March 31, 2005

I'm improvising as fast as I can

This morning I discovered two significant problems.

1. I was out of coffee. This is a shocking and horrific development and is a situation that I normally have several safeguards in place to protect against. I am not (and I really can't stress this enough) a morning person. It is really only the sacred brown elixer of life that gets me through the first four or five hours of consciousness and the absence of said beverage left a yawning abyss in my morning so huge that it was all I could do to go on. I rummaged the cupboards and finally came up with an old tin of espresso, tossed it into the coffee maker and drank what I though was enough to get me to the grocery store to buy the coffee I usually have. It turns out though, as I sit here listening to my heart beat (straight really shouldn't be able to hear your own pulse) and typing at the speed of sound that I realize that I may have overshot my caffeine goals. I can feel my eyebrows.

2. My email is not working. Actually, it is more that my email is taunting me viciously. It is delivering some email (four yesterday... ) hoarding others for an random amount of time, then releasing them to me in a bizarre and perplexing order and sending a few of them to me five or six times, presumably in a bold attempt to appease me.
Hear me now. I am not appeased. I told the guy at the sympatico office that I was not appeased. He asked me if I was sure that people were sending me email, with a tone that implied that perhaps I had no friends. I'm not sure what I may have said to him then. I know that I called him "Dude". (Several cups of espresso can really take the edge off of the all went by so quickly).
If you are not hearing from me...I may not have heard from you.

Three reasons why the Stitch and Bitch at Lettuce Knit last night was a fiercely good time.
1. Free range books. Here in Toronto.


This exited me more than I can tell you. Megan has a stack of them, and as far as I know she's the only shop in Toronto to have them so far. I'm thinking about visiting them again later.

2. I signed books. Three cheers to Kelly, who was the first person in the whole world to ask me to sign a book live and in person, and a huge shout out to Allison, who was so sweet that I felt like Elvis.

3. Megan made my evening by putting several of my favourite things in one room.


That's champagne, chocolate, other knitters and yarn. (Yes, yes....oh yes)
And by letting me hold her beautiful new baby Penelope, who is perfect, sweet....and destined to be a knitter.


(Megan and Penelope are seen here in a really charming moment, mere seconds before I snatched the little bummie back into my arms).

Clearly I was overwhelmed with happiness, since moments later I hauled off and bought this (among other things, but we shall gloss over my weakness in the face of 22 day old babies belonging to yarn shop owners who have my book, champagne and's not flattering.)


It's Art yarns Super Merino, and Lettuce knit had the loveliest choices. Expect all my present projects to be dumped as quickly as a guy who has his mummy at the top of his cellphone speed-dial.

Finally today, I can make some announcements about the Bookbookbook, Tourtourtour. Where I'm going and where I'll be doing it can now be found here, on the official At Knit's End tour page. I'll keep it updated as I go, and add more stuff as the publicity people tell me what's up. (I'll be adding a summer trip to the west coast in a few weeks) I'm thrilled and scared to death, though must admit that I might be feeling considerably less anxious later when I don't have 7 litres of emergency espresso in me. I'll let you know.

The official launch for the book is at The Museum of Textiles here in Toronto (Dundas and University, St. Patrick Subway) Wednesday April 13th, 6:30 - 8:00. Wine, books, me freaking out completely ....what more could you want? Please come and help me celebrate.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:37 PM

March 30, 2005

Just stay off your feet.

Once upon a time there was a knitter in Toronto. She had a friend who used a wheelchair who had an obsession with Tiger stuff. (The knitter, who has no such quirk , tries not to think this an odd thing for a grown woman with a really respectable education and intelligence to be concerned with). The friend loved Tiger prints, Tiger stories...tiger everything.

The knitter often thought of knitting something sort of "Tigerish" for her friend, but all she could ever find was sweaters with intarsia tigers on the front, and frankly, no matter how decent a tiger pattern that is (and it seems to be pretty good) and no matter how much her friend would just plotz if she opened up a box with that in it, there is, quite frankly, a much better chance that the knitter will take up the science of "Yak husbandry" before lunchtime than that she will haul off and knit that bit of business.

Now, because the friend uses a wheelchair the knitter makes her a lot of socks. (There is much gratification in knitting a beautiful pair of socks for someone who will not only handwash and love them deeply, but will never, ever take a single step in them. They last forever.) Considering the knitters obsession with sock yarn and the non-walking friends obsession with tigers, it was really only a matter of time until destiny revealed the existence of "Opal Tiger" sock yarn.
This sock yarn is discontinued. This sock yarn is a legend. This sock yarn is just the ticket.
The knitter began a search.

She tried yarn shops. (This was sheer folly. I don't know what I was thinking there, maybe that the whole world could want this yarn, hunt it like a band of demons but that somehow the moment I wanted it I would find a ball of it 50% off sitting right in Romni wool. Yeah. I crack me up.) She hunted the stash, thinking that perhaps she had bought it and forgotten about it. (I didn't, but how funny would that be after I'd scoured North America?) She even tried dyeing some plain yarn to make her own Tiger yarn, but that was a disaster of such epic hideousness that it shall not be spoken of. She tried Ebay...but either none was for sale or the price was so incredibly ridiculous ($50 skein) that even if the knitter were absolutely made of money, even if money fell of her while she walked she could never bring her frugal little soul to spend that much on a single ball of sock yarn...even if it is rare and even if she does normally stash yarn in a manner that would at least suggest that she thought it "collectable".

For years the knitter travelled Canada and the US and everywhere she went she looked for the tiger yarn. She saw some very nice yarns, (and she brought many of them home to live with her) and she even found the fabled "Opal" yarn, but it only made things worse. Now that she knew the joys of the beautiful Opal yarn, she only wanted the Tiger yarn more.

One day, when the knitter was (rather co-incidentally, actually) rooting through her stash of sock yarns looking for something to make her friend for Christmas (or shortly thereafter, since the friend understands about Christmas, knitting and the sort of conflicts that the Knitter endures that time of year) she heard the letter carrier come.
Thinking that it would be the gas bill for sure, the knitter reluctantly kicked a path to her front door (her house is a little untidy) to get the mail.

Imagine the joy the knitter felt when she found a package from Elizabeth! (Elizabeth had previously sent the knitter some knitting needles, proving that she knows our knitter very well indeed, since this knitter is the only knitter she knows who adores those shiny thin metal needles that come in colours). The knitter knew that what was inside would be very good.

When she opened the package her heart skipped a beat. Not only was there the yummy Opal yarn that the knitter covets...there was a ball of the Tiger yarn. Now this desire for the Tiger yarn to please her friend was a secret wish, and the knitter had never revealed it to anyone, so the arrival of Elizabeth's Tiger Opal was happy kismet, and pretty much required that the knitter have a little lie down for the rest of the day.

When her joy had abated enough to let her stand, she immediately cast on the Tiger socks and knit them with great speed and happiness. (Until she got really bored midway through the second one, but that's really quite normal and doesn't make for a good story.)

Then she gave them to her friend who totally did plotz, (although I hope she isn't pissy about not getting the sweater) and even took this picture when the knitter forgot to photograph them before sending them over.


Lene would like to thank Elizabeth for whatever sort of crazy-voodoo-hidden-camera-ESP thingie she has going on. Good call.

Late Breaking News:
(added at 3:30pm)

Megan from Lettuce Knit has just called to tell me that the book is in stock. This is an enormous relief, since it was starting to appear that the city in which the book was written was going to be the last place to get it, just to thwart my desire to spot one in the wild.
I will be going to the Stitch and Bitch tonight to visit the book in it's natural habitat. Don't mock me if I buy one.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:46 AM

March 28, 2005

The good news...

Today, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that my lovely daughter Amanda has returned from her European music adventure, safe, sound and seemingly unharmed. (I think I took a deep breath for the first time in two weeks on Saturday when I laid eyes on her. I don't recommend sending your children far away if you are a nervous or imaginative mother. I have spent the last two weeks mentally writing scenarios in which Amanda met with international disaster involving everything from a handsome but evil young huster named "Michèl" to a kidnapping starring an enormous and vicious mutant albatross with a nest upon the cliffs.)
The bad news?


Amanda was apparently only glad to see me for about thirty seconds. Then she made this face at me. (It's good to know I haven't lost my touch and can still continue my life's work of wreaking humiliation and embarrassment on my children no matter how far they travel, how long they are gone or how old they get. I'm not sure if she made this face because I was simply within her personal space, because I was documenting her arrival for the blog or because I had announced my intention to strip search her and check for tattoos. Anybody's guess really.)

