Despite Carolyn's rather desperate comments yesterday ( "I will never forgive you if you don't use the blue mouse buttons") I went on and recklessly put the wooden ones on.
In the end, the commenters who thought that the sweater already had a lot going on convinced me. Those mousies are so cute that I want to put them on something where they will be the stars of the show. (I have also become desperately possessed, thanks to a comment from Marianne, with the idea of finding wooden mouse buttons. Sadly, in this high tech day and age, using my google-fu to enact a search for "mouse buttons" was counter productive. I swear that even as I clicked my mouse on the search that I was thinking of nothing but clothing instead of computers.)
The incredible thing is (and now I am starting to frighten even me) that I sewed the buttons on last night, and I learned this morning that a healthy baby boy (8lb 4oz) was born to my neighbour almost instantly. (Less than a four hour labour later.) I have been largely joking about my superstitious belief that I control the arrival of human infants with the mighty power of knitting, but I might have to start taking this more seriously. Clearly, with great power comes great responsibility. I've got to start finishing baby stuff on time this poor lady was due the 21st. (Do you think she hates me?)
In other baby news, Jeanne, who reads the blog and is a knitter, has an idea. She works to promote breastfeeding with low-income families, and is trying to get together gifts to give to families at an event in early August to inspire interest in what the WIC program has to say about breastfeeding. She has had the wonderful idea to give them each a baby/toddler hat (especially a fruit or vegetable hat, since the program is about nutrition) and would love to enlist a few knitters to help her get enough hats.
Most of you know by know that I'm an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) and can imagine that this means that I'm extremely pro-breastfeeding. I'm interested in everything to do with breastfeeding, but I have a special passion for initiatives that serve low income families. In Canada and the US breastfeeding initiation and duration (if you start and how long you stay with it) has a very great deal to do with your income and education. (This effect is very pronounced in the US, likely because of issues surrounding maternity leave, access to health care, and public information) The more money you make and the more education you have, the more likely it is that you will be breastfeeding.
It is alarming to me, extraordinarily alarming, that the people who can least afford to have a child who is more likely to suffer illness, disease and long term consequences, are the very people who aren't being given the information and support that is necessary to lower their kids risks. The disadvantaged child suffers more disadvantages. (This is right up there for me with the whole "rich get richer while the poor get poorer" thing.)
Now, before you all write to me and dump your misplaced guilt ("I tried to breastfeed, I really did" ) let me tell you this. It's really ok.
I respect a woman's right to make decisions about her own baby, and I'm not interested in judging another woman's choices. (It is demeaning to say that you respect and empower women, but only as long as they are making choices you agree with. ) It is a woman's right to decide what she does with her breasts. Period.
It's a nasty trick, this getting women to spend all of their time slagging each other for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding instead of wondering why, when they tried to breastfeed their baby there was no reliable information, no reliable help and not enough time off of work to get the hang well enough to continue, or why women find out after they have decided to feed formula that it is significantly linked with diabetes.
I am frustrated with the culture that does not provide women with proper information about risk, tells us that formula and breastmilk are the same, and forces women through misinformation and poor social constructs, to make decisions that they wouldn't have to make if they had proper help and support. This is a culture where women are bombarded with information and incentive to use formula, because nobody makes any money when you breastfeed.
I'm angry that we know that the infant mortality rate among formula fed babies is higher, but that the US has the worst maternity leave of any developed country in the world. (If I were an American woman, making up 52% of the population, that would be a serious election issue for me.) We know that in countries where breastfeeding is taught properly, supported socially and enabled by proper leave time, the number of women who are able to breastfeed increases drastically, just like the number of car crashes decreases when you teach driving, or the number of knitters increases if you teach knitting. It is a sad state of affairs when we all stand around condemning women for not "choosing" to breastfeed, when the circumstances of their lives often provide little choice at all.
It is simply not possible, in any sort of a way, that Swedish women (who initiate breastfeeding at a rate of 98%) have wonder-breasts, but that American breasts fail miserably...often. The breasts are the same, the women are the same, the fault lies with a culture that does not help women properly, not even those who desperately need and want to nurse their babies. (If you have little money and no health insurance, it should be a priority to minimize your baby's needs to go to the doctor, and to spare you the $1500/year expense of formula.)
Therefore, I think that Jeanne is doing good work in the world. She's increasing breastfeeding among low income families in California, and she's doing it with about 1/100th of the budget that a formula company is using to convince these same families of their point of view. Jeanne is going to be giving away these baby hats during Breastfeeding week, and if you want to help her to make the US a baby-friendlier place, or if you're grateful that you had the resources to nurse your baby, maybe you can knit one (or ten) for her. If you email me, I'll tell you where to send them.
I've finally finished the sweater for the baby next door who is now a rib crushing seven days late.
That's the sweater from the Pea Pod baby set by Kate Gilbert, pattern free from Interweave Knits here. I knit it out of Lambs Pride worsted (I think, the labels were absent). It was a lovely knit, really quick and easy, and I think the way Kate has you do the whole body at once is a good move. Kate emailed me (and I didn't email her back...sorry Kate. I'll get to it.) warning me that there was an error in the earliest pdf on the website, but that Interweave has replaced it with a correct one now. (Mine was certainly fine) and that she has her suspicions about an error in the hat...since the lace is supposed to be between the decreases and Kate saw one knit up that wasn't right. (Hard to know if that's pattern error or user error) I didn't do the hat so I can't say for sure, but it's worth the heads up if you try it.
I know that it's superstitious and silly to believe that this baby won't be born until his knitting is done, but on the off chance that my neighbour is being tortured because I need five wee buttons, I figured I should make a best effort and rode my bike to the button shop this morning. (I also bought cheese, grapes, wine and a baguette. It is impossible for me to tell you how impossibly bohemian and lovely I felt cycling back from the village with that collection of items sprouting from my bike basket. It was one of those moments, you know? )
I have three choices of button.
a) little wooden buttons.
Sort of mundane, but perfectly acceptable.
b) other little wooden buttons
which are actually the back side of the first button, but I like the back better.
c) Small, blue mice.
