July 29, 2006

The speaking sky

(Sorry this post is so late guys, I'm about to do Ann Arbor, and I've already done Texas (Yee haw!) but I opted to sleep instead of post the morning after Albuquerque - rest is in short supply around here, and the internet in my room was not working in Austin and...well. It all sort of fell apart after that.)

This is how many cabs and lineups there are if you travel from Mesa, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico.


This is how long the flight is.


On the plane to Albuquerque I couldn't get my eyes off the window. I leaned forward the whole time, my nose glued to the glass while for the first time in my life, I watched the true desert under me. These are terrible pictures, taken through the plane window through a little hazy cloud...but I hope you can see what I do.


It is like the moon. There are craters and cliffs and sand and ....


nothing. It is the most incredible absence of humans. Hundreds of square miles, hundreds, and one dirt road running through it.

The monsoon followed me, so it poured the light hours that I was here, and I was cautioned several times about being outside during the storm, since more people are struck by lightning in New Mexico than anywhere else in the US. (I wonder what the odds are if you are holding metal sticks all the time?) I turned then, since I was unlikely to weather the downpour outside, to human entertainment.

Jamie/Scout picked me up and helped me find coffee (Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.) gave me personalized yarn from her shop...and we boogied off to the yarn shop and then to the event. (She also handed me bottles of water at pretty regular intervals, for which I am very grateful. You need to drink lots of water here, not just because it is so dry, but because of the altitude.) She helped me find more cactus...


and got me to the event on time. Here are my pictures of the crowd, though I have to apologize to the lovely knitters who were there last night, as these are the worst crowd pictures I have ever, ever taken. Clearly the strain of remembering to check my shoes for scorpions before I put them on is getting to me. You can click to make these knitters bigger. (What is up with the blur action on my camera? I'm starting to wonder if this particular camera has just been slung around one too many airports...)



Luckily, I have better pictures of some individual knitters. The Albuquerque knitters have personality. I tell you that for sure.

This is Kay and her mother Una.


I thought that they were going to tell me a gentle story of knitting passed from mother to daughter, that Una had taught Kay to knit socks. Wrong-o. This family went the other way, and the daughter taught her mother how to knit them recently. I thought Una's socks looked pretty sharp.

Noelle, with barry


(He travels, much like my sock.) Check out her socks knit from handspun. Really beautiful.

Jenny with her koigu sock


proving that the Canadian plan to take over the world through yarn continues apace.



Jeannine takes the prize for dedication in the pursuit of hanging out with knitters. This day was her birthday, and her first wedding anniversary, and she told her husband that she had to work so she could come play with knitters. She bailed on dinner, put on her work clothes and beat it out of there. I offered to disguise her.

It's Brooke,


the genius behind Widdershins (a toe up sock pattern than may solve one of my issues with toe up sock heels).

There was more. There was Mookitty, Adam, Mona, Carole, Beth, Lauren, Penny (Princess of the Dorks.) and Rebecca and I know I missed a bunch. (See previous disclaimer about exhaustion. My brain is no longer running full tilt.)

Here's representatives from the Albuquerque Stitch 'n' bitch,


They meet every Tuesday from 7-9 at the Flying Star on Rio Grand Blvd., and they would love to meet you. I'm here to tell you that they know where the good beer in Albuquerque is. (Trust them.)

After collapsing onto the hotel bed in my clothes, I got up the next morning to begin making my way to Austin, and saw the most incredible thing. The sky.


Now in the city where I live, the sky isn't something omnipresent. you see it in pieces, and there are buildings and hills and landscape that gets in the way of the sky. I need Sandy to remind me to look up and see it, even in small bits.


This is not true of the desert sky. It is a landscape all on it's own, and I found myself standing and looking at it often in Albuqueque.


I have never before been in a place where the sky could be a tourist attraction.


The sky against the mountain in the desert has a voice, and it's big. In the prairies the sky is huge, but in Albuquerque it is a remarkable blue, (is that the altitude?) and the clouds are near and mercurial and change often and with remarkable ability. All of these pictures were taken within an hour and a half. You could watch it all day. It's endless and magnificent, and it speaks to you. Sadly the sky had one last thing to say to me as I flew out of Albuquerque....


Help me.
This line of human made dirt hanging over this beautiful part of the world, invisible from the beautiful sky below, was a real buzz kill. If the sky could tell you to get out of your car...it would.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:30 AM

July 27, 2006

It's not easy being green

This is how many taxi's and queues it takes to get from Oklahoma City to Mesa Arizona. (For Carrie, the wait-time measuring sock is Opal sockyarn #3207)




is how long the flight from Oklahoma City to Phoenix is. (I may have accidentally fallen asleep on the flight and missed some knit time there. Your mileage may vary.)

I am, more or less, a "green" person. I am always impressed with the greeness of things. A forest or the tropics, lush, overgrown, verdant, ripe green places move me.

The desert stunned me. When I got here yesterday, the lack of true green was the first thing that I noticed. There are many trees, yes, there are many plants...yes, but everything is a silver green, or a gray green, or a blue green...There is, to the untrained eye, very little deep jewel green in Mesa. It is a remarkable, beautiful thing, this absence of a colour that I take for granted as part of my landscape in Toronto. It's a whole other sort of stunning.

As I rode in to town everything looked to be so dry, and sparse...and all the plants looked completely exhausted. I went for a walk in the afternoon and was struck by the complete lack of foot or bike traffic. I was the only soul to be on foot, and after I had walked only a half block or so, I totally got it.

This place is HOT. Too hot to walk. Too hot to breathe really. (I tried.) I understood suddenly, why the plants were exhausted looking. So was I. The only thing about me that was not instantly limp and desperate was my enormous heat inspired hair. In a move that surprised even me, since I usually love the heat, I was driven back inside the air-conditioned hotel in mere minutes and was never more grateful for the cool air that met me in the lobby. I briefly considered falling on the cool tile of the hotel room lobby and asking the concierge to simply pour water over me until I was restored. Hot. Stupid hot. Really hot. This place is much, much closer to the sun. The heat is pure. (This experience is made even more remarkable by the people of Mesa who kept saying how nice it was that I had come when it was "cool". Cool? (I kept thinking of that line from the Princess Bride "You keep using that word...I don't think in means what you think it means...")

The sock saw Cacti...


and there are palm trees...


(That's for Sandy...a palm tree sky!) but most all of the other plants had wee shriveled leaves and a few limp blooms.

As deflated as the heat left me, the natives were in no way effected. Does my cab driver Vladi look too hot?


(I mean temperature wise, ya bunch of filthy minded knitters. You now what I meant.) Note the sun scorching in behind him. I was hustled (in air-conditioned comfort) to The Fiber Factory, and the minute I arrived I saw huge metre long Navajo spindles lying on a shelf by the back door. (If I could have got one in my suitcase I totally would have. What a cool souvenir of Arizona, eh?) I gathered myself quietly in the back room while the absolutely entertaining owners of the place hustled coffee and microphones and cake around. If you're ever in the area of Mesa, drop in. The store is spectacularly well appointed (tons of stuff for spinning and knitting and weaving and basket making and millions of books) and the staff is charming, hysterically funny and extraordinarily well organized. Terri and Susan made for a fabulous "back stage" show as they hustled their stuff.

Here's what the sock saw.


My Arizona peeps, and more than Arizona represented.

Stephanie brought me beautiful things from Arizona (A beautiful batt she made that's just the colour of Bursage, and magnets made from the photos of desert flowers she took while hiking. (This pleased me more than I can tell you, since my deepest regret about Mesa is that I didn't have time to go to the desert.) She has a shop here, should you wish for your own desert inspired lovliness. Annette was there, and Jude and Lynn and Pam and Becky and more. Sing out in the comments ladies.

The Arizona Stitch & Bitch turned out in full force...with their socks.


Cerridwen arrived, sock in tow.


Carrie was there (mother of one of the most beautiful children in the world.) and Lyn and Rob wanted to shout out out to Big Lynne, a friend who reads the blog.


Hope came through big time for me, bringing me...


a good beer. A shiner bock beer. Not only did she bring me a beer (which really, is more than I could have ever, ever hoped for) but the woman froze it before she came and then transported it via cooler and ice pack, and presented it to me totally frosty. It was still wicked cold by the time I got back to the hotel, and since I had completely overheated walking the three metres from the car to the hotel door (What is with that? It was 10:00 at night! Shouldn't it cool off when the big ball of fire in the sky goes away?) I enjoyed it completely when I collapsed in my hotel room minutes later. Drinking good beer is the last thing I remember doing yesterday. Hope rocks.

