October 30, 2005

Our roaming correspondent.

Happy Hallowe'en! This years award for "Best knitted part of a costume, knit up in a pinch that actually turned out pretty good despite a loose plan and will totally end up in the dress-up box for years to come" goes to Julia. (I just made that award up. That's why you don't remember it from last year. I was just looking for a reason to show you her knitting). Speaking of last year, if you are hard up for a costume, revisit last years comments for ideas. A lot of them could be put together quick. Me? I don't need a costume. I'll be knitting the edge on the snowflake shawl,


hoping for a little more time (my inner voice keeps screaming "KNIT FASTER", it's very relaxing) and eating myself sick on the candy I'm supposed to be shelling out. (I'm also quite busy hoping that blocking fixes this shawl. It looks a little ratty, doesn't it?)

In the meantime, I should hope that no-one has forgotten our roaming TSF correspondent, my brother-in-law...Ben. (Ben doubles as Director for human resources for MSF Canada, but really, he's travelling the world pretending to work for MSF while he clearly works for TSF/ Knitters without borders.)

The other day, Ben turns up at my door and gives me this.


It's a nice big ball of goat roving from KAZAKSTAN, and it smells like, well. I don't know. Probably a Kazakstan goat, which is sort of interesting.


I've coerced Ben into doing a guest blog about getting it, and I've updated the TSF total in honour of his visit.
Be gentle with him. He's a rookie.

Hi Steph,

As promised, Some photos from the wool market in Nalchik
where I bought you goat wool from Kazakstan. In fact, this photo


is the crazy old woman I bought it from, weighing it for the sale.

I was in Nalchik training management staff from MSF programmes in neighbouring Caucasus states of

Ingushetia and Chechnya. Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria is a back up base because it is considered safe. We do not have international workers based in the other places due to insecurity - especially fears of kidnapping.

The city is stunning and the people were very warm to us. On October 9th, we walked to this huge wool market on the other side of the city.


The market was filled with women at stalls selling wool and knitted goods.


The sound of knitting needles clattered everywhere as women not selling were knitting more wares.


The prices were absurdly low and I bought fancy wool socks for 35 rubles or slightly more than a Canadian dollar. You and all of your knitting friends would have been in heaven here!

Unfortunately, four days later, all hell broke loose in

Nalchik. It was certainly scary for a few hours as we could hear machine gun fire and explosions coming from all around our office - all starting during morning rush hour. The residents and national staff were in panic trying to locate their loved ones on the over-burdened cellular phone system. Of particular concern were their children in the schools, given that we were only 100 km from Beslan where the horrible school tragedy occurred last year. As things settled, it was sad to see the realization of our staff that their peaceful city was getting dragged into the broader Caucasus conflict.

Perhaps due to the global war on terror, the problems in Chechnya seem largely forgotten or ignored by the world media. But the people still suffer and many have been living for years in cramped temporary accommodation centres as much of the city of Grozny still lies in rubble. As one of our Chechen mental health workers told me, "we have a Beslan every day here."



Note from Steph: S. Kate and I are still working on a viable plan for the pins. In the meantime, because the total is higher and giving stuff away is fun...
Pins go to Sandra D and Nicole L. (I've emailed you both) and this beautiful roving from Jen at Sprit Trail Fiberworks


goes to Barb B. (Aren't you a spinner Barb? Lucky break that. I emailed you.) Singlesspirittrail

And this beautiful hand spun singles from the same roving

goes to Rossana L. (I emailed you too.)

Happy Hallowe'en.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:30 PM

October 27, 2005

Attn: planning dept.

This week, the Knitters Without Borders head office (that would be me) received the following five bags from the Fundraising Department. (That would be the incredibly generous S. Kate)


What's inside?


Possibility. That's what.
This is five hundred (that's right. HOLY CRAP) let's type it again. Five hundred seriously neat little lapel pins with the TSF/KWB logo and name on them. S. Kate ordered them, paid for them with her own wool money (I think it must be noted that S.Kate could have had a lot of stash with that money.) and shipped them off to me.
Now we need the planning department. (That would be you.)

We need a plan that accomplishes the following.

1. Earns at least $2 per pin. (This is really only the minimum. The sky is that limit. The possibilities are endless. Think big! I want S. Kate's gift to pay off.)

2. Does not involve me going to the post office 47 times a day for the rest of the winter mailing these off individually. Addressing the envelopes alone would be a huge job, there has to be a better way than giving MSF money to the post office, and never mind licking the stamps. I'd spend the whole season with my tongue all dried out saying "Ah weelly appwechiate da denerwosity of nidders".
I lack grace in enough ways that we do not need to add that to the list.

3. Makes it so that the odds are decent that you can get one no matter where you are.

Put your ideas in the comments, along with an enormous three cheers for S.Kate. Our friends at MSF are reminding us that they continue to need money to respond to the quake in Kashmir and other emergencies around the world. MSF is not accepting targeted donations for Kashmir, not because they have not responded, (in fact, they were present when the quake struck) but because donations to the emergency fund remain the best way for them to save money, remain flexible and respond quickly (and without waste) to needs around the world. The 80 000 dead in Kashmir is not the worst of it. Not to be too blunt, but dead people don't need medical care. Now, 2.5 million people are homeless, and winter is coming. MSF is going to be very busy treating pneumonia, bronchitis, hypothermia, tetanus, malnutrition... and they are already stretched out from activities in Niger, Sudan, Darfur... I'll stop now, since I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. Knitters Without Borders always give what they are able to.

I'm betting that S. Kate is one of MSF's favourite knitters today. She's certainly one of mine.
(How much do you love that by now, MSF has "favourite knitters"? I bet they didn't see you guys coming.) I think we should give away some gifts tomorrow.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:38 AM

October 26, 2005

The green one won't shut up.

