November 30, 2005

The speed of five

Last year when my nephew Hank stayed with me, I wrote a post about "the speed of four". Well, Hank is older so his mum went away for longer and while she's been cavorting around Spain, I've had Hank staying here. I've decided that five is absolutely more lucid than four (good news there) and for the first time ever, the Hank-man (a gentleman of extreme passion and conviction) has made it through three days and nights with only loosing his s**t occasionally (instead of constantly) and without biting a single other person. That's incredible personal growth. There have been challenges and rewards and I'm almost sorry to see him go home today. Almost. I find these years, the "Mr. Dress-up years" the most challenging of all. Five year olds are too young to be entirely reasonable, too young to get themselves a sandwich and pretty much too old to breastfeed...which, to be entirely honest, was largely my solution to the unreasonable, unsandwich making dilemmas of the younger child.

Note: today's photos were provided by the five year old in question, who asked if he could take pictures of wool too.

Challenge: There are petrified apple slices stuck to the top of my bedroom heating vent. I don't know how I got to be a mother of three kids this old without knowing that you could petrify apple slices that quickly...but there you go.
Reward: I get to read this book out loud each night. I love this book. I love reading out loud to people with low standards. I love human beings who fit on your lap and have hair that smells like sunshine and playground dirt.


(Note: I believe this is the purple ear flap hat that Meg is knitting. The photographer may have been under-supervised with the camera while I tried to make something for dinner. Joe went to the grocery store but bought only the first half of the stuff on the list, leaving me to make dinner with the strangest assortment of ingredients. I will go to my grave thinking he does this as some sort of despicable creative exercise to challenge me.)

Challenge: You may not be aware of this, but "Bob the Builder" underpants don't get dirty. I tried to pry them off him last night when he put them on again after his bath but no matter what I said about hygiene, underwear use and the time limits and relationships of same, he looked me dead in the eye like I didn't understand a thing about the world and said "But they are Bob the Builder underpants". I left them. Erin's coming home today. She can try to get them off him.
Reward: One tiny boy swimming around in one huge claw foot tub.


(That's the Dale of Norway baby sweater from this book. Design "Voss" two sleeves and 1/3 of the body done.)

Challenge: Explaining to Hank that I don't buy McDonalds, having him barely accept that without a meltdown and realizing that my life was not going to be worth 10 cents for the next twenty minutes as I heard him say "Ok, no McDonalds...Burger King!"
Hank asked me to give him a ball of yarn. "Home-made" yarn. I asked him what he would do with it and he said that he just likes yarn. (My heart skipped a beat.) I told him that I would give him a nice little ball of yarn when he knit. That's when he said it, the words I've been waiting for. The words that will slide him into my world and make him mine forever. The words that mean that wrapping him in woolies for the last five years have meant something more than a parade of good accessories... he said
"So teach me."

I used good real wool and warm wooden needles that my friend Denny made. (I think you should have the good stuff from the beginning.)

Note the concentration.

First solo stitch!

The reward. One wee ball of handspun.

What is the old Jesuit maxim?
"Give me a boy for six years, and he is mine for life."

Posted by Stephanie at 11:27 AM

November 29, 2005




She's gone. (As and aside? See all that luggage? Yarn.)

The top ten things about having Juno visit.

1. She gleefully played along with my families attempts to immerse her in Canadian culture. She watched this movie:


as well as "The Trailer Park Boys" (She already knew about SCTV. Don't worry. I didn't neglect the comedy of our people.)

2. She drank Canadian beer. (I will not tell you what kind of Canadian beer since it's only going to start an "I can't believe you gave her that swill" argument no matter what I tell you it was. Suffice it to say that it was Canadian, it was a micro-brew and it contained a Canadian amount of alcohol.)

3. She drank the cocktail of our people.


I insisted that it didn't taste like clams and pretty much forced it on her. In the end (though it did take her a long time to drink it) she did say it was "pretty good". (An aside here? While I did not make the Caesar in this picture, an interesting Harlot fact is that I make one of the best Caesars you are ever going to drink. Ever. Everyone has a gift, and while I was hoping for tact, intelligence or great beauty, it would appear that my gift is making an absolutely terrific Caesar.)
....for people concerned with accuracy and tradition of Caesar consumption, be assured that she did have it at brunch, and that brunch was in the afternoon.

4. If you happen to leave a tiara on the dining room table (what?) then Juno will put it on. I don't know why I love this...goodness knows I didn't leave a tiara there...but I really do.

This is really just an example of the way that the woman slid flawlessly into our lives for 5 days. She held her own in endless conversations with the girls about boys, hair, jeans and why all of this will be ok when they are thirty...she giggled her way through Joe's parade of ideas for filling the queen sized air mattress on our living room floor. (Really, his crowning glory was when he came home after a few pints and "Hockey Night in Canada" and explained to us that if we stood the mattress upright and put the pump at the top, less air would escape while we were capping it, since "gravity would be on our side". God, I love that man. )

5. I took her to St. Lawrence Market, St. James Cathedral, Financial district (but we didn't do the underground city) , Yonge Street, showed her the CN tower, went to Old City Hall, New City Hall, the Eaton Centre, the Hudson Bay company and...well. A whole bunch of other places and she didn't complain at all. Not only did she not complain, she pretended to find it interesting.

6. Juno has, and I cannot stress this unlimited ability to discuss knitting. I don't know what I enjoyed more. Talking about knitting for hours or the way that Joe rolled his eyes every time that he discovered that we were still on the topic of knitting. (For the record a discussion about gauge, sizing and the ways of the blocking mysteries is a completely different conversation than that of ease, sizing and the ways of the blocking mysteries.)

7. She is a fast learner and very clever. She mastered the hand cards in moments. (The first moment was hysterical though, Juno loaded the seen in the picture below:


picked up the cards, and in one swift, sure movement, completely transfered all of the wool from one card to the other, absolutely intact. It was impressive, though sort of defeated the purpose of carding.)

