September 30, 2004

And so it begins.

This morning after yoga, where I learned that I can't do this at all, (I can do the arms, but the legs are not possible. It was inelegant. You have no idea.) I started to feel all zen about the sweater. I started to think that I should let go of the sweater. Allow the sweater to move through me in it's own time and space. Do not force the sweater, but instead embrace the sweater coming into it's own being. Let the sweater be only as finished as it can be for right now. Breathe.
(This is what yoga does to you.) Then I checked my comments. My little zen-like self (breathe) read how everybody thought it was nuts. (Note to self: when the general response to your plan is "Well this should be entertaining", you might want to consider the possibility that you are experiencing unrealistic expectations again. Further to that, when your friends say "Step away from the sweater..." or "Let's not do this "thing" again" you might want to think over the off chance that your plan makes about as much sense as the time that I wanted to get a miniature sheep and try to convince Joe it was a dog).

I was all ready to listen to the chorus of knitters pleading with me to not take this leap into the abyss, let go, (breathe) and work on knitting as a meditative process when I saw Claudia's comment:

/Please imagine me chuckling like an evil squirrel/
If you finish that sweater by Rhinebeck, I will buy you a TREAT at the show.
/the evil chuckling continues/

(Please insert filthy expletive of your choice here) I am deeply ashamed to discover that this one little comment was enough to completely drop me. That was it. I have to do it. There is no walking away now. You may think what you will about the fact that I don't even know Claudia, and that I don't even know what the treat is. You can also infer whatever pleases you about the fact that I don't even need to know. It could be the shredded reciepts from the bottom of her purse for all I know. It doesn't matter.
The game is on.
In true harlot fashion...the plan is loose.
This...(look, I wasn't kidding about the loose thing) is the pattern.


This is the start. (It's one of the fronts.)


This is the second of the thrum-a-long mittens...


because you know...I'm not letting the fact that I'm clearly delusional and unrealistic keep me from my mitten knitting responsibilities.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:29 PM

September 29, 2004

There's just no way to know...

I was reading Claudia's blog a little while ago, and she's knitting this awesome sweater to wear to Rhinebeck. (Actually, Claudia's really sneaky. She's being all casual about it. She hasn't come right out and said that she's making the sweater for that, it's more like "Oh my goodness...this just might be finished in time". Very cunning) Then I checked her sister Silvia's blog, and Silvia is knitting one too. They are having a little sisterly competition, both rushing to finish new sweaters for Rhinebeck. Isn't that nice? New sweaters for Rhinebeck.

Now you may not know this about me, but I have a tiny competitive streak. (Somewhere, my buddy Ken just read that and is laughing himself stupid. He's at his desk, snorting coffee and laughing maniacally while his co-workers stare at him and wonder if he's finally so far gone that he thinks that the geeky network administration he's working on is funny. Ken has been on the receiving end of my tiny competitive streak more than once. There was the "Who can make the smallest origami crane" episode, and a really spiritually unhealthy time with matching sweaters. I digress, but before we get back to the blog, I feel compelled to point out that I soundly thumped him.) This little flaw of mine is compounded by my need to not be left out of any fun that anybody is having without me.

This means that even though there is only 14 days before I get on a plane, I must have a new sweater. Must. Have. I know this is wrong. I know that I am a pathetic mess of a knitter, I know that I will likely have to warp the time space continuum to get a sweater before I leave, but all of this doesn't matter to me.
The sweater will be mine. (Before you suggest it, rest assured that I asked Silvia if mittens would be ok. She said no. She suggested that an exemption from the new sweater requirement could be purchased from her with chocolate, but I believe that she is lying to get chocolate. I would.)

So...a plan is afoot.

I'm thinking about an imaginary sweater. In my imagination, this sweater is a sort of fitted aran cardigan, with a zip front and saddle shoulders. I have a 90cm bust (36" ) and I think that a sweater 100cm around would do. (That's like...4" of ease) I have been through the countless books and magazines in this house (sort of quickly though, I can't waste valuable knitting time) and feel confident that the pattern I want does not exist. That's ok. I can fake it. The only thing standing between me and a Rhinebeck sweater that will keep all the other knitters from pointing, laughing and demanding chocolate while I try desperately to defend and redeem myself with a pair of Latvian Mittens is a deep concern that I may not have enough wool. I embarked on a little research.


First, a little swatch.
This actually isn't relevant, since swatches are known to be filthy little liars, still..I feel compelled to knit them, since every pattern book I've got says something like "to save time, take time to check tension". Since this knit needs to be fast, I thought I'd better do it. It hasn't helped so far, except to tell me what I already knew, which is that I'm getting about 19 sts to 10cm. That's good.

Next, I found two sweaters which are sort of like what I'm thinking about, and checked their gauge and yardage. Here's where it gets weird.

First....this one. Design #8 from Vogue Winter 00/01.


Calls for 1670 metres of yarn. I've got 1240. I was briefly discouraged, but I don't want a hood, I don't want it that long, and I'm frowning on the tassels. That should mean that I'm ok...right? Maybe.
I decide to take a second opinion, so...


This is design #2 from Patons book 500982. It's more like what I want, the length is better, it's more fitted...this sweater will probably be a closer indicator of what it will actually take. I check and (brace yourself) 2400 metres!

I'm being lied to. One of these patterns is lying. They take the same weight yarn, they have the same gauge, they are knit on the same size needles! How can they be that different? I'd just take the chance, but this is yarn from Newfoundland (long way to go for another skein...and they couldn't even mail it on my psychotic Rhinebeck schedule) and I can't bear the idea of busting myself for the next two weeks only to end up with a vest.
What I need now is a tie breaker. Ideas? Anybody got the yarn requirements for something similar hanging around?

Thrum-a-long, Day 3

When you think your mitten is almost tall enough, end ready to begin a third round (that's the first of the three plain knitted rounds)

next round - *K1, K2tog, repeat from * around.
knit one round, then
K1, K2tog around again.

The next round should be a thrum round again, work that round and then K2tog all the way around. Break the yarn, thread through the remaining stitches and fasten off.


Carefully pick out the waste yarn, picking up the "live" stitches as they are released.


When you have all the stitches picked up, divide on three needles. Your work looks like this:


Work around your first round, picking up two stitches, one at each "side" of the thumb. Continue to work the thumb, working the thrum pattern as established until the thumb is almost long enough. End ready to work a 5th round (the knit round before the thrums)
*K1, K2tog, repeat from * around.
Thrum the next round, and work the next round (round #2)
Last round: K2tog all the way around, break yarn, thread through remaining stitches, draw tight and fasten off.

Your work looks like this


Celebrate your finished thrummed mitten by turning it inside out and laughing until the neighbours think you're odd.


Make the second mitten the same.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:45 PM

September 28, 2004


I have decided to retire from my office as "Queen of the World". I thought it would be fun, but it turns out that there are many things which remain the same, and I have compiled evidence which would make is seem that I was only a pretender to the throne.

1. I could be wrong, but I sincerely believe that the real Queen of the World does not have to scrub the toilet.

2. The real Queen of the World would not be completely broke.

3. As I was shopping for, cooking for and cleaning up after dinner for six, I thought...this is wrong too.

4. I spent hours this morning feeling decidedly dejected and un-queenly when I tried to add a bunch of people to the Thrum-a-long list, and after a period of really, really un-regal smashing about and swearing during which I drank more coffee than is good for me and thought about the screech (even though it was 10:00 in the morning) I discovered that the whole crapping list was not working because I had used ">" instead of the reverse. How many alcoholics and weird, twitchy, overcaffeinated reclusive freaks do you think that html creates every day?

5. The Queen of the world does not almost give up on the stupid Html because she really can't spare any more laundry time. Also, nobody tries to have the "underpants talk" with the Queen of the World while she tries to figure out html and looks hostile. (NB The "underpants talk" is always swiftly followed by my standard rebuttal, Speech 93-b, subtitled "Don't talk to me about your underpants, you know where the washer is". This rebuttal, while well-practiced, is wholly ineffective, but may be somewhat Queenly).

6. The Queen of the World is not so thrillingly outdone by Thrum-a-long Co- hostess Crystal, who posted a clever and helpful tutorial on the art of the thrum, for those of you who find the Harlot method lacking.

I made little progress on the thrummed mitten, but did work past the thumb so that I could cheerfully bring you....

Thrum-a-long, Day 2.

Having worked your merry way up to the placement for the thumb (I assume that if you think the thumb is in the wrong place, you will work more or less rows of the thrum pattern ) we embark on an afterthought thumb, but preplanned.

Knit 2 stitches, then using waste yarn Knit 9, knit to the end of the round.
Continue knitting (maintaining the thrum pattern) until you think the mitten is almost as long as the recipients hand.
The waste yarn will be removed when we are ready for the thumb, and lo and behold, there will be live stiches, ripe for the picking up. ( Many thanks to "Folk Mittens" for the idea)
Your work looks like this.