I am being slowly driven crazy by this shawl. In this picture, which is just two pattern rows (as I divine them) past the centre of the current motif...there are 364 stitches in a row. Because of the soul crushing nature of a shawl knit from the top down, each right side row adds 4 more stitches.


This makes me, quite frankly... want to knit something else. A decision remains to be made about the edging, which is a mere MILLION stitches away, but I can't think about it because I am dreaming of all of the things I will be able to knit when I am done....Wee Dales in particular. There is a set of twins arriving in short order, and I am sworn to outfit them in high style. (If you are reading this and you are expecting twins, do not get excited. The person who is making twins for my knitterly amusement doesn't read this blog, so if you are reading it, then you ain't her.) I have the yarn. I have a plan. I need only to finish this shawl and then I may knit tiny little fussy sweaters in many colours.


I'm so excited that I don't even want to try and tell people who aren't knitters. (I'm not making the sweater on the cover, by the way..I'm pretty sure that's a mistake since I smile every single time I see it. I'm doing a more classic one from inside.) When you show muggles the the little pile of yarn and tell them, in hushed tones and with only a little bit of giggling that it is "Baby Ull", well. they start talking about how maybe you are a few sandwiches short of a picnic.


Here though, here as I display this yarn on this blog among my people, here I know that you will all get it. I know that you will understand that this yarn knows my name. That this yarn is looking at me all the time. That it sighs when I pick up the shawl and it begs to be cast on. It tips the bag over so the lime green one falls out (I really like the green one) and it cries for love and attention. Joe can't hear it, but that is something wrong with him, not us.

To take the edge off...I may have treated myself to a little "Socks That Rock" action. (For everyone who asked me where to get this yarn...I dunno. Mine was a gift, and the only place I know of that has it is The Fold, linked above. The company website "Blue Moon Fiber Arts" is here, but minimal. Maybe you could email the info number? I suggest you try, since this it would be a shame to not respect the urge to get yourself some of this. It's good. ) I only knit on it a little. Not enough to interfere with the shawl you understand, just enough to keep me from putting the Baby Ull on my pillow at night.


It's helping.

Note to New York Knitters: Linda Roghaar is in your town showing off the new book again. Head over to Coliseum Books in Manhattan, 11 West 42nd St., 6:30-8pm. Take your knitting and watch Kay pretend to be Ann and listen to people read stuff about knitting. You like knitting.
It'll be fun.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:47 AM

October 25, 2005


The baby and I are in a race. It needs to be born before Teresa explodes and I need to have finished a shawl to wrap it in.


See the snowflakes of increasing size? (Please say yes. Now is not when I want to find out that I'm knitting a very accurate yarn-over depiction of a giant squid. I have stress.)
Last night I accidentally fell asleep with it in my hands and only got three rows knit.

It's that time of year when my whole family is engaged in the "heat game" again. This means that nobody wants to be the first one to snap and turn on the heat. (My sister may actually have turned on her heat. That's ok. My brother and I have excused her from the more extreme levels of this challenge because it seems harsh to involve Hank.) Ian though, Ian shouldn't be taking me on. All he has going for him is determination, spunk and this one pair of wool socks.


This is, by the way, Ian's sock camping in Algonquin. Do not be fooled. Just because Ian is the kind of guy who would be camping, canoeing and portaging his way across a chunk of Ontario in the autumn does not mean that he is equipped for the heat wars. (I do, however give him points for thinking of photographing the socks I made him by the campfire on his trip. It's good to know that my knits continue to see the world after they leave me.)

I on the other hand, am a knitter. I have a multitude of sweaters, afghans, hand knit socks, mittens and they are all made of warm, delightful wool. I was made for this challenge, I have prepared for years and I even have a team of wily knitters on my side. See this?


Those are beaded wrist warmers that Laurie (That Laurie) made for me. Ian has nothing! (Well, I admit that making him that pair of wool socks was likely a strategic error, and I deeply regret the afghan, but he is my brother. It was Christmas. I got carried away.) Other factors to consider...
-five people live in this house, only two people live in his house. We create more warmth and can huddle together.
-four out of five of the people in this house are female. Joe points out that the release of heat from all the talking should help.
-I have to make several meals a day to feed the ravening hordes. This ensures that there are fairly frequent bursts of warmth coming off of the stove. I have been "roasting" a fair bit, and I am not above baking bread or slowly dehydrating apples or something if it gets any colder.

Nobody here has asked for the heat yet (although Ken, while he absolutely did not ask for any heat at all, did wear his coat in the dining room, despite the somewhat cozy warmth of the pasta bowl placed near him.), but I was talking with Ian's wife Ali and she was busy putting plastic over the windows in their house, which tells me that she is feeling it. We shall see.
(I'm really only aiming for Hallowe'en. That's when Ian and I called it a truce last year and turned on our heat at the same time. There was no other way to save ourselves. It's pretty darned cold in Canada by now.)

Back to the shawl, my point (and I do have one..though that was the long way around for sure) is that because the house is so cold I keep falling asleep and not knitting much on the shawl. For a while I thought I was just tired, but now I realize that it's actually that I keep slipping into some sort of cryogenic state. (It also doesn't help that my hands are numb, but that borders on whining and I realize that I am choosing this out of some sick need to trounce my brother just like we are kids again and as such, since this is nobodies fault but my own, I will not whine.)

I will say though, (without whining) that sometime really, really soon I am going to have to choose to either beat the baby, lose to my brother or start breaking the ice in the toilet in the morning.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:08 AM

October 24, 2005

Just like that

I have this skein of "Socks that rock" (Queen Rock colourway) that's burning a hole in my dining room table.