Am I the only one who has a childhood recollection of some book about a small mouse who lived under a sweetpea vine? I was thinking of that wee mousie when I saw these guys, and what with the name of the sweater (Pea pod) I was charmed entirely. I'm not sure about the blue though.
In other button news, Karen Alfke's Rock and Weave socks are done.
They're a quick knit, though you wouldn't know it to watch me knit them, and they are neater looking than they appear above, since they are on the wrong size foot. (Although those are Megan's feet, so I don't know why I didn't just wait 15 minutes until her feet had grown another full size. The speed that kid is growing at is just flipping me out.) It's the first time I've use the Socks That Rock "medium weight" and although I think I still prefer the lightweight, I've got to admit that it's soft, nice and faster to knit. Much faster.
The pattern has this linen stitch cuff that's knit around the ankle (like a funky ankle-scarf) and then the foot is picked up and knit down, and the cuff is closed fetchingly with buttons.
These are buttons from my grandmothers button bin, inherited by me when she died more than 20 years ago. I've never added a button, so these are guaranteed vintage. They're perfect.
These socks are going into the LRPD (Long Range Planning Department) box. This Christmas...I'm going to be ready.
(Don't laugh that loudly please. I can hear you.)
It is with enormous pride (and recognition that the suspense of what happened with S.Kate's knitting adventure has probably been killing some of you, sorry about that) that I tell you that blogging was missed yesterday to prepare for the grade six graduation of Samantha, the youngest of my daughters. The dress was altered, her hair was done and undone (french braids did not go over as well as expected) and the child in question was delivered on time to her school where she shone like a star.
I have a hard time singing my own praises, or noting my own accomplishments, but it turns out that when it comes to my children, I don't even flinch. Samantha won a sportsmanship award, the French award and was the Valedictorian of her grade.
This wonderful turn of events follows a year in which Sam was really challenged to get the hang of the cliquey nature of grade six girls, and suffered some consequences as a result of her complete failure to learn to compromise her kindness, common sense and ethics in order to fit in with the other girls. I couldn't be prouder that Sam found a way to really succeed in the school and win the affection of her peers and the respect of her teachers without losing any of her fair and genuine nature. (I'm also really proud of this families ability to adopt a "loose" relationship with the Toronto Public School Board. Sam has been home when she needed to be this second half of the year, something that was a real logistical challenge some days. We're all really pleased that this solution worked so well for us.)
Sam's speech was incredible, and she's just lovely...inside and out.
Last evening marked the first time in more than a decade that one of my kids hasn't been in this awesome little school. I'm surprised to discover that as much as I thought I was going to really be happy about them all moving on out of elementary school, I'm actually going to miss it.
Now, S.Kate. Firstly, She's fine, and so is the shawl.
The shawl in question was Hyrna Herborgar (From Three Cornered and Long Shawls, a really wonderful import book from Schoolhouse Press). Why, some of you asked, did she not just rip back the 16 rows in question? Because:
a) she had already ripped back once (a horrible incident I can hardly stand to think of involving a spider masquerading cruelly as a shetland nep that involved tragic stitch consequences) and there's only so many times a knitter can reknit something before she weeps openly and feels the cruel breeze of defeat.
b) S.Kate is an intrepid knitter, interesting in learning new things and
c) that's THOUSANDS of stitches and hours of knitting that we're talking about ripping out.
S.Kate took the high road. She is intrepid and clever, she remembered that all of knitting is only knit and purl, no matter how challenging it is at times, and she knows way, way more about knitting now. Three cheers for S.Kate!
She sent this update:
The patient lived. However I am still in recovery.
Carpet had been viciously vacuumed. Wine as well as chocolate figured heavily. Attention seeking felines were banished from the area.
…there was color coded swatching to unravel the secrets of a double YO…
Any tool that gets the job done…
Main goal was to correct my blobby mess that sat right before the shawl center “spine” split to three columns of YOs. (Didn’t think to take a before photo.)
Blue lines show visual flow through openwork. Not-quite-right areas circled in yellow figure to be “doctored” to look better at blocking stage.
Preparing for the final stitch-by-stitch crawl…
Adjusting tension across a row so there’s enough yarn for all stitches.
And the knit goes on…
I’m happy with it. As you have shown us, there are dark arts to visually correct the, um, attention lapses in our knitting. But short of breaking the yarn or taking scissors to the offending area, I could see no way of getting nicely aligned yarnovers without total ripback of the 16 rows or as I chose, selective surgery. If the problem was not along the central axis of the shawl it would have been less noticeable and wouldn’t have bugged me like this did.
Don’t tell a person they can’t do something, stand back and see what they CAN do without the mental impediment.
I say we force Kate to send us a picture of the finished shawl. You know, when she feels ready to get up off the carpet.
Now, I try to be a lady, but there are those of you who have met me and will know that the length and breadth of my vocabulary is peppered with words of all kinds and expletives of an expansive and creative nature when they are called for and the company is right. Why, I've even been known to use crass words from other languages when my own is not sufficient, and can even string filth together if the situation is demanding enough. (A recent bad burn on my arm provoked a particularly gifted outburst.) Now, usually, since I have a respect for both words and my readers and because I feel that with proper thoughtfulness one can express oneself without risking a rating for "adult language" I keep the blog pretty clean. Not today. (Turn back now if you are overly sensitive, a small child (did you ask your mummy if you could be on this website?) impressionable or inclined to complain.)
This picture, this picture I'm about to show you stripped me of all of those lovely words, and my g-rating. It would seem that S.Kate, our intrepid lady of the comments got to thinking about a problem with her shawl and made a connection with the technique for dropping back cables that I showed a few days ago. Many people (S.Kate included, it would appear) wondered if the same technique used to correct one bad cable could be used to correct an isolated problem with a lace pattern.
S.Kate kept thinking...and then she emailed me this.
I boggled. I reeled. I tried to get ahold of myself, but the panic swelled up in me. I told her about this technique. She's a friend of mine. What have I gotten her into? What have I done! What has she done! (What if I can't stop using exclamation points!!) What will happen now! My eyes were sweating. My stomach cramped, I saw double and wondered if I should call her. What if the phone startled her? She's got to be pretty jumpy. If the phone gets her at a wrong moment I could compound my sins. I sat staring at the picture and I tried to figure out how she got into this and how she would get out and I thought about emailing her back and I opened my mouth and only two words would come out.
