August 31, 2004

Behold...the promised yarn.

I will warn you now, that even though I have never been a person who has much money, and that I work very hard at finding happiness without the grabbing, lusty pursuit of material objects, and that I believe that the love of ones family and the pleasure of my morning glories blooming on my front porch has the ability to feed my soul more than any object of possession ever could... I will warn you that for just this one day I have suspended my belief that "Money cannot buy happiness." I have also let go of "The best things in life are free" and now suddenly reject the words of Paul McCartney and wonder what the heck he was thinking when he wrote "Can't buy me love".

Why my friends? Why have I turned my back on my hippy-granola tree hugging existence and now care only for what can be bought and loved?

Fear me. For I have been to Baadeck Yarns.


Before we go any further at all, I'd like everyone to take a moment to quietly thank Camille Chapman. I stayed at Camille's home in Cape Breton, she drove me to Baddeck (well over an hour away) and she brought her digital camera and was designated the Official Photographer of the 2004 Baadeck Yarn Trip. Without her many of the photographs you will see today would not be possible.
All Hail Camille, mighty enabler of blog and yarn.

Baadeck yarns sits (not surprisingly) in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. The drive there is heart stoppingly beautiful. I wondered, as Camille and I drove there, if maybe I hadn't made a tactical error. I'd been looking forward to this so much, I'd developed such a good fantasy about it...and I had come to understand that I wouldn't be getting to Fleece Artist and had proceeded to take the bitterness that I felt about that and use it to make the trip to Baadeck Yarns even more significant. By the time we were pulling into the driveway of the shop it had occurred to me that really...I might have some pretty unrealistic expectations of Pat Fields, her shop and it's ability to bring me eternal happiness. Could any mere yarn shop live up to my fantastic imagination? Was it possible that I had put it on such a high pedestal that the only way that this could be as satisfying as I expected was if Arachne herself handed me golden wool and offered me a spinning lesson. Was I doomed to spend the afternoon politely pretending not to be disappointed while just below the surface I choked back burning tears?

Nope. This is a great shop. Beyond a great shop. This is a soul filling, happiness creating, weeping with the beauty of it all shop.


I can't put my finger on why I loved it so much. I loved Pat, the shop owner. You can tell the shop is a labour of love and that Pat's destined for great things. The shop is in the back of her (stunning) home in one of the oldest buildings in Baddeck. While you stand on the porch, sailboats drift by and the eagles soar by overhead, inside Pat dispenses knitting wisdom the way that toddlers give out sticky kisses. She' s building a second house out back of the existing shop and plans (be still my heart) to have knitting retreats there.

Look at the look on my face when I saw the Fleece Artist stock.


It was all that I could do to maintain some kind of public decorum when Pat told me that just that morning she had returned from Fleece Artist itself, and had brought with her virtually all that they had. Some hanks were so new that they were drying on the porch. Pat said it was good that I wasn't going to Fleece Artist, because she had more of their yarn than they did. (Can you imagine? What did I ever do to deserve that kind of luck? This is the sort of Karmic balance that you could expect for someone who pulled triplets and a kitten from a burning building...not a simple silly Yarn Harlot. I don't know what I did to earn that perfect moment in my life...but I am grateful)

Pat had fleece artist stuff I had never heard of...behold...Solid colours!


and a crazy silk boucle that made me feel like I'd never really known love.


Just when I thought I'd recovered from all of the Fleece Artist stuff, I noticed that there was more to the shop. Way more. Suffice it to say that I was momentarily speechless...and that's saying something. I staggered up and down the aisles, and had to sort of rest on a display for a moment when I saw the Opal sock yarns. You don't know this about me, since it has been a pain that I keep private, but I am secretly obsessed with Opal sock yarns. I have wanted some for a long time, but our paths have never crossed. Finally, here in Baadeck Yarns, there they were, resting on a shelf with a sunbeam falling on them... Everything I'd dreamed of and so much more. We had a moment, the Opal sock yarn and I, just before I had to put my head between my knees until my vision was restored and I felt a little less dizzy.

I discovered that Pat and I both enjoy wearing skeins of yarn as decorations,


and I managed to only look a little worried as Pat rang up my sale.


When Joe saw this picture he asked if I was worried that I was spending too much money. Isn't that cute? (Seriously, after all these years...can you imagine? I am looking at the pile of yarn that I have and I am worried that I have not purchased enough. Turns out that Pat does mail order. That's right. You heard it here. Don't all call at once.)

Now I know what you all want to know. In fact, I found Natalie demanding it.

Without further ado...The Haul.


This is Dreadlocks. It is the most stunning colourway in the world and I snatched it off of Pat's porch (it was still wet) after I decided that telling some innocent guy who was sitting near it that I was willing to fight him if he touched it wasn't enough of a defense. (I may also have mentioned that I am "short but wiry" ). It was not a proud moment, but the yarn is mine. It comes with a poncho pattern.


This is Curlylocks, little brother to the bad boy above. Same structure, smaller scale, in the same beautiful colours as the Dreadlocks, even though it doesn't look like it. Enough for a poncho. (I know. Another poncho. Yeah, yeah...the first step is admitting I have a problem....)


This is.... What was this? Some kind of wool/silk combo, tons of yardage. Pat says enough to do a sweater. (I believe every word out of Pat's mouth.) This is the disadvantage of grabbing skeins of yarn and spiriting them away before Pat can even get labels on them. Hey Pat? What is this? How much is there?
Pretty though. I was thinking about some kind of ribbed 3/4 length sleeve sweater. (See? Not a poncho. I'm in recovery).


This is some Mo, and some Blue Faced Leicester hand dyed in the same colourway. This is a completely crappy picture, the colours are actually way more Autumn. It came with a mitten pattern where you hold the two yarns together throughout...but there's no telling what I'll do with it. (Assuming that I can stop using it the way I am now...which is as some sort of bedside table decoration/pet.)