When I woke up this morning, it was raining. This surprised me, but a little google-fu has revealed that Phoenix has a monsoon season, just like India. It was the most incredible thing to watch...the storm moving across the desert and the hills. You could watch the dark front line of the storm ahead of the rain...the part that is a wall of dust that moves in front of the whole thing. (I think my cab driver said is was called "haboob")


Beautiful, yes? I wish I could have caught the lightning. The storm moved along, leaving the air steamy and warm and the hills started to come out of the mist again.


I left for the airport and as I stepped outside I couldn't believe the change. What had been dry and arid the day before was green and lush instantly. Bushes and flowers that had not been blooming 20 hours earlier were sitting in the light rain, covered in blossoms. Everything looked grateful and ripe and the rain sticking to everything leant a depth of colour to all the things around me that the heat of the day before hadn't allowed. It was incredible. It was like the whole place just woke up in the rain. You should have been there. Go to the desert. Find the knitters.

Thank you Mesa Arizona, and Hello New Mexico!

Posted by Stephanie at 5:21 PM

July 26, 2006

Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

This is how many cabs and lines it takes to go from Chicago to Oklahoma City.


This is how long the plane ride is.


I arrived in Oklahoma City yesterday, and dudes, I can't even tell you what a good time I had. I don't know what I was expecting...since all I knew about the place was the song, but it wasn't this. This place is terrific...and flat (wow is it flat) and hot. It was so hot yesterday that as Jayme and I tried to walk just a few blocks through the city, I was moved to profanity. I kept trying to articulate the exact way that it was hot and ended up failing (since it was too hot to think) and being reduced to four letter words that I hope conveyed the remarkable impact. It is obvious to a newcomer to Oklahoma that this place is much closer to the big ball of fire in the sky than Toronto is and the heat has a quality that's hard to describe. Toronto gets that hot, and Toronto is far more humid...but the wind of Oklahoma adds a characteristic that's breathtaking. It's like standing in a convection oven.
I'd complain more, but I come from a place with a 58 day summer.
I loved it.

Here are things you may not know about Oklahoma.

1. On election day (which it was yesterday) you cannot purchase liquor in a store or restaurant. This was explained to me with enormous sympathy by the bartender at the Bricktown restaurant I went to.


That's Bricktown. See the canal? Who knew Oklahoma city had a canal? That's #2.

I staggered in out of the heat, sank into a chair and said the only thing a Canadian can say when transported that far in this heat.
"Beer please."
That's when he explained to me about the law. I thought it a wonderful expression of the importance of sober democratic reflection on election day, and asked him what I could have.


Seriously. Bud is exempt. Turns out that 3.2% beer is considered "food" and can still be obtained. (Having drunk the first Bud of my life now, I can see why. With all due respect, it's really more like beer scented water. I drank it with enormous grateful enthusiasm regardless.)

3. Every single person I met in Oklahoma was absolutely charming. Absolutely. Funny, witty, kind...hospitable. These people are fabulous. Even the cab drivers were exceptionally entertaining.

Some Rangers came up to me while I was taking sock pictures, and for one moment I thought I was busted. (I don't know why. I'm sure this sock thing is just stupid, not illegal, but I respect authority.) Turns out that they just wanted to offer to take a picture of me with my sock...if I wanted. I explained how it worked instead.


Oklahoma Park Rangers.

4. The Oklahoma City Memorial is exceptional. My pictures don't even begin to do it justice, so if you haven't seen it, do click and have a better look. The site of the building is marked by two enormous gates, one at one end marked "9:01"


and the other "9:03"


These two gates surround the time of the explosion, 9:02, and look forward and back on that moment.


There is one chair (some big, some small...for the children) for each person who died that day, and each is inscribed with a name. There are a terrible number of chairs.

It is a remarkably beautiful thing, and Oklahoma should be really proud of finding a way to erect something so beautiful out of something so ugly.

5. Margaret from Gourmet Yarns, Susan and the Oklahoma City Knitters Guild and Anita from the library are clever, capable, funny and throw one heck of a party. (They are going to be a really hard act to follow.)
Behold! The knitters of Oklahoma! (And quite a bunch from out of state too.) Click these to make them bigger.





The absolute high point, the point I'm still laughing about today, the point that will stay with me for all of my days and bring light to my life when I am an old, old lady, was when this huge group of spectacular women (and a few men for good measure) rose, powered by state pride and a clear and glowing love for the place that they live, Rose to their feet, carried by I don't know what and sang. Do you hear me? They sang. The sang loud, they sang proud, they sang


I've got to tell you, I was reduced to helpless laughter and insane glee. I could scarcely stand, scarcely breathe. People, it was better than Broadway ever did that song. Way better. Take me now. For I have heard knitters sing Oklahoma, and it was fan-freaking-tastic.

6. You can get a sunburn in Oklahoma in about six minutes.

7. Oklahoma has great alpacas. I know this because there was some in the keen basket (shaped like Oklahoma) that they gave me last night. It's a great basket full of tastes of the wonderful fibre things that this state has to offer. (Other stuff too.) It's almost as good as the song. There's even a washcloth with the state of Oklahoma knitted into it. (When I remarked how stunning and generous and completely great the whole thing was, and how totally overwhelmed I was by the pride people had in the place they lived and how I couldn't believe they had given me stuff, one of the knitters said "Oh that's nothing. You should see us a Christmas. We go all out."
(I laughed for an hour.)

8. Look at this. Three generations of Oklahoma knitters.


That's Annette, Phoebe and Baby Trixie. (I don't think we have proof that Trixie is a knitter, but she shows great promise. )

9. Here's Marianne.


Marianne's the lady from the comments whose been counting down the days until the first day of school for me. She's exceptionally kind and thoughtful, and she knows what I mean.

10. There are too many wonderful knitters in Oklahoma to name. I'm missing so many, but there was Cassa, Susan, Chris, Heidi, Rosemary, Missy, Regina (the Oklahoma stitch markers are brilliant), Mellanie, Emily...They all turned out not to be imaginary friends at all, and I couldn't be more grateful or impressed or totally in love with this place. I'm going to be sorry to leave...

Which I will. My flight is at 2pm, I've got to pack (I need to hurry) and I'll see you in Mesa. (PS. I know I'm not answering email, I'm sorry. Bear with me. If it's urgent, email again. I'm snowed under in the most spectacular way. If you're one of the knitters looking for the peacock yarn from yesterday, there's a link to Suzie's Etsy shop in the comments from that day. )

Posted by Stephanie at 11:50 AM

July 25, 2006

Rapid Fire from Chicago

(I'm actually already in Oklahoma, but there was a shortage of internet at the airport to post this. Just pretend.)

I love Chicago. I decided this sometime yesterday (I only got 17 hours in the city, so I had to make up my mind fast. Luckily, in a city this neat, it only takes about 10 minutes.

1. This is how much sock you can knit waiting in lines, (customs, security) and in taxicabs going from Toronto to Chicago.


2. This is exactly how long the flight is.


Adamas shawl by the really brilliant Miriam Felton. (She did Icarus too. I'm loving her stuff.) in KnitPicks Shadow. Colour is "Campfire".

3. The combination of heat (which I'm used to) humidity (which I'm used to) and WIND (the confouding variable) was enough to completely put my hair over the edge while I was here. My apologies to anyone I knocked down while turning my head.

4. I don't know what this is...



5. That thing is in Millenium Park, which is a brand spanking new bit of spectacular in Chicago. There's also this fountain to play in.


The faces blink and look at you and they are wonderful and creepy. There's a man and a woman facing each other. (I think this one is Sylvester Stallone. I have no proof.)


6. I ran from there and met some of the funniest, cleverest knitters in a long time. Here's what it looked like to be me.

(Well, it's sort of what it looked like to be me. These knitters were way less blurry in person.)


7. This is Paula . She cracked me up, by telling me the best knitter story of all time, which she has graciously allowed me to share with you.


In a shining display of knitterly priorities, displaying a dedication and love for the fine game of knitting that eludes that of most of us....Paula told me that some time ago when she ran short of money for yarn, (brace yourself) she went off her birth control (and opted out of activities that would require same) to supplement her yarn budget.

8. Yo! Erin!


(Thanks for the chicken. She's still cracking me up.)

