August 31, 2006

Stuff that I am planning.

1. I am planning to finish Icarus. Miriam left a comment yesterday pointing out that perhaps I was being punished through the gansey for not finishing Icarus when I was so close to the end. Whether or not the planet is defending this one shawl is impossible to tell, but her point that I'll see her Friday next when I'm in Salt Lake City (I'm so excited) is a good one. I can't face her with fewer than 10 rows to go. It's embarrassing.


I admit that I'm also enjoying knitting something that I haven't screwed up. (Probably shouldn't have said that.)


2. I am planning a right huge sized flip-out concerning the tremendous outlay of cash that it takes to get the girls back in school. The binders, paper, pens, scientific calculators...not to mention the activity fees, locker fees, student card fees...lab fees...
It's seriously pinching the snot out of the budget. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that they are going back, and I'm really grateful that all I have to do is cut a whole bunch of corners to squeeze it out of the finances, but it's a lot of money and it's public school. Public school isn't supposed to cost hundreds of dollars. You're supposed to have paid for it with your taxes. What about the thousands of families using the TDSB who aren't lucky enough to have a budget that can be squeezed? Their kid doesn't get a text book? Their kid doesn't get a binder, paper or calculator? That's totally going to have them poised to rise above their parents poverty with education. Totally. (Sorry. Rant over. I'm going to buy some extra pens, paper and a binder and give it to the school for someone else. I shouldn't have to though. Paying my taxes should take care of it. This country has a surplus economy and basic public education should be free, not pretending to be free.)

3. I am planning to order more of the Knit Picks Options needles. (As soon as the budget gives me that option. They are cheap, but they still cost money.)


I had ordered a couple of the pieces of the set, (a couple of tips, a couple of cables, and one set of dpn's) and after I yanked the gansey off the needles I decided to put it onto the Knit Picks ones that had just arrived. Normally I wouldn't switch needles mid-sweater, in case the different needle gave me different tension, but I was knitting the gansey on an Addi Turbo (love those needles) and the Options needles seemed similar enough. Now the gansey is back on the path to rightness, and I'm loving the needles. They improved on the only thing I've ever wished the Addi's had, sharper tips. The Knit Picks ones are sharp enough to hurt yourself with. The only thing that I would have done differently when I ordered these was I would have gotten the storage thingie. The tips are sort of a pain to store. I'm going to loose a one of a set, or loose the little key thing or something. I can feel it.

3. I stumbled on a new Canadian mail order place, The Sweet Sheep. I am planning to give them an extraordinary amount of money for the "'All things Heather" yarn in their shop just as soon as I can figure out how to do that and still pay for all the kids back to school stuff I would consider it a personal favour if someone would go over there and buy it all out from under me so I could stop trying to think about how much money I might be able to sell the cat for even though I have more yarn than I can knit. Thank you.

4. Further to this budget talk, I am planning to tear the new Knit Picks catalogue into tiny little shreds the moment it arrives and eat them all one by one until every dastardly shred of temptation is removed from my house. (Do NOT tell me about the KIP bags. DO NOT.)

5. I am planning to improve myself enough that I do not manage personal stress with the hunting and procurement of knitting paraphernalia and yarn. (Does trying to quit that give everyone a pain behind their right eye or is that just me?)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:45 AM

August 29, 2006

Un Knitting

Brace yourselves, it's not good news. In a dreadful turn of events, both the gansey and the shawl took a swim in the frog pond this weekend.
Things were ok with the gansey. The gussets were coming along, the pattern was showing up was all good. I even remember thinking that it was sort of incredible that it was going so well. It's not really often that you just pick up a sweater and knit, especially one you're designing on the fly.


I was surprised that the knitting fates could resist the urge to point out my failure to plan. (That sort of thing is usually irresistible to them, eh?) I knit merrily along and I made it all the way up to the end of the gussets before I figured it out. I decreased every other round instead of every third round. You can imagine what sort of difference having ONE THIRD more rounds makes to the length of the gussets...and to the sweater. This mistake is my least favourite kind. It's one of the ones that are entirely my fault. Beth says to decrease every third round. I did not follow the word of Beth closely enough. I skimmed Beth. I looked at the pictures, I thought "yeah, yeah, diamonds in the armpits. Got it." and I did not read the charts for the gussets. I was too good for Beth's charts, and now I am punished. I accept this, and I pulled it off the needles.