This is a very well controlled purchase of roving and sliver. The top is mohair, the bottom wool. It has gone to live with my other Fleece Artist rovings and slivers in the cupboard. I know it will be happy with it's many new friends.

(Is anybody sick of this yet?)


These are my new Opal Sock Yarns, (welcome home babies) as well as one ball of Regia that Camille said was Cape Breton colours. She's right, the green and gold are perfect. I can't be the only one who buys souvenir sock yarn...right?


Now this...this is pretty cool. It's a "Narrow Scarf" kit, and the needles I'm using are River John "swing" needles. The needles are like big dpns, with removable ends that allow you to work one row of two different yarns, without the yarn you just used getting stuck at the wrong end. In the photo above I've just finished a row with the boucle, and now I want to work a row with the slub. No problem...


Get it? I just moved the direction of the needle (I actually don't use the "stoppers" when there are so few stitches) and now I can just pick up the slub and go.
These needles accomplish what a circular would (working back and forth) without being a circular (for those of us with an anti-circular bias) and I find it less annoying than pushing 20 stitches back and forth across a cable. Extremely cool. (Again...don't all call Pat at once.)

It's good that I bought the swing needles, because I may also have placed an order for a custom-dyed (autumn colourway) one of these. Which is worked with one row of each of two yarns.

What all of this means is that your local harlot is now doing something that she has never done before.
I, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee...aka The Yarn Harlot, do solemnly swear that even though it runs contrary to every stinking bone in my body, that even though it offends my sensibilities and annoys every cell in my being, I will now enter a period of "Yarn Diet" designed to restore balance to my rich and full fibre life. I will acknowledge that I have a great deal of yarn, wool and fleece, and that no harm will come to me, nor will I be starved of happiness if I do not purchase yarn for a little while. I will control myself and use the wonderful yarn that I already have until equilibrium is regained. I will not make a yarn purchase (or "borrow" more yarn) until I go to Rhinebeck.

May the force be with me.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:42 AM

August 28, 2004

Happy Birthday Lene

Today marks the birthday of my dear friend Lene. I gifted her with socks last night, and she should know that the fact that I knit something and didn't blog about it to keep it a surprise is significant beyond measure. (See that Lene? I love you more than the blog.)

The top five reasons why Lene is blogworthy

5. Lene is funny. There aren't many people in the world that you could talk to everyday and still laugh yourself stupid at least once during the conversation every time. Lene can make the fact that my basement flooded funny.

4. Lene has guts. Enough guts to tell me when I'm being an arse. This comes up often enough that I can assure you that she's invaluable. (Imagine my ego without moderation.)

3. Lene is beautiful. As my friend Sean says, "She's a danish blonde, right?", it's all he needs to know about her.

2. Lene is strong. So strong in fact, that I don't worry about her. No matter what happens to Lene, I know that she's going to be ok. That's strong.

1. When Lene was forced to quit knitting by Rheumatoid Arthritis, (the demon itself) I got her stash. That's all I need to say about that.

It would mean a lot to me if you all flooded her inbox with well wishes.

She's worth it.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:50 PM

August 27, 2004

When will it end?

Soon. The endless parade of "what I did on my summer vacation ends soon. I'm keeping the pictures of Baadeck Yarns for afters, since I know that I need to give you all a reason to hang in there. For today however, we are tramping through Cape Breton (part of Nova Scotia) and Prince Edward Island.

After taking the Caribou across the Cabot Strait we drove across Cape Breton (Many thanks to Dave and Joe's sister Kelly for picking us up) until we reached the home of Dave and Camille. Dave and Camille are Kelly's incredibly generous and hospitable in-laws, and they put the whole Harlot tribe, plus Ken up, and served as a launching pad for the bike trip. (This was brave. Really, as blog readers I know that you imagine that I am a handful, but really, out of all of us, I am the easy one in this operation. (That's a lie. A huge lie. If you are really going to include all of us... Ken is the easy one, although I do clean stuff up.)

Dave and Camille have the most beautiful home sitting right on the ocean. The children disappeared the minute I got there, and a while later (yup...a while, I get the mother of the year award again) I asked Kelly where they got to. Kelly said that they had gone to play in the ocean, Amanda, Megan, Sam, Savannah, Kamilah and Asha (Asha was on loan from England. Lovely girl.) "Playing in the ocean" sounded like the kind of thing I should sort of have a look at, even though my kids swim well. Kelly and I walked to the shore and I looked down at the beach for my kids. The beach is down a cliff and the kids (and the grown-ups) climb up and down a rope to get there (there's a path further down for anybody who would like to be called a pansy), then a beautiful rocky beach, then the ocean shore. I looked all along, but couldn't see the girls. Kelly pointed them out to me. I followed her pointing arm and there they were, six little specks bobbing in the sea about a football field out from the shore.

My heart stopped. Kelly seemed unconcerned. I didn't tell Kelly, though I'm sure she guessed, that I stripped myself of the "mother of the year award" and gave it to her in an instant. Was she out of her mind? Did she care nothing for their safety? What kind of a woman lets six lovely little girls swim so far out from the shore that you could never swim out to save them in time? What about the undertow? What about being able to touch bottom? What about whales, or passing ships or ....well I don't know, but I assure you that if you were there you would have flipped out. I didn't flip out (outwardly) and instead of accusing Kelly of losing her everloving mind, I just quietly said..."Oh no...that's too far. They need to come in. No, no, Kelly, they are too far. I'll go get them. This isn't right." Kelly laughed, waved at the girls and...
Sam stood up. The water reached her waist. There's a huge sandbar that goes out for a million miles. Kelly's still laughing. It took six years off my life.


The next day was Meg's birthday, so I stayed up into the night with Kelly, (I have cut the wine bottle out of this picture that you won't think less of me) knitting the red poncho like a fiend and casting myself into the abyss of fringe. My hair is fairly large.


Meg loved it, and I got her to stop bouncing on the trampoline (in her styling blue satin pajama bottoms) long enough to get this picture.