8. Her complete weakness in the face of the drum carder.

(Juno is seen here learning that she was mistaken about shetland.)

9. Juno is, despite always looking good and appearing "finished", very, very quick in the bathroom. Joe's concerns that adding a 5th woman to the bathroom linup (we only have one) was going to completely finish his chances, proved to be unfounded. The woman is in and out of there in a heartbeat.

10. The yarn. The wool. The patterns, the discussions. The yarn shops, the knitters, the knitting, the carding, the spinning. The stash-diving.

Juno brought me some of Gladys, her wonder fleece,


(Official fleece of the 2005 TUFT year.)
I love this about knitters and spinners. Juno brought me fleece and fibre (the hostess gift of choice in these parts) and I gave her fleece and fibre from the stash. It isn't an exchange or an obligation, it isn't even a gift. Knitters and Spinners embrace the "each teach one" philosophy, and I've never met a spinner who didn't shell out what they had so that other spinners could learn more....
it's remarkable.


I could say something mushy here, something about how incredible blogging has been in my life and how I'm really the sort of person who hasn't got a lot of friends, just a few good ones that I've had forever..and that I'm shy and I never thought, never in a million years...that I would get a whole bunch of new friends. I could tell you that I thought that intimacy with a buddy was the byproduct of years and years of experience with someone, and that I was absolutely gobsmacked to learn that there is a group of people out there with whom I need little time to feel as though they belong completely in my life. I don't know what it means that all of these new friends are knitters. Something good though. I could tell all of you that the friendship and camaraderie that this blog has brought into my life in only 22 months has meant a great deal to me...but I won't...'cause that would be mushy. I'll just say instead that if you get a chance to have a knitter sleep on your living room floor for 5 days you should do it.

I'm off now, to try and recover my home from the ravages of 5 days of spinning, knitting, drinking wine and ordering take out while pretending that laundry does itself.


Or maybe I'll knit....The damage to the TUFT facilities are significant, but Hank is staying here for a few days, so I'm thinking that other than a rendezvous with Mr. Washie to put everybody back in clean undies, cleaning up before the five year old goes home would be stupid.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:19 PM

November 25, 2005

She's learning eh?

Yesterday Norma pointed out that the TUFT agenda was missing a few important classes. Namely the "learning how to sit on the chesterfield class" or the "knitting whilst playing broomball" class, and I thought about it....and Norma is right. What with most Canadians knowing a great deal about American culture, and most Americans needing a little education about ours..I realized that I had a responsibility to teach Juno the ways of our people while she is here. To that end Canadians will be relieved to know that I have undertaken the following, and begun the process:

1. We have introduced her to the milk of our people, which, while we drink 1% and not "homo",


was still nothing she had ever seen the likes of before.
(Bonus question: snip both sides or only one? Discuss.)

2. We took her out into the weather of our people...


which was mercurial, vicious and then lovely, and then brutal and very Canadian all day long.

3. At lunch in the village I purchased for her the dessert of our people. She said it was "good". She may have been lying, I can't tell.

The day rolled on (I took her to the famous old Runnymede Theatre, now a bookstore) we bought Canadian cheese at the market, we ate it with pears and good bread...and then we went out into the night to the Knitlit 3 Launch. Many thanks to those of you who staggered into the snow to come. It was brutal weather.

Juno got to hang with local designer Fiona Ellis and Kelly before,


and after, well. After we had just the best time. The whole gang of friends and family trouped to a local spot after, and each and every person at the table knit.


Our waiter was so freaked out he couldn't hardly serve us. He'd try to take an order, see some more wool and just come unglued.
Here's commenter extraordinaire Rachel H. with her very first handspun. (A sacred artifact.)


A group shot, more fun in the weather of our people....


and we drifted home.


Today...nominations for the "yarn of our people" are being accepted and Rachel has procured "the donut of our people" (a Tim Horton's Maple Glazed.) Suggestions for other educational activities are welcome.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:03 PM

November 24, 2005

TUFT Report. Day One.

Did I tell you about this? That there's a Fibre Festival here in Toronto? I mean, Maryland has Maryland Sheep & Wool, New York has Rhinebeck and Toronto


Juno in my living room, attending the gala reception for TUFT. (Toronto Underground Fibre Talkathon) You can tell it's a reception because there is wine.

I got her from the airport last night, and despite my prolonged and incredibly malignant relationship with Pearson International Airport, I managed to pick her up exactly when I said I would, in exactly the manner I had predicted and then...for the first time ever in my whole life...I took the right exit out of the airport and drove straight home.

(This never happens. For those of you close to the airport I will pass on what I have learned so that you may know the joy I felt last night as I drove out of the airport. (Straight out. It was incredible.) I live in the West End. I take Scarlett Road straight north to the airport, then when I want to leave the airport, I try to follow the signs to get back to Scarlett Road and there are none. None. I drive around and around looking for the signs (and fuming with electric rage because when I ask people how they do this, they always tell me to follow the signs, which is a lie, because...and I stress this. There are no signs for Scarlett road. (I am further infuriated by the way that I can't even seem to end up on the same highway. When I can't find Scarlett Road, what happens next is a complete crapshoot. 401? 427? Airport Road? 409? It's like I have to take whatever the airport gives me and just (*&^%$ing cope with it.) Yesterday however, the airport mojo couldn't stick to me and I drove right out. I did the opposite of whatever I usually do and whammo, I was back on Scarlett Road, looking clever to Juno and not using and filthy language at all. It turns out however, that there are no signs for Scarlett Road by the airport because Scarlett Road becomes Dixon Road at some mysterious point on the way there. To get to Scarlett Road (for which there are no signs) take Dixon Road (for which there is ample instruction.) Naturally, you may all mock me in the manner in which you have become accustomed because I am the last person in Toronto to know this.)

