June 30, 2005

Strange days

I have to tell you, that the modern age occasionally freaks me out.
(Well, more than occasionally, but I'm sometimes freaked out by gas stations. I may have a freak out level that is lower than normal.) I did two things worth mentioning yesterday.

I spun.


(You didn't think I was going to spin that boring brown did you?) This delightfully cotton candyish batt was a birthday present from Laurie (That Laurie) who really, really has excellent taste in fibre. It's a Brushstrokes Batt from Indigo Moon Farm and is a completely seductive mix of 50% LLama, 25% merino and 25% silk. (Some dizziness when contemplating that is normal. Put your head down for a minute if you need to.) It is as soft as it looks, and when it's spun up it has a glorious sheen....that's the silk.


I met Lee Ann. She's here on a little vacation from her real life in Montreal, and we arranged to hook up at the local. You will note that she's holding the boring baby blanket. Lee Ann really deserved the sock, but I didn't have it with me. (I am carrying only the blanket since my self control is so crappy that I can only knit it if it's all that I have.) I was so delighted to meet her, and enjoyed her so much that I was overwhelmed with the urge to have her hold something....I had to make do with what I had.

Here's the freak out. (As previously mentioned, this may only freak me out.) I find in incalculably strange that as a modern day knitter/spinner, I can swing between an ancient activity like spinning...and half an hour later I can be meeting a knitter from another part of the continent, knowing what she looks like before I meet her, knowing much about her life and being able to detail her current project (the pony puke poncho) even though we have never met. That through the magic of the internet and the wonders of things that plug in, I have friends all over the world.

It's the sense of expanded community, that we are all actively engaged all over the world in each others intimate lives and doings, that I could pick Emma (or at least her son) out of a crowd, or that if I needed to I could get Vincent out of the pound for Norma, or that I know exactly what Sandy's couch looks like. I can hope Amie's ok today, and wonder if Cassie sent Cassie some roving (since it's at least partly her fault that she took up spinning). I can walk in the sunshine on Saturday and hope that it's not as hot in Boston as it is here, since Claudia was doing the MS ride.

It's the wonderful modern electric connectedness of it all. That I can get dropped into any terrifying brand new city in North America and have somebody to have dinner with. That we wouldn't know each other at all, that I wouldn't have thousands of comrades in wool, if it weren't for two things.

Absolutely cutting edge, up to the minute modern technology
and ancient, never changing, timeless knitting.

Freaky contrast eh?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:56 PM

June 29, 2005

Not child

Judith said in her comment yesterday
"Since you mention boning, I assume (and maybe I shouldn't) that the dress is strapless?

If so, you may want to revise the description of the wearer as - child. "

Judith is (as commenters so often are) completely right. Totally right. This is no child.


Though this may be.


It is a strange place, this in between child and woman place. The letting go that needs to happen for the elegant young lady in the top picture is completely at odds with the clinging on you want to do for the child in the bottom picture. What do you buy this kid, lady, person? What should she wear? How can somebody who is wearing a strapless dress possibly still want teddy bears and a story read at bedtime? The contrast is enough to give a mother whiplash I tell you. Whiplash. I find this one of the hardest things about mothering. If all you had to do was become a good parent, you know, get the hang...then it wouldn't be so hard. (Well, except the hours and the pay are crap) It's the part where as soon as you get it together and think "Ok, I think I'm doing alright" all the rules change and you're doing something else, and moreover, all the stuff that made you a great mum two years ago now is worth about as much as a trap door on a lifeboat. Not easy.

The graduation itself went off without a hitch, well...as long as you don't think that a fire alarm that sends an entire auditorium full of parents and graduates into the street is a hitch....


Megan and her best bud Maddy made the most of the disruption,


and I knit a full repeat on the mind-soul-spirit sucking boring baby blanket. ( I have not taken a picture of the blanket. It looks the same. It is boring and I assure you that not one molecule of it has made a change from yesterday significant enough to warrant the bandwidth a picture would take up.)

Today, I have made a decision. Today is the most sacred and holy of all days to all parents. A day of rest, reflection and hair-whitening fear. Today is (imagine swelling dramatic music here)

The last day of school.

I'm taking the day off. Right off. This afternoon I'm going to spin (because Tuesdays are for spinning but I had to make Tuesday for jamming little pieces of weird acrylic boning into a bodice.) So...do I spin for Joe's gansey like a good little spinner.....


or do I spin this?


I thought so too.
( Say it with me. 68 days till the first day of school.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:59 AM

June 28, 2005

Tulle late.

The dress is not yet finished, but I have five hours, so you know, I'm not concerned. (The phrase "not concerned" is here used to mean that I am panicked beyond all reason.)
While I am sworn not to reveal the exact nature of the dress until the child dons it this evening, I can tell you that it includes the following.


1. Eight metres of tulle. If you don't know about tulle, it's that sheer stuff in the top of the picture. They use if for bridal veils. We are using Eight metres (that's 26 feet, for anybody not making the metric leap) of 140cm wide black tulle. The living room looks like a satanic wedding party played strip poker in there.

2. A bodice which (while it has no inset) has boning. I was ripping along yesterday minding my own business, (you know, just me and the voluminous black cloud of tulle.) and I was sewing the bodice together and got to this instruction about inserting the boning in the boning casing and the bottom just dropped out of the world. Boning? What the hell is boning?

3. A trip to Fabricland where I was a assured by several members of the staff (who were not very openminded, let me tell you) that the purpose of boning is to stiffen the bodice and that they don't believe that there is any amount of fusible interfacing that you can iron into a bodice to get out of putting in boning. (Though they did seem amused by my multilayer fabric stiffening plan.)
It turns out they are right.

4. A very long zipper. I hate putting in zippers. Hate. It. I actually sort of hate sewing in general...which makes me wonder why the hell I'm sitting here surrounded by clouds of tulle, bewildering instructions (There is no armhole. How can I sew facing to it? Liars. Manipulative stinking liars.), scattered snips of turquoise fabric, elastic, boning and a very perplexed cat.

Also hanging around are my chinese scissors, which so many of you asked about yesterday. I got them at Lee Valley Tools, from whence so many very, very cool things come.
(Like this, or this, or this...or wait, we bought my brother this.)

The boring baby blanket is at the halfway mark, from here it's just a game of stamina.