Yarn is the much beloved (and sadly discontinued) "Mexican Wave", the pattern is the "very harlot poncho" given on this very blog, with a couple of eyelet rows thrown in. Meg has worn in every day (except the bike trip) since then. This is discouraging when her outfit is green, but I'm glad she likes it.

The next morning "Team Harlot" left Cape Breton and took another ferry from Nova Scotia to PEI, found our styling campground and began our bike trip. Five days of cycling around PEI carrying our camping stuff and clothes on our bikes, seeing the world, the wind in our hair.


That's a rare flat bit near Cavendish...and that's the family riding away. During the bike trip the socks saw something that got them all excited.


I swear to you with all of my wool that I really thought that lobster flavoured potato chips would be good. All the best that PEI has to offer, you know? Ken and Joe looked at me like I had finally lost my ability to conceal my insanity as I snapped them up gleefully in the grocery store. That evening by the campfire I opened them and happily popped one in my mouth.
I don't know what I was thinking. In the interest of politeness, lets just say that the chips let me down. Way down. Down like I think I might rather briefly lick a wet dog than put another one of those chips in my mouth. It's not that they are bad. It's that they are....inexplicable.

We got to Green Gables, and the sock was thrilled to discover fibre content. There was the Green Gables spinning wheel:


the Green Gables swift and skein winder:


and the prettiest little basket of Green Gables knitting.


(For anyone who is thinking what I was...Yes. I did let them know that a real knitter would never put carders in with their knitting. I mean, for crying out loud people, let's think a little. I spoke to them about snagged stitches and fuzzed yarn. I think they understood.)

It was a little crowded there, and I had my first real hint that people in PEI might also feel that taking many pictures of a sock posing with various historical artifacts and items of Canadian significance could mean that you were a few elves short of an effective workshop...if you catch my meaning. Joe, who's arm graciously appears in these photos kept struggling to explain. "Steph knits, and we take this sock places and...Steph takes their picture with cool stuff...because...she's a yarn harlot, and some other knitters care about this picture of the sock, she took it to Prince too......."

It was the evening that we camped at Cavendish that the following tragedy occurred. I was wearing a retractable headlamp to give me light to put up the tents, when I was called to dinner. Without thinking, I pulled the headlamp up over my head. The retractable strap retracted, taking a fair bit of my unruly hair with it. I stood there in the dark, desperately trying to free myself before I had to admit to my family that I had managed to adhere a freaking lamp to my head. It didn't work, and eventually I had to admit defeat. Ken cut me free. (It is impossible to tell if I am laughing or crying in this photo. I didn't know which it was at the time either, though everyone else was definitely laughing. Especially Megan, who (thanks so much Meg) found the camera and took this shot.) I'm so elegant it hurts.


Saturday we returned to civilization, with Ken and Joe driving back across the Confederation Bridge, and the girls and I returning to Cape Breton. Kelly got her Birthday Poncho,


1 skein Fleece Artist "Curly locks", using the Very Harlot Poncho pattern again, this time without the fringe. 9mm needle.

and I got to go to Baadeck yarns. That trip is getting it's whole own day.
Want a hint?


Posted by Stephanie at 11:03 AM

August 26, 2004

More trip...sick of it yet?

Sorry for missing yesterday guys, as my friend Linda would say, I sort of "flamed out on re-entry". I'm better today. Got some groceries, got the pictures developed, went to the post office, did laundry, cleaned the god-forsaken pit that we call a know. Pulled it together. There are still bike parts in the front hall, but can't have everything. (I admit that I am somewhat disappointed that my personal share of "not having everything" includes bike parts in the front hall instead of, say...not being able to buy organic quinoa in the convenience store on the corner, but let's not get bitter.)

Just to ensure that I bore you all to tears and make sure that not one living soul comes back to read this blog, let's continue the Dublin Bay socks tour of the maritmes...shall we? (I swear that there is yarn in this one, though I will not be granting Claudia's request for really, really big hair pictures. She is right, they do exist, but it is better that they live in mystery.)

Joe, the sock and I (and some increasingly dirty children) made our way from the civilization of St. Johns to the incredible wilderness of Gros Morne National Park. Sam wanted to see a moose, and Joe promised her that he would give her a dollar if she didn't see one by bedtime. 10 minutes into the park (right after the black bear, we were given this pamphlet when we entered)... Sam and the sock saw a moose.


This, I freely admit, is not the best moose picture in the world, but I didn't have my camera with me the other 18 times. Even though you can't tell in this picture, since the moose was lying in the grass, moose are huge. Moose are also a creepy kind of fast. They can be aggressive, and run up to 56 km/h and swim as fast as two men paddling a canoe. (Only in Canada would somebody rate the swimming speed of an animal using that reference, and only in Canada can you imagine exactly how that was figured out... go with the mental image "Paddle buddy, paddle, for crying out loud put your back into it!")

We camped, swam, hiked, boated and knit through parts of the park (the park...should you forget that everything in Canada is immense...and that everything in Newfoundland is twice the size that it is in the rest of Canada, the park covers 1,100 square kilometres). One of the highlights, at least for the sock, was the hike and the boat ride into the fjord at Western Brook Pond. (Again, note the charming Newfoundlander knack for calling immense things by charming little diminutives....pond. Sure.)


We saw lynx, which was pretty cool, even though lynx eat sheep (and are therefore my natural enemy) and the children played in Shallow Bay at sunset.


Reluctantly, we left Gros Morne, and travelled around the edge of Newfoundland, where I amused the locals with my big hair, my complete lack of an accent (if you really want to crack somebody up in Rocky Harbour, pronounce the "H". Newfoundlanders take the H's off words that have them and put them on words that begin with vowels. A perfect example would be a Newfoundlander hearing an echo. They might say "Dat's an 'ell of a h'echo".) and french pronunciation of non-french items. Pronouncing "Baie Verte" (Kathy...your going to love this) "Bai Verr" (which is the french) will get you a lovely enquiry..."So me dearie...where ya from?" They say "Bay Vert" (rhyme "vert" with Bert). It was on this part of the trip that I found "Aunt Maggie's homespun", in Woody Point, and scored this....


for so little money that I was woozy. The blue is called "Quoddy blue", and I got enough for a sweater to remind me of the sea on Newfoundland's West Coast.


