Please join me in welcoming, with all of the joy and happiness that this community is capable of:
the much awaited twins. Both are healthy and beautiful, as is their mother, who did womankind proud today, as she brought them into the world with strength, grace and exactly the sort of fortitude it's going to take to be a wonderful parent to them. (Their dad rocked it pretty hard too.)
Parker, the eldest and most laid back of the two, weighing in at an extraordinarily healthy 6lbs 4oz
and his sister Lily, 5lbs 14oz, and a clearly inquisitive being.
These two are destined for greatness, as they share this birthday with my darling Amanda, who did me the honour of making me a mother on this day 17 years ago.
It's an auspicious beginning.
(PS, did I cut it close on those sweaters or what?)
But if it was? I would win. (Not that I would be competing against unborn infants. That would be wrong.) The twins sweaters are finished, and the twins aren't here. (I shall advise her today that she may fire when ready. )
The sweater for the girl half of the set.
This is Rutelilje, from this book in the 0-3 month size. Yarn is baby Ull and Lanett superwash. (I often combine these two to get a broader range of colours. They are not identical, but they are close enough for company work.) I love everything about this sweater. The picot neck, the little blooms around the yoke. The sixty million miles of seed stitch which turned out to be totally worth it....
Modifications? Er. Always. I made the sleeves a little shorter than they asked for, and I put three buttons at the top instead of five running the length of the front.
The sweater for the boy half of the set.
Erle, from the same book as the sweater above. (This book is fast becoming one of my favourites, I heard a rumour it was discontinued...can anyone confirm or deny?) Yarn is Baby Ull, and after an enormous debate in the button store (White buttons would *too* have made it Christmassy) Meg chose the buttons.
Modifications include altering the pattern for five buttons instead of six (I like odd numbers), lengthening the body by an inch (as per a helpful comment from Mary) and shortening the sleeves, just as I did with the sweater above.
If I'm going to make a sweater for someone younger than six months (and why wouldn't you? They are so conveniently small.) I almost always shorten the sleeves by a bit. I've been trying to figure out for years why it is that infant patterns pretty much uniformly have them too long. After long consideration (and no, I don't think that thinking about baby sleeves is a waste of my time) I've decided that it must be that pattern makers measure baby arms the same way as adult arms. (Thanks to Sam for letting me boost the Bitty Baby out of her room for these pictures.)
To measure an adults arm, the arm is extended straight and measured along its length. This works pretty well, since (you can feel free to check this) when your arms hang by your sides they are more or less straight. Same length as they were when they were extended.
Trouble with baby arms is that if you pull them straight to measure them you're going to have sleeves too long, since once you let go of their arm, it's going to flex.
Until babies sit, crawl or walk, they hold their arms (and their legs, now that I think about it) in pleasant curves. In a sweater sleeve, especially one that's a little roomy, the arm curves within the sleeve and suddenly you have all of this extra length. Cuffs fall annoyingly over tiny fists, babies suck and chew on your perfect ribbing and every-time you see the sweater on the kid, the mum has rolled up your beautiful cuffs. I shorten them, which makes them fit better, albeit for less time. I don't mind.
For my American friends, Happy Memorial Day (is that supposed to be happy? I looked it up and it seems like a sombre day.) and for my Toronto friends, hang tough. Try to think of the TTC Strike as a great start to Bike Week. (Note to self: must watch more news, didn't see this coming.) Funny how having to ride your bike from one end of the city to another always seems to coincide with the heat eh? I'm betting that the 31 degrees with a humidex of 39 (that's 102 for you Fahrenheit users) will be enough to wipe the Bike Week enthusiasm right off my face round about the time I'm hauling my bike and arse up that huge hill on St Clair. Drink your water Toronto, and don't forget to buy an extra one to give to a street person you pass today. The 12 weeks of heat in Toronto kill more people than the 22 weeks of cold. Go knit under a tree.
Added later: I know it's wrong to obsess about these things and that it really doesn't help, but the humidex temperature outside is now 42 (That's 107 Fahrenheit ) and I'm thinking about painting the side of my house with a sign that reads "Climate change is real". Rant over. I shall resume melting quietly by myself.
Have you ever thought about how being the parent of a teenager or two is a little bit like tweezing your eyebrows? Painful, difficult to get right and devastating to your self esteem if you make the slightest mistake? (It is worth noting that I have only once in my life made an attempt to tweeze my eyebrows.) I've been trying this thing with the kids, a sort of Oka-style standoff in the upstairs hall. ....Oh, sorry. Did you come for the fibre stuff?
Here you go. Erle blocking.
Fleece artist spinning.
Right. Back to the standoff in the upstairs hall. The ladies throw their clothes there. (They throw them everywhere actually, this is just the place that bugs the crap out of me.) Right outside the bathroom door there is always this pile of things that they have cast off themselves on the way to the bath. (Or a pile of things that they rejected while changing clothes during the morning assessment in the mirror. Same diff. ) I tried asking them to clean it up. I tried explaining that it annoyed me. Then, I tried bribery. I bought a hamper and put it right where they throw the clothes, and I told them that even though they are largely responsible for their own laundry these days, I would wash anything in that hamper. Good deal eh? Wouldn't you think? Wouldn't you?
Look at this. Blatant hamper ignoring. Blatant, obstreperous, boldfaced hamper ostracism. Daughters, hear me now. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. Picking up your clothes cuts into the time I have to do other things. Things like knitting, or spinning, or earning the money that I use to buy you food. It takes my attention away from other things that I do that you like. Things like cooking, grocery shopping...or talking Joe out of screaming "I know what you're thinking!" at all of those boys who keep ringing the doorbell.
I will not budge from this position. The clothes go IN the hamper. Not BY the hamper, not CLOSE to the hamper, not NEAR the hamper... IN the hamper.
If you put things IN the hamper, the laundry fairy comes sometimes. Not often, and not reliably, but she does show up when the mood strikes her. The laundry fairy is mercurial but there are moments, in every laundry fairy's day, where if she sees some laundry in a hamper, she's been known to pitch it into Mr. Washie. Maybe even follow it through to the dryer. No way to tell. The laundry fairy's generosity is a strange, strange thing. If things are NEAR the hamper, the laundry fairy keeps right on going.