I've taken all current socks in progress out of my backpack and put the blanket in, thus giving me absolutely no choice but to knit it. I hate it when it comes down to dirty tricks. (Know any?)
It's going to be a long second half.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:54 AM

June 27, 2005

Have a little pride.

This weekend the sock and I decided to get over it. Forget all our woes and carry on. Stiff upper lip and all that. Someone once gave me some extremely good advice. They said "Act the way you want to feel". It works wonders for me, if I happen to have a poor outlook, I just act like I don't and pretty soon I can't remember what I was on about. (There's that short attention span again.)

The sock and I ran (well, limped) away from home. We jumped on my bike and rode to Ontario place, where we had a little medicine for the bruise.jpg. I have thoughtfully made the bruise picture a pop-up. This should appease all of you who wanted to have a really good look while not offending those of you (like me) who really don't need to see it.


(That's Ken's wine. I wasn't doubling up.) We went on the log ride, we had a nice dinner, we watched the fireworks and cycled home.

The next day, the sock started to feel a little down again, (The sock is becoming demanding and difficult) so we packed ourselves off to Pride. Toronto's Pride Parade is the largest in North America, and many thousands of people of all descriptions collect on the streets of Toronto.
Pride intrigues me. Not just because there is a chance that you can get a complete stranger who looks like this

to hold a sock (Buddy here was not at all freaked out by my sock request. Though when you give it some thought, is it really any surprise that a dude on the street in leather underpants would be pretty open minded?) or not just because of the floats and the crowds and the wonderful variety and accepting nature of humankind


but because the Police Chief and the Mayor walked in the parade, and all political parties (even the conservatives ...though they were sparsely represented.) turned up to show their support for Pride, and would have been in pretty big doo-doo had they failed to do so. It really says something about human rights in this City when the Mayor and Police Chief would get politically slammed for not attending a Pride event, and makes me (and the sock) proud to live in this diverse city.

Back home today I'll spare you a picture of the baby blanket (it's mindnumbingly boring and only bigger) but promise you the pattern when I'm done, and show you this...


Which will be a graduation dress by tomorrow evening, when Megan graduates. (No pressure).

Posted by Stephanie at 12:30 PM

June 24, 2005

That's going to leave a mark

Yesterday sucked. It sucked with an expansiveness and a volume that defied the laws that rule the earth.
Unbeknownst to you all, I have not been feeling well. (The violence with which I held the yarn in contempt yesterday for my own incompetence should have been a basic clue that I was a little out of sorts, though Joe points out that I have enough...er, "passion" that it can occasionally be hard to tell.) I woke up yesterday morning and came rapidly to the conclusion that the UTI that I had been dealing with (mostly by drinking cranberry juice and wishing it would go away) had gotten right out of hand. (No lectures on the perils of leaving a UTI untreated for three days please. I have an immune system, and I'm always willing to give it a shot to step up. Besides. I have been punished enough.) I phoned my perfectly charming and affable family doctor and was in his office (stopping only to further wreak havoc looking for the stupid zephyr and to knit my requisite repeat on the baby blanket) two hours later.


The doctor and I agree after a few words that I am completely correct and have a very nice UTI, he writes a prescription and delivers the mandatory lecture on not seeking timely medical advice and "how much worse it could have been." I snatch the precious prescription from his chastising hand and beat it the hell out of there to the pharmacy. (If I give up on alternative medicine, I'm usually sick enough to be in a hurry.)

Through a serious of events involving availability, affordability and my own hostility and impatience, 20 minutes later I am out the door furiously carrying about 46 gallons of PEDIATRIC antibiotics.

Pediatric antibiotics are, naturally being intended for babies and young children, a little different than the adult version. For starters they are liquid. (A truly nasty flavour that is supposed to be "fruit punch" and actually resembles fruit punch exactly the way that creme brulee resembles cat litter.) In addition to being a liquid, they are not so strong. This means that if a grownup needs to (for the reasons of availability and hostility mentioned above) take these pediatric antibiotics, that she needs to calculate her weight, and then take the right number of millilitres per kilogram. Roughly translated, I need to take about sixteen GALLONS of this foul stuff (fruit punch my arse) every 12 hours.

So I'm heading home (with my backpack full of the bottles and bottles of the pediatric antibiotics) and I'm furiously heading for the turnstile of the TTC station and in my (aforementioned) state of yarnless hostility, I dump my money into the farebox and pretty much go through the turnstile.


I say "pretty much" because all of me went through, with the mere exception of my entire left thigh.

My left thigh (probably still due to some degree of hostility, or perhaps a result of some sort of gross miscalculation from the added weight of the veritable ocean of pediatric antibiotic I was carrying) did not go through the turnstile. My left thigh, which I can assure you with all confidence is NOT two inches wide, caught between the spoke of the turnstile and the wall of said turnstile in a space which IS (not by coincidence I am sure) exactly two inches wide.

For the record, in case anyone is wondering, should you get your left thigh caught in a turnstile during some sort of antibiotic temper tantrum (which, much like the antibiotic, was very pediatric) the pain that you feel when you wedge your entire freaking thigh into this impossibly small space is enough to make you see a brilliant, flashing parade of colours. The foul language that you use is enough to wither nearby summer flowers, and the temperature of the tile floor you fall onto as you writhe in agony having wrenched your not two inch wide thigh free of the spectacularly two inch space is quite cool.

This event is actually so incredibly painful, even to passersby that the dude behind you in line at the turnstile will actually gasp in horror at your misfortune as you gnarl yourself into a knot on the floor, breathless and stunned spectacular, and then that dude will say with low reverence and shock (and I quote)

"Whoooaaaa...That's going to leave a mark".

Thank you dude. YES IT IS.
Now, because I am a McPhee, and unless you are one you will never really understand this, I must...MUST get up off the floor of the TTC station and carry on to the bus (even though my mangled thigh is screaming vociferant high volume pain messages to my brain) I must get up, and walk to the bus while publicly laughing it off. The code of McPhee states that you must pretend nothing is wrong with you even if you are on fire or need an ambulance. You get up (even if you only have one working leg) and you smile at nearby dudes, and carry on. Which I did.
When I got to the bus I took deep breaths and clutched my pediatric antibiotics, quietly begging for a swift journey home.

