July 29, 2005

Welcome

Please join me in welcoming Sam, son of Jacqui and Dan, and little brother to the charming Max.

Sam

Sam (after running about a week late) decided to make up for his reluctance to join us by breaking a landspeed record for labour, making the trip from first contraction to his mum's arms in 49 minutes flat, despite weighing in at a very respectable 9lbs, 3oz. A moment of awe for his mother is appropriate.
As promised....

Sam's Blanket.

Materials: I used 4 skeins of Patons Berber Cotton, a discontinued light worsted weight 100% cotton with 210 metres per skein. I used every last inch, so you can expect to need about 840 metres.
I used 4mm needles, but you should use whatever will get you a
gauge of 20 stitches to 10cm.

This blanket uses a very popular stitch pattern, found in virtually all of my stitch dictionaries, with different names in each one. There's a lesson in that. You can pick any stitch you like from a dictionary and alternate it with the stockinette squares, altering the size of the stockinette square to match the stitch count of your lace square.
Easy.

Cast on 176 stitches and knit 9 rows, then knit 1 row, increasing 5 stitches evenly across. (181 stitches)
Begin pattern:
Row 1. K15 *(yo, K2tog) 4 times, K10. Repeat from * across row until 4 stitches remain. K4
Row 2 (AND ALL WRONG SIDE ROWS) K5, Purl to last 5, K5
Row 3 K14 * (SSK, YO) 4 times, K10. Repeat from * across row to last 5 stitches, K5
Row 5 as row 1
Row 7 as row 3
Row 9 as row 1
Row 11 as row 3
Row 13 (This row begins the blocks in the alternate space)
K6 *(YO, K2tog) 4 times, K10. Repeat from * til 13 stitches remain. (YO, K2tog) 4 times, K5
Row 15 K5, *(SSK, YO) 4 times K10. repeat from * until 14 sts remain. (SSK, YO) 4 times, K6
Row 17 - as row 13
Row 19 - as row 15
Row 21 - as row 13
Row 23 - as row 15
Row 24 - as all wrong side rows.

Repeat rows 1- 24 until you are sick to death of it, the baby arrives or you start to run out of yarn. (All of these things happened at the same time for me, and the blanket was roughly square, 90cm X 90cm) When you've had it, end on a row 12 or 24.

Knit one row, decreasing 5 stitches evenly across.
Knit 9 rows....cast off. Wrap around the nearest baby.

Sam also got himself a pair of bee shoes, but even at 9lbs, he's not big enough to fill them out.

Sambee

In other news...this one's for my Mum, who chewed me out last night because some friends in BC didn't know I was coming there on the tour. This perplexed me, since I know the friends in question read the blog (Hi Diane! Hi Barb!). I said to my Mum "Don't they read the blog Mum?" and my mother replied "Well of course they do dear, but they just read it. They aren't going to do all of that ridiculous clicking around". Apparently clicking on the tour page is "ridiculous clicking around" and completely gratuitous. A waste of effort. A very big deal. My mother (who is a Westerner, born in BC and lived in Calgary) claims that I must post where I will be right on this page of the blog.

Therefore...in order to avoid forcing anyone to do any of that "clicking around", and to pacify my mum, the dates and locations I will be in Western Canada:

August 6th - Vancouver, 32 Books (3185 Edgemont Blvd) 2:30 PM
(Whoops! That event is sponsored by 32 Books, but I'll do it at the Capilano Library. Mea Culpa.)
August 8th - Edmonton, 7:30pm Audrey's Books (10702 Jasper Ave.)
August 9th - Calgary, 7:00pm McNally Robinson Books (120 8th Ave SW).
August 10 - Winnipeg, 7:00pm McNally Robinson Books (1120 Grant Ave. #4000)

At all of these I'll be doing a talk and then a signing. (Happy Mum? No clicking around.) I am, by the way, completely terrified that I will be absolutely alone at the Canadian events. I worry simply because of the difference in population...1 Canadian to every 10 Americans, but also there exists a phenomenon in here in my beloved home that some call "Canadian Reticence". I don't like that term, since I think it implies some sort of uncaring or lack of feeling, and I don't know many Canadians who fit that description.
Instead, I think that the effect is caused by the Canadian celebration of "Reason over passion" as a national ideal.

"Reason over passion" is why celebrities like Brad Pitt can shop for Cheese in Toronto without anyone speaking to them. It's why Rex Murphy can pick up his passport and we will all pretend we don't know him. It's why cheerleading wasn't invented in this country and frankly....why the Canadian Distributor was reluctant to book a tour for me in Canada at all. Canadians are infinitely reasonable, polite and practical. (Also funny. Man, Canadians are funny.) This makes them way less likely to attend...well. Anything. They will read the book, love the book and then, when an author comes to town...they will mow the lawn. It's not a lack of love or enthusiasm, it's simply Reason over passion. The lawn needs mowing, and you wouldn't want to intrude on an authors signing. Wouldn't want to bother them.

I told the Distributor that knitters were different, that knitters had a sense of community and that they would take any chance to hang out and talk about knitting, (especially if it gets them out of mowing the lawn.) and they took me at my word. Now I feel worried.
I don't know many folks in the west, and the Distributor isn't quite as hooked into the knitting scene (though they are hardworking) as Sarah-the-wonder publicist, and the stuff is all booked and I'm going somewhere where I don't know anybody and I'm completely unescorted and I'm really starting to be freaked out when I imagine the sound of my own voice echoing nauseatingly through an empty bookstore.
Do me a favour will ya? If you live in the West and you're coming out, drop me a line....though if you have to mow the lawn, I totally get it.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:48 PM

July 27, 2005

Life's a bowl of...

Cherries.