Northern Exposure

(Am I the only one who loved that show?)
In a bold and foolish move, I'm making a commitment. The Canadian version of the Mason-Dixon sewing up party for Afganalong for Afghans, will be held here in my tiny and untidy house, Sunday the 7th of November at 2 in the afternoon.
While I cannot even begin to top the extravaganza that Ann and Kay held, I promise to bake a cherry upside down cake (with cherries left over from the ordeal), provide some sort of plonk, hose off the kitchen and drag the extra chairs up from the basement.
If you come to this sewing up party, you will recieve the following:
-good karma. Luckily, the more squares you sew up, the better your eternal soul does.
-the good feeling that you can only get from entering the home of someone who is a worse housekeeper than you.
-the chance to play with wool.
-the opportunity to join in a worldwide movement to better the lives of those less fortunate than you (no matter how untidy your house is), just by playing with wool.

Ann and Kay are sending the squares, for the love of yarn, don't make me sew them up all by myself. I'll comfort myself with the plonk, eat all the cake....not pretty.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:35 PM

September 27, 2004

Queen of the world.

I'd like to take a moment to point something out. Even if you don't give a rat's arse about the Thrum-a-long....See that!!! It's a link! A link to a page that I made. All by myself.
That's right. ME. Now look down the side of the blog...see that? Links to thrum-a-longers! Names! Centred! Who do you think did that? Right again. ME!
I have an odd urge to scream things like "Who's your Daddy!" at the screen. I'm sure it will pass.

(I'd like to take a moment to apologize most sincerely for the profusion of exclamation points. I'm very excited. Really. I understand that they are annoying to read, and I'm disappointed in myself for using them. I do believe however, that successfully handcoding html and navigating the mystic realm of moveable type for the first time, by yourself with only a book and your wits to guide you, is the moment that exclamation points were invented for.)

The blog and I would like to thank Donna and Julia for the tips and links that made this incredibly satisfying moment possible. I'd also like to acknowledge Ken, who enhanced the learning curve by turning his cell phone off on Sunday. (While I was briefly pissed at him for being unreachable while I was in my own personal hades of Movabletype/ is the fact that I was unable to guilt/harrass him into doing this for me that has lead to this most fulfilling of blog moments.)

I was so happy when it finally worked that I laughed out loud and made the cat look at it.

If I missed you on the list of Blog-a-longers just let me know. I can fix that.
(Really, I can. I'm the html queen of the world.)

While ranting around the house alternately screaming and typing things into the computer this weekend, I actually knit.


That's right. I coded html and I finished the Latvian mittens. (I reiterate...Queen of the world).

I finished the Fleece Artist mittens, and there was so much left over that I knit a hat to go with....


Meg is happily modelling them for us, and (in case you can't read it) is wearing a tee-shirt that says "I dress this way because it bothers you". (I am ignoring the fact that a kid who is wearing that shirt may have too much sass for her mother to be the Queen of the World. Did I mention that I coded html?)

I started new mittens, these ones are Swedish, part of a stunning gift from Susanna


but I'm starting to feel like it's an unhealthy obsession, so let's just glide right over that.

Thrum-a-long Madness - day one.

After a stunningly successful dye episode in the kitchen, (Queen of the world, I tell you) I deftly defended my fleece from the fibre-stealing squirrel in the backyard, carded and combed and I have this to be the thrums for my mittens.


Yes, I know. How many mittens are you making Steph? I got a little carried away.

Day one:
Assemble materials.
One skein Briggs and little "Heritage" wool (worsted weight)
60 grams carded fleece or roving.
dpns in 3.25 and 4 mm.
One bottle Screech, official drink of the 2004 Thrum-a-long. (Just in case)


Cast on 40 stitches, distribute on the dpns in a manner which pleases you, and join in a round. Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 6cm.

Switch to the 4mm needles and knit 3 rows, increasing 5 stitches evenly around the first round. (45 stitches)

Thrum Round: *K2, thrum 1, repeat from * around. (If you don't know how to thrum, go here)
Next round: *K2, knit into the back of the next stitch and its thrum, repeat from * around.
Knit 3 rounds.

Your work looks like this:


Repeat these last five rows twice, then then first two rounds once. Then wait until tomorrow and I'll do the thumb. (I'm not holding out on you. I haven't exactly figured it out yet)
If anything seems frustrating, administer tea or coffee and re-attempt. If it still doesn't work, use a shot of Screech and re-attempt one more time. If it still eludes you, email me and continue to drink screech until I email you back or you no longer care about mittens. (Caution: with screech that really doesn't take long)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:53 PM

September 24, 2004

I have an idea...

That's usually trouble, isn't it? I was thinking about the thrum along that's starting here Monday, co-hosted by the clever and lovely Crystal. (Crystal has put up a free pattern for thrummed mitts too...they are here) and figuring that I need to do a bunch of stuff.
(This is my first "a-long". I'm not a joiner. If I miss something then let me know, will ya?)

Thrum-a long checklist.

1. Buttons. Everybody has these funky buttons when they do these. Lucky for me, Crystal organized that.

(remember to save them to your own server, right?)

2. Something to link the button to. I'm working on a Thrum FAQ, and I'll put that up sometime over the weekend (details on Monday) just as soon as I figure out how to add another page to the blog. So far my efforts have resulted in me feeling inadequate, harassing Ken at work, and drinking way too much coffee. There has to be an easier way.
When I have a victory over the blog, there will be something for you to link to.
(If you are on a Mac, have a blog like mine, and have successfully added another page to your blog, or even if you have heard whispered legends of such a thing...will you send me an email and explain it to me like I am a moron? I can promise that no matter how condescending or simplistic your tone, I will be grateful. Talk down to me, I'll like it.)

You know you have blog stress when you are knitting Latvian Mittens to relax.


For the love of wool...if you see anything wrong with this mitten, don't tell me.

3. A list of Blog-a-longers. Where should I put this? Here? On the Thrum page? (I'm leaning toward here. Partly because we all hang out on this page, partly because I already know how to add stuff to this page and partly because the other page sort of only exists in my imagination.) If you already left a comment that you are thrumming along...I'll add you, otherwise..just let me know and I'll add you. Crystal will have a mirror list on her site (I think).

4. I'm writing the FAQ (to go on the imaginary pressure Steph)
What questions do you want me to answer?

5. I guess I'm going to need something to thrum. What I really want is the Fleece Artist kit, but I am respecting the Yarn Diet (sob) so I've got this going on.


We'll see what comes of it. (Insert evil laugh here). Joe took one look at this little dye-plan in the kitchen this morning and just quietly went to work. Probably smart. My dye plan, let's call it "loose". I've got some colours and some fleece, Denny's crock pot and we will just see. If I'm knitting plain thrummed mittens come Monday...we'll just pretend this never happened.

Did I miss anything?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:15 PM

September 23, 2004


One of my favourite expressions is "The universe seeks balance". I really believe it. Water seek level, happy things are followed by sad times, snow after summer, light after dark. In the end it all comes out more or less even. Some days it can be pretty hard to connect with the cosmic wisdom of it all. You know, those days where the guy who is supposed to pay you doesn't, the dishwasher starts making an expensive noise, You pull a muscle in your arse doing yoga, you start making lists of the things that you like about your family, just so that you don't strangle them all (I love Sam because expensive things make her "nervous"), your favourite pants in the whole world have a rip in the knee, and it turns out that your Latvian mittens are a stinking pile of crap? You know, those days? Those are the days that I have to remind myself that The Universe Seeks Balance and that it will all eventually come up even.
I didn't have to wait long. The Universe was totally on her game yesterday.

The Top Ten Reasons That It Turns Out That I Was Right About The Balance Thing.

10. My brother brought me a jar of Wasabi Peas. He promised me they were good and Dude didn't let me down. New favourite food, Wasabi Peas.

9. Norma is seriously funny.

8. As of today, Megan does not say "hello" or "hi Mommy". She says

7. Margene sent me this:


It is signed by the goddess Nancy Bush herself. I am not worthy.
(PS. while you are over at Margene's, check out the indigo gloves she's knitting. If that doesn't impress you, well, nothing will.)

6. I pulled back the mittens and re-knit them. It turns out that they aren't a stinking pile of crap. I like them again.


I even believe that I may finish them. (See that? Didn't say "would", I said "may". As Claudia knows, it is important not to anger the knitting goddess. She is vengeful and her fury is mighty, cruel, swift and pointy.

5. I got to go the the S&B at Lettuce Knit last night. I left the house, I saw other people and I came home after dark, just like a real grown-up. Jane was there and putting a beaded cast off on a Harlot poncho that was to die for. Aven was there and I got to meet Dani, complete with her finished Klaralund! Laura was there, working on a really neat noro bag. Scads of other people were there, Joyce and....Damn. I'm really bad with names. Fun, nice people.