With my wool as my witness. I will not touch anything that is not IN the hamper. Not when you are out of pants. Not when you really, really need your lucky blue shirt or must have a white shirt for the concert even though you will fail music if it is not clean and on your body. I shall not be moved by tears, eyelash fluttering or quiet pouting. (Loud pouting shall be similarly received.) I do not care if we all eventually cannot get into the room that lies beyond the wall of clothes NEAR the hamper.
Put. The. Clothes. In.
So sayeth your mother. Move on. Improve yourselves.
I'm copping out today and not fighting for charming insight or brilliant knitting or spinning. This is largely because my big plan to show you the finished fronts of the Erle sweater have been dashed by knitter error. I got up this morning and trooped the wee sweater out to the garden for it's photo shoot and discovered that I had artfully executed the neck hole over the armhole. Since I'm really hoping that this is not the configuration of the baby that this is intended for, I'm re-doing it.
In the meantime I shall distract you from my sucky knitting with mirth and questions from the comments yesterday.
Am I the only one who counted 12 skeins in the photo? Don't count yourself short! and, I have to add: if you missed that, might it make your total amount of yarn "mileage" different?
No, no you weren't the only one who noticed that. Many, many of you wrote to tell me I had miscounted. (I shall not digress into commentary on what it implies that you all are wasting knitting time on skein counting accuracy and simply be glad that you whack of obsessive compulsive fibre manics are on my side.) It was an intellectual error. Two of the skeins, these two...
are half sized. Therefore, even though there are technically 12 skeins, they really only add up to 11. Pity though. My heart soared for a moment. (Actually, it didn't. When I got to thinking about it, I would have been really pissed if the last great ply-fest resulted in a total amount of yarn that was only one skein short of a sweater.)
You know, the whole gansey thing would be much simpler if you had just fallen in love with a smaller man.
I'm just saying.
This advice falls right in there with what my mother always said about spouse selection. "Honey, it's just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one." It's something a knitter should take into consideration when deciding a spouse is attractive. Single knitters take note, no matter what gossip you hear about the advantages of a mate with large hands or feet (and you all know what I mean) don't forget that you will at some point in your relationship be called upon to express your love in wool. It can't be worth it.
Um. Small detail, but, have you designed the gansey yet?
No. I was going to start knitting anyway. (Insert hysterical laughter/ foreboding music here) What can go wrong?
Wonderful raised bed.
Why thank you. Unfortunately for me, I have committed the raised bed equivalent of putting the neck over the armhole. The old raised beds were made out of 2X4's and plywood. (Total width of bed wall - 4 inches.) I have replaced them with very sturdy beds made out of stacked 4X4's. (Total width of bed wall - 8 inches.) The new beds cover the same area as the old ones, but our critical planning error was discovered when Ian was done putting the soil that came out of the old beds back into the new ones.
They do not have the same volume. By several cubic metres actually. Having already distributed as much of it as I can on my own property, I have spent the last two days stalking around the neighbourhood with shovelfuls of soil offering to fill in low spots in other peoples gardens. Lucky for me, my neighbours already think I'm a complete lunatic (- it may have been photographing yarn in the bushes almost everyday for the last two years that did it.) and nobody has said a word to me except for "No thank you." (I think they are whispering about me.) I'm contemplating distributing it under cover of darkness or stuffing it down the sewer grate one handful per day for the next year. I'm open to other ideas.
5. The spinning for Joe's gansey. (Where's Rams? Somebody get Rams!)
4. The plying for Joe's gansey. (See Rams? See?)
11 skeins, 1650 metres, 200 hours of my time and....
not enough. By my reckoning, I need about 1800-2000 metres of Sport weight yarn (which I'm hoping this is) to cover a tall man with a 48" chest. Since my reckoning is, even on the best of days, pretty spotty, I'm contemplating beginning the knitting. There's the advantage of having my actual gauge, a real idea of how the yarn is working up, the incentive of seeing an actual sweater come into being, the fact that That Laurie thinks it's a good idea (which means it IS a good idea)...
Plus I really don't think I can spin another single inch of this without losing my mind. We've gone way past meditative and all of the way into the spiritual equivalent of sucking quicksand.
If I don't start knitting, or at least swatching, I'm likely to become somewhat unreasonable. (You there, shut up. I am so reasonable most of the time.)
3. The raised bed project in the backyard.
All that remains is the clean-up. I looked at the big pile of dirt all day, but nothing happened. It would appear that I still cannot move things with the power of my mind.
2. The sweaters for the twins.
If all goes as planned, we will soon be having a button buying day.
We are having a button buying day because my fury at discovering that I had neglected to knit buttonholes incensed me so completely and immediately that I ripped it back before I read the brilliant alternatives in the comments yesterday. ( A zipper. Of course? Why didn't I think of a zipper? Why have a blog if I'm not going to use it's powers for good? )
It's a very good thing that the twins sweaters are almost done, since #1 on the list of things that are almost finished is.....
I'm here, I'm here. Besides making the trip to BEA and going to a part of a wedding, it was also Victoria Day weekend in Canada, so yesterday was a holiday. Victoria day, is, I admit, somewhat difficult to explain to people who do not live in this country. May 24th is the Queen's official birthday in Canada (even though her birthday is April 21st and her name is Elizabeth.) We celebrate it on the Monday closest to May 24. (So we can have a long weekend. Canadians are a practical people.) Even though that won't always be May 24th, we will always call it May 24th, and this is further complicated by the Canadian habit of referring to it as the May "two-four weekend" even if it is actually May 18th. (A "two-four" is a case of beer, giving you a hint about the intentions of many Canadians for this weekend.) Victoria Day (or the May two-four weekend) is also the spiritual beginning of the Canadian summer, and in many parts of Canada, coincides closely with the safe planting date. This can be confusing because many years, like this one, it certainly doesn't seem like the beginning of summer. (Is anyone else thinking about turning their heat back on?) Traditional activities for the May-two four weekend include:
(Canadians...feel free to add to this list that we may enlighten our friends to the south.)
- Gardening. Victoria Day weekend is the biggest gardening weekend of the year. Even where grocery stores are closed for the holiday, garden centres are open.