Cherries

If I thought that last years crop was a substantial problem, then I can't even begin to tell you about this year.
There are millions. I feel confident about that number. Millions. This year I am spared having to pick, pit and cook them all (which is good, since it almost cost my my sanity last summer) since the extreme heat and humidity of Toronto's record breaking summer has spoiled the crop, almost literally steaming them on the tree. One day they were almost ripe, the next they had rotted on the tree. There was simply not time to get them in, despite my best efforts. (I admit that my best efforts were, considering that it was 42/107 degrees outside, sort of pathetic. Mostly, this effort consisted of going outside with a bowl, raising my arm above my head, then trying to remember why I was there, then feeling faint and having to go in. Hard to make progress.)

The front garden is entirely covered in a fine layer of cherries past their prime, much the way that snow blankets the country side. I have managed to delude myself into thinking that the cherries in the garden are "compost". They are not. What they are is 10 000 cherry pits that will make bold attempts to grow into trees over the next year. Hundreds and hundreds will sprout up and I will pull up all but five.

I will have no intention of leaving those five, but somehow they will manage to hide under perennials in the garden until suddenly one day, while I am weeding tiny little cherry trees, I will see these five, which have grown in magical seclusion until they are the size of volvos.

I will, naturally, be unable to pull them up. I will get the shovel and I will maul half of my miniscule front garden to death engaging in a battle of epic proportions to get a young cherry tree with roots that clearly go below the crust of the earth out from beside my rose, my phlox or my lilies. I will cut them back to the ground and dig out bits of them and fight with them and pick all of their leaves off out of spite. I will wish that I could poison them, since several years of this means that my front garden is slowly becoming a cherry orchard. ( I know at least one of you guys is going to tell me that it's ok to use such a tiny amount of a herbicide, but there's not point in trying to convince me. It is not my usual tree-hugging softness that keeps me from poisoning them, it is Toronto Law. "Roundup" and other chemicals like them are illegal. I've contemplated doing a little selective "importing" on one of my trips to the States but aside from me being too pretty to go to prison, it turns out that the evidence that it kills more that plants is undeniable.)

In the end, confronted with several large bushes in my front garden I will have no choice but to do what everybody does.
Hang knitting on them for blog pictures. (What? You know you would).

Stillstripes

This is still the Highland Triangle Shawl from Folk Shawls, and it is still striping. I'm onto the second ball of yarn, and the rows are longer...I'm almost done this part actually, and it is still striping. Even though the laws of geometry say that this is impossible, I have decided not to think very much about the striping and what it means and to instead be very relieved that the universe respects my need for order enough to give it to me, even when I attempt to reject it.

On another cherry interloper,

Rovingg

Tuesdays are for spinning and these rovings for Joe's gansey are fresh off the carder. I'm also spinning the solid colours so that I can stripe the border of the Highland Triangle (how ironic is that?) but I won't bore you with a picture of it. (Hint. It is almost identical to the last time I showed you.

This young cherry tree holds the socks I began in Memphis.

Onetoe

These have been resurrected, since I could no longer live with the stupidity of having an unfinished pair of socks around when they only need one stinking toe. Who waits months to knit a toe? Seriously. Just a toe? It's like...22 ever decreasing rounds. Who quits then? It's embarrassing. This has got to be proof that Margene is right, and knitting is about the process...since I obviously don't give a crap about having socks or I would have spent the half hour and had myself a pair of socks months ago. I don't mind being the kind of knitter who has a lot on the go, which is good, because I can't seem to come up with fibre monogamy (read the title of the blog) and I really don't need another way to disappoint myself, but I really have to wonder about what's going on with my psyche when I bail out this close to the end. How embarrassingly close to the end of something have you gotten stalled? Why?

Finally, I give you this. It would seem that certain people in this house, have discovered a way to wear the unbearably darling ladybird bootees even though they have feet the wrong size. These people have been wearing various little insect shoes in this manner for days now, and have only been deterred from this practice by the threat of open blogging of their behaviour.
Remember. We have no idea who these people are, and as long as they don't put their hands on my little shoes again, there will be no reason to reveal them for the bootee stealing maniacs they really are.

Ears1

Ear2

Ear3

We will never speak of this again.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:30 PM

July 26, 2005

Flashback

Since the BBB (boring baby blanket) and I are still....well. Boring. How about some pictures from my first visit to New York City? (I told you I would get around to it. It takes me a while, but I get there. I haven't forgotten Boston. I'll do it soon.)

New York was one of the first things that I did for the book and I was awestruck.

Thesocksview

I was worried because I kept getting all these emails from all these people who said "Seriously...you're speaking at Lord & Taylor?"
Several of the more convinced and concerned suggested that I double check with Sarah-the-wonder-publicist and see if she was maybe a) smokin' the stash (if you know what I mean) b) being misled by cruel New York Corporate types. c) Wrong.

I wasn't worried because I didn't know what Lord & Taylor was. (If I had, I would have been deeply concerned.)
Lord & Taylor (it turns out) is an old and established department store. The kind that sells "foundation garments on the 8th floor" and has the ladies who spritz you with perfume (if you are slow) on the way in.

As I walked through Lord & Taylor, accompanied by several official people at all times (they must have noticed me sizing up the exits) I started to worry. I knew there would be a microphone. I didn't like that idea. I knew there would be people. Usually I kind of like people, especially knitting people, but all of a sudden I didn't like that either. I made a mental note of the elevator location (always know the way out.) and stepped onto the 11th floor....and there were knitters. Tons. Lined up. (I will admit that for a minute I wondered who they were there to see.) I was hustled by the wranglers (Plural. I must look like trouble) into a back room where I signed about 250 copies of the book in 30 minutes. (Adrenaline. I'm sure of it.)

Now I don't know how I looked to those knitters. (Probably pale and weird. Oh, and sweaty. Let's not forget sweaty.) but this is how it looked if you were me.

