November 30, 2004

Copping out.

Your local Yarn Harlot is a busy bee today, so I'll be copping out of the blogging a little bit, just enough to give me most of the day to work. Here's the Mitten status...



Janet says:

My heart is beating wildly just looking at those beautiful mittens! Are they 10d, graph 107? Pleeeeease disclose the yarn you're using, or recommend. I'm just about to order from "The Wooly West". I have all the books but have been frozen with fear that I'll never be able to knit such beautiful mittens, so haven't yet attempted any!

As a result of my apparent inability to knit anything exactly the way that I'm told, the mittens are actually a mix of a couple of graphs from "Latvian Mittens". I cast on and used the scallops from the beginning of the mittens in chapter five from the village of Kurzeme. Then I used graph 107/ 10d (good eye there Janet), then I did a yarnover braid in black from "Folk Knitting in Estonia" then launched into the top part of graph 71. See that? Mixed my Baltic states and charts and was not pelted with hailstones or struck by lighting. Be not afraid.

I'm using 2mm needles, part Patons Kroy yarn and part Sisu yarn.

Beth says:
Do not stop with the mittens! I am finally getting inspired to try something like that, and your photos keep encouraging what do you suggest for a simple-ish first-timer type colorwork project?

I like mittens (no kidding Steph...) for first timers. They are small, work up relatively quickly and are beautiful and useful. How about one of the larger gauge two colour mittens in Folk Mittens? The Selbu Mittens (oh...go look here...Caroline knit them) look like they wouldn't cost you your sanity on the way. Can't promise you that you won't curse, drink heavily or invoke my name with foul epithets attached....but they look safe. Just promise me you'll use wool. It makes colourwork much easier.

Finally, I leave you with this.


The first computer sock is almost finished. This is proof that I still knit other things (though it would appear that I've decided to limit my repertoire to things for extremities. Somebody come over here and give me a serious whupping if I even look like I'm thinking about a Latvian willie warmer, will ya?) and that I'm spending an alarming amount of time in front of the computer.

I tried to post my 100 things about me list, but got freaked out. Do we love or hate those lists?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:07 PM

November 29, 2004

Grab her DPNs

Before we get on with any knitting business I have a little message. If you live here with me, in this house, could you please put your dishes IN the dishwasher instead of ON the dishwasher? You know how you all do that? Putting the dirty dishes on the counter directly above the dishwasher so that even though everyone took the dishes from the table there is still a little job for Mummy? I realize that if you all put your dishes IN instead of ON said dishwasher, I will be left out of the process of getting dishes into the dishwasher. I am ok with that. It is the same distance from the table to IN the dishwasher as it is from the table to ON the dishwasher. No reasonable person would do this (never mind a whole family) without some sort of plan. This tells me that you don't want to hurt my feelings or damage family unity by taking me completely out of dirty dish management. I thank you all deeply for your concern for my happiness and sense of belonging, but I want you all to know that you can put your dishes in the stinking dishwasher without crushing my fragile spirit. Okey Dokey?

I finished the Estonian mittens


and thought to myself: Well there. Those are done. I should knit something else. I should break up the Estonian Mitten Monotony with something different. The people who read the blog will appreciate that. Shake things up a bit. So I put on my thinking cap, (well, metaphorically speaking. We've already discussed the appallingly phallic impression that my head gives when hats are placed on it. The thinking cap here is implied.) I dragged yarn out of the stash. I took out 20 books and a whack of leaflets and a whole bunch of graph paper and all sorts of knitterly junk. Then I spent a really long time making little swatches and stuff, and rushing about the house explaining things to the people that live here (they love this part. I can tell) saying things like "What do you think? See the double moss stich? How about the stitch definition. No, no, you're right. Don't even answer. The red was better. Just give me a minute." While all of them looked at me like I was an annoyance, except I'm the annoyance paying the bills and buying them food so they can't mouth off or maybe I won't make dinner. (The burn here is that because I was so preoccupied with the yarn games I declared it "Find your own Food Friday" and didn't cook anyway. Suckers.)
Then, when I had finally come to a conclusion, having trashed all wool containment zones, swatched some really lovely things, selected several excellent patterns, filled all tables and stayed up too late....


I cast on Latvian Mittens.
I'm so sorry. Do you all hate it when I get like this? I mean, mitten after mitten after mitten..obsessively turning out handwear like some sort of crisis is coming and all that will save our mortal souls will be the mittens that I have knit? Some sort of weird hand freezing disease that can only be helped by the immediate application of hand knit culturally expressive mittens. (Imagine that? "Doctor...she's not going to make it, her hands are like ice and the Walmart mittens aren't helping. It seems like the elastic thread and sparkles are making it worse... I think we need to get Latvian Mittens, or least something Baltic. Watch the acrylic content and hurry!") I mean, I've knit the Latvian mittens, the Thrummed mittens, the Estonian mittens, the Fleece Artist Mittens...oh wait...then I really broke out of the box and started thinking about Spiderman mittens. (Check me. Living on the edge. Don't mess with me. I know how to mix it up).

Don't you ever click on the blog and look at all the mittens and wonder? Do you all meet up for coffee and have conversations about when I used to knit other things and how fun that was and perhaps discuss some kind of intervention to get hold of the whole Mitten Thing. Then everyone puts their coffee down and you all make a big plan. Rams and Laurie will wait for me when I'm coming out of the yarn shop. I'll be happy and relaxed and easy to take down. Then Claudia and Silvia will take me to a small room with no DPNs in it and Bonne Marie will be there and she'll have her patterns with her and she'll talk to me for hours about fashion and trends and while stylish knitters weep quietly in the corner. Sandy will be there, frightened and desperately clutching her mittens while Ryan tries to get them away from her and Norma says "Look at Stephanie, look at her! Is that how you want to end up? Is it? The mittens aren't worth it, PUT DOWN THE MITTENS." After hours and hours I finally agree to forget about gussets and thumb closures and knit Rogue or Butterfly or something that everyone agrees is Ok and I limp off shaky and weak can all imagine it so clearly. The whole plan is worked out and then somebody brings chocolate biscotti and you all decide to let it go for another day, since nobody really wants to go to Toronto this time of year anyhow. Do you all say to yourselves, "Well, it has to stop soon. I mean, how many mittens can she knit? Nobody can be that obsessive. I'm sure she's almost done. "

Doesn't anyone ever feel like sending me an email that says something like "Dear Stephanie; For the love of God. KNIT A HAT. "

Just asking.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:49 AM

November 26, 2004


My four year old nephew Hank is four and a half, and he's starting to show an interest in knitting. Not just having knitted stuff, but actual knitting. Hank has realized that knitting is transformative. You take yarn, wave sticks about, make motions with your hands and presto-chango (ok. That makes it sound fast. Sorry) you have something else. To his four-year old mind that makes knitting pretty interesting. Naturally, some of the details of this transformative process are lost on him. A perfect example is the following:
Hank: Auntie Steppie (I love that he says Steppie. I really, really hate when people call me Stephie, but Steppie get's me.) before I come back to your house, could you take this Knittening and make me a pink hat?

The knittening in question, (Gotta say....the use of "knittening" for yarn? Darned cute. I understand that little children are constructed by mother nature for maximum cuteness, and that it is a manipulative thing, designed to keep us feeding them and sheltering them instead of leaving the sleep-depriving sticky little parasites in the forest somewhere, but "knittening"? Even the most cynical of mothers has to fall for that. It's like the smell of a new babies head. I know it's pheromones designed to entice me to hold a baby close for warmth....but it's all I can do not to sniff other peoples infants.)
the knittening for the pink hat, is this.


Get it? Transformative indeed. Not only will the magic act of knittening turn the yarn into a hat, but it can change it into a PINK hat. Clearly the more subtle nuances of knittening are lost on my little dude. Nevertheless, he is enchanted, and he is almost ready to knit.