I'm so anxious to knit it that we eat with it and several times a day I give it a little pat and a squeeze and read the label for the 78th time. Bookish Wendy gave it to me as a little prize so I wouldn't feel so bad about the way that they all lost their minds at Rhinebeck and bought it all. (After she gave it to me I was feeling bad for Wendy because I worried that now she didn't have any of the really nice new sock yarn, but it turns out that Cara's going to give her some. Then I worried about Cara, but it after reading her entry I can see that she's going to be ok. She could build herself a little yarn igloo out back of her place with all that sock yarn.)

So Sunday morning I'm hanging out with my coffee and my sock yarn (What?) and I get this urge to whip out the needles and start. I may even have wound up the yarn while I was thinking it over.


That's not unusual. What's unusual is that then this voice in the back of my head says, "Hold on there....you're almost done those Spirit Trail socks. Why not finish those first?"

Well, I don't like being told what to do, not even by the voices in my head, so I got a little pissy with the voice. Screw that. I thought. I only started those Sprit Trail socks so that I could buy more Spirit Trail sock yarn with emotional impunity at Rhinebeck. Then I didn't go to Rhinebeck so screw that. I've got no reason to finish them now. I don't care if there are only 15 rows to go, I knit what I want. If I want to start the Socks That Rock yarn I will, 'cause you know what, little voice in my head? You know what? I don't care if you are my conscience or Jiminy Cricket or whatever, since knitting is a HOBBY not a JOB and there is no way at all that I'm taking any sort of flack or guilt about not doing it right, or enough or in the wrong order. Chuck you , you overly responsible, uptight, "don't you think you should" voice in my head...I'll cast on 40 pairs of socks if I want to and there's no reason that I shouldn't. Knitting is supposed to be fun and I'm not the sort of person who thinks that having a lot of rules about your stinking yarn is fun, so bite me hard on the hind parts honey...I'm knitting as I please.

There was a silence then, until the voice, my knitting conscience played dirty. It didn't shout, it didn't mock me, it didn't laugh at my hostility or rationalizations. It simply smiled and said...

"Ok Knitter. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to give you a hard time. You go right ahead and spend the 62 days until Christmas however you want to."



Stupid conscience.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:15 AM

October 21, 2005

In my dreamworld

Surely, surely some have you have noticed that my life has changed a little. Goodness knows that I have to run a reality check most mornings when I wake up to make sure that I'm actually awake. (I don't know why I do that actually. If I were really dreaming or have slipped into another dimension then I'm pretty sure that there would be less laundry and my hair would look better, but I digress.)

The last few days have been particularly surreal. Am I awake or asleep?

Evidence that I am asleep include the following moments.


Being at Willow books in Acton MA and catching Claudia in the act of photographing the store window full of knitting and knitting books.


Watching David, the owner of Willow Books beaming at me. David is a remarkable guy. He designated it "knitter day" at Willow Books and never once spoke openly of what he must have surely thought was rampant insanity. He laughed, he smiled and he tried somehow to manage all the knitters and yarn. It was like trying to nail Jello to a tree. I myself was particularly unmanageable, telling him to "try and stop me" when I insisted on writing more than my name in the books. (I was among my people. He is efficient. We were at cross purposes.)


David bought cake. He very graciously pretended not to remember that I had said that I wouldn't come if there wasn't cake. Really, after flying to MA just for this, what did he think I would do if there was no cake. Sit in the car? (That's Linda Roghaar, my friend and the instigator of the Knitlit series. Note the beautiful yellow Peace Fleece sweater. Linda is probably the only person in the world who looks this good in this yellow. I personally look like I've got hepatitis if I wear it, so every time Linda puts it on I spend a whole day looking at her.)

Speaking of walking among my people....



This is what it looked like from the front of the room. I would know for sure that I was in a dream world when I saw this, except that I like to believe that in a dream world I wouldn't be thinking about throwing up all the cake when I saw that many knitters in one place.
(The microphone in this picture is standing nicely at attention, which was not the case when I got up to talk. By then the thing had become oddly flaccid and I had to slouch - thus making myself look even shorter, to speak into it. In my dreamworld, no microphones suffer erectile dysfunction.)


Look! It's Laurie!
Clearly I'm asleep. Short knitters with poor attention spans don't get to hobnob with clever and lovely bloggers from New England except in their dreams. (Cassie, I watched to see what she drank later so I could find out a nifty new wine, but she had beer. Sorry. While I speak of Ms. Toomuchwool, drift on over to her blog and wish her a happy blogiversary.)

Discovered here, a nest of bloggers....


doing what they do best. Talking about wool and hanging in packs. (No wonder David was nervous.) It was at this moment that I realized that I certainly was awake for this event, as I discovered that my fly was open...and had been for the entire time that I was sitting with the other contributors and while I was reading in front of the aforementioned crowd. Sigh.

From there I jetted (well, it was an 18 seat plane. Scared the crap out of me. In my dreamworld I sit in first class, not cling to the seat back in front of me with two hands while concentrating hard on keeping the tiny plane in the air with the power of my mind.) back to Toronto, opened the front door to my house, threw my suitcase in and left again...sprinting downtown to give a talk to the Downtown Knit Collective. If you live in a place where the knitting guilds are small, restrained affairs then take a deep breath before you look at this picture.


This is the DKC in all its glory. When I saw this, I realized that I must be dreaming. There's just no way that all of those knitters gather together as a force unless the planet is finally starting to turn the way I had hoped it would. (In this case, only the fact that I still have a cold and was forced to snuffle unattractively throughout the entire thing was a grounding force.)

Yesterday I did laundry, wrote on the 3rd book (we shall not speak of what remains to be done there) and knitted. I went to bed early because this morning....oh...this morning...

This morning I realized a personal dream. The best indication ever that the line that exists in my world that separates fantasy from reality has become a scattered blur, this morning I did this.