4. Some months ago, my friend Denny told me that I had to give her anything in my stash that was 100% natural fibres and more than 10 year old. I gave her some stuff, no idea what she was up to. Some weaving thing. She made me a cool spindle bag the last time I gave her stuff. I gave her this cream coloured thin yarn that had never really grown on me.
Last night, Denny gave me this.


It's a shawl/table runner/scarf thing. (Denny is the Queen of the multipurpose item.) She wove my...well, what I thought was crap, together with this pretty organic silk stuff and stripes of random blue yarns. There's some Fleece Artist, other peoples leftovers...even some Handicrafter cotton. It's to die for.


2. My Husband is so confident about my knitting prowess, that (lest any of you think him unkind for pointing out the missing braid) that he asked "Why" I had made them different. He has such faith that he figured it had to be on purpose.
Had to be.

1. I lost my temper and kicked the dishwasher for making the expensive noise. (It was also not spinning the washing arm thingie).
While it is probably too soon to tell, it would seem that I fixed it.

You might not want to stand to near me today. In the interest of "Balance", I'm probably going to be struck by lightning.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:29 AM

September 22, 2004

Busy, busy, busy.

Determined that SMS could be overcome by public encouragement, sheer will and coffee (Hey, here's something worth mentioning. Somebody got here yesterday on a google search for "yarn and coffee". Aside from the really, really interesting sort of scenarios that you could think up for why someone would be searching for those two things together, I'd like to say a couple of things. First, to the person who did the search, Hi! I think we were separated at birth. Secondly, should I be thrilled or disturbed that if someone does a google search for "yarn and coffee", I am the #1 hit?)

I buckled down and applied myself to the Latvian Mitten. I made pretty good time too.


I even remembered to take a picture of how I did the thumb as I went by. (Rams asked. I'm never going to disappoint Rams.)


I knit around to the place where I wanted the thumb, then cast on the stitches that will be the top of the thumb hole, then put the stitches that would be beneath them on a thread to save for later. Then I just keep knitting the mitten (with the thumb hole sitting there taunting me), until I'm ready to knit the thumb. I come back, pick up the stitches on the thread, pick up the stitches from the cast on edge, and I'm off like a prom dress.

I knit along after the thumb-hole feeling pretty darn good about me and my ability to resist temptation. I've got all these incredible alternatives and yet, do I run off and leave the second Latvian mitten like a common...well, Harlot?
No. I do not. I dedicate all of my knitting time for last evening to having a second mitten. I stick to it, darn it...and I'm feeling pretty good about it.

When I can no longer keep my eyes open, I spread the mitten on the chesterfield and show it to Joe. "Pretty nice eh?" I say, with the smug and satisfied smile of a knitter. "Yes, Ma'am" Joe replies. "Pretty nice indeed".
We sit for a moment admiring the mittens. We feel the love.


Then Joe says...."How come you didn't make them the same?"


I can't talk. I have a lot to do. I have to do laundry, rip back the mitten, do some of my real job, dust, vacuum and put all of my dpns in a pile on the living room floor and throw myself into them and roll around until I (hopefully) get a fatal puncture. Busy, busy, busy.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:05 AM

September 21, 2004

News from the CDC:

The CDC is today warning that a knitter in Toronto is showing advanced signs of a disease which may be a breakout of SMS or Second Mitten Syndrome. As you know, there are three forms of SMS.


Viral: Viral SMS is common among knitters and most knitters will have contracted it several times during a knitting lifetime. The mildest form of the disease, VSMS is mostly uncomfortable. Having Viral SMS may confer some immunity, since most knitters do go on to knit second mittens.
Symptoms of Viral SMS include finding the second mitten considerably less charming, and perhaps referring to it using adjectives like "fiddley" or "annoying". (Assuming that she/he used "charming" and "intriguing" to describe the first one)
The knitter may consider beginning other projects, but returns to the mitten out of a sense of duty and a desire to have a pair.
Treatment: Symptomatic. Occasionally, starting another project helps, although it is generally not recommended. Other knitters may support recovery by refusing to go along with the knitters wish that the first mitten be overlooked.
Prognosis: Excellent, although some knitters take many months to recover and knit the second mitten.

Bacterial: Bacterial SMS is more serious. We suspect that it may be spread by bacteria living on the wool the mittens are knit with. It too is widespread, and has resulted in many single mittens left scattered across the world. The bacteria responsible seems impervious to heat or cold, since mitten knitters in all climates are affected.
Symptoms: The presence of advanced adjectives such as "stupid" or "Dumbass" when referring to the first mitten. Repeatedly finding oneself in front of the stash looking for another project, as if drawn there...helplessly yet inexplicably thinking about starting different mittens. (Note: this is an important point for the differential diagnosis. Bacterial SMS sufferers look for any old project to replace the second mitten, while VSMS victims remain fixated on mitten projects)
Prognosis: Fair. The mitten knitter may recover and a pair of mittens is still a possible goal.

Malignant SMS: This variant of the disease is terminal. The second mitten will not survive, and in fact, may never be cast on. There is no treatment for this form of SMS and it leaves a vicious swath of single mittens in it's path. In this most heinous form of SMS, the mitten knitter is forced to endure the most painful of outcomes. She/he cannot cast on the second mitten, yet cannot admit this and is forced to keep the projects, unfinished for many, many years.
Symptoms: The knitter no longer uses adjectives to refer to the second mitten, and may instead appear dazzled and say "What mitten?", even as they are surrounded by piles of single mittens.
Treatment: None. The knitter should be supported in her delusions to avoid having SMS spread to other areas of her knitting.
Prognosis: Poor. Short of getting Captain Hook's address, there is no happy ending. Damage may be minimized by keeping the knitter from starting up with sock knitting.

Our Toronto knitter, while the final verdict is not in, appears to be suffering from the Bacterial form of the disease, which in this case would seem to have been transmitted by a simple knitting book, sent to her by our Lady Kern of the comments.


This gift is tempting the poor knitter to thrust the Latvian Mittens into a crack in the chesterfield and cast on something which will be even more beautiful.
Despite the horror of contracting this disease, the Toronto knitter appears incredibly grateful.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:43 PM

September 20, 2004

Obsessive Compulsive Mitten Disorder

On Friday, when we last saw our faithful harlot, she was chugging merrily along on the insane Latvian Socks and feeling pretty good about it. Her Thumb Anxiety© had abated due to a brilliant rescue by Laura at Fibertraditions. Thus armed she was ready to sink into the foxhole of mitten knitting and rise triumphant this morning, having straightforwardly knit the rest of the mitten.

Friday night, while lying in bed I got to thinking about the mitten. I got to thinking about the way the pattern suggested that you knit to the point of decrease, then adjust the length for whomsoever the mitten is for, and then decrease. Seemed smart enough. Except for, (and this is what was keeping me up) if you did that, it seemed to me that you would have a mitten top that could end anywhere in the pattern. I didn't want that, I wanted it to end with the pointy part of the pattern landing at the pointy decrease. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. I couldn't just lie there while my mitten might be decreasing in the wrong spot. Who could sleep with a misplaced pattern on a Latvian Mitten?

I got up and went downstairs. I looked at the mitten. I had altered the pattern by taking out a row of motifs that I didn't care for, and had compensated (without bothering to see if I needed to compensate) by starting at a different point in the pattern. I looked at the pattern and I got a bad feeling. I started feeling like if I finished the mitten the way it was, then I wouldn't be getting the pointy pattern in the right spot. It might be too long, or too short if I tried to do that. I got a glass of wine, a ruler and a good attitude, and sat down. I measured it.


I was right. There was no way. I looked at the mitten, I thought about ripping it back to the second braid and starting at a different point in the pattern so it would work out. I asked myself why I can't seem to learn that row gauge is a mystic art. I asked myself what reasonable person overlooks row gauge over and over and over again. I asked myself if I could live with the mitten the way it was, or if it was worth the rip? I thought about ripping back half of a finished mitten, and the more that I thought about it, the more I thought that I should learn to love the mitten the way it is? I mean, why am I always forcing my knitting to be something it doesn't want to be? Why can't I just accept the Zen of the mitten?
I decide that I will accept my mitten and allow it to decrease at the point that feels right to it. I go back to bed.

Twenty minutes later I am up and ripping. There's just no way. If I didn't rip it back it would stare at me for the rest of my life. The mitten would call me things like "slacker" and "coward" and it would belittle me and my half-arsed skills for many years to come. Over the years the mitten and I would never really be able to re-capture the feeling of our salad days, back when I knit it's braids. It would never really open up to me and I would grow to resent it. I would start to apologize for it's non-pointed patterning at cocktail parties, and the mittens would say that it didn't matter...but everyone would know that it wasn't true. The distance would grow until one day in March when I was wearing the mittens on the subway, and the weather is a little bit un-mittenish, just at the point when you might not get frostbite without mittens, and I'd get off at my stop and walk down the street and suddenly realize that the mittens aren't with me. That I've left them, or maybe they left doesn't matter, because it was doomed from the moment that I couldn't commit, rip back and make it right between us.
I can't live like that.