The good news is Norma has come over to the dark side and procured herself a spinning wheel. (Welcome Norma, and kiss your remaining closet space goodbye.)
The bad news is that in an enormous sweep of cosmic balancing, on the day that she got herself a lovely Ashford Traditional, mine broke.


The little thingie that holds the flyer to the maiden has snapped off. I'm not naming any names, ( cough<megan>cough) but someone was spinning and was wanton and completely reckless with no decent regard for the prized possession of the woman who gave her life something went wrong. I'd imagine that all I need to do is have the aforementioned "thingie" replaced (How do you order a piece that you don't know the name of?). The horror of finding it snapped off with a dangling, disengaged flyer and a limp, lifeless drive band still has me shaken and frail, though the rage has passed with the child in question still in one piece and living with me. (Her room is really, really clean right now).

The good news is that without a spinning wheel I make really good time on my socks.


The bad news is that I have apparently suffered a substantial break with reality and human foot size.


What was I thinking? I mean seriously, I have freakishly small feet and these are way too small for me. The leg is fine, the width is fine and then I just hauled off and made a toe, like... mid foot. It's like I live in an alternate universe where human foot size is variable and stumpy. I'm going to have to yank them back and add some length. Who wants to bet that after that they are too long?

The good news is that I still love the garter vine sweater, and have finished the vast expanse of the back and done a three needle bind off to attach the finished front.


The bad news is that I attached the front to the wrong side so that the freaking armhole runs smack down the front of the thing and I have placed the neck right over my shoulder. (Note: there is no way to just try and figure out a way to make a scoop neck out of the armhole. I thought of that already.)


The good news is that the March Break ends tomorrow and I am hoping that having a couple of consecutive hours where some person doesn't clear out the fridge, bug their sister until they make that screaming noise, run the battery down on the phone or say "Mum?" every 47 seconds might allow me to knit something without screwing it up so profoundly that everyone landing on this blog today wonders if I'm smart enough to dress myself in the morning.

The bad news is that a return to my baseline level of attention, concentration and intelligence is probably not enough.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:25 PM

March 25, 2005

Forget it, just forget it.

As we were walking home from our day of Hank-based adventure yesterday Sam turned to Megan (behind my back, because I was obviously starting to look like a mother on the edge) and said, quite bitterly "This is a bust". I was about to turn around and give her some sort of reflexive mother lecture about optimism, little children and the idea that everyday can't be Christmas when it hit me.

The Five Reasons that Yesterday was a Bust.

(Disclaimer: Hank features largely in this story. I would like you to know that Hank is an absolutely charming four year old who was having a bad day. Today he's actually quite ill, so chalk it up to being under the weather, not the fact that he is not a great kid, 'cause he really, really is. His charms are many, and his faults - few.)

1. Does this look like a really happy ball winder to you?


This was actually the question that I asked the little rogue four year old as he cut a path of destruction through my home that would only be equalled by a massive group of teenaged boys on a spring break bender without parents, who were invaded by a herd of rhinoceros with rabies who chased a clan of angry racoons through the living room.
When I walked into the room and crunched spilled cornflakes under my feet, stepped in spilled apple juice and noticed that Hank had written on the table with marker all I actually said was "Oh Dude! Not the ball winder!" We shall not speak of what this means about my housekeeping and priorities. (I think I can fix the ball winder.)

2. Here is Hank at the ROM.


The picture of him is fuzzy because he was running. I could have taken this exact picture the whole time that we were there. (I have never figured out how those little short legs can go so far, so fast...) Note to all four year olds: You need adults to stay alive. We have all of the food, money and shelter. Trying to ditch us in the ROM, or on University Avenue or in the Chapters or on the Subway is not smart and actually counterproductive to your goals.

3. I would like to personally apologize to everyone in the Starbucks in the lobby of the Chapters at University and Bloor yesterday at around 4:30. Hank runs really fast and doesn't read yet clearly and the words "Fire Door: alarm will sound" mean nothing to him.

In his defence, I had refused to purchase him a novel. It was an adult novel. There was a dragon on the cover. No amount of discussion, or illustration, (here executed by me showing him every single page on the inside of the book) would convince him that it did not have pictures of dragons inside. I suppose that he saw through my shallow attempt to make it up to him with hot chocolate and was simply expressing his dissatisfaction with my attempt to resolve his emotional turmoil in such an immature and superficial way. Again, my apologies.

4. I would like to thank the anonymous woman with the lightning fast reflexes who snagged the hood of Hanks coat as he unexpectedly exited the Subway car by dodging between the legs of that guy on the way home. I appreciate your quick thinking and saving me from chasing him. I held his hood the rest of the way home.

5. When I got home and my sister picked up Hank I sat down to knit for a few minutes. I reached into my backpack to get my sock-in-progress and pulled out a wet sticky mess. I was trying to figure out what had happened when I noticed that I was missing a needle in the sock. (I hate that.)


I reached back into my backpack and discovered that everything is wet and sticky. My wallet, my book, my other sock-in-progress. I used some foul language and tried to find my needle (er...yeah, so my priority is knitting and not cleaning out my purse. Are you trying to tell me there's something wrong with that? The purse is still going to be wet later. ) and I found the problem, and simultaneously , the needle.
My super-sharp blue metal dpn had impaled a juicebox in my bag.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:12 PM

March 24, 2005


Wow. Check this out. It's a review of my book by Clara at Knitters Review, (who I suddenly adore, not that I didn't like her before, just now I would do her laundry and wash her kitchen floor) and I can hardly believe the nice things she says. You have no idea how happy I am that she liked it. (I have a vivid imagination. I live in fear of reviews. The version I had written in my head in the middle of the night was very different. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that the phrase "weasel faeces" figured in it.)

Yesterday I went to 3 bookstores in Toronto to look for the book. (No. I'm not proud of that, but I think it's pretty normal.) I have no idea what I was going to do if I found it. Hopefully something a little bit quiet and without dancing. I knit on my Chai lace everywhere I went to calm my nerves.


It's finished but unblocked, and another version of the Flower Basket Shawl from Interweave Fall/04. I used 5mm needles and two wee spools of Chai. I love it and the charm of this scarf is not diminished. I could knit it a hundred times at least once more. The yarn makers suggest ironing it to bring up the sheen, but I'm reluctant. Carefully trained for years to never, ever set an iron right on knitting I'm not sure if I can overcome my own instinct and do it. Has anyone done this?


Did it work? Did the silk immolate or flatten out or...I don't know. I have concerns. (Assuming that by "concerns" you understand that I mean that I am unlikely to overcome my aching worry and fearsome disquiet and manage to set an iron to it no matter what you say to me. Am I wrong? Isn't this a cardinal rule of knits and irons? Doesn't "don't put an iron right down on knits" border on being a knitting commandment? Years and years of trying to learn this stuff and now they want me to just forget everything anybody has said before this and haul off and iron the silk. Right. I bet it makes the scarf smell funny.)

The silk ironing is heightening my book anxiety. The book is not here. It is not in Toronto. I accept this now. Joe (who I love very much for this) spent the evening going to 4 other bookshops....but had no luck either. I had just about accepted that the book simply wasn't out in the world yet when I got an email from Bev who wrote to say that she had a copy.
Bev is in Newfoundland. Newfoundland? I live in the largest Canadian city that there is and have NOTHING, but the bookshop near Bev in Newfoundland has a copy?
(Joe has a theory that it's there first because they are shipping in the most economical way. That means the book is being driven here...but since Newfoundland is an island it got there by plane. That makes sense, but contradicts my theory that they are trying to keep the book as far away from me as possible to see how completely bonkers I'll go in how many Greater Toronto Area bookshops trying to find it. I have pondered the possibility of hidden cameras trained on me.) Since Bev I have learned that pretty much all of the Maritimes has the book, and most of the States. Just not here. It's a cruel joke. I'm clearly supposed to learn patience and acceptance from this.

I finished the mis-matched Fleece Artist socks...


and I'm going to wear them today as I search the downtown core for the book take the girls and Hank to the ROM. (I figure that if I cop out and buy them a hot chocolate and promise the little dude he can use the ballwinder when we get home I can get three bookstores in before Hank loses his cool. I will also be checking the ROM bookstore, which is completely stupid and pointless, and a compulsion none the less. (Pity me, for I am without grace. ) I have forgiven the socks everything. (More acceptance and patience. See the theme?) They are so comfortable and beautiful, each in their own unique "We are scarcely a pair" way that I believe I can overlook their fraternal nature. Probably.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:15 PM

March 22, 2005

What I did today.