Pardon my french. I'm going to go lie down. May the knitting muses cradle S.Kate in the palm of their hands.
A whole community came together to see what the grade sixes had learned.
(It's Taiko drumming. Why didn't they do this when I went to school?)
Sam played french horn really well...
(She's so much better than she used to be.)
My Sam also had a great part in the school play...
(she's Baloo, from the Jungle book.)
Her sisters came to be nice to her....
(It was too much to ask a teenager to look happy about it. The thought was there.)
and they even waited for her to be all done.
(Such nice girls. Whole moments of a 17 year old's life....)
Joe and I celebrated the anniversary of our Godless Heathen Union
(we never got "all the way" married)
The expected baby next door is a day late...
so I started him a sweater.
and a pair of almost socks lay in the sunset and thought...
What a great day, a day that totally makes up for me needing to sit at my desk all day today doing my job. More tomorrow, when I don't have to cop out of blogging to earn a living.
Update on the tour page, Jayme-the-seems-pretty-wonderful-new- publicist (can we get a sad wave good bye to Kelli-the-wonder-publicist? She's got a snappy new job, and I wish her very well.) has added a few new stops, Salt Lake City, Mesa Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico and Austin Texas. (Yes Stalker Angie. Texas.)
Yesterday I got a letter from Sue. Sue wrote:
I'm knitting Teva Durham's Cabled Riding Jacket. Everything was zipping along until I noticed that six rows back I crossed one cable out of many in the wrong direction... I could unravel those six rows back to that cable, but I'm wondering if there is a way to just drop those 5 stitches back to that point, recross the cable in the right direction, and fix things.
Even as I write, I feel that it's hopeless, but some niggling little sprite tells me not to give up yet.
That sprite would be me, though I've never been called niggling before, at least not to my face. Indeed, all is not lost, and I can think of two ways to get yourself out of this dilemma. I'm not usually the sort of blogger who goes around getting other knitters out of trouble, (you know, on account of not being able to get myself out of trouble most of the time, that and having such a real knack for getting other knitters INTO trouble) but this time, having mis-crossed many a cable in my day, this time...I'm going to show you how to fix it. My apologies to the dial-up folks. This is a picture heavy post.
There are two ways (other than ripping back the whole she-bang a wrenching 6 rows) that I use.
The Proper way.
1. I have prepared a swatch for you. (Sue, do you feel the love?) In the event that you have never mis-crossed a cable in your life, only knit scarves, or are a non-knitter who only comes here because you are interested in string....I have indicated the boo-boo with the arrow.
All cables leaning right, and there, six rows back, a six stitch cable deliberately leaning left with shameless disregard for order or The Way That Things Should Be.
2. Isolate the stitches so that they may feel the full measure of shame.
Begin frogging back, being sure to leave uninvolved stitches on the needles. You need not be delicate, only the stitches you have removed from the needle will unravel, no matter what you pull on.
3. Pull back row by row until the stitches that were miss-crossed are released. In this case, that would be six rows. (If you are the nervous sort, a little lie down or drinkie-poo can help at this point.)
4. Go get yourself three dpns. If you are fussy, you can make them the same size as what you're using for the rest of the work, but I find it easier to do this with needles slightly smaller. Put the first three stitches on one needle, and the second three onto another. Now cross the two dpns in the correct cross for the cable....
and slide them onto the third dpn in their new, spiritually gratifying, correct order. Breathe.
5. The worst is over. The stitches are held safely and none of them can go running all over the place like an 16 year old with a new drivers license and a tank full of gas their mum bought.
See the strands that you pulled free to get back to the mistake?
Find the BOTTOM one. The one that is closest to the live stitches.
6. Pick up that strand of yarn, and using another dpn, knit across the six stitches, imagining that the strand of wool is a little tiny ball of yarn.
This will be a fiddly pain in the arse. If you started with the drinks when you got flipped out in step 3, now would be a good time to quit. You're going to need a certain measure of hand-eye co-ordination.
7. When you have knit all six stitches with the pretend ball of yarn...
slide the dpn through the stitches to the left, sort through your strands for the lowest one, and repeat knitting across the row. (Relaxing your shoulders at this point is probably a good idea too. Clearly, everything is going to be alright.)
Keep at it, working across the rows until all of the strands have been used up.
There are likely (unless you are a very gifted knitter indeed) going to be some issues with the gauge of the new stitches. This is as inevitable as that sad day right after you watched the Thorn Birds and fell in love with Richard Chamberlain and was talking about it at school and then that skanky chick told you that he was gay and you told your mum that and she said "Guess what Honey."
Smoosh the stitches around, pick at them with the needle to even them out and know that most of it will be corrected in blocking.
When you're done, return all of the stitches to the needle that they were on in the first place, pour yourself a very large glass of the celebratory beverage of your choice, and before drinking it, check to make sure that's the only cable you miss-crossed.
Now that I've shown you the proper way....I'm going to show you a cheat. A dirty, nasty, down in the weeds, don't tell anybody it was me cheat. This fix is for miss-crosses very far down. Too far down. Too far down with other cables stacked on top of them creating complications. It's for when you have knit a whole stinking back of an aran for a 7 foot tall 500 pound man and you find a miss-crossed cable on row 9.
It is for when you know that you will not be able to live with the mistake, but you know that you can't live with ripping back either.
It is a last resort. It is voodoo.
Fetch a darning needle, locate the miss-cross, and imagine where you would like the new stitches of the cable to go. (Note that I am sending this cable in the other direction to avoid knitting another swatch. There are limits to my love.)
Now backstitch along those new lines with tight stitches.
This stitching helps pull the old lines down out of the way and give the right "lay of the land" to the new cable. It make the fabric low in the right places and high in the right places.
Now, take a deep breath and begin to embroider the new cable on where you would like it to go. Think like duplicate stitch, and simply
"draw on" the cable you would like to have.
Here's one completed row. Do one row for each stitch that would be crossing.