-opening the cottage, if you have one.
-helping your buddy open the cottage (to secure future invites) if he has one.
-plugging in the beer fridge out back.
- drinking beer.
- setting off fireworks in fields, backyards or parks near your house if you live in the city, and possible bonfires if you are rural or at the cottage.
-barbecue and eat outside. (Regardless of temperature.)
-Drive from Oliphant to Wiarton in a Pinto with a boy named Shawn and a bunch of your friends, sunburned, eating Timbits, wondering if you have enough money for a poverty pack and singing "Take On Me" at the top of your lungs. (That one may just be me. Best Victoria day ever though.)
While I wasn't bemoaning the lack of warm sunny weather (lack of a two-four too, now that I think of it.) I was all over the place. We shall do it quickly, in pictures...before I bore someone half to death.
4:00pm Friday, Flying into Dulles, the sock spots Air Force One.
(Trust me. That's it. I was a little slow with the camera.) I was surprised to see it there, just like it was a regular plane, but the guy sitting next to me said it was because Andrews Air Force base was having an Air show. I have no idea why I thought this was so cool.
(Harrison Ford association, likely.)
5:30 Friday, The sock is impressed by the Washington Monument.
(Did you know that it has an elevator and you can go up and look out those little wee windows at the top? Me neither.)
7:00pm Friday. In my never ending attempts to amuse the sock, I point out that the dinner we are at...
the yarn centerpieces match the guacamole.
10:00pm Friday. While we are chatting in the lobby of our hotel, Margaret Atwood walks by. The Canadian rules of engagement prevent me from approaching her. I curse them, but am ethically unable to pursue her.
7:00am Saturday. I may or may not speak coherently at a breakfast meeting. No way to know.
9:00. The sock unsuccessfully stalks Stitchy McYarnpants.
12:00 While looking for Stitchy, I find Michael!
(Let this be a lesson to you. Bloggers are everywhere.)
(Her badge actually read "Stitchy McYarnpants". I can't tell you how much I love that. Her book is a wonderful kind of funny.)
Pam from Storey Publishing holds the sock aloft. It is a complete coincidence that Rush Limbaugh is behind her. Odd, that.
(Stop the presses. My sources tell me that it is possible that this is actually Newt Gingrich and I am stupid. No way to tell about the former, the latter is certainly possible.)
11:30pm Saturday. The sock (having being transported back to Canada) goes straight from the airport to Jody and Jeanette's Wedding.
It couldn't happen to nicer folks.
11:40, The sock finds the handsomest man at the party.
Dado, Jodi's dad. (It is worth noting that the sock has achieved such fame and station that the Bride and Groom were looking forward to their "sock picture" and when I started to explain to Dado about the sock, he took it from me gently and said "I know what the sock is." I'm starting to think this is the strangest tradition ever.)
Now home, I have returned to my regular activities. Making stupid knitting mistakes and avoiding the laundry. Seen here, the two fronts of the Erle sweater....
right before I realize that one of those two sides should have buttonholes.
Yesterday, despite all of the dry thoughts that you all sent my way, things went from bad to worse. The sketchy drizzle of the day broke loose into a downpour of biblical proportions, complete with raging hail, seen here defiling my new porch.
I resumed my position at the back door waiting for the water to rise enough to spill in (I'm not sure what good I think watching it will do - scare it off?) and sure enough, soon I heard the sound of indoor running water. I looked down at my feet, expecting to see the river of water that I could hear, and was stunned to see nothing. Odd that. I went to the front door. (Which is actually much higher than the back door, I don't know why I even considered it) and found it relatively dry.
Still I could hear running water, then it hit me.
Basement. Thus began several hours of weeping in the basement, using buckets, towels and a wet-dry vacuum on high, trying to stem the tide. Lucky for me the basement slopes to one side, so there was a place to shift stuff too, and also lucky for me, only one wall of the basement (sadly, the leaking one) is dirt, so the water was only as filthy as that chick in 8th grade and not a total quagmire of murky swill. Eventually, the water, both indoor and out slowed to a drizzle, the leak stopped and I came upstairs and recalled Rachel H.'s comment from the other day.
"Even though it's not Tuesday, spin something. Treadling will help you work out your frustration. And I'm just not sure today's a good pointy stick day for you."
Right she was too, now was not the hour to be armed. I spun some beautiful Spinderella roving that was a gift from Julia.
(Not so much a gift as something that wound up in my suitcase when I came back from her house. I love how that happens when you visit spinners.)
I don't know if you guys have noticed, but I'm not so much of a sparkle girl. (What gave me away?) This roving has a bit of Angelina in it, and I surprised myself by finding it completely entertaining. I don't like sequins, satin, all the shiny stuff leaves me cold, but this little hint of purple sparkliness in the roving? I was enchanted. I made the whole family watch me spin it. "See the sparkles? There's another one? Look? See the sparkles?" They loved it. (Well. They loved it more than the topic from the rest of the day. "See the rain? Is it leaking? Is the rain stopping? Is that rain?")
All three girls expressed polite disinterest, which didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was that the minute it was actual yarn, Amanda and Sam had a huge honking fight debate over who should have a sparkly winter hat.
The fight debate ended instantly when I suggested that the girl who removed the most water from the basement would win.
The silence was deafening.
Random Wednesday. (Idea shamelessly still ripped off of Cate.)
1. The rain has had stopped and I have a porch.
I love the porch. My feelings toward this porch are so fond that I have swept it four times today when it became defiled with the footsteps of my family. Sweeping the porch is so fulfilling that it may be my new hobby. Sadly, this feeling has not translated into sweeping anything anywhere else in my house, but such is the nature of my fickle heart.
Now that the front of the house is not trashed, I can focus on the nightmare of the trashed back of the house. My expectations that I could have the old raised garden beds replaced with new raised garden beds in three short days have been shattered by rain. (Today is day 9) That big blue mountain is a pile of dirt half covered with a tarp. I've been watching it melt into a sucking quagmire of filthy mud for days. My backyard (really more of a patio) is paved, so the slurry of soil and water has had nowhere to go. Zero drainage, and the pile of dirt blocks the only direction for the mud to run off. For days I've been watching it rain, watching the forecast, and spending my time going to the back door, looking at the level of the mud and water and hoping that the fates will stop the pour before it reached the level of the office door.