Since her arrival we have had the gala reception, the vendor's introduction (that would be the stitch'n bitch) and the transportation orientation (streetcar) and the first debate of the talk-a-thon:

Session 1A. Ball Winder vs Nostepinne.
Score: Stephanie 2 -one point given for speed, one point for being able to stack her yarn cakes.
Juno 1 - but she won anyway because she played the "spirtual fulfillment" card. You can't compete with that.

More details of TUFT day one are available at the satellite site.

Today's agenda:
7:30-8:40 I get the girls up and gone while Juno laughs and thinks fond thoughts about birth control and her relationship to it.
8:40 - 9:30. Drink coffee, photograph cashmere in the snow (Juno can buy cashmere faster than any other woman alive.)

9:40-10:55- Joint blogging- decision of agenda. Consideration of bathroom rotation and scheduling.
Rest of day....well. We don't know. Something involving Bloor West Village, session 2A (My stash and how much of it she can't take home) and 2B (Is chocolate a vegetable...discussion and tasting) and 2C (Drumcarder use and why Juno should buy one) pastry and yarn. Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.
Evening: The open event of TUFT. Please join us at:


It's going to be a blast.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:52 AM

November 22, 2005

Not far from the tree

Shhh....approach closely, for here in the knitters wildlife reserve (um, my house) we have spotted a young knitter away from the pack demonstrating remarkable spontaneous knitting action.


Careful now, don't startle her. In this rare photograph the adolescent knitter is exhibiting "swatching" behavior, and is actually doing "math" to figure out her "gauge". It is worth noting that not more than 6 minutes before this footage was shot, the mother of the herd was observed with that big vein on her forehead pulsing again following a completely futile attempt to get this same youngling to perform mathematics for the purposes of a high school education.


Here the cub casts on...this is incredible Bob....just incredible, so rarely do we see knitting in the wild without the parents intervening. It could be that the mother is unusually distracted at the moment, we did hear the young one call out to her about how to use DPNs, but the mother replied "Are you kidding me Megan? I'm writing a book...use your head!" The young seldom enjoy this push out of the nest, but mama was right...the cub has seen DPNs used virtually every day of her 14 years on the earth, and despite her protestations, (and the fact that she's wearing a tee shirt that reads "I dress this way because it bothers you") it turns out that she did indeed know how to knit circularly.


When we returned to the scene this morning, the young was no longer knitting, and we assumed the moment had passed. Imagine how delighted the camera crew was when we spotted this....


in her coat pocket.
(We did not shatter the moment by asking her what she was making. If she thought we liked it....she would stop.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:14 PM

November 21, 2005

Bad news from NYC

I went to NYC on Thursday and took this picture:


which is totally my proof that I did not woosie out and take a cab but actually got myself on a bus from the airport and saw a little more of the city this time. I know that a picture of Grand Central Station is not actually proof that I took a bus since I just could have walked past it or something, but I didn't. I took a bus.

The bad news is this. Here's our lovely Cassie, my charming companion for the 4 free hours that I had in NYC.


Take my word for it, even though the camera wouldn't focus on her, she is lovely.
Here's another shot...


oh, dear. Same problem. I wonder if the camera is working?


Hmmm. It focusses on me when Cassie takes the picture.
Perhaps it is my skills then. I'll take a picture of something else.


Bingo. It's working. Must have been a quirk. I'll take another picture of Cassie.


That's odd, isn't it?
Me holding Socks That Rock,


Cassie holding Socks that Rock.



Cassie on the street.....


and thus the bad news. Cassie has, since the last time I saw her and managed to take perfectly good pictures of her...had something go dreadfully wrong that means that her image cannot be captured. I don't want to imply anything, and I only spent a little time thinking about it...but doesn't it make you wonder if she has a reflection?

On the upside, the book is almost done (I swear it. A few more days and then regular enthusiastic blogging will continue without the gratuitous use of extra photos to save on writing time.) a big party is coming...


(That's this Thursday. You should come. I'm bringing a friend, and I'll be reading my story from the book.)

...and I can totally knit a scarf in two days.


Posted by Stephanie at 11:55 AM

November 17, 2005

Indigo Addendum

In which That Laurie does subtle experiments with another indigo vat and gives a bibliography for the inquisitive.

Here is the postscript to my indigo adventure of summer 2005. Since it started to get cool at night around here, I decided that it might be time for the last batch. Then, of course, we got a series of 80+ degree humid days which would have been wonderful for the plants – too late! This time I thought perhaps a more scientific approach might be of interest. I did a series of “dips.” The big skein is a “first dip” of twenty minutes in the dye vat. After that one, I used a series of 50-yard skeins of the same polwarth handspun. From left to right, following a pure white skein of the original yarn, you can see each successive immersion in the dye bath:


The gradations are interesting and distinctly different blues, I think. And they are different from the “first dip” 50-yard skein I did with the last vat. Below I offer a picture which includes all of blue array AND two skeins I dyed in cochineal – those two are pink:


The other BIG reason for this postscript is because I remembered that Stephanie’s blog readers include folks who really want bibliography. So here you go – lots of information about natural dyeing:

All Fiber Arts – website of fiber resources.

Anne Bliss. “Using Natural Dyes.” Spin-Off 8 (Fall 1984): 42-43.

Rita Buchanan. “Grow your own colors: Plant a dye garden” Spin-Off 11 (Spring 1987): 35-40. See also A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers (Lovett, CO: Interweave Press, 1995.)

Elsie G. Davenport. Your Yarn Dyeing: A Book for Handweavers and Spinners. Pacific Grove, CA: Select Books, 1972.

Glenna Dean. “Indigo Dyeing: Nigeria Meets New Mexico.” Spin-Off 24 (Spring 2000): 80-86.