My paternal grandmother was not what would traditionally be considered "kind". Fine. She wasn't what would really be untraditionally considered "kind" either. It's not that she was mean or a bad person or anything like that, it's just that she was very, very joyless and conservative and....pretty much the opposite of everything that I have ever been for even one moment of my life. She and I wouldn't agree on vegetables or little kids or what grass was for or anything. Not one single atom of family similarity between us. I don't look like her, I don't think like her and I still believe that she held it against me that I wasn't one of those nifty "grandsons" that you hear so much about. The fact that we shared some sort of DNA was boggling to both of us. Neither she nor I would have been shocked if a mobile genetics testing lab had swooped down into her Willowdale backyard, separated us with electric cattle prods and explained that they couldn't let the charade go on for one second longer.

Except for one thing. She was a professional knitter. Nana taught me to knit when I was four, right after I learned to read. It was her belief that (and I quote) "If you can do something as hard as read, you can do something as simple as knit."

(Just so you know? The irony that 30 years later virtually every moment of my life is focussed on the one thing this most unlike-able of women actually loved doing is not lost on me. )

She was right. I mean, think about it. Being able to code and encode 26 letters into a myriad of ever-developing complex word structures that have a variety of pronunciations and meanings ..VS.. learning two stitches, knit and purl. C'mon. The old bat My grandmother was right.

My girls leaned to knit when they could read and now that Hank is thinking about reading, I'm coming up with a plan. The key is going to be keeping his interest high. I must keep him thinking that knitting is so cool that I'm virtually certain that Spiderman knits. (Hello...where do you think the webs come from?) So far, my approach has been to knit him really, really cool things therefore leaving him with the desire to produce said cool objects himself. It's not a bad plan, though the four-year old threshold for coolness is elusive and mysterious. Four year olds are fickle, conniving, vacillating and as mercurial as the wind. Emotional investments in knitted objects for the very young is an enormous mistake (I once had a pair of Mouse mittens briefly rejected because one of the mice - not both, ONE of the mice looked angry) and one must only take the sure things, and take them lightly. One false move with a Blues Clues sweater and the whole thing could be in the crapper.

Therefore, in the interest of creating a knitter...I ask you to help me find the "sure thing", the wave of certainty, the vagrant, elusive, never-say-die, cool factor for a four year old boy and tell me.....


How would you make this Knittening into Spiderman mittens?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:29 PM

November 25, 2004

Raising the roof

Ok. It's cold. There was even snow yesterday and today, but yesterday the snow only met the conditions for "level one snow". Level one snow flies about, looks like snow but does not accumulate. Level one snow makes children happy and makes you feel a little festive, but it is not, I repeat, it is not REAL SNOW.

Today we had level two snow. Level two snow is characterized by the following criteria.
- it is accompanied by cold severe enough to make you look for a hat, if you had not already done so, having been spooked by dumb level one snow. Note: If I'm telling you to look for a hat then I'm pretty cold. Hats, all hats, make me look phallic. Do not tell me that I have not yet met/knit/tried the right hat. It is all hats. I have witnesses who can attest to the incredible unflattering effect that hats have on me. If I'm looking for a hat it is because I think that loosing my ears to frostbite would only make me look more phallic. It's about the lesser of evils.
-it causes a little fleeting depression as you realize that winter really is going to happen again this year and that it's really only a matter of days until you are freezing yourself stupid everywhere you go and wiping up melted snow all over the house while you try to get around in level 4-5 or 6 snow for the next five months.
-the defining difference between level one and two snow is that level two snow stays on the ground. Should you encounter level two snow you will hear Canadians say this. "Yup, look at that. It's staying on the ground." So defining is this characteristic, that Canadians will ask each other this question to determine snow seriousness. "Is it staying on the ground?".
-finally, level two snow is accompanied by general panic for me, as I must say....



Sorry. I'm a little worried. Jean is back on my roof, freezing his arse off and trying to...well, make SOME KIND OF A ROOF. ( I know that it looks like I might have a roof in this picture. That would be an illusion. That roof is just some boards laid across the thing. That thing is to a real roof what Martha Stewart is to Erma Bombeck. Not real). Sorry. I'll take a deep breath. It's just that it's so cold and yesterday it rained and all I can see are the BIG OPEN PARTS TO MY HOUSE.

It's ok. There's a door between the back room and the kitchen. That should stop the level two snow from piling up on the DINNER PLATES and leave only the bitter arctic wind and aching vicious cold. I know that Jean is working as fast as he can, and this is really a part time thing for him. He's a full time carpenter, but he's a friend of the family and is doing us a favour, so it's not like I can STAPLE GUN HIM TO THE BACK OF MY HOUSE. Sorry. It's the stress. Jean helped Joe and my brother install my entire new kitchen a few years ago and I paid him with three pairs of hand knit socks. Seriously.


I showed him the Estonian Mittens. Maybe we can cut some kind of a deal.
(Please don't tell him that the deal I'm thinking is that he makes the back of my house back into THE BACK OF A HOUSE and I will knit him anything he wants for the rest of his life without question or regret. I'm too vulnerable.)

The computer sock (I highly recommend this method of Christmas knitting. The sock sits there and whenever I'm reading email or waiting for things to load or ...well, thinking, I pick it up and do a few stitches. A sock a week, for sure. ) is bigger.


You can sneak knitting into everything. The key is for me to avoid Christmas knitting panic. Slow and steady wins the race. No need for things to get ugly. Right?

I finished the second skein of grey laceweight. It came out to be 130m. Together with the other skein it's a grand total of 320m.


I'm really pleased. I was especially proud last night when I asked Megan to pass Ken the handspun and she said "This one? The soft one?"
Hear that? SOFT. I'm thrilled. My clutching, overcontrolled spinning style often leads to very fine yarn that is like wire, but this is soft. Really soft.

Happy thanksgiving to all my American friends. (Note to Canadians: why don't we have any holidays on a Thursday? All of ours are on Mondays. Do you realize that this means that they are getting 4 days off? We need some changes.) Before you give thanks today for the incredible over-abundance we enjoy, why don't you click on by Deb's or Wendy's and contribute to their Knitbloggers drive for Heifer International. It will make your dinner taste better. (If you are Canadian click there too, the warm fuzzy glow it gives you will take the edge off the snow and arse numbing cold. If you are from somewhere warmer...well, just do it. It's good for you.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:00 PM

November 24, 2004

A knitter has needs.

I may not survive my daughters adolescence.

Despite my girls being really very good, self-respecting girls with high self-esteem, from time to time it feels becomes necessary to give lectures on the fickleness of teenaged boys and explain that you can't really worry about not being what boys say they want, and just because *someone* doesn't like you the way you are does not mean that you should try to change everything about yourself before tomorrow because tomorrow the fickle arse will say that he wants something else and that the best thing to do is to just be yourself because all that they really want is....well, trust me. I attempted to convey that teenage boys have an, er....narrow focus. Boys have *needs* and they are driven to act on them. I'm trying to block out the part where, in a fit of motherly malcontentment, desperate to a) be cool b) convey my deep feelings about female solutions to male problems at this age and c) in my rush to explain the deep, complex, innermost workings of the male adolescent mind I accidentally blurted taught my teenaged daughters the phrase "choking the chicken". (Big mother points there. Big points. Just kill me. Never mind. I'll knit a noose.) During this first horrific phase of the conversation, I discovered that if I have these kinds of stressful conversations with my daughters I spin very quickly.


That there is 190 metres of Laurie's Moorit spun and plied into 24 wpi yarn. I've spun about half of what she sent, so there will probably be about double this when I'm done.

As I attempted to recover my equilibrium and discuss rationally the issue that boys have *needs* and there is nothing really wrong with that but it certainly has nothing to do with you....I felt the need for a good stiff drink the second Estonian mitten.


Nothing like an Estonian braid festival to take the edge off.

I further pressed my point that having *needs* is normal and healthy and that nobody, even girls should worry about feeling that they may have some *needs*, but that when you are very young and you cannot possibly deal with the consequences of acting on *needs* in any matter how much the young couple in question really, really love each other and even if they know in her their hearts that they will be together forever...none of these young children people should act on these *needs* in any way but the most, private of ways, and that that is what I really meant with the whole chicken thing and I didn't mean to be crass but that it's really All. So. Clear.