Today the sun is shining scratch that, it's raining again, and Ian's working as fast as he can drowning. Think dry thoughts.
2. Erle is back.
Two sleeves, one back, one front. Twins still inside their mother, expected date of arrival, May 30. I'd say no problem, but I've decided not to tempt the fates.
3. To please Auntie Rams and her band of merry cohorts, Tuesdays are for spinning was a grand success. I spun a whole bobbin and a bit of the corridale for Joe's Gansey,
and when I ran out I washed more fleece to finish that last bobbin.
When I've got this last bit spun I'll ply the three together and get three skeins (about 500-600m) of yarn. Together with the efforts of the last year two years, it may be enough. I'll count them and do some math, see if I'm anywhere near finished. (I really hope I'm finished.)
4. Joanne (The Canuck in Colorado) brought these back to my attention. (I'd already bought "Toronto" and "Quebec" ) I'm both charmed and perplexed by them. I wonder where the colourways for the Northwest Territories, The Yukon and Nunavut are? I wonder why some are cities and some are Provinces? I wonder where the Maritimes are? Why Calgary and not Charlottetown? (Maybe it's the hats, Calgary does have great hats.) It can't be the cold, I mean if you're doing it by who needs wool the most, then whack Vancouver off of that list and go whip up a Yellowknife colourway in a big hurry.
5. Speaking of Provinces and Territories, Ryan has a goal. (I love this kind of challenge) She'd like an item for the Dulaan project knit and sent from every Province and Territory in The Great White North. (She'd like all 50 States too, if you think you can help.) She's short items from Newfoundland and Labrador, The Northwest Territories, Nunavut, PEI and the Yukon. Anybody know anybody?
6. Grenyrn? What's a Grenyrn? Oh yeah. I think that was stolen out of my car, (Hint: I don't have a car.) Let's never speak of this again.
7. The sock is packing again, this time for a quick trip to BEA, in Washington DC.
BEA isn't open to the general public, but if you are a librarian, a bookseller, a publisher or anyone who has anything to do with books who will be there, or if you know anyone who has anything to do with books who would be there... I'm signing on Saturday from 4-5 at table 20.
I'm out Friday and back late Saturday night, rushing as fast as I can and hoping that the twins can hold off and just not be born the 28 hours that I'm out of the country. I'll be speaking on a panel about how bookstores can do a better job of catering to knitters. It's an interesting topic. Is there anything you want me to tell them?
Screw knitting. It's a fickle mistress and I've freaking had it. I've just about finished the Grenyrn sweater, finished enough to baste together the shoulder seams and find out that I'm SCREWED.
The *&^%$ing sweater doesn't fit. It doesn't. This time I refuse to accept that it is not personal. I know, I know. I talk all the time about how you can't let this stuff get to you. That gauge and knitting and patterns and all of that is all just for fun and you have to take your lumps and I've even waxed poetic about how knitting is consequence free and how it's the only time you'll make mistakes that don't count and it's LIES. ALL LIES. Last night when the panoptic nature of the sweaters betrayal was revealed to me I threw a complete hissy fit. This sweater is out to get me and I think the yarn is in on it too.
The bust is too small, even though, in what is possibly a first for me, I have effortlessly achieved both stitch and row gauge to perfection.
Not perfection on some lying stinking swatch, but perfection in the actual knitted garment. Stitch and row gauge. How often does that happen? Wasted. Spectacular gauge accuracy, wasted.
Since my gauge is right but the sweater bust is wrong, I'm willing to consider....
Nope. My bust is the same as it was a week ago. I have not gained several cup sizes in a week.
In addition to the bust being too small, the arms are too short. This really ticks me off. I have shortened the sleeves of every sweater that I have ever knitted. Due to the somewhat petite nature of my arms - (Fine. They are stumpy.) I routinely whack 5-8cm off of my sleeves. All the time. Every sweater. Always. Forever.
This time (perhaps sensing the duplicitous plan of the sweater) I only subtracted about 3cm. It would piss me off royally if the sleeves were now 3cm too short, but it has incensed me to vicious purple wrath that they are actually about 7cm too short. This means that they wouldn't have worked even if I hadn't tried to fix them.
In case you were thinking that anything about the sweater was working, the torso is also too short. I suspected this too. I kept holding it up and saying "Hey Joe, doesn't this look short?" and then Joe would say "Baby, you look short" - and I would keep knitting. Fool.
Trust your instincts, that's what I always say, and my instincts said "You are getting jerked around by a sweater. Stop now." but did I stop? No, no. I knit faster, since you know...You can outrun truth.
The whole thing is too small. Way too freaking small. Given the style of construction, there's absolutely no way to fix this and the only way out is a complete, right back to the beginning, cast on again, not one stitch saved "do-over". Except there are some things that I haven't told you. Some things about how I knit this that may have been a little obsessive and weird, and some of those things may make it a little bit hard to yank this out and start over.
It may have been, for example, that I might have duplicate stitched over part of the torso to make the stripes match better. (Yes. I know. I like things to go my way and I'm not afraid of insane measures to get there.) Also, considering that the rows on the arms are three times longer than the torso, I took some measures to see to it that the stripe sequence stayed the same even though the row length had changed. "Some measures" may have included splicing the green sections and striping sections of three balls together to make a "superball" with sections three times longer for rows that are three times longer. There were other things. Worse things. Things that are going to be bad now that I have to yank it out. Very bad.
I'm trying to decide if I'm angry enough to have revenge, determined enough to fix it, stupid enough to try, or smart enough to find a smaller person to give this to. Damn. I can't believe Grenyrn did this to me. I love this sweater - or at least I think I would. If it loved me back.
"God knows that a mother needs fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul. But because I happen to be a parent of almost fiercely maternal nature, I praise casualness. It seems to me the rarest of virtues. It is useful enough when children are small. It is useful to the point of necessity when they are adolescents."
-- Phyllis McGinley
That will be all.
Though I'm not yet ready to concede defeat, it's possible that Dibs on Ribs is kicking my arse. (For those of you who asked, it's a free pattern in the "Subscriber Only" section of the Interweave Knits Website.)