That's me and Jane Hawtin (sitting in for Andy Barrie) doing a segment on the CBC's radio show Metro Morning. (Photo taken by an under-caffeinated but gushing Joe through the control room window). You can listen to it here if you want to hear what I sound like at 7:20am with only two cups of coffee in me. (I have to admit that I clicked on the link, since I recollected very little of the actual interview. I'm pleased as punch that I didn't snuffle snot, say "arse" or enter a vicious expletive spiral of unladylike language.)

From there, I walked down the hall to the CBC studio for "Ontario Morning" and did it again. Joe, slightly more caffeinated and therefore high-functioning snapped this pic of me, Martina Fitzgerald and the super-nice producer (his name escaped me).


You will note that I have, in my infinite wisdom, having failed at many previous knitterly type events (where people could see me) taken great care and some precious pre-dawn time to make sure that I am wearing a handknit sweater. For RADIO. Sigh again.

All of this, this incredible stunning whirl of fantasy around me was dragging me down the path to my dreamworld and I was becoming more convinced by the moment that I was asleep... creating a world where knitters rule supreme and everyone not only cares about that but agrees that it's a good idea...an invented reality where knitting finally gets its dues and stands firm and proud in bookshops, auditoriums, radio stations...all places where humans gather and bow to yarn and it's wonders and I knew suddenly that I had slipped the shackles of this mortal coil and had completely lost touch with the realities of the world and lived only in the world of my imagination... when this happened.


I had to yank back 6 rows of the snowflake shawl.
Clearly, I am awake.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:09 AM

October 19, 2005


I am here


in Massachusetts. (This is Linda's bird brain statue. I love it.)

I need to be here. In Toronto at the Downtown Knit Collective by
7:00. My flight gets in at 5. Wish me luck. See you there...bring coffee.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:43 AM

October 17, 2005

Getting back up

Before I say anything else, I want to sincerely thank each and everyone of you for your comments, poems, notes and good thoughts during this hard time for us. I was overwhelmed, and hearing from so many of you did help, which frankly surprised the daylights out of me, since I thought nothing could. Instead my family and I found real comfort in the wishes from each and every one of you. Please forgive me for not replying to you all one by one, but as much as it offends me not to do so...I don't think it's possible without taking *thanking* on as a full time job. (I have no real problem with that, but although the emotional rewards are many, the pay is crap.)
Know that the sentiment is there and that not just me, but several of us read each and every one of them. Thank you.

It is my personal belief the the universe works best when it is in balance, and I strive in my spiritual life to achieve it. I fail miserably most of the time (too much chocolate, too much coffee, too much wool...) but I try. This loss has thrown me way out of balance, but I've figured out what to do. The opposite of grief is Joy, so I'll be seeking it out as much and as often as it is possible to do so. It is autumn in Ontario. This is a reason to be joyful.


and I have started a new shawl for a new baby, though by the looks of things, I should knit faster...


Inside: the sibling of the snowdrop. Gender unknown, birthday...sometime in the next 4 weeks. Teresa has been instructed to wait until Thursday and then fire at will.
Outside: Because the last baby from Teresa arrived as the snowdrops did in spring, her shawl was The Snowdrop Shawl. (Pattern in the sidebar) this babe will arrive as the first snow of the year flies, so a snowflake shawl it is. Pattern is...well. In my head. We shall see. At this point it is a shawl/swatch. If it works, it's a shawl. If it doesn't...I'm pleading swatch. My plan is to begin with simple yarn over snowflakes (I think you can see them there...) and move outward toward ever larger snowflakes. Since I haven't made up my mind about what those are, all suggestions of snowflake type lace action are gratefully accepted.
Another source of joy is how much Teresa's tummy and the pumpkins resemble each other. (Sorry T, but it is funny.)

The last gasp of the morning glories.


I am ashamed to admit that on bad days I sometimes count them.
(You would be surprised to learn how much joy can be gleaned from knowing exactly how many morning glory blossoms you have.)

Next, armed with a new shawl and knowing the number of my morning glories, I'm going to get on a plane, fly to MA and do the Willow Books event. There will be friends there, though my good friend Linda Roghaar is all by herself a good enough reason to go...the books are ordered, the cake is coming and after missing Rhinebeck, I could use me a big knitting party. I plan on having a marvelous time and I hope I see whole armies of you there.

The owner of Willow Books has relieved some of my guilt about missing the signings at Rhinebeck and Skaneateles by setting up something clever. If you didn't get a book 'cause I didn't show up (sorry again) and you still want Bookbookbook, Bookbookbook II or Knitlit 3 signed, just phone up Willow books today or tomorrow and they will take your name and information and I'll sit down tomorrow evening and sign and personalize them all...and then Willow Books will mail them to you. Finding a way out of disappointing people makes me happy too....

Finally, an update to Knitters Without Borders is in the sidebar. For the multitude of you who comforted me with donations in Janine's name, many extra thanks. (I promise to give away the mittens soon. I'm unreasonably attached to them.) The only way through this is to do things for others and put kindness first, and considering the richness and wealth of my own life and the life Janine left, doing good in her name is a source of joy that I won't forget. Today, someone lives because she died.
Joy indeed.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:36 PM

October 13, 2005

Not ordinary

This is Janine, our Nee-Nee.


My bright, quick, beautiful almost-sister died yesterday, suddenly and leaving an enormous wake in her passing.

I have known Nee-nee since the day of my birth and every sunburned, secret moment of my childhood, every desperate stupid moment of my adolescence and every thoughtful decent moment of my adulthood has Janine in it. My mother considered Neen to be her eldest child, my siblings and I counted her among our own.