I went back, I did the math (row gauge is a pox on the earth) and figured out where to start if I wanted a pointy ending that was also the length of my hand.

The rest of the weekend was spent making up for lost time and feeling the possibility of my perfect future with the mittens all come together.
I finished this morning.


See what I mean? See how it would have never worked between us without the pointy goodness? See how I'm clearly not out of my mind staying up nights worrying about mittens? That would have kept anybody up. Except Joe, I tried to explain it to him when he asked why I was up ripping back mittens in the dead of night. He just gave me that look again.

Wanna see the palm and thumb?


Yeah baby. The thumb is almost enough satisfaction by itself. It is perfect in it's striped thumby perfection. How could I have had this thumb on a substandard mitten?

This morning when I went to my mailbox, I could see that it was all coming together. If I hadn't pulled back the mitten, then I wouldn't have finished this morning, and If I hadn't finished this morning then I wouldn't have gotten this super cool scrabble tile ring from Carolyn just as I was finished.


It felt like a party. Thanks Carolyn!

Posted by Stephanie at 12:14 PM

September 17, 2004

I admit it.

I'm going to admit something publicly, own up to the fact that it isn't an intellectual pursuit of which I should be proud, you may all mock and belittle me for one day and then we will move on.

I watch Survivor. That's right, I do. I understand that it is humans at their worst, and that I encourage the morally repugnant practice of scratching and clawing at your fellow man for money by watching it...but I can't help it. I love it, can't get enough. I know that this must run contrary to everything you all know about your tree-hugging, vegetarian, leftist, book reading Harlot....but there you have it. I love it, I read webpages analysing every inane minute the next day, have long conversations with my friend Lene (That's right chickie....I just outed ya) about each and every dumbass move the contestants are making and speak confidently about how I would have been a fire making expert before I got there. (Wouldn't you? Seriously, 18 people thrown on an island with no fire. Every single time. If you knew you were going to be on Survivor, wouldn't you have spent as many obsessive hours in the backyard as it took to be able to make fire pretty reliably? Cave men did it 40 thousand years ago for crying out loud, surely one stinking modern contestant could manage.) Never mind, the point is that I get a little sincere about Survivor. I set myself down in front of the TV, and have a profound period of focus for an hour, during which time I can scarcely drag my eyes from the screen and therefore can't work on the Latvian mittens during this time. I worked on the Rainbow Peerie socks, and finished the first of the Fleece Artist mittens (but I used my own pattern).


You may all scoff openly now, but I bet that you do it too. Don't tell me that you've never shunned a sub-titled film at the video store because you were working on fair isle. Picked an intellectual movie with lots of talking because you knew that you didn't need to look up from a Latvian braid, how about choosing to knit plain socks so that you could watch all the action in a James Bond flick? You know you do it.
When Survivor was over, I returned my attention to the Latvian mittens. (Fine, I'll admit that I may have watched The Apprentice too...I'm so disturbed to be intrigued by Donald Trump, let's not discuss it.)

You will note that the second set of braids run in a direction opposite to the first set. This is a triumph of an intensely personal nature. I am now poised to begin the thumb, which frankly scares the begeebers out of me. Seriously, I'm afraid that I'm going to wreck the whole work of art with a crappy thumb. All those braids, the perfectly even fair isle....I can't seem to bring myself to stick a thumb in it.


The second round of braids went much, much faster due in large part to this comment from Conk yesterday:

So you probably don't want to hear that one of the very first things I did with 2 colors of yarn was a pair of socks with 6 braids each, huh? Yeah, I didn't think so. Once you accept the twisty yarn will go away in the next row, braids are great.

Excuse me? The twisty yarn goes away? (I think that we can probably agree as a group that we are going to ignore the first part of that comment, right?) When you knit braids each stitch puts a twist into the yarn. It's crazy making. I would knit ten stitches, then hold up the knitting and let it dangle to get the twist out, then knit ten more stitches and repeat. What Conk is talking about is the fact that knitting the first round of the braid you twist the yarn up one way, then when you knit the second round, the yarn gets twisted the other. A little patience and the whole thing sorts itself out. It's complete common sense and I totally missed it. (I also missed that the book explained that in the instructions. Note to self: Read instructions. Especially read instructions before complaining online and looking like an arse.)

Kristi said:

Very very strange. I can knit these braided edgings MUCH faster than K2P2 ribbing, they just fly by. Hmm. Do you hold one color in each hand? And they really do look great, I'd do them even if they took an extraordinary long time.

After thinking about this comment for a really long time, I've decided that she's messing with me. Right?
(Hey, Kristi? If this isn't a cruel joke....(which is fine...I can respect a really decent cruel joke) could you email me right away with more information? In which way could I use two hands? How would I twist the yarns if they were in two hands? Fly? Seriously? Also, I would like just a quick opportunity to worship and grovel at your feet if that's ok. Like I said though, if this is just messing with me that's ok too. Just never mind.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:10 PM

September 16, 2004

Once upon a time...

there lived the most patient woman in the world. She never yelled at her children, she never sat tapping her foot while she waited for her chronically late husband. She never, ever dyed fleece pink when she wanted red because she couldn't wait for the dye bath to be exhausted. She answered stupid questions without ever mocking people once, and legend has it that she taught her cat to stop scratching the bannister through a careful and delicate process that took years and years. She was indeed the worlds most patient woman.

We know very little of this woman. I can't tell you how many children she had, or if she was tiny or big. I can't even tell you if she taught 3rd grade (which is, of course the natural occupation for the worlds most patient woman, well that or astrophysics. Both very tedious.) We will never know what her secret was or if she lived in a hut or a condo. There is only two things that I can tell you with absolute certainty about the worlds most patient woman.
She was a knitter, and she was, without a shadow of a doubt....LATVIAN.

Look at these mittens.


There are no words. You don't know. Until you've knitted that little braid thingie will never know what it is like. It is so quiet, it is so extraordinarily finicky that your teeth itch. Time stops while you knit braids. The universe ceases to expand and shrinks down to the distance between you and your needles. You do not look up. You do not speak. You do not take your eyes from the braid, lest you loose track of the pattern and put a yarn under where a yarn should have gone over. Your world becomes only the braid. It would be kind of Zen if it wasn't for the teeth itching. I tried and tried (you will note that there are two of the braid things) to find some kind of rhythm, some kind of simple system that would make the knitting of the braids fly. There is nothing.


Fine. I take that back. There may be something. I have been knitting Latvian mittens for less than a day. What do I know. Nothing, that's what. What we need here is for someone who has been knitting Latvian mittens for longer than a day to drop me a stinking line about the braids. (I have a suspicion that there is nothing. I have a creeping feeling that the Latvians are simply the most patient knitters in the world. I theorize that the help I am going to get, even if Lizbeth Upitis herself phones me and tells me all about the braid will be something like:

Relax. Make tea. Enjoy the braid.

I just hate that. Acceptance, ease, patient learning of a new process. For crying out loud I want to know now! I don't want to be part of a learning curve, I just want to knit the braids and I want to knit them with the speed and ease of a 83 year old Latvian mitten knitting genius.
Did you know that this book says that mitten knitting was so central to a Latvian girls life and wedding that she would have needed to knit between one and two hundred pairs to fulfill her obligations? When did she eat? When did she sleep? Was someone assigned to feed her? Did she have no other purpose? For the love of sheep...the braids! The time! The insanity! I've done two braids, each mitten has four. That's eight in a pair, so these Latvian brides would have knit 800-1600 braids before her wedding day. (Ok, ya got me. Maybe they made some without braids.) You know what kills me? They still got married. I'm telling you, I've knit half of the braids to knit one mitten and if somebody told me that I had to knit 800 more there is very little chance that I would see any advantage to marriage. No freaking way.
(Note to self: must do yoga more, must rave over knitting like a crazy woman less.)

All of this said, even though these mittens are clearly going to become a "thing" in my life, even though I am very tired today because I "just one more row"ed myself into staying up way late last night, even though I am raving about braids and Latvians and the whole mitten insanity...I am liking them. Oh, yes.

About thrums....

Questions? I got answers.

Q: How much fleece/roving am I going to need.
A: This much would be tons for an average pair of adult mittens.


I have included my omnipresent coffee cup for scale. I can't tell you how much this is for sure, but It's less than 60g. (For the Americans, that's like maybe 2 ounces. By the way...did you know that there are only three countries in the world that have not officially adopted metric? The USA, Liberia and Burma. Actually, that's not strictly true. Liberia and Burma use metric somewhat, just not officially. Freak you out? I thought so.)

