been the right things, but I know for sure that it was better than just watching TV and feeling completely helpless.

Then last week, while watching an emotionally and situationally appropriate amount of TV, Joe and I watched the news in horror and over the next few days, the TV habit was back. I’ve been glued to it, searching for understanding, trying to absorb the rage and fury, and waiting – like the pandemic, I guess – for the moment that watching enough of it gave me understanding and I knew what to do. It didn’t work, and after a few days of not knowing what to do or how to help I realized that this problem is the same as the other one. A global crisis is killing people, and just the same as with Covid-19, because I am a human alive right now, I am a part of the problem, and can be part of the solution.

At the risk of comparing a very small problem with a very large one, do I need or want Joe’s advice on whether I should rip back a piece of knitting? No Knitter, I do not, and I can tell you that the fastest way to make the problem I’m having worse and make me feel unheard, angry and disrespected is for him to give me uninformed options. Am I sure I need to rip this out? Yes. I have been knitting my whole life and I know a problem when I see it. Also, I’m experienced enough to know that other solutions haven’t worked, and I’ve tried the ones that could have worked already, and just because he can’t see what’s wrong with the knitting doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. It means he’s unqualified to know. Just pass me the ball winder and extend your help dude, it’s what I asked for, and what I know I need, because I am a damned expert.

So, a few days ago I turned off the TV (enough, not completely, I still feel like there’s a responsibility to know what is happening) and started looking for more experts. People with the lived experience that is a PHD in systemic racism. I conceded that I do not know what needs doing, and that they don’t need me and my lack of experience questioning what will work and what won’t, what’s been tried and what hasn’t.

I recommitted to hearing what I do that could make things worse. I know nobody wants to say their actions are racist, and I see that this is the moment where white people balk, – but there is simply no denying that I’m part of a system that is racist, and that the same way that a world built by men has resulted in greater suffering and death for women, a world built by white people resulted in the same for people of colour, and that means that every day I get to experience whatever hardship and suffering I encounter within a system designed by people like me to make that as easy as can be. The same way that know that even though I try to be a good person, I could give someone Covid-19 if I don’t comply with anti-Covid guidelines, I understand that I can be racist if I am not actively anti-racist.

I’ve doubled down on trying to find people who are experts (that’s people of colour, and the organizations that support them) and listening to what they say will help – what they think I can do – what actions they know will make a difference, and every day I’m trying to do some of the things on that list. (What list? You’d be surprised how easy it is to google “how can I be anti-racist.”) I’m also working (like Joe and the knitting) not to offer suggestions and judgments about how to solve a problem that I can not experience.

Like the things I’ve done around the pandemic, I don’t know if these are the right things, but I do know that it has to be better (and takes less time, ironically than just watching this on TV.) I’m just telling you because I think that if you’re a white person who’s currently feeling really terrible about every aspect of this, I want you to know that looking at it from the perspective of the experts, and doing what’s asked of us by people who know better  could actually improve things. At the very least, it’s respectful to the people with the experience to show them that you understand if they say it’s time to rip back the knitting.

Rules are made to be, sorry… what?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way –  but doesn’t it seem like there’s something wrong with the flow of time? Here in Toronto we’re still waiting for the world to open up a bit. A few stores have opened, those that can meet the strict health regulations,  but except for those for those few people and our essential workers, we’re still in our homes, still missing each other, and it makes time… weird, doesn’t it? I feel like there’s not that much to do, but somehow the days are both long and short at the same time,  blurring and evaporating.  The way spring has come here makes it all the more strange.  Just two weeks ago I was watching the snow fall and cursing this northern wasteland and it’s eternal winter, and now the lilacs are out, everything is blooming, and we’ve just had three days of our first heat alert of the season.

It makes it hard to know what to knit, doesn’t it? It makes it even harder to follow the rules – it rained the other day and I almost got out the spinning wheel, but it’s summer rain now, and that means that the sky opens and dumps 43577 million litres of water, and then by the time I’m standing in the stash trying to decide what to take down to the wheel, the sun is out and the birds are all laughing at me. I only had time for a brief conversation with myself the other day, and it went like this:

Me: Oh! It’s raining. Let’s spin!

The me in charge: Okay. Sure, that’s the rule. What would you like to spin?

Me: A gradient! To make a shawl. A lace shawl.