See that? Voodoo.
Total voodoo. It's imperfect, and I wouldn't expect it to meet with the exacting standards of a master knitter, but in an emergency when all other possibilities are exhausted? Dude. It's an exit door.
The only drawback (and there is always a price to dabbling with the dark arts) is that it can't be frogged. It must be unpicked if you don't like it, and for that...you're going to need the liquor back.
(Ps. Am I the only one laughing at the irony that I've just performed two complicated knitting maneuvers to end up with a swatch that looks just like the one I started this post with?)
I'm into yoga. I'm sure I've told you this before. I have the completely reasonable belief that it makes me fitter and stronger, and the completely unreasonable (and unproven) belief that my practice also makes me taller and more graceful. (I feel taller after yoga. The fact that the Gap "short" pants are still too freaking long for me is irrelevant. How short is "short" to The Gap anyway? The average height of a Canadian woman is 5'4", so what's up with a 5'1" Canadian woman putting on "short" pants and finding them 4" too long?)
Now usually, I practice Yoga at home. Yoga stresses both willful determination to do ones best (I have no trouble with this) and acceptance of where one is in their individual practice. This is challenging for me. I have absolutely no problem accepting where other people are in their practice. I think that every person should try really hard to do their best while not crapping on themselves for not being as far along the road as they would like. The problem starts when I try to apply that to myself.
Until such time as I learn not to be so competitive in yoga, I've been only going to classes occasionally, just often enough to clean up my practice, correct any bad habits I've picked up in the living room and challenge myself a little bit. Last week I felt like I was getting sloppy, and I packed myself off for a little cleanup.
I put down my knitting, picked up my mat and headed off. I took a deep breath as I laid my stuff out beside the women with no bulges anywhere on their bodies, and I exhaled anxiety as all of these lithe young people picked up their left legs and effortlessly deposited them behind their right ears while smiling the divine grin of self acceptance (I bet it's pretty freaking easy to embody self-accemptance when all you have to accept is being beautiful and flexible, but I digress.) while I sat there feeling like a supreme dorkling, trying to inhale self-love and exhale judgment...reaching up through my head and grounding myself down through my feet, really stretching for a better self.
It was going pretty well too. I did a decent tree, a pretty snappy downward dog, then right out of the restful blue, the most beautiful 14 pound 6' tall woman folded herself into the scorpion pose and something in me snapped. Some part of me that just can't do it. I couldn't let her be that much better than me. Every lesson I'd learned, every possible concept I'd internalized about being the best that I can be went right out the window and my competitive self exploded onto the scene.
I lost my cool. The little bubble of "being the best me I can be" burst and suddenly I was trying to keep up with this woman. I ignored anything my body might have been saying to me (little whispered messages like "stopstopstopdearholyheavenstop") and I didn't just try to keep up to the best of my ability, no, no. I compared my living room yoga body to the body of a 20 year old who lives yoga. I stifled any protest my groin may have about whether or not I could actually do those things and I quietly swallowed screams of protest from every muscle group in my body. If she reached, I reached. If she folded, I folded. If she inhaled a little deeper into a post then damn it....I gasped my way to a physical impossibility.
As I crawled home (although the real pain didn't hit until today, when I discovered that the degree of leg bending one needs to do to "use the facilities" created spiraling purple pain shot through with yellow sparkles ) I got to thinking about competition and I got thinking about knitting.
Despite my complete, total and unabridged inability to attain a competition free state while at the gym, when I got home I sat down with my knitting (and a couple of tylenol) and realized that once again, the practice of knitting has a lesson for me to take to the rest of my life. If I knit something crappy, I'm ok. (Perhaps slightly pissed, but ok.) If I cannot conquer a knitting move, I don't compare myself to Eunny and stay up nights weeping. I try to challenge myself in wooly ways and I make a bold endeavor to knit very well, but I don't think less of new knitters and I don't judge knitters who haven't cabled yet. Why then, am I so hard on myself when I can't achieve the yoga equivalent of a shetland shawl without determination and practice?
It's something I'll be thinking over as I try to lift my arms high enough to hold my knitting today.
Tv-less coverage of The World Cup.
I'm pretty sure Portugal won again.
Italy must have been playing, since in Little Italy, everyone was watching the game.
but in end, the band didn't play,
and everyone went home.
I think Italy lost.
1. The tour page has been updated. (See? I told you it was coming.)
The list is by no means complete, but includes the confirmed dates for Chicago, Oklahoma City, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Portland, Eugene and Los Altos. The travelling sock is nervous and excited.
2. The roundabout tank is temporarily on hold while the first spiraling round blocks.
I simply couldn't get an accurate idea of when to start joining it into a tube, and it's too fussy and lovely to screw up. I'll remeasure after the blocking and see where I'm at. (I find it pretty funny that I'm convinced, after having had my arse kicked by knits in every possible way, that I think that this will prevent disaster. Hope springs eternal.)
3. While I am waiting for it to dry, my arms were empty. I filled them up with a visit to my favourite twins, neither of whom could be bothered to wake up to see me.
Lily, the wee charmer of a rosebud. (She's actually very demanding, but silent as long as she is never, ever alone.)
Her brother Parker, continuing to be the worlds most laid back little guy, shown below doing his duty to see that Lily is (as I mentioned) never, ever alone.
Their mother today professed an urge to learn to knit. I am stunned, (how can it be that nursing twins just doesn't take up enough of her time?) because it really didn't take long to convince her at all.
4. When there are no babies, I am entertaining myself with the Alchemy Haiku, shown here languishing among my spectacular astilbe.
I'm knitting it up into "Icarus" - (scroll down on the linked page). I am feeding the delusion that this can be knit using just two skeins of 300m apiece, since I've heard through the yarn shop grapevine that Birch (Scroll down again) can be knit using only two. I'm trying really hard not to accept the reality, which (inevitably) will be that it really takes two skeins and 9 metres of a third.
I'm completely in love with this issue of Interweave Knits. (Summer 2006) I'll openly admit that I've got pretty loose standards for what will get me to buy a magazine. If there's one pattern in it that I might knit I'll buy it, since I think that it's still a wicked deal, compared to the prices for single patterns, but this issue has a whopping five knits that appeal to me. (That's sort of unheard of, isn't it?)