Crowdny1

Crowdny2

Crowdny3

Scary eh?
The after part was a hoot...I met knitters and bloggers and the friends of knitters and bloggers....there were so many that the world whirled quickly around me....oh, that may have been the wine.

The Ladies of the Drafty Table (the best knitting group name ever)

Draftytable

Our lady Kay (and a friend of hers who was completely charming, and who's name I have forgotten. I was a little overwhelmed.)

Kayny

more bloggers....Juno, Cassie and Cassie, New York fabulousness.

3

It was big, it was scary, it was incredible, it was....New York.
All of a sudden I feel nervous again.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:00 PM

July 22, 2005

Stop me

I must make small shoes.

Ladybird

I need to make small shoes.

Ladybird2

Small shoes that resemble insects.
Don't even try to stop me.
I can't stop myself.
Small shoes.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:42 PM

July 21, 2005

Small wonders

So, if you are sort of annoyed because:

1. There are still a lot of people in your office, (47 days until the first day of school) and they don't. Shut. Up.

2. If yesterday you realized that really, most people driving cars really aren't being careful about cyclists and that they actually are trying to kill you.

3. that even though these people are trying to kill you...somehow they still believe that it would be wrong for me to haul off and kick their car right after they tried to kill me. (Oh, excuse me, did I bother your enormous steel weapon with my BODY?)

4. That you are having actual real conversations with your husband about how he sort of resents that your opinion that Mike the family hamster probably doesn't mind growing older on account of he has "a brain the size of a lentil", and that your husband resents this because he actually believes that the hamster is (and I quote) "Smart, charming and funny" (and by funny he means not that he finds the hamster amusing, but that he believes that the hamster has an actual sense of humour.....)

5. That you have six (6) loads of unfolded but clean laundry on your bed that you have been moving around for 6 days. Each day you put a load on the bed, then bug someone under the age of 16 to fold it until nightfall, then move it to the dresser so you can sleep in your bed, then move it back in the morning and add another load.

That if all of these things are totally bugging the crap out of you and you are starting to think about blender drinks by about 1:20 in the afternoon....then knitting a tiny little pair of bee shoes can totally take the edge off.

Bee1

I found it impossible to have any concerns more pressing than Bee Shoes while I was making them. Look! Bee shoes!
(knit from mystery stash sock yarn (something woolly and sock weight) pattern from 50 Baby Bootees To Knit. )

Bee2

Also, I am caught up with adding names and numbers to Knitters Without Borders, so more presents!
Paula sends this wonderful Manos,

Manos

Leila W., enjoy!

Takeback

and Jae has given a copy of the second edition of her fab Zine
"Take back the Knit". I love this little homespun mag, and this time it's even better. I've got a little piece in there, and there are patterns or pieces from, Robyn, Laura, Birdsong, Jodi, Monika, Missy, Kristin, Ann & Kay, Erin, MK, Julie, and Michael among others. Despite the clear plan for bloggers to take over the world, my good friend and local non-blogging knit-genius Denny managed to get in there too.
Jill C. I hope you love it.

Finally, from me...A copy of The Stich & Bitch Knitters Design Journal that I'll pop in the mail to Leanne C.

Stichjournal

Tune in tomorrow to see if I finish the blanket or knit more little shoes. (I'm trying to be a better person.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:47 PM

July 20, 2005

Knitters do it for love

So I was over chez Lee Ann reading her latest entry (what baby blanket?) when it hit me. That Lee Anne is brave. Really brave. She is not afraid to walk right up to the line and just stand there...wind blowing in her hair, mohair trailing out behind her....spindle and needles held aloft oozing confidence (in both national languages) wearing a tee-shirt that proudly reads "I take knitting risks".
(You thought I was going to say that she was edging up to the crazy line for spinning in bed, didn't ya? Non, non mes petites tricoteuses, a descent into spinning all hours of the day and night with no regard for the appearance of sanity is normal. Lee Ann is right on track with that. I don't consider loosing sleep or spinning in odd places to be strange. I would however feel that she was ready to check in at the Ha-Ha Hilton if she was dropping her spindle off at
Caroline's house, feeling truly that she was bored with it.)

What did she do? What feat of daring-do did she accomplish? How is it that I think she is an extreme knitter?
She knit La Petite Autoritaire (otherwise known as her six year old daughter) a poncho. Not just any poncho, but a poncho with a lace edge in a colour that Lee Ann's daughter selected and Lee Ann affectionately referred to as "pony puke" since it was exactly the variegated series of colours that one would expect to find outside the bar where
Fluttershy My Little Pony got trashed on a Saturday night after finding out that Butterfly Island Pony has been engaged in a filthy pink affair with Twilight Twinkle pony, just because she has sparkles on her arse and he can't just get a hobby like knitting to deal with his fetid little mid-life pony crisis....but I digress.)

Pony1Pony2

(By the way? There is an international "My Little Pony Convention". Who knew?)

She knit this poncho for the small, powerful, arc-en-ciel obsessed one and I respect her for it. I personally have knit things that I didn't like for people that I love, it's all about the sacrifice and I can totally get behind it...but the pony puke poncho was special. The pony puke poncho was so out of the realm of what Lee Ann would usually knit that I actually witnessed her struck senseless by it.
She would push the poncho away on her lap, stare at it and then say "Does this match? I can't even tell if this matches...does the edge colour go with the puke? Is this ok? Is this cute or ugly?" She was actually rendered opinionless by it. That's love.

Now remember that she did all this for someone who is six. I know, I know. Six year olds are charming and little and who wouldn't knit them anything they wanted...but think of this.
They change their minds. They reject things on a whim. They forget they liked pony puke ponchos enough to beg for one, it doesn't matter to them how long you knit on it and they care nothing for your reputation or portfolio as a knitter.