By the time I got home, I was no longer quite so prideful and injured, just seriously pissed. I guzzled the first of my gallon doses of antibiotic, avoided Joe's stares and when Amanda (who is finished high school for the summer and continually home, and continually talking) said "Mom?" I responded with "Don't call me that".
The kid took a minute, absorbed the antibiotics, the glaring hateful stare, the wild and humid hair and the newly aquired FREAKING LIMP and then said...." Stephanie?"

I went upstairs. I had a smashed thigh, an angry immune system, pain in regions best left unmentioned, a sloshing belly full of incredibly vile pediatric antibiotics, a teenager home for the summer and NO ZEPHYR YARN to heal me. What better time to do laundry I ask you, what better time. So I'm in the bedroom and the pain in my leg is still purple and I'm snatching things up and hurling them into a laundry basket in a way that I hope conveys my full fury and disappointment at my current karma level, when I wrest one of Joe's tee shirts off of the treadmill. (Which we do not use, but holds a lot of laundry).

There is a small box on the treadmill.

My vexation is complete. You know what is in the box, don't you? After I have searched the house, threatened it on the blog, trashed the contents of every closet, screwed up every possible hiding place in my whole house....I have been sleeping for days no more than a metre from a small box that has the Zephyr in it.
I was so angry I went downstairs without opening the box.
It was two hours before I could forgive it.


(PS. I'll be signing books this Sunday from 11-12 at BEC. The show isn't open to the general public, but is attended by booksellers, librarians...anyone at all to do with books. If you know anybody...send them by. I'll be at the Thomas Allen & Son booth. [Thomas Allen is the Canadian Distributor of Storey Publishing. They handle all Canadian stuff to do with the book.]
Free signed books. What more could you want? Well, except gallons of pediatric antibiotics. Yum.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:08 PM

June 23, 2005

Dear missing Zephyr Yarn

I'm sorry. I don't know what I have done to make you leave me, but I'm sorry. I have looked and looked all over the house and the stash and I am getting seriously freaking pissed with your smartassed silk/merino attitude frustrated with your deception my ability to find you. Do you really think that I'm so stupid that I couldn't hit sand if I fell off of a camel not determined to make things right?

I know that it was callous to misspell your name yesterday, but in my defense it was technically a typo, not a misspelling since I know how to spell your name but could not have given less of a care about you and your knavish hissy fits overlooked the error. I didn't think you would take it personally because you are a *&^%$#!!!! INANIMATE OBJECT with no actual feelings a kind and gentle yarn, again, my most sincere apologies.

I really don't know where you could be. I have turned the stash into a craptastic pile of tangled reeking horror looked through my yarn storage areas, completely trashed the contents of checked the entire linen closet , emptied every single stinking the yarn bin, maniacally torn up re-organized the shelving unit full of yarn and ransacked peeked in every single corner of the house while cursing violently and screeching looking for you. I'm afraid that now I cannot walk through a single room for the piles of shocking detritus I have pulled out of the bowels of this house I have run out of places to look. Despite this, my white hot yarn fury burns with the unabated fieriness of a thousand suns I am still experiencing some feelings of longing for you.

I know for an absolute fact that I bought your miserable wee arse skeins in Maryland. I have witnesses who can confirm your date of purchase and your colour. I have further witnesses who saw you enter this home. Ken himself can verify (though I have not asked him to, I don't need to validate your deceitful crock of a plan ) that you have actually been seen in the living room of this house. There is no point in hiding any longer, I swear I will find you if I have to torpedo my own home to do it no matter how long it takes because I know you are here.

I cannot possibly think of anywhere else to look. I understand that you are a deviant, scurrilous, ignoble piece of (*&^%$!! crap yarn that I regret buying with every cell of my being a yarn with issues and feelings that need to be considered, but I really want you to come back before I tangle your inane yardage into knots so devastating that you will wish you were felted so I can knit you into a pretty, pretty shawl.

I promise that if you haul your disrespectful two-ply skein back where I can find you come forward, I won't have to wind your balls so tight that you beg for mercy order other yarn. I know that I can make you so sorry that you pulled this scene on me we can be happy together.

Your knitter,


Posted by Stephanie at 10:52 AM

June 22, 2005

Feel the love

Well, anybody who thought that I was going to need to do a little something besides the baby blanket and the occasional pair of socks was right.


The socks are coming along eh? It is still my belief that this pattern (feather and fan socks from Socks, socks, socks) is the end all, be all for making Lorna's Laces sock yarn behave in a very nice way. I really do understand that it probably makes me a few shingles short of a roof to believe this based on one pair of socks (not even a full pair actually) but I feel some serious sock mojo.
This pattern was written by Judy Sumner, who I would like to personally thank for releasing me from LL sock yarn related seizures. I hope Judy will forgive me for altering her pattern. As is my habit, I haven't taken direction well. I changed the heel and the sole (and may have altered the toe just a little), and left out two ridges of garter around the leg. Other than that, I didn't touch 'em.

Still, the blanket isn't enough to fill a day, and since yesterday was the anniversary of my GHU (Godless Heathen Union) with Joe, I decided to throw myself headlong into spinning for the his gansey.


Years of dedicated love and affection, displayed in corriedale singles, and more than that, there are actually two full bobbins of it. If that don't make him feel loved, cherished and honoured, I don't know what would. (Kindly put right out of your mind the suggestion that Joe would perhaps enjoy a demonstration of my love that was a little more racy. I don't care how long we've been together, I'm not spinning without my clothes on, and that's final.)
I did point out to the love of my life yesterday, that it's entirely possible that there is some symbolism in our anniversary falling on the longest day of the year. (I suppose that the interpretation of that symbolism would depend on your outlook and laundry status at the time.)

As promised, a round of thank you gifts for the tremendous knitters who make up Tricoteuses Sans Frontières. (The astute among you will notice that the total is higher again. I feel faint. If you guys break $75 000, I'll add something from me -besides the mittens- to the pot.)


These stitch markers were made by Sharon, and will grace the needles of Karen G., may they bring you luck and good knitting.