See how wide the gusset becomes so quickly? If I kept increasing at this speed, by the time the gusset was the right length it would be so wide that it would wing out from under Joe's armpits towards his nipples like a woollen version of half a missile bra like Madonna used to wear. That's a good look.

While it was off the needle I took the opportunity to try it on Joe, and discovered that it's a pretty good thing that I'm a lazy slacker who didn't check the charts, since I started the entire gusset at least an inch too soon, and that error, combined with the too short gusset almost made Joe a gansey that would proudly have displayed the gentleman's full on mature man belly button. (I firmly believe that there is no amount of elegance a man can carry himself with that will pull off that look, and further to that, I can't let Joe wear a belly-shirt and then insist that his daughters cover up. They'd all want belly-ganseys too and soon the standard for elegance in this house would be in the dumper.) The good news is that the sweater is the right width. When I pin down length things are really going to come together. (Assuming ripping back several inches is enough penance for the knitting muses. You never know what will satisfy them. )

The shawl....the shawl I'm not ready to talk about. The pain is too fresh. Let's just say that I apparently cannot count to seven. At all. Ever. The shawl and I have gone to separate corners until I can bring myself to tink back another row or two, or fifteen..or whenever the last time I counted to seven correctly was. Let's leave it at that.

In the meantime, I'm going to distract you from my bad knitting by adding more stuff to the tour page:

-The time for the Powells event is 7:30
- I'm going to go to Knitty City after the Knit Out in NYC on the 17th - to sign books and hang out (I won't be giving a talk there.)
-November 5th I'll be speaking at The 2nd Annual Fall in Knits Benefit Fashion Event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, CT Affiliate, 2pm at the Granby Memorial High School (hosted by
Marji's Yarncrafts)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:38 PM

August 25, 2006


I set the book aside for a little while yesterday, and spent a little time away from the narcoleptic glow of my computer screen. I realized that I was starting to get a little weird with so much working and tried to balance things out a little before I blew a mental gasket and ended up typing just pages and pages of "All work and no knitting makes Steph a dull girl". I thought that was the creepiest moment in The Shining. When Jack Nicholson has been working on his book for months and months and months and Shelley Duval finally goes into his study and reads his manuscript and there is no manuscript, he's just been typing that one sentence over and over for hundreds of pages, (His didn't have knitting in it) and all of a sudden Shelley realizes that Jack isn't really swimming in the deep end of the sanity pool anymore. In that movie it's supposed to some kind of evil presence in the hotel that's making him crazy and dangerous, but I think it was just that he was trying to write a book. Like I said, I started thinking about ol' Jack and decided that maybe I'd have me a little knitting break and get the top of the gansey designed and started. I hauled out the reference books that I thought would have the best bets and started in.


On the table
Barbara Walkers, one, two, three and four
(Who doesn't love these. I wish all four books had everything charted though...)

The knitting stitch a day Calendar. (Darned handy)
Patterns for Guerneys, Jerseys and Arans by Gladys Thompson.

and the book that is currently within arms reach at all times: Knitting Ganseys, by Beth Brown-Reinsel. (This is a great book. I'm completely in love with Beth Brown-Reinsel. There is not one question I've had that she's not answered in this book. It's only because I've got this that I feel like I can knit a gansey by the seat of my pants this way. The woman is brilliant. Last night I was trying to figure something out about the armhole and just when I thought I was going to give up because Joe wasn't around to measure, I found a table of measurements in the book. Beth's got my back.)


Since I am not your planning ahead kind of knitter, all I'd done until now was take Joe's measurements and start knitting. I figured that I would make whatever I chose for the top simply fit when I got there. (There are about a thousand better ways to do that. I admit that.)
My process went like this.

1. Determine how many stitches I had to play with.
2. Find patterns that I liked.
3. Try to make the patterns fit with the stitches that I had.
4. Realize that they don't fit and I'm a dumbass.
5. Try again.

This involves graph paper, maths and a great deal of time. In the end it took a little longer than I thought because I was really hung up on using only traditional gansey patterns, so all applicants had to be carefully screened. (Traditional choices include patterns based on knit/purl combinations and simple rope cables. Remember, Ganseys were built for speed, warmth and ease of knitting. Getting stupid complex cables going on was counter-productive.) Extra time was also added because I forgot for a moment that cables take up extra width. I like to increase a few stitches in the bottom of a cable to account for this, since I think it makes a nicer start and keeps the cable from pulling in too much in that spot and making the knitting seem oddly flared at the base of the cable. I'll chart only four stitches for a six stitch cable, work the first row of the cable with four stitches, increase in the second row to six stitches, then cable on the third. Works nicely, though is a tad obsessive and can really mess up your charts.