(I'm a little short on time and enthusiasm...long on children. Pardon me.)

1. I finished this. (Please disregard the sullen teenager. March Break is hard on everyone. I assure you that she loves the "hat-scarf thing", and simply hated my guts for that particular 30 seconds.)


Beautiful, Yes? It's the "Magical Moebius" by Caroline Laudig. I fell deeply, deeply in love with it when Caroline donated several kit's for TSF'ers. Caroline sent the pattern and I can report that it's a lovely pattern and good TV knitting for experienced knitters or a simple run at lace for newer ones. Caroline's got a huge heart and she's turned this pattern into a wonderful opportunity for MSF. The pattern costs $5 (plus $1 for shipping) and the whole $5 is going to MSF. The pattern works with a long list of yarns (Caroline suggests Jaeger Superkid mohair (1 ball), or Douceur et soie (1 ball) , or Mountain Colours mountain goat, or Noro silk garden (2 skeins) or anything like 'em. Get yours by emailing the lovely Caroline at claudig12ATaolDOTcom.
(Change the bold stuff to the obvious. I'm trying to protect her from spam by not broadcasting her email addie.) and mention that TSF and/or Steph sent ya.

2. Trapped on a TTC ride with two 11 year old girls for what seemed like hours, I somehow endured a conversation that made me want to whack my head on the subway wall and began (and ended) with the sentence:

"You know what else is gross?"

3. Knit this in a movie theatre.


It's another plain sock. (Although I like to believe that the yarn is charming and interesting enough to make up for the same damn sock over and over again.)

4. Ate so many tortilla chips at the movies that now I sorta don't feel good.

5. Changed my links for Claudia, who has packed up and moved blogs.
Her new address is here....go say hi. (Her new blog has a spiffy new look too. Love it.)

6. Didn't do any real work because there are small obnoxious PEOPLE IN MY OFFICE, which the small obnoxious people appear to believe is our family room, which they think is a space they have a right to be in. I did yesterdays work in my bedroom in the wee hours of the night.

I don't know if I'm going to make it.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:49 PM

March 21, 2005


I am almost loathe to mention it, in case Gaia hears me and whumps me with another massive snowstorm for daring to be hopeful...but I think it's spring. If you can overlook the fact that it was snowing this morning, there are signs. The one I like best is that the air is warm enough for Sam to make giant bubbles today.


We tried the other day but it was just too cold, the sight of a child outside, wearing only a down vest, sweater and bubbles is downright encouraging. (Since somebody is going to ask, the giant bubble book and frame is this one. Extremely cool, with the bonus of using up at least 13 minutes of the March Break. Only about 11520 more minutes to fill. ) The girls and I were in the village today, (Tulips and pussywillows for sale!) and walking there and back, I contemplated how it was that I didn't feel like the planet was trying to kill me. On the sunny side of the street the snow is melting and I'm betting that someone in Toronto has snowdrops. My mood is spectacular, hopeful and cheery...which is good, since I'm getting my chain pulled by my knitting again.

I've been knitting on my bus socks, and it was only last night when I got out the two at the same time to see if they matched for length and as I held them together, I noticed this.


These socks do not match. There's no reason for this, which I find infuriating. They were knit on the same needles, from the same yarn with the same number of stitches by the same knitter. It isn't just that the variegation is working out differently either, if you see these socks in person you can see that the colours are actually different. The second one (on the left) has more blue, a lighter blue and less red and orange. They look like different dye lots, but were knit from a single skein of Fleece artist hand-dyed sock yarn. It must be that the dye job is subtly different moving through the skein, so subtle that you don't notice while you're knitting (or maybe you would if you were the type to pay more attention) but it shows up side by side. Since my feet are largely side by side, I have a feeling this is going to bug me.
I love this yarn though, and I love each of the socks in their own I'm working to get past my anal retentive compulsive feelings about matching socks and learn to enjoy their fraternal rather than identical nature. Or maybe I just won't take off my shoes much.

I'm also working on this...


a little wee coat/dress/sweater for a baby I know. In a move that's quite rare for me, I decided to use a pattern right the way it was printed so that I could save time. Sadly, while I'm succeeding in knitting to gauge, I'm hating the fabric. Too stiff and closed and I dorked up the intarsia motifs. I have a feeling that this is on it's way out.

I am comforting myself with this, which has likely ruined me.


This is my new favourite yarn. I am completely on a yarn high. It's Artfibers "Golden Chai" (colour #10) 100% tussah silk. When I got it in the mail today from Tonia, who clearly has impeccable taste, I dumped every other project I had on the go like it was common crap and cast on something slick. I am simply twitterpated with this yarn. It's soft, the colours are beautiful and the thick-thin action enchants me. This yarn is so beautiful that it has ruined me. Ruined any chance that I was going to do laundry today, ruined any chance that I will clean house, ruined the odds for anything other than the simplest of dinners. I can only be grateful that it arrived after I'd taken the girls for a walk and bought food, or I wouldn't be doing that either. The rest of my day will be dedicated to knitting with this little slice of heaven and watching everyone run out of clean underpants while I do nothing to prevent it. I will distract you from these lower impulses of mine and point you to Jan...who finished her version of my Snowdrop shawl pattern out of her "first handspun yarn".
If this is her first handspun...I'm just going to nip off and drown myself.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:17 PM

March 18, 2005

It's going to break somebody.

I may not have mentioned this (and I'm sure that the blogosphere is full of mothers and fathers who appreciated me keeping quiet so that they could continue to live in a gentle world of powerful denial about it.) but the March break starts today. In their infinite wisdom, the Toronto District School Board has arranged the one week March Break so that it begins today, with a Professional Development day, and ends March the 29th. That is, for anyone who cares about my sanity...11 days with no school, and known to the Toronto District School Board (who I think have proven that they are not on my side with this latest go-round, no matter what they say when I phone them) as "the one week March Break".

I don't really mind my kids being around, they live here, they are occasionally charming and really, picking up abandoned apple cores, screeching "that is completely unnatural", fighting for the phone and computer while listening to The White Stripes at ear-rupturing volumes while preparing meal after meal after meal for the ravening hoard and contemplating carbon dating for the wet towels on the floor of their rooms is actually my life's work and far, far more fulfilling than say...working for a living, knitting or forming complete thoughts without that twitch over my eye. Sign me up.

My big plan so far is to spend a fair bit of time sitting in the living room humming tunelessly and trying not to think about it while making further progress on the garter leaf cardigan.


I'm done one of the fronts and I'm halfway up the back, and I'm still just loving it. Loving. It. The yarn...the pattern. It's all working for me. I'm enthralled. (My pattern, Peace Fleece dk)

My sister and I doing a little kid swapping over the holiday, and we kicked it off last night when she dropped off our favourite 4 year old, Hank. You will all remember from Christmas that with our little buddy Hank, it's all Spiderman, all the time, and share my shock when he walked in the door last night and said:

"I bet you thought Spiderman was coming to your house!"

Now, I know Hank is not dressed as Spiderman. I can see that he does not have his Spiderman mittens on, and moreover, he is not wearing the creepy Spiderman hood that he has had plastered to his head for the last five months. I don't think I've seen Hank wearing anything but a pair of Spiderman jammies for just as and I'm sort of thrilled. I don't have anything against taking a little dude all over Toronto in a pair of jammies and a hood, but variety is good, you know what I mean?
So even though I can see that he is not dressed in Spiderman pyjamas, I play along.
"What? Holy cow! Where's Spiderman? Dude, what's going on?"

With an enormous smile on his face, my supermature Hank-man, too old for Spiderman jammies, getting bigger everyday and nearly-five not four years old unzips his coat and reveals...


Batman jammies.
Hank is seen here with his favourite item at my house. Even though I have a whole house-full of lego and books and games and cousins this is his favourite thing. The ball winder. I'm sympathetic, since I have a deep, deep emotional attachment to my ball winder as well. I give him one ball of wool and he winds it into a centrepull ball, then takes it off the winder, carefully pulls the centre free, inserts it into the ball winder and rapidly rewinds it. This can occupy Hank for hours during which he only speaks to other people in the house if something like this happens.


I feel his pain. (This happened because Hank was winding the ball winder so fast that the generated centrifugal force hurled the newly forming ball across the dining room like a speeding powder blue woolly fruit bat and scared the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of me. Let that be a lesson to you.)