I knit, we drove, I knit...we drove...until we reached Joe's hometown of Corner Brook. On our way into the town I just about lost my cool. Joe hit the brakes, Meg leapt out of the car with the Dublin Bay sock, and I snapped this shot of the town sign. Check it out.


That's right, for those of you with monitors that don't believe in reflecting detail, the motifs on the sign say that in Corner Brook, you can get (in this order), a place to stay, food to eat, gas, YARN and camping.
I love Newfoundland. (It turns out, in the interest of full disclosure..that the ball of wool and needles symbol means that you can get Newfoundland handknits here. Still cool, not as cool as when I thought that the world had finally come around to my way of thinking and started marking yarn shops on town signs so that you would know if it was worth stopping....but cool.)

While in Corner Brook we swam where Joe swam as a kid, saw his old house, played where he played, saw his school and stayed with a dear family friend, Dick. Dick graciously let our tribe invade, let us take showers and eat real food, and regaled me with stories of knitting. When Dick was a lad, his mother used to punish him by making him knit. The amount he needed to knit was determined by the offense (when he stuck a girl in the hindquarters with a safety pin he had to do a square of a "whole needle full"), and Dick claims now that he can "knit anything"...though he doesn't. Ever. Incredibly, it isn't that his mother used knitting as punishment that turned him off. It was that when he had finished the proscribed amount...she would unravel it. Bitter.
While here, the Dublin Bay sock got to meet a Canadian celebrity, Jason King (who happens to be dating Dicks charming daughter, and is a really nice guy and, as witnessed by the holding of a stupid sock from Ontario, a pretty good sport too).


That's Dick forcing Meg to stand beside Jason for a picture while she dies a thousand deaths. That's what Dick's like. (I like him.)

The next day, another long haul to Port aux Basques (for Kathy, that's pronounced "Port 'O Basks") and the seven hour crossing on the Caribou to take us to Nova Scotia.


The sock thought it was a huge boat. The sock worried a little about sinking. The sock tried not to think about being so far out in the ocean that there was no way that it could ever drag the children to shore if the boat sank. The sock isn't like that.

Tomorrow..Cape Breton, Kelly's poncho, Meg's poncho and more maritime Hijinks as the Harlot and crew cavort across another two provinces. For now, I'm off, since this is what my girls have done to my nephew Hank while I typed...


for anyone keeping track, it's 12 days until the first day of school.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:23 PM

August 24, 2004

Miss Me?

Ladies and gentlemen of the blog... Look who's home.


The Dublin Bay socks are finished, as is your faithful Harlot. Much was knit, much was bought, much magnificent Canadian wilderness was sighted and enjoyed, and we are tired and re-inspired in our patriotic nature. Beauty, thy name is...well, anything along the whole east coast of Canada pretty much.

Today's photo essay...St. John's Newfoundland. (The whole trip is too big to go on a single day, and the dial up people should just go get a bottle of wine, these days will be a little photo heavy.) The eight million rolls of film we took are yet to be developed, so you'll be contenting yourselves with way...way too many pictures from my digital.

The Dublin Bay sock arrived in St. John's. We stayed at a little house on the Battery, overlooking St. John's harbour, and within moments of arriving, Joe's super active dad Joe (we call him "old Joe" to avoid confusion. He loves that.) had taken us here.


This is your trusty harlot, bravely sitting on the edge of a cliff (though there is some rocks and stuff that would smash you to bits before you plunged to your death in the sea) on a hike up Signal Hill, all for the sake of a quintessential maritime photo. I'm knitting (of course) the Dublin bay socks, while overlooking the narrows, the entrance to St. John's harbour. The harbour itself is to the right. In this photo I am (for the sake of those inclined to know these things) about 1/5th of the way up Signal hill. (You may note the largeness of my maritime hair. By the end of the trip I was in danger of knocking people over with it).


This is the sock, the children and the enthusiastic Grandad at the top. The hike up the hill ends with an unmerciful flight of stairs that, when sighted from the trail, will suck the very will to climb right out of you. It was at this point...right when I was about to complain (not really complain, just sort of maybe say that I was a little tired) that Old Joe remarked that he JOGS the trail every morning that he is in St. John's. Jogs. I was speechless. I'm a pretty fit lady, but this trail made me tired, and here my father in law, (who's age we shall not discuss but you may infer at will) Jogs it.


I decided at exactly that moment, that I wouldn't even complain about that trail. My legs could fall off, my arse could seize into a solid immobile mass, my lungs freeze in my body, in fact...I decided right that second, right when he said "jog" that I would Die on that trail before I spoke even one single word of complaint out loud in the presence of my father in law. Die.

The next day we went to Cape Spear, and the sock looked out over the most eastern point in North America.


The children scrambled over the rocks while Joe and I argued about the possibility of enormous rogue waves sweeping them out to sea. I claimed that I had seen such things on TV, and that I was sure that this looked like exactly the sort of place that this could happen. Joe countered with his experience of the sea, and my various overprotective qualities as a mother. The dispute was settled when Old Joe rounded the corner, saw the children on the rocks and warned us about the enormous rogue waves that can sweep children out to sea. I smirked for some time. (This proves a theory that I've been working on for some time. PBS saves lives. It also proves a secondary theory about which person in this marriage should be in charge and officially designated *right*, but that would be too much smirking.)