5. My TV-less coverage of the World Cup continues.
Argentina clearly won something, (I love Toronto.) and this guy is using his van...
to cover all his bases.
My day yesterday was wonderful. Chock full of beautiful weather, lovely people, good food and the girls and I were all really thrilled with all of your comments and well wishes on the post yesterday. Thanks to all of you for saying nice things about them, and for the birthday wishes for me. The ladies did do a wonderful job guest blogging, and it's that sort of occasional loveliness from your kids that keeps you from killing them, from running away to Belize, from drinking too much, being grateful that the joy of parenting is so fulfilling.
It turns out, that if you have to have a birthday (and I really don't mind them so much) and you are a knitter then this "Birthday party at a Yarn Shop" shtick is a pretty good idea. (Who am I kidding really, I mean, what wouldn't be better at a yarn shop? I'm thinking about writing in my will that my funeral should be at a yarn shop.)
Through careful assessment and deliberate observation, I have figured all of the critical elements of a successful yarn shop birthday party.
1. Knitters. (You can include crocheters too. They know how to party.)
That's Rachel (Rachel H from the comments), a beer and a really cool coffee scoop she made me out of Kentucky coffee tree wood. (Seriously, how neat is that?) We had beer, coolers, gin (we shall not say anything of the amount of gin consumed by this knitter in particular.) hard cider... The alcohol combined with item #3 was especially deadly.
3. A yarn sale.
Megan did 20% off everything in the store for the duration of the party. I know she did this because A) she's smart and B) she likes me, but I choose to think that it was her personal gift to me, knowing as she does how I love to watch other knitters lose their minds in a yarn shop. (That's Maria's fine self standing beside the sale sign. Maria proved for us all last night that the combination of beer, a new whistle, a yarn sale and a credit card makes for some of the best entertainment around. Let your imagination really run with that one.)
4. Free yarn and stuff.
I plunked the bag down on the ground and as fast as you could say "scrambles" the knitters fell on it like a pack of wild dogs. (Pardon the blurriness of the photo. They were moving like lightning.)
5. Show and tell.
In this case "show and tell" looked more like ripping shawls right off of the backs of knitters as they walked by. (This may also be related to #2) Here's Alice with her beautiful Sea Silk shawl, and Rachel showing the only facial expression possible upon learning that it was knit from ONE skein. (I believe there was a run on Sea Silk in the shop just moments after that.)
5. A rainbow.
(Ok. This is probably optional, and admittedly difficult to arrange, but it sure was pretty. I think Amy got it for me.)
6. A cake.
7. Buy some great yarn.
I suggest a little Alchemy Haiku, but anything that makes you feel week in the knees would be absolutely perfect. (I blame the beer.)
Many thanks to all my friends and the knitters who came to wish me well, and especially to Megan for letting us trash use the shop. Same time next year?
This post was made by the children of the Yarn Harlot. Seeing as how this is her birthday, we think it is unfair for her to post for herself. (Actually, she has always said she doesn't do any work on her birthday) So us, the kids, get to make the post ourselves. This post is called "If your Mum is the Yarn Harlot". We figure we are the only ones who can write it, we just happen to be the only children of the Yarn Harlot. (We hope.)
Sam (12 years old):
Today is my Mum's Birthday, my Mum is the Yarn Harlot. If your Mum is the Yarn Harlot, then you learn to knit before you even learn your numbers, and you learn to spin, sew and cross-stitch for your ninth birthday.
If your Mum is the Yarn Harlot, when you learn all of these things while your friends are learning to dance and do pottery, then they start to think that you are crazy, and you have to say "No, no. I am not crazy, my Mum is the Yarn Harlot."
I don't blame them if they think we are crazy, because this is my mum.
She might be a little crazy, but we love her.
If your Mum is the Yarn Harlot, then sometimes she acts crazy and sometimes she is normal and sometimes she is both. This makes my mother what Joe says is "unpredictable and entertaining", or sometimes he says she is a "hard ticket".
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, then she is 38 today, but I have only known her for 12 years. We have had some good times together, and in all of our good times, my mother always knitting. Even when we are in public, I don't think she can control herself.
Megan (15 in 8 weeks)
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, you get to find her books in Chapters and say to all your friends "Yeah, my mum wrote that".
Who else gets to say that! Only us, well, except if your mum writes books also...
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, then sometimes your room gets painted blue and has fish all over the doors. My mum paints kids rooms with "themes". Right currently we have our room painted purple. I think she might have stopped painting them themed. I hope not.
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, then you have your own knitting basket. It's not exactly a small basket either. It's pretty big and I have lots of knitting needles in there, and lots of wool in there too. I have tons of knitting things. I think she gave each of us our own knitting basket so we will stop stealing from hers. It doesn't really work though, but mum thinks everyone will be distracted by their own wool.
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, you always have something to do when your hands are bored. Mum thinks the answer to everything is knitting. If you can't sleep, if you have a headache, if your boyfriend bugs you, if your feet hurt, if you're tired, anything or everything, Mum will suggest that you knit to make it better.
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot, she knows the answer for everything. She knows all the normal mum stuff and then crazy stuff about stuff that normal mums have no idea about, like what to do with a dirty sheep or how to spin flax.
If your mum is the Yarn harlot, your feet are always warm in the winter along with your hands, head and neck.
If your mum is the Yarn Harlot then she is really good at helping with your English homework because she has written all those books.
If your mum is the Yarn harlot, at some point you are going to realize that your mum is the coolest mum in the whole wide world. (If only because of the knitting.)
Thanks mum, for being yourself, for always knowing the right answer to everything and for always being there for me. 17 years is a long time to always be there for someone. We love you, keep being the Yarn Harlot and the mum we know and love. Happy Birthday!
(Now can I have a puppy?)
That's what Meg has been playing on the piano for the last 45 minutes. I am sitting in my office (with the door closed), trying to string together coherent words and all I can hear is The Lion Sleeps Tonight, over and over and over repeating itself ad nauseam until I think I am going to be forced to lock myself in the dry goods cupboard mumbling "Wim-a-weh" under my breath and hugging sock yarn until normal thought returns to my mind.