Q: Will acrylic or an acrylic/wool blend be ok?
A: I don't think so. Morally, I'm opposed because of tradition, and authenticity demands wool. On a more practical level than just appalling Newfoundlanders everywhere, wool has real advantages over synthetic here. Wool is warm even when wet. (Big mitten advantage) Wool yarn will stick to the wool thrums holding them in place. (Big thrummed mitten advantage). Wool will eventually felt slightly on the outside of the mitten thus making the mitten more wind and waterproof, thus contributing to superior hand warming, which is the purpose of mittens after all. Finally, wool is nice. If anybody needs cheap wool that would cost the same (or less) than an acrylic/wool blend, I recommend Briggs and Little. Which make really nice mitts (that's what my last pair were) and can be bought on-line a bunch of places.
In the end, it is of course, your mittens and your decision. You might want to remember about the mocking though.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:24 AM

September 15, 2004

Mitten? What mitten?

With the fervour of the obsessed, I am knitting mittens. ( the way. The 8lb human being who prevented yesterdays blogging is not sorry. Just thought I would let you know that she showed very little remorse. None actually.)

The thrummed mittens are done, see how nice they look? Puffy and cozy?


That's because the insides look like this...


Cool eh? The thrums are little folded wisps of fleece knit into some stitches. The ends fall to the inside, and form a soft pillow of fluffy wonderment that magically transforms the mitten into a hand furnace. Seriously. As Cece discovered, unless you live somewhere where it gets seriously cold, you are going to wear them like she did, five minutes on...five minutes off. If you do live somewhere that it gets properly cold (by properly, I mean that in the morning you check the windchill to see how many minutes it takes to freeze exposed skin, on account of you are out of milk and wonder if it's too cold to go to the corner....or cold enough that if the kids go to the recreation centre for swimming, you have to remind them that if they walk home with wet hair, they shouldn't try to take their hats off until their hair thaws...or cold enough that when you heard the expression "Me goosebumps were so big, I did'nt know where to put me bra" you thought it was funny...but could relate.) if you do live somewhere like that, then you're gonna love these, and have all 10 fingers if your car breaks down in Collingwood...but that's another story.

In the spirit of lovin' the thrum and it's unique Canadian goodness...I'm suggesting that together with Crystal we do a Thrum along? I'll start my mittens two weeks from now...let's say the 27th of September, and I'll walk everybody through it. You can use any pattern you like, Spin Off has one in this issue, there's another here, and here. I'm sure you will find more. (Including these ones. Not traditional, but devastating)

Do as pleases you...but remember, I am sworn to uphold proper Canadian knitting technique. These means that I might mock anybody who uses "pencil roving " instead of the more appropriate fleece or roving. Although it is fine stuff for other has no place in a mitten. I will mock kindly, I will mock with compassion...I will mock with the respect that all knitters deserve, but I will mock.

I spend last evening knitting these two and a half mittens.


What's that? It only looks like one mitten to you? That's because you can't see the first mitten, which I ripped back in a fit of temper when it was...well, weird.
The pattern has been unceremoniously dumped and I began again with...a pattern out of my head. When halfway through that one it turned out that I was out of my mind, and that the mitten would have fit Konishiki with room left over for him to keep a hankie tucked into the edge, it was ripped back with building hostility. The mitten you see now is the end result of actual math, figuring and decent luck. I'm quite happy now. Too bad it all means nothing to me...since I have been ROAKed to within an inch of my life. Behold! The reason that I'm stuffing the current mittens into the back of my knitting basket as though they were common trash.


Folk Mittens is from Laurie (Yes, that Laurie, have I mentioned that I love Laurie?) who claims that she will never knit mittens, no matter how I entice her. (We shall completely skip over the fact that my particular personality reads that as a challenge....) and Latvian mittens is from fellow Canadian blogger Peggy . It is an incredible book. Stunning. I'm completely overwhelmed and feeling more than a little guilty for getting such wonderful things. I'm having a whole Wayne and Garth moment. I am not worthy. I am however, beyond grateful and thrilled to death.

As for "Tuesdays Are For Spinning"? Couldn't get near the thing.


Would you be concerned about a kid who was obsessive about spinning even though she looks like that while she does it? Oh boundless joy...thy name is Meg.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:05 PM

September 13, 2004

Party Animal

On Saturday I'd agreed to pick up Kelly, the nieces and their two cats from the airport. This was a responsibility I felt very keenly, since driving around, picking things up, not getting lost and being on time while I do all those things is not a strong point for me. (I can usually manage 2 or 3, but the whole enchilada is a bit unlikely.) I really needed to be on time since the cats would have been stuffed in the carriers for 8 hours. I know that Kelly and the girls can understand not quite getting the pick up thing together, but cats are low on forgiveness.

I had to be there at 7:00. I decided, since the airport is 30 minutes leave at 6:00, in theory reducing all possibility of being late, no matter what befalls me. I had finished the dreadlocks poncho, so I was feeling like the world was on my side and my odds were good.

(better pictures another day)

5:50 -I am figuring that since I am so well organized, I will end up with some spare time when I am early at the airport. I already have the rainbow peerie socks in my backpack, but I haven't found the chart, so I grab more yarn and needles for socks then remember that I was going to sew up the rest of the Cherry Aran. I go get that, then jam all of the knitting into my backpack. I notice that I still have the bottle of wine from the liquor store in there too...but there's no time to sort. I leave to walk to my mother-in-laws to get her pick-up truck.

6:00 - I arrive at my mother-in-laws, get the truck key and see that she has thoughtfully left me a bottle of wine. (I love my mother-in-law.) I jam the wine in my bag and leave quickly, not wanting to spoil my perfect timing system.

6:10 -I am two blocks from my house when I realize that the street festival has my normal route blocked. (As an aside, I would like to thank the organizers of said street festival for placing the stage run by the Toronto Hip Hop Cultural Centre 17 feet from my door all weekend. The first 3 hours of spoken word, Hip hop and Breakdancing were really, really interesting and entertaining.) Despite having my mind numbed by said street festival and many hours of funky urban music I cleverly devise an alternate route.

6:15 -my alternate route is blocked by an accident. I am stuck in traffic, unable to turn around or move (two blocks from my house) for 25 minutes. It is a tribute to my self control and basically peaceful nature that I did not give in to my urge to chew up the steering wheel while simultaneously blowing the horn to a Hip Hop rhythm.

6: 40 -Finally underway, I make it to the main road and heave a sigh of relief that I am finally making good time. I do not curse or yell obscene things when I discover two km later that the entire road is reduced to one lane by construction.

7:05 -The construction ends and I drive merrily along for mere moments. I cannot speed (not that I would...that would be wrong) because there is a police car behind me. I do some relaxing deep breathing to try and calm myself and forget that Kelly and the kids and the cats landed 5 minutes ago.

7:10 -The police car suddenly flashes it's lights and runs the siren for a second. I, understanding that somewhere in the city, some jerk is breaking the law, pull over so that the police can speed past me to intercept the dastardly criminals.
I am completely shocked when the cop pulls over behind me.

7:12 -The cop saunters up to the car and requests my Drivers license and registration. I am pretty shaken. (I've only been stopped by the police once...while driving at least, and I'm not clear on the protocol.) I ask him what I did wrong. "Spot check" he replies. Spot check? I know I have my drivers licence, but I'm in somebody else's car, so I don't know where the registration is. I check the visor above me, nothing. I flip down the passenger visor, also nothing. I rifle the glove box. Nothing. I realize I have a problem. I decide to get myself more time to deal with the lack of registration by getting my licence. After I fork that over I'll look for the registration. I pull up my backpack and start to undo the zipper.

7: 13 -I remember what is in my backpack.

7:14 -I decide that I have to unzip it anyway, since my wallet is at the very bottom of the backpack.

- I take out the Cherry aran and the ball of yarn that I brought to sew it up with.
-I take out a bottle of wine.
-I take out the yarn and needles for the new socks.
-I take out another bottle of wine.
-I take out the rainbow peerie socks and the two balls of yarn that I'm working from. I pile all of this on the seat beside me.

I finally reach the bottom and extract my licence from my wallet. I turn to hand it to the cop and find him staring incredulously at the enormous pile of wine and yarn on the seat. He has an expression on his face that I can only interpret as

"Holy crap lady...what kind of party are you going to?"

I take advantage of the rather stunned look on his face and confess that I don't have the registration. The cop drags his gaze from the pile of wine and yarn and gives me a new look. This look clearly indicates his belief that I am not just a crazy lady in a pick-up truck full of wine and yarn (Hell of a tail-gate party there) but conveys his new belief that I am a crazy lady in a stolen pick-up truck full of wine and yarn.