Back into St. John's, and the sock watched a tattoo at Cabot tower,


and hiked part of the East Coast Trail by Bay Bulls with Joe's Aunt Julie and Uncle Pete. Pictures to come of this, since the trail was long and the digital camera heavy. I only took the regular camera the sock behind. I'm not sorry either. For a piece of knitting the DBS do okay. If they think that I'm going to wallow in guilt because I didn't take them to the Avalon Peninsula when they got to go to three other provinces and a Prince concert...well, there are no words for that kind of self-absorbed sock-centric behaviour. The sock can suck it up.

Later that day I got a chance to visit NONIA (read this older blog entry if you don't already know why this place is cool) and marveled at the mountains of handknits, and stuck my hands into about ninety pairs of thrummed mittens. While there I apparently lost my ever-loving mind and bought this.


It's a Cross-stitch kit. (I swear to you that I was completely sober.) It's a completely accurate little picture of Gower St. in St. Johns, with all it's pretty coloured row houses. I asked a local why they are such wild colours and he told me that the way he sees it, it's one of two reasons. Either it's to keep your soul alive in the winter, when St. Johns is colourless for so long, or it's so that you can pick your own little house out when you are "drunk as a woodlice in a rum barrel". (In our house you would be "tree sheets to da wind".)

Finally, as if St. Johns could be any better than it already was, we took a whale watching trip on the Scademia.


Out on the ocean, the sock felt the wind in, fibres, and was stunned senseless by the family of humpback whales that swam with us, under us and around us. The captain of the boat is something else. He called the whales, and they came. The only thing that was more fun than seeing whales, was seeing my kids see whales.


The Scademia was home to my most profound Newfoundland moment. The moment that defined it all. The sun was setting over the ocean, the whales were swimming out and the wind was in the sails.
The wind was everywhere actually and I was a little bit cold (read freezing. Absolutely freezing, I couldn't feel my fingers) and I sent my lovely sunbrowned curly haired love to get me a warm drink. When he came back I asked if they had anything warm.

"Just rum" he said, and handed me a glass.
Long may yer big jib draw.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:55 PM

August 22, 2004

Almost Home

The bike trip is over. Our arses have not yet recovered, so I'm reluctant to sit here for very long. Thusly, I give you point form.
-PEI very beautiful. Seeming yarn shortage.
-PEI has many, many hills. (Actully, I do not believe that one single acre of it is flat. The whole thing is beautiful gently rolling picturesque hills that threaten to rip the muscles from your thighs if you are cycling up them for hours on end.)
-I loved it anyway.
-I am in Cape Breton.
-I went to Baadeck Yarns.
-I am having trouble making my new fleece artist friends fit in the suitcase.
-Kelly is lending me a suitcase. It only has yarn in it now.
-If they pick my suitcase to spot-check at the airport tomorrow, it will probably take me another 72 hours to get home, since I think that is how long they can hold you for "observation" at the institute for mental health.
-I am coming home tomorrow.
-Normal blogging (with pictures) to resume on Tuesday. (Barring the whole mental hospital thing).
-I miss you all.

I'm going to say goodbye to the ocean, watch the stars come out and hope for a little of the Northern lights.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:34 PM

August 15, 2004

Happy Birthday Megan

Today Meg is 13, and we are with Joe's sister Kelly (and the very gracious Dave and Camille) in Cape Breton. Megan's going to spend the day cavorting in the ocean, playing dressup with her cousins Savannah and Kamilah, and enjoying the company of Asha, thier friend from London. Meg will also dedicate about 7 hours of this day to jumping on the trampoline and all of this will be done (possibly including the cavorting in the ocean) wearing a new poncho. (I finished fringing the poncho at 2am. My previous positive feelings about fringe are now largely neutral, with tendencies toward complete hatred). Meg loves it (the fringe is, apparently, the best part.) Meg is a funny, witty kid, and she hates a lot of stuff. Meg only has big feelings. I've never asked her for her opinion and gotten a neutral one. Meg either loves something more than life itself and would die to defend and protect it, or she hates it...and would rather die a death of a thousand paper cuts to avoid it. This intense personality has made being her mother a bit of an, er...engaging process, and it's been a pleasure this last year to watch Meg grow into herself, and begin to possess wonderful qualities like patience, reflection and the gracefulness that comes with learning to keep your trap shut some of the time. I enjoy her a very great deal, and I'd fringe a thousand ponchos for her.

We left Newfoundland behind yesterday, crossing the Cabot strait on the "Caribou". The Caribou is a big ship. The biggest I've ever been on, and I was a little nervous. This nervousness was compounded by this little old guy who I now believe was tormenting me for fun. Every time I looked out the window at this huge expanse of water this old guy looked at me, looked at the sea and said "Now, now...gonna be some weather". This scared the crap out of me. Once you've caught on to what Newfoundlanders call "Weather", it isn't much of a leap to figure that you are about 14 minutes away from a hurricane, a Wall of Water and a sinking ship. (This gave Joe reason #17 to laugh his arse off. I have been very slow to learn that frightening people from "away" is a provincial pastime.)

I am so close to Baadeck yarns that I can smell it. Ken arrives tonight with the bikes, and we take the ferry to PEI tomorrow and begin the bike ride part of our vacation, camping and cycling our way across the province, so Baadeck may have to wait until I return to Cape Breton in a week.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:57 AM

August 13, 2004


Driving along the southern shore of Bonne Bay near Woody Point, we were eating cinnamon buns, knitting in the car and watching for moose. (I take back the knitting thing. Mostly in Newfoundland I just hold my knitting. The views are so stunning that I don't seem able to look away long enough to move my hands, although I've started to ration the Dublin Bay socks. I'm only allowing myself a row here and there or they will be finished long before I show them Prince Edward Island.) The mountains looming over the bay were so spectacular that I decided that it was time for another rousing game of "torture the children by making them all get out of the car and stand at another scenic view while I take their picture". (They love this game, Joe too.) I lined them up, threatened to "pants" Joe to make them smile, snapped the shot and turned around, and there it was. A big sign by the side of the road.
"Aunt Maggie's Homespun"

We followed the sign, (no choice really) and found a charming house in Woody Point, with fleeces drying in the sun all over the backyard and the wonderful Margaret King (Aunt Maggie herself) smiling and welcoming us. She's a charming hostess, and her knitting is to die for. Maggie confirmed that I've been doing thrums right (She's a thrummed knitting expert.) and Joe admired her beautiful gloves and mittens. Turns out that Maggie doesn't spin the yarn herself, but ships off her fleeces to Briggs and Little, then they spin it, dye it and ship it back. Lovely stuff, and seems softer than other B&L that I've had.