Hank also got the mail for me (when he was cut off of ball winding activity)


That's sweet little spring blossom post-it-notes from Beth, to help me hold on for my own spring, (have I ever spoken to you of my irrational love of post it notes?) and the most charming little measuring tape from Jenny. The measuring tape has these happy and contented women playing with laundry and looking fulfilled on it. Clearly Jenny has shipped me a measuring tape from the 12th dimension. Thanks ladies, for the presents, and for the 15 minutes that they occupied Hank Batman.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:20 PM

March 16, 2005

Hysteria and navajo plying

I hardly feel like I can blog today, after the start this week has had. No kids have left the nest, I have no major life events to report...nothing. I've finally managed to put the book down and have stopped carrying it around the house like the holy grail, since I only have one copy, I'm still protective (read: neurotically obsessed) about it. Many thanks for all the congratulations and well wishes for its success. I'm excited about the moment that one of you gets a copy or someone sees it in a bookstore. (I have decided that going to the bookstore to wait is not appropriate). Do me a favour and e-mail instantly will you? (Someone other than me getting a book is the final proof that this is real and happening.)

Q & A from the comments:

How do I get a signed copy? Well freak me right out. Seriously? Me? Of my book?
Tell you what, let's wait for a bit and see if the urge passes. If you still want it signed I'd wait until the list of places I'll be trucking to is revealed and see if I'll be in your neighbourhood. If that's not going to work, send me an email and I'll give you my address. You can mail the book along with a self addressed stamped envelope (or an "International reply coupon" if you don't live in Canada) and I'll sign the thing and ship it back. No bribes of chocolate, coffee or yarn are necessary...since the honour is all mine.

Where are you going on the book tour? Book tour? Those words make me nauseous and a little dizzy. As of this moment I can tell you that I'll be in Memphis (!!!) on the 25th of April, and New York City (!!!) on the 28th. Details of where, what time and so on are to follow along with other places..assuming of course that my brain doesn't explode and leak out of my right ear.

How on earth will Joe, the girls and Mr. Washie carry on? I don't know. These are things that are not being discussed. We are nervously avoiding the issue (along with the idea the Joe would need to get up at 7:30 in the morning for several days running, a feat that has no precedent for record producer/musicians). I think it's going to get all Lord of the Flies pretty quickly.

Nervous? Petrified. I can't shake the feeling that I'm masquerading as an author and any minute now they are going to figure out who I really am and what my hair really looks like and that I'm really five foot nuthin and stark raving mad and rethink the whole thing. I don't know what would be worse, cancelling, or going through with it. The only thing I'm holding on to is that you aren't complete strangers (in that virtual buddy internet kind of way) and that hopefully at least one of you will smile at me, thus allowing me to get my arse into a chair, hold a pen and stop quaking long enough to smile back. No promises. At this moment I can promise high entertainment value at each and every one of these things, since there is an equal possibility that I will be talkative and emotionally present or that I will snap and run screaming into the street babbling about sock heels, my cat and looking for my mummy. You have to figure that's going to be entertaining either way.

Naturally, all this angst has led to maniacal knitting and spinning and a failure to reply to email and clean the house. Big surprise.

I sat down to navajo ply the singles I spun from Laurie's roving.


Since navajo plying isn't as easy as a regular ply, (for me, anyway) I really need a good reason to engage in it. Basically speaking, navajo plying is a long chain stitch with twist added to it. You tie a loop onto the bobbin leader, and then pull the next loop through it, over and over, letting the twist follow along. There's several clips and photos available where you can watch someone do this. Look here, and here for starters.

Disadvantages: (reasons why I don't navajo ply everything)

-it's not that easy, and takes a little more co-ordination than a regular ply
-the spun yarn is not as strong as a regular ply
-it's easy to "overply" if you have poor wheel control.
- it is less forgiving of uneven spinning than ordinary three ply.
-the "knots" (where you pull a new loop through) are visible, especially in a bulkier single. I don't really notice them in sock weight yarn, but they might bug somebody else.


-no leftovers, since you are plying from one bobbin of singles.
-none of the crazy making insanity where you end up making yourself squirrly trying to get your singles divided evenly onto three bobbins.
-It keeps your colours separate. Because it's a long chain, the colour changes in the single will be preserved, just 1/3 as long.
-it makes a three ply, and theoretically speaking, a three ply is sturdier.
-Done right, (which would mean "done by someone else") It's sort of impressive to watch.

As with all plying the wheel (or spindle) is spun in the direction opposite to the one you spun the singles with. I cannot stress enough the importance of remembering this, since screwing it up leads to an unspun tangled disaster from which there is little recovery. (Experienced spinners are cracking themselves up over this one...but I swear that no-one told me, and I'd never seen it done...and I recognize that it is not a credit to my intelligence that I didn't figure it out for a little while. Let's just leave how long "a little while" was to the imagination. I thought my wheel was broken. Dumbass.)

I use the setup in the picture above, with my lazy kate between my legs so that I can draw the singles straight up. Trial and error has led me to tension the kate with a complex series of wool washers and elastic bands. If I don't put a little resistance on the kate, when I pull the singles up through the loop the kate continues to spew singles at me and the twist kinks them up into little knots that are an enormous pain in the arse to pull cleanly through the loop. I also set the tension on the wheel pretty high, so that the wheel is pulling in one direction, the kate in another and nothing can get away from me. I can tell you from experience that if your singles are softly spun and/or very fine, you might want to forget everything I've just said about tension. These more fragile singles can't take the heat. They break repeatedly causing uncontrollable bursts of foul language and yarn that sucks.


Here you can see what I do with my hands (more or less...I'm not the most co-ordinated of souls, and the picture does not describe for you the parts where I'm clutching, grabbing and tangled.) I hold the loop open with one hand, pull the new loop through with the other, and use my pointer finger on my left hand to keep the whole thing from collapsing. (Usually. I refer you to the above statement where this well designed system breaks down)

During navajo plying I find it helpful to treadle very, very slowly. Especially while you are getting the hang. For reasons that I cannot explain (possibly a doorway to the ninth dimension is involved) less twist seems necessary to properly ply this way. It could be that it's taking the same number of treadles, but that I don't notice because my hands are so busy. Either way, slower treadling seems to be key.
(I have now typed the word "treadle" so many times that no matter how I type it, it looks completely wrong. It probably is.) When you are finished, the twist is set the same way as with any other yarn.


Beauty, eh?
I'm thinking now about what I'll knit with it. Socks for sure, but maybe not plain ones. Maybe fair isle with black, the colour shifting against it up the leg? I can't forget how lovely Laurie's were. Suggestions welcome. It would be a pity not to do it justice at this point.

I'm going to my guild meeting tonight. If you are there and you care (or would like to pretend you care), I'll have the book in my bag. If you promise to be careful I might let you hold it and look at some of the pages. Maybe.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:01 PM

March 15, 2005

I believe

The whole time this book thing has been going down I've been waiting for the punch-line. I'm a person who deals pretty well with disappointment (knitting has it's purposes) and even though the whole thing with writing a book seemed real, I reserved judgement. Sure, taking the manuscript and paying me and flying me to Massachusetts seemed real, and certainly if it were a joke it was an extremely elaborate one...but who knows what motivates people. Writing a book was such a dream job that I was careful not to get to invested. You never know. When they sent the contract I thought it was a good sign. When they read the manuscript I thought it was another positive move. When they had little mock-ups of the pages sent to my house I thought that if this was a farce designed to make me the butt of a very complex ruse that they were taking it a little far. Similarly, taking orders on Amazon should have meant that they intended to go through with it, but since I possess the traits of pessimism, low-self esteem and acceptance, I thought there was still a way for it to go wrong. I didn't get my hopes up. Editors get fired, publishers go bankrupt, warehouses burn and booksellers could decide they don't like my hair. Things happen and I was not going to be disappointed. Just because writing a book is one of the most fulfilling things that could ever happen to me and lends purpose to my existence and fills me with an exuberant joy that makes my whole self ache with happiness and excitement....
I was not going to believe. Not until I saw it.


Yee haw.

It's a real book. My name is on the front, my picture is on the back and the words that I scribbled on envelope backs and typed into this computer are printed inside. I believe, I believe, I believe. The publisher tells me that truckloads (that's the word she used ~truckloads~) are enroute right this very minute to the shops. I can scarcely breathe. I'm going to give one shameless plug for the book, ( I can't help myself. I really can't. I wasn't going to do it and then I did it anyway.) and then I'm going to go have a lie down. With the book.