7 :18 -I am gettting a little nervous. Have I mentioned that I talk a lot when I am nervous? Talk a lot would actually not begin to describe what I do. I babble. I ramble. I can't stop myself. I hear the stupid things coming out of my mouth but I can't control it. The thought that I am about to start babbling and not be able to stop makes me more nervous.

7:19 - Something snaps. I tell the cop about the accident, and the Hip Hop and the street party. I tell him about the construction, and the yarn and how I knit a lot. I tell him that I was trying to be on time, and I left early you know, because of the cats. Cats hate carriers. I explain that I don't usually carry around a lot of alcohol in my backpack, but I do carry that much yarn and that really, this amount of yarn is normal for me, except if I plan better, but I don't. I detail why I have that much yarn and reiterate that the cats are waiting. I finish by telling him that all that wine in the truck isn't that bad...on account of I don't have a corkscrew.
Then I laugh. I do that crazy laugh/cry laugh. I can't stop looking at the clock and rifling the glove box and I can't stop laugh/crying and trying to explain it all to the cop.

7:21 - He lets me go. Honk if you think that he decided one stolen pick-up with a crazy babbling yarn lady in it wasn't worth it.

7: 34-I arrive at the airport. If you have to get to Pearson by way of Scarlett Road, I have drawn this helpful little map of how to get to Terminal 1. First turn left, then follow this diagram:


Tomorrow: Thrums and why you want them.


Posted by Stephanie at 12:50 PM

September 10, 2004

Mitten mania

I admit it. You caught me. I didn't just get up, sort my morning and then sit straight down at the computer to provide you all with today's entry. I went to Knitty first. You should too, it's ok. I'll wait.

Good eh? I admit that the last one wasn't quite my cup of tea, but I'm loving this issue. I'm really impressed with Zigzag and I'm working very hard at convincing myself I'd look great in it. (I wouldn't, but if I made the body a little longer and the neck a little can see where I'm going. It's probably easier to adapt the pattern than to suddenly find a way to be taller and more swan-like.) Some of the other patterns are very neat, but it's the articles that I'm really liking. The one about colour should be required reading, and the advice given in the short row shoulder one is pretty darned good too. If you don't know about that already then it could change your life. Fine, not really. The shoulders on your sweaters will be better though. That could change part of your life. You know, the part where strangers point and laugh at your non-short row shoulders and you wish there was some way you could make it stop? That part could be changed.

There's one more nice thing to say about the Knitty articles and then we will get on with our day. This article is very kind, informative and helpful. It's exactly how I feel about learning new knitting skills and I think that the author is bang on.

Moving on. I still feel crappy. I took Devin's advice to try tea, whiskey and lemon. That helped a lot, well, it either helped a lot or I didn't care that I felt crappy anymore. I forget which one. Norma sent me a very nice recipe for un-chicken soup, and that's today's strategy. That and continuing to knit mundane boring blog killing things. Sorry about that.

The Dreadlocks poncho continues...


I'm having a love/hate thing with the yarn. It's the big loops. I am being constantly entertained and amused by the big loops at the same time as they are making me hostile. I keep sticking my needle into the big loops instead of the stitch, feeling angry and bellicose, then noticing that the big loops are cool, forgetting about the down side of the loops and then liking them for their charming loopy roundness again. Let's not talk about that too much, since I don't think it makes me sound smart.

I was right about the mitten thing. I am really suddenly abnormally interested in them. I can't believe the awesome links I got yesterday. I want Folk Mittens, and Magnificent Mittens
and Latvian Mittens are heart stopping. I really, really, really want the (old and hard to find) book that Lisa is using to make these crazy good-looking butterfly mittens. Sadly, I remembered just before I ordered everything that I'm on a knitting stuff diet. Happily, I remembered that the reason I'm on a diet is because I spent all of my money on knitting stuff. There's gotta be something in the stash. I hesitate to enter the deeper levels of the stash. It's sort of a commitment. The stash is well established and has a very delicate ecosystem that allows it to occupy a much smaller space than it should. Removing or disturbing anything in this frangible system of wool and books can mean hours and hours of careful reconstruction.

I poked around the top level or "canopy" of the stash and found these.


Well, I found one, I started the other one last night. They are basic, no screwing around, no fancy-schmancy, froo-froo coloured roving, honest to goodness Newfoundland thrummed mitts, trucked straight here from The Rock by Joe's Ma. This is the oatmeal of mittens. This is a good start.
Is anybody interested in thrummed mitts?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:25 PM

September 9, 2004

So, how was the dim sum?

I'm sick. I've been swimming in a lake of denial for days about it, until yesterday when the earache that I had for a while (like, a week or two) suddenly became insanely painful, knocked me arse over teakettle, rendered me mostly deaf in my left ear, gave me a fever and stuffed up my nose. (I know, I know...I'm supposed to do something about it before this. I know. I didn't and now I'm sorry. I'm a slacker who doesn't like going to doctors and it's no wonder that I'm sick now. It's just that I'm a really healthy person who totally thinks that things get better by themselves if you just wait. This is my theory. I know that this may be a particularly dumbass theory for someone who obviously has something really wrong with their ear that didn't get better by itself when she waited... The irony isn't lost on me.) This meant two things:

-That I missed the Stitch and Bitch last night, as well as the meeting of The Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers. I hate missing things. I sat here convinced that I was missing some serious fun. That this was the best night I could have gone to either one of those things, that they had probably gone out for dim sum afterwards or something, and everyone was laughing and dancing....I bet that there was free wool. I bet that as they were walking down the street, (after the dim sum) they were all admiring the moon glinting off the rain dampened streets of Toronto when a truck hit a speedbump going way too fast. The back doors of the truck flew open and enormous boxes fell out. The driver looked at his watch and then yelled out the window "Just keep it" and kept on going. Then all the knitters went over and they looked in the boxes and it was yarn and roving. Then they all said "Holy cow! Can you believe this? It's all Stephanie's favourite stuff. I can't believe she's not here! " Then they divided it all up and vowed never to speak of this lucky moonlit night again, just so they didn't have to share with me, then they all had to hail cabs to get home because they had so much yarn and roving that they couldn't fit on the streetcar. It makes me crazy to think that people were having fun without me. (I'm disappointed in my lack of personal growth too. I'm trying to be more mature.)

-Lest you think that there was no entertainment had last night because I stayed home sick...there was plenty. Because I was/am having trouble hearing, the demonic changelings children passed a pleasant evening saying things just loudly enough that I could hear that they had said something...but quietly enough that I couldn't hear what it was. Then they giggle and look at me while I say "What? What?". Funny stuff. Hysterical. This was followed by an equally enthralling 10 minutes where they all lay on the floor laughing so hard that they could scarcely breathe while I yelled really clever things like "Are you mocking me! Are you mocking your mother!"
None of this is as funny as when (because I am showing such little personal growth) I end up banishing them to their rooms for "Mocking". Laugh on, my little darlings.

the earache/congestion/fever apparently takes all the fight out of me, since even though the baby sweater is done. I didn't start anything new at all. I worked on the poncho, (there is no picture of the poncho because it is raining and I am sick and don't want to crawl in the front bushes. Use your imaginations. It's beautiful.) I'm using the pattern (can you call two rectangles that you sew together a pattern?) that came with the yarn, and I'm halfway.

I finished a sock,


and I cruised the net being a good little blogger finding out if Paton's had reissued the pattern for the lace baby sweater. They have, and it's in here. Knock yourselves out. I made some minor changes to the pattern, mostly sizing issues, (and a sleeve thing...but you wouldn't care) but you could make one almost exactly the same. It took me two 25g balls of the Lana Gatto "Mignon".

Before I go and lie on the couch and engage in my extraordinarily bitter (but perfected) performance of "Speech 47A", subtitled "Motherhood, the only job you can't call in sick to", I have decided to warn you. I feel a mitten fixation coming on. Anybody know of some patterns? Serious, intricate, brilliant mitten patterns?

Posted by Stephanie at 11:16 AM

September 8, 2004

Something else and Have you seen this blog?


Like it? It turns out that the Something Else is a little, tiny lace jacket adapted from a vintage pattern. I love it. I really do. Really. I didn't even mind the set-in sleeves this time, the lace is so charming that it seems like it would be wrong to pepper the process with colourful language or a foul temper. The little scalloped edges amuse me to no end. (That makes me disappointingly simple doesn't it?) All it needs now is a picot edged ribbon sewn at the neck to close it with.


The yarn is highly recommended, Lana Gatto "Mignon", 100% wool. I liked this yarn so much that I'll be hopping over to Kim Brody Salazar's WiseNeedle site, to post a review about it. It was cheap, it's incredibly soft, and it held up really well to a couple of times when I mistreated it. If you don't know about the yarn reviews at WiseNeedle, scadaddle over there and have a look. I often check a yarn before I buy it. Excellent resource.