This is merino and mohair laceweight from Silver Valley Fibres in Alberta, along with a pair of wool socks from Quebec, sent as an all Canadian thank you from our lovely Barb B. Despite my urge to keep both of them (and this is reason #4 not to mail this stuff to me to pass on...) I'm sending them on to tricoteuse Nina S. (Whoops...the email address for Nina bounced back. If you are the Nina S. who's email used to end with "centurytel.net" can you drop me a line?)


Finally for today, these are incredible mittens knit by our lady of the comments, Ellen in Conn. They are beautiful, knit of Koigu and Brown sheep sport, and if they don't convince you that Ellen is a knitter to be reckoned with, well. I don't know what would. Emily K., I hope you feel lucky when you wear them.

I'm off now to continue today's mission, furiously ripping up the stash. Somewhere in this house are two skeins of Jephyr. I got to thinking last night that maybe I would start a shawl or two...you know, just to break the monotony of the baby blanket (I suppose the other possibility is that my personality is such that McDonalds would fire me for having a short attention span, but I prefer to think of it as having a broad range of knitting interests.) and I cannot stinking find them. I've ripped apart much of the house, but they continue to elude me. Either the whole yarn thing has gotten so far out of hand that I am now hallucinating buying it...(was that a dream?) or this speaks to a lack of organization that I'd rather not discuss.
Either way, the hall closet needs to get torn up.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:18 PM

June 21, 2005


I have started a baby blanket for my friends soon-to-be baby.


Pretty good? It's going to take some perseverance. For starters, you might be able to tell that it's cotton. (Patons Berber cotton, now discontinued, but living on in my stash. Please note my use of stash materials. I'm proud of that.) I know I said I didn't like to knit cotton, and I don't, but this cotton is better than most, and I've decided to knit just a little each day to avoid killing my hands or coming to hate the blanket so much that I would wish to be kicked hard by a yak to get out of it.


Also, it's a blanket. A plain, good blanket. Blankets are hard to knit. They go on for a long time with no parade moments. You know what I mean? With a sweater, you knit for a while and then TA DAH! Throw me a parade, I finished the front, or a sleeve or something. Sweaters are a series of wins. Blankets? Knit until you are done. No hurrah, no parade, just stick-to-it-iveness.
I know myself pretty well. You know me pretty well. What are the odds that this simple pattern, done over and over and over again, in an old stash yarn is going to hold my interest? Yeah. Me too.


Therefore, I'm going to bribe myself. I'm going to work one pattern repeat on this every day, just enough to get it done, not enough to hurt my hands, and at the same time, to make sure absolutely no-one dies of ennui here at the blog (Mostly me...) tomorrow I'm going to start giving out the Knitters Without Borders gifts again.

I've somehow managed to get caught up, and I believe that I've written everybody a thank you note, and the total is absolutely current. (If you didn't hear from me and you think you should have, please send me another note, the amount of mail was a deluge there, and I have to beg forgiveness for anything that got lost.)

Take a minute, read the total you have raised for MSF and then sit yourself down and feel the love. That's the feeling that you get from making a real, profound, actual difference in the world. That's the feeling that you get when you support people risking their lives to save others. Look at the amount. Know that knitters did this, and that I'm proud and deeply awed to know all of you. You don't get to $72 435 without a whole lot of knitters (I assure you. There are almost a thousand.) I hope I'm never finished adding it up.
We are knitters. Hear us roar.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:39 PM

June 20, 2005

The truth about Birch

It's all worth it.


Every single stitch,


each little leaf,


the 299 stitch cast on,


the multitude of ever decreasing rows that go on forever and ever. The way that the last 50 rows take a million hours longer than the first 50 (even though they are shorter...so I don't know what's up with that.) The physics lessons....
All worth it. Beautiful. I forgive it everything.
Rowan # 34, 2 and 1/3rd balls Rowan crack Kid Silk Haze in "Jelly" (What kind of Jelly is that colour?) , 4.5mm needles.

(Photo's taken this morning in Toronto's High Park, not, as Stephanie suggested, at my house. Though damn, aside from the mowing, that would be a sweet backyard.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:05 PM

June 16, 2005

Escape Velocity

I have a new theory. Look at this.


Here we have Birch. I knit on Birch off and on yesterday. I knit on it a little at the Stitch and Bitch last night (except for I might have played with baby Penelope a little, a lot, as much as I could before people start thinking about watching me closely for signs that I intend to take the baby home, smuggled out in my backpack. Don't look at me like that. I would leave it a little bit unzipped...) and I knit on Birch for a while after I got home.

This means, that I can personally vouch for having knit at least 20 rows on Birch yesterday. For sure 20, probably 30....maybe more...but we'll use 20 because I don't want to be caught on a technicality. The point is (and I do have one) that the row gauge on this shawl is 28 rows to 10 cm. If I have knit 20 rows, I should have gained some distance. I didn't. I knit 20 rows and the shawl is exactly the same. Exactly. There is no discernible difference in length or width.
I am clearly being drawn into a knitting black hole.


Now, knitters have known about this for a long time. The black hole of knitting is not new, and far better knitters than me have suffered deeply in it's grips. So far, the only escape has been time. You put in the time (not the knitting time, that's completely irrelevant...I'm just talking about waiting time) and when your time is up, you are released from the black hole. I personally have had sleeves where you knit and measure and it's 30cm, and then you knit 3674 rows and it's still 30cm, and then you have a little lie down and maybe a bit of a drunk-up and a temper tantrum and whammo. 40cm without another stitch knit. It's about doing your time and the knitting goddesses playing with you like you are a ratty little cat toy.

This got me thinking. Real black holes are related to gravity. (You probably know this. You are probably an astronomer who is about to send me a really serious email about how all of this isn't possible and I don't know what I'm talking about. Fine. A disclaimer. I'm a knitter, not a physicist, dammit (don't you want to say that with Scotty's accent from Star Trek?) {added: Whoops, Roggey pointed out that I mean Dr. McCoy. See how uninformed I am?} and you should totally not write an exam in science class based on the black hole theory I'm about to tell you. In addition, if you are a student who does fail science because I'm wrong about this, you should know that there is no way that you will be able to convince me that I'm responsible. Study. )

Sorry, what was I saying? Right, black holes are a gravity thing. Every object has a gravitational field. The more mass an object has (please remember class, that mass is different than size) the harder it pulls on the other things. Black holes (regardless of their size) have so much mass in one spot that they have an enormous gravitational pull. So big, in fact, so startlingly hugely big, that light gets pulled in. (Hence the whole "blackness" of the hole.)