In the end I came up with this pattern...


which I swear is totally enough to knit a gansey from. I know it looks dodgy, but nobody has to understand it but me. (I bet Beth Brown-Reinsel just lost it somewhere. You should see how well the sweaters are planned in her books. These scraps of scribbles I'm doing this from must make her nauseous. I hope she doesn't find this blog.) I knit a "Definition ridge" another characteristic of a gansey. It's a ridge of garter, purl, seed or moss stitch that divides the plain stockinette work from the fancier top.


and I started in on my pattern. I placed a marker for each different area of work so that I there would be any possibility at all that I could manage to keep it all straight, (this is a fools game) and I started the gussets at the same time.


The underarm gussets are probably the defining feature of the gansey. It's a diamond shaped piece of knitting worked in as you go, with half being worked in the body and the other half worked into the arm. Imagine where you put deodorant in the morning. That's the part of your sweater where the gusset goes. The gusset gives additional room for the arm to move without needing sweater that's looser overall. That's a good thing, since a tighter sweater is easier to work in and saves on knitting time and yarn. Ganseys are traditionally worn pretty tight with only about 2 inches of ease.


When I've knit around and around until the gussets are done (about 3 or 4 inches from now) I'll put the gussets on threads to save for later and split the work into front and back to be knit flat. (I love knitting flat. I'm really looking forward to that part.)

For now, I'm going to go wish my buddy Sandy a Happy Birthday, and do the same for Joe's Mum. (Only the best sort of people are born on this day apparently.) and throw myself back into the salt mines. While all work and no knitting might make Steph a dull girl, all knitting and no work will make Steph miss a book deadline.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:07 PM

August 23, 2006

How's it going?

The deadline for the book is a few weeks away. (Longer than that really, but I need to subtract the time that I'm on tour, since the schedule moves so fast that it's almost impossible to get anything done except for the events.) To compensate for missing that time, I'm busting it pretty hard right now. This is how the living room looks.


What's missing from that picture (aside from the gansey, which is just out of camera range and totally ready for me to design the top part) is me lying on the floor marking up pages, swearing, weeping loudly and ignoring the needs of an entire trashed house and three teenagers while hopped up on so much coffee that I can feel my hair grow.
I work on the living room floor until I am ready to print up the next part or someone asks me a stupid question. Currently on the list of stupid questions are the following:

1. How's it going?
(Seriously. Look at me. Look at the mess. How does it look like it's going? Do you usually ask crying, sleep deprived people who have been wearing the same tee shirt for 4 days how it's going? No, no you don't. You just walk around them really quietly and make soft noises and make MORE COFFEE. )

2. Do you know what Amanda/Meg/Sam did?
(Unless they burned a page of manuscript or wrote a page of manuscript I don't care. Go sort your sister issues out and don't speak to mummy unless the police are here or you need pizza money.)

3. Do you want to come to bed?
(Would I be making more coffee if I wanted to come to bed?)

4. Do you think you're going to finish?/ How much did you get done today/ When will you finish? / Are you getting it done?/ Do you think this is a healthy approach?
(That's it. Pressure the crazy lady.)

5. Are you thinking about making dinner?
(I find that staring the questioner down while creating an awkward silence works well here.)

Then I leave. I go to the back room. I enter into the 78th debate with the stinking cat about who's office chair that is....

and then I keep going.
It's going to feel really good to finish. I think I need more knitting time.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:13 PM

August 22, 2006

Let it be known

Let it be known far and wide across the land that (on Kelly's suggestion) the noble washing machine formerly known as "Mr. Washie" shall, in recognition for his many long years of service, his ability to be fixed with a $30 dollar part that Joe knew how to put in, for his unfailing loyalty and decent felting, for withstanding basement floods and holding his lid high even though he has not been given so much as a wipe in a couple of months...For dignity, class and not needing me to call a repairperson who would have taken me for a serious ride, I dub him


Sir Washie.
(We're back in business. I bought him some really nice detergent as a treat.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:57 PM

August 21, 2006

The way they used to make them.

Mr. Washie, my beloved companion and faithful friend, is not at all well.