If you are in Canada, you can get the book from here, or find a local independent to support here. If you are a Canadian bookseller, you can contact Thomas Allen (the Canadian distributor) to get in touch with the rep. for your area.

If you are in The States the Amazon link is here, your local independent can be found here, and if you want to sell it in your shop you can contact Storey Publishing.

Now, I'm going to go knit and read my book. I know. Even though I wrote it, somehow each and every word is freakin gripping. (I recognize that I should be ashamed a little about that, but I can't help it. I'll be ashamed tomorrow.)
My book. Holy crap.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:35 PM

March 14, 2005

Going, going...



Without a word of a lie, watching Amanda walk away was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's a strange phase of mothering I think, this part where you have to let them go, right when they are old enough to get up to the sort of no-good that makes you want to keep them close by.

I didn't cry (loudly) and I didn't make a scene, and for the record, neither did she. We arrived at the airport, checked her in, and waited until she was through security and out of reach and sight before leaving. I watched her go and tried not to yell stupid embarrassing things at her disappearing back. Things like "I'll wait right here" and "Don't go". That was at 5, (flight at 6:30) and Joe and Kelly (who works at the airport) convinced me that hanging around the airport waiting for the flight to leave, even though we couldn't be with her was silly. I came home where at least she could phone me. I hovered around the house, knitting, feeling odd and out of place and busying myself with stuffing the compulsion to run back to the airport and save her from the big world, way down. At 6:11 Kelly phoned to say that Amanda's bum was in her seat. I went and took a bath. I lay there in, listening to the planes going overhead and wondering which one she was on. Was it that one? That one? That ones engine sounded funny. Maybe I should call someone? Tell them that my child, the one I have invested 16 years of my life in, is on a plane right now and that I think it flew over my house just this minute and that the engine sounds a little off and maybe they could just radio the plane and ask the pilot if everything is ok? Just get him to check.

I felt ok while she was in the air, her flight landed at 3am our time (9am her time...HER TIME. My child is in another time zone. I'm dizzy.) and I started waiting for her to call.
She didn't. Not all day Sunday.

I don't understand the cruel tearing of motherhood. I often say that mothering is a unique occupation, and the only one in which you are trying to put yourself out of business. The whole idea of it is to spend whole decades trying to create (in the most labour intensive way possible) a whole new human being who doesn't need you. It's ironic that in the beginning, being a good mother is about carrying them with you, staying nearby, rocking, walking...keeping close and never letting them out of your sight, and then suddenly you have this whole almost adult person and being a good mother is suddenly about standing back and letting them just walk away and worse than that...pushing them to do it and then hanging around the house afraid to go buy milk because they might phone... It's horrible.


I keep looking at this picture of her. Every time I think about getting on a plane and going to Austria and just showing up at the hotel I look at this. (Imagine that? Amanda comes back from a concert and I'm just sitting on the edge of the bed. All I say is "You didn't call".) She's drinking tea and somehow that means something, doesn't it? It's not a sippy cup, she's not drinking apple juice. She's a young woman, and there's really no difference between allowing caffeine and allowing a trip to Europe. Right? I'm knitting like a fiend and engaging in my new hobby, which is clutching her itinerary and imagining where she is at this moment. It goes perfectly with Sam's new hobby, which is telling everyone in the family what time it is in Austria. Still no call.

I snapped on Sunday afternoon and called her, I felt nauseous when the man who answered the phone at the hotel said "Guten tag" (What have I done?). She's fine. She loves it. Austria is beautiful. I didn't say any of the things in my head. None of them. I didn't say "be careful" and "watch out" and "are you ok". I have to believe that my instincts are such that I wouldn't have sent her if I didn't think she could do it. I said "Have fun" "see everything" and "take pictures". I got a little loose at the end and said "I miss you" but she didn't say it back, I'm taking that as a sign that I'm doing my job and making a person who doesn't need me. Eyes on the prize. I'm knitting.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:00 PM

March 11, 2005

Singles, chocolate and spinners limp.

Tomorrow, Amanda leaves for Austria with her orchestra. I'm losing it. I have to tell you that every mothering instinct I have tells me that taking a 15 year old girl to the airport, kissing her goodbye and watching her get on a plane to another continent is insane. Completely batty. A few loops shy of a cast on edge...if ya catch my meaning. I've washed her clothes and taught her how to convert Euros to dollars, I've cautioned her about taking her money out in public and bought extra strings for her violin. I've told her everything to be careful about that I can think of and then I've told her (once I have her good and neurotic..) to not worry and to relax (carefully) and have fun. (I think Amanda feels that I may be a bit of a paradox at the moment.) We live in the city and I keep a close eye on my teenagers. I know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. I know all. I see all. How then is it that this kind of completely fretting and bothersome mother suddenly hauls off and sends the kid to freaking Europe for two weeks? How I ask you? How?

I'm a little worried that I may have some kind of involuntary spasm of over-controlling parenting at the airport and find myself unable to let her out of the car. Worse than that...I think Amanda would be strangely relieved. She's nervous. I'm nervous. What are we doing? What kind of a mother won't let a kid date but sends her to Vienna? What sort of mother tells the kid "No bloody way" to a 10 o'clock movie but says "Vienna? Cracow? Sure sweetie, let me help you pack." I'm out of my mind, and I'm only getting weirder as the flight time approaches. I think that Joe's starting to think about taking me down with a sedative blowdart like something out of wild kingdom.

In between running around yesterday to get everything my 15 year old daughter will need while she is in Europe and not at home with me where I know what's going on...(sorry. It's so hard to let go) I spun up the singles from Laurie's roving.

I won't tell you how to spin singles. There's tons of information out there. (This site is amazingly helpful...they have film clips of how to do this stuff) I can tell you what I do differently for sock yarn, or what I do that I think might be unique or helpful.

Since I have the roving pre-drafted nicely before I start spinning, I get to go pretty quick through the pile of roving goodness. Socks get a lot of wear so I want the yarn to be durable. To this end, I try to put a little more twist in than I usually would. (Not so much that it's going to lose it's softness's a fine line and only experience can tell you where it is.)

Also, because I want the yarn to be very smooth, I hold back the twist with my right hand (the hand pinching...) and pull back with my left to control the amount of fibres being allowed into the twist at once, then slide my right (pinching) hand along to smooth the fibres and bring the twist. If I don't pinch, the twist travels into the drafting zone and my yarn is furrier.


In this picture you can really see the drafting zone. It's the fan of fibres in between my right hand (holding back the twist) and the left (pulling the roving back to thin the fibres.) My right hand is firm and my left is loose. If I don't keep it loose the roving bunches in my hand. Loosey goosey, barely touching. Note that this doesn't work if you weren't completely obsessive and anal retentive to the point of madness, cautious with your pre-drafting.
At some point in the very beginning of the spinning I stop, pull a length of singles back toward me and wrap it around my fingers like this.


Then I let go and let the three plies twist around each other. Doing this gives me a pretty good idea of how my navajo plied (which is three plies) yarn will look. I see if I'm putting too much (spinning "wire") or not enough (spinning something that's going to drift apart in the plying). I also give it a think in terms of thickness. Do I need to beef up the singles? Thin 'em out?
A smarter spinner than me would put this little sample nearby so that they could repeat this process a couple of times during the spinning so that they could have a little something called "consistency". Me? My middle name is danger. I do no such thing.
If I like everything I see I carry on.


You can see in this picture that I have a white cloth on my lap. This is a modification that I use...I have two spinning cloths, one white and one black. I use the lap cloth that contrasts my fibre because I don't see well. Someone suggested it to me early on and it's helped enormously. (Really Steph? Seeing what you're spinning has improved results?) The blue fibres I'm spinning here would be nearly impossible for me to see against my jeans.


Generally speaking I use the long draw method of spinning, moving my fibre supply hand (my left) back away from the wheel in a long smooth arc. You can't see it, but a thread of yarn connects my hand to the wheel, because I'm spinning sock yarn you can see that pinching/smoothing right hand following. If the fibre was crap (or if you skipped the pre-drafting) I wouldn't use the long draw. How far my hands are from the spinning wheel is a testament to Laurie's skills. Also a testament is the fact that I was just going to sit down and spin for a little while, but the roving is so beautiful and easy to spin that I just kept going until I was done. Today I have the most wicked case of spinners limp. It's not likely to improve either...since the urge to navajo ply it is overwhelming. (I'd rather not discuss the fact that I am apparently undeterred by physical pain and disability. Joe pointed out that even lab rats eventually learn that trying to get treats isn't worth it if pain results from the attempt. I have nothing to say to him.)