The me in charge: Okay, sure – I’m sure we can find something like that in here, how about…

Me: AND IT SHOULD BE PINK LIKE FLOWERS. Maybe with some yellow, and little bits of blue like the sky and

The me in charge: Listen, we don’t have that. You hate that. Look at this nice one that’s the colour of…

Me: Winter. That’s the colour of winter. I won’t spin it. I want PINK, and lilac and daffodil and grass green and warm sand and…

The me in charge: I can’t work with you when you’re like this.

That was the moment that I knew that I’d tipped over the edge, I don’t know if it’s our recent loss or the soul depleting nature of a winter, or the sadness and perpetual weirdness of navigating a pandemic, but suddenly I couldn’t cope with one more thing that even remotely looked like the season we’ve just limped through. I powered though the last few things on the needles that seemed ridiculous.  Mittens? What kind of fool am I?*

(Pattern, if you are inexplicably in the mood, is Signal Hill – the yarn is my handspun from the last time it rained and I was obedient.)

Fingerless mittens? Those will come in handy. (See what I did there?)

(Pattern, should you live in Australia, is X-Mitts, the yarn a particularly cozy and warm discontinued beauty from Dirty Water Dyeworks.)

Warm, winter spice coloured shawl?

What was I thinking? What was my plan? When I decided to take that out two weeks ago where was my head? What about the impending summer spoke to me and said “cashmere.” I mean, it’s lovely (you can’t tell because it’s taking a bath in the sink, but it is all the gorgeous colours of the fall and coming winter and wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now, it’s raining again, and I’m not spinning.  No, no.. because there is nothing in the spinning stash that is the pink of hydrangeas, the purple of lilacs, the yellow of forsythia, the viridescent sparkle of fresh leaves.  I’m putting shorts and changing the channel.  Someone get me some *&^%ing sky blue.

*Yeah. I know. I’m Canadian. Winter is coming – it’s not like this won’t all be used in about 15 weeks, but couldn’t we pretend for a day that it’s never coming back? 

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.

Yeah that’s nice

Once up on a time, back when we all took buses, I would see people sitting on the bus and I would boggle at how they were doing it. I don’t mean riding the bus, I was riding the bus too and I absolutely understand how that is done, I mean how they were riding the bus without doing something… else. Not reading a book, not listening to a podcast, not bopping along to their own private soundtrack, not knitting or crocheting.  Just… sitting there.

It has been suggested to me that perhaps these people have a rich inner life. That they are as occupied on the inside as I am on the outside, beavering along on my sock, and I’ve tried to consider this, but since it implies that anyone who needs to knit a shawl or a sock on the bus for the safety of others isn’t *&^%$#ing thinking as much, I’ve rejected it wholesale.  It is them, I consider, as another something grows on my needles, it is them that must have the poorer life, to be deprived of knitting.

I realized this morning, as I hung Wavedeck on the line for a photoshoot, that for the most part – while I’ve never understood the non-knitting very well (though am am fond of many of them) I think I actually pity them a little bit. I know that to the vastest number of non-knitting folk, I will never be able to explain the feeling that leaps in me as I touch and hold something that I made this way.  “That’s beautiful” a friend said yesterday, when I sent them a picture of this thing. “Really nice” they said, and I took the compliment, they really did like it, but their darling empathetic, well-functioning yet non-knitting heart cannot grasp the wonder of this, I fear.

This, while it is really nice, is really nice in a way that I know you’ll understand. This – I want to tell them, when something gets made this way, when you imagine it, and then you build it, making choices and taking steps to get it just the way you want, when you choose tools and reject and audition ideas and try on gauges to see if you can get the idea in your head to leap from imagination to reality –

and then spend hours and hours of your one wild and precious life moving fibre from one state to the other, from batt, to singles, to plied yarn to knitted thing and it actually works?

That is not “really nice”. This is really exactly what I wanted it to be, created by slow transformation, of slow magic, it is like when it is thirty degrees below zero and you go outside and throw water in the air and it instantly turns into snow.  It is exactly like that.

Well, it is exactly like that if you are both the earth that made it thirty below, and the person throwing the water and if you understand that the instantly bit was thirteen days, but you catch my meaning.