At present, he lies in the basement disemboweled and de-hosed, his parts hanging out and ashamed, with some mysterious organ of his having been disassembled on the living room coffee table for surgery. This day had to come really, it did. When I moved into this house 11 years ago, it had a dryer, but no washer. I was pretty sure (being thrilled just to have a house, never mind appliances) that I could live without a washing machine, which was good, since saying the I was a little broke would be like saying that Johnny Depp makes a little bit of a good pirate. I imagined myself loading up the wagon with loads of laundry and three little girls, and trouping off to the laundromat to wash our clothes, then bringing them back home to dry them. I lasted 10 days, until a stomach bug wracked the household one night and suddenly, the idea of taking truly disgusting sheets and jammies down the street to the washer with sick kids hanging off of me lost it's romance faster than a Britney Spears marriage.

At exactly that moment, my sister bought a new house, and it had a washing machine, but she owned a better one. Mr. Washie was dragged up out of her basement and installed in mine by my brother and his buddy Pablo, whom I paid to install it with a case of beer.
(You would be surprised how many household services can be procured with a case of beer in this country. I got the gas connected to the stove for a 12.)

It was instant love. From the moment that I first lifted his lid to until he fell ill Friday, we have had a happy and..for the first 9 years, monogamous relationship. Mr. Washie has, in recent years opened his heart to Joe and the girls, and allowed them (even though they do not appreciate him the way that I do) to enter into a partnership of sorts. Through all of the loads of diapers, sheets and dirty clothes, Mr. Washie has never let me down. (There was that one time that I accidentally clogged his pump felting knitted clogs, but I bought him a new one and he forgave me for my carelessness. ) Mr. Washie has done more to help me with this family than any other thing on earth. I love him.


Further to that, Mr. Washie and I have the sort of commitment that married people only dream of. He was installed in the basement 11 years ago, and 5 years ago Joe and I remodeled the kitchen, carelessly installing a large pantry near the basement door. There is no chance now of Mr. Washie ever coming out, or a new washer coming in without some serious cupboard mangling. (Really, I don't know what we were thinking.) That means that on Friday when Mr. Washie had a seizure and quit, Joe went on a hunt for parts.

He called Sears (Mr. Washie's full name is "Kenmore Heavy-Duty") and told them what washer we had. The lady on the other end of the phone asked for the model number printed on the back. Joe told her. Then she asked again. Joe told her. She asked if there were any other numbers. Joe lay on the floor of the basement and read the numbers out to her with precision.

"You're sure?" she says. Joe, in a supreme demonstration of will-power did not point out to her that he reads numbers ...all of them 1 through 9 with remarkable accuracy, and simply said "Yes. That's all it says." The woman went away then, when she came back she said something shocking. She had found Mr. Washie's date of birth, and he was made in... (You're not going to believe this. I know I'm still stunned.)

1978. My washing machine is 28 years old.

I am so moved by his years of service to me that I can't even tell you of it. He's done easily 3500 loads of laundry in this house...and there's no way to know what he accomplished before he came to live with me. Dudes, get yourself a Kenmore Heavy-duty, because they are not screwing around when they make them. I don't even clean his filter as often as I should, he's been in at least two basement floods, he's 28 years old and he still did two loads of jeans and a whack of towels before falling down on Friday.

The best part? Joe thinks he needs a $30 part that you can still buy from Sears. With any luck, Mr. Washie will be recovered later today, and I'm going to go straight out and buy a nice magnet to stick to the front of him. Maybe flowers or something. Bless his heart. Welcome to the Washing Machine Hall of Fame buddy. I'll buy you all the parts you need.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:13 PM

August 18, 2006

Large Grey Blob

I tried a whole bunch of ways to make this post interesting, but the truth is that I am knitting a large grey blog out of large amounts of grey handspun and that there is very little to write about that. The silly little cut on my finger is still present enough to prevent the knitting of lace, so it's just me and Joe's gansey, all the time.
I'm knitting it on the bus...


I'm was knitting it on at Joe's sisters birthday last night...


(Although I did take the travelling sock out of my purse for the occasion of Kelly's 40th birthday. ) I'm knitting it everywhere that I go, and still...


The thing is a big grey blob.