(Two weeks until the summer activities start. Two weeks. Wim-a-weh)
As some of you may remember from last year, this week, the second week of June is Birthday Week in the McPhee Clan, and the good times just keep on rolling. My charming brother Ian celebrated an undisclosed number of years on Sunday,
and my wonderful mother Bonnie celebrates an even more undisclosed number of years this very day....
Happy Birthday Mum! As an enormous gift, I am recycling last years photo of you, and sparing you the image that I took on Sunday. It looks nothing like you, though I really do think you have better hair this year. )
My birthday rings in tomorrow, when I am pretty sure that no matter what my plans may have been last week, I will not have managed to turn this yarn (Alchemy silken straw)
into this tank (Roundabout leaf tank from Knitting Nature) Into a tank top before my birthday party/book welcome tomorrow night.
I got held up by my own raving incompetence as I tried to figure simple knitting maths. My thoughts went like this.
If the pattern is knit at 18 stitches to 10 centimetres, and you cast on 24 stitches to start then the width of the strip that you would be knitting would be.... Wait. If it's 18 stitches to 4 inches, then one inch would be 4.5 stitches so 24 stitches would measure...Hold on. This doesn't help. If I'm getting 28 stitches to 10cm and the strip is supposed to be 24 inches, no....stitches, then the number of the stitches that I need to have how many inches? Where do I get the inches? (For the love of wool someone get me a drink.) Look. If 4.5 stitches is one inch, and 7 stitches is one inch when I knit it, and an inch is 2.5cm and I ..... Oh (*&^%$! . Fine. 24 stitches divided by 4.5 stitches should give me inches for the width of the strip so I can multiply....Didn't I ask someone to get me a drink?
At some point in this, Dibble must have felt my cosmic pain and being adept in the dark arts of numeric manipulation, mailed me an excel spreadsheet where all I have to do is pour a glass of wine, enter the gauge I'm supposed to be getting, the number of stitches that you cast on, the gauge I'm getting now, and whammo-bammo, before you can say "Mr. Lancaster's grade 10 math class sucked" Dibble's excel spreadsheet of glory spits out the number to cast on and the whole thing comes together. I love her.
That let me make a start, which I confirmed with Tree, who happens to be knitting the same thing, only she's getting gauge. Now that I'm not getting gauge, but am getting the right width, the only thing left to worry about is trying to knit the leaves into places that will not strategically position them precisely over my nipples, stripping me of the very elegance that I seek.
I leave you with this picture of summer in my city.
If you live in Toronto, you don't need to turn on the tv to know who is winning World Cup Soccer games, you just need to know your world flags. I don't know what the score was...but I can tell you that Portugal definitely won something on Sunday.
(I would show you pictures but I sent the camera to Sam's track meet with Joe. I thought about keeping it, but my maternal instinct prevailed.)
The pattern is written for a gauge of 18 stitches to 10cm, and the yarn knits up to 26 stitches to 10cm. Although this plan made a great deal of sense to me while I was in the yarn shop (I have no explanation for that now...) I am having some technical difficulties ( No? Really?) with the plan now. I think someone should do some research into wool fumes and figure out what comes over me in a yarn shop that makes me think that all things are possible.
2. Sara knit a really cute watermelon hat, and it struck me that those beads would be a really good way to do a strawberry hat too...
3. For all Toronto based book types, I'll be at Book Expo Canada this weekend, signing books between 11 and 12 on Sunday. Please drop by and say Hi if you're anywhere in the neighbourhood.
4. Yesterday was Amanda and Meg's last day of school, marking the beginning of an entire summer of teenagers standing around my office (which is actually the living room) asking for food and trying to get me weakened enough to allow insane ideas like "co-ed camping" or a puppy. Phrases like "everyone is doing it" and "nobody else's mother is a lunatic" are already being bandied about. May the force be with me.
That this guy with a freaking jackhammer the size of one of my children 10 feet outside of my front window
who jackhammered the sidewalk (with no apparent goal that I could divine) for hours and hours today, has any relationship to this big honking mistake in the shawl edging?
That's what I thought. I'm not taking the heat on this one.
I had a conversation with a friend a little while ago who made the observation that my third book may be suffering from "third child syndrome". You know the one, where your first child has two baby books, fourteen albums (complete with records of their first nail trimming) a scrapbook and a box of memorabilia, then your second kid has an album and a baby book with some of the stuff filled in, and then the third child has only got three bent photos where they appear by accident in the background of a picture of the damaged porch you took for insurance purposes? Yeah. Me too.
I got to thinking about that a little, and she may be right. I love the third book. It's just as special as the first two, it certainly represents the same amount of work and passion and love, but somehow (this may be related to my discomfort with praise of all kinds) its the only book that didn't have a launch party, or even a family welcome. It just turned up (much like my third child) and made itself at home on my bookshelf and was suddenly there, like it had always been. My friend asked me to consider giving it a party. (My friend may just want to get out of the house more, so her motives are somewhat suspect.) So while I'm not giving the book a formal launch, I am always up for a party, and you guys are invited.
My birthday falls on my usual knit night at Lettuce Knit next week, so I'm going to have a birthday celebration/ hey-its-a-book party there next Wednesday evening, June 14th, about 7:00. (Many thanks to Lettuce Knit for forking over the store.) I'll be getting a year older, signing books if you got one, and buying some yarn hanging with my knitbuds to whoop it up. Come one, come all. I might bring beer.
(Remarks about how having a birthday party at a yarn store makes the most sense they have ever heard of and is not weird at all, gratefully received.)
Do you know that feeling of ineffectiveness? The one where your whole day is busy, busy, rushing but nothing at all has been accomplished? I'm so there. I've tidied the living room, it's still a disaster, I've mopped the kitchen floor, it's still sticky. I do laundry, there's more. I write, I don't have a chapter. I knit, nothing is bigger.
I'm getting about as much done as a fifteen year old girl with a fully charged phone and a new boy in the neighbourhood.