I know that when this happens in a family, when a person is ripped from them with no warning or explanation, there are things that we all say. My Mum told me to sit down and to write this, and I started to say all of those things. That Janine was too young and that she had a good life and that she lived fully and that she was exceptional in every possible way and .... I could feel the cliché coming, all the things that every family feels and says when this unthinkable thing happens. Everyone knows that everybody always says them, but the loss of our Nee-nee is so painful that finding myself writing and saying these same ordinary things makes me want to scream. To stand on the street and scream in the rain and to rage out No. That this death, this time for this family it is not the same, this is not the same loss as other losses. That she was the best and the brightest and the most beautiful and she was too young and that I cannot bear for this loss to be ordinary....it can not be ordinary ....

and yet I know that it still is ordinary loss. That our grief is not worse or more or bigger...Last night Ian said that there are 20 000 families in Pakistan who would like to stand with us in the street and scream their own personal, unique loss and grief into the night rain and he is very right. This is the same, the same as every human loss, every heartbreaking unbearable, ordinary loss that adds up to a whole person who is gone now.

I started marking it down then. I started to write down the simple wee things that set her apart. A fraction of the million tiny things we have lost that added up to an extraordinary woman.

Nee-nee fed cheerios to the walrus sculpture in my mums living room when she was four. She couldn't stand for him not to have a supper. Neen had an imaginary friend named JJ that she called on the phone every day when she was little. When my grandmother died my brother ran down the street and into Neen's closet. It was Nee-nee who smoked secret cigarettes with me in the bathroom at my grandfathers wake. It was Neen who told me that I had to tell my mum when I failed french, and Neen who told me that I would be a good mum when I was expecting my first. Janine loved pussywillows. Janine bought Amanda skates. When Hank was born Nee-nee told Erin that "sleep was for pussies." Janine was 40 in May. I never had a cross word with her and am blessed that there is not a moment I wish I could have back.
Nee-nee knew every secret that I ever had.
Nee-nee was beautiful.
Nee-nee read the blog and was a member of Knitters without borders - but she did not knit.
Nee-nee danced at family parties. (We are a dancing family. Few understand this.)

Janine was so good and whole and important a person that it has taken me hours to write her name in the past tense and it is going to take us forever to figure out what the shape the world is if Janine is not in it. If you are the sort, please take a few moments today to think of those who are feeling an extraordinary loss today, particularly Janine's husband Stephen, her sister Julie, her mother Carol, and my own mum - Janine's other-mother, Bonnie.

Obviously there will be some changes made to the tour schedule and Rhinebeck while I take this time with my family. My deepest apologies for any inconvenience.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:38 AM

October 12, 2005

Shameless Rip-off

(Random Wednesday idea shamelessly ripped off from MamaCate.)

1. The blog went silent as I had the mother of all colds. Not one of those namby-pamby little crappy colds that you just have to steel your backbone for, but instead the viral equivalent of "the perfect storm". On Saturday I noticed a sneeze, by Sunday I was weeping into the Thanksgiving Day dinner, Monday I spent the entire day wishing that the thing would kill me. Put me out of my misery. I tried every herbal/homeopathic thing that I could get, then resorted to the big guns when I hadn't been able to eat, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours. All hail Neo Citran Thin Strips. Bringer of sleep and 1/4 of a clear nasal passage. (You would be surprised how grateful you can be for 1/4 of a nasal passage). By yesterday it was clear that I would live, though it was too soon to tell if I was happy about that.
The marker for how sick I was is this : During this time of trial I neither drank coffee nor knit. When I told a friend that, she asked if I wanted to go to the ER. I replied "The ER is for people who want to live."

2. Having accomplished the required number of days, Joe and I both now accept that we are, after having installed new wood floors in the living room/dining room/hall, never, ever (it has been 2 years) ever going to install the 1/4 round to finish the job. Jean the family carpenter has been coerced into coming to finish the job today...


something that thrilled me to death so completely that I thought about knitting Jean socks...until I got sick and now am pretty much homicidal about all of the sawing and the compression nailgun interfering with my frail little plan to lie on the chesterfield moaning weakly.

3. I used this and did this.


(Thanks Lucia. Nice rescue on the buttonholes.)

4. Since Rhinebeck is in a few days, we have the return of this.


I harbour no delusions about finishing on time, but feel that in keeping with my personality, I must try.

I now return to the chesterfield with a cup of tea, a poor attitude, my knitting and a fervent wish to be healed before tomorrow, when I will report for book signing duty (lots of copies of bookbookbook and bookbookbook II ) tomorrow at the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival here in Toronto. I'll be there from 2-4, red nose and all.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:10 PM

October 7, 2005

Mike White

June 2004- October 2005.

It is with enormous regret, sadness (and some sense of repetition) that the Harlot family writes to you with the news that Mike White the dwarf hamster passed peacefully from this earth sometime last night after Joe gave him his nightly sunflower seed. He leaves behind his shelf-mate, Wanda the fish and his watcher, Millie the cat.


I must apologize for the lack of photographic material for Mike. While he was deeply loved...he was under-documented.

Mike was a good hamster and performed all of the duties of his species admirably. Cuddly and fun-loving in his early days, Mike led the life of a hamster prince...enjoying a huge cage, a pretty good looking pink running wheel and most of all...the joys of a plastic ball in which to roam the house. Mike (although he certainly lacked the brain size to know it) was also blessed in being the first hamster in this house to have never been "bowled" down the hall or stairs by a toddler while in his ball. (It was this hamster terrifying hobby exacted by numerous family toddlers that resulted in the sad but necessary hamsterless years from 1999-2002.)

During the last months of his life however, Mike withdrew from his hamster-human relationships (using fast jaws and sharp teeth), choosing only one special person with whom to have a relationship.