Desperate to avoid any further conversation about being your own best friend normal human behaviour I explained further about the consequences of *needs* while knitting this sock


and feeling some *needs* to knit a wire chastity belt, I settled for beginning another sock (and contemplating how if we could just teach everyone to channel frustration into hobbies we wouldn't need to have days like this)


which will be kept by the computer as the world swirls darkly and I surf "How to talk to your teen" sites. Somebody shut me up next time.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:53 PM

November 23, 2004


Lene can't get enough lists, so today there is another.
These are true confessions, bits of business and pieces of flotsam.

1. My house is so messy right now that I am starting to think that when the doorbell rings I should lie down on the floor under my desk and be very still and quiet and pretend not to be here. The combination of the renovation, work, the flu and, natural talent for really not giving a crap about housework has reached critical mass. Something must be done. There is a compound mitre saw in the dining room.

2. I absolutely must reign in the mess on the dining room table. There is a mountain of yarn. A mountain. There are pattern books, leaflets, excel spreadsheets (You didn't think I could pull off this much Christmas knitting without a spreadsheet...did you?) needles, notes and boxes. A little bit ago Judith (the original) asked "Is that your dining room table, underneath your nouveau stash? How come it's NOT O.K. to pile it with electronic thingummies, but yarn is allowed? Don't bother - I have enjoyed your blog long enough to have worked out the answer. "

I hope so. The answer is that we have a complete double standard. I may trash my home in any way that I want to, with any objects I would like to, and may leave aforesaid mess there with absolute impunity. Joe may not.
This is because I clean up my messes and Joe does not.
(Besides, yarn is artistic and environment enhancing while electronics are stupid).

3. After an extremely careful and scientific process of randomization, (Sam pulled names of a hat)


Denny has won the scarf from Afghanistan. Cool eh? (I know you can't read the name on that paper. I have a 10 year old witness who will say it says "Denny". We must try not to think about how much Sam loves Denny and trust that my 10 year old can run a decent law-abiding scarf draw.)

4. The mitten is finished,


AND I actually wove in the ends instead of just carefully placing them inside the knitted object so everyone who reads the blog would think that I wove them in when really I didn't. I do that. It's blog pressure. I can't take it.

5. Norma is pulling a Sandy and wants us to show her our favourite cookery book:



6. Tuesdays are for spinning but I cut loose and spun on Monday. See that? I care nothing for the rules. This is some awesome Moorit that Laurie (yes, that Laurie) sent me.


It was so beautiful that I couldn't wait until Tuesday.
She said that I should be able to spin it as thinly as I wanted, and she was right. It will be about a million metres of laceweight when I'm done.
I love spinning yarn so fine that it makes me squinty. I'll show you the squinty wee yarn tomorrow because the picture I took sucks so badly that I can't put it on the blog.

7. When Norma got a postcard from Nathania in Italy I was totally jealous. I wouldn't have said anything, but I did sort of think about how I wished that I got a postcard too. I also wouldn't ever say that I sort of thought to myself "Well. We can see the way things really are, can't we". Then I spent a good long time convincing myself that I didn't really care if I got a postcard from a woman I have never really met, and wishing Norma well and hoping that Nathania was having a really good time (It certainly sounded like it on Norma's postcard) and letting go of petty small feelings and wishing for peace and happiness in the world.
Today I got this,


and feel compelled to confess that I am FREAKING THRILLED. (I also feel compelled to phone Norma and dance a little bit, but that would be wrong. Satisfying....but wrong).

9. Margene is comitting herself to a Yarn Non-Buying Agreement. YNBA.
Monica has even provided a song. I want to join. I need some control. I little yarn-non-buying might take the edge off the stash. I like the idea of making a little room, saving some money and actually using all the really great yarns that are in the stash. I mean, it's not like the stash is junk yarn. The stash is made up of yarns that I own for a reason. (Well, except for the Dump Yarn. You know about Dump Yarn...right?) There was a time when each and every ball of yarn in the stash was cherished, wanted and procured with a purpose. I want to recapture that feeling. I thought about signing up, putting the YNBA button on the blog....then it hit me. I can't join.

What if I need to buy yarn?

Clearly, I need to spend a little time with the concept.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:19 PM

November 22, 2004

All Hail Nancy

Nancy Bush is a goddess walking the earth as woman. She is my hero. Well, she is my knitting hero. I mean, it's not like she saved me from a burning building or pulled my baby from an exploding car. She did however, save me from limping, soporific knitting ennui.

The Top Ten Reasons Why Nancy Bush Is So Cool That I Can Hardly Stand It.

10. She wrote Folk Socks. I've been knitting my buddy Ken a pair of socks from this book every Christmas for a while. If you read this book then you will come to love and appreciate the humble sock in a way that you can only imagine now. Socks will take on a meaning so profound that sometimes, when you get dressed in the morning and you go to pull your socks on, you will pause for a moment and think...Thanks Nancy. I swear that after this book you will want to discuss gussets with me. I know that in your wildest dreams you cannot picture yourself finding gussets so interesting that you would want to phone someone long distance and talk only about them, but you will. (We will have to discuss the many and beautiful heel treatments in another call. There will only be time for gussets in the first call).

9. Nancy wrote the pattern for the single most beautiful pair of socks I have ever knitted.


Be still my heart. (The pattern is in Folk Socks, I tell you this so that you may know the joy that I have had.)

8. Nancy wrote the pattern for the only sock pattern I have ever happily knit twice. (It is, not coincidentally, the sock above.) Please note that this is not the only sock pattern I have ever knit twice, just the only one that I have knit twice without getting that feeling that comes over you when you turn on the tv and see that "Dirty Dancing" is on for the 900 thousandth time.

7. I have never had to pour myself an alcoholic beverage as a result of an unfortuanate *misunderstanding* with one of her patterns, despite the fact that they are, at times, er... complex. Likewise, I have never emailed her my opinion of an instruction at 3am after trying the alcoholic beverage to resolve the pattern issue first.

6. I have never found an error in Folk Socks, and I've knit most of the patterns in the book. This is stunning. This alone is enough to make me think about baking Nancy a cake and writing her name on it.

5. Margene sent me Folk Knitting in Estonia . I had no idea about the Estonians. How did I go this long without knowing how Estonians knit? It's gripping I tell you, gripping. You know that lovely idea that every knitter gets from time to time? You know, about how all over the world knitters are engaged in the same activity, bonded by our common love, all casting on something...united by our common act of knitting? Wrong. The Estonians are not knitting like me. I have nothing in common with them. They are doing a whole other thing. (Well, they were. I'm doing it now too...) Check it out.


I learned a new decrease, a new cast on, a new braid and a whole new stitch. I swear it. After 30 years of pretty darned adventurous knitting, I learned 4 things that I had never even entertained the concept of. Oh Nancy, you have given me so much. (I'm sure that Joe would also like to thank you for the portion of his evening spent with me showing him mittens and following him around the house explaining a "half-wick increase". I was excited).

4. I leaned the Kihnu Troi double cast on. Just say that to yourself for a while. Now look at it.


I understand if you need a few moments.

3. Bud stitch.


I'm telling you, Nancy Bush has been trekking around Estonia, learning knitting stuff and writing it down in a way that makes it accessible and interesting to a knitter in Toronto who thought she knew it all. Nancy Bush is a blow to the ego and I like it.

2. Nancy Bush does thumbs like me. Here we have the thumb stitches "held" on waste yarn and I've picked up the stitches above and below before ever so delicately pulling out the waste stitches. I pick them up first because I have never gotten over my fear that when I pull out the waste yarn, something bad will happen. Something really bad. Worse than unravelling.


The fact that someone as clever as Nancy Bush does thumbs like me validates my entire thumb approach. I was thinking about other thumb-ways. Not anymore. Anything thumb that's good enough for Nancy is good enough for me. C'mon, think about it. She's been to Estonia and still does it this way? That means something.

1. Nancy has been afforded The Yarn Harlot's highest accolade several times. Not once, not twice...but three times I have knit one of her patterns exactly as written. I have not changed the cast on, I have not mocked her choice of toe. I have not mumbled about the lame decreases and bitterly inserted the superior decrease of my own choosing while adding another centimetre to the ribbing because she has no sense for it.
I have knit them exactly as she suggested, and I have not thought there could be any improvement at all.

When I grow up I want to be Nancy Bush.