Since Chris was the first one to nail down the Something Else as a cardigan, she wins my little contest. Hey Chris...c'mon down! (Is "The Price Is Right" still on? You're supposed to imagine that voice over guy here...) You've won a really neat little kit to make a felted bowl! This kit was purchased by your local Yarn Harlot on her trip to Baadeck Yarns and transported back across several provinces for your knitting pleasure. The yarn is handspun by a girl named Chris Thomson in Cape Breton, and its a one of a kind treat!


By popular demand (ok, three people asked, but they all sounded like they missed it) "Tuesdays are for spinning" is back....but complicated.

Sometimes I wonder if the planet is really this complicated for everybody. A while ago I was surfing the blogs and the blog in question had a picture of some blue/pink/purple morning glories on it. The blogger said that they wished that they could find yarn that looked like that. I sympathized, inwardly. I didn't leave a comment. That's right, I surf the blogs all the time and I don't comment. I want people to comment on my blog all the time, I love comments and moreover, I know that other bloggers feel exactly the same way. Still, I did not comment. I am trying to be a better person, but that's not the point.

The point (and I do have one) is that even though I failed to comment, I did think fondly of this blogger and her wanting morning glory yarn. I was thinking about it the other day when I was rooting through the stash and I saw this roving that Laurie gave me. (Example #28 of why Laurie should be your friend too) It was blue and pink and purple. Sound familiar! Why yes it does! I had in my hands exactly the yarn that the blogger wanted. Well, not exactly the yarn, but you know what I mean. It was potential yarn, and it was perfect. I got this altruistic feeling, sort of a warm fuzzy glow. I realized that I could spin this roving for her, turn it into perfect morning glory yarn and then mail it to her and How Cool Would That Be. I fished out the roving, put it by the wheel and waited for Tuesday.


I'm pretty happy with it, and even though my morning glories are not the same as hers, I feel like it's going to make her happy. It's about 105 metres of 2 ply, 14wpi.


Enter complication.

I surf a lot of blogs. (I do it while I knit) Even if you think nobody is going to your blog, I bet I go there once in a while. Really, I get around. Even though I go to lots of blogs, and even though I recognize that I am pretty much stunned when it comes to remembering anything, especially names, and even though I didn't do anything at all to set this blog apart from the other hundred or so that I cruised through that day...I am somehow shocked and appalled that now I need to admit that I can't find the blog again. (Surprised? Sure.)

I have been making myself a deranged lunatic for days and days trying to find the blog again. I've been through the ROAK ring, I've cruised my history on my browsers (Yes. I use two. Yes, that seems really freaking stupid right now) I've looked at 8 million links and I've gone through about 17 million blog rolls. There are two possibilities at this point.

1. I've been back to it, probably a couple of times, but can't find the picture of the morning glories because that post has been archived so the page looks different when I go there. That means that even though I've probably found the blog, I'm not going to know unless I go back and not only look at hundreds of blogs, but look at all their archives for the last two weeks. (Oh, sorry, is the noise of my life being sucked into a ravenous unrelenting vortex of obsessive blog cruising too loud for you?)

2. I dreamed it, or I'm beginning to have some sort of knitting blog hallucinations.

Either way, I've got some problems. Since I have sort of a tendency to lean toward the obsessive a little bit, (shut up. I hear you) I've been working on possibility #1. I've been working my way through the ring, (you know, the one with 500 blogs in it) checking the main page and the archives. This is slow work. Also, considering that all I'm trying to do is mail a complete stranger 105 metres of a yarn that matches her garden....well. We're getting back to the obsessive thing.


Something has to happen. Someone needs to release me from leaping up during dinner and running to the computer because I thought of another blog that it might be. I'm driving Joe insane. I'm losing sleep. I wake up in the morning full of hope that today I will find it, and by the end of the day I'm all skinny and weird, hunched over the computer muttering things like "I saw it, I know I saw it. I did. It was there..don't look at me".

For the love of wool, I beg you. If you have been to a blog (or if you own a blog) with a picture of morning glories and a wish for yarn the same colour, release me from this search. I think the background was pink. Help me.

Edited to add: Thank you! It is Lolly!
(Rams, you can stop looking)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:33 AM

September 7, 2004

The first day of the rest of my life.

Hold on, everybody be quiet for a minute, listen carefully...Hear that? Do you hear it? That's right! You hear nothing! Nothing at all. Nobody fighting over a hair tie, nobody sitting in somebody else's seat, nobody eating every last thing that I just bought from the grocery store not more than 15 minutes ago like some teenaged horde of ravening locusts, nobody accusing someone else of stealing their dignity or their shoes.

That's right, somebody buy me a beer...(yes, I know that it's pretty early for a beer, I don't think you understand the level of celebration that we're experiencing over here) It's that most glorious of transition days, that day that I go back to having a career, the day that I can expect to have a full conversation with Joe, to finish a whole cup of coffee before it goes cold and...holy crap, I might be able to go a whole hour without telling somebody that they are wearing too much mascara. (Here's a tip: If you can only open your eyes halfway and you have a muscle ache in the top part of your eyelid from struggling to hold your eye open halfway? You are wearing too much mascara. There you go, one of Mama's little life skills.)
It is The First Day Of School.

Amanda (15) gets up this morning and looks outside. Yesterday, the last day of summer and freedom was glorious sunny and brilliant. Today, the day that she will be returned to a world of structure, homework, responsibility and getting up at 7 in the morning the world outside is cold, dismal, gray and raining. Amanda looks out the window, looks at the rain, and bitterly says
"Great. Pathetic fallacy."
I laughed myself stupid. (I admit I'm a pretty easy mark today, just about everything is making me laugh this morning. I am simply joyful. Did I mention that it's The First Day of School?)

This weekend I mostly (well, if we are going to overlook the dancing and the counting down) worked on the Something Else. Here's another piece. Loving it.


The Poncho Parade continues... Check out Cheryl, who totally got the hang of the funky kid poncho (that kid looks like a lot of fun), and our own Lady Norma of the comments. (Seriously, could Norma be any cuter? Who would have guessed that she was that cute? Let's overlook that this means that I am surprised when people are good looking. It means nothing. I'm sure you are really cute too.) Michelle pulled a Laurie and put a funky "better than the harlot ever thought it could be" edging on it. Lara's is pretty classy. I'm all over the stripe. I'm so crazy about the stripe that I'm actually a little bit bitter now that mine doesn't have a stripe, but (I don't know if I mentioned it) it's The First Day of School, so there's really only so much bitterness that I can hold in my heart. Even if you hate ponchos, even if you think that you can't even look at another one without it starting to have an impact on your feelings for should go look at Lara's. She has a poncho dance. (I might need a poncho dance. Yes, I know that I am not as young and hip as Lara, and I understand that wanting a poncho dance is wrong.)

About the poncho. I've had a couple of emails from people who are not feeling the love. They have poncho problems.

I implied, (ok, fine. I didn't imply. I came right out and said it.) that you should be able to see where the increases go after the first few. I stand by that. I think you should. Let's discuss. The yarn over's (YO) go either side of a centre stitch. All one must do to be free to increase at will, unfettered by the use of the stitch marker, is learn to identify this one centre stitch. If you took it off the needle, it would be this one.


On the needles, it looks like this. (I have thoughtfully drawn the stitch in a lighter colour so that you may see it clearly. This did take a little while, but I have nothing but concern for your happiness. Well that and it's The First Day of School. I'm feeling generous.)


All you need to be able to do to knit the poncho (or anything else with regular increases) is identify that stitch. See the way the previous YO's are either side of it? The chain of that centre stitch runs down the work with the eyelets either side of it. You need to knit until you come to that stitch.


This is the only thing you need to learn. See the edge of the centre stitch? See how you can track it down through the work? This is the spot. The first YO always goes here. Every time. Without exception. Once you know where this first YO goes, then you know where the second one goes. (YO, k1 that centre stitch, YO)
Tah dah!

In other news, I have started a new pair of socks.


I am significantly weirded out by how different the socks are from the yarn. While I like them, they really aren't what I though would happen.
These will be my bus-buddy socks, keeping me company as I travel the city, although no socks can ever replace the Dublin Bay socks in my heart. These have a funky little freehand sort of fair isle thingie that I really hope I can repeat on the other sock. (I lost the chart. Well, I lost the scrap of graph paper that I ripped off of the corner of one of Amanda's math notebooks. I gotta get me a better system.)
Also, I started another poncho.