I'll admit that no-one was more surprised than I was when I learned that my husband Joe was spending some time each evening after the family was in bed, visiting with Mike, talking with him and training him to hang from one paw in exchange for a sunflower seed. This took months. Months where, after his visit with Mike, Joe would slip into bed beside me and say "I got him a little closer tonight. Third rung of the cage. He's a pretty good hamster you know." It took so long, that if you think of it in terms of a dwarf hamsters lifetime....learning to hang from one paw for a sunflower seed may have been Mike's life's work .....his hamster opus.

It is only fitting then, that when Mike finally learned to do this thing, that Joe called us all into the room and showed us, beaming with pride and human-rodent friendship. Joe and Mike somehow, despite the fact that Joe is a record producer, pretty bright and human...and that Mike was, well...a hamster, despite that (which does seem like a fair bit to overcome) Mike and Joe were friends.

As Mike grew older and his hair began to turn grey, Joe worried about his friend. Mike was less willing to climb the cage for seeds, and Joe began lowering the seed a little over the weeks. Joe asked me one day if I thought that Mike minded getting old, if I thought it bothered him that he couldn't do the things he used to... you know, run on the wheel really fast or hang by one paw.

I stared at Joe, and then I made a mistake. I pointed out that I didn't think it bothered Mike. Not at all. Not even a little. I told him that I thought that the chances that Mike was churning with existential angst or the mysteries of the passing of time and the autumn of his lifetime were just about zip. Zero. Nada. Why? Why don't I think that it would bother Mike? Because he had a brain the size of a LENTIL, that's why.

Joe was crushed. He informed me that I didn't spend enough time with Mike. That I really didn't know Mike for the hamster that he was. That I didn't know that not only was Mike smart (smarter than I could imagine) but that he was also charming and funny. (By funny, and I know I have mentioned this before...but by funny, Joe does not mean that he finds the hamster amusing, but that he believes that Mike has, I kid you not....a good sense of humour.)

Mike leaves behind Megan his owner, somewhat inured to the loss of hamsters (the burden of experience), Sam who was the first to notice that Mike's wheel had gone quiet, Amanda, who at 16 probably won't notice that he is dead for 2 weeks, me - who is happy on a practical level that Mike died before the ground froze - since I hate having to keep hamsters in the freezer until spring thaw....and his best friend Joe....
Who will actually really miss him.

Services for Mike White the Hamster will be held at the family hamster cemetery in the backyard under the locust tree today after school. Joe has requested that instead of flowers or cards, we convince that children to get pets that live a little longer.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:34 AM

October 6, 2005

A game of pick-up

Here is my first mistake.


Choosing a sweater with a knitted on button band. Stupid. If you hate picking up stitches, hate knitted on button bands and still pick this sweater and don't adapt it for a sewn on button band, then you are stupid. (That would be me.)
(Pattern: Sirdar book 241, "E")

Having already made mistake number one...there is no reason not to make Mistake number two, which would be deciding to knit the pattern in a worsted instead of a DK. This by itself is not a mistake, but it leads to all sorts of things not working anymore. Instructions like "knit until work measures 10cm" work fine, but since it will take a different number of rows to get to 10cm, the whole picking up thing is going to go down the dumper in short order. If you are determined to make Mistake number three


then you must ignore that and pick up the suggested number of stitches. Clearly, in the picture above I have not picked up enough. The way that the stitches want to gather up before I have even started the button band are a terrible omen. Nix that, and proceed rapidly to Mistake number four. The exact nature of mistake number four is a mystery. What I did was pick up more stitches (this seemed reasonable since I had too few...but knitting is seldom obvious) in a multiple of 11. 11 seemed right, since the pattern for the buttonholes contains the intruction "Rib 9, cast off 2...rep". In the world the way I know it...9+2=11. This was obviously mistake number four...though if anyone can see what is wrong with my math I'd appreciate the *&^%$#ing heads up. (Rat bastard math. We hates it.)

Clearly, even though me, Joe, Megan and the computer calculator all feel that 9+2=11 this cannot be true since it doesn't space the buttonholes (indicated by the yellow arrows above) anywhere near accurately and I wound up with and infuriating number of stitches left over. I took a deep breath, pulled out the row again and proceeded to mistake number five.

Even though I believed (and still do, actually) that 9+2=11, I was forced to accept that on this sweater, that was not true. Therefore, I suspended that belief and re-worked it, being sure that I wasn't married to the concept of correct math, opened my mind to the possibility that there was an answer to 9+2 that was something other than the traditional 11 and tried again.


Well. At least this time I had closer to the correct number of stitches left over. I tried interpreting the instruction "Rib 9, cast off 2".
Could I be wrong about what that meant?
(Thus we witness the birth of mistake number six: Overthinking.)
It could mean that you rib 9, then cast off 2, using the 9th stitch as the first one to be dropped over in the casting off. It could mean that you ribbed 9, then that those were independent free agents and you started casting off two more that were beyond the 9. It could mean....
It could mean that I was too angry by the result to take a picture. Suffice it to say that the problem remained unsolvable.

Finally I decided (mistake number 7) that I would take a more organic approach. Obviously there was no point in doing any more math. Once 9+2 =11 stops working you are in over your head.
I threaded a needle with yarn and decided that working inward from the ends I would mark the two stitches I was going to cast off for each button hole. I marked the ones at the ends....


then counting inwards from the ends I found the middle, marked that, marked the other two at equal intervals and .....


discovered that the buttonholes are still not placed evenly (which I really should have seen coming, what with basic addition deciding to step off the logic curb only moments before) and I made mistake number eight when I stopped myself from taking the whole thing outside, hurling it into the middle of the road and then laughing maniacally while cars ran it over again and again and again. I went to bed instead.

This morning I pulled out some baby alpaca, (I don't see any sweater, walk away from the sweater.) and started getting my graph paper mojo going on. The sibling of the snowdrop is due soon, and I think the newcomer will need a little something. I shall commence swatching pretty darn soon.

I left this on the chair after taking the picture and when I came back with my coffee I found this.