I am also experiencing deep and lovely feelings for Jéan, I think Joe loves him too. Why, you ask?


Oh yeah. I get a little weak in the knees just seeing him up there.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:15 PM

November 19, 2004

A Change...

is as good as a rest. Isn't that the saying? I woke up yesterday morning, made coffee and realized (with that first sip of coffee kind of clarity) that I hated everything that I was knitting with an unholy stinking passion. I loathed it. The new stripy socks? Lame. The blue socks that disappointed me with their variegated randomness? (I still think that yarn looks like it would stripe.) The Morehouse Merino that disappointed me with it's lack of variegated randomness? Gone, gone, gone.
(By the way? I know. I said that I was pissy with the Morehouse for not being random then I trashed the blue socks for being random. I'm a complex knitter. It is best not to think about these things too much. Personally, I try not to cloud the issues with facts and logic).

I can't even tell you what went wrong. I can tell you that I have knitting needs and my project load wasn't cutting it. I've had some stress this last week. I've been ill, work would have reduced a lesser woman to gibbering idiot status and just for good measure: Have you SEEN the back of my house?

For those of you still wondering, hope was renewed in my heart last night, when some supplies were procured for the room. Encouraging, isn't it?


(Please do not dash this hope. Supplies are a good sign and my heart is full. I am fragile and my happiness is dependent on carefully constructed delusions.)

So yesterday I took all of this anxiety, stress and knitterly dissatisfaction and I did the only thing that a reasonable knitter would do. I shoved all my current projects into the back of the linen closet and I went to the yarn shop.


Good thinking. Yes? This pile of yarn is destined to become Christmas things and is part of a larger plan. The larger plan looks like this.


I feel better. I have decided that stress demands a return to the most under-realized anti-anxiety project known to knit-kind.
The Latvian Mitten. That's right. I know that its complex patterning and evil little braids would make it seem as though it cannot help, that it would only promote further anxiety cursing and deterioration, but it does not. You see, the Latvian mitten is all consuming. One cannot think while knitting the mitten. You cannot worry while knitting the mitten. You must be one with the mitten, see only the mitten and sink deeply into the mitten or you cannot knit it. It demands focus. It demands single mindedness. The mitten is a respite from the world. I will knit the mittens, and I will know peace.

Having realized this, I took all of my mitten yarn, all of my patterns and my new-found Zen mitten realization and I cast on.....


Something else. A thousand curses.
It's a disease.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:31 PM

November 17, 2004


Surprises abound here at Chez Harlot today.

1. Check out the beautiful scarves that Tish mailed as a special thank you for the Afghan sewing up business.


They were sent from Afghanistan by Tish's sister Jenny, who is serving in the armed forces there. Beautiful, yes? I have a real love for things from far away places, and these are exotic and cool. There are also two of them, so as per Tish's suggestion, I'll be putting all the names of the sewer-up-ers into a hat (or bowl or something...don't fence me in) and selecting a happy recipient. (She sent them to Ann and Kay too...generous, isn't she?).

2. I have developed a huge case of Startitis. (That, I assure you, is not the surprise.) The surprise came when I discovered that I don't have the right yarn in the stash for a pair of mittens. Who knew that was even possible? I mean, knowing what you do of my stash, would you think that there was even the scrawniest possibility that I wouldn't have a wee little bit of the right kind of yarn? It's not like it's a sweater or an afghan or something really big where it would be presumed that the stash *might* offer limited choices. It's mittens. Stunning.

3. There have been some surprising comments on the blog in it's lifespan. Like when Meg Swansen left a comment, or even yesterday when the guy who wrote my favourite little blogging interface App. Ecto (he called it an App., so I am too. I want to be cool) left a comment. Still, nothing prepared me for late yesterday when I checked my email and discovered that The Mysterious K had left a comment. You read that right. The Mysterious K read my blog. (If you don't know who TMK is, get right over to Ryan's place and read up.) She doesn't even knit. What an honour.

4. This yarn,


Knit up like this.



5. This yarn:


Knit up like this.


I know! Shocking, isn't it? I mean, who was ready for that? Didn't you think it would stripe? Didn't ya? This is why I love knitting. 30 years at it and it's still just a bag of surprises. You think you know a thing or two about yarn and then Whammo..right out of left field you get that kind of stupefying result.
Every once in a while it's like finding a stack of magazines under your kids bed, bracing yourself, pulling them out and discovering that it's a huge stack of "Angler Alive" or something. Weird.

Flashing, pooling and puddling

Yesterday in the comments, Dana asked...

Is there a difference between these: Pooling, flashing and puddling? In knitting, I mean?

Yup. I think so anyway, but I tend to over analyse. Pooling and puddling are simliar, with your overly picky Harlot differentiating them by shape.


Remember the Lorna's Laces sock I had trouble with? It's showing symptoms of both Flashing (The part that looks like it's shaped like lightning) and pooling, which is when the colours stack up on top of each other for a good long time. (Look at Barbara's Interweave Knits "Pooling colors scarf") Puddling is when you end up with isolated areas of colour. If you could call it a blotch, I'd probably call it a puddle.

Keep in mind that just because I don't like these effects, they aren't all bad. Some knitters love 'em, and there's tons of information out there on getting yarn to do this (I can't hardly believe it) on purpose.
Kim has an excellent example of "flashing" here, along with all of the infomation you could ever want about it. Elaine pointed this awesome site out to me, and I highly recommend it for anyone seeking a higher understanding of variegated yarns.

Me? I might be developing an avoidance pattern.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:21 PM

November 16, 2004


I know nothing of the mystic ways of computers. I tried to take a quiz last week to see how much of a geek I was. It turns out that I am so ungeeky that I couldn't even understand the questions. (Terminals? What do I look like, an airport?) All I know how to do is work my simple little bloggy software. If it gets any more complicated than that then either Ken handles it, or there is a struggle of epic proportions between the computer and I while I writhe slowly up the learning curve. It's never pretty - or successful, for that matter.

That's why, when Joe announced last night that he was "Upgrading" our operating system, I knew what he meant. I'm not a dummy. I've been around the block. I know what "Upgrade" means. "Upgrade" means Joe is going to do something to the computer which will result in there being a period of time during which the computer will choose random functions that it will no longer do. The computer will be completely crippled by the Upgrade, and Joe will deny this. Joe will maintain that things are better. Joe will think this because Joe is blinded by the actual meaning of the word "Upgrade".

I beg Joe not to do the Upgrade. I tell him I can't cope with the seizures that the computer has when you Upgrade it. I tell him that I really think that things are good the way they are. We're happy, aren't we? Do we really need bigger, better things all the time? Can't we ever be satisfied? I ask him to walk away. He doesn't. He has a mitt full for the CDs that have something horrible on them called "Panther", and he looks pretty excited.

This morning, the computer has been Upgraded. Things are....a little bit different. My mail is different. There are new buttons. I don't know what they do...but I tell you this. I don't like them. I don't like the look of them. When I click on an email from Norma, the screen shows me all of Norma's emails. Did I ask for that? Did I say, Hey, you know what would be good? If every single time I asked for you to show me an email, if you would like, do this STROBE thing reshufffling all of my emails to show me what else I have, even though I don't care, at all, and in fact even resent it in a hostile fuming way and if you would make sure that you don't call this function anything that has a name that makes sense so I could SHUT IT OFF. Yeah. That would be good. Upgrade my ARSE you piece of plastic microchipped glowing crap.

The font on everything, even though it claims to be exactly the same, is a little bit different. (Upgrading makes the computer tell filthy smarmy lies). This gives me the rather odd feeling that I am not seeing properly, and leaves me wondering (in an abstract but very disturbing way) if I am having a stroke. Buttons and Icons are in the wrong spots, and I am clicking on the wrong things. In a 20 minute argument with my email program this morning (during which I foamed at the mouth and screamed obscene plans for those responsible for this Upgrade to be sorry for everything they had wrought on this earth) I finally discovered that the reason my email was insisting that every single word I typed was not only spelled wrong but grammatically incorrect was because my Upgraded spell-check was set to "New" Portuguese. New?