Lee Ann could totally have knit this thing out of the yarn that La Petite Autoritaire selected, and slogged away on it for hours and hours, suffering dizzy spells and nausea from the unaccustomed exposure to a colourway that she would normally...well. Her last sweater was blue. Plain, respectable, upstanding blue and when I met her she was dressed head to toe in black. That's yarn color whiplash just begging for a start and Lee Ann didn't just knit this quietly in the privacy of her own living room where if it all went wrong we could just pretend it never happened..non, non
...M'as te dire quelque chose, she knit it on the internet, in public, in other provinces, at Stitch and Bitches....all for love.

That's brave, because if the little lady had decided to conveniently "forget" that she wanted a rainbow pink poncho, or if she had still wanted a rainbow pink poncho but decided somehow that what Lee Ann had knit was NOT a rainbow pink poncho and refused to wear it out of protest, or if it had been too small or too big or if the neck had been chokey or the hem to swingy or the lace had too many holes or the purple wasn't the same as the purple that she imagined or if she refused to believe that this was indeed a poncho knit from the yarn she had chosen....if any of those things had gone wrong....

It would have been for nothing. Nothing at all. While there's nothing wrong with knitting a pony puke pink and purple petite poncho if it makes you happy....there's a lot of bitterness you'd have to get over if you hated every minute of it and had done it for no reason at all.
That's a knitterly kind of brave.
What will you knit for love? What will you not knit for love? Will you cross your personal line of good taste for the happiness of another?
Well?

Posted by Stephanie at 10:41 AM

July 19, 2005

How can you miss it?

From the number of comments I got yesterday saying that you all couldn't see my mistake in the baby blanket, I can imagine several things.

1. This was not a glaring mistake.
I am rejecting this idea. This mistake was massive. Look.

Error

In the lace square there are four travelling stitches. The zig-zag their way up the square as in the bottom example.
What I did was zig, then zag...then haul off and instead of zig-zagging....I ZIG-ZIGGED.
See? That's the mistake. It's the whole wrong direction, plan and vowel between two consonants. I don't know how you could miss it.

2. Maybe I didn't convey the scope of the mistake. I did this on every square, all the way across the blanket. That's not one bad square, that's like....TEN squares that you would have to ignore. When I start to think about just leaving a mistake I repeated TEN times....I feel like maybe I'm starting to wheeze.

I could leave (maybe...maybe I could leave) one little square that wasn't up to snuff, but a really huge honking mistake the size of Chicago repeated ten times? I bet if you laid the blanket out in my front yard, you could see the mistake from space...like the Great Wall of China or....Christina Aquilera's breasts. You can't ignore that. I bet it would give the baby a rash. Effect their developing and eventual sense of style, or worse, convince them that an anal retentive obsessive desire to have everything perfect all the time to do good work and commit to high standards isn't a fine quality.

That's why I fixed the mistake. It's also why, now that I have painstakingly spent hours fixing every single instance of the error, it's why....

Again

Now that I have repeated the exact same error....
I will have to fix it again. A thousand curses.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:11 PM

July 18, 2005

Pretty darn good

You know what? London (Ontario) was pretty darn good. I worry about these things. (You may or may not have noticed, it's a really subtle thing) but I tend to worry. A lot. Even though this is about the 25th shop I've been to in 4 months, and about the 20th talk I've given about knitting, and even though I have met about 2000 knitters while I'm doing this, and it's always been fine, I worry.

I don't know what I think is going to happen, but I imagine all sorts of problems. As we were driving to London, I imagined a knitter who heckles me. A knitter who thinks I'm all wrong, a knitter who seriously takes knitting seriously and thinks I'm being seriously disrespectful. I imagine they take me on about this. I imagine power-blackouts, stalkers (Sort of a Kathy Bates "wronged by knitting type" who has been driven insane by an attempt to get gauge on a Starmore and somehow holds me responsible) or a dude who has problems, highspeed access and completely disgusting -if inventive, urges toward my fleece stash. I imagine traffic jams that make me late, that I'll forget my notes...that I'll throw up, get lost, say something horrible, swear...forget the name of the shop owner who's busting themselves for me.(Ellen. Ellen. Ellen.) or forget how to knit. That last one may not be so far out there.

On the way to the shop I was knitting along, looked down and saw this:

Duh

See that? Where I've managed to upset myself so badly that I have somehow, somehow forgotten, even though this blanket is immense, unending and perpetual, even though I've knit about four MILLION of these little lace blocks and they are simple as pie....even though I was sitting in a car, looking right at the knitting....I have apparently forgotten how to knit a square.

This does nothing to increase my confidence. I'm on my way to face up to all these knitters (who are insane. By now I am sure they are insane) and I can't knit a square. They are going to beat me to death with my own book.

I started trying to fix it (You know. Before I get to London and my cover is blown.) but I ran out of time. We got there, I got in front of everybody, and I took a picture of all the lovely London Knitters.
This is them.

Crowd1

Crowd2

They look normal enough, don't they? I talked, I didn't throw up, then we went next door to the yarn shop and did my favourite part. The knitters. I signed books, I talked with knitters, I got to see everyones knitting....I confessed about the baby blanket. (The knitters said the baby won't care. I think this particular baby is worth the trouble though...so I'm going to fix it.) It was lovely.

I met Dianne, and saw Aara again. (She had come to the Afghanalong party) I met Carolyn (who has a picture on her blog), and Cara

Cara

and Brainylady.

Brainylady


and I am obsessive and worried for nothing because they are all charming and clever and funny and decent and not trying to steal my yarn at all. (Much. That Brainylady is pretty tricky though. Fast too.)

The sock met all of these charming knitters and many more and was happy, though feels sad that it did not yet have an opportunity to do anything that would qualify it for this challenge. Extreme knitting? I'm so your knitter. (I can't be the only person who thinks that Teri is a genius and this is going to be way fun....right? Don't hurt yourselves trying.)