She scratched me when I tried to pick up the alpaca.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:27 AM

October 5, 2005

Chicago and nearby.

I am going to admit something.

I didn't want to leave home this time. I miss Joe. I miss my kids, I miss knowing why the middle of the hall floor is sticky and calculating how long this family will have no overhead light in the dining room before someone will go to the corner and buy an 88 cent package of lightbulbs so they don't have to eat in the dark. (Sadly we shall never know the complete answer to that one, since I snapped last night (day five) and sent Joe over to get one. DAY FIVE. The difference in our priorities has to be the reason I still find him interesting.) Despite not leaving home with the highest possible degree of enthusiasm. Despite the weenie on the plane who made my eyebrow twitch...

I had a wonderful time. Reasons to love this trip?

1. I started the Chicago trip at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association Convention/Trade Show/Thingie. This, by itself was not fun. In fact, if it had been specifically designed to frighten authors they couldn't have done a better job. You sit with the booksellers while they eat dinner, telling them charming things about you and your book and trying not to say arse or express your deep concern that *no* alcohol was served during this....and then an announcer gets up and tells you to move and you go to the next table and do it again. It's like speed dating for writers. It's horrifying. I got some pretty nice tables of booksellers (non of whom are actively trying to be terrifying) and survived neatly. I staggered over to the signing tables, plunked myself down to a really nice writer where upon the two of us were pretty soundly ignored. (Scott Turow was there. We were not surprised.) The moment that made the evening worth it was when I said something to the author beside me and she didn't reply. I reached out, touched her arm and said it again. She turned, startled and said "Oh, I'm sorry dear. I didn't hear you. I was busy asking God to kill me."
I laughed for hours. Sarah the wonder publicist was there...along with Stephanie from Storey Publishing, and I didn't tell them about that. They seemed like they were having so much fun that I didn't want them to know I was thinking about sitting in the hotel room closet.

Aren't they cute? (Note to self: I should immediately cease and desist with standing anywhere near these two. I don't come off well in the comparison. I'm waiting for someone to ask me if my daughters have been helpful to me on the tour.)

I know you must be asking what would be worth this. (Besides the whole "it's a job and everybody has one" thing.) Why, if it's scary, far and weird...why would I go? This brings me to:



My lovely Rams. Yes gentle readers, our lady of Kalamazoo was at the book thing...and I had lots of lovely time with her. No matter how much you love her on the blog...there is no compare to the live Rams. How can you not love a woman running a convention with a half knit sock in her pocket?

3. The day after the ritual book hazing, Rams and I had lunch. I ordered a sandwich and fries and I asked for vinegar. The Canadians/Brits know what for, but the American waiter was badly shaken, though obedient...and brought me this.


Raspberry vinegar. I laughed and laughed.
(and yes, it was the only vinegar they had.)

4. Later that day Sarah and I took the "L" from O'Hare to the other side of Chicago.

Here's Sarah-the-wonder-publicist being rather bemused by the L map. (I am convinced that you need a higher IQ than mine to figure out the "loop" where you transfer.


If it were not for the kindness of a very nice man who smelled like waffles...we would still be there.) When all was said and done...I really liked the L. I think if you go to Chicago you should take it. It runs about 12 inches past all these old houses and buildings and it seems like a really neat way to see the city.

5. Arcadia knitting and the knitters in it is totally worth leaving your husband (temporarily) for.




click to make 'em bigger. The sock thought (can you tell from the pictures?) that the way this shop was laid out was pretty neat. Never seen anything like it. It moved through the colours like a rainbow. All the blues, then the yellows, then the greens.....
Beautiful. By a lot.

6. The people. Noteworthy (though I'm sure I missed some of you...speak up in the comments!)

Cori, who came from Minnesota, holding the sock...


(For the record, Cori is not freakishly taller than me. I didn't stand up to take the picture. She is normal sized.)


Rana and Daniel, both the cutest knitters ever. (Don't you just almost want to give them yarn or something?)


Tamara and her muggle husband. In town from AUSTIN to celebrate their anniversary, this man is enough of a peach that when Tamara took him on a little detour, this was the look on his face. Atta boy.
(In case, like me..you are worried that this was their whole anniversary celebration, they did this later.


I think that it's lovely that Tamara grasped that even though her needs for romance could be met in a yarn shop...dude might have needed this.)

Also there was Franklin (for whom there are not words. If you would ever like to meet someone who is kind, clever and only slightly taller than me, you need look no further.)
Susan aka Roggey (who's parade of morally corrupt behaviour brought her there...much to my delight. I was so stunned that she was actually there that somehow I didn't get a picture. It's a wonder I was able to speak.)
Melissa (Charming. Really, really charming, smart too...) Mel (click that link. She's a smart one too...) Emily (if she is a spaz then I've got no right leaving the house.) and Marcy...who very, very generously drove a whack of overexcited knitters to a nearby restauraunt. Very sweet. I know there are more that I have somehow forgotten the url's of. Speak up!

6. Bonne Marie. This lady


(seen here as the centre picture of elegance at a dinner after the event...for the sake of all of us, please overlook the number of glasses on the table. I don't know why they are there.) Bonne Marie is unbelievable. You know how it is when you have someone that you really admire all built up in your head because you've been reading them forever and then you meet them and you worry that maybe they aren't going to be as good as all that? That's how it was for me with Bonne Marie. I was so nervous to meet her that I worried that I would arse it up. I needn't have worried. There isn't a more genuine person in the world. She is kind, generous, funny, more beautiful than she looks on the blog (which is pretty freakin' beautiful) ... really actually interested in other knitters and I would spend more time with her in a heartbeat and count myself lucky for it .
I'm her biggest groupie, and if you met her...you would be too.