The worst, was that I was actually allowed to do some of my work this morning. I checked mail, I wrote a few, I surfed, I short, I was lulled into a false sense of security by the Upgrade. It seemed that with the exception of everything being sort of shifted a little, I was going to be spared.
Then I clicked on Ecto. Ecto is the really cool little simple interface that I use to post to the blog. It's blogging for dummies. I understand it's few functions very well. Ecto brings us together. The computer tells me this:

Ecto cannot be opened because Ecto is in the trash.

What? The nausea starts. I don't even want to know. I bellow for Joe, I get more coffee and I pace around mumbling things like, never mind what it was like. You should remember me the way I was before it all fell apart.

Joe comes downstairs. I, admittedly rather rudely, inform him that HIS UPGRADE has eaten MY BLOG THING. I advise him, again..perhaps with less tact than could be hoped for, that I want him to....find the blog thing and make it go. I tell him HIS UPGRADE had no right to touch MY BLOG THING which was working perfectly before he started fixing things, and that (further to that) I don't think he knows what "fixing" means, and I have always thought that he did too much damn clicking on things when he is at the computer and that probably has a lot to do with the mess I'm in too.

Then I get more coffee.

When I come back, there is good news and bad news. I like bad news first, so that the good news cheers me up...don't you?

The bad news is....Everything is different. There are whole new Ecto buttons that don't even have names that I know and some of them (steady now) some of them TOGGLE. I can't even think about toggling. What's a toggle? How could that be better? It can't. I know it. You don't even put in images anymore. They are some kind of attachment. It's talking about "Rich Text" and there is a button that appears to be related to something that I heard Emma (who is a professor of geekness) talk about one time called XHTML. It wants to know if I want it. I don't. I don't want any of it. I want my old buttons back. I don't want change, I don't want an upgrade. Mostly, I want to have my wee little blog file where things were good and simple and it never asked me if I wanted to do something better, like "cache" thingies or align them. I thought my alignment was pretty good.
At present. I cannot upload a picture, I'm not sure how this will look (though I am assured by a whole new toggle button that my text is rich) and I don't really know if I saved any of it or if it was consigned to an abyss when I clicked on the new button for posting.

The good news?

I can make text look like this.


Posted by Stephanie at 1:11 PM

November 15, 2004


One of the things I got in NY this fall was a Morehouse Merino Lace kit. The kit came with a huge 4 ounce skein of laceweight yarn and three patterns. The Contessa, La Scala and Stellina. It was a good deal and I can't say enough nice things about the yarn. It's so soft that it's almost hypnotizing to hold. I find myself fondling the yarn and carrying it around like a pet, stroking it's curved skein and smoothing the label. (I have stopped just short of naming it and giving it a bed to sleep in. Should I do so, you may feel free to cut me loose). When I was at Morehouse Merino I developed a new way of selecting yarn. I would look down, see what I was holding and then attempt to put it down. If, after several honest attempts to Put The Yarn On The Table, I was still incapable, then I took it as a sign. So it was that I came to own the lace kit. Not only that...but that is also why it looks like this.


That's right. Variegated laceweight. I love these colours and was taken by the colourway name "saffron". I was so helpless in the face of this yarn that I forgot several Things I Have Learned Before. It is both a shame and a pity that I can be so stunned by a snazzy colourway that I will forget these things and only remember them in crushing waves as I try to knit the stuff up.


-I cast on "La Scala" and knit a big chunk. The creeping dissatisfaction finally gave way to a repressed memory that I dislike variegated lace. There, I said it. I feel that the changing colours detract from the lacework, and that the lacework detracts from the shifting colours. (For the record, I feel exactly the same way about variegated Arans.) I know that I am in blogosphere minority with this. I can tell because of the immense and overwhelming popularity of Charlotte. I love the pattern, I love Koigu...but together it doesn't suit me. I am convinced that the stunning colours of the variegates hide the clever and lovely lacework. I have tried hard to like it, be one of the crowd, to fit in with the other bloggers, but I can't. This Charlotte secret has been burning in me for ages. I feel lighter now that I have told you.
(To redeem myself a little, I can point out that I quite like Amy's version done in Fleece Artist Silken, but that was way more subtle. You know, like me.)
The chunk of shawl was unceremoniously frogged. The sad thing is that I held out hope for so long... look how much I knit before I accepted the truth.

- I decided that I should have gone with my rule about keeping variegates simple and I cast on Contessa. This was such a crushing disappointment that I didn't even take a picture. The plain stockinette displayed the other challenge of variegates....I love how the colours look in the skein, but am chronically disappointed by the way that they look in the knitting. Pooling, flashing and puddling drive me wild and I end up with blotches of colour that change the whole colour balance of the variegation. The original yarn is subtle, shifting and beautiful. The knitting is not. Then I am sad. So sad that this shawl bit the big one too. (Again, a sizeable portion was knit before I was able to accept it's destiny.)

- In desperation, (by the way? I would really rather not discuss why it was that I kept casting on the entire shawl, instead of a little swatch to see if I liked it. I blame Benylin All-in-one, a cold medication which in my case did not relieve my symptoms as much as it made me way too stoned to know if I had a cold. While this was an unexpected effect....who cares?) so in desperation, I decided to try Cell stitch.


Now, I can't really explain what I was thinking here. I remember spending a lot of time making this choice, but it could be that I was just thinking really slowly. The problems with this shawl are myriad. For starters, I hate cell stitch. (I know. I'm telling you...Benylin all in one.) In addition, I think it's too clunky for the delicate laceweight yarn, and it does nothing to prevent any of the puddling of the colours. I thought about knitting from two ends of the ball, alternating to avoid blotches, I thought about breaking the yarn from time to time and taking out a hunk to alter the rhythm of the dye job so it wouldn't blotch. I thought about living with the blotchiness. In the end, this shawl was dumped faster than a boyfriend who wants nine children.

After much careful consideration (read: when the drugs wore off) I gave the dilemma some real thought. I considered choosing a stitch pattern that I liked and knitting the whole thing lengthways, hoping that casting on 300 stitches might displace the colours enough that it wouldn't blotch. The problem with this idea is that the only way to test it was casting on 300 stitches and seeing what I thought. I thought about it, but decided that seemed, maybe the drugs hadn't worn off enough. I went looking for a little inspiration, and found it in this Shawls and Scarves
book. I chose the "Corner to Corner Shawl".


It's knit diagonally, which I have deluded myself into believing will help with the pooling and unsightly blotching (I'm still ill...let me believe), by providing longer rows and variable stitch counts. It has a simple lace insert that doesn't lose anything to the variegation of the yarn, and the amount of lace on each row varies, which should mean that many of the rows use a different amount of yarn which in turn should also make a difference with the flashing colours.
Clearly the Benylin has worn off, since my ability to over-think, analyse and obsess about a simple knitted shawl has returned.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:38 PM

November 12, 2004

Seriously Snarky.

1. In the span of less that 12 hours I have gone from somebody who had a little bit of a scratchy throat, to someone who has a cold that is actually going to be memorable. After this cold I am going to say things like "Remember that cold I had in the winter of '04? That was a bad one." This cold will have epic poems written about it, disgusting ballads, perhaps.

2. These guys.


How did they know I wasn't feeling well? Is there some sort of hotline I can call? "Hello? Yes, this is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. You mustn't know this, because if you did I'm sure you wouldn't have come today. I have a smashing headache and a cold that will be written about in the books that record such things. Now that you know this, I'm sure that you will GET YOUR *&^%$#!!! LOUD ROAD DIGGING THINGIE AWAY FROM THE FRONT OF MY HOUSE."
The vibration the digger is making is rattling my teeth in my head. This normally would only be annoying, but since there is already so much wrong with my head, the urge to wander into the street and lay myself in front of the digger so that the end comes swiftly is just about overwhelming.

3. This is the back room.


That's enough to piss anybody off isn't it? The room has no walls, no floor and no ceiling. The room also has nobody who seems inclined to put these things back, but I'm sure that the contractor guy will return my calls soon.....
(Now would not be when it should be pointed out that *I* ripped the back of my house up.)
The back of the house being ripped up is becoming the focal point of my life. It's all I can do or think about. I'm starting to say things like "Laundry? Have you SEEN the back of the house?" Substitute, "Dinner" "Shopping" "Bill Paying" or "Marital relations" and you have the sum total of my conversational ability. Well, that and "I need a tissue" and "get me tea".