I reknit the sagging triangle and it's ok now.
I was feeling pretty good then, so I moved onto the back. The other side of the sweater has two more of these triangles, each knit pointing to the side, and then seamed up along the long edge in the centre back. I couldn't see any advantage to the seam, and I knew deep in my heart that no matter how careful I was, I would never get the two halves to match - stripe wise, and I also knew that this would make me insane. So insane that I would re-knit it forty-nine times and still think it sucked. I decided to head it off at the pass and knit both halves at the same time, in the round.
Brilliant, yes? Oh yes. Round and round I went, tossing in the extra increases that I had used when I fixed the sagging front triangle. I congratulated myself several times on my general cleverness, finished it up and cast off.
Le sigh. Isn't that great? Isn't that how you want the back of your sweater to look? A huge honking uni-breast wanking off the back.
For a collection of reasons, there is no carpenter here today and the front of the house remains...er, absent.
Even though this is not anyone's fault, the reasons are very sound and even though nothing at all can be done about it....I am sincerely annoyed. Mostly I am annoyed with myself, infuriated really, for believing that this whole reno was going to go off without a hitch.
Why would I think that? Why? When no renovation, improvement or even so much as a light bulb change has ever gone without a hitch in this house, why would I consistently sign up for this stuff and then be surprised when it's got some trouble. Why?
Optimism. That's why. I'm forever thinking that everything is totally going to work out. I'm starting to think that I'd have fewer crushing disappointments if I expected the worst. Last night, I lost my patience with the Erle baby sweater and set it aside.
This one won't be off the radar for more than a few days, but I needed a fast success. Something that would be really satisfying really quickly. Quickly enough to feed my sense of optimism and make me feel like it's possible for a project to be accomplished without a whole lot of trouble. I found just the thing. I've been looking at "Dibs on Ribs" (scroll down on that page) for a while, and I think the construction is really interesting and I've had my eye out for a good yarn to do it in.
You knit two panels of a really interesting shape for the left front and right front,
Then sew them together in the front,
then pick up and knit a triangle of decreasing ribbing into the void.
Except it's not supposed to suck like that. Clearly I must have missed a decrease or two in that section or it wouldn't be sagging like somebody's great grandmother caught without a bikini top.
Turns out that the idea of a quick fix satisfying sweater was a little bit optimistic. If you need me I'll be sitting on a pile of lumber in my backyard, ripping out a sweater.
You know, there's a reason that I'm not the person in charge of building stuff around here. Because there's so much that I misunderstand about house construction. There's a new renovation (or two) going down Chez Harlot. Both driven not by the urge to improve our home, but by the urge to not have it fall to bits. The front porch was as shaky as a go-go dancer when I moved in 10 years ago, and we've got to replace it this summer or the letter carrier is going to fall through it one morning.
Jean, our family carpenter, (whom you will remember from such classic hits as "why does the back of my house have weather?" and "Oh my, what a big nail gun you have") turned up, assessed the damage...declared that the porch (in any form) was really not going to make it, and this is the front of my house.
Whoa. Dude is not screwing around. When the porch was dismantled, I found three guys standing around the front of the house.
They looked pensive. What were they looking at? This.
A hole in the side of my house. A huge hole in the side of my house. A place where the bricks have fallen right out and there is ...let me be perfectly clear about this....a HOLE in the side of my HOUSE.
It goes right under the bay window in the front (which is apparently the best place that there could be to have a hole in the side of your house. Really ideal.) and it's huge. Two skunks could walk through that side by side. Hell, they could bring a raccoon, some snacks, a couple of cold ones, build a swimming pool and a skunk manor in there. It's a BIG HOLE. Me? I don't like the hole. This hole seems like a poor feature of my home. I'm no real estate agent but I think that this hole would not be a selling point. The hole (Jean explains) is caused by the fact that the 120 year old mortar holding the bricks of my home together is...well. It's gone. There is none. Let's try to figure out what the reasonable response to this news is. There's a big hole in your house and you think:
A. Oh, good. No worries. Carry on. (Said in a relaxed and pleasing voice, as you gently prune the roses.)
B. Holy *&^%$#!!! There's a *&^%$ing hole in the side of the house? What the %^&* ! are we going to do? How does that happen? The mortar is gone? The bricks fell out because the mortar is gone? #$%^&*##....Wait....this is a brick house! *&^%$!!@!! (Said in a voice that is the exact opposite of relaxed and pleasing, as you fall to your knees imagining yourself hemorrhaging money as every brick in the house falls out and you have to start selling the stash and maybe your youngest child on ebay to pay your contractor and you can't even ever make it stop because nobody will buy a house with a big HOLE in the side of it. )
That's the one I went with too, but I did it all in my head as the gentlemen assessed the nature of my destiny. Imagine my surprise when the verdict was...
No worries. Jean is going to stuff some insulation under the bay window, but the basement doesn't start until further back, it's just dead space under there, and there's no reason for me to be upset. None. Those bricks? Nope. They (I swear this) aren't structural. Jean will put them back in with some mortar just to make me feel better and keep out the vermin, but the bricks? Useless. Who knew? Guess what's holding up the bay window? Go on. Guess.
The roof! The roof is holding up the window, plus it's attached to the house, so it's not like it's going to snap off (apparently) and the roof (It's a good roof) is holding up the bay.
I'm stunned. Completely stunned. There are no words for how this is the opposite way that I thought construction worked. You know when you are little and you play blocks and you pile a whole bunch of them on top of each other and then, if you take the bottom ones out, the whole things falls down? Even if you have a really good roof? That's how I thought it worked. I could not be more surprised to learn that along with the roof..."Force of Habit" is holding up my 120 year old house. That's right, Force of Habit. Don't believe me?
It has to be true, because this is what's holding up the porch roof.
Right. Time for a lie down.
It would appear that I am going to live, though I'm still not sure if I'm ok with that. I always know I'm sick when I find myself just holding my knitting instead of working on it, and last night I didn't even bother to pick it up. This morning though, I feel slightly more alive and my will to knit is restored.
This is the first of the baby sweaters for the girl/boy set arriving soon.