Finally, as I wander off to place my knitting in harms way (or possibly make a tiny little parachute and some sort of sock harness....)

Happy Birthday Norma!

Do me a favour and hop over and wish our Norma a happy day, will ya? Nothing says Happy Birthday like having your comments explode.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:43 AM

July 15, 2005

I'm so random it hurts

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when spinning the cotton candy batt I took many deep breaths, leapt off the deep end and spun and plied it randomly? I said "No, heck no" to being overcontrolling and manipulative with the fibre. I let go. I let it be what it wanted to be. I embraced randomness. I rolled in the vague, I allowed the fibre to drift as fate would have it, becoming only what it dreamed of in it's secret silky/mohair heart. I let the will of the wheel take it down an unguided path and left room for whatever would happen. Bring on the aimless, indiscriminate colour change, ply against yourself at will. Be whatever your little wild self wants to be. I freed it. I let go and spun in an unscientific and haphazzard way and I vowed to cope with the result. I clasped the wildness and I spun.
I got this.

Random-

Stripes. Huh. There may be the tiniest little, wee chance that I am not embracing randomness on a subconscious level.

I cannot be alone in wondering what will happen as the shawl gets larger and the stripes get narrower and narrower. Will it stop striping completely? Will the second ball of yarn not stripe? Will I end up with something only partially organized in a random way? If my randon spinning is organized, what will happen if I try to make organize the random to keep it appearing organized...Will any attempt to organize the forthcoming randomness to make it appear less random than the really random spinning which appears organized in a random way be a good idea? This is starting to hurt a fair bit.
It also makes me wonder about the yarn that I didn't spin randomly because I wanted to knit stripes.....What was the point of that?

Gina writes in the comments:

So it's in my mind just lately to learn to spin ...how did you know? I need the wise opinion of all you spinners, please. I'm thinking of learning on a drop spindle. I'll do my homework, get a cd or a video (cuz I've never seen it done), buy GOOD stuff to work with, and I'm visiting a fiber fair this fall where I hope to further things along. What do you think?

So what do we say to that? I know there's a lot of interest in learning to spin out there...if the blogosphere is any measure, Knitters are getting lured by spinning faster than a 16 year old boy can slam his magazine shut when his Mum comes in, and I can't resist the idea of someone else being drawn into the consuming happiness (please ignore the first part of this post) that is spinning. What is your advice to Gina? Start with a spindle? What fibre? Was there a book you found useful? A person? Lay it on. We'll enable the daylights out of Gina.

TrickyTricot would like me to pass along the message that Menknit.net is still looking for submissions to their Zine. Hop by Tricky's blog for details, the MenKnit submission page seems to be down. (I've linked to it in case it goes back up.)

Finally, to all the London (and Ontario) knitters I'll see tomorrow...
I can't wait. Ken's giving me a ride and I'll bring the sock.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:02 AM

July 14, 2005

Spinning off...

I wasn't going to post today, (now that my very will to live has been restored by the miracle of modern air-conditioning and my production has picked right up) but I was inspired by Cassie and a whole other bunch of people, mostly new spinners I have known and loved.

Cassie wrote about the new spinners urge to save good stuff for later, when you are a better spinner, and how she didn't really get behind that theory a whole lot. I couldn't agree more.

While (clearly) I have no issues with hoarding lovely fibres (and clearly, neither does Cassie) until their day comes, I also think that there is a great deal to be said for learning to spin with the best materials you can afford.
Nobody needs to be hindered by things that are barely usable, and nobody needs to feel that they are a crappy spinner (or just more crappy than they actually are, since we all suck in the beginning and it is only the length of time that we are sucking for that is really variable among learners). Good fibre makes good yarn.

Good things inspire you. Good things get you to try harder. Good fibre actually helps you spin. Beautiful fibre gives you something to live up to.

Crap fibre depresses you, frustrates you and encourages you to give up and (in the less determined) could cause a fledgling spinner to wander off entirely, thinking that they obviously aren't meant for this...given that they keep turning out crap yarn. Even the best spinner is going to end up with crap yarn if you start with crap fibre, except at least they are going to know why they apparently suck so hard.

Luckily, there is a practice among spinners, an unspoken code of fibre giving. When a previously normal person gets sucked into the inevitable hole takes up spinning, it is common practice for every other spinner within earshot of the event to take a moment, scour the fibre stash and send a little bit of something wonderful off to inspire the intrepid newbie. Guilds do it, pressing delicious samples on the learner, clubs do it, and the internet does it with gusto, often inundating the newly pledged with bits and pieces of wonderful things, merino, silk, flax and cotton all show up on your doorstep, hand-dyed, plain, roving, sliver, bumps....it is all pressed into your grateful hands with only the lovely phrase "here, try this" to accompany it. The new spinner tries all these things, gets experience, and learns what they like and may invest in.

It's a wonderful expression of mentorship, and all that you are expected to do in return is to pass on something good..knowledge or fibre...when you have the chance. Brilliant.
Has anyone mentored you with a gift of fibre?

Now that it's cool enough in the house to move your legs without growing woozy and fainting dead away from the exertion, I spent a little time plying up the latest of Joe's gansey wool.

Twog

To prove to some people (cough-Rams-cough) that I haven't been just showing the same measly skeins over and over again....

G6

a group shot. That brings the total to about 950m, or roughly (I feel weak when I type this) somewhere between a third and halfway to the finish line. (Yeah. It's been a year. That's what I have after a year.)

Finally, I give you a picture of my evening last night.