9. Meet Laura.


Laura reduced me to a hopeless fit of giggles (I was a little punchy by then) during a conversation about Argyle socks. The lady in line ahead of her was showing me some really beautiful ones, and I inquired about whether or not she had seen Julia's fabulous Argyle chart with the scull and crossbones on them. I quipped "They are pirate argyles" and without missing a beat Laura said (with an absolutely perfect imitation of a pirate) "That's Arrrrr-gyles."

This amused me so much that I called Julia long distance to tell her the joke, cracking up so hard I could scarcely speak. ("Julia....Arrr-gyles! Get it? Get it! Arrrr....") only to be met with stunned chortling on her end. Turns out that it's what she named the pattern. Still funny. (Arrr...me mateys. I be knitting those on talk like a pirate day.)

10. Proving that serendipity really works, and good things come to those who wait all in one go...


Lorinda turned up bearing a gift from her and Susie Grogan. I have, for about 4 years now, been stalking the perfect yarn to knit the Peacock Feathers shawl in. It's one of the only yarns I truly hunt as I journey over the world. I've been unsuccessful thus far, despite numerous expensive attempts, and there is much "almost peacock" in the stash. Stuff I thought was peacock that turned out not to match the idea I had in my mind. Enter Lorinda and Suzie, and the perfect peacock. It is, in personcompletely iridescent.

The photo in no way even begins to do it justice. It glows and is far more subtle than it looks here.

Dudes. Thank you so very, very much.

11. Finally...I got to have a drink with my Chicago buddy Franklin,


who (even though the poor little baby was fresh back from Meg Swanson's Knitting Camp. Lucky dog.) managed to stagger his first sock knitting self over to the hotel. We had a lovely time. Lovely. Franklin's one of those people who isn't as good in person as he seems on his blog. He's better.

I'm in Oklahoma City now, getting ready to do tonight's event, which is promising to be a smashing do.
See you there.
(PS. Oklahoma City is really flat. Big sky. Very beautiful.)
(PS again...Amanda and Megan...good luck on your exams. Study hard.)

Posted by Stephanie at 8:39 AM

July 21, 2006

Easy as Pie

Recently I was talking with someone who was telling me how truly easy it must be to be a writer. All that free time, connecting with your inner self..especially since I wrote funny books! What was my process? How did I embrace my muse, release my creativity? How incredible, fulfilling and pleasant a way to spend your working life.

I smiled and nodded, because once someone believes that being a writer is a sort of easy thing, where one somehow connects to their happy place and pours words onto paper with wild abandon, there's no convincing them that it's like any other job. I also kept my mouth shut because I'm at the hard part of a book and I'm so whacked out that I have no idea what I'd say if I tried to explain. Some things you don't want to get into when you're tired and you don't have a delete key. Being a writer is a pretty wild job and lucky job, but easy?

People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.
-Harlan Ellison

In the beginning I thought that being a writer would be easy. You work from home, you make your own hours, you sit with a notebook and pen under the gently blowing trees, letting the words just drip onto the paper, embracing the creative process and relishing bringing your ideas into being. (Not only was I naive, I apparently forgot that Toronto has a 58 day summer.) It's a funny thing, but the more I work at writing, the more I come to understand about what it does to you. Writing (even funny stuff) is one of the most hateful things I've ever done, even though the payoff is the most fulfilling. I'm working on book four, and bracing myself for a tour for number three, and I don't think I can apply the word "easy" to any part of it. Parts are wonderful, parts are interesting, parts I wouldn't trade for a second...but easy?

I hate writing; I love having written.
- Dorothy Parker

Wouldn't you think that someone who has wished her whole life to be a writer and has suddenly been blessed with such good fortune as to have three books published would get up every single morning and throw herself at her desk with glee, happiness and gratitude? Don't answer that. I'm already wracked with guilt that I don't do that. I'm also apparently criminally stupid, since I've clearly forgotten what it was like to try to finish the other books. Towards the end of book writing I am shaky, sad, exhausted and out of my mind. I'm sure that Joe and the girls would like to add that I am also unreasonable, obnoxious and loud. (Very loud.)

I ... have to constantly balance "being a writer" with being a wife and mother. It's a matter of putting two different things first, simultaneously.
- Madeleine L'Engle

Book writing is strange and scary. You can't tell how long you're going to have to do it, what time you're going to finish, if it's going to be alright when you do finish, or if you're going to spend 3 hours dragging 500 words out of your brain only to look at them, realize 467 of them are complete crap and hit the delete key as you sob for the 14th time because you're going to need to find a way to carve another 3 hours out of your responsibilities as a mother, probably so that you can write more complete drivel that no-one would ever like to read, knowing the whole time that your deadline is running out while you ponder that you've made an enormous mistake and really should go to work in a factory, where at least you can tell if you're getting something done and no-one tells you your punctuation is crap and it doesn't matter if you're not funny. The more I write, the more I worry. Will this work? How will it work? Are we out of orange juice? Is that a complete sentence? Am I procrastinating? Do I suck? Where's my knitting?

It's nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.
- Shirley Hazzard

I am torn somehow between being profoundly aware of my luck, desperately grateful for the opportunity and deeply, deeply frightened. The only thing I know for sure about this book (and this was true of all of them) is the day that I will be finished. The odd feeling of being given only a destination with no map of how to get there is the scariest thing that I have ever felt, and the very worst part is that the knowledge that book writing takes months and months.

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.
- John Steinbeck

This sense of uncertainty, this feeling of being thrown on a journey and not knowing what it will be like, how I will get there, if I'm good enough to get there or what it will be like when I arrive leaves me angst ridden and...to be completely honest, difficult to be around. I stomp around the house alternately ranting about the mess (because I'm not cleaning because I'm writing, but I'm not really writing) explaining that I need to be alone with my thoughts (when I have three kids and a husband who have a right to be here) and sitting in my office with my head down, typing like a house afire. It's how to carve that process, the thinking, the stomping, the deleting the laughing the sobbing, the ideas, the relief...out of a family summer with everyone around all the time that compounds the difficulty of writing.

As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.
- Paul Rudnick

During this phase, this scary part, I am drawn to knitting. I love that it's easy to finish. Easy enough to balance almost all of that other stuff. One row, one stitch...there's your accomplishment. It's black and white. Either you have knit or you have not, either the pattern is right or it is not. Knitting has this reliable rhythm that comforts a freaked out obsessive compulsive writer who's edging their way through the grudge match that is finishing a book. I especially like the simpleness of socks. It's all about these socks right now.


I think it's ironic that the lady who told me that writing must be so easy also felt that knitting was way too hard. I'm still laughing about that a little.

See you Monday, when yours truly, a deranged and desperate writer will begin a week of tour in the fine city of Chicago, meeting knitters and getting to procrastinate on the book with some serious style. I'm scared to death, and I can't wait.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:08 PM

July 20, 2006

Drive by

This morning was complex and has completely taken the wind out of my sails for anything but a Random post. I'll do better tomorrow.

1. Heads up to Southern Ontario, I'll be speaking in Aurora at the York Region Knitters Guild, Tuesday, August 1st at Needles & Knits (15040 Yonge Street). I'm totally thrilled to have a Canadian event on the books at last...and you have Sandra's organizational skills and persistence to thank for it. (Also, she may be a little bit of a stalker. Pleasant, friendly and a lot of fun... but, a stalker.) If you are coming, please do the guild a favour and email Jen (mailto:ripandjen@look.ca) so that they can get you a chair, the evening will be in the large meeting room upstairs from the shop. (It's a really nice shop.) That's the first day that I'm back from my next US junket, so you can expect me to be thin, punchy and weird. (Well. Weirder than usual.) Should have a fairly high entertainment value...
I'll add the details to the Tour Page.

2. I went back and forth to the airport twice this morning in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get Joe on a series of ever diminishing planes to Deer Lake. (He was flying standby) In another episode of my battle with the roads at Pearson International, I got lost both times, and the first time, I was funneled against my will onto the 427 hwy headed for Niagara Falls. When I run the world, things will be different. Sadly, I will likely not run the world by tomorrow morning when we will try again.

3. Some bloggers are contagious.


(Also, I may be weak.)

4. Reenie sent me a link to this, and I think it's a wonderful idea. They are introducing Charkhas to Africa to improve the productivity and income of women living there. Spinning cotton is a traditional activity for these women, and having a wheel instead of a spindle changes everything. It's another fabulous example of a "hand up" instead of a "hand out" program, and there's a fundraiser here.
I love it.