Now. Birch is like this. Birch has so much knitting mojo in one place that its pull is so great that all of the stitches get pulled in. You knit and knit....nothing. The yarn goes in, but no length comes out, since it's pull it too great to allow it. It's a fuzzy mohair and silk hole. (The first clue that Birch was not a normal knitting object should have been the way that knitters are drawn helplessly to it....)

If you are getting pulled into the black hole, you have a problem. Think about how if you are juggling and you throw a ball into the air, it will go up for a little while, because of the force that you used to send it upward. Then, pulled by gravity, it will come back down. If though, you could really hurl that ball upward, really heave it, you could throw it so hard that it would escape the pull of the earth, enter space and go on forever. That amount of force, that speed is called "escape velocity" and it varies with the amount of mass the object pulling on you has.

The earth has more mass than the moon, so you need to go faster to get off the earth. It has a higher escape velocity. Jupiter would have a really fast one, and black holes (and birch) have so much mass (or knitterly mojo) that the escape velocity you need to pull yourself out of the field of gravity is so huge that you....well. You can only imagine that most encounters with a black hole end badly.

Thusly, in order to escape birches black hole, I am going to need a remarkable escape velocity. Today is about speed. I am going to knit as fast as I can, attempt to reach escape velocity, and see some progress.
If I am correct about knitting black holes, gravitational pull, and the way the universe is put together, I expect to have an alternative to getting your poor little chain yanked by a insubordinate, obdurate piece of mass sucking fluffy knitting for as long as it wants to work you over. We will be free at last.

Groundbreaking work really.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:00 AM

June 15, 2005

Boys of summer

Many thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday! I think I thanked all of you...if there was anyone I missed, know that I was beyond grateful for your comments and well wishes. (Mum was flattered that you all liked her guest blog, but please, for the sake of the family, don't encourage her.) I had a beautiful day yesterday with friends, family, knitting and cake.
The Hankman blew out my candles.


(Hank really likes blowing out candles)
And I was lucky enough to have my party attended not just by one Spiderman, but two.


Hank and Leo are seen here assuming the position, which includes full on "webslinger fingers". Leo is more conservative, but still ready. He is more subtle about his webslinging intentions. Leo and Hank were instant friends (what with being able to identify each other, thanks to the uniform.) and when they parted at the end of the evening, it was enough to tear up a seasoned Marine.
As the car pulled out of the lane, a tearful Hank called out to a frantically waving Leo "Good bye Leo....I love you!"

Leo's Mum Teresa is also the mother of the Snowdrop (remember her?)


seen here just a few months ago. (Don't you just want to squeeze her?) Teresa is making me a new baby. I couldn't be happier. In fact, I'm suddenly in a hurry to finish Birch.


There's a wicked crop of babies breaking out around here, one in very short order...and I'd better be moving along. I designed a shawl to wrap the Snowdrop in when she was born, and I'll start thinking on something for this new baby. I've got until early November for that one. No trouble.

The other baby however, will be along in just a few weeks, and I know he's a boy. I'm perplexed about what to make him. I'm having trouble thinking of an appropriate gift for a baby who will be born at a time of year when knitted wear seems cruel.

I suppose I have two choices.

1. Ignore the time of year, knit the wee beastie an heirloom and don't worry about it. Winter comes, air-conditioning is overly enthusiastic from time to time and the thought is better than the reality anyway. A beautiful layette or blanket lasts forever, and the fact that it won't see much action in the first weeks of his life doesn't matter. (I don't know about this one. I think I could get over it with a blanket, since he won't outgrow a blanket....but a layette might be seriously stupid. What's the point of lovely lacy woollies that are on the kid once for the requisite picture? I feel bad about that anyway, I mean...no baby needs to be roasted for my thank you note.)

2. Figure something else out. Given that I don't like to knit cotton, (though to be fair, I haven't knit with *all* cottons) it would have to be an interesting something though. Suggestions?
What do you knit a summer baby boy?

Posted by Stephanie at 11:48 AM

June 14, 2005

Happy Birthday..to Me!

It is a Rule written in the book of Stephanie that I do not work on my Birthday. Thusly, today is a day off


that will look like this.

Last year on my Birthday Ken guest blogged. This year, my mother emailed me the following, which makes her this years guest blogger. (If you are an Andersen reading this, then you can save your breath. I know doing something twice makes it a tradition.)

Hello Dear:
I thought you might like a top ten list that you didn't write, so people
could get the real skinny on ya!

1. She is a kind, loyal, generous and giving person, even when she's not Harloting, or knitting. (I think these are different, at least some of the time, aren't they?).

2. She is a wonderful mother, daughter, aunt, niece, sister, partner and friend. AND she's easy to please, which may be her greatest gift.

3. Damn, she's funny. And that wicked genetic mouth!

4. I have never seen the Harlot panic. Well, okay, almost never. Rarely, then. Absolutely almost never twice in the same day. Totally never twice in the same day about the same thing. Except if there is a knitting deadline, like Christmas Eve, or a birthday, or something cataclysmic like that. Or a writing deadline. Or spiders. Or when those girls of hers drive her to it. The point is, she is in no way a drama queen. (see previous exceptions)

5. She has a most sunny and optimistic nature (see exception above), never holds a grudge, and returns to her sunny self faster than a speeding bullet, even whilst the on-lookers still have their hair straight-on-end from the blast.

5. She makes her family and friends the most wonderful gifts...beautiful, thoughtful, intricate gifts, that are always worth the wait for the second half, or the initial delivery.

6. She has big, gorgeous, curly hair, just like absolutely nobody else in the family. We love it. Even when it's muggy and bigger than a VW.

7. She is a multi-talented and competent woman, and we are proud of her. As a writer, advocate, knitter, spinner, cook, gardener, seamstress, handy-person, appliance-fixer, carpenter, gingerbread maker. You name it, she can do it, or she will get a book from the library and you'll never find out she didn't know how.

8. She is a sorcerer, who can very nearly make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. She can make a dollar scream for mercy, and turn a very few dollars into an exquisite present, an unbelievable kid's birthday party, the best costume ever, a garden, a piece of furniture, a funky room...whatever. And all the while, she'll never even once think to wish she had more money to make things easier.