7. The next day had me at Sit'n Knit in South Bend. This shop has free coffee. Free lattes too, if you like 'em. Me? I like my coffee medicinal, but do enjoy knowing that others are enjoying all the foam they would like. It's a charming shop, with charming (high energy...that's probably the free coffee) knitters.

Erin with the sock. (I miss dorky's best friend Carma. She had car trouble. Sniff.)


Elizabeth with her stunning Tina


and random rabble ...


In the picture above is my fellow FTer Elizabeth....spinning away and making us all look like slackers, and Kristine in the purple. Completely adorable. A knitter/writer should only wish for such days. Many thanks to Jack and Kim for setting it up.

8. Lake Michigan


as seen by a new sock, since these...

roaming socks are done. (Since someone will ask, they are Opal sock yarn color 1016 done on 2mm needles, in my usual boring self-written pattern. )

10. The last reason that it was a good trip.. is that I got to go at all. I get torn sometimes, between my family and my home and the job for the books...and I wonder how I'll juggle it all. It turns out that you don't juggle it. You can't keep all the balls in the air. Either you are doing family life and worrying about your job, or you are doing your job and worrying about the family. This was the trip when I figured out that you can't do them at the same time. That I can't run a family from Chicago...no matter how hard I try. You just have to give up a little....celebrate the good things about it. (That would be the knitters) Be glad that I've been given the priviledge, grateful that I'm seeing so much...and let go of the laundry and wondering if Sam is doing her spelling. Thanks to all of you for making it a good trip. There aren't many people who can say they owe it all to knitters, but I can.



Small sweaters. Picking up stitches. Discovering that I can't count.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:11 PM

October 3, 2005


I'm home now, and anxious to tell you stories of Michigan, Chicago, Bonne Marie and Rams...but filled with a burning need to tell you the start of the trip.

As I sat on the plane leaving for Chicago, I pulled my knitting from my bag, (a sock) and took out my i-shuffle and my water and began to organize myself. As I did so, a gentleman near me stared intently at my knitting needles.
"Hello", I said, smiling...lots of people ask me about my knitting. I thought for sure that's where this was headed.
"Are those metal?" he asked, gesturing at my 2mm needles.
"Yup" I said. (Should have thought that through. Why would a muggle care what my needles are made of? Hindsight being what it is...this should have been the first tip-off that we were headed for trouble.)
"I'm uncomfortable with those" he says.
"What, the knitting needles?" I answer. "They're allowed items." and I smiled again. I'm sure that I don't have to tell you how far this friendly, gentle sort of straightening out goes 99% of the time.
Not today. Today the gentleman looks at me and says:
"Yes. The needles. You know..." he says to me, clearly feeling a need to elaborate, since I am starting to look at him with confusion...
"for terrorist reasons."

Now, it's possible that the look of shock on my face might have alarmed him. Perhaps it was the way that I choked on my water or stared at him with an incredulous look...but in any event, he obviously decided that I needed dealing with on a deeper level, since he pushed the call bell for the flight attendant.
She came right over and when "Cathy" arrived (name changed to protect the less than sparkling intellect of the participants) he gestured at me and my needles (which I was using for their intended purpose, thinking that this might alleviate some of the rampaging concern.) and waited for her to take action.

I waited too. This weenie was one thing, but flight attendants are another. They are highly trained professionals, smart cookies. Women and men of intelligence and substance. That's why I was absolutely stunned when the flight attendant said something so stupid that the mind reeled.

"They let you through security with those?

Holy crap. Let's think that through, shall we? Imagine the two possible answers to this question, and let's decide what the most likely possibility is, shall we? Either:

A) Yes. They did. I passed through e-ray, I put my stuff on the belt, took off my shoes and I was screened the same exact way as every other human in this airport, and not only did they see these knitting needles on the screen, and allow me in with them, but they didn't say squat about the two pairs of 14" aluminum straights in my bag and the back-up set of dpns either. Like just about every other time I have flown, all they said to me upon seeing the whack of knitting needles strewn about my carry-on was... "Have a nice flight." or the very occasional "My mum used to knit socks too."


B) No. No "Cathy", security did NOT allow me through with these knitting needles. I had them "positioned" on my person and when I passed through the x-ray machine I told them it was a steel plate I have from the war. When they looked suspicious and snapped their latex gloves, I ran. I sprinted past the desk, abandoning my things in the search machine (having strategically removed all identifying materials ahead of time) and streaked through the airport, hiding briefly in a Starbucks to elude Homeland Security, then slunk through the back corridors of the airport, stepping in every puddle I could find avoid leaving a scent for the tracking dogs to use. I backtracked, made only left turns and briefly rappelled until I made it all the way to the gate where I used a counterfeit passport to sneak onto the plane, positioned myself next to some weenie and proceeded to celebrate that I..having certainly secured myself 15 years in prison, if not a violent shooting death upon the arrival of the aircraft, assuming of couse that I was not taken out by an Air Marshall long, long before we arrived....was able to ...at long last......KNIT A (*&^%$#@!!!ing SOCK on a plane.
What do you think Cathy? What do you think Eh?

I thought better of either of these answers (the temptation was magnificent and sparkling) and instead I said. Yes. They allowed me on with these. They saw them. They didn't mind. Yes.
"Cathy" looked at me then and said...."Ok. I'm sure it's ok. If they said so....." and smiled rather disarmingly at the weenie, who did not seem disarmed and proceeded to tell us how he felt, naturally, that I was not a terrorist, but that the needles could (and I quote the weenie here) "be used against" me.
I stared at him for a minute, then finished my round and Cathy if I could be reseated. She did so..after asking the passengers in the new seats if they minded a knitter nearby, but not before I had taken a very sneaky no-flash picture of the weenie's feet to post here on the blog.


That'll teach him. (It was the only revenge I could think of.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:48 PM