Swooning, I chose yarn and made a big pile. I got enough of "Quoddy Blue" for a sweater (with buttons made from moose antlers), two skeins of a Salt and pepper ragg for Meg to knit a scarf, two more skeins for mittens....and handed over my credit card to take the hit. Did it really matte what it cost? When am I coming back to Newfoundland? Souvenir Yarn makes total sense. I brace myself.


I love Newfoundland.
(PS, Kathy, I bought you a present, but it's not yarn)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:27 AM

August 12, 2004

Overlooking the Ocean

I'm just back from a hike on the tablelands, and am sitting in a little restaurant in Trout River (population 150), overlooking the ocean. The guy who caught the fish we're about to eat is fixing the front door, his wife is making coffee. I love it.

Joe is still laughing his newfie arse off because I looked for cilantro in the grocery store last night. Suffice it to say that they do not have it.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:05 PM

August 9, 2004

Where the wild things are

There are barely words for the place I'm in. St. John's is a beautiful town with candy coloured houses up and down the coast, and streets that slope down to the harbour in a way that is harrowing to a girl from Toronto. "Hill 'o' Chips" road, (I swear to you that I am not making that up) for example, if you were to misjudge things just a little bit in the winter, would surely slide you straight into the drink. Everytime I think I'm going take a turn driving the car I see a lane ahead that goes up at a 45 degree angle and think better of it.
We are staying in a little house on The Battery, looking right over the harbour. Somebody with a better arm than me could throw rocks in it, that's how close it is. You can walk from there up Signal hill, and look down over The Narrows, the entrance to the harbour. The Dublin Bay sock and the family went up this "hill" (you wouldn't believe what a Newfoundlander calls a hill). It was a very long hike, breathtakingly beautiful, but scary...the trail goes along the side of the rocky "hill", and at one point the path is so narrow that there is a chain to clutch bolted to the rock face. The hike culminates with a flight of a hundred steps that takes you to the base of Cabot tower. (I have pictures of all this...expecially one of the sock overlooking the Narrows, but it turns out that Ken wildly overestimated my technical skills, and I'm unwilling to spend hours of prime Maritime knitting time beating my head off of a borrowed computer.)

Today we hiked to the point of Bay Bulls, following the East Coast Trail. (This again, though it takes hours and is breathtaking, and even though it has real "plunge to your death over a cliff and then have your body battered to bits by the waves" potential, is a "walk"). I can't even begin to tell you how cool it all is.

I love Newfoundlanders, who have in recent hours, described my hair (which is bigger than it has ever been before, mostly due to something that I keep calling "water in the air". It's not rain, since it's not falling and the sun is shining. It's just water hanging there in the air. Joe says it's "mist". Weird.) as "a birch broom wi' the fits". It is a true measure of what a good time I am having that I felt that this was charming. Absolutely charming.

I'm on my way to "Wool Tyme", if I can find it before it's too late, and to wander NONIA. I may never come home. The Dublin Bay sock sends his love.

(PS. No sheep yet)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:38 PM

August 7, 2004

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

I'd planned this lovely goodbye, something so funny and clever that it would amuse you to no end while I am gone. Maybe a quiz or a game or something.
Alas, I underestimated the depth and breadth of the packing nightmare, and lost a fair amount of sleep finishing the work thing, (Hear that? Finished. Hallelujah.) had to repair a therm-a-rest after wrestling it in a bathtub to find the damn leak...and all the joy has gone out of me for today - leaving me only with this for you. A Poncho Pattern. Use it in good health

A very Harlot Poncho.


5 balls Mission Falls 1824 wool (I am short. If you are tall, you might want to add a ball)
9mm, 60cm circular.

Cast on 64 stitches.
Knit one round
Purl one round.

Round 1: YO, K1(mark this stitch), YO, K31, YO, K1(mark this stitch), YO, K31.
Round 2. knit plain
Round 3. knit, doing a YO before and after your marked stitch.

Repeat the last two rounds, alternating a plain round with a round where you increase either side of your marked centre stitch, and either side of your marked centre back stitch. After a couple of rounds you won't even need the markers, it will be pretty obvious.

Continue until you have used four balls of your yarn (or five, if you are tall) then cast off. I used the crochet cast off, but the world is your oyster. Do as pleases you.

Cut the remaining ball of yarn into 15" lengths. Not co-incidentally, this is the exact length you will get if you wrap the yarn the long way around the DVD case from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and then cut at the bottom, though I suppose you could use any DVD.


Fringe at will. I put two strands in every other cast off stitch.

Everybody (except those who hate ponchos) should knit one while I am gone.
I'll look forward to seeing them, and I'll post from the road. I think I've got the technology together. (This is not strictly true. Ken thinks I have the technology together. I'm grateful that he has faith in me.) I have packed the fleece artist poncho, the Dublin Bay sock, and yarn for two more pairs in a pinch. (I have also packed Megan's poncho, which is so close that it hurts. I'll knit it while she's sleeping.) I have left lots of room for souvenir yarn in our bags, and have a plan to mail it back home if my wooly love is too big for my suitcase.

Next update, St. John's, Newfoundland.