9. She will find the good in almost anything or anyone and she works like a Trojan. We're not crazy about slackers around here, and Stephanie leads the way.

10.She can talk the ear off anyone, and has had that capability since the age of 18 months. And very nearly all of it makes sense, at least at the time.

Happy birthday, Stephanie. Harlot on!!!!!!

Love, Mum

Posted by Stephanie at 8:33 AM

June 13, 2005

Happy Birthday Mum!

The Birthday Parade continues over here at Chez Harlot, with today being the birthday of our esteemed Matriarch.


Mum is seen here wearing her brand spanking new Silk Vee, which fits and looks lovely on her. (You didn't really think that I was giving up on knitting Birch because it was hot, did you? I mean, c'mon, I laugh in the face of heat, I embrace air so thick you can see it, I mock humidex temperatures of 36/97. I care nothing that my hair is the size of a VW bus and I can scarcely knit for the enormous shadow that my freakishly frizzy hair throws across my work...I, I...Okay. It's a little warmish. I'm knitting mohair anyway. I thrive on adversity.)

Kindly ignore my Uncle Tupper lurking in the above photo. We have a problem taking good pictures of Mum. She looks lovely for about 2 seconds, then looses patience and looks away or talks. Really, the talking is the problem. Luckily, Tupp has been her brother long enough to know how to handle this McPhee trait.


That's really what it takes.

The top 10 reasons you should wish my Mum a Happy Birthday.
(Yeah...I know. Same format as for Ian. It's hot.)

10. The Silk Vee fits. (Ok, that's not really about her, but I'm really happy anyway.)

9. Mum is looking for her lost keys. I can write this in the present tense because I know that wherever she is and whatever she's doing right this minute, if we asked her for her keys we would be waiting a while.

8. Mum could run a country and never have unrest. She's the best mediator in the world, empathetic, respectful, honest and assertive.

7. There is no point in arguing with my mother. (See above.)

6. I have never seen my mother panic. Not once, and you have no idea what we've put her through. (Scroll down to point #2 from Ian's birthday, then use your imagination, then know that you are underestimating us.)

5. Mum makes a wicked ice cream float. (Oddly, I didn't know this until she was a grandmother. Funny that.)

4. Mum had 4 kids in 5 years, then raised us first while being hampered by a spouse with divergent goals, then on her own when he...er...."moved on". While she did this, she also got a degree from University and worked full-time to pay for the costs of the aforementioned 4 kids. Plus she did laundry. (If you are a mother of little ones, please know that the sharp intake of breath and then the low whistle that escaped you is normal and a healthy sign of respect for how totally tough that must have been).

3. She makes good cake, doesn't knit and somehow leads a full rich life anyway.

2. Damn she's funny.

1. She taught me about being practical, about being decent and about working hard. She also taught me how to write an essay, why you wash towels alone and what you do about slugs in the garden. Mum showed me that you can do absolutely anything if you can get a book from the library that shows how and that women are...well. I feel proud to be one. Mum also taught me manners, that you can't have too much bleach, and that it ain't a party 'till everybody's dancing.

Happy Birthday Mum. Hope you still have pie.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:39 AM

June 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Ian

10 reasons to wish my little brother a Happy Birthday.

10. He will let me take Birthday blog pictures. (Even though it is really pretty clear from this photo that this irritates him to no end.)


9. He picked a really nice wife. Ali is sweeter than pie. I will always be grateful to him for deciding to pledge his life to someone you actually want to see.

8. Ian shaves his head at random intervals. Like today.

7. Ian's cell phone ring is a chicken noise.

6. Ian worships at the altar of the felted clog, being the biggest fan of the noble footwear since the dawn of time. He thinks everybody who can knit them is pretty smart too...

5. He gardens and is a marvelous cook.

4. Ian has travelled all over the world, months in Europe, Africa...India. This means that he speacks 14 words of almost every language on earth ...and it means that he is an invaluable member of the McPhee family crossword team. (6 letter word - smallest of the African mainland states? Gambia. See? Ian would know that. He would also know that the guy who ran the hotel in Banjul, (the capitol of Gambia) had a sister who got married when she was 22. Ian really gets to know people.)

3. Ian is one of the hardest workers I have ever met.

2. Ian loves to set fire to things. (Mostly in his adult life, this is not a problem.)

1. Ian is (as Hank would say) "a pretty nice guy. He could be Spiderman."

Happy Birthday Dude.

I'm off to Columbus to sign books at TNNA, see you Monday.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:49 AM

June 10, 2005


I've finished the front of the Silk Vee


or have I? I have sneaking suspicions that this Vee is plotting a revolt. My feelings of unease started last night, when I finished the front and thought...


Doesn't that vee look a little shallow to you? See the distance from shoulder to armpit? That's only 7" and the vee is only 6". Doesn't that seem short? (Am I the only one thinking that it's possible that the thing stopping this from being a vision of elegance may be that your arms turn blue while you wear it, due to the circulation being cut off by the 7" armholes? Am I the only one worrying that it's pretty enough that I would wear it anyway?)

The instructions say that you should knit until the whole she-bang measures 20". I've done that. It also says that it will block to 24" in length when I wash it, which would make it long enough. What are the chances though, that enough of the 4" will make it into the straps to make them long enough? It seems like an enormous risk...What you think? Can I expect distance? How long should the straps be to avoid amputation?
I haven't cast off. I await input. Maybe I should wash it before seaming up....

In other news, the sock and I had a great time at Knit Wits (a very charming shop) in Greensburg PA.
We hobnobbed with the local knitters.


We met Harriet


who bought the book at an Air Force Base in TURKEY. (This impressed the sock to no end. Imaging my humble home dwelling book, written in this messy living room (by a knitter who gets lost on the way to the bathroom ) finding it's way to TURKEY. Who knew?

Remember the underbed storage bins that wouldn't fit under the bed? Remember how every American told me to go to "Bed, Bath & Beyond" to get mysterious "bed risers" to put under my bed? After receiving your sage council I phoned around. Not only does Canada apparently not have "Bed, Bath & Beyond", every shop that seemed like it would be like it answered my question about "bed risers" by saying "You want to do what with your bed?" Apparently "bed risers" (even if you call them "bed lifts") are in short supply in Canada. Imagine the thrill that the sock and I felt then, when we were driving through Pittsburgh and saw this.