The traditional gansey usually (but not always) has a plain stockinette bottom which gives way to cables and plain and purl patterns round about the armpits. The idea is that the stockinette knits up quickly (HA) and efficiently (Ok. I'll give it that) and that the patterning across the chest is both beautiful, interesting and (remember that everything about a gansey has a reason) that the cables and patterns across the chest take up more yarn and provide extra warmth and thickness where it's most needed. That patterned part will start to be considered 15 inches/ 40 cm up in Joe's case, and I'm only at the 27 cm mark, and I'm pretty much bored out of my mind.

I know that lots of knitters love plain work. They love it. It's meditative, it's simple, it lets their minds wander while the perform brain work or watch tv, their hands chug along and they find the simple straightforward nature of knitting every single stitch for miles and miles and miles really restful and relaxing. I might be able to get into the zone too...except for this.


There are two purl stitches, one at each side of the body. These mark the "seams" of the gansey and mark the spots where the division for the arms will be. They are there, technically, so that the gussets for the arms have a natural line to grow out of, and so that the gansey knitter can be on autopilot while knitting, never having to figure where the arms or gussets fall. (There is the added bonus of the sweater folding a little tidier and taking less storage space.) Me, I've discovered another purpose. I believe that these two stitches are there to drive me stark raving mad, since I keep getting into the stockinette zone, then blowing by the purl stitch and discovering 20 stitches later that I've knitted it instead of purled it. The first 47 times I did this, I decided to tink back, correct the error and reknit the 20 stitches. Then I got smart, and decided that I would I would rather dust the living room with my tongue than tink back one more time and made the very clever decision to correct the stitch the next time that I came to it.

This would have worked, had I been in touch with the problem of my original lack of intelligence, and not blown by the stitch a second time on the next round. Clearly that won't work. Other ideas?

a) Do my best but accept that I will periodically correct that line of stitches with a crochet hook and try to be happy.

b) Go to my knitting basket and get a big honking stitch marker that I can put on my knitting to warn me of the purl stitch. (For this to work I would need to be able to accept the intense burning irony of using a stitch marker to warn me of a stitch that is a marker.)

c) Rig some sort of finely tuned electrical device to those two stitches of my knitting. Some sort of technology that would, when I blow by that ridiculous purl stitch for the 484th time, deliver a mild dose of voltage that will be not really dangerous, but corrective. I'm imagining some sort of knitting variation of an invisible fence.
Knit the purl stitch and ZAP.

Choice C, despite it's complexity is likely my best option, since it stands a greater chance of ultimately correcting my dumbass behaviour on a more permanent level. I can see other knitting uses too. Miss an increase on the 4th row of a sleeve? ZAP.
Forget to cable every six rows? ZAP.
Knit 10 cm past where you were supposed to start the fair isle? ZAP.

How about the worst...You know the ones...the ones where it says "decrease two stitches at the beginning of every right side row for neck until 15 stitches remain" ...So you do. You decrease for ages and you've got 15 stitches left and you feel pretty good about it and you look for the next instruction, and it says "at the same time" and then, while your heart sinks all the way to your flip flops, it details some stinking thing you were supposed to do while you were doing your decreases. Something like "continue to shape armhole as set".
That one? Fail to check ahead in the instructions?


This could be really useful.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:14 PM

August 16, 2006

I was going to knit a lot...

Five reasons I have no really impressive progress to show you.

1. A good chunk of my knitting time was sucked into the "housekeeping, feeding your family, celebrating family milestones and earning a living" trap. I can't believe I keep falling for that.


It was good pie though.

2. I went to the dentist again. I have not yet figured out how to knit while in the chair, and I was in the chair for a long time. (I will spare you the absolutely pathetic story of this visits panic attack. I assure you that I am normally a very tough lady and that the completely pathetic behaviour I exhibit at the dentist is a rare anomaly that is best forgotten by all parties concerned.

3. I have suffered the worlds most minor injury.


Sadly, this incredibly insignificant cut on my finger is in the precise position necessary to interfere with knitting. I can still knit, but this makes me slow. (It also makes me knit with my finger sticking up like I'm trying to make a point. Very unbecoming.)

4. Megan got an Eye Toy and Kinetic game for her Birthday.
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the playstation out there. There have been a few terrible incidents involving several days of my life lost to The Sims (I do really love being in charge) and the kids (and the adults) have some pretty sharp limits on how long and when they are allowed to play. As a result, the black box of inactivity had gathered a layer of dust around here. Then Meg's buddy Maddy walks in here last night and sets this thing up. It's a little camera that plugs into the playstation, and the Kinetics game starts and the camera puts you on the TV and you go through all of these virtual games and workouts. You follow a glowing ball with your hands, kick a virtual ball away from a target you protect... the thing really, really gets you moving and raises your heart rate. The kids were all fighting over the privilege of getting to play and the grown-ups were having a good time too. You can watch a preview of how the thing works here. I had no idea that these virtual games even existed. It's a very good time and leaves me, as a mother, wondering what the rules should be on a video game that's a workout. Thoughts?