Search for spring (Attempt 2)
There is absolutely no naturally occurring spring here. I'm not going to depress you with pictures. It was -27 with the windchill the other night. I was seriously thinking about Belize again when I trudged through the falling snow to Lettuce Knit the other night. When I arrived, there was a package for me! Lynne sent me some spring!


Among other things...Lynne tucked in these lovely springtime rovings. She's right too...I do feel better. I could suggest of course, that the reason that I feel better is because me and my stitch and bitch buddies hoovered the entire package of Aussie cookies that she sent before they even hit the table.


Tim Tams (not to be confused with the Newfie "jim jams") are darned good. There was some talk of "Slammin a Tim tam" (cell phone calls were made, details were gathered...Canadian common sense prevailed and we just ate them rather than risking some sort of Australian cookie daring-do that could endanger the cookies.
Thanks Lynne, for restoring my faith in spring.
Tune in Monday when we discover if I made a scene in the Airport, if Amanda made a scene in the airport, if I have managed to lay off the spinning enough to regain full use of my right leg and to see navajo plied yarn.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:05 PM

March 9, 2005

You spin me right round...

Posting late today. Have any of you bloggers figured out how to do away with those pesky real life annoyances that interfere with regular blogging? You know the Kids? Spouses? Anybody hit on a way to explain (tactfully...always tactfully) that you would really rather be blogging than earning a living?

I started up yesterday with Laurie's roving, but first (and I hear the Gansey brigade getting ready. Look at them, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to leave me comments about poor wee ganseyless Joe...abandoned, cotton clad and unloved with another Tuesday spun away) first I spun and plied another 150m skein of Joe's gansey wool. (Joe does all right around here, I assure you.)


Take that Gansey Brigade! Ha ha! You thought you had me, but I'm to shifty for you. Just when you think you have me pegged as fickle and unreliable, bingo. Gansey yarn. This brings the total to about 650m, and impressed Joe enough to lull him into my blog web, taking pictures of Laurie's roving.

I had this great spinning teacher and she was always going on about "prep". When I was a new and excited spinner, this ticked me right off. I didn't want to "prep", I wanted to spin! Spinning was fun, prepping was not. I can say with reasonable authority that I think most spinners would agree...since I have never heard "prepping" presented as a standalone hobby. You never hear anybody say..."oh yeah. "prepping"? I love it. I don't give a rat's arse about spinning, but drafting and combing are just the bomb. Why, I don't even own a spinning wheel but I've filled my whole house to the rafters with drafted rovings." As a new spinner, I didn't prep a whole lot. My spinning showed it. The teacher was always saying that the more time I put into getting fibre ready, the nicer the end spinning would be. This concept (planning ahead, investing for the long run, thinking things through...) was not me. Finally, I was forced to "prep" in front of her and was shamed into doing a good job. The spinning was so easy and pretty, so consistent and lovely, that I was immediately won over. I am now all about the prep. I'm telling you this because you don't have to be. This is my way of doing it, it gets the results that I like, and I think it's best for me.
Find your own way, there are no right answers. Spinning is like knitting, if you are ending up with something you like, then you aren't doing it wrong.


Step one: Step one is making a decision about what I want. I'm hooked on the continous change through one skein that I get with Laurie's roving if I draft it in one piece. If I wanted striping yarn, at this point I could (though I choose not too..) strip the roving lengthwise into pieces. Stripping it in half would give me two repeats of the colour change. Stripping those again would give me four, and so on. Since I want one long change, I'm just starting the drafting. Even though Laurie's roving is beautifully made the dyeing process compresses the fibres a little and makes them stick together. The first pass of pulling opens the fibres, unsticks them from each other and begins to draw the fat roving out into a thinner one.


All I'm doing is starting at one end of the roving and working toward the other, pulling the roving gently between my two hands. My hands are fairly far apart, and I'm moving pretty quickly. I'm not aiming for a whole lot of accuracy, just general looseness and lengthening.

Next, I'm back to the start with my hands closer together. I try to get them about a staple length apart. Wool is deeply variable stuff, and the staple length is the length of the hair. If we were talking about people, we would say that people with short hair had a short "staple" and people with long hair had a long staple. For pre-drafting, I start with my hands a few inches apart and pull gently. If I feel no movement, I move my hands apart a little at a time until I find the spot that the roving "gives" or starts to slide when I pull. This is about the right distance for my hands to be. I move along the roving, maintaining this distance and further lengthening and slimming the wool. This time I'm trying to even it out. I pull it apart more in thick spots and less in thin ones. I'm looking for evenness.

Finally, a third pass. This time I'm repeating the step above, again with my hands about a staple length apart, but this time I'm thinning it down to the fineness I want to spin from. I find that the thinner I make this go...the faster and more even the spinning. If Laurie's prep were not as anal retentive lovely as it is, then I would be on the lookout for neps (little knots of fibre than will make lumps in the spinning) or vegetable matter (straw, hay, grass etc) and pull them out at this point. Lucky for me, Laurie's roving is as perfect as it is lovely.
I do this last pulling in shifts, immediately prior to spinning, since once it's drawn out this fine it's pretty fragile. I take the stage two roving and put it in a pile by my spinning chair and break off arms lengths as I need them. With Laurie's roving I'm very careful to keep the colours in the right order.

Today, I spin it ...right after I try to reclaim it from Millie, who obviously thinks it's the best seat in the house.


It only seems fitting, as we discuss lovely wooly things and making them by hand, that I give away the knitting journal that Emma made.

The cover is felted wool (dyed by our esteemed Emma) and combined with the fur of her very own bunny, Gir. The spine is wood, there are blank pages, graph paper pages and project pages to fill in the details of your work. Each and every bit of it was made by Emma, and clicking on this link will let you read all about it and see more details. This of course, is so that you can all be profoundly jealous of Julie S., who owns it now. Congratulations Julie. Wish I was you.
Damn it. Now I'm coveting prizes and trying to kick Willie Nelsons arse. I'm showing so little personal growth.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:43 PM

March 8, 2005

Women's day

I mentioned that they were done, but I couldn't stand posting crappy pictures of them, so waited for sunshine. I'm glad I did. Here, (in several pictures, because I can't hardly contain the happiness on one blog), are the finished Mitaines Sans Frontières tricotez pour Tricoteuses Sans Frontières, comme collecteur de fonds pour Médecins Sans Frontières. (If I am very lucky...someone will now correct my crappy French).
If you prefer English, these are The Mittens Without Borders knit for Knitters without Borders, as a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders.




I'm working up the gumption to give them away. Soon.

Today is International Women's day, and it is worth noting that the Knitters Without Borders are almost completely women. (In the interest of accuracy, I can tell you that to the best of my knowledge, of the 627 members, 5 are men.) I updated the total for you. Knitters without borders has raised more than $60 000. For scale, I can tell you that Willie Nelson's concert fundraiser brought in $75 000. Think about that for a minute. A hoard of knitters raised almost as much as Willie Freakin Nelson. Then dance. Feel powerful. Celebrate Women's Day. (Try, if you are like me, to give up the urge to raise *more* than Willie Nelson. Competition is not good for your soul).
Finally, if you can stand it, remember that not all women are as powerful and rich as you. Some of the money we sent to MSF will go Women in Darfur, where it will change lives in ways you can't even begin to imagine. I am forever grateful, both for your incredible generosity, and for the knowlege that no matter how sympathetic I may be, no matter how much I read, I will never fully understand their plight. I am very lucky.

In honour of you powerful women....Gifts!

Pam R. is continuing the karma wave by donating Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns. originally published in 1943, this book is a classic resource.


Shannon S. will be having a good time with this.

Mary H. sent this.


Take a deep breath my friends. Deep breath. It's handspun qiviut. (Qiviut is finer than cashmere and warmer than wool. It's the downy undercoat of the artic musk oxen. It doesn't felt and It. Does. Not. Itch.)
Annie J. , please take good care of it.

Jenny has this beautiful Koigu. Enough for a pair of socks.


I'm hoping that Jennifer D. is a Koigu Virgin, since I love watching people discover it.

Christie H is another one who can't something without giving something back (do you see how this is going to go on forever?)


She's donated this beautiful scarf to the cause and it's going to warm the neck of Jill T.

Betty B. has a copy of Alice Starmore's Fishermen's Sweaters that will be going to Katherine L. Merci Betty!

Ann Budd wrote: " I’ll donate a copy of my book The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns (autographed, if whoever wins would like), along with The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements. " Isn't she nice? Ann will be sending (and autographing) her books to Megan R.