I ran through the store like a woman on fire, practically dancing when I set eyes on the fabled "bed risers". They are mine.
(My apologies to the driver of the car, who clearly felt that anyone who could be excited enough about this store to leap from the car and take a picture of it was likely unhinged, and definitely excitable.) My bed will be higher shortly.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:52 PM

June 9, 2005

Too hot to handle

It's hot. It's too hot to knit Birch. I want to knit Birch, I love knitting Birch, but I'm here to tell you that Kid Silk Haze is the wrong thing for hot, sticky weather. I realized this yesterday afternoon when I noticed that my gauge had changed and the shawl had taken a turn for the tiny, because my sticky hands weren't letting the fine, fuzzy yarn slide on my fingers. Since Casa de Harlot has no air conditioning, I was a little put out. I don't have anything against hot weather, in fact...I really like it. The way I see it you are destined for misery if you live in Toronto and hate the cold and hate the hot. Toronto is a city of extremes. All winter long (What's that joke I kept hearing south of the border? Canada has 9 months of winter and 3 months where the skiing is a little off.") and the winter is admittedly long, I hear "It's so cold, it's too cold, I can't wait for summer." then the minute that summer arrives and it's 30 degrees (86 for my American friends) plus staggering humidity, you start to hear the opposite. "It's so hot, it's too hot....".
I say pick one....hate it more.
Me, I hate the winter. Loathe it. I hate that you need a big plan to go to the corner. I hate shovelling snow. I hate that if you lock yourself out of the house you could die before you have a new plan. In as much as winter is really glory days for the knitter...I could do with a little less. Therefore, I have made the carefully considered decision to hate winter more, and not say one little word about the heat, except as it pertains to Kid Silk Haze, which is clearly a cool weather yarn.

Lucky for me, Lettuce Knit had a brand spanking new delivery of this.

HandMaiden yarns (the HandMaiden is the daughter of my most sacred Fleece Artist) is producing a new line of yarns. This skein is enough to make a totally snazzy vee neck tank, in cool, slidey silk. (I understand that my decision to dump the beautiful and much coveted Birch for the first fancy-arsed yarn that waggles down the yarn shop isle at me makes me a fickle, fickle knitter. I'm ok with that, I switched teams as fast as I could wash off the cloud of mohair stuck to me. )


Considering that the sock is fine upstanding Canadian wool, I'm surprised that it's hot weather instincts are so good.


A shady corner of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, resting before doing this...


The Rosie's Yarn Cellar gang shows me their knitting. (Note: Rosie's does not have spectacular stained glass. Due to the tiny size of the shop, we met in a synagogue down the street, though if this really was a yarn shop, I would live there full time. ) Philadelphia is a beautiful city, and very, very different from Toronto. The narrow streets and architecture remind me more of Europe or Vieux Quebec and the sock and I were wildly charmed.


I leave you with this picture. Look closely. This is a group of knitters gathered together at "The Black Sheep" pub in Philly, enjoying knitting, beer each other's company and Juno's story about her birthday yarn. See the looks on their faces? The shock? The glee? The desperate, wild-eyed, excitement of knitters who understand her urges and wish they had her nerve?
This my knitterly friends, is the exact moment that Juno told them that on her birthday she had called Virtual Yarns to buy herself a sample card, a wee giftie to herself, and on discovering that they were all out, had done the only thing that a drunk knitter on a birthday high in desperate need of a yarn reference could do.
She ordered one skein of every possible colour.

Atta' girl.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:26 PM

June 7, 2005


The sock and I left Pittsburgh (which we actually thought was very pretty. I mean, you don't think "pretty" when you hear "steeltown", but it's been 30 years since Pittsburgh had steel and the city is lush, green and filled with rivers and bridges.) and headed for home.

We couldn't stop looking for home.


We were ecstatic to find it (and may have cracked a nice cold Canadian beer to celebrate).


This trip is remarkable in many ways. For the first time, I think I managed. It's not that I don't know how to travel (well, maybe it is) but I've always travelled with family. Joe knows half of the stuff and I know half of the stuff and when I need to know all of the stuff by myself....let's just say I have a new respect for Joe's half of the stuff.
(One of the Joe's things is luggage. I have to tell you that after slogging an enormous suitcase, the Remote Blogging System and my backpack through several airports that I have a new and grateful attitude toward this extraordinary contribution.) Knowing and doing all the stuff all the time is exhausting. Also remarkable is that this is the first leg of the tour where all parties concerned feel like they coped. Joe and the girls got on really well, totally getting their groove together. Also pretty unique is that this is the first time that I have got home that Joe has not met me with flowers in the airport. I take this as an incredible sign, since he didn't have time to get flowers because he was washing the kitchen floor instead. Joe may finally be catching on to the ideas behind the quote "No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes."

Finally, this trip is remarkable because the house is trashed, the laundry is mountainous, there is no food in the place...
and not one of us cares, not even a little bit. Not one. We are happy. We are together in our home, we are knitting Birch.


Oh wait...maybe that last one is just me.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:16 PM

The sock gets around

I'm beside myself, or near myself, or something. I'm so tired that I had to look at my birth certificate to be sure of my middle name today. It's a sorry excuse for not blogging, but when I get back to the hotel room I keep falling asleep by accident. I have a few minutes here in the Pittsburgh Airport (Did you know Pittsburgh *is* Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood?) so I'll tell you as much as I can before they call the flight. Here's what I've been doing.
Wednesday Evening I was at home in Toronto for this...


That's Sam playing the french horn. (She's really quite good.)


That's the sock figuring out how long the concert is. (It is important to use the schedule to work this out. It is impossible to properly judge the length of a school concert since they warp the time space continuum.) Wednesday evening was the last normal moment I remember.