I’m completely happy with this project, I adore it.  (I love it so much that I contemplated leaving it on the line in the back garden for a few hours after I took its picture, just so the neighbourhood could maybe see it and be enriched.) I love everything from the batt I started with (I bought that from Chris at Upstream Alpacas, she’s the genius who dyed that silk and put it with the black baby alpaca) and I love the pattern, Kate Atherley’s very clever Wavedeck. (I love too that it’s named for one of my favourite places in this city.) I love that it’s the size I wanted and the colours fell the way I wanted them too and I love, love, love and adore the way that the pattern miraculously took all but 9 centimetres of the yarn (I kid you not, it was a yarn chicken triumph) and I love that it’s a gift for a friend…

and I love that they’re a knitter, of course. They’ll know what it is when they see it. Really nice.

The Rules as I see them

I know that from the outside looking in, I probably appear to be a pretty structured person, but the truth is that I’m always right on the edge of slipping into total chaos over here, and only the rigorous controls I impose on myself keep me from a life of wearing stretchy pants while bra-less, eating chips and watching the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy more or less beginning to end while churning out socks that don’t fit anyone, you feel me?

Lucky for me, I’m usually pretty darned busy, and that keeps me on the straight and narrow. Unluckily for me, that means that being holed up unemployed and family-less in a pandemic has let things start to degrade a bit, if by degrade you understand that I mean that Dr Callie Torres is still my favourite and Kepner just gets on my nerves and always has.

In attempt to at least fill up my time and start giving me some structure to a day (I will eventually have to solve the job thing, I cannot believe that the career I started after SARS ended my last one has just been this badly upended by a second *&^%$ing virus) I’ve made some rules.  Mostly they have to do with sitting at my desk (hi!), but I’m also trying to talk to one person who isn’t Joe once a day, and clean one thing every day, and not watch the news so much because it’s really stressing me out and things honestly are (unfortunately) not changing fast enough to justify that sort of vigilance, but I’ve also made some fibre arts rules to try and shake things up a bit and inject an element of fun and surprise into my own life. (I know. It sounds bananas but I really am just trying to cope here. It’s going to be at least another month.  Work with me.)

We can talk about the other rules another time but the first one I made was that if it rains, I’m going to spin. I have always hated rain and loved spinning, so my thinking was that maybe this would be a way to…make rain fun? (I told you I am really trying.) So.. 10 days ago, it rained and I went to the stash and chose something great.

It’s a batt from Upstream Alpaca’s called Black Rainbow, 80% natural baby alpaca (that’s the black) and 20% silk, dyed in all the colours of the rainbow. I got it from Christine at one of the retreats at Port Ludlow, and it felt like a nice way to connect.

I decided I’d like to make it a gradient- and I supposed the easiest thing to do would have been to start at one end of the batt and start spinning, working my way to the other end, and bingo, done. I am not such a huge fan of single yarn though, so instead I split the batt lengthwise so I could make a two-ply.

There’s a risk in this I know – the possibility that I wouldn’t spit the batt evenly, or that I wouldn’t be consistent in my spinning from one half to the other and then things wouldn’t match up when I ply,  but I had a good feeling and what the hell there’s a pandemic on, let’s live on the edge.

For a few days there, I sat at the wheel when I had time (which was sort of a lot of the time) and it was pretty captivating stuff.  I admit, the most exciting thing that had happened around here since Meg, Alex and Elliot went home was that I painted a door, so I get the feeling I was particularly easy to amuse.

I didn’t worry too much about integrating the silk and alpaca, just let them do their own thing, so the singles ran back and forth, sometimes silk and alpaca together, sometimes just alpaca, sometimes just the silk.  I was lovely and freeing to just let it happen.

The fun didn’t stop when I plied it and received no punishment whatsoever for my recklessness.  None. I didn’t even take the small step of weighing both halves to see if they were the same before I spun or plied, and do you know, it still worked out – I had one metre left over on one of the bobbins, and that was it. (I know someone will ask, so my Kate (I flatly refuse to refer to it as Lazy) is from Clemes & Clemes and is the nicest one I’ve ever owned.)

It was like a miracle.

When all was said and done, I had just about 400m of a pretty nice fingering-ish weight yarn, and decided to apply another rule I’ve recently invented which is something like “use your damn handspun” and so as soon as it was dry and wound, I started.  A little investigation (and suggestions on instagram, thanks for that) and I had Wavedeck on the needles.