Evening

My pre-cambrian period digital camera can't quite capture the event, but spontaneously, we had the best evening in the backyard. Sultry heat (now far more tolerable, knowing we can go inside to the air-conditioner) fresh summer berries with cream, good pasta with warm ripe tomatoes and cheese, wine (Laurie, it was a very nice burgundy) and my daughters and a visiting friend from away filled the heavy night-blossom scented air with the Swallowtail Reel, played on fiddle and whistle.
I knit.
(It's amazing what a tiny little window air-conditioner can do to restore a love of summer.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:53 PM

July 13, 2005

Sorry Rick.

Rick Mercer (of This hour has 22 minutes fame, host of Monday Report and Talking to Americans) has signed on as the spokesdude for The One Tonne Challenge. Every Canadian, in order to meet our Kyoto responsibilities and....well, be just a little bit smarter, is being asked to cut our Green House Gas emmisions (GHGs) by one tonne. The average Canadian produces 5 tonnes of GHGs every year. (The average American produces even more..about six tonnes). We are already a very low emitting family. ( I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking "Why Steph, if you guys already are meeting the goal, why would you cut back even more?" Good point, but I'm trying to make up for the weenies who have their air conditioning set so low that they need sweaters in the house, (though I am usually very pro sweater) and still can't imagine anything they could give up). In fact, when I saw Rick on the TV asking me to do my bit, I hustled over to the website and looked at the suggestions for cutting back. We were already doing most of it...and the only thing that we could really do to cut further was to give up the air conditioning.

We have a little window air conditioner that we run to cool our whole wee house. It works great, but really, we pondered, was it necessary? Did we really, really need one? Considering how short the summer is, that we have many fans....did we really, really need to be wreaking the planet for the sake of a little bit of comfort?
No way. We nobly sucked it up and didn't install it this year. Rick, we are onside with this whole plan let me tell you.

Then it got hot. Stupid hot. Record breaking hot. It's been so hot here that you can't breathe. (Or that may be the record breaking smog alerts...hard to tell really.) So far this summer we have had 16 heat alerts (10 extreme heat alerts). Temperatures are hovering around the 35 degree mark (that's 95 for my American friends) and because the humidity has been relentless and hair enlarging, the humidex temperature has been reading in the 40's. (105). We are sticky. We are miserable. We have been taking cold baths and trying to lie still with a fan blowing on us all day. I took a book on a Raw Food diet out of the library to avoid turning on the stove. Our long haired black cat hasn't moved from the tile of the kitchen in days. We are getting nothing done, feeling ill, and Rick? We can't do it.

Now, I cannot tell you how much guilt I feel about letting Rick and the planet down, (Rick? Is your air on?) and I am simply bitter about the irony that I am being forced by climate change to contribute to climate change, but this morning Joe and I installed the air conditioner and I have to tell you....it is good. If the overtaxed hydro system burns out later this afternoon, plunging all of Toronto into a powerless blackout that lasts for hours....
It will have been worth the sweet hours working on my laptop seated directly in front of the merciful air conditioner. Take me, I'm yours.

So I'm sorry Rick, but I had no choice...
It was too hot to knit.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:19 PM

July 12, 2005

Being a grown up.

One time, about 2 years ago, Ken and Joe and I planned a bike trip with the girls. Joe had to work for the first two days, so we planned to ride on with the ladies to our first night, camp, then ride on with Joe catching up with us later.

We miscalculated. Hugely. We miscalculated in a way that was so big that if somebody was keeping a list of "miscalculations on bike trips with children" this day (and night) would be right at the top of the list with a star beside it that meant that we were a special kind of stupid.

We left in the morning, with the goal of ending up at Darlington (75k away). We left too late. We thought a nine year old could ride faster. We thought we could stop more often, we thought that we could (even though it was our first trip that combined camping and riding) set up camp swiftly and easily.
All of this was wrong. Big wrong.

What happened was that it took us a very long time to get to Darlington. We arrived in the dark, through the park's back door, with exhausted, wild children who hated our guts. We got lost inside the park, the whole place was (even though this defies logic) uphill, and the whole time that we were riding these crabby, crying, exhausted kids through the park (in the dark) we were riding through masses of webs that fell all over you, leaving all of us with the absolutely hysteria creating belief that we were being blanketed with spiders. (I have since, being an arachnophobe of the highest order, managed to convince myself that it was not *actually* that we had arrived on the particular magic night in Darlington that every single spider nest hatches, releasing billions of tiny webby spider babies floating on guy-lines into the night air....but that they must have been some sort of caterpillar. For the sake of my sanity I need to entertain this delusion to this day)

We eventually found a park ranger who directed us to our campsite, where we somehow managed to do the bare minimum to erect two tents and collapsed, miserable, dirty and exhausted into sleeping bags.

Then it rained.

Ken and I listened to the thunder for a moment and then it hit us. We had to get up. We hadn't staked the tents to keep from being flooded, we hadn't covered our stuff with a tarp, we hadn't covered the bikes. We took a deep breath, staggered from the tents and spent the next twenty minutes miserably limping around the campsite in the smashing rain and mud wearing nothing but underpants and a bereft visage. During the whole episode, while Ken and I were in the seventh circle of hades and the children lay warmly sleeping in their tent, we said nothing...until Ken exploded with "I hate being a grown up!"

That's how I feel today. The kids are in camp, the house is blissfully quiet, it's much, much too hot to really work and I want to do this.

Htstart

Sit in the shade of the backyard with an icy cranberry and soda and the start of the Highland Triangle, enjoying the heat and the summer and the quiet and the knitting.

Htstart2

Or if I can't do that, I would like to play with this...

Dorkyfleece

a really yummy lincoln fleece from Carma, who assures me that it comes from a very happy ewe in Northeast Iowa. It looks happy, doesn't it? I washed a lock yesterday and it came up snowy and white and soft and....
I am a grown up, with responsibilities and a job and an ability to understand that I have to suck it up, so I am doing this.