As always, I have emailed the lucky ladies. Tune in tomorrow when I give away Emma's book and begin the Laurie's sock yarn spinning tutorial. Promise. Happy Women's Day.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:12 PM

March 7, 2005

Choices, choices choices...

In a profoundly Harlot moment, I decided not to spin the roving over the weekend. I promise that the moment the sun comes out and lets me take decent pictures of what I'm will be party to the whole shebang. Instead, all knitting time was devoted to the persuit of the perfect pattern for the green peace fleece dk.

What I want: I want a cardigan with a zipper, not buttons. I am short and not very big, so I know I want a smaller sweater so that I don't look like I have borrowed my dad's clothes. Further to that, I know that I want set in sleeves, since drop shoulders are unflattering to me. (The drop part inevitably lands below my elbows, meaning that either I get arms that are way too long, or if I have the presence of mind to shorten them in the knitting...that I am knitting freakish 6 inch sleeves.) I also know that I want something sort of easy...since I want this finished before the weather turns too much for it to be useful this season.

The hunt begins. I got every magazine, book, leaflet and pattern note I have ever written myself and put them all in a huge and untidy pile in the living room. I always start this way, but don't actually recommend it. It's overwhelming. I made a pot of coffee and flipped through everything, making two piles. One with potential sweaters in it and one of abject rejects. At this point, I don't worry too much. If I like a sweater but it's a pullover instead of a cardigan, I keep it anyway. If it's a drop shoulder, I keep it anyway, If it's the wrong gauge...I keep it anyway. I am only selecting things that I like in the broadest possible sense. I figure (in my misguided little mind) that these are all things I can fix.

When I have a loose pile, I start weeding through. In this case, I had seven left. Since I don't swatch (Look...I said it. No lightning hit plague of locusts...Nothing) I just start knitting sweaters. In this case, the first thing I tried was Alice Starmore's "Fern". Why I chose this (and I refer you back to the "What I want" section above) is beyond me, considering that it is A) Huge. B) has drop shoulders. C) is a pullover and finally D) is complex. To my credit, I was going to modify it fix all those things (except for the complexity, which, naturally...I was increasing exponentially.)
I cast on the back (Dumbass. Note to self: if you are going to resist swatching, and insist on starting things that are likely not going to work, why don't you start with one of the fronts, or a sleeve..or something smaller than the back? Why?)


See the pretty texture? No? Me either. (I swear there are cables) Fern met a timely demise.

Next, having been thwarted by the texture, I decided maybe the yarn wanted to be lace. I cast on (The back...double dumbass) of a simple cardigan with fishtail lace.
This was abandoned when the cast on edge proved to be to "swoopy". (This would have been predictable if only I were not a dumbass.)


Clearly, lace was not the thing. (Dumbass again. A more reasonable knitter would have thought that swoopy lace was out, not all lace.) I cast on a plain jane garter rib cardi with no bells or whistles.


This one was abandoned because...well. I don't know. I can't tell you. Didn't have it going on. Little to rustic? Little to masculine? Besides, the gauge was off. Too floppy. I missed an opportunity here to waste way more time by reknitting it on smaller needles to discover that it was now rustic, masculine and not floppy. It did occur to me to give this piece a wash though...which was clever, since the gauge changed a great deal.
Screwed by texture, lace and ribbing...I decided that maybe I was overthinking (I do that) and cast on another sweater. Points for finally getting my head together and casting on a front instead of a back. (You will kindly ignore that I cast on three backs before getting my head out of my arse.)


This lasted a while. I liked it, was happy with the gauge, but in the end it was frogged for two reasons. One...I didn't like the way the seed stitch border stuck out where it was horizontal and receded where it was vertical. (Completely unexpected ...I mean, who would think that just because seed stitch has always done that in every single incarnation it has had on the planet that it would do it this time? Who would think that? A Dumbass. That's who.) Two, I decided that I liked the yarn too much to knit it plain. I wanted something special.

Back to the magazines I went, and found a beautiful sweater by Sally Melville in Interweave Knits Winter 00/01 called "Ballet Cashmere". While the sweater itself is lovely, it was all wrong. Wrong gauge, wrong style, pullover.....but the stitch pattern itself was lovely. I re-figured my basic plain cardigan above to fit the stitch pattern (I'll worry about the set in sleeves when I get there. How hard can it be?) and started a front. (Ladies and gentlemen....She can be taught!)


I was basically happy with this one, but thought that that the garter didn't show up very well, so yanked it back (an aside here? This hank of Peace Fleece two ply dk has now been ripped and re-knit FIVE times and still looks great. This is nice yarn.) I cast back on with a 3.75mm (US size 5) needle and started again.


Is it a keeper?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:42 PM

March 4, 2005


Look what arrived in the mail:


It's the beautiful roving that Laurie was dying in the tutorial from last week! Stunning, heartbreaking and spectacular. It's beautiful enough to improve the snow I sat it in.

Judith in Ottawa wrote:this beginning spinner would also appreciate those spinning tips. Like how does a fat roving become singles yarn without either disturbing these gorgeous colour gradations or snarling into a bunch in my hands...

No problem. I'm going to document the process here and continue the learning curve, such as it is. Look for first steps on Monday, in which your local Harlot tries to do right by Laurie's roving, gives herself a wicked case of spinners limp, and tries desperately not to shame the wool of wonder with her spinning.
Also Monday, a return to TSF gift giving, (I updated the total. Look. Be stunned.) mostly to serve as a distraction from the substandard spinning of the honoured roving. (A little note to everybody who asked, The Knitters Without Borders swag shop is here, gotta post a link to that on the page I think...).

I got a very nice present from some friends (you know who you are, and that I love you) and I'm itching to knit it.


I have enough of this beautiful yarn to make just about anything (except a car cozy or something) and I'm desperately searching for an idea. I thought about Alice Starmore's Fern, but it's a pullover and I have a profound preference for cardigans. I thought (naturally, because I am me and apparently I like things to be hard) that I could modify the pattern, but I'm thinking now that there has to be something like it out there that would do already. Ideas? It's DK weight Peace Fleece (Kamchatka Seamoss) . Swatching (fine. Not swatching. There's no point in even pretending I'm going to swatch. Swatching is here used to mean "casting on project after project and ripping them out when they fail to amuse me) is scheduled to begin this evening and will undoubtedly continue for several days. Does the presence of a new project mean that the MSF mittens are done? Brace yourself. Oh. Yes. They need a wee blocking before they are ready for their appearance but they are done. Done. Done.

Finally, I have decided to be hopeful. It is inevitable, since I have it on good authority that the planet has not stopped turning) that spring will come. Margene has it. Laura has it (look at the green leaves behind her pretty green shrug) and I want it. I went looking. I'm going to keep looking until I find it.
Signs of spring: Day 1.


Toronto's High Park, this morning 9:30am. Er...the only sign of spring there was a psychotic knitter trying to find spring. Clearly must keep looking.

While I am looking, I will give this apology to Norma, who's blog entry I completely, totally and accidentally ripped off yesterday. I have decided to take steps to prevent this from happening again. Firstly, I have decided to stop speaking with Norma. Clearly she is getting into my head and I have begun to channel her. I'm sure she will appreciate this, since if she's getting to me...God only knows what I am doing to her. Secondly, since Norma is apparently innovative and I, derivative (she posted first) ...I will write my blog entry each day before reading hers, but post it only after visiting her blog to check for duplicated material. Should I find duplicated material, I will delete my entire post promptly and flagellate myself with a hank of rough hemp yarn until I don't feel like Norma anymore. (It is disturbing that we both spent the evening before coming up with, knitting and writing the pattern for Dulaan hats.) Finally, as penance I will knit one of Norma's charming Dulaan hats and send it to Mongolia along with my hat, trying to bring good back into the world.

Lastly today, my publisher/publicist has a request. She would like to know where you guys are, and if you have a favourite yarn/bookshop. I have no idea why she would like to know...but I dare to dream. Can you faithful knitters leave your location in the comments today?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:14 PM

March 3, 2005

Ken's Dulaan hat.

Today is, my little pets, a very special day. Today is the day that we celebrate Ken's birthday. Ken's my best friend and an extraordinary person. I love him a great deal and today I will cook pork chops for his birthday dinner to prove my love. If you are not aware, your local Harlot is a vegetarian. Cooking pork chops is a sincere and loving expression of my dedication to him. (We will not discuss that neither the children nor Joe got meat on their birthdays...this is my game and I make the rules.)