Yes, I am beginning to feel the burn of shame. No, I don't think I can stop myself, and yes, I am starting to wish that I could. I understand that there are those among you who are disappointed that I am using my powers for the evil pointed simplicity of the poncho and are holding on by your fingernails waiting for this phase to end. (You know who you are) I draw your attention to the fair isle peerie on the socks, and the lace Something Else and I ask those projects not redeem me a little? C'mon. It's a dreadlocks handpainted mohair poncho. Feel the magic. If nothing else, humour me. It's The First Day of School.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:48 AM

September 3, 2004

The power of the poncho

So I'm pretty happy with my poncho. (I'm trying not to think about what it means that my kids steal it and wear it...but let's not go down the road where I might be dressing like a 13 year old. I prefer to think that my children are very mature.) I'm happy with Meg's poncho, and I love Kelly's poncho. (I have the swift and ball winder out. I'm thinking about starting a curly locks poncho for myself. I feel a reasonable level of commitment to the Something Else, but my resolve is weakening badly. Having the swift nearby gives me hope.) All in all, I think the poncho parade is going pretty well, if you can overlook the obsessive compulsive oddness of being pretty wholly committed to one garment of questionable virtue.
Then, I get this in the mail.


That's Laurie (you all remember and revere Laurie, right?) and her Very Harlot Poncho, only you know...she made it better, poshed it up with a lace border. Laurie's like that. You gotta have really good self esteem to hang out with her, since everything she makes is, well, better.

It's not just Laurie either. Beth made a stripy one. Carrieoke made one with an uber-fringe. The one that the Knitist made...well. There are no words for this kind of poncho power.

Norma discovered that resistance is futile, even though she has deep concerns about the wisdom of knitting a poncho, apparently I have designed the borg of ponchos.
Bron, made a cute one (look at her darling little pose). Nathania has admitted that she is knitting one, but hasn't posted a picture. (It's probably better that way...we're all starting to look a little unoriginal eh?)
There may be others, several much better than my original.

Here's what I'm thinking (yes, it has been suggested that I have a tendency to overthink things) I think that this poncho proliferation confirms my belief that poncho's are indeed cool, and that my pattern is a pretty good thing too. If it were only me who thought poncho's were cool, then nobody would have made one from the pattern. This means that there is absolutely no reason to curb my poncho knitting urges. I should continue to knit the five (5) poncho's I have planned, knowing all the while that I have been endorsed by the actions of my fellow knitters. I suppose that the possibility also exists that poncho's are addictive and I've done humanity a disservice by spreading this plague, but there's no way to really know for sure.

The Something Else continues...


loving the lace on tiny needles.


Shall we play a little game? First person to accurately guess the actual nature of the Something Else wins a little prize. A really little prize...don't get excited and spend hours and hours of your life getting upset about guessing or not guessing or googling yourself stupid trying to win the prize. It's not worth it. Go outside, live your life. Really.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:39 PM

September 2, 2004

Harlot 1 - Set-in

Endless baby sweater indeed.


That's right, all done. It's a good job that blogs don't have any live action camera thingies to show you my real life because I don't look nearly as triumphant as I feel. Lets pretend that I have competently and calmly finished the baby sweater with no upset or curse words, and that I really didn't mind the last knitted up hem (you knew I would do that) and that the making up doesn't take almost as long as the sweater. I would like to note at this time that there is a special place in my heart for the inventor of set-in sleeves. It is a cruel irony in my life that I am destined to love them, yet hate sewing them in with a passion that remains undimmed after all these years.

My current set-in sleeve strategy consists of the following technique.

1. Block body piece and arm of sweater. Spend an insane amount of time trying to ensure that they are "sort of" the same size. (On especially vehement days you can have a bonus rant about row gauge at this point in the making up.)

2. Contemplate revolutionizing the knitting world by starting to put a template for the blocking of set in sleeves in every pattern. Just pin to the arm shape and to the body shape and mist. The two would be guaranteed to fit. If I am the only one who understands the need for this, then I suppose I could accept a pattern schematic in a far more detailed way than they exist now. Should the pattern fail to provide me with these things, I'm going to need the address of the designer.

3. Tell all that to Joe. Feel warm feelings for him as he tries desperately to look like he cares about my set-in sleeve strategy, even though he has no idea what I'm talking about.

4. Begin sewing the sleeves in. Decide that I'm feeling lucky and start sewing the sleeve in from one side. Mock knitters who baste.

5. Start to feel nervous and unlucky. Decide to pin the top of the sleeve to the shoulder seam...just to increase the odds of the two of them meeting up.

6. Feel the first urge to use foul language as I realize that I have more sleeve than hole, or more hole than sleeve. Resist to the urge to actually use the foul language because I mocked basting knitters and deserve anything I get.

7. Rip out the sleeve. Use a little foul language, but not really angrily, just as sort of "creative colour".

8. Begin to sew the sleeve in again and abstain from the mocking. Use the pin at the top, but change nothing else...since not mocking the basting knitters should be enough to alleviate my punishment.

9. Wonder abstractly if any other knitters are ever punished for mocking me. Feel briefly guilty for hoping that they do.

10. Curse violently when I look along the sleeve and realize that I have more sleeve than hole or more hole than sleeve.

11. Still morally unable to baste the sleeve in, (it's a disease, like not swatching) I thread two needles. I use one to sew the top in, and then use both of them alternately from the two sides to work toward the top.


12. Do a little dance when I get the sleeve in properly. Belittle the sleeve in a loud voice while my husband and children look nervous. Say things to the sweater like "That's right, you are DONE. Who did you think you were dealing with! Eh? You wimpy little armhole, you thought you could take me on? You thought I haven't dealt with your kind before? Eh? HA! I got skills. That's right. SKILLS. Lucky I don't block your arse SEVERELY. That's right. Mess with me. I don't think so."

13. Remember that it is better to mock the sweater after both sleeves are in.

14. Stop mocking the sweater, try to look sane.

15 Repeat steps 4-11 once, and step 12 two or three times.

Start something else.


Posted by Stephanie at 3:26 PM

September 1, 2004

What? You're still here?

Q: So, Stephanie. We've noticed that you haven't mentioned anything about what you've been doing since you got back. Now that you've run out of vacation material...what are you doing?

A: Well, truthfully...I've been trying to distract you from the incredibly boring and mundane reality of my life. I wonder what I did to amuse you all before I started wandering all over Canada, cycling whole provinces with a whack of kids and procuring stupid amounts of stash. I'm pretty sure it wasn't laundry...but that really seems to be all I do right now. (That and wipe syrup off of the table. That's like a whole hobby of mine now. No...wait, I also get to pick up shoes from all over the house and return them to the front hall, and lest you think that it ends there, I also have been deeply fulfilled by settling fights about nail polish between teenaged girls as well as really, really being enriched by the ongoing debate/shakedown called "Why I'm going to die if you don't let me spend all of the money that you have earned this whole summer on a pair of red boots that make me look like a common strumpet.) I'm looking forward to school starting in six days, and I finished the "Narrow Scarf" from the trip, and I've decided that I'm a pretty big fan of those River John needles.


I'm still working on the Never-ending baby sweater.


I'd forgotten that this gauge is a double edge sword. It's a beautiful tiny, light fiddly thing for a baby, and I always like little tiny baby things knit in little tiny baby wool. On the other hand, knitting baby stuff out of this is like knitting an adult sweater, it's the same number of stitches...only you get the privilege of blinding yourself and developing a nasty squint at the same time.

I opted against ribbing and instead knit these little hems.


Q: Do you like the hems better than the ribbing?
A: Well, yeah. I mean they look like a million bucks, don't they? I knit an inch, then folded it up and knit a stitch from the cast on edge together with the stitch on the needle all the way across. That way, I saved myself having to sew the hem up.

Q: Clever!
A: Not really. It would have taken ten minutes to sew the hem up, and it took, well, much longer than that to pick up the little tiny cast on stitches and knit the hem up. As a matter of fact I sort of think that I might have gotten some kind of Post-traumatic-stress disorder from it.

Q: Why do it then?
A: That's an excellent question, and one that we all know the answer to. It's because I'm out of my mind. Clearly I've become delusional and now believe that knitting up a hem would be way smarter than doing the faster, easier thing. I like knitting better than sewing, so I keep getting tricked into thinking that knitting something together is going to be way, way more fun than sewing something together. Six hours later when I'm a gibbering, weeping idiot who has a permanent squinty right eye....what do I do? That's right, I get charmed by the cleverness of the knitted up hem and do the next one the same way. You would think I was drunk.

Q: So maybe knitted up hems is one of those techniques that's just worth it?
A: Are you on crack? It looks the same. Sewn-up and knitted-up hems look the same. The only difference is that one leaves you with spare time and your sanity and the other doesn't. For crying out loud...haven't you been listening? I'm a woman on the edge and knitted up hems have done it to me.

Q: So, considering that you're a reasonably self aware, educated woman with a good head on her shoulders, now that you've realized this about hems, and you have one sleeve left to go, are you going to get over it and sew up this hem?
A: This interview is over. Get out of my house.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:05 PM