4. The walls, ceiling and floor from this room are in the backyard. I need to take them to the dump. I didn't do this yesterday because I didn't quite feel like myself. I thought I might be getting sick. I decided to put it off until today (get this, classic bonehead move) when I would be feeling better.
I hate myself.

5. I knit a pathetic 4 cm on the Rainbow Peerie socks last night (Who asked me about the yarn and pattern? It's Lanett superwash merino in black and "stained glass", the pattern is another Harlot back-of-an-envelope special).


I tried to knit more, but all I seemed to be capable of was holding the knitting. Substantial movement of the hands and fingers made my hair hurt. You know how it is.

6. I have cast on a new baby blanket 4 times. The first time I counted wrong. The second time I changed my mind about the pattern, the third time I decided that I wanted a provisional cast on instead, and the fourth time I got frustrated with the crochet hook, jammed it down the side of my couch and pretended it was lost. (Have you SEEN the back of my house?)

7. I left the lights on in the pick-up truck yesterday. I am thinking about claiming that I don't know why it won't start this morning, except that I'm the only one who has somewhere to go.

8. I was going to make Amanda this hat. I like this hat. I knit one for myself and I think that it looks great. Imagine my surprise in discovering that this is a "dork" hat. Imagine my further surprise when I discovered that it is nothing about the pattern that grants it the title of "dork hat". the shape is good, she likes everything about it. The only thing standing between her and a love affair with this hat is (if you are a mother of a young, less than 11 years old, sit down and take a deep breath now. The following 15 year old bullcrap is to be expected. It will happen to you, and it will not be any less shocking or painful because I have warned you. The realization that you are a dork is a painful and inevitable force.) Amanda's problem with the hat is, and I quote "I'm not wearing a hat you like".
Suggestions for a hat I would *not* like are being accepted.

Non snarky answers to polite questions.

How did you do the baby poncho?
The baby poncho was knit out of 2 skeins of Bernat Miami (I wanted something that could be chewed). I cast on 52 stitches but used a 5.5mm needle so that it wouldn't be so "holey" as the regular Harlot Poncho. The gauge worked out to about 16 sts/10cm and the length was about 26cm (measured along the increase/yo line).

How about Emma's poncho?
Emma's poncho was knit using a chunky wool, and following the Harlot pattern casting on 52 stitches (but using the regular 9mm needle. It was knit to a length of 50cm, measured down the YO line on the front or back.

Are you sick of poncho's?
Yes. I believe I may be. (That took longer than expected, didn't it?)

Bookbookbookbook ?
Soon. All will be revealed in the fullness of time. Hold your horses.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:00 PM

November 11, 2004

Lest we forget


This is my grandfather, Lieutenant - Colonel James Alexander McPhee. He was a smart, funny man who enlisted in the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II. When Canada got it's own Air Force he joined that. He flew missions through the war, and it was only after he died that we found his log book and learned how much he had flown.

My Grampa had only spoken of the war once during my lifetime, and other than that, the only time his war experience was acknowledged was on this day, Remembrance Day. Every Remembrance day he would take me to the monument in his town and he would hold my hand while we listened to the service. He would stand there with the other Veterans, and my strong, handsome grandfather would cry.

I was young, and it was years before I worked up the nerve to ask him anything about it. When I did, he refused to tell me anything about the war, and would only say "All my friends my darling, all my friends". After he had died we learned that he had flown times when he was the only one who came back.

The only time he ever spoke of his experiences was on the Remembrance day before his death. In fact, it was that day that we noticed that he was thin and ill looking. He was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly thereafter, and didn't even live a year. He was asked to speak at my sisters school. He stood in front of an entire school of hundreds of kids, parents and teachers, and for the first time he told what it was really like. He told them about who didn't come home. He told them how scary it was and he wept openly. He spoke of peace and of never forgetting. That day, at that moment I became a pacifist. My grandfather taught me what the word meant. Grampa told me that there had to be another way, because the way that we had done to so far was a waste and a crime. I believed what he told me. He died shortly thereafter, and he died believing he had seen the last war.

Today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I... like many other Canadians will observe a moment of silence. I will think of peace, I will honour the men and women who died to teach me the value of living gently on the earth, and I will take a moment for Lt. Col. James Alexander McPhee...and all his friends.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:15 AM

November 10, 2004

Easily Amused.

I finished the poncho for Theresa's baby, (She's the snowdrop...remember her?) and it's cracking me up.


Wait, maybe it's only funny if you see it like this.


I think it's hysterical. It's hitting some kind of knitter joke spot for me. Look at it. Look at the wee dandy fringe! (I know. I hear you. While I am apparently experiencing a second wave of poncho-itis I understand the inherently stupidity of knitting a poncho for a seven month old baby. She is going to chew on the point and gnaw on the fringe. It's ok. She's going to outgrow it long before it's out of style. It's dumbass and I feel it....did you see the tiny little point though? C'mon. ) The poncho also amused me by using up all but this...


That means this yarn is gone. I love that. I suffer from 1/2 ball yarn anxiety. I am compelled to save them, yet somehow am repulsed by using them. When all the yarn gets used up I don't have to live with the guilt of saving half balls of yarn and I don't have to be plagued by the wastefulness of throwing it away. I don't need to think about it at all. I can let go of big plans for scrap afghans and striped hats that I'm never going to make, I can stop thinking that someday I'm going to take all of these 17 metre balls and make a really stunning Fassett. When all the yarn gets used up I am spared having to come up with some sort of ethical yarn scrap position. I can just Let. Go.

I am unclear about the exact length of yarn that is let go-able, and that which I must keep. I should like, make a chart or something and try to find out.
Where is your cut-off?

In other news, I have indeed begun to rip the back off my house.


This is a weird little unheated 100 year old mud porch off the back of the house. We use it as a racoon proof place to keep the garbage and as an extra large walk in freezer in the winter. We keep skates and bike helmets there...and well, pretty much anything else that doesn't fit in the rest of the house. I'm ripping the old walls down, then it will be rebuilt (not by me....I'm a demolition sort of renovator) into a ....well. A slightly less weird unheated mud porch off the back of the house.
(As I type that it seems like a less worthy goal than it did before I started ripping the walls down....)

The Rainbow Peerie socks are back on the radar...though my cat seems offended. Look at the "get these crap socks off my chair" face.


Luckily, I don't care what the cat thinks. (Millie is likely upset about the changes in the house. Yesterday she hissed at a sheet of drywall. I can respect that.)

PS. sing with me.


Emma Emma bo-bemma bananna fanna fo-femma me-mi-mo memma....EMMA!
(Sorry. No more singing. No more ponchos. I'm better now)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:20 AM

November 9, 2004

Filthy mouth.

It's that time of year again. I hate it. I am totally losing my cool. The streets and shops are suddenly full of people who want to rub your face in it...and this year, my own children are part of it. Go ahead, ask them. They can tell you. There are 46 days to Christmas. I know that was painful, if you need to go have a little lie down I completely understand. I think that nausea, dizziness and an urge to throw yourself in front of a Streetcar is normal. Every-time somebody tells me, I think a wild conglomeration of equally frantic and hysterical thoughts.

46 days until Christmas?

1. Seriously?

2. What is Wrong with me? Christmas comes on the same stinking day every year. How is it possible to truly have it sneak up on you each and every year with a pain that is fresh and vulnerable?

3. How, I ask you, does a reasonably intelligent, educated woman, responsible for the Christmas of others, including innocent little children, somehow fail to count out the 365 day interval between Christmases? It's not like in October they phone you with the random appointed Christmas date for this year and scream "Surprise! 46 days! Try to knit your way out of that one, Ya twit!"

4. How the hell am I going to knit -insert insane gift list here- in -insert inversely related number of days here-?

5. How much egg nog with screech in it is a reasonable response to that?

6. Screw Santa. He never helps me with anything. Maybe he's dropping by your house with a whack of farty little elves, but there's nothing I need to thank him for.

7. 46 days til Christmas? Maybe you should shut your filthy little mouth.