5. Amy S., a proud member of Knitters Without Borders is making the most of a difficult situation. Due to extreme (and I mean Extreme) downsizing of her living space, she's ... wait.
You should sit down.

Ready? She's giving away most of her stash. (I know, I know. Put your head between your knees an breathe deeply if you feel any dizziness.) These things happen, and Amy has decided (because she is a very good person.) that if her stash must leave her, it will do so for a good cause. To that end, Thirty-four (!) members of Knitters Without Borders will be gettting an email from me with Amy's email address, and they can write to her and choose (first come, first served) from among the 34 lots of fibre and yarn that Amy's giving away.


Can I get a round of applause? I thought so. It's the most noble de-stashing I've ever seen. In light of the recent tsunami and MSFs good works, I think that Amy has secured herself a place in one of the comfy chairs in the Big Yarn Shop in the sky. All hail the noble Amy.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:42 PM

July 18, 2006

Hail to the sock

You all know that I am a very big fan of the humble hand knit sock. Very big fan. Everybody needs a fan club and dudes, I am there for the sock. I write often (and, er...at some length) about the meaning I find in socks, and how significant I think it is to knit something intended to be walked on, and eventually walked right through. Socks are not like sweaters or hats or mittens. Properly used, socks get used up. They are, like so many wonderful things and people... here for a good time, not a long time...and it's our duty to get our footwear out and show it a good time. Considering that the sock will ultimately sacrifice itself for the comfort of someone I know, I figure that anything I can do to make it's time on the needles remarkable is simply prepayment. Anything destined to go as many footsteps as socks has got to love travel and new people, right? Hence the travelling socks.


This pair were born at the same time as the third book, and I've had them with me since then. I do a few rows every time I take their picture...and by the end of the tour I'll have a pair. (A really cool pair. Remember all the stuff the first pair did?) This sock has done some really great things, but yesterday? Yesterday was a very good sock day.

Cool sock event the first.

Do you guys remember our buddy Tim?


Tim bailed on a successful but soul sucking LA Rock Star gig last year when he realized that not all nice boys from Clinton, Ontario are cut out for the rough stuff. After years of a lifestyle that was doing nothing to make him a happy guy, our boy Tim there caught a plane back home, found his family and his friends and shook that last little bit of Rock Star off him when he became a Harbour Captain here in Toronto. I'm proud of him, it takes a lot of nerve to be who you really are, especially in the face of all the hope and promises that LA throws at a guy with a record deal. This week, Tim's proving that if you hang tough, it will all work out, since who you're looking at there is not just our friend Tim. It's a guy who's putting everything he owns into a U-Haul tomorrow and making for Halifax, where starts a new job as, (I swear this is not only his proper title, but what Halifax Traffic calls him when he's at work)

Master and Commander of The Tall Ship Silva.

That's right, it's the sea for Tim, and a brave step east, sailing a 1939 schooner. Good luck buddy. Long may yer big Jib draw.
(PS. That Master and Commander thing? That's hot. Totally.)

Cool sock thing the second?

Joe's been busy at the Studio this summer, and yesterday I screwed up my courage and went up there to try and charm the current clients into holding a sock. There's a certain...well, knack to convincing people to hold the sock. Firstly, you have to embrace the Dorkiness of it. There's no denying that what's about to happen is profoundly odd, and trying to make it cooler than what it is gets you nowhere. If you're going to con another person into having their picture taken with a humble Canadian half-sock, you just have to be honest, be true to yourself, and then you have to accept that you are about to meet someone really, really cool...and you're going to ask them to do something really, really stupid. (Depending on how cool the other person is, this can feel risky.) I chanced it.


Meet Peter Elkas.


Meet Peter's team. There's The Doug Head, Gavin, Jeff, Peter, Kyle, Charlie Sexton, and Stephen, Joe's Wonderboy Friday.
Peter Elkas and Charlie Sexton held my sock. I'm probably going to have to avoid both of them for the rest of my life, and there's no way to know how many cool parties I'm not on the guest list for anymore...what with being such an odd little dork, but I don't care. The sock now has one degree of separation with Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Dylan. The sock has known greatness.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:01 PM

July 17, 2006

Summer Mystery

It is a stupid kind of hot, and this heat may in fact be reducing the intelligence of human beings, or at least me. Together with the humidity, it is 43 C/ 109 F. (The humidity is about 50%. The combination of my curly fine hair and this environment means that if the weather doesn't break soon I am going to only be able to wear button up shirts, since I seriously doubt that a tee shirt will go over my enormous unintentional country singer hair.)



I was knitting on the roundabout tank on Saturday night and it was looking pretty good. I was feeling happy and it was all coming together. I'd gotten word that Lee Ann's brain surgery went really well and that she was recovering nicely, and I was emotionally and karmically prepared to begin having things go well again, and they did.

I went to bed feeling really grand about the whole thing. When I got up in the morning, this is what I saw.


I swear to you, I swear it, that before I went to bed I admired my work, put the knitting in my basket and went upstairs. Sunday morning, the knitting was still in the basket and I picked it up and knit a half row before I saw the disaster. This tank is knit like a long scarf, and at then end of each row, the last stitch is joined together with a stitch from the top of the course below. (This joins the scarf into a tube that spirals up until, at least theoretically, you have enough of a tank to cover your brace and bits, and you whack straps on that sucker and move on with your life.)


Upon closer examination, I can see that the stitch that has "let go" is the one that joins those two pieces, although for the life of me, and maybe it's just the heat, I can't imagine how it could have happened.

I have pondered several possibilities.


1. I dropped a stitch.

I would totally buy this, considering that it certainly "looks" like a dropped stitch, but I have the same number of stitches that I had before the renegade stitch down and unhooked the whole thing. In my experience at least, dropping a stitch results in one stitch less. I suppose it's possible that I had one stitch too many and didn't notice, but that seems like I'm overly complicating things.

2. The cat (despite being a long-haired cat who is coping with the heat by lying flat and unmoving on her back, splayed out in a way that by comparison, makes most hairy, male, shirtless, couch surfing, beer-drinking football fans look "classy".) got up in the night and screwed around with it.

Possible, but this would mean that the cat has taken her regular level of sabotage to a whole new level by taking our stuff out of baskets, screwing with it, and (here is the part that seem unlikely..) putting it back into the basket when she is done with it. It's not the degree of cunning or cleverness I find unlikely there...It's the tidiness. What sort of cat would save you having to clean up?

3. Joe did it.

While I have suspected for some time now that my esteemed mate was put on this earth to screw with my mental state and draw me as close to the edge as is possible for one to go and still do laundry...I find it difficult to believe that he would mess with Alchemy Silk.
There's crazy and difficult (and I believe that is still his goal) and then there's suicidal.

4. The children

Again, possible... but I can not suspect the teenagers. I went to bed after them, I got up before them, and if you have teens, then you know that there is just about zero chance that they stood up during possible sleep hours without being whipped up to an upright position by a parent, being offered a buffet of some kind, or needing to escape a fire. That said, on Saturday night in this house, we had a confounding variable.


Hank. Hank is six now, and during his 24 hour sleepover, he was alone downstairs for about 3.5 minutes on Sunday morning while I brushed my teeth. Hank is...






and interested in yarn.


Behold Hank's latest winding project. This ball was rewound about 23 times before he found something better to do and left it mid-wind.

I have a feeling I solved my mystery. Does anyone have another idea about what might have happened to the tank ...Or should Hank just be glad that it's too freaking hot to catch a speeding six year old.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:34 PM

July 14, 2006


Back when I was studying art history, there was this great joke. It's not my favourite joke, but it's close.* (I've never sorted out if everybody thought it was a great joke, or if it was only something that reduced art students to helpless convulsions. I guess I find out today.)

How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A fish.

(That still gets me. A fish. Snort. I love that joke, get it? Dali is still laughing somewhere.) Today is rather surreal, so I'm giving up trying to set it all in order and you're getting the blog equivalent of a fish.

10 Unrelated points in an order that pleases me.

1. I have a wicked huge deadline. This means that I will likely only become more and more disorganized, cranky and weird. I am apologizing in advance. Sorry. The worst symptom of this need to finish up some writing has been an urge to begin some knitting. I may have to bury a fair bit of my yarn if I hope to get this book done.