(PS. Look at the time on this post. Now know that the cab to the airport comes at 6:30 am. Pity me.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:45 AM

August 5, 2004


There really is no time to blog today, but I feel that I must take a moment to thank my brother in law Ben for saving my life. When I staggered over to his house on an errand, Ben gave me a beer, listened to me come unglued about the insane work deadline, sympathized about getting ready for the trip and most of all enlightened me about the lifeline that is MMC. (Modified Macaroni and Cheese)


While away from his wife and children and eating like a bachelor, Ben combines these two elements, white cheddar mac and cheese and Pataks Mango Pickle in oil, elevating a simple dinner for the desperate into a heretofore unknown glory of boxed food. Trust me. Ben is a genius. Eat it and know what real inspiration is. (I understand that you think that Ben and I are both off our nut. That we have been driven by a childless state into believing that this is good food, when really it is a poison that I am now trying to fob off onto you so that we may all descend together into the abyss of overwork and weirdness that is my life. Eat it anyway.)

While I sit glued to the computer, frantically and (probably) hopelessly trying to meet a writing deadline, water for this inspired instant dinner is coming to a boil in the kitchen. I have eaten it for dinner, and am repeating it for lunch and see no reason not to solve my supper crisis tonight with it as well.

Despite trying to drink way less coffee, the poncho-a-thon continues, (as does my complete inability to take a picture that accurately depicts its colour).


My unfettered pointy poncho love shows no sign of abatement, though I did somehow avoid buying a Mango Moon recycled silk poncho kit at the Stitch and Bitch last night. It was incredible, I walked away. You should have seen me.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:43 PM

August 4, 2004

Can't talk, must drink coffee.

I've decided to own up to the fact that I may be a little stressed this week. I'm packing 5 people for a very complicated trip involving planes, boats, cars and bicycles, I have a huge work thing due on Friday, organizing Joe is like going to a submarine race (they tell you that it's all happening, but you really can't see anything moving), I'm trying to get the house clean enough that a friend can stay here without having stories to tell our other friends (you know, stories that start with phrases like "and when I opened the fridge...") I've got several clients to wrap up with, and to top it all off, I can't find the pattern (read: lame little notes scratched on a variety of receipts, pieces of graph paper and the back of a paper bag) for the stupid baby sweater.

The Top 10 ways you can tell that I have a little stress.

10. I have started another poncho.


This one is knit from the Fleece Artist mohair boucle that I got for my birthday. Yeah...the stuff that I was turning into a shawl. I care nothing for shawls now, I care only for pointy magical ponchos. This affinity for ponchos is purely unnatural, and the only reason that I am not checking myself into the Queen Street Mental Health Centre for having three ponchos on the needles (and yarn purchased for a fourth) in the last week is that I have somehow managed to convince myself that it's ok as long as only two of them are for me. Pity me, for I am headed down a dangerous fringed path.

9. I am so worried about not having Megan's poncho done on time that last night I stayed up until 2:45 working on it, as I have estimated the number of hours that I have left to knit it in Megan's absence, compared it with the number of hours that it should take to finish, and decided that these two numbers are not compatible without substituting coffee for a fair bit of sleep.


This yarn defies being accurately photographed. It is impossibly red.

8. While abusing the glorious brown elixir of life known as coffee is not new to the Harlot, she has (since her children left) discovered that if you have no really don't need to cook meals or go to the grocery store as long as you have *enough* coffee. We will not discuss the side effects of this, but say only that I have discovered that if you drink *enough* coffee, you can feel the hair on your legs grow.

7. When I discovered that I had lost the pattern for the baby sweater...I cried.

6. I believe, even given the points discussed in item #9 above that it is reasonable that I should have cast on the Fleece Artist poncho, since I am still trying to get to Fleece Artist on the Maritime vacation (even though it is located a three hour drive from where I will be in Nova Scotia, and I will have no car) purely because knitting it helps me keep my "eyes on the prize". I freely accept that this is obsessive and weird.

5. Here in Ontario, if you don't make a reservation for a campsite at a provincial park you can't get one. When I called the campsites in P.E.I. yesterday, every very, very nice person that I spoke to told me that they don't take reservations. They acknowledge that they may be full, and that there may be no sites, but assure me that they will work it out when we arrive. No worries.
This worries me.

4. After a careful assessment of minimum needs for the trip I have determined that each person absolutely needs to take more than I can possibly fit in our bike saddlebags. As an indicator of my stress, it would seem that the only response to this problem I can muster is to cast on a poncho.

3. I had to put the Dublin Bay Socks in a drawer because I couldn't stand the way they were looking at me.

2. Instead of dealing with the problems outlined above, I am instead using this time that the children are away to compile a detailed list of things that are definitely their fault. For example, now that they have been gone for two days, I have written on the list that it is definitely not Joe who sometimes doesn't flush the toilet. Even though this is not solving any of my issues, I feel productive and useful. Since this activity is unproductive and useless, yet taking time that could be spent knitting a poncho it must be a procrastination stress response.

1. Even though I am obviously losing my mind, and am dangerously hopped up on caffeine and ponchos, even though I have a work deadline that would kill a lesser woman, a twitch over my left eye, and I couldn't find the camp stove while trying to pack 76 pounds of crap in a bag that holds 23 pounds, and even though I have a bizarre obsession with not buying groceries even though we have none, just because I don't want anything to go bad while we are away...even though I really, really need to get it together over here,

I am going to Lettuce Knit for a Stitch and Bitch tonight. Fear me.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:57 PM

August 3, 2004

There and here (or "Link-o-rama")