It's Rutelilje from this book. It's blocking now, despite only having one button band knit on, but I suffered a crisis of faith when the one buttonband didn't lie flat in it's pre-blocked state. I decided to block it before I knit the other one so that if it turned out to be badly wrong I would only have to rip back one. Turns out that after a very gentle blocking (It's still wet in that picture) that it's right after all. (I chalk this lack of confidence up to the fever and a general suspicion of all button bands.) When it's dry I'll knit the second one to match and re-block the who shebang.
While I'm waiting for it to dry I started the sweater for the boy.
This is Erle, from the same book. It's an eyelet pattern faux cable, interspersed with double moss, and I had been convinced (until I started knitting it) that it was quite manly. Now I'm wondering if it's only the flu that's letting me put the word "eyelet" with the word "manly". Is this sweater too feminine for a boy?
This leads, naturally, to all sorts of questions about gender, gender roles and expectations and what exactly I think would be wrong with someone who weighs seven pounds wearing something a little bit girly. I like to think that I treat boy babies and girl babies the same, and that we (as a culture) don't raise girls and boys differently, but it says something that even as I attempt to be enlightened about these things that I still apparently think, on some level...that it's important to be able to tell the difference between a boy and a girl based on what they are wearing.
Thinking further about that (and remember...I do have a fever, so it's possible that none of this actually makes sense) the only reason I can think of that I would want boys dressed "like boys" (whatever that means) is that I do treat them differently and worse than that, does it mean that I think that a baby could be influenced by the stuff they are wearing? I'm pretty darned sure that we've advanced far enough as a civilization to let go of the idea that putting a baby boy in a lace sweater could influence his gender identification, especially since he's not old enough to have any idea what sort of sweater we've plopped him into.
I keep thinking about that study a few years ago where the researchers took a bunch of babies and dressed them all like girls. Then they asked strangers to interact with them. The adults assumed (because of the clothes) that the babies were all girls. When the handled them they did so gently, and used words like "pretty" and "fragile". Then the researchers took the same babies, dressed them as boys and repeated the experiment. This time, the adults played rougher games with the babies and called them things like "strong" and "smart". Overall, the adults assessed the "boy" babies (who were really boys and girls) as healthy and competent, and the "girl" babies as "tiny" (even though they were the same babies) and "beautiful". It made me wonder how many assessments I make about babies based on their gender, and how I treat them without even thinking about it.
This is all a round about way of saying that I'm surprised to find myself concerned with whether or not this sweater is "too girly" for a boy, and so what if it is? (It's also worth noting that even though I've just said that putting babies in girl clothes makes people think they are less strong and smart...I haven't considered ripping out the girly-girl first sweater. I'm trying not to overthink.)
Ideas? Thoughts? Do you shun lace for boys? If so, why? Do you hold hard and fast to the ideas of girl colours and boy colours? How come? Should we be passing over lace for girls as well? How much do gender relevant clothes matter....and why?
Last night I became patient zero for a virus so nighmarish that I am thinking about calling it Wes. I am so sick that My Hair Hurts. I spent the entire night on the chesterfield, lamenting the empty box of cold/flu medicine, wondering which spawn of darkness I live with finished it up, and considering combining other medications in an attempt to cause unconsciousness. I drank 90 glasses of water, wiped my nose raw, made the tea that Norma sent me last year (I even drank it.) my eyes ran, I coughed, I contemplated how loose your teeth can feel if your sinuses have big enough trouble and generally wished for relief or death. There is no longer any difference between them.
This morning I have to take Meg to an oral surgeon to have an extra tooth removed (Yes. Meg has an extra tooth. Just like a shark. This should surprise no-one who has met my middle child.) so I staggered upstairs about 7:30 to put on clothes, opened my bedroom door and snagged jeans, realized I had to blow my nose or take my life, staggered out and then came back for my tee shirt.
As I re-entered, Joe rolled over and asked if I could please keep the door to the bedroom closed so he wasn't disturbed. (This would be the door that I was entering though to get my clothes so that I might serve my family and go into the world clad today)
Can I ask? What is wrong with men? (That might properly be "spouses" but I've never been jerked around by a same sex partner in the dead of night so I don't know if the same rules of stupidity apply.) What are they thinking? Are they thinking? What sort of person doesn't consider that if you have had NO sleep, and they have had LOTS of sleep, that asking for MORE sleep is a serious misstep. What gene is missing in their code that they do not think that saying what they are thinking right then is a mistake?
When you have been up all night with an illness/crying baby/puking toddler, why does some self preservation instinct that would keep an otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, kind man from saying that they would like for you not to disturb their full eight hours of comfortable sleep not kick in? Where is the inner voice that says "Shut up stupid. She hasn't slept. Look at her. She's only glued together with willpower and tea. Look at her eyes. Look at her hair. Look at the tissue paper stuck to her cheek and Shut. Up."
It is only because I lacked the strength to smack him that he lives yet.
Dear Employees of the TSA,
Since it is you who are repeatedly searching my bags as I travel around the United States (at least, I hope it's you.) I thought I would take this opportunity to explain some of the stuff you keep finding in my suitcase. I understand that the presence of all of those pointy metal sticks is probably what is triggering your attention, so allow me to explain. I am a travelling knitter.
Legends are told of these knitters who knit on one thing at a time until it's done...but these are rare knitters and you will likely encounter few of them during your luggage searching career. Besides being cursed with a wicked short attention span, it seems to me that not all knitting is suited to every minute of my day, and I always have several things on the go so that I can knit all the time. This is, despite the frowns and odd looks that you give me when we spend time together rummaging my travel bags, is normal knitter behaviour.
My first and truly mighty companion is the perennial travelling sock. I got a comment yesterday from someone who noted that this sock showed, er....little progress despite turning up everywhere I go. True enough. The first time I wrote a book, I knit a pair of socks, starting the day that the book launched and continuing slowly, a few rounds every time I went somewhere, every-time I met someone.
I thought (though I am not usually prone to these romantic notions) that it would be a really interesting way for a knitter to record an extraordinary time in her life. A pair of socks so chock full of memories that you could scarcely wear them. For me it seemed so much more apt than a collection of fridge magnets or postcards.