It disturbs me most when it happens to the writing, (that may be because I have to write successfully for this family to keep having those little luxuries, like bread.) but when it happens to my knitting it practically sucks the will to go on right out of me. Knitting is supposed to be respite from all of that. Knitting is supposed to be the one thing in my life where there is tangible progress. Knitting is CONCRETE. You can count the stitches and the rows and you can have some stinking proof that your life is moving forward.
Sure, sure, you can't really tell over the course of a day that your kids are maturing. (As a matter of fact, I find it better to look at their growth over months or years. Some of the individual days are pretty discouraging. How is it possible that the girls are becoming women this quickly but are still capable of having an outrageously piercing dispute about sparkle body lotion at 7:15am? There is a secondary question here, one about how it is possible that any children raised on oatmeal and homemade yoghurt by a braless woman could possibly care about sparkle body lotion enough to fight over it, but that's likely just the fates laughing at me again.) There's no way to feel like a book is really going to come together over a day, books are too long. These things you just have to accept are slow and organic, but knitting? You're supposed to be able to get that done.
This is all, naturally, just a very long winded way of saying that Summer in Kansas kicked my arse last night and I'm not on to the edging.
Worse than that, I didn't read the instructions very well (try to hide your shock) and I thought that all I had left to do was knit on the edging, but it turns out that I'm really screwed there is an elegant picot edging that gets knit onto the long top edge when I'm done the bottom. You pick up stitches all of the way across, then throttle yourself with the circular needle cable work an edge that has you cast on two stitches for every one that you would like to cast off. (You do the math. It makes me want to shred something.)
There was something about sitting in the living room (that is resisting being cleaned) taking a break from the book (which was resisting being written) wearing my last clean tee-shirt (because the laundry is multiplying every-time I leave the house.) realizing that I couldn't even make progress on my stinking knitting that just about put me over the edge.
I know that freaking out about ineffective time management and accomplishment is...er...ineffective, and furthermore, I know myself and realize that aforementioned freaking out only makes me flail and rage about the house, moving fast and accomplishing nothing, as that sort of tantrum only makes what time I do have completely unfocussed and impotent. What is needed here is to take the stinking shawl and all it symbolizes out to the barbecue and cackle like a madwoman while the sick smell of charring wool/silk drifts across the locust tree is to settle down, pick a goal and make today about efficient, calm work, directed in a meaningful way. That or eat nine pounds of chocolate. Hard to tell really.
To distract you from the absolute lack of interesting progress of any sort, I present...Twins wearing hand knit hats.
Lily in her watermelon. (Lily needs to grow her head and maybe wake up a little for maximum effect in hat pictures.)
Parker in his tangerine. Parker's hat fits a little better, but he would improve his hat pictures by gaining motor control of his eyes and tongue. Little dude's expressions are still pretty random. I feel bad about lighting him from one side and making him look crooked, but I bet he preferred it to the flash.
The sweater modeling will have to wait. The size 0-3 months are a little big.
I have a deep and loving relationship with the Canada Post package guy. All of the tubes, transistors, resistors and wire that Joe gets in the mail adds up to at least a package a week, and yarn related materials turn up regularly enough that we can actually have a relationship with the man. He knows that if it's from Digikey, is heavy or makes a noise when you shake it then it's for Joe, and if it's large, light and silent (and perhaps has been reeking up his truck with the vague smell of sheep shite) ....it's for me. He's even begun to inquire what sorts of things are inside our respective packages. Right now he appears just as perplexed by a shetland fleece as he does a box full of 5000 electrolytic capacitors, and I am very surprised that he has not once, not with all of the TTL Logic Gates, hand cards, transformers, merino, wire and sock yarn...not once has he asked either of us what we do for a living. Ever.
I have visions of him driving around Toronto with the window of his truck down (to get rid of the barnyard smell from my latest box) pondering the question of "What are they doing with this stuff?" and only being able to come up with the horrible vision of Joe and I combining our talents and creating (through cyborg technologies learned from watching too much Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica) an evil homemade flock of killer robot sheep living in our basement.
Since I worry about the Postman, I'm going to show what was in the last few things he brought. (See Dude? I don't know what Joe's up too...but I'm harmless. Likely odd, but harmless.)
Five times a year, beautiful Socks that Rock yarn turns up with a pattern to go with it. This shipment was a colour that I wouldn't normally pick, and a patten I wouldn't normally do, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when I was winding the yarn about 20 minutes after it showed up. (I am weak.) Sam's got her eye on these socks, she's charmed (as am I, actually) with the picot edge bind-off on this pair.
The binder provides a place to keep the patterns and has handy charts with sock measurments and places to keep notes on the patterns and the foot information of your friends and family. I'm thrilled to death with the whole shebang.
(STR always reminds me of Cara. Did you all know she's fundraising for Heifer International? Good cause, fibre friendly and she's almost at her goal. Not that goodness needs any reward, but there are prizes... good ones.)
2. The padded envelope with the phallic shaped object inside? Not what you think. (I already have a hobby.)
A sock-in-progress suitcase. (Remember the tin one (scroll down a bit) available from Woolworks Ltd. at Jeremiah's Antiques - wait...I'll tell you before you ask. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org ) This is a wooden one, a reproduction of a Shaker device and being made available by Joan. (I got mine right from Joan and you can too, they are $20 and Joan's having them made in a variety of lengths to match your needles. Email Joan at email@example.com for more info.) I love the tin one but the wooden one (while it takes up more room in your purse) doesn't look quite so suspicious on airport x-ray. (They let the tin one on, but I had to let them fish it out of my bag and have a look at it.) This one is going to be for planes and the tin one for the rest of my time.
3. This made it's way here courtesy of Knit & Plenty.
It's a supercool "Organizational toolkit for the disorganized knitter".
(I'm trying to let go of what my public image must be for her to have sent it here. Perhaps I should make an effort, eh?) There's all sorts of neat tricks in here, needle minders, yarn minders, patternminders....You can read more about it here. I don't know if it will organize the stash...but it made short work of one of the baskets.
In addition to opening boxes, my knitting and I have had a fine weekend. The sock and I got through the CBC thing.