Dyeing Notes. The Prairie Fibers Co.

Victoria Finlay. Colour: Travels through the Paintbox. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002.

Elizabeth Hoppe and Ragnar Edberg. Carding, Spinning and Dyeing: An introduction to the traditional wool and flax crafts. Reinhold Craft Paperback.

Elizabeth Merrill. “Japanese Indigo Polygonum tinctorium”

Kimberly Packwood. Natural Dye Journal: Cochineal and Multiple Extractions.

Eunice Svinicki. Step by Step Spinning and Dyeing: A complete introduction to spinning and dyeing. New York: Golden Press, 1974.

Trudi Van Stralen. “Production Dyeing with Natural Dyes.” Spin-Off 10 (Spring 1988): 52-56

Note from Steph: I know that I probably don't tell her this enough, because, could you tell someone this enough, but I really appreciate the time, energy, thoughtfulness and clever ideas that That Laurie brings to this blog. I love guest bloggers.
Thanks Laurie.

I'll see you tomorrow...or Monday. (It just occured to me that tomorrow could be complex. We shall see. In the meantime, me and these two Handmaiden skeins are getting on a plane.


Do you think New York and back is enough time to knit it into a scarf? (Weenies notwithstanding.)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:38 AM

November 16, 2005

Back to the salt mines

I'm back to the grind of the book, so you lucky ducks again get what That Laurie and the tail end of her indigo adventure. Almost the tail end, actually, since there is one more you'll want to see tomorrow.
The writing is going well, and will be interrupted tomorrow with a very fast trip to NYC, to do some sort of book sales conference thing (Note to self: ask Sarah-the-wonder-publicist why I'm going to NY and what I'm supposed to be doing there.) I'll be gone less than 24 hours, but I'm so lame I'm excited anyway.


(PS. I'm knitting a new sweater, 'cause you know...I SO have time. Can you tell what it is?)

Lookit! Lookit! (I’m Look-it-ting; I’m Look-it-ting)
(AKA- Laurie's dye adventure, episode #4)

The above title comes from one of my favorite Charley Brown comic strips, but it also adequately describes the kind of behavior I have been indulging in with friends and family, proudly showing off indigo-dyed blue yarn. Of course, to them it just looks like blue yarn. Oh, well. Here is the recently dyed polwarth skein that endured and thrived in thorough immersion:


I particularly like the way in which the skein matches (almost) my blue jeans and my blue shoes.
Here is my earlier skein BEFORE its second visit to the indigo vat. It is hanging on the clothes line in all its splotchy glory:


And here is the new blue polwarth skein AND the over-dyed old skein, now a much darker and more even blue:


The lessons from the two dyeing sessions:
1) The indigo dye vat is probably more forgiving than the instructions suggest.
2) Look for color CHANGES in the dye vat in the pouring session and the transformation to “indigo white,” NOT particular shades.
3) You can keep dipping for a LONG time, but the yarn must be out and exposed to air for 30 minutes in between and keeping the vat warm is important. I dipped the over-dyed skein 3 or 4 times. Which leads to the next lesson …
4) Heat + agitation + changes in temperature lead to a different kind of wool magic – fulling/felting, especially with non-superwash merino. The skein cooled in the ½ hour out of the bath and was heated (and agitated) upon its return to the dye vat. The result? My skein began to develop a dreaded dreadlock-style clumping of strands of yarn. Needless to say, I stopped the redipping process. Trying to separate the strands while the skein was wet almost convinced me that I had achieved a nice indigo-colored felted skein. Crossing my fingers, I set the skein out to dry.
Once it dried, I was able carefully to re-skein it while separating those strands that had clumped/fulled together. I gained two important insights from this problem: a) slightly fulled yarn CAN be separated into its strands, but you must do so when it is dry (wet wool is weaker than dry wool so you can seriously damage the yarn by trying to wrench it apart while it is wet and b) it would have been a VERY good idea to re-skein the yarn BEFORE over-dyeing so that the “blotches” in the original yarn could be redistributed and overdyed perhaps more evenly.
With the merino skein above, I find I actually like its faintly mottled appearance a lot.
Now, folks, on to the BIG question: what should I knit with my 440 yards of indigo-dyed fingering weight merino? What about the 150 yd skein of handspun polwarth that I dyed in a later session? For that skein (to be shown in the addendum to come along with more experimental indigo skeins), I have thought about making a new pattern, Arabella, from the Arisokka Textile Blog. It takes about the right amount of sport weight, and the Arabella I am working up now from other handspun is looking very cool. Of course, some kind of Fairisle pattern is also a possibility, or so you will think when you see the last episode in this series.
Although the merino yarn was originally for socks, I resist putting my carefully indigo-dyed yarn into a form that I know I will wear through sooner rather than later. Make your suggestions for 440 yard merino skein OR the 150 skein in the comments today! (I am stopping just short of the Harlot’s daring willingness to let us vote on which sock pattern she should start a while back; after all, we all know how THAT experiment turned out!)

Update from Steph: For the love of crap. Sorry about the comments guys...I'm not sure what's going on there, but I'll put my technical team (um...that would be Ken) on this and try and find out why my comments thingie is determined to mention the size (or lack thereof) of male organs when you try and say something civilized. Not that male organs aren't civilized (well..they often aren't actually, but that's another problem.) but I don't know what the trouble is. We, well...Ken will get on it.

Update again: Ken fixed the comments. All hail the mighty tech god and all round good guy. You may resume commenting, without fear of any sort of suggestions about the size of your "meat and veg".

Posted by Stephanie at 2:17 PM

November 15, 2005

Finished Object.

Yesterday morning, everybody got tired of waiting for the snowflake, and the baby's destiny was decided. Teresa was uncomfortable, baby was seriously late to the party, and all persons concerned (except possibly Teresa, who really, really likes to do things her way) decided that an eviction notice was in order.