Work

Having a home office makes it so tempting to be a slacker.
I hate being a grown up.

Luckily, I have the weekend to look forward to. I'll be speaking and signing books at Needles and Pins in London, Ontario on Saturday at 1:00, I should be there 'til 4, knitting, signing and having a wonderful time. (If you don't come for me, come because Ellen just got a big honking shipment of Fleece Artist.) I hope I see you there. I'm really excited at finally having some Canadian stuff planned. Have you seen the tour page? It does my patriotic little heart good I tell you. A world of good. If you are planning on coming, would you be so kind as to email Ellen at Needles and pins (That's her email, ellenATneedlesandpins.ca, just replace the AT with @) and let her know you are coming? The more she knows, the better your chances at a chair to knit in.
As a bonus, Ellen is making the signing a drive for her local food bank, which could use a little help right now, so please bring something non-perishable to donate, will ya?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:15 PM

July 11, 2005

Standing up

This weekend, Team Harlot trouped off on a bike trip (It's getting harder and harder to impress the sock), and my arse has a profound opinion about my activity on said bike, and I am standing up.

We rode the waterfront trail for about 75 km, from Toronto to Darlington Provincial Park (just past Oshawa) , camped for the night then (much to the chagrin of my arse) turned around and rode back. That's a two day ride of 150km, and while It's not a feat like Claudia accomplishes, my arse assures you that considering one of the members of my team is 11 years old (Go Sam!) it's really something to be proud of.

I give you the socks weekend in photos.

Myotherone

This is a bumper sticker on my bike, courtesy Jennifer at Spirit Trail Fiberworks. It says "My other vehicle is a spinning wheel" and I think that (especially on a bike) this is hysterically funny. I see it all the time while I'm riding and it cracks me up.

Ready
This is Team Harlot (and the sock..) totally ready to go. (Note the expressions on their faces. Doesn't that totally say "My mother is a lunatic, please help me"?

Stairs

The sock on a flight of stairs, just this side of Pickering. The sock was absolutely no help pushing a fully loaded tour bike up a flight of stairs. (Do not tell me how they don't look bad. Push the bike first) As a matter of fact, I believe that the socks may be smirking. (I am starting to think that there is a possibility that the sock is a freeloading jerk.)

Turbine

The largest wind turbine in North America. (Does the sock look impressed? No. I'm telling you, this was about 40k in, and the sock just wasn't playing ball.

Inukshuk

An Inukshuk. I love finding these on the trail.

Snake

A snake.

Camp

The sock resting at the campsite. For reasons I don't understand, the sock is not afraid of that seat the way I am. The first day's riding is fine, but when you get up the next morning and put your arse back down on that seat...it is briefly breathtaking, then settles down into a throbbing dull pain. More training does not seem to prevent arse pain. I think arses are untrainable.

Beach

The beach at Darlington, looking west toward Toronto. It's sort of neat to look back where you came from, realizing that you have ridden so far in one day that you can barely pick your cities skyline out.

Frog

A frog. I can report that frogs seem to have less interest in knitting than snakes. Admittedly, this is a very small sample size (one frog and one snake, er...and one sock) but I will be watching for a trend.

Bridge
The view from a bridge on the way home, looking out over Lake Ontario toward Rochester NY, though it's far, far, far to far to see.

Today, I knit. (Standing up.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:41 PM

July 7, 2005

London

Will our London friends please speak up so we know you and those you love are safe?
We are all thinking of you today.

"I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson is to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a power that can move the world."

"Hatred can only be overcome by love."

Mahatma Gandhi
-philosopher known for his belief in political change through non-violence.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:02 AM

July 6, 2005

Inspired, or profoundly stupid?

So I had this batt (Brushstrokes Batt from Indigo Moon Farm) and I set about spinning it up and was all pretty random about the whole thing. When I had two bobbins full (about half of the batt) I decided to let go, be random (that took a full glass of wine) and ply it against itself with absolutely no regard for what might happen. Blue against blue? Fine. Barberpole of blue and pink? Excellent. It was sort of freeing.

Random

Turns out that I am very, very easy to entertain. Just like with variegated yarn, the excitement of seeing what colour is coming next charms and occupies me to no end. (This could explain much of my happiness in the world. I'm apparently simple.) It's hard to publicly admit this, but it turns out that despite my experience and education, all the intrigue that I need to sit gripped at the spinning wheel for hours is waiting to see what two colours will ply together for the next 10 cm.

I'm very happy with the random, unconsidered yarn of my destiny. I started thinking about knitting the Highland Triangle shawl from Folk Shawls. (I've linked to Juno's picture because I am smitten with hers. Smitten I tell you. There are others out there, but something about the "nutmeg" version has me covetous and planning. Please don't point out that there is no hope, considering the plan that I have, that my shawl will be "nutmeg". I am delusional, but happy.)

My plan was to knit the whole honking thing out of this yummy random yarn. Then I got to thinking. Why be random when you can be overly controlling, fussy and concerned? Why make it easy when you can make it hard? (Well. I didn't quite think that last one, but you know how I like a challenge.) So I started coming up with a new plan.

I've taken what's left of the batt (just about half) and separated it into it's individual colours. Then I've started spinning and plying each of those colours. See?

Notrandom

The plan is to knit the centre triangle of the shawl out of the random stuff, then use the plain coordinates to knit the border in stripes.

What say you?

A) Wow. I don't know how that's going to look, but darn it, I sure do want to see you try.

B) Holy cow Steph. Bad plan. Put down the shawl pattern and back away from the spinning wheel.

C) Inspired. (Likely doomed, but inspired)


All suggestions will be, well..probably ignored since I might be obsessed anyway.

For the record, in case you were thinking about giving me a hard time about the gansey and, what was it Rams said? Joe freezing this winter while coughing weakly for want of a warm gansey?

Guily

Ha.