When I began to celebrate this new book, I did the same thing. This sock (which will eventually be a pair) was begun in Pearson International Airport as I left for the first time and has seen everything I have. I knit a little on it each time to make it last the whole extraordinary journey.
Since I'm trying to make the Travelling sock last, I need another pair or two to take the real sock knitting heat.
The trekking sock, for moments of exhaustion or conversation, when I am only capable of plain vanilla round and round stockinette,
and the Potamo-ma-pus (I simply cannot say that.) socks.
The pattern isn't difficult but does require attention, and I'm apparently not bright enough to knit from a chart at the same time as I think about anything else. I learned this the hard way, since every time I try to knit them while watching TV or having a conversation, I need to rip out an entire freaking repeat. (You will not hold me in higher regard if I tell you how many repeats I ripped out on these before I copped to this.)
For actually knitting during the flight, I have requirements as stiff as you do. Airplane projects must:
1. Fit in my purse. No afghans, no sweaters, nothing big.
2. Be light. So light that I will not resent it as I stagger through the 5th airport in 5 days hating everything, except you, my dear airport screener.
3. Not be warm on my lap as I sit in the airplane waiting for it to taxi away while the cabin temperature attempts to gently steam everyone aboard. (What is with that? Why are planes only comfortable when they are up in the air?)
4. Be on circular needles. I haven't run into any airline restrictions (Thanks for that.) but straight needles have a tendency to poke the guy sitting next to you, and I do try to be polite. Constantly knitting, but polite.
5. Be interesting and challenging enough that by the 5th plane in 5 days I'm not thinking about stuffing my mouth full of the wadded up pattern just to break the monotony.
Right now, the Summer in Kansas shawl is fitting the bill.
I only knit on it on airplanes, so it's going slowly, but it has the added bonus of a chart you can spread out on your lap that makes you look very busy and can deter conversation from the guy in the seat next to you.
Finally, I need to bring the meat and potatoes knitting. This is the knitting for in the evenings in hotels, for in cars, while watching tv, out to dinner in restaurants...etc.
I've got a client/friend producing me a set of twins sometime soon and each of them will need a sweater. This is "Rutelilje" from Dale of Norway's baby book # 129 and though I'm getting a serious twitch from what seems like endless seed stitch on 2.25mm needles, I'm loving it. ( I don't want you to worry about me twitching while I'm on planes. This is on straight needles, and we've already determined that this project doesn't meet the screening requirements. No worries.)
When I pack all of this stuff I take everything I need to complete all of these projects, even if I am only going for 3 days and no-one could ever finish even one of them in that length of time. This speaks to a deep fear of running out of something to work on and an even deeper delusion regarding the speed at which I knit. This too, dear TSA employee, is normal among knitters. Also normal is the tendency for knitters to pick up more yarn and needles as they travel as both stash enhancement and souvenirs. All of these things together explains why it was absolutely normal and even to be expected that there were 5 sets of DPNs, 2 circular needles, 3 sets of straights and 11 balls/skeins or hanks of yarn in my suitcase on my way home. (Oh. That other stuff is roving. Did I mention I spin? It goes with the drop spindle in my cosmetic case.)
If you feel that it would help keep your employees from looking at me like I have three heads, I would be happy to print out letters of reference from other knitters and spinners who have not only carried this much, but purchased other luggage to hold their projects and acquisitions.
Many thanks for all that you do to make the world a safer place, and please don't touch my underpants (not even with the gloves on).
Public Service Announcement.
Claudia, everybody's favourite orange loving knitter and spinner is taking it on the road again this year and riding her bike 150 miles to raise money for MS research. This is a cause near and dear to my heart, and I want you to give her money. (I thought about trying to think of a nice way to say that, but sometimes, directness is best.)
If every knitter pledged her a dollar. Just one....
The possibilities boggle the mind. If you can possibly afford to contribute to this wonderful cause, please do.
I think that I am about to break the world record for longest post pretending to be about knitting. I'm going to catch you up on two last yarn parties (Knit! Yarn! Fun!) and show you all of the things the sock has done. Go get a coffee or a tea or if it's night-time maybe you want a beer or something. This is going to be a humdinger. I'll at least try for coherency.
Dudes, the knitters at this shop really had their knit together (To borrow a phrase from Knit One) From the window proclaiming "Harlot is here", spelled out in pictures of me (which flipped me out a little.) to the spontaneous pre-harlot entertainment (Which didn't flip me out much. I live with a record producer, everyone we know either drops guitar picks or yarn.) to the karaoke microphone, and the store dog, this event had a vibe all it's own.
(You know, I don't want to jinx anything, but I do want to point out that our "when knitters run the world" plan may be coming along.)
Betsy here showed off her sock and demonstrated one of the best things about being on a yarn crawl knitting book tour. Getting to see yarn. How did I not know about a handpainted Opal? (Did I know and block it for my own good?)
Kelly, who engaged in reciprocal blogging with me. (Can you do the sock shot with a sweater?)
Check this. Tisra, holding a tracing of her mate's feet. She says she's going to knit him socks.
Can't see it real well? Hold on. I'll trace it for you.
Some dizziness and nausea are normal. Knitters, I cannot stress this enough. Tisra is illustrating why it is imperative that you check the feet of a prospective mate before you develop any feeling for them. This poor knitter has a husband with size 14 feet. She's going to need twice as much yarn as anyone else, and way more liquor than is right. Poor thing. Let this be a lesson to you all. It's just as easy to love someone with small feet.
Hope over to Sandra D and see some reasonably sized socks that are entering retirement.
Jinjifore was introduced to me, rather compellingly, as "the fish blanket lady". That seems like an odd nickname, even for knitters, and we call people some odd stuff, so by way of explanation, the following image arrived in my inbox.
Yo. Individually knit and then sewn together tessellating fish. Boggles the mind, doesn't it? She spoke clearly too, which I found remarkable, considering that this project (just the sewing alone) must have melted her brain and had it run out her right ear.
I left thinking that it wasn't hard to tell that Ann and Kay had been there.
You can track them this way. They leave a trail of them in their wake.