Teresa and I reported to the hospital, where the wonders of modern medicine were marshalled, and an induction was attempted. This is how well that worked.

Yup. Eight hours of knitting. No progress. There are worst ways to spend a day than knitting with a friend...but we really had something else in mind. You know, something that involved a wee charming non-knitter.

Eventually, the drugs (that Teresa didn't really want) designed to bring her that non-knitter wore off, and the very minute that they did and the second she was left to her own devices....

Tmebabe-1 as yet unnamed baby boy, 8lbs, 8oz of good looking brand new person, born after a remarkably brilliant and stunningly efficient three hours of labour, to a tired but smiling mama who clearly doesn't like to be told what to do.

Welcome dude. You're going to like it here. Your mama is a force to be reckoned with.
(Don't worry. We're going to knit you a better hat.)

(Updated after a bit of a sleep: The baby has been named.
Montgomery. Monty for short. I think it suits him.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:19 PM

November 11, 2005

The poppies

A couple of days ago, when the photographer was here from the States he asked me what was up with all the red flowers people are wearing. I explained this, and this....

I thought that was enough, given that I didn't know him very well and that if you are a passionate and deliberate pacifist, conversations about war, soldiers, peacekeeping and remembrance can head in extraordinarily surprising directions these days.

If you this is your first Remembrance day here at Chez Harlot, and if it suits your spirit, please consider doing three things.

Please go read about my grandfather.
Please, if you are Canadian, pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, remember what has come before, and consider the cost.
Please, even if your personal beliefs will not allow you to act as a pacifist, please spend a little time contemplating Peace, your role and how your behaviour can influence world events. There is a concept in parenting that explains that you should catch your children doing something right, since with kids, you always get more of what you pay attention to. This doesn't mean that as a parent you ignore poor behavior, but that on balance, there should be a greater reward of attention for goodness than for taking your-sisters-blue-shirt-after-she-told-you-not-to-even-though-she-was-going-to-wear-it-to-school-because-there-is-no-other-shirt-like-it-at-all-and-now-your-insensitivity-has-completely-ruined-her-life-and-all-hopes-that-she-will-ever-have-friends-and-be-cool-enough-to-survive-high-school. (For example.) I'm hoping that this is a truth of the world (since it really, really works with kids) and today I'll devote my day to peaceful action, trying to swing the balance.

(Yes, I have considered telling Teresa that delivering a baby is the ultimate in peaceful action and goodness..but I decided against it. Her beating me half to death for mentioning it wouldn't be.)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:51 AM

November 10, 2005

Mood Indigo-part 3

Note from Steph: No baby yet, though it is getting harder to remember that a watched uterus never contracts. The baby will come when it is finished and there is nothing we can do to rush it. Go on about your business. (Buy that? Oh. Teresa didn't either.)
We did get the cover of the book shot yesterday, though who knows what they will use or do. The suspense is killing me (but I didn't kill Adam.)
The That Laurie Guest Blog continues....

Mood Indigo
“The vat must be reduced (the air removed) and turned to "indigo white" which is actually a sort of chartreuse green. To do this, add Sodium Hydrosulfite (buy Rit Color Remover from the grocery store or a craft store -- it has a definite shelf life so look for the expiration date) at the rate of 1/2 teaspoon/gallon of dye liquid. Stir gently (remember not to get more air in the vat at this point). It might take another hour, you will see the vat change color.”
Well, we added the requisite amount of RIT dye remover and it took about 2 seconds for the vat to change color. I would not have called it chartreuse green, but then I have never been 100% sure what color “chartreuse” was. My guess is that the most important thing is that the color of the vat change. The first time, the change was dramatic and the liquid really did turn a much lighter green.
When I did my second indigo vat more recently with the leaves that had grown back from the first harvest, both the vat itself was much darker and the “transformed” vat, though definitely changed in color, was much darker.
In any case, we were very excited when we carefully put our pre-soaked yarn into the vat now perched permanently above the hot water in the dye pot because the heat must stay in the 110 to 130 range.


We also inverted another plastic tub on TOP of the indigo vat to keep the heat from escaping. After all it was getting a bit late in the evening by then, and Maine gets cool of an evening, even during the summer.

When we unveiled the pot, we had very positive indications that the process had worked:


See the blue tinting the top? We tried to dye too much wool, and some of it did NOT stay under the surface of the liquid. Supposedly, the yarn stays below, and you can swoosh it around. But, having spent all almost all day wrestling the vat into submission, we wanted to dye a LOT. In terms of the weight, we should have been fine – 28 ounces of leaves for 2 100-gram skeins of dye-your-own sock merino from KnitPicks. I am convinced it was volume of the liquid, not the vat itself that lead to somewhat mottled skeins.
Anyway, we got the Indigo magic!! Just watch:


See the color spread up the skein as it hits the air? And it gets darker! Like this:


Now one skein was considerably darker than the other. The one I kept was less dark then the skein above and had number white splotches, both where the ties on the yarn blocked the dye and the absorption of the vat was not as good. Mine was the skein on top, and I knew I could overdye it with the next indigo vat. Which is exactly what I did.
In the next vat, I also did a very small skein of bright white polwarth handspun all by itself first. It FULLY submerged and changed color even faster and more fully than the skeins above:


Tomorrow – results and lessons learned!

Posted by Stephanie at 11:40 AM

November 9, 2005

Laurie subs in(digo), part 2

Note from Steph: Still no baby. I am beginning to think that Teresa is holding me personally responsible for it's failure to appear.
In other news, this is Adam.


He is the photographer sent to take my picture for bookbookbook 3, and I haven't made up my mind if I like him. On the one hand, he seems like a nice guy, polite, funny, competent and with my best interests at heart. On the other hand, he keeps taking my picture, which makes me self conscious, nervous and hostile. Today, assuming Teresa doesn't free me by producing a child, Adam will photograph me and my knitting friends and comrades and we will likely scare the crap out of him while I hold the following against him.