Poncho poncho poncho

I gave away my fleece artist poncho. I know. I can't hardly believe it either, but it made me look short (shut up. I know I'm 5 feet tall but I labour under the delusion that I actually seem much, much taller, like maybe...5'3 or even 5'4") and I felt like I was drowning in it. Plus, the mohair shed so much that it left autumn coloured dust buffalos (like bunnies...but bigger) roaming the plains of the house. If you wore it, when you took it off you had an elegant autumnal halo of mohair clinging to every surface of you. Lint is nothing in the face of true love though, and when Teresa walked into my house, she saw it, and lost her mind. She put it on and she looked like a million bucks. (Teresa is doing the "Sears Catalogue" pose. Is that universal?) I warned her about the buffalos, I told her about the halo. She didn't care.


It's hers now. I'm glad it's going to be with someone who will love it. I know it was the right thing to do when Teresa called me this morning to tell me about all the compliments she was getting. Women were swarming her begging for a Fleece Artist Poncho dealer. She looked "fabulous" "wonderful" and "chic". When I wore it, all anyone ever said was "wow....that's fuzzy". You can't fight poncho destiny.
(There are two things that surprised me about giving away the poncho. First, can you believe I gave away Fleece artist? Second, can you believe that I didn't wait 46 stinking days and give it to her as a Christmas present? Moron. This is why Christmas whups my arse every year. )

I delivered Emma's poncho.


I laid it atop the original Harlot poncho so you could see the difference in size. All I did to get a ten year old size was cast on fewer stitches (52) and knit it shorter. Taking the concept even further....I started a baby one for Teresa's little girl. (Also starring in this photo...the super cool mug that Elizabeth threw and painted. She calls it a Dale of Norway mug. I love it. I think it makes my coffee taste really good).


Wait....This baby poncho could be a present, right?

Tomorrow....Further adventures in renovation land OR "There's only 46 days until Christmas...wanna rip the back off the house?"

Posted by Stephanie at 9:55 AM

November 8, 2004

All sewn up

Dear Ann and Kay,

If you had been in my house at 1:30 (30 minutes before guests were to arrive) you wouldn't have thought it was going to work. Joe was coming in the door with new furniture (the bookcase by the door that smelled like paint...if you're wondering) and groceries, me soaking wet out of the bath screeching at the girls to take everything I hadn't managed to clean up and throw it on my bed (and for the love of sheep...close the door)..and the pinnacle moment, when Amanda suggested that the family thought I might be a little "too wound up" and I (ever so calmly) told her that it was my feeling that the family was not -insert the filthy expletive of your choice here- wound up enough. I was rethinking the whole thing as I desperately tried to find a clean shirt and searched for a box of stinking crackers. At 1:52 I found my bra and replaced the electronics magazines in the bathroom with the latest Interweave Knits....and thought there might be a chance that it was all coming together.

You would have loved it. We had a good time, though the concept is rather hard to explain to the uninitiated. ('ve invited a whack of strangers to your house to sew up squares knit by other strangers that were mailed to other strangers in Tennessee and New York...that they mailed to you? But you don't know them? When you're done you're mailing it to other strangers to keep them warm? Okey dokey.)
We ate, we drank, we sewed up squares. I've decided to give awards. (There are no prizes. Just my undying gratitude for every single warm body that turned up.)


To Elizabeth, who takes the award for neatest sweater concept, as well as the award for "Best red instincts". She used her fine colour sense and put together the Red Afghan. (She sews really well too...and brought me the most beautiful mug she'd made.)
To Aven, for inventing the "Afghan Photo Verification Assembly System", whereby she had the cunning good sense to take a digital picture of Elizabeth's plan so we would have a reference for how it all was meant to go together. Bonus points for emailing me the picture late last night when I was assembling the rest of the afghan and didn't want to screw up Elizabeth's plan.


To Kelli Ann, for coming from Montreal, bringing her charming Tante Louise, seeing what a madhouse it all was, then not immediately revoking her decision to hold her own sewing up party on the 28th. (Also, she had a killer hat on.)


To Sarah..who wins the award for craziest idea longest distance travelled. Sarah drove from Ottawa, sewed her little heart out, then turned around and drove back home. That's a mind boggling 10 hours of driving, just to sew up squares. (I'm wondering if she was thinking about strangling someone when she found out that Kelli Ann's sew up party will be much, much closer...)

To Jane, who hates the cold...knows that I engage in the furnace wars, and came anyway. Atta girl. (It ended up being too hot. We opened windows.)


To Aara, for bringing her lovely daughter (you should see the sketch the kid did of the sewing up party. Unreal.) wearing a fabulous sweater, and for knowing how to crochet. (Thanks for that. I hate crocheting.) Aara also had the coolest experience. When we dumped the box of squares from New York on the table, Aara picked up a very pretty Noro one and said "Hey! I knit that one".


For Emma, the award for bringing the most charming mother. (Ok, she was the only one who brought their mother...but her Mum was darned nice...and a really good sew-er up-er) Emma also sews a decent seam, and brought me fur from her new bunny. Fibre gifts, a fine quality in a guest.


An award to Denny, who came early to help and stayed late to put a really pretty crochet picot edge on the pink afghan. She also taught Meg the ways of the looped path of crochet...which I'll admit I was never going to teach her.


To Huxley...for being the youngest (and possibly best behaved) of the guests. An honourable mention to his Mum Monika for bringing him, and for all the squares she brought and sewed up. Huxley is pictured here with Amanda, who looks to have forgiven him for having the audacity to be born on her birthday.


To Barbara, for her awesome ability to pull the a pinkish jumble of squares together into something that looked like we had a plan. Brilliant.

For Alison, for channelling Norma on her cell phone (Norma gets the award for "Best Virtual Guest") and for sewing tons, befriending my children, and for not laughing her arse off when she found knitting in my freezer.


Ken and my mother-in-law Carol take the award for "People who knew best what kind of insane plans Stephanie can cook up and came anyway". Ken gets bonus points for being the only man....
Did I miss anyone?
An award for honesty to Joe, who when asked (right before he tore out the door to the studio and didn't come back for 11 hours) if he was staying, smiled sweetly at all the devoted sew-er up-ers and said "Actually, I'm burning to get out of here".

I stayed up last night and finished the edge on the red one....


and the pink one is beyond compare.


It's the best time I've had with yarn in a while, and that's saying something. Thanks for the privilege.



Posted by Stephanie at 1:55 PM

November 5, 2004

These are a few of my favourite things...

I woke up yesterday morning and could feel the dull weight of impending disaster weighing me down. The squares for the sewing-up party had not arrived. My house was half-painted. I had an article due. I had a client to see. I have a shift to work on Saturday night and my babysitter cancelled. I had mountains of laundry and my bra (yes, I only own one) had been missing for three days despite an exhaustive search. (The bra thing is not that unusual. I have a lack of commitment to breast restraint. I save it for special occasions and public appearances that demand breast confinement. This shouldn't surprise you if you've been reading for a while). I got up, drank coffee and contemplated the possibility that I was going to host a sewing up party with no squares to sew up in a messy house while rushing around bra-less screeching "Don't touch the walls!" and answering phone calls about dilation. I also contemplated the possibility that it would be better if I wasn't here when that all started to go down.
(Wondering if there is enough money on ones Visa card for a ticket to Belize is a normal healthy reaction to impending disaster. Don't let anyone tell you different.) While drinking my 4th cup of coffee and feeling pretty good about my discovery that while I couldn't afford to run away to Belize, I was pretty sure about my chances of concealing myself in a mammoth pile of laundry....the doorbell rang.

Favourite thing #1

Kay and Canada Post.


One of the two boxes of squares has arrived, along with a lovely postcard and some chocolate to take the edge off. I am overlooking the fact that Kay sent three chocolate treats and that I have three children. I'm sure that she meant for me to have it. The second box has not yet arrived...but there are enough squares that I've managed to kick the impulse to try and knit 50 more before Sunday. (I knit four before I got a grip. Nobody's perfect.)

Favourite thing #2

My brother Ian. Painting, in my house.