2. Yesterday, as I was riding into the school parking lot to pick up Meg, I hit a bump and the milk crate I have strapped to the back rack of my bike tipped over and my brand new really great bicycle pump fell on the ground. I pulled over, swore and turned around to go pick it up. As I was walking up to it, a car full of teenaged boys drove up to it, the driver hopped out, looked at me and picked up my pump from the ground. I thought he was getting it for me, so I kept walking towards him (I'm about 4 metres away) when he gets back in his car and the whole bunch of them drive away with my pump while I yell "HEY! HEY!"

3. While I was fuming at them, completely agog that someone would have the nerve to steal your stuff while you were looking at them, I pondered aloud how nervy the teens were. Meg looked at me and said "Mum, they are teenaged boys. They don't care about some old lady on a bike."

4. I am taking the fact that I am an old lady and that my stuff is being stolen out from under my hands as a sign that Lee Ann will continue to do well. The attempts by well meaning knitters to embrace disaster on Lee Ann's behalf over the next days are touching. (I am especially proud of Miss Ewe, who has offered to try and "door" me if she sees me. )

5. I didn't start the lace on Icarus. I couldn't risk it. I dragged the Roundabout Tank out of the WIP basket and went back to that.


I'd love to be able to wear this when I'm on tour in hot places, and since I leave to go on tour to hot places in a week and a bit...I'm back on it. I figured that after my old lady bike pump got stolen while I was watching, that I could trust that this might go OK.

6. That is probably wrong.

7. I updated the tour page. There are some places that would like RSVPs, and several places where the talk has been booked in one place and the signing in another.

8. This is because there are so many knitters. (I find this really funny, since events being rebooked into bigger venues because there are so many knitter cracks me up. It also makes me want to hurl on my sandals when I realize that I'm supposed to talk to them. I'm a woman of contrasts.) I'm both really excited to be going back on the road, and terrorized beyond all possible thought. Everytime I get really worried I say to myself "It's just knitting. It's only knitters. I talk to knitters all the time and knitting is my favourite only topic. I will be fine." This approach has varying degrees of emotional success, but so far, I always get on the plane.)

9. Fruit and Veg baby hats for breastfeeding can be sent here:

Jeanne M Conboy ,MS RD
Sr Public Health Nutritionist
Richmond WIC Office
100 38th St
Richmond, CA 94805

Don't forget she needs them by the end of the month.

10. I updated the Knitters Without Borders total. ($117,087) This includes the roughly $1700.00 raised by the pins so far. (I'll have the pins with me again this time.) I am absolutely stunned by the total. Look for a celebratory round of prizes soon.

*My favourite light bulb joke is actually -
How many fruit flies does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Two. Same number it takes to screw anywhere else.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:51 PM

July 13, 2006

As Random as ...

Lee Ann's surgery schedule, that's what this post is going to be. (Her head adventure is back on, by the way. Send good thoughts her way tomorrow morning) Earlier this week when I was having a hard day, and Lee Ann was scheduled for a little casual brain surgery, she joked that she hoped that I didn't send any of my current luck her way. I explained that I was offering myself as a magnet. I was willing to suck up all of the possible bad things that could happen, thus greasing the wheels for Lee Ann's straightforward head repair and recovery. Sort of the Karmic equivalent of distracting a bear who's about to eat your husband at the campsite.

I would jump up and down over here in Toronto yelling "whoo-hoo! Over here! I'm the one ya want you big pansy!" and "Yo! Stupid-head bad luck! See me? Débarre-toi! Come and get me, grosse Corvette, petite quéquette!!" (She is in Quebec, the Karma may only speak french) and then any free floating bad outcomes looking for a person to stick it to would just rush over here and trash me, leaving Lee Ann completely unbeset during the vulnerable time that her head is...well. Open.

It's been going pretty well. I had that bad day where I got soaked on my bike, then the basement flooded yesterday and I had to go out and literally sandbag the side of the house to try and stop the water coming in. I would have minded, you know? It really sucks to stand in mud up to your ankles while the rain beats down on you and you arrange tarps to defend your already soaking basement. I would have minded, but I know that I'm making the world a safer place for Lee Ann, so I'm fine. I was even fine when I realized that in a moment of panic, when I had thrown towels on the floor to soak up the water, I had thrown ALL of the towels on the floor. I think it really helped Lee Ann that I discovered this *after* I got myself covered in mud and drew a bath. I'm glad to be of service.

Last night when the rain stopped, the planet saw fit to dump a glass of red wine on my sock in progress....


(although it did mostly wash out. I'll have to try harder.), and this morning I dropped a skein of silk into the sink full of soapy dishes, broke a bowl, discovered that over the next several days the temperature will be more than 35 degrees (99 F) and the only fan in the upstairs has developed a squeak. A mouse ate some of the pita bread last night, and there are aphids on my favourite rosebush. Also, I have a headache. (So far, so good. I got yer back Lee Ann)

I'm worried about tomorrow though.
I am finally, finally ready to start the lace bit at the bottom of icarus. This makes me happy, and happy is not what Lee Ann needs from me.


Lee Ann needs for me to discover a mistake way back at the beginning. Something huge. Something that would mean that I had to pull the whole thing out. Yeah. Pulling back laceweight mohair. That would really work. I bet Lee Ann would get better really, really fast. Pulling back laceweight mohair or....like, if the whole thing just spontaneously combusted! Oh yeah. If the shawl caught fire, maybe while we were having dinner, you know? Like the shawl catches fire from the candles on the dinner table, and then the shawl is burning (and it smells bad, because it's silk and mohair) and I toss it down (because it's on fire) but not before it scorches my new skirt that I like a lot, gets charred fibre bits in the salad and torches the basket of sock yarn nearby. Perfect.

Barring that, the forecast for tomorrow morning is sunny, so Rachel H. (who obviously loves Lee Ann as much as I do) has offered to come by in the morning and drive behind me while I ride my bike to Meg's school, pelting me with really big, cold water balloons the whole way. She's the best.

Good luck Lee Ann. I'm off to walk under a ladder for you.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:26 PM

July 11, 2006

Three knitters.

I'm working on an idea over here and I'd like your help.
(For anyone who suspected that it was only a matter of time until I roped you all into helping me write a book...today is your day.)

If you could have a knitterly dinner at your house, and any knitter, dead or alive would come...which three would you invite? Why?

Elizabeth Zimmermann? Mme DeFarge? Debbie Bliss?

I'm looking to come up with the three most famous or influential knitters of all time - according to knitters.

PS. Shelly has made a very big mistake. She has asked me to ask you to send her your leftover sock yarn. Since I am a horrible, terrible person with a fair bit of leftover sock yarn and a vivid imagination, I am suddenly possessed of a very funny image of Shelly getting "some" sock yarn, I'll ask you this..

Who wants to try and bury her house?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:15 PM

July 10, 2006

A full and round understanding.

I should have seen this coming. I have said before that it is my personal belief that the universe seeks balance. That for every right there is a wrong, for every stop there is a start and for every completely brilliant weekend, well. I should have seen it coming.

This weekend:

1. The weather was smashing. Truly glorious. It was really hot, but I like the heat. (There's this beer ad that points out that the average length of a Canadian summer is only 58 days long. Since that means that 307 days aren't summer, I can take whatever the summer wants to dish out. The contrast is nice.) Perfect cherry picking weather.


2. The children were lovely, and polite, and did their math without being asked, and Megan came downstairs on Saturday, looked at herself for a moment and then said "oh yes, that's too much makeup" and went and washed her face. What are the odds on a teenage girl doing that?

3. I finished my trekking socks,


(Trekking XXL, colour 90. 2.25mm needles, using my basic sock recipe. Before you ask, yes. Yes, I wrote the recipe down here. ) and I put them into the LRPD box. (Long Range Planning Department)


4. I cast on new socks with this yarn.


It's a Merino/tencel blend hand dyed by Lucy at Minds Eye Yarns, and I think it's all of the colours of foggy iris. This pleases me more than I can tell you.

5. The sock got to go to see Great Big Sea on Saturday.


It was a seriously good time. I have a not-at-all secret crush on Alan Doyle, love me a good kitchen party, and got to go with Joe and his Mum and Dad.


Turns out that Joe Sr. is a pretty good date. Claps in time, knows all the words to "Rant and Roar", isn't embarrassed by flashing around a sock. It was pretty brilliant.

6. In my continuing TV-less coverage of the World Cup...


I have a sneaking suspicion that Italy did very well. (Besides the Italian street party that went until 2am, French flags are now deeply discounted at my corner store. Not a good sign for the French.)