Five reasons Ken is pork chop worthy:

1. He is charming. I have it on good authority that Ken gets his hair cut with his eyes closed so that he gets a surprise at the end.

2. He is brave. Ken will try anything once, including things that other people would never consider, like bungee jumping, ice climbing or skydiving.

3. He is dedicated and determined. Ken will stick with something even when it is clearly not working because he believes (and he is mostly right) that his intelligence will sort it in the end.

4. He is loyal. Ken has never said an unkind thing about someone he loves. (An add on to this one is that if he doesn't like someone the conversation is going to be very entertaining.)

5. He is generous. Ken buys exorbitant gifts like a drumcarder for me or an I-pod for Hoi-en, a snowboard for Sam, or voice recognition software for Lene.
(My frugal mother would call this "more money than sense", but he's getting pork chops so it's clearly working for him.)

There will be much more about Ken's birthday tomorrow....but for today you get Ken's Dulaan hat. This hat is not for Ken to wear, I've probably made him 20. This hat is for Ken to give to the totally brilliant Dulaan project, spearheaded by the lovely and entertaining Ryan. (Hop over and see what she's up to.) Ken knits, but he's been too busy lately to make much headway (pun intended) so I've knit this and will send it in his name. (present #1) As present #2, I'm writing the pattern down here, so that anybody who wants to can make a Ken's Dulaan hat, thus ensuring his name lives in knitting infamy. This took an hour to make, and that included figuring the pattern. Think about sending one along to the Dulaan people in Ken's honour.

Ken's Dulaan Hat:


Materials: About 40 metres of Lion Brand 100% wool "Van Gogh" , sadly discontinued. Three strands of Worsted weight held together, or two strands of chunky will do.
one pair 12mm straight needles (or whatever you need to get gauge...)

Gauge: 7 stitches to 10cm. (I find this hysterical. This makes your gauge 1.75 stitches per inch. I think it's normal for this to hit your funny bone. You might not want to try and explain to normal people why it's so darned funny though)

Cast on 30 stitches. Pause and laugh for a minute, since you are knitting a whole darned hat for a real sized human and it has 30 stitches in the cast on.

Knit 1 row. (this takes seconds. Mere seconds)
K1, P1 across the next two rows.

Right side: Knit one row, increasing two stitches equally spaced. (32 stitches, yup, still funny)

wrong side: K1, purl to last stitch K1.
Right side: Knit.

Repeat these two rows until you have worked 11 rows and have the right side facing for the next one. (It is good to pause for a little giggle here, as you have, in fewer than 15 rows, knit the main bit of the hat.)

Begin decreases
First row: K3, *K2tog, K2, repeat from * until 5 stitches remain, K2tog, K3
Second row (wrong side) K1, P2, *P2tog, P1, repeat from * until 4 stitches remain, P2tog, P2.
Third row: K1, K2tog across row, K1.
4th row: K1, purl across, K1
5th row: K1, K2tog four times, K1
6th row: P2tog 3 times (3 stitches remain)

Work I-cord for 10cm and fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing up. Thread the tail down through the I-cord and sew up the back of the hat. Weave in the tail you started with, tie the I-cord top into a cute overhand knot, do a little dance and invoke the name of Ken.
One superwarm stashbusting hat in way less time that you ever dreamed possible.

Finally today, I have to thank Stitchy McYarnpants. She had emailed me some time ago telling me that in her travels on this earth she had found something that "was meant to be" mine. Now, it concerns me a little when people say this. I worry about weird blog insights and strange connections and....well. Weirdness. I also worry, when people say "this is PERFECT for you" and then give me something that really isn't, that I will have to lie or something. (I hate lying. Probably because I suck at it). So when dear little Stitchy said that she had something that was "meant to be mine". I felt a little nervous. The sweetie was excited so I went along. What could it be?

Today I got the little notice that they had a package for me so I trotted to the post office, hoping against hope that it was her box, because she sent it a long time ago and we've been worried. Indeed it was from her and I opened it up....filled with fear and excitement all at the same time. I would never, ever have guessed in a million years what Stitchy had found and mailed.


Wool Pig salt and Pepper shakers.
I'm speechless.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:33 PM

March 1, 2005

Joyce is not screwing around

So it's snowing. Still, more, again with the snow forever. We are trying to make the most of it. (Yes. that is a tomato cage on the snowmans head.) This photo was taken last night before we got another 15cm.


but I have to tell you that even if the kids think they can go on...(Psst...Elizabeth D. Check out the hat on Sam's head!) I'm about ready to bury myself in a snowdrift and wait for the thaw to reveal me.


Here is an abbreviated list of things that I am sick of:

1. The bottom 10 cm of everyone's pants being wet all the time. I hate this. I keep forgetting that the bottom 10cm of my pants are wet and then tucking a leg under me when I sit on the couch and wetting the couch and my arse. I have been doing this for 4 months. I am clearly not going to learn, so the snow must go.

2. Stepping in puddles of shmutz everywere I go. These slushy puddles of road filth, slush, snow, ice, salt and the spit of demons are at every single intersection and there is no defence.

3. Drying a perpetual and unceasing number of boots, mittens, scarves and hats on every single heating register in the house the whole day long. (This smells as good as you think it does.)

4. I would like to just go for a walk. I would not like to spend five minutes considering what paraphernalia I may need to do so, (Shoes? No, too cold for shoes, Boots? Yeah, boots, hat with earflaps? Scarf? Mittens or gloves? Thrums or not?) and then searching all of the heating vents to find my chosen garb, and then going outside and discovering that I'm cold anyway.

5. I would like a decent tomato. I do not know what winter tomatoes are made of, but it is not tomato. They are pink and strange and tasteless. The weak pink winter tomato is a metaphor for all that is wrong with late winter.

6. I am tired of dealing with the potential for "Snow Days". Every-time there is a storm we get up and listen to the CBC in the morning with mixed emotions. I am praying that the schools are open, the children are praying that they are closed. There is no happy ending. No matter what the CBC says, someone will be heartbroken. (It is better if it is me. I only cry in the bathtub).

There are other issues, but let's simply leave it at: There is no Spring here.
There is no reason at all to go outside, but plenty to stay in.
Carolyn sent me these


which entertained me to no end. I also enjoyed that Carolyn pointed out that my name is an anagram for


which is really not true, but very funny. (We will not discuss how much time I spent trying to make my name spell other words.)

I started a little bit of mohair fun...It's a scarf, but you'll have to wait and see what kind.


I would have taken a better picture of it, but my backdoor will only open about 6 inches, due to the amount of snow blown up against it. Oh, wait...

7. I am sick of the weird vortex effect that deposits all snow in the neighbour hood on my property. There is a woman down the street that I believe has not shovelled (maybe swept...I saw her with a broom) this entire winter. Her share of the vortex is the wind whipping every single snowflake off her property and depositing it on my steps and against my back door. I toy with asking her to do a little snow removal at my house (it is her snow after all) and in some particularly bitter shovelling moments...I think about returning it.

Finally, Evelyn (fully understanding my obsessive nature and interests, mailed me this book...


It's Latvian Dreams: Knitting from weaving patterns By Joyce Williams. (Note: I have provided an Amazon link for illustrative purposes only...I remind you to support your local independent bookseller as you see fit, though this book is a little hard to find). I am obsessed with this book. Obsessed. The book begins with an extremely useful and interesting section on technique, and not a single paragraph made me feel confused or nervous. Very, clear thinking there, and well explained for even those of us who bore quickly and have a low threshold for this sort of thing. (Most tech articles and books leave me cold. It takes about three minutes before everything I'm reading stops making sense. I try and read it, but it all sounds like the teacher in Charlie Brown..."Whah wah, wah wah wah...") This book would be worth it for the technique section alone. The sweaters are very, very cool, though not quite to my taste...but the charts? The charts are an opus. There are several that are just begging to be mittens (but really...what isn't?) and there are some that are so stunning that I feel a thrill of Joyce's brilliance when I see them. These are, no matter what your mind tells you...two colour charts. The shading effect is from the way that Joyce has charted the two colours.



See that? See how it's..., well, the best word is "interesting". Really, really fascinating. Doesn't it boggle your mind? Don't you wonder what the risk of stroke is, should you decide to knit this? It's the whole big world if knitting, and people are up to the damnedest things. Behind these charts are page after page after page of beautiful, useful, completely do-able charts, should you think you're not up to the above. Joyce is a goddess.
Joyce is not screwing around.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:42 PM