Wavedeck is perfect for this mission – I wanted something that would use up all of the yarn, so I wanted a pattern a little flexible, one where stopping a little early or going on for a little longer wouldn’t matter. Kate’s pattern also thoughtfully includes an estimate of how much yarn it will take to do the lower border so when I started to get in the neighbourhood of done, I went to the end of my ball and counted out how much I need, and marked that spot with a pin. Now I could happily go back to knitting without thinking too much, and simply start the lower border when I got to the pin…

Which is now. I’ll be blocking tonight, I think.

And there’s rain in the forecast for Sunday.

(PS The shelf paper I ordered finally turned up so it is non-stop excitement around here.)

The bunny gets around, yo.

It was predictable, I suppose that I would be challenged by this time. Not just working my way through grief- but the challenge so many of us are dealing with – where all of a sudden you’re locked in your freakin’ house and can’t see anyone and can’t go anywhere and you’re swinging back and forth between resolving that you’re going to emerge from this a whole new sort of person – one with clean closets, tidy drawers, a revived yoga habit and a new career… and being the you who can hardly handle it, eating cake with your hands standing over the sink. You know what I mean?

None of the restrictions here in Toronto have started to lift, and frankly it sounds like we’ll be in this for a while yet. We’re still only to go outside for essential purposes like to seek medical attention or get groceries, and even then only one person from the household is supposed to go shopping no more than once a week. Joe’s that person here (and the designated shopper for his parents, Meg and Amanda, a few others, just so that it’s even fewer trips out for anyone) so he still goes out into the world in a limited way, but me… I’ve been in the house for weeks now, and there are moments where I’m a little wild around the edges.  The City’s said it’s okay to go out for exercise if you can keep your distance from others, and so I’ve taken full advantage of that, walking and running through the neighbourhood for my allotted time per day, and at least letting the sun shine on my face (when it is not goddamn snowing and yes I know I live in Canada and late April snow is technically legal, but the stuff seems unfair this year, all things considered) and I look out the window a lot, though there’s not much to see out there.

The separation from the family continues to make us all crazy. It is clear to me now that being a close and loving family that spends heaps of time together has worked against us here. We are all far too attached to each other – and I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but we are not just emotionally close – we’re close.  I can walk to the homes of most people I love, and the remaining ones are just a quick bike ride or drive. (Here in the city, those two modes of transit often take about the same amount of time.)  There is something about knowing how near they all are that seems to make me wilder. To know Elliot is a stone’s throw away but I can’t see him?

When my mum was alive, she used to remind me, in terms I won’t use here because I try not to swear on the blog, that when I am unhappy or challenged, I need to get out. Not just out of the house (though she thought that was good too) but right out of your head. Stop thinking so much. Stop worrying so much, get out of yourself and focus on other people. It’s terrific advice – it is very hard to dwell on your own problems when you’ve decided to think about other people’s, so as Easter headed our way and the family was sad and separated, I started to come up with a plan.

First, I knitted some stuff. Mostly stuff for Elliot… and for Bunny. It seemed to me that a new spring frock was in order.

Just leftovers of course, but it made for a charming addition to their wardrobe. (A reminder that Bunny is gender fluid and their pronouns are they/them/their. Elliot has felt no need to fence Bunny in. Bunny is being all the bunny they can be.)

I also knit him a sweet little toy – three is a good age for being obsessed with things that go in other things – pockets, boxes, envelopes… so I knit Susan B. Anderson’s little Flower Fairy and Leaf Sprite – though I left off the wings.

Mine are just little garden people. Then I started to knit an egg. (Pattern here, I knit mine in the round, fun and easy.) I thought it would be a sweet thing to tuck in a basket for him. I have to say though, that egg was pretty damned satisfying- so I knit a few more.

Those felt great too, and so I knit some more –

and then I came up with a system for blocking them.

And then I decided… well, I think I decided to go big or go home and the next thing I knew I had a houseful of eggs, Joe had been instructed to add a whack of chocolate to our weekly shop, I was baking my face off, and there was a spreadsheet and a very big plan. I went to bed early on the Saturday night before Easter, and set an alarm for…5:15am. (What. It’s not like I have anything else to do.)

(Pictured here, fewer than half of the eventual eggs. It got right out of hand.)

Sunday morning I got up, printed my spreadsheet, moved to the staging area (that used to be the dining room) and started to load up the car. Joe was a slightly less than cheerful accomplice at this point, but as always staggered on, mumbling things like “happy wife, happy life” and moving yet another chocolate bunny or knitted egg out of his way.