I don't know how we got through it, but we did. I go and do these things and the minute it's over I blissfully forget everything that I said. I know I didn't swear, I'm pretty sure I didn't call the host by the wrong name and other than that...who knows? I've discovered that doing radio is less stressful than other book things. Probably because it doesn't matter how my hair looks. Perhaps because you can't see the audience.
Sam and I took my trekking sock for a trek in High Park.
High Park is a big park in Toronto here, sort of like Central Park but with more wild spaces. We hiked the Western Ravine Black Oak trail and found a field of what I think are wild lupins. Anyone?
I finished Parkers hat.
(The little leaves are from Knitted Embellishments.)
I have four rows to go on Summer in Kansas before I can start the edging, and I've promised myself I will get this off needles before I start something new, but I'm getting seriously twitchy. (I think it's the colour.)
and the sock enjoyed the babies. I love the way they look like they are lifting their little hands away from the needles. (Both babies were so soundly asleep they wouldn't ever have moved.)
They are home now, and everyone is happy. Mum, Dad and big sister are all smashing, and the babies are getting bigger by the minute. I was stunned today when I lifted Lily. She doesn't weigh that much more, but she's got that sudden solidity that babies get after a few days...it's like their souls arrive in their bodies and sturdy them up a little. Her brother also come fully into himself, and I'm having a wonderful time watching them almost literally blossom.
Tomorrow, cute babies in cute knitted stuff. Or a shawl, or maybe some socks. (I wonder if I'm becoming predictable?)
I am profoundly boring. I have just returned from the hospital (where the twins continue to thrive) and
I am knitting a plain hat, and plain socks.
(I can't believe I took a picture of that. I am even boring myself.)
There are better blogs to visit today.
1. Go see Sam's spinning. The woman is to the spinning wheel as Zenobia was to the rule of Egypt. There is no chance that she would take more than two years to spin corridale for her mate's gansey even though she was being pestered by a wild Rams.
2. Ted is spindling and knitting for lace. (This is, you will realize when you get there, is the understatement of the century. If you doubt me, see this, and this or this. Now close your mouth before flies go in.)
3.Eunny. Enough said.
4. Pacalaga has a baby worth peeking at.
5. Freshisle Fibers has watermelon sock yarn to go with the hat.
For Canadians who are interested, I'll be trying to to humiliate myself on CBC's Fresh Air tomorrow morning at (and I can't tell you how much this works against me) 7:30am. That's startlingly early for my sort of person, and will probably result in a good chunk of incoherent babbling about knitting. Might be worth turning the radio on for if you're up anyway.
I shall endeavor to be more entertaining on Monday. Maybe I'll knit lace.
Update: Apparently (thanks for the tip Lauren) you don't have to be in Canada to listen to the CBC. I haven't tested it, but it looks like this page (I'm in Toronto) will let my 7:30am ritual humiliation be heard by a wider audience. Excellent.
Much of my blogging time is being occupied by twin management. Both are beautiful and healthy and breastfeeding very well. (All hail their mother. Nursing twins is an intense job. An intense full-time job. A job so big that someone should really sit beside you for most of your day saying "you're wonderful" and doing all of the other jobs.) To help keep things going well, I'm sacrificing time at the computer to biking up to the hospital and back each day. I'm sure you all can get behind that. Until then, you are going to have to settle for some random stuff that can be yours.
1. I started with this:
Fleece artist kid mohair sliver. (Interesting note? That word is pronounced "sly-ver", not "sliv-er" like what you get running on a new deck in bare feet. I discovered this while trying to look informed using the word at a retreat. I was gently corrected.) There are two colourways there that I thought were compatible. I spun them separately,
then plied them together to get this:
About 160m of dk/perhaps heavy fingering mohair two-ply, that I've donated to Claudia as a prize for her MS ride. Visit Claudia, make a donation and you could win this, or something else really, really good. Claudia's aiming for $10 000 this year and she's almost there.
2. While I was sitting around the hospital, I've whipped off a wee cotton hat for Lily.
It's so cute it about gives me cramps. Now is the part where you all email me for the pattern and I break knitterly hearts by explaining that there isn't one, and I email you back and say "you could totally fake it" and then you email me back and say "No, no. I'm not that kind of knitter. I can't fake a hat", and then I email you back and say "It's not diffusing a bomb. Try it." and then you email another note and say "I wouldn't know where to start." and then I email you and say "If you dressed yourself you're smart enough for this" and then I email you the steps below.
(I'm trying to time save by just putting it here. Let me know if you really miss the other parts.)
Step one. Measure the head in question. (Lily's head is 33cm - 13 inches.)
Step two. Find some yarn in dark green, light green, white and pink. You can look for black if you want to do the seeds. (I will remind you now that there are seedless watermelons.)
Step three. Knit a swatch. (Don't make that face. Do a tiny one. I did 10 rows of 10 stitches.) Measure your stitches to the inch.
Step four. Multiply the number of stitches to the inch by the number of inches around the victims head. (Use a calculator if you feel woozy when I say multiply.) If you have five stitches to the inch, and the head in question is 15 inches, your math looks like this:
5X15= 75. See? Even a math-phobic like me can do it.)
Step five. Cast on this number if your recipient is a baby (their heads grow fast) or a few less than this number if your recipient is likely to have a stable head size for a while. (Hat's knit the exact size of the head don't stay on real well. You want it a wee bit smaller so that it clings a little.)
Step six. Knit around and around, changing colours in the places that it makes sense to, and carry on until the hat is tall enough. (This is always taller than you think.) Lily's hat is five inches tall. (Don't unroll the roll brim to measure. It's not going to unroll on their head.)
Step seven. Decrease in a manner that makes sense to you. Me? I like the tops of hats to swirl, so I decrease every 8 stitches on the first round, seven on the second, six on the third...and so on until I'm knitting two together around.
Step eight. Cut yarn, thread through remaining stitches and fasten off. Duplicate stitch on the seeds, if it charms you.
Step nine. Put it on the head of the victim recipient and giggle a little. (Double sided tape helps with toddlers.)
Step ten. Stop and think how this could totally work for other hats. Feel clever.