Ian and I painted for hours and the broke the back of it. The living room and dining room may not get finished started, but at least there's nothing half painted. I have managed to convince myself that no-one will care. Ian also figured out how to paint very scary up high things and very kindly gave me tips on what direction I should leap off the ladder should it attempt to throw me down the stairs. (Hint: it is the direction opposite to that which my intuition suggests) He ate leftovers for lunch, he said nothing about the nature of the lime green that we were spreading around and we came to an agreement about the heat. (We have decided, knowing full well that we both carry the McPhee gene for non-compliance, as well as a Stewart gene for stubbornness and an unreasonable inability to lose anything, anytime, anywhere, that if we didn't agree to give up at the same time someone was going to get frostbitten. When we saw the forecast for snow last night we agreed to simultaneously turn on our heat. My heat is on. I am trying to let go of the suspicious part of my nature that wonders if he only agreed to a truce to lull me into a false sense of security so he could sneak home and wait one more day...thus winning heat-war 2004. ) When Ian was finished rescuing me from myself, he went to the beer store. My affection for him is unfettered.

Favourite thing #3

How short children are.


Emma's little poncho is almost done. This is only because she is little.

On the flip side, It would appear that I have painted the hall a colour that clashes so badly with the old runner going up the stairs that I cannot eat and think about it at the same time.


I am attempting to not fall victim to "home renovation insanity syndrome" in which one is trapped in an ever circling spiral of home-shame. The new walls make the runner look bad, the new runner makes the throw rug look bad, the rug makes the curtains look shabby......

The only advantage I can think of is that when I have finished deliriously gutting and replacing every item in my home I may have found my bra.
Here's hoping.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:01 PM

November 3, 2004

And another thing.

Today's entry, a collection of thoughts presented in no particular order.

1. I am thinking about taking Joe's stumpy birthday mittens apart and making them more pointy. I have concerns about how normal it might be to lose sleep thinking about mitten pointiness, but I really have strong feelings about it. These fit him perfectly, but the lack of geometric tapering is offending me.


2. In preparation for the Sewing up Party for Mason-Dixon Knitting on Sunday at my house (You are coming, right? Drop me a line asking for directions.) I have decided to repaint the house. It was only after I'd bought the paint and started slapping it on the walls that I considered that this might not be the most reasonable response to a party in five days.

3. I have painted the inside of my front door a really dark navy blue. This may have been a tactical error. It is too soon to tell. It is not too soon to tell that every single time I see it I feel a little bit woozy.

4. I stayed up late watching US election coverage. I don't know why I did this. Some insane idea that someone would be elected on election day. Crazy.
(I will spare you all any rant about world politics that I may be feeling. You all know where I land on the scale. I will instead sit here with my fellow Canadians ...only 22% of whom would vote for Bush, chanting "Not my election...Not my country." Given our proximity and trade relationship, it can be difficult. NB: You should ask me how many of us would elect Martin Sheen. Embarrassing. )

5. I am knitting another Harlot Poncho for Sam's friend Emma. (Pattern in "free patterns" sidebar). I have told her, even though she is 10 and it's really wrong to disappoint little children, even though I am painting my house, even though I have to go to work in between now and then and even though there is so much laundry that I'm afraid I'm going to lose the cat...I have told her she can have it by Saturday. What am I? Hit with a stupid stick?


6. I am very close to turning on the heat. My sister caved. My mother caved. There's just me and my brother and both of us are starting to look a little blue. The high today is 7C, the low....-1C. (That's 44F and 30F). At what point to I start to consider the children "collateral damage"?

7. Paint on the walls doesn't dry in temperatures of less than 10C. I know because I asked the paint store guy. I understand what a grave sign it is that I felt that it might be cold enough in my home that I should consider its role in a chemical reaction.

8. I am painting over a colour that we have been calling "Barbie flesh pink" for 8 years. (This is not the real colour name. The real name was something funky like "Wheat circle". I bought it, and left it with my brother, who painted while I took the kids to the park. When I came back he was done and my walls were infuriatingly "Barbie flesh pink". I tell you this because it's important that no one think that I chose that colour. It was a horrible paint/artificial light accident.) The new colour (despite inexplicably being more of a green/taupe colour) is called "Winter's Silence". Who names these? Wouldn't you think that "Winter's Silence would be...I dunno. White? Off-White? The colour of nothing living? C'mon. Green? In winter? Where do these people live?


9. I am thinking that we should do a "Toronto" afghan on Sunday. Good idea? Everybody bring a square of whatever you like. (If you can. No pressure) 20cm or 8 inches. Follow the guidelines here. Don't worry about colour. Bring a square that makes you feel good. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, the blanket can reflect that. If you don't have time, that's ok. I've got a head start.


10. I can't stop eating leftover Halloween candy. I eat it until I feel ill. Then I drink coffee. Then I paint. Then I watch the news. I appear unable to stop repeating this unhealthy cycle until the house is painted, politics make sense, caffeine poisoning is incurred or the candy is gone. Don't mock me.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:32 PM

November 1, 2004

Birthday Boy Man

My Darling Joe celebrates an undisclosed number of years today. He will be getting a knitted present (that I can't show you a picture of, because he will read the blog before dinner, and dinner is present time) and he will be getting the love and adoration of his family over a birthday dinner.


There are any number of reasons why my love deserves this, and much more...but we'll start with these.

-for never raising his voice to me in anger. Not once, in all these years...even though I am...well. Me.
- for consistently referring to my handspun as "real" yarn. (Compared to, you know...Rowan or Koigu).
- for the stunning discovery I made the other night; that he is spending a few minutes each day actually trying to become friends with a hamster.
-for laughing himself stupid every single night that he succeeds in getting the aforementioned hamster to hang by one paw for a sunflower seed. Never gets old.
-for totally being the field trip guy. Even though I run into trees trying to get away from the Parent Council, Joe is the go-to guy for field trips. Science Centre? Yup. The Zoo with 30 fifteen year olds? Yup. You gotta field trip, tons of unruly urchins of any size or number? Joe will go, and he will like it.
-for deciding that the best way to keep track of Amanda and her life was to become friends with her friends, and for actually being cool enough for teenagers to fall for it. (I am forced to admit that this is much better than the chastity belt idea, or the brief consideration given to a cage.)
-for being afraid of racoons. (Seriously. His defence is that there are no racoons in Newfoundland, so it's a "fear of the unknown thing". My arse, he's a chicken. When we were camping last summer and were set upon by a plague of racoons in the night, Joe refused to get out of the tent and shoo them off of our food, thus beginning an argument that ended with the classic line: "Get out of this tent and fight like a man". )
-for (oddly) not being afraid of bears.
-for (even though he doesn't buy movies) purchasing every single James Bond movie ever made and watching them over and over.
-for buying me the new Cake CD.
-for yelling "I love you very much" like I left him a great gift each time he finds clean underwear in his drawer.
-for his complete silence about "the wool situation" and for the way he makes out to his friends like I'm cool.
-for never buying anything I'm boycotting, for being political, and for only becoming more left leaning as he gets older.
-for being a completely empirical learner. I am forever smelling smoke as Joe walks around with burned up electronics saying "Wow, I should never cross those two wires."
-for never making the same mistake twice (or actually burning the house down).
-for staying with me in the hospital when I was afraid, even though he was really afraid.
-for being a good sport. Joe will cycle 400 km, hold a sheep, drop spindle, try to make cheese, get up early, help you move, go to yarn shops, snorkel, ski, hike, pick carrots, or scour the city for a copy of the violin solo in Moulin Rouge if you ask him to. More than this...he will not complain while he does so.
-for insisting, even though he has never once been on time for anything, ever...and even though there isn't a single person he has ever met that did not realize this about him instantly, for absolutely insisting that he is not the sort of person who is late.
-for, when I asked him if he was a "Townie or a Bay Boy" saying "Bay Man, Steph. A Bay Man".
-for never saying anything about my absolutely horrible sense of direction, just quietly turning in the direction opposite to my suggestion.
-for still loving me every day, despite the fairly good evidence that I am out of my mind and a little hard to keep up with.
-for being a wonderful parent, who hasn't stopped learning as fast as his kids.
-for being completely loveable, charming and good tempered.
-for not letting me unravel the sock (singular) that he is knitting me, even though it has been years and years since he knit on it, just because he promised to finish.

I wish you many more birthdays my Joe. Love you.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:52 AM