1. He asked me to buy wool "another time" when he was trying to take my picture yesterday in the yarn shop. (he knows nothing of our ways.)
2. He is interfering (however sweetly) with book writing time.
3. He wishes that I had (get this) "bigger knitting".

Dude. I have so much to teach him.

Over to That Laurie....

Indigo (Not-So) Blues

“Strain out and compost the leaves, pour the brown liquid into a bucket or other large non-reactive container. Add ammonia (buy the NON-sudsing kind) at the rate of 1 fluid oz/gallon of dye liquid to make the vat alkaline. . . . Now pour this liquid back and forth between 2 buckets for 5 minutes to get as much air into the vat as possible. The liquid will turn blue and a bit foamy.”
We left our intrepid heroines with their carefully shorn indigo leaves immersed and SLOWLY rising in temperature within the makeshift doubleboiler (well-used dye pot + circular cake-cooling rack + three gallon jars and there you are!). And we are very carefully using an old meat thermometer to make sure that the temperature in the jars reaches only 150-160 degrees F. Lots of patience for this step. We let it “steep” in this fashion for about an hour and a half, with the reward that the leaves became leached of their color and the water in which they were steeping achieved a vague blue tint when observed at an angle. By the time the water became a kind of dull brown, we figured that we had reached the proper point.
I will say, however, that I steeped the leaves a LOT longer for the second batch of leaves I did recently and got an awful lot darker indigo color from my “indigo vat.” Of course, the recent success may have something to do with the various problems we encountered the first time in trying to follow the instructions.
We discovered the following:

1) Two PhDs in Humanities type topics can have an unusual amount of trouble translating fluid ounces into the more easily measured tablespoons. 1 fluid ounce equals two tablespoons, so we put in three tablespoons for our gallon and a half of due liquid. Observe:


2) You can pour your fluid back and forth for an hour and it will NOT turn blue. Later we consulted with Rita Buchanan’s instructions in Spin-Off directly (“Grow your own colors: Plant a dye garden” SP87:35-40), and she indicates the color WOULD change, but the liquid might more likely be a dark blue-green. On BOTH dyeing occasions, I would say that the liquid was much more dark green than blue, and the foam was not blue AT ALL. This particular picture reveals the dark-greenness of things and explains the various contortions Kristen and I went through thereafter:


And here is a great picture of the more recent indigo dyeing session in which you will note that the liquid being poured is a nice dark green.


Kristen and I developed various theories – we are not scientists but we HAD done research. We thought one of two things might be wrong: 1) wrong PH or 2) heat too low since we had been pouring for about an hour rather than five minutes. The one possibility that did NOT occur to us was that we had, in fact, mixed enough air into the vat and the green liquid WAS the right color and was ready to go on to the next stage. There were hints that we should have thought of that possibility – after all, the plastic bucket was turning blue


However, we expected BLUE. So, we thought we had better check the temperature (it was low so we put the vat over a hotter water bath) and the PH. So off I go to the local pool store to buy PH strips, and I return –


Let the measuring begin:


Those PH strips are not as accurate as you would like. By now, it occurs to both of us that the original dyers who used this plant probably had no local pool store and must have been able to achieve their goal without all these machinations.
In short, we gave up and decided to try with the decidedly uninspiring vat we had achieved. What can I say? It was getting late, and we were getting tired.

Tomorrow – Mood Indigo

Posted by Stephanie at 1:23 AM

November 8, 2005

Indigo Adventure: Part One

Note from Steph: There is no baby yet, but there are signs that it won't be long. (Teresa is well, though extraordinarily pissed off, and the babe, while static, is doing very nicely.) In the meantime, I continue to sit in the dungeon, finishing book 3 (it's going fine thanks. Yesterday I got a whole five hours of sleep, finished an entire chapter and only cried once. I'm not even sure why I cried. Too much coffee maybe. Is nineteen cups too much?) and Laurie (That Laurie) steps up to the guest blogger plate. Make her feel at home will ya? (And don't get used to this level of professionalism. It's back to me soon.)

L.I.D -- Laurie’s Indigo Dyeing: Part One

Or rather Laurie TRIES to do indigo dyeing, with the valuable help of her assistant Kristen. We prepared for adventure months before by buying indigo plants at the Maine Fiber Frolic. We will draw a discrete veil over attempt one in which we clipped the tips of the plants in the two flats of six I brought back and planted in my garden. Trying to dye using too few indigo leaves that are themselves too young does not work. Let us leave it at that. However, by mid-July, we had enough indigo (note to self: do not plant the indigo so close to the basil plants next time. See the basil in the lower corner of the picture? Fortunately Indigo leaves are a lot flatter than this species of basil!):


Even more important, telltale water droplets had marred a few leaves revealing this:


See the blue?? Definite blue. There was lots of indigo; the plants were mature enough; we were ready to go! We used the information from this site , but we also discovered some things on our own. Kristin and I settled in for LONG day of dyeing. Little did we know HOW long!

We picked about 28 ounces of indigo leaves – observe the harvest. The leaves are in the jars to be heated and the remainder stems are in one of our many bowls:


Just following instructions: “Strip the leaves from stalks and cram them into a gallon glass jar (or a plastic bucket or a stainless steel or enamel pot -- any non-reactive container). Fill the jar with water and place it in another pot on a trivet or some jar lids (you are creating a double boiler).” Here are the jars in their double boiler:


So far so good, right? Just you wait!!

Posted by Stephanie at 9:13 AM

November 4, 2005

Randomly (again)

1. Teresa is still pregnant. (She is delighted, let me tell you.) Since finishing the knitting didn't work instantly, I'm hoping to make the baby jealous by beginning to knit for another baby.