7. To top off my weekend, I had a really nice dinner last night with an old friend. My daughters were charming, the wine Cabernet, the pasta al dente, the dessert cherry upside-down cake, and the conversation went late into the warm evening the way that all the best summer dinners do.

Then, Midnight came, Monday began...and the universe sought balance.

1. I couldn't sleep. I was completely sideswiped by this, since normally I can sleep anywhere, anytime. (I don't sleep much, but I do sleep well.) This infuriating and inexplicable wave of insomnia kept me awake until 5am.

2. At 5am, Joe snored. I shoved him.

3. At 5:05, the cat danced on my head for a while. (It turned out that the cat only danced on my head for a while because that was really all the time she could spare away from shredding the bookcase in the kitchen.)

4. At 5:30, someone nearby remembered that Italy had won the world cup and exploded in a nocturnal expression of car-honking joy.

5. 6:45, my alarm went off. I wept softly, but got up and started making the girls breakfast and lunches. I drank an enormous amount of coffee.

7. 8am, Megan and I get on our bikes so that we can ride over to her summer program. Last week I led Meg, and this week Meg is to lead me. Towards the end of the week I will trail her like a stalker, not helping or directing her so that we will both know that she can manage the urban ride by herself. This morning however, Megan explains to me (sort of loudly, or that could just be the sleep deprivation) that she cannot, yay, WILL not ride without me. That she will surely be lost or hit by a car if I am not with her, and that I am a very, very poor mother for trying to make her do this.
(I would like to take this moment to point out that it is not the work or the discipline of teenagers that makes them exhausting. It is the contrasts. It is that a child who spent an evening last week screeching about needing independence and needing her mum off her arse, could now refuse to ride her bike to school if her mummy doesn't come with her.)

8. 8:25. Megan enters the school, and the moment her precious little head is under cover, the sky opens and nine-thousand-million litres of water are poured on my head. I ride home on my bike in the driving rain, contemplating that I have never been wetter in my entire life. I have been drier while I was in the bath. I was as wet as a human being can get before they actually begin to dissolve.

9. While waiting to turn (I had to wait for all of the cars to have a turn, because if you are in a nice dry car, you should TOTALLY get to turn before the drowned lady sitting on her bike. ) I was splashed head to toe up and down the left side of my body by not one, not two, but NINE cars. Luckily, I had reached a certain peace with my lot by then. Except for the mud and the street filth, things were already as bad as they could be.

10. Come home and strip of my remarkably wet clothes, take them down to the basement to toss them in Mr. Washie, and discover that the basement is leaking....again. Actually, leaking would be the wrong word. Leaking sort of implies a slow influx of water. Pouring. That's what the water in the basement is doing. Luckily, I had a colony of ants take up residence on the kitchen counter to distract me.

In the face of this preponderance of evidence that the planet is balancing things out, I am going to go and sit quietly in a corner, drink a very great many cups of coffee, try to work in a manner that doesn't attract attention to myself, (lest I be hit by lightning) and wait for the balancing phase to be over. Despite being wet, filthy, flooded and overtired, I had such a good weekend, that I regret nothing.

Nothing except that I'm going to have to go back out on my bike in the rain to pick Meg up, since Joe had a pretty great weekend too...and now he's locked his keys in the pick-up.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:54 PM

July 6, 2006

New and Improved

So last week when I was at Lettuce Knit, it was raining. Really, it was raining very hard, and this normally wouldn't bother me, (I try to accept Nature and all it's variability) except it was raining inside the shop.

The store has always had a little wee bit of trouble with leaking, it's an old building, it has a flat roof, the landlord is perhaps not as committed to worldwide dryness as is possible....but in the end, it didn't leak anywhere that there was yarn or books, and the problem was solved neatly with a bucket on rainy days. So it was that when the rain began while we were all sitting around knitting that evening, that Megan and Laura brought in a bucket, and we discussed ways to put the bucket to minimize splashing from the drips (one of the techniques suggested was to run a string from the ceiling to the bucket for the water to run down. Very funny moment when Laura was in a yarn shop... looking for string. ) and nobody worried very much.

Nobody worried very much until Mother nature decided to up the ante. Rain did not fall, rain pelted. It sheeted from the sky in colossal overwhelming waves of monstrous rain, and the ceiling began to leak. Laura duly placed a bucket, the knitters knit. The ceiling began to leak in two spots. Another bucket was nervously placed, knitting continued. Suddenly, a third spot began, and this time...this time it was over the yarn.

The room erupted. Seven knitters sprang up and bolted for the yarn. A brigade formed to move the yarn and books to safety, furniture was shoved, fibre was stowed...no knitter would let yarn suffer so much as dampness on our watch. While we moved yarn, placed buckets and laid towels (and completely trashed the store in the process)...a fourth spot started. (Not coincidentally, right over one of the spots that we were moving the yarn to. No system is perfect.) The ceiling began to bow, full of water...and I began to feel a little panic. (Yarn was threatened. It's my instinct to feel nurturing towards it.) "Poke it" I said. "What?" said everyone...
"Poke it, make a hole and let the water out, before it spreads all around."


"With what?" Said Rachel H. (Please take a minute to register where Rachel is standing while she asks this. She's in front of a wall of needles. Hundreds of pointy sticks. Hundreds.) It was classic. All of these knitters standing in a yarn shop, holding their knitting while standing in front of a needle display saying "If only we had some kind of pointy stick!". (I'd tease Rachel worse, but mere moments after a metal straight was procured from one of the knitters, I leapt up onto a chair, super-hero style, needle swung bravely aloft, ready to impale the ceiling and save the yarn.....only to suddenly find that my outstretched arm (attached to my five foot body) came quite a bit short of the ceiling.

As I stood there, arm up, needle high, ceiling far away, Rachel looked at me, looked at the gap between my needle tip and the sagging plaster above me and said, with complete seriousness and an air of incredulity that will never be repeated on this earth,
" Steph? How tall do you think you are?"

The rain continued the next day, and despite heroic efforts by people taller and smarter than me....


This is what the shop looked like yesterday. Closed. Our little Lettuce Knit, gone forever. Now the good news.


The new Lettuce Knit! It's bigger! It's the same great shade of green! It holds more yarn! It's got a patio! (It's inspiring me to a ridiculous use of exclaimation points!) That's right. In the span of less than a week, Megan and her crack team of yarn pro's moved the shop into the bottom floor of this awesome little house. The best part?


Be still my heart. Lettuce Knit now has a washroom. (There wasn't one before. We all coped by planning bathroom breaks before we came and limiting fluids while in the store.) I was so excited about this that I had a cuppa tea before I left the house to go to the shop, just because I could. When Megan's done fixing it up there will be a kitchen too...thus removing the last few barriers to me actually moving into a yarn shop.

The very best part?


Look. On the right, the old Lettuce Knit, and just down the street, just a smidge down, the new store! Same wonderful neighbourhood, same streetcar stop in winter, same bike ride in summer. Perfect.


I'm so proud of Megan, the owner. She's been bright and ethical and warm and lovely and firm all at once, and I'm really impressed by the way she combines her family and the shop. It can't be easy, but she's such a good person that I can't help but be happy for each and every nice thing that happens to her. (This may have something to do with why I keep spending my money there. Ethics in business is a real attractant for me.)

Not only was it the Yarn Shops big leap to a new place, but Amy's big leap party too. (There's a great set of photo's over at her place.) Amy's quit her day job and is becoming the full time writer/editor/knittylady that she's dreamed of being.


This was the look on her face when I said "Smile Amy...You're unemployed!"

There were many knitters of note there last night (including FiberTribe Caroline, who sailed in while I was tied up and was gone by the time I looked for her...Caroline, I wish we'd had some time!)
This is Diane.


I know it looks like Diane is holding an ordinary sweater...she is not.
This is a sweater begun by Diane in 1996, and finished...well. Just now. 10 years. I can't believe she went back and finished it...I mean, we all talk about it, but nobody really does it....

This is Veronica. You're not going to like her.


She's holding a sweater that she's knitting out of wool she dyed herself, she's knitting it brilliantly, it's beaded beautifully.....
and she learned to knit two months ago. TWO MONTHS. She's knitting a beaded sweater out of her own handpaint. (And she's nice) Can you imagine what she's going to be knitting in a year? No, no, no. We don't need this sort of a person hanging around a yarn shop making the rest of us look bad. Brilliance should be reclusive.