No gifts today, since I'm still waiting for emails from all parties concerned from yesterday's draw. Lemme sort that out, then I'll add more. I will however draw your attention to the tally.
Knitters Without Borders has now officially raised more money than Willie Nelson. I'll add something to the draw tomorrow, along with contemplating dancing in the street.

You guys are changing the world. Next stop...$100 000. 00

Posted by Stephanie at 2:15 PM

July 5, 2005

How to drive a mother crazy

Begin with location. Choose your family home, which is normally your mum's office several hours a day. Remember, this works best on people who are trying to earn a living while you are home.
Location selected, make sure that you are right in plain view, then choose a topic so mind-numbingly inane that there is no way that any mother with an IQ higher than a bagel could possibly stand the stupidity of it.
After that, remember the keys are repetition, volume and persistence.

Example :
Sam is trying to walk between the coffee table and the chesterfield, but Amanda, sitting on the chesterfield, has her feet on the coffee table - thus blocking Samantha's way. A fight begins that lasts for 10 minutes and consists of the following:
*Sam - "Move your legs"
Amanda - "No. Step over"
Sam - "No. Move your legs."
Amanda - "No. Step over"
Sam - "Why should I step over when you can move your legs?"
Amanda - "Why should I move my legs when you can step over?"
Repeat from * until your mother is provoked into screeching horrible things about the children in her office. Do not be satisfied with mere anger, watch for the throbbing vein in her forehead that signals that she is absolutely deranged. While she is screaming, look at her like only a crazy person would be bothered by bickering like this and frown at her like you are vaguely concerned about her well being. If she looks like she's getting a grip, roll your eyes. When she finally collapses, clutching her laptop to her chest, whimpering about something to do with a deadline that she needs to meet to pay for "your sorry arse"...
....ask what's for dinner.

Gifts for knitters? Why not.

Amy took a class with the goddess Lizbeth Upitis a while back, and she's got an autographed copy of Latvian mittens that she'll be sending to the generous tricoteuse Christina T.

Alice has a copy of "The Knitters handy guide to yarn requirements" that she'll be mailing out to Becca U.

Dean has these beautiful handmade knitting needles

Deansneedles

They are lovely. I really like the wee ones, I think they would make good hair pins as well as knitting needles. Indigo S. and Alia O. , tell us how you like them, will you?

Finally today, Ellen (who works in a bookstore, which I think could be the only job that might be as good as working in a yarn shop) donated two copies of the bookbookbook, which I'll be happy to sign and mail on to Stephanie H. and Elizabeth B. and match with two more books, to go to Leanne C. and Wendy C.

Books

Tomorrow, more presents, more fighting and...er. I don't know what.
Maybe a little lie down.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:15 PM

July 2, 2005

Do better

I'm watching Live 8...and frankly I'm having just the hardest time. I'm overwhelmed with the feelings that I have while watching this. Mostly guilt. Overwhelming, crushing guilt that I live in a country where everyone I know struggles to keep their weight down and you are more likely to die from too much than too little.

I don't quite know what to do with the images from the worlds poorest countries, but as I sit here making my grocery list, about to head to an entire building full of food.... I tell you that I think we can do better. Can't we?

What Live 8 wants from me is simple. My name on a petition to tell the G8 leaders that I, as a citizen of one of the worlds richest countries want them to do better by the worlds poorest countries. That I want them to forgive debt that can never be paid back, that I want them to increase aid, and that I want them to change the trade laws so that 10 years from now, things will be different.
I can sign that. If you think you can.....

Live 8 Live petition

In the meantime, please take a moment to remember that in the face of a slow moving governmental solution, MSF maintains feeding centres and provides health care to the worlds poorest people, and Knitters Without Borders helps them do it.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:35 PM

July 1, 2005

It's Canada Day!

You know you are a Canadian knitter when:

1. Your yarn comes in metres and grams, your needles in millimeters and you measure tension over 10cm. It’s too hot to knit at 30 degrees, you better whip up a sweater at 11 degrees and you drive to the yarn store going “60k”.

2. You have been, at some point in your life dressed in a “
Mary Maxim” bulky knit, zip up the front, picture on the back sweater (hockey player for boys or ballerina for girls), and despite having been scarred by this, for reasons that you cannot fully explain, you still get the Mary Maxim catalogue delivered to your door.

3. You have had a conversation about Patons Kroy sock yarn, and debated whether the “old Kroy” was better than the “new Kroy”, and further to that, you can identify Kroy sock yarn and it’s various incarnations by the colour of the label.

Kroy

4. You know that Koigu, Mission Falls, Briggs and Little, Fleece Artist, Patons, Treenway Silks (If you don't know about them, take a deep breath before you click.) and Philosophers Wool are all Canadian, and are in on the secret plan to take over the world through the magic of yarn.

5. When your knitting drives you to drink the beer is 5% alcohol, and you can start at 19 years of age.

6. It is a considerable point of pride for you that
Sally Melville, Debbie New, Fiona Ellis, Veronik Avery, Dorothy Siemens and Lucy Neatby are all Canadian.

7. You have knit a toque. Probably in the colours for a hockey team.

8. You know that if you mail thick knitted socks to anyone living anywhere in any province of Canada, they will come in handy.

9. If I tell you I'm sitting on my chesterfield watching Elvis on tv while I'm knitting you know it’s figure skating eh?

10. The oldest chartered trading company in the world, a Canadian department store called The Hudson Bay Company, used to have a yarn counter, and sold so much of Canada’s yarn supply that most Canadian knitters have yarn from “The Bay” in their stash and the other half have their pattern books. The only thing that would be better than The Bay starting to sell yarn again would be if Canadian Tire did, since that would give you a real reason to keep track of your Canadian Tire Money.

Ctmoney

Posted by Stephanie at 2:05 PM