By 6:15 we were in the car. Moments later we made our first stop. I had the spreadsheet organized by both geography and predicted time of awakening for the recipients – so our first stop was Joe’s mum and dad’s back garden.  We snuck in and hid (not very well) a knitted egg, a chocolate bunny and a little tray of freshly baked cinnamon buns, then back out to the car and a quick text “There’s an Easter hunt in your back garden” and we were off.  The next stop was Katie and Carlos’s back garden where we hid bunnies for Luis and Frankie, lots of eggs, a big tray of cinnamon buns and a bottle of wine. (They are locked down with two little kids. You gotta help where you can.) We hit some friends after that…

We set up a hunt for Elliot down the back path by their walk-up, and then Amanda’s front porch, then a drive to Sam’s – she was our farthest stop and has a big backyard, so she got a proper hunt too. Then it was Ken’s turn, treats hidden on his porch, then Cameron, and Pato and Jen … Oh, and our friend Billy.  He’s a nurse and deserves all the love we can show him right now.

The whole thing was like the opposite of a heist, and we were even caught on security footage –

which Katie and Carlos texted to us after the fact.

We made the rounds, trying to do something loving for every person on our list and you know, mum was right. Still. Again, like she always was and is. We got out of our heads and into the feelings of the people around us, tried to make some serious deposits in the love bank that we’ll certainly need to make withdrawals from in the future,  and it was pretty great. I think we’re probably going to get through.

Chin up gang.  This too shall pass. Go eat some cake with your hands.

Birthday Boy

I’m running a little behind, I know.  I should have shown you Elliot’s Sweater last week, and then yesterday we could have talked about Easter (what a weird one, eh?) and then today I should be showing you some spinning that I’m about to get to, plus I’m fixing a pair of socks for Cam and I finished a pair for Joe and Ken’s sweater continues apace – though progress on everything is slower than you’d expect from me. If there is one thing I’ve learned about grief over the last couple of years is that it’s actually quite time consuming.  I don’t know why, but working through so many feelings just… slows everything down around it, and I have such a smorgasbord of things to fret about.  I’m slogging on best I can, and I think I’m doing okay – a lot better than I was three weeks ago, when it felt like all the bombs were landing.

Three weeks ago when I decided that Elliot should have a birthday sweater, I logged into Ravelry, looked at my queue to see what I’d had in mind, was immediately buried in the million things I had planned for Charlotte, and realized it was far, far too soon for it, and opted for an alternate approach.  I shut my laptop and grabbed a book of my shelf,  looked for the simplest sweater in it, and got to work. I know! A BOOK. Can you believe it? Not even a pdf, or a Kindle version but an actual I swear to in the name of all things woolly book. Made of paper.

The closest book I had to hand was Strange Brew– and I’ve knit Tin Can Knits sweaters before and the directions are always clear and easy to follow – the perfect thing for the grief addled mind.  Meg was here then, and together we chose Mountain MIst, and I foraged some Cascade 220 out of the lower stash.

Here you must imagine a picture of that sweater in progress, though I just checked my phone and camera and there are none. (Sorry, it’s been a weird few weeks.)

I finished in plenty of time for his birthday, and Joe took it over to his house along with all his other gifts, and left them outside for his Daddy to collect. You all know how the rest of this goes – I think we’re all in some form of lockdown or another, so at that point Joe left for home, and the task of making a beautiful birthday fell to Meg and Alex alone. (I feel not a bit bad about the trip Joe made to their house, I know it’s essential travel only, but they live so close and doesn’t a birthday seem essential? He dropped some groceries at the same time so that the total number of trips up wasn’t greater.)

After that it was all FaceTime and videos, Joe and I got to watch him open his sweater in the morning and wish him a Happy Birthday, and I helped Meg make his favourite dinner over video too. (Pasta and chickpeas, in case anyone is keeping track)

and then that evening the whole family got on and were able to sing to him and watch him open his presents.

His sweater fits, but barely, even though this grandmother made it what looked to me like miles too big and that makes me feel like maybe he’s growing while I’m not with him – getting taller – will it be a shock when I finally get to hold him again, whenever that is?

(By the way, that is a number three, not a backwards E.  It took me a minute.)

Best not to think of it, and just keep plugging on.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that he’s so little that his birthday was a complete wonder to him, and the rest of us are old enough to handle it. I think. I am incredibly proud of his parents for pulling this off, in the most difficult of all possible circumstances.  They are simply the best.

PS He got a scooter.  His life is aces.