Finally...I have a partial solution to the cherry problem.


I sent the tall teenager up there. (Doesn't she look happy to help?)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:59 PM

July 5, 2006

Up a tree without a paddle

For years now, I have been doing battle with a Montmorency cherry tree in my front yard. It's major plan of attack has been to produce 100 000 000 000 000 cherries that much of humanity considers inedible, and then fling them onto the sidewalk in front of the house. Then the tree invites 100 000 birds over to it's branches to peck juicy holes in the cherries and defecate a truly remarkable and astonishing amount of bird crap onto my sterling lilies, then the juicy holes in the cherries attract 100 000 000 000 wasps and fruit flies to terrorize me and invade my home. When the tree is in top fighting form, the cherries which it throws on the sidewalk are tracked into the house, down the street, into the backyard, are thrown around the entire street by hoodlums in training local children, and the tree attracts the attention of every single resident of my neighbourhood, who either try to steal cherries (Note to cherry thieves: I can hear you. You are right outside my living room window and you are fighting very loudly in Lithuanian. This is not a subtle crime. There is no point in running off like that when I come out to offer you a chair to stand on.) discuss cherries, or taste the cherries, discover they are sour and discuss this loudly, complete with spitting noises, four feet away from where I am spinning and watching "House".


The cherry tree is a formidable enemy. Also in it's arsenal is the way it sends up sucker trees all over my garden. It is a slow felony, but after 10 years I am certain that only the cherry tree and it's minions will occupy the front garden.

Two years ago, in an attempt to fight back, I picked cherries. They are a huge pain in the arse to get out of the tree, and an even bigger pain in the arse to de-pit. (It is faster now that I use a dpn.) I spent days picking, pitting, freezing and baking and despite dedicating all of this time to cherry battle, the tree still threw millions on the ground and threw a wildlife cherry orgy in my front garden. That summer though, somewhere, in a desperate attempt to use up all of the cherries, I had discovered the bright, shining, glorious true light of joy that is the Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake, and the tree had me in it's grips. I started to look forward to cherry time.

The next year, the as soon as the tree realized it had brought me some happiness, and knowing that it had failed to bring only foul expressions and work to my life, the tree managed to arrange a horrible heat wave, where the cherries literally steamed and rotted on the tree before they could ripen, and then, taunting me with a whole summer of cake-less-ness....
Then it threw 100 000 000 000 000 rotten cherries on the ground.

This year I have watched the cherry tree like a hawk, determined that at the first possible cherry picking moment, I shall descend upon the tree like a plague of locusts. Every cherry will be picked, none will fall on the sidewalk and a years worth of cake will me mine. For the last few days, the tree has been close and this morning I the hour was upon me. I took my cherry picking bowl outside and I walked up to the tree and I started to pick.

It was then that I realized that the tree has a new trick.
The perverse rat-sucking-bark-arse has placed 90% of the cherries at the top of the tree. It mocks me with it's unreachable fruit.


(There's a cherry sky for Sandy.)

Now I am not easily defeated (I want the cake) and our bedroom window is near the cherry tree, and there's a little roof there.


I took down the screen, opened the window and squeezed myself out onto the little roof. I waved to my incredulous neighbours (who are all about 5 seconds away from offering to buy me some stinking cherries if I will only please, please stop being so freaking odd) plunked myself down on the roof and picked what I could reach.


Since the neighbours already thought I was as crazy as a soup sandwich, I took the opportunity to show the travelling sock the top of a cherry tree.


Two cakes worth of cherries are mine. (I am developing a plan to get the rest. Thus far, it involves two chairs, a rope, and all of the courage I learned playing D&D as a teenager.) I shall prevail.

While I formulated a battle plan yesterday, I spun some really neat new fibre. This is "Hot Mama" (I think. The cherry war has me so discombobulated that I can't find the label) from Farm witch.


A rustic batt that's a really neat combination of Cotswold and recycled sari silk... I found it interesting to spin. I had to let go of the idea of a perfectly smooth single. This batt has lot's of personality and I had to just. Let. Go (Really, my best thing) and let the fibre be itself.


The resulting single is completely charming, and I'm debating whether or not it even needs to be plied. (Can you do that? How do people spin a single for spinning? What about the twist? Do you have to plan to spin a single?)

Then I spun this one.


"Lady Starlight" (also from Farm Witch). 70% Cotswold, 29% silk, 1% "Glitz". Again, I surprised myself by having a really good time with the unexpected nature of the spining. I usually like a really smoothly prepared, well blended fibre, but these batts are a lot of fun. My usual fibre is to this fibre, as vanilla ice cream is to Rocky Road. I loved coming across the little nuggets of neat things, and I'll be darned...


If it doesn't really look like the night sky. I was thinking that it would make pretty neat mittens for someone who owned a navy coat. I'll think about it more while I make cake, pick cherries and win wars.
(Anybody have a really good way to get the high ones too far from the window?)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:24 PM

July 4, 2006

I can't stand to watch

Icarus continues to drag along.


I've working out why it's making me batty. The yarn is fine enough that I can't "feel" what I'm knitting, so even thought the pattern is simple right now, I can't just zoom while I watch TV or read. I have to watch every stitch to make sure that everything goes as planned. I don't mind this when there is tons of intrigue in the knitting... like with patterned yarn overs and charts, but it turns out that if all I have to do is watch plain columns develop, I can't stand it. I'm slogging through this. I think I should download a whole bunch of podcasts to listen to while I work. Take the edge off. Maybe drink heavily. I don't know. It's got to be almost to the lace part. It's got to be.

In an email, Patty asked me how to do the crochet-cast off I suggest in the poncho pattern on the sidebar. I tried to send her an email about it but I'm going to be typing forever, when a picture (or fourteen) is worth a thousand words.

Crochet Cast-Off

Advantages: It takes (get this, you're going to plotz) NO YARN. Yup, no yarn. You can knit and knit until you are totally out of yarn and then cast off. Suck at guessing how much you need to cast off? Ever run out of yarn while casting off? Ever piss yourself off because that silk was not cheap and you could have done another 3 rows because it didn't take that much to cast off after all? This is for you.
Disadvantages. It's a very firm bind-off. If you want it a little looser, you can try knitting the last row onto a bigger needle, but you're still not going to have something elastic. This is not recommended for the tops of toe up socks unless you have a burning curiosity about gangrene of the human foot caused by poor circulation. On the other hand, for a sweater and stuff, it's totally awesome, and on a scarf, shawl, wrap, or anything you're going to fringe, it's very nice.

1. Begin (and this is sort of important) working AWAY from the end of the working yarn if you are on circs, or, if you are on straights, slip all of your stitches to the other needle so that you can begin at the end opposite the working yarn. (Pardon the untidiness of my swatch. I'm under caffeinated. )


2. Slip the first two stitches (purlwise) to the crochet hook.


3. Pull Stitch "a" through stitch "b", leaving "a" on the hook.


4. Slip another stitch (the next one would be your best bet) to the crochet hook, and pull that one through.


Repeat all the way along (or around, if you're on a circular) until you get to the last stitch.


5. Pull the working yarn through the last stitch. Congratulate yourself for cleverness.


While we're being useful, Vicki's got a great tutorial on another way to fix a miss-crossed cable. (This way needs scissors.)

Happy 4th of July to American readers, I hope it doesn't rain on your fireworks. Me? It's Tuesday. I'll be spinning.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:44 PM

July 3, 2006

My new hobbies

Welcome to summer vacation with teenagers, or, as I have decided to call it, the long dark tea-time of the soul. (With apologies to our sainted and not forgotten Douglas Adams.) Gone are the days when summer vacation was a lovely time of family activities and togetherness. Gone are the days where I spent the days studying, writing and knitting under a tree while my wee girlies played together in the park and wading pool all day. Now my kids are big, and they have an agenda that is all their own and I have new hobbies this summer.

Here is how I spend my time.

1. I say "Stop that. " (You may imagine whatever you wish for what "that" may be. Everything from shaving your head to poking your sister with the eraser end of a pencil is possible, as is blasting music and running the house out of hot water every ten minutes as you change outfits again.)

2. I turn the tv off. There is no tv from 8-4 in the summer, but this does not stop the girls from testing the rule every six minutes. Apparently, having the rule in place for 17 years is not consistent enough for them to predict my response. Let's see what they think when I gnaw the freaking plug off of the power cord.