This is my swatch, a sleeve for the Voss Dale of Norway baby sweater. I'm using Baby Ull and it's knit on 2.5mm needles. (There's a picture of the sweater here, but mine's the baby version and this shows the kid one. Close though.)
I'm upholding my personal swatch philosophy here. The sleeve of a baby sweater IS a swatch. I mean, what would you knit to test gauge that would be smaller? The sleeve is in the round so the swatch will be accurate, and if the goddess smiles on me then I have a sleeve. If not, well....I have a swatch. Really, the only thing wrong with this system is how long it took me to learn to cast on the sleeve instead of the body. Chronically slow learner here.

2. The TSF pins. All talk of the TSF pins and what will be done with them in on hold for two weeks. If you sent me an email offering help or suggesting something...don't worry. I have it, and when I am ready, I'll email you.

3. My manuscript (bookbookbook3) has to be on my editors desk in it's entirety, in two weeks. Until then you will have to forgive me spotty blogging, poor grammar (more than usual), blatantly ripping off other blog formats (thanks again for the random thing Mamacate) and the occasional sobbing jag, sleep deprived rant or apparent lack of will to live.
(Sounds like it's going to be a funny book eh?)

4. When Sam was Trick or Treating, she went up to one house and when she came back to the curb we had the following conversation:

Sam: That house was really scary.
Me: Really? Inside or Outside? (Since the house was not decorated on the outside, I assumed that they must have gone to town in their foyer or something.)
Sam: Inside.
Me: Lots of Hallowe'en decorations eh?
Sam: I don't think they had decorated.

5. I will now distract you from the lack of coherency with presents.

Karlie has this beautiful bracelet she made


and it will be making it's way to Mary B. (Don't you sort of want to know how she made that? I say "sort of" because I think that if you knew how to do it, you might spend your whole day messing with beads, and that would cut into the knitting time.)

Sandra D. (I love typing that. I bet Sandra got sick of that song from Grease a long, long time ago...but I think it's still funny.) has all of this for TSF'ers.


The Green Mountain Spinner Knitting book, which is wonderful...I have a copy upstairs and I love the "Easy Raglan" with the cabled edges. Sandra's mailing it to Anj - aka Purlewe.


Sandra's sending this copy of Alice Starmore's Celtic Collection to
Teresa. (Not my pregnant one, but the one I emailed.)


and Jean Moss Designer Knits to Kelli Ann F.


Cervinia sock yarn (I haven't used this one...) to Shelby M.
(Let me know what you think of it)


Regia sock yarn to Vicky (The one I emailed)


Lang Jawoll sock yarn to Rachel T. (am I the only one sort of coming to the conclusion that Sandra may have a pretty big stash of sock yarns?)


and last, but certainly not least, this lovely Louet Gems Pearl is going to live with Marian C.

I've emailed all the lucky picks, so if you're wondering if it's you, check your inbox.

6. Laurie (That Laurie) has taken the time to write us a spectacular guest blog series on the joys of dyeing with Indigo. (It's really good.) I'll be posting it here over the next two weeks as I need a little room to focus on the last bit of the book-in-progress. Her last tutorial was so good to I know you're going to love this. Once again, I'd like to thank That Laurie for giving me the gift of time and sanity.

7. I forget what 7 was. I'm going to go write a book now.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:48 AM

November 3, 2005

Dear Teresa,

Yesterday I knit like a fiend, after I suddenly realized that really, it's not a joke. Your baby will not be born until his/her shawl is finished. I know that it might sound funny to you, my belief that babies don't come until their knitting is done, but I have a lot of babies to judge by and a perfect track record. The girls were each born (one two weeks late, one two weeks early and one right on her due date) all on the day that their blankets were finished, Hank was born on the day I finished his blanket, Snowdrop didn't come until I finished her shawl, Sam arrived in 49 minutes once I was done with that boring baby blanket (though I feel bad that he was a week late. It was a pretty big blanket though.) .....I don't know why I was worried. Clearly, the baby comes when I finish.

This got me to thinking, since truly my next thought was "why rush?" (Yes. That does make me rather cruel. I'd rather not discuss it. I'm still reeling from the realization that I've been artificially inflating birth weights in the Province of Ontario for my entire career.) if it is finishing the blanket that triggers labour, and you will definitely be pregnant for as long as I decide you will, until the time is right, then perhaps I should get a move on. (I promise that the way you wake up every morning, realize you are still pregnant and then call me absolutely furious about it had nothing to do with my decision to get a move on. I would feel sort of guilty if you exploded because I got distracted by a fair isle hat I stuck to it with some focus.)

I took the shawl with me to the S&B at Lettuce knit last night. Right, sorry. I didn't have any fun though. I bet you had more fun than me, just sitting around watching your feet swell. I definitely didn't have fun while I was taking this picture, which I have entitled...

"Emma may have miscalculated her gauge."


Emma (the one in the back) knit this on the fly, and since denial ain't just a river in Egypt, it was only when she cast off and had the zipper mostly in that she could no longer deny the truth. (I'm sure you will be laughing as hard as I as that she said this sweater only had an extra "16 inches" in it)
We ripped it back last night. I tried not to think of the irony that I was delaying knitting your shawl while ripping back the only item in the world that is going to fit you if I don't finish the shawl.

Wracked by guilt, I knit on the streetcar, on the bus and until 1:30AM, when...I finished the knitting.

I know what you are thinking. You're thinking "It's 10:30AM Steph. It's been (*&^%$#!!!! nine hours since you finished! Why the (*&^%$!!! am I still *&^%$#ing pregnant?" Firstly, don't talk like that, the baby can hear you, and secondly...because lace isn't done until it's blocked. The knitting was finished, the shawl was not.