Thursday afternoon:


The sock at Habu Textiles in New York City. Note the change in my location, Toronto - New York. (The sock loves Habu Textiles. It's like the best buffet in the world. You pick what you want from the sample skeins on the wall and then a lady disappears into the back and comes back with your stuff. It's like all you can eat for knitters. The sock suffered near fits when it realized that there was Shropshire laceweight to be had for about $1.37 per 307m. Cassie and I felt that the sock was not under-reacting, and we each now own....


a lot. Almost 3000m. I have conflicting feelings about this amount of yarn. I stood there in Habu trying to figure out if it was *too much*. During a weak moment I actually asked Cassie if she wanted to split one before we both came to our senses. At this price there was really no reason (except for that it's an incredible amount of yarn) to not have it. 3000m for less than $12 pushes some kind of button for me. I see the price, the world goes a little black around the edges, I see flashing visions of enormous lace extravaganzas and next thing I know I'm on a NY sidewalk with 3000m of laceweight and a slightly dizzy feeling. I dare a laceknitter to go in there and come out without it. (The new laceweight is seen here reclining gracefully on the carpet in the hotel. I have a theory that there is only on carpet supply place for all hotels. It is almost eerily identical everywhere I've been.)


The sock saw The Empire State Building. I really love NY, it reminds me of Toronto, except that it is so iconic that you are stunned at every turn. You round a corner and think "Oh, I've been here" then realize that it's really just that you have seen "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or that you watch way, way too much "Law and Order". It's a wonderful place. (I haven't forgotton I owe you the pictures from the first NY event.)

Reeling from our score, Cassie and I headed off to The Yarn Connection, a charming little local where I got nothing, but did work some voodoo on Cassie to get her to buy Kid Silk Haze for Birch. (We were back in the hotel room before she knew what had happened. I'm that good.) On the way back to the hotel we were walking along when I realize that I recognize a lovely wee baby in the stroller out front. I was trying to figure out what episode of "Law and Order" she was in when it hits me...


It's baby Jaime from CurlsandPurlsNYC! With her is her charming Mummy Elisabeth, who I didn't recognize straight off, but that baby!
What a treat. (Lets try to overlook that knitbloggers are now roaming the streets in sufficent numbers to run into each other at random moments, and that I can recognize the daughter of a complete stranger at 10 paces, and that I made an innocent babe hold the sock. It was lovely.)

Whoops....there's my flight. More when my feet are on the ground.
Goodbye Pittsburgh, it's been a slice.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:25 AM

June 1, 2005

Whoa there...

I had today's entry all ready to go when I noticed that Carrie had made a comment on yesterday's entry that needed addressing.
There's no point in pretending that this won't cause some reaction, so I'm just going to meet it head on. We are all just going to deal with this like adults with respect for each other. (This will likely be hardest for me, since I'm not very adult on a good day, but let's give it a try.)

Yesterday I wrote about the quilt code. Several people wrote to tell me that they felt it was folklore/legend/inaccurate.

Emmajane felt badly that this was being discounted and replied to those people.
Now, whatever happened after this, it is important to know that what Emma meant was that she has the perspective of someone who has visited the cairn and spoken to it's creator...she did not mean to imply any race based perspective, and I don't believe that she did.
She said she had a different perspective, and she does. We all do.

In response to this, Carrie clearly got her buttons pushed and wrote a strong reply. Firstly, I'm not going to ban her. I've had a few rules on this blog, and though I've never had to use them, since I really enjoy healthy debate, maybe now is a good time to let you all know what they are, right quick before this gets any bigger.

1. This blog is my virtual living room. Welcome. Please act as you would in my home.
2. The internet is made up of real people with real feelings that need respecting.
3. Everyone has a right to an opinion, even if it differs from mine. As long as you state your opinion without impinging on the right of another person to hold an opposite view and are respectful of them as people, you are fine.
This concept needs to be really clear, so I'll give you an example.
Fine: I believe that my politics/ cats/ my straight needles are better than other politics/ hamsters/ circular needles and they are all I will ever, ever use or believe in.
Not Fine: I believe that my politics/ my cat /my straight needles are better than your politics/ your hamster/ your circular needles and if you don't think so too, then you are stupid.

Back to the problem at hand. Carrie and Emmajane are illustrating for us a main drawback of the internet. The lack of interruption. If Carrie and Emmajane had begun this conversation on the phone or in my real living room, Carrie would have only got the first sentence out before Emmajane would have had a chance to say
"Holy crap, that's *SO* not what I meant to imply!" and Carrie would have said,
"Oh, oh really? *That's* what you meant? Oh, my....nevermind."

Since they are both reasonable, intelligent people who seem to be able to communicate well enough to get through something like this, then they would have had a talk, possibly a debate about the quilt code and the evidence in both directions and agreed to disagree. Instead, well. We could be keeping score here.

Emmajane would have lost a point for not being perfectly clear (although really....I don't know how I would feel about my score most days) and Carrie would have lost a point for reacting strongly without more information and clarification about Emmajane and her views.

That said, I do think that if Carrie re-reads Emmajane's comment that she'll realize that she may have picked up a little more steam than she intended and gotten off on a really good rip that might have been over the line. (We all know that I am exactly the sort of person this happens to, so I am sympathetic). Since these sorts of misunderstandings are common on the internet, and all it really takes to reel them back in is fresh perspective, I will hope that it ends here.

Finally, about the Quilt Code (who knew it was such a loaded topic?) all I will say is the following.

There are those who believe that the quilt code was not real. There are those who believe that it was. Since the continuation of humanity does not actually hinge on discovering the truth about this, I have made a simple choice. I chose, during my visit to the Black History Cairn in Owen Sound to respect the right of the Black Community there to tell their story the way that they believe it to be true. You may tell your history the way you believe it to be true as well.

I have a flight to New York tomorrow to begin the next leg of the bookbookbooktour and today will be spent getting ready, if by "getting ready" you understand that I mean "buying groceries that I will not eat" "cleaning a bathroom that I will not use" and "doing laundry I will not wear". I have this idea that if I leave Team Harlot in good shape, when I come back the damage won't be so astonishingly complete bad. At the best of times the house looks like it's been ransacked by an army of drunken Roman Warriors, (after the pillaging, but before the burning) but when I come back it looks like I should contemplate an insurance claim.

Tomorrow's flight takes me to New York for BEA, then Rosie's Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia on Sunday from 2-4 and Knit-Wits Inc. in Greensburg PA on Monday from 5-7.
(Details...as always, are on the tour page, and also as always I am excited and flipped out. Is anybody free Saturday evening in Philadelphia? I am.... )

More about wool tomorrow, Play nice.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:00 PM