3. I tell them to read books. They tell me they have no books, (The lies, the lies, the lies.) and I remind them that the library is AT THE CORNER, close enough to phone and ask the librarian to THROW a book at your house.

4. I open the fridge to get cream for my coffee and discover that the teenagers have eaten their own body weight in fresh produce when I foolishly abandoned my post of defense in the kitchen for three minutes because I had to pee. I have no idea how it is possible to eat a kilo of fresh spinach and a whole bag of portobello mushrooms while I was out of the room, but while I was in the washroom I discovered that the 12 rolls of toilet paper I bought at the same time yesterday are also used up...so who knows what's going on.)

5. I try to figure out why there is always the wrong number of kids here. I'm either short a few or up a few all of the time. (This may be related to the food and toilet paper issue. Perhaps they are inviting friends over for salad and a bathroom break.)

7. I scream "GET A JOB." This is the response to all requests for money. It is slightly unfair, since all three children are working this summer, even though two of them are picking up credits in summer school, but it is a reflexive answer burned into me by my own parents.

8. I stand around different parts of the house trying to figure out what the smell is. (Running shoes? Abandoned bathing suit kicked under the couch? Half a now liquid plum in a leaking ziplock in a backpack?...Teenaged boy looking for teenaged girl?)

9. I try to keep that vein in my forehead from exploding when, after prying the telephone from the hands of a teenager (Who has receiver shaped hands from prolonged exposure) so that I can make a call for work, am asked by said teenager if I can "be really quick".

10. I point out that if anyone plays "Panic! At the Disco" even one more time, I shall be forced to retaliate by alternating only the great songs "Raspberry Beret" and "Love Cats" until one or all of them moves out. (The 12 year old can stay, but I'm not letting her plug anything in.)

11. Finally, I make appalling progress on the icarus shawl.


When there are 300 and something stitches i get to start the lacy bit. For a while I was counting them from time to time, you know...to see how much further I have to go? I've stopped now. It doesn't matter how much I increase. I'm never going to get there. I understand.

12. I count days until until the first day of school. (There are 63)

Baby hat Q&A

Where do I send the hats?

For those of you who have not yet received an address from me, Jeanne has some company... Ilene would like to give some hats away at her WIC office Breastfeeding Week celebration too. Hats can be sent here:

Ilene Fabisch
c/o Brockton WIC Program
795 Pleasant St.
Brockton, MA 02301

As soon as I hear from Jeanne about if she minds me posting her address (I think it will be ok.) I'll post that one here too.

When is the deadline?

The end of July.

What should I make the hats out of?

You've all heard my rant before about acrylic on babies. Since acrylic melts and burns posing serious risks to babies in the event of a fire, for safety's sake my personal preference for all baby items is natural fibres, but you can do as pleases you. (I don't mind acrylic on people old enough to "stop, drop and roll".) I think the California babies would probably get more use out of cotton, and the Massachusetts could go wool, cotton or anything, but there are no wrong answers. The mums are going to be grateful no matter what.

What size?

Newborn to 1 year.

Is crochet ok?

You bet. Knock yourself out.

Do you have any patterns?

Sara has a beaded watermelon hat and an apple hat.
Janelle has a her fruit hat pattern to share.
Kathleen sent these links..

Knitty's "Baby tart"
An apple hat
Fruit caps from Brook
Knit Chicks tomato hat
Chile con yarne pineapple hat.
My own watermelon hat

KathyMarie has some patterns on her blog here.

Anybody else? Toss 'em in the comments.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:24 PM

July 1, 2006

Canada, eh?

It's Canada Day, and it's become a tradition here at Chez Harlot to do a little Canada praising on it's birthday. (More information about the hats, including where to get patterns, on Monday.)

Before we get going, last year an American reader wrote to me after my post on Canada and told me that I was a terrible American and a horrible patriot and that I should be ashamed of abandoning my country and becoming a "Canadian Wanna-be" just because I'm a Democrat. To head off any further confusion, I'm not a Democrat. I'm a Canadian. I was born here, I was raised here, and I live here now. (Technically, I guess she does have a point. That would make me a pretty terrible American, what with not even being a citizen.)

The last year I've had wonderful opportunities to travel all over the States and learn lots about it. (You should see the Mississippi from the air, or the Olympic mountains, or this park in the middle of Portland, or eat a real Southern bisquit, or drink Peet's coffee, or see the Lincoln monument. Very nice.)
Today, I return the favour. Here's stuff you maybe didn't know about us.

1. We invented baseball, basketball, washing machines and insulin.

2. We have Homo Milk,


and until I went to the grocery store with an American I had never seen anyone giggle when they bought it.

3. Since the North Pole falls within our borders, Santa Claus is a Canadian. (His address, should you wish to write him this year, is Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0. He writes children back all over the world, thanks to a huge group of volunteers with Canada Post.)

4. 18% of Canada's population was born outside the country. This is the second highest percentage in the world, after Australia.

5. The United States invaded Canada during the war of 1812. The Americans were defeated by the Canadians (with help from Britain, although more than 60% of the forces were Canadian, as the British were busy at another war) and driven back as far as Washington, where we burned the White House. The war ended with the Treaty of Ghent, in which the parties agreed to both go back to the way things were before and play nice. This treaty re-established the border and independence of both countries. This war is a very important part of Canadian history, and most Canadians are very proud of repelling the invasion.

6. Yonge Street is the longest street in the world, running 1896km, or 1100 miles and beginning in Toronto Ontario, and ending in Rainy River, just about in Manitoba.

7. 91% of Canadians are satisfied with their personal safety.

8. 97% of tea in Canada is consumed hot; in the United States, 85% of tea is served iced. (This should be a warning to travellers from both countries. Just asking for "tea" can be very surprising. (As an aside? When I was in the American south a while ago I discovered that asking for iced tea gets you an unsweetened one. Very nice.)

9. Canada has a surplus economy.

10. Canada adopted it's flag in 1965.


Before that we used the Union Jack.

11. Same-sex marriage is legal. Nothing bad has happened as a result of this decision. Despite warnings of divine retribution or the ruination of opposite-sex marriage, absolutely nothing has changed.

12. Our Five dollar bill has hockey on it.

and our one and two dollars are coins, respectively called a loonie and a toonie.


13. Canadians are famous for: apologizing, embracing technology, hockey, being polite, eating more Kraft Dinner than any other country in the world, peacekeeping, saying "eh?", beer, humour and sarcasm. (Those last three may be related.)

14. Canada has the largest English population in the world that has never withdrawn or surrendered to anyone during a war.

15. On July 1st 1916 on the first day of the Battle Of The Somme, 800 members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment went out of the trenches to fight the Germans. (A regiment of this size was remarkable, considering the small population of Newfoundland at that time.) Despite a reputation for excellence and extreme bravery, only 68 of them were able to answer roll call the next day. 710 members were dead.

"It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further."

— Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander of the British 29th Division, speaking of the first regiment.

In Newfoundland, this day is Canada day, and Memorial day.

16. I still really love this.

Canada produces a disproportionate amount of knitting genius. Sally Melville
Debbie New
Shirl "the purl" Scott
Fiona Ellis
Lucy Neatby
The Fleece Artist
The Handmaiden
Mission Falls.
Kate Gilbert

Véronik Avery

Fiddlesticks Knitting (Dorothy Siemens)
Wannietta Prescod - the fastest knitter in North America
Cabin Fever

Briggs and Little
Elann.com (be careful with that one.)
Needle Arts Book Shop
Philosophers Wool Company
Shelridge Farm
Maureen Mason-Jamieson
Sivia Harding
Ram Wools
Robin Melanson

17. Canadians don't say "sophmore" or "freshman". We just say "grade nine" (minor niner) or "grade 12". As in "She's a grade 12".

This means that sometimes when we watch American sitcoms, we don't know how old the kids are.

18. Mounties don't always wear the hot outfits. That's dress gear. (They're also not always mounted.)

19. On December 6, 1917 a Belgian relief ship and a French ship carrying munitions collided in the Halifax harbour. A fire started and the French ship, the Mont Blanc, exploded and virtually flattened then entire city of Halifax.
Until Hiroshima, it was the largest explosion, ever. The state of Massechustts was very generous to the survivors of the explosion, sending an enormous amount of aid, very quickly. To this day, the city of Halifax sends the city of Boston a huge Christmas Tree for the Boston Common as a thank you.

20. Your turn. Tell me your most interesting things about Canada!

Posted by Stephanie at 4:12 PM