Knitting done, I folded the shawl, relieved that I would be blocking it today and turned in. Lying there, my dear friend. I started to think about you. I though about how you were trying to sleep while someone jumped on your spleen, kicked you in the diaphragm and played rousing games of "I'm sure that's her bladder" so you had to get up to pee 57 times while I was lying there. I felt sort of bad.
So I got back up.

The shawl, blocking at 2:30am. (Never say I do not love you.)


(By the way, statistically speaking? What do you think the odds are that this totally innocent looking black cat is not going to lie on the blocking white shawl the minute I go up to bed?")


By the time I got up this morning the shawl was dry. (I woke up twice last night imagining you calling me in a rush, and me staggering around the living room with my coat half on, cab at the door, kicking pins out of the thing at 5:55am ..but no.) I unpinned it and lo.


It is finished.


It is knit. It is blocked. It is dry. It is ready.

Specs for my knitter friends: My own pattern, with the final snowflake pattern and border boosted from this book (which is a fine book.) It took 2 full balls and a little bit of a third one of Misti Alpaca Lace. (437 yards/ball) on 3.75mm needles.

Teresa, please forgive me for not knitting as quickly as I could, and accept my deepest apologies for that last stretch mark that was probably completely preventable. Mea culpa.
Know that despite my regrettable lack of speed, I will point out that I am actually done on your due date, that this is one of the best and most beautiful things I have ever knit, and that I couldn't possibly be more excited about being at this birth, touching the third of your babies (you do such nice work) ...and finding out exactly who is in there.

In short, my dear friend....Bring it on.



Posted by Stephanie at 11:12 AM

November 2, 2005

Cross your legs

Teresa's baby is due tomorrow.


This is the snowflake shawl. I need two days. Today to finish the lace edge, then tomorrow to block it. While I can't bring myself to ask Teresa to wait, I really hope that she does. May the force be with us.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:53 PM

November 1, 2005

A changed man.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you fond birthday wishes for Joe.


Dude, seen here being so hip it hurts, celebrates an undisclosed number of years on the planet today and I, in usual harlot form, will tell you why I'm going to get him a present, some cake and maybe something else he will like.

Joe changed. All the time everyone says you can't change people and you need to just look at your spouse and say "Ok. This is it. This is who he is and I can't change him." This is absolutely true, very good advice to give people who are engaged and I've always completely accepted that you can't change anyone, not even a little.

Imagine my surprise then, that it turns out that if the man in question really loves you, and really respects your goals and your happiness...then they will change themselves. (This was not a possibility that my mother explained to me.) This time last year was a mother, wife, writer and doula working from home. This had the benefit of providing our family with an almost seamless supply of warm dinners on the table and clean laundry that appeared suddenly in drawers. Joe did his stuff around the house (though I can't remember right now what that was, only that I told him on more than one occasion that "No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes" and by way of encouragement, that I find men sorting laundry "really hot".) but mostly it was my domain.

Then, encouraged by Joe, my first book was published and everything changed. I was gone a lot. When I wasn't gone I was working. I had another book coming out and a third one to write and there were all of these planes and meetings and millions of knitters and yarn and.....I must have looked like I was having the time of my life this year. (Mostly because I was.) It was a lot of work, but when it's the work you have always dreamed of doing, then writing until 4am has it's rewards, you know what I mean?

The laundry stopped. I left on trips. The house exploded, the kids got disorganized. I came home from yarn crawls the book tour to discover not just that things were sticky, but that things were falling apart. I remembered that people don't change...and I spent quite a lot of time wondering if this was too much for my family. I would come back and there would be no food, no clean dishes, homework abandoned...people wearing really strange outfits because they were at the bottom of the clean clothes supply...and on one historic occasion, a large hairball greeted me at the front door because there had been an executive decision by "Team Lord Of The Flies" to let it dry (!!!??!!) before making an attempt to clean it up. (It had dried. They had forgotten.) I admit that I wept as I pried it off the carpet. That night I lay in bed wondering if I could have this career, or if I needed to wait until the kids were older. It wasn't just the was the chaos.

Then it happened. Joe changed. Not all at once, and I admit that the change was subtle at times...but it was there. He started to understand how much toilet paper three teenaged girls need and that there's nothing he can do about that. He started wiping things. He washed the kitchen floor and did a load or two of laundry when people had no underwear. (I'll admit that the first time he did it, he was the one out of underwear, but change is a process.) He admitted that he could see how it might be upsetting to me to return from 8 days away and find the living room was not only trashed, but now contained a "patch bay" two "console channels" and a large editing system. (He didn't move it, but he admitted that he could see why I might not like it.) He started making the bed. He did homework with the girls. He kept up with their activities...He bought fruit....and more than all of this..

He never, ever...not once, not for a second, no matter how much I was gone, no matter how much slack he had to pick up, even though he was doing a lot of work and a lot of change and lots of men would be bitter about their underwear-washing, dinner cooking, schedule coordinating mate just packing up and leaving all the time...(especially leaving them with three high-drama teenagers with advanced certificates in hostile behavior and guilt-trips) not once has he ever said anything to me except for "What's the stuff you use to get gum off the bathtub?" "How many carrots can they eat in a day?" and ..."I'm really so proud of you Steph."

The wonder doesn't end here. As if it were not enough that Joe has demonstrated that he can learn and change to support his family in their endeavors, better than that...he did something remarkable.
He didn't change the stuff I already liked. He's still funny, and charming and sweet and mourned a hamster. He's also still late, sometimes annoying and not yet someone who can own a cell-phone, and I don't want to pretend that he is now some sort of tidy, Vim-loving clean-freak ... but these are the spices in his personality. The things that keep him from being milk-toast bland, the things that tell me that he's never going to get boring, or mundane or ordinary. A year after his last birthday, I have a changed man, and a better one.

Happy Birthday Joe.
(I'll do the groceries today.)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:31 AM