The next morning I fueled up on coffee and the car and driver arrived for me. We had a 5 hour drive from Nashville to Lexington KY. I know it should have been shorter, but there was some sort of hold up on the highway, and we had a period of stalled progress.
Luckily for the sake of the blog, this indeterminately long break was spent in the fine company of some well-scented cattle, and I learned some stuff.
I learned that Kentucky has a castle.
I learned that it used to be true that farms raising Standard bred horses had black fences,
and farms raising Thoroughbreds had white fences. (But that's not true anymore). I learned that a thoroughbred sired through artificial insemination can't be registered as a thoroughbred and that stud horses only come in for the finish. A standard bred horse does all the foreplay. ( I thought that this was stunning. Imagine that. He doesn't even have to bring her hay or speak nicely to her.)
and I learned that the first horse race in Kentucky was right by my hotel. (It was at this point that I, being sharp as a tack) began to understand that Kentucky may be a little "horsey".
I went to the reception for the Bluegrass Book Festival Authors (I looked for Jane Fonda but she didn't turn up.) and turned in.
The next morning I was scheduled to sign books at a booth for two hours, then a break, then an hour from 3-4, then a talk til 4. No problem. I'd had some trouble at the reception that had made me nervous though. Standing around with real authors, I had the distinct impression that when I said I wrote "knitting humour" that they other authors might have wondered how well that was going for me. Their skepticism was catching, and by the next morning I was very nervous.
Once again, knitters came through, and by the end of my morning signing, one of the writers from the night before had popped by my booth to tell me that he had decided to put a knitter in his next novel...since knitters seemed to "drive all the book fair traffic".
Nancy and Katie, a blurry (sorry guys) mother-daughter team, showing off their matching socks.
On my lunch break, the lovely ladies of Team Thursday ( Debbie, Lindy, Dianne and Jane - shown here protecting fibre from the rain, we have our priorities) took me to lunch and told me about Dianne and Jane's impending yarnshop "Magpie Yarns". These ladies took such wonderful care of me all day. If I ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers, let it be these women, and let it be in Lexington Kentucky. They have kindness and generosity down to an art.
On the way back, I spotted a protest. Intrigued, I followed up and talked with the gentlemen in question.
Turns out (the things Canadians are not up on just boggles the mind) that these are Vietnam Vets, protesting Jane Fonda's appearance at the book festival based on some of her actions during that war. They spoke to me very eloquently and respectfully about their point of view, and I was struck by how much this meant to them 33 years later.
Leaving them and walking back to the Lexington Center, I met this man, Don. Don is a famous local activist and Vietnam resister from way back, and he held the sock and represented the opposite point of view.
(Never let it be said that the sock is not politically neutral. For wool, it's remarkably bipartisan.)
Seeking the final piece of the puzzle, I made my way back to my booth, thinking that I would quickly sign a few books, and then head over to Jane Fonda's booth and round out the socks experience.
This was not to be, however...since my line looked like this.
A whack of knitters led by Beth generously offered to undertake the mission, and made off with the sock. Unfortunately, for reasons that we will never fully understand, as they approached Jane at full speed, digital cameras, socks and assorted knitting held high...Jane was whisked off by her security team. Coincidence? I don't think so.
They made do with the evidence of Jane Fonda left behind on her table.
I kept meeting knitters and socks...
and had the pleasure of finally putting a name to Stephanie B.'s face.
Turns out that she's as lovely as she is talented. Stephanie's a glass worker, and I've been the lucky recipient of some of her beautiful things, including....
A hand made glass wool-pig. (Mine, mine all mine.)
I gave a talk to another whack of knitters....
(which had the bonus effect of stunning the book organizers.) and went to coffee with some very nice knitters, including Zabet, one of the brains behind the Anti-craft, Janis and Brooke (who designed this and this)
Brooke demonstrated to the assembled throng that the gathering had a downright awesome knitting mojo going on, by finishing her baby sock with this much left of the green.
Extreme knitting, and a sign that all was well in the universe and that Brooke is definitely on somebody's good side.
I owe a special thanks to Janis, who helped me locate the best vegetarian take out in town for dinner. Much appreciated, and an extra thanks to Janis for standing by, holding my sandwich and tolerating the sock rituals while I photographed this.
Anybody still here? 29 pictures and 20 links later I'm tired all over again and contemplating the bourbon balls graciously gifted to me. Tune in tomorrow when I actually take pictures of knitting...er, my knitting. I have been knitting. Really.
I sorry guys, I know you're waiting for pictures of the Nashville and Lexington events, and I'll get there. I will.
Today though, is May Day.
May Day is a fond holiday in this family. In fact, if you mention May Day to my mother, she will be happy to tell you (you likely won't be able to stop her) that she was a May Queen. She may also give you some instructions on dancing a Maypole, or leaving a posy for a secret love, and she will undoubtedly lament the loss of this tradition in what is truly becoming an uncivilized world.
The winter is dark and long and, at least in this province, has a variable ending. April can be bitterly cold or wonderfully balmy (usually they alternate to try and crush your soul), but no matter how April goes, May the first will hold some promise of true, verdant warming spring. Tulips, buds and new leaves on trees, some wonderful hint of the beautiful summer to come. May Day is a wonderful celebration of youth and spring and promise.
It is also Janine's birthday, a bonus that made May Day an occasion never overlooked in our family. She died in the Autumn, and it made so much sense that when she left, the world turned grey and the green went out of it and everything died or slept without her.
Suddenly today I find the sure and bright return of spring almost galling. How dare the planet continue without her, as though nothing has happened? How dare there still even be a May Day? I am almost ashamed to admit that somewhere inside, some childish, nonsensical part of myself may have thought that a May Day without Neen was impossible. That she would come back, like all of the roses and the tulips and the trees. It is not the shock of her death that I find overwhelming, but the permanence.
I know that grief is like this. With ebb and flow and good days and bad days, and that this first birthday we celebrate without her will be the one that stings the most, and that eventually I will be able to celebrate May Day and Janine with the joy that I used to. Today though, is not that day, and I'm going to be a little kind to myself. I'll walk in the park. I'll reconcile myself to the pussywillows. I'll knit and watch the earth wake up and I'll look for what comfort I can in the stunning way that no matter who leaves, Spring comes.