It's done. Today I've been knitting on the little baby sweater,


(and the poncho, but that looks pretty much the same) and making tons and tons of phone calls to the Maritimes. Arrangements have been made, itineraries set, campgrounds booked and I have finally set the dates and plans for the Harlot Family Holiday. I really couldn't be more excited. I'll be blogging as usual this week, but then then we run out of Toronto at a thousand miles an hour on Saturday morning. Our itinerary looks like this:
Saturday: a flight from Toronto to St. Johns. Newfoundland. We spend three very cool days in the capitol, visiting Joe's family and friends, whale watching, touring, and desperately trying to avoid getting "screeched in". This is something of which I have a mortal fear, though I can't say why. While I don't eat fish, I'm not scared of them or anything, I think it's the screech. Knitting stops (what? You didn't think I'm just going for the family thing...did ya?) in St. Johns include Nonia, and Harpur's Knitting Centre.
Tuesday (10th August) we move into the rest of Newfoundland, especially the West Coast, where we'll visit the towns that Joe grew up in, like Pasadena and Corner Brook. I'm very excited about Gros Morne National Park, and Strawberry Hill. I don't know about knitting shops in the area, but it's enough to imagine sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea, knitting with the wind in my hair.
Saturday: A ferry ride from Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. The crossing takes hours. Prime knitting hours. About six. This will be, by far and away the biggest boat I have ever been on, and it's crossing the biggest water I've ever been on. I'm completely flipped out about being on the ocean. Completely flipped out. When we get off the ferry, Joe's sister Kelly (who is a fine knitter) will meet us and bring our sea-sick little selves to her home in Cape Breton. We'll arrive just in time to celebrate Megan's birthday with the cousins, and I'll knit with my feet in the ocean. Late Sunday night Ken arrives with the bikes.
Monday (16th August) - another ferry, this time from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands P.E.I. This one is shorter, only 75 minutes, but crosses The Northumberland Straight, a sometimes "Whale highway". Darned pretty. We park the Ken's car in Charlottetown and camp there.
Tuesday we ride our bikes to Borden.
Wednesday it's on to Cabot Beach.
Thursday, because we have three daughters, we'll ride on to Cavendish, home of Anne of Green Gables. This part of the trip is really for me. I'm pretending that I'm going for the girls, but really the Anne books were such an enormous part of my childhood that I can't wait to see it all.
Friday we ride back to Charlottetown, coming across the Confederation Trail.
Saturday Ken and Joe begin the drive back to Toronto, while the children and I get back on the ferry to return to Kelly's house in Cape Breton. This trip is really only so I can get to Baadeck yarns. Otherwise known as "The Whole Reason Our Trip Is To The Maritimes This Year". Don't tell Joe.

Tuesday or Wednesday I'll be back, and normal blogging should return. I'm still trying to figure out how to blog from the road, and I have yet to figure out how I'm going to get to Fleece Artist. Don't tell Joe that either.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:35 PM

August 2, 2004

Harlot happy day

Today marks the beginning of the Harlots vacation. Not the vacation where I get on a plane with children and a husband and go explore the world, test my patience and hope for the best, but the real vacation. Last night, my Mother (I love my Mother) picked up all three of the children and took them away for five action-packed days at a rental cottage far away from here. They will swim, eat, play, look for snakes, whittle whistles (Megan's cottage obsession), and talk about how sad it is that I couldn't come. (My Mother finds this hysterical. She can't believe that the ladies are apparently not old enough to have figured out that even if I didn't have to work, you couldn't pay me to come). I started this week right by getting up late, having a complete cup of coffee before it got cold, and speaking to my husband in long sentences. Did I mention that I love my Mother?

Only adding to my happiness is the sexy new poncho, which - considering that I just knit the thing on the fly, is pretty freakin' cute.


I cannot tell you how fulfilling this poncho is. I understand that it is wrong to be this excited about a stupid fashion trend. I understand that tradition never dies, and that poncho knitting is a flash in the pan and I understand that this is going to look absolutely dumbass in the spring. I don't care. I love it. (I am smiling in the picture, not only because I am happy that I have a poncho, but because Joe is trying to convince me to model it wearing nothing else. Joe is very quick to adapt to the week without the children. Joe is also out of his mind, do you see how well it matches the pants?)
Check out the detail on the fringe.


Mine, mine all mine.

To redeem myself as a knitter who respects the traditions and value of the more perennial forms of knitting I give you the almost finished Cherry Aran. I fixed the problems with the button band, (20 extra stitches is what it took. The pattern was wrong by 20 stitches. I'd be bitter, but nothing can ruin the vacation week).


Now I have a new problem. Before I washed it, the Cherry Aran was the precise dimensions given in the pattern. Then it hit water and...well, it's not that size anymore.
It's sort of, well...huge. (Can we pause here so that I can answer a question that somebody is going to ask me? The answer is No. No, I did not wash my swatch. Yes, I sometimes wash my swatches, but only when I really, really care what size something turns out. With a toddler sweater I'm not going to do it. The swatch can only get bigger when I wash it, and coincidentally, so will the toddler. Yes, this means that I have no right to complain. Yes, I deserve everything that I get. I have angered the gods of knitting by being cavalier about the size of the Cherry Aran and I am being punished. No, I'm probably not going to start washing swatches for toddler sweaters. No, that doesn't mean that I'm done complaining.) The only time I've ever had this happen before was with a superwash yarn, and the experience was so negative that I've flinched in the yarn shop upon sighting it ever since. Still, I might have made a tactical error here. The yarn is Hayfield Natural Wool DK, and it says "Machine Washable" on it. (I just noticed that machine washable part last night, you know, after the sweater expanded). Here's the question. Does "natural" mean not superwash (which is what I thought) or does "machine washable" mean superwash ? (what I suspect). In either case, if it's superwash I'll try tossing it in the dryer, and if it's just a cruel twist of fate then I'll wait for the toddler to grow.

To even out the big needle poncho knitting I started another baby sweater, this time using baby yarn, 100% wool, with a tension that will erase the effects of 8mm circulars forever. Get this...


32 stitches and 40 rows to 10cm. Love it.
I really find that I start missing tiny little needles and yarn when I work with bulkier stuff. There's something about the delicate meticulousness that I love.
The bigger the investment of time and attention, the more worthy the project seems to me. We'll see if this is careful enough work to take care of the yearning. Usually when it gets like this, I need a lace fix.

Megans birthday is in two weeks, and the kid was trying to rip off my new poncho yesterday, so I've started a really wild one for her.


I briefly wondered what it meant that my almost 13 year old and I love the same poncho. I stopped thinking about it on purpose.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:18 PM