5. Ted (The Oracle) sent me yarn. I usually don't blog gifts between friends, because I think them private matters, but this was simply to stunning to not tell you about.


Ted spindle-spun this 100 grams of finn laceweight, and it is so beautiful that huge swaths of my day are falling away as I sit and stare at it.


No photo can show you how complex and lovely the red/orange is. It makes me want to pitch everything I'm knitting now and sit fondling this one skein for all of my days. Mercy.

As compensation for the lack of knitting projects, I leave you with these pictures of hatty success. Remember when I asked knitters to help support breastfeeding by sending fruit and Veggie hats to WIC offices for Breastfeeding week? Knitters are maniacs. Jeanne received 400+ hats, and Ilene got more than 100. That's incredible to me.

Here's tons of hats...


only a small sampling of the hundreds that arrived in California at Jeanne's WIC office.


Hats on tables,


hats on breastfed babies.


Hat's in Brockton at Ilene's WIC office.


Read more about it here (and make sure and look at Mary's fruit and veg hats with ladybugs on the stem.) I can't thank you all enough. Breastfeeding is such a cheap, easy way to change the lifelong health of the babies who get it and the mothers who do it, and makes such a tremendous difference to the economy of the family, that I get all choked up when I think about knitters using their wool and their wits to change the world.

Next domination through wool.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:02 PM

August 15, 2006

Meg is 15!

Today is Megan's 15th birthday, and she continues to be a lovely, engaging young knitter woman. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Megan for not doing anything too horrible during the year she was 14...and especially for not doing anything that involved a fire truck, police station or the words "safe house". Keep it up kid, and I'll keep making the birthday waffles.


We have a tradition that the birthday person in the family plans the menu for all three meals of their day. I've been absolutely flabbergasted to discover that even when they can have anything at all, the girls still plan really well balanced meals. Meg's dinner tonight is rice, mushroom sauce and those yummy fake meatballs from The President, (I really feel affection for him, don't you?) salad with goat cheese, balsamic and pine nuts, and apple pie with sharp cheddar.

When I was Meg's age I think I chose a big plate of sauteed mushrooms. Full stop. (That was a great dinner.)

Although today is Tuesday (and tuesdays are for spinning) it rained too much yesterday for the fleece to dry. Today is warm and sunny, but too windy to put the fleece outside, so I guess it will wait for another 24 hours before I haul out the drumcarder. (Really, I need to wash more anyway. I'll fulfill my spinning obligation by washing fleece. I do it on the stove...I'll show you how in an upcoming blog if you want. It's gross, but effective.)



My shropshire shawl is amusing me to no end. I've worked three repeats, and by my reckoning (and without figuring the math for getting my chosen 50 row border to fit) I think I need seven. According to the shawl calculator (found on Jessica's blog in the sidebar), this means I'm about 14% done.

14%? This could take a little longer than I thought.

Shawl Q&A

Mary Asked what needles I'm knitting this on...


3mm Ebony Holtz & Stein circulars. I like them, since they are
a) Black. Easy to see white yarn on black needles.
b) Pointy enough. I would wish for pointier, but I always do.
c) Wood. Gives a little bit of grip for manipulating wee yarn.
d) Have a reasonably smooth join, though I still find that the yarn catches on the join as I try to pull it back over on the purl side. (Someday I will do a scientific study about why "knit-facing" mounted stitches slide nicely over even the most craptastic of joins, but "purl-mounted" stitches resist the charms of even the nicest of needles. Anybody else notice this?)

Barbara A.M. asks:

All that laceweight yarn is inspiring me to try some myself. Any advice to someone trying their first laceweight project? Should I make your snowdrop shawl? Is there a classic, laceweight yarn that every knitter should use in at least one project? I am wide open to suggestions from those who have gone before!

I actually wouldn't suggest my snowdrop shawl for a beginner, not because it isn't easy...but because the directions are a little "quick and dirty". I'd suggest starting with any of the shawls or scarves from Fiddlesticks Knitting. Dorothy's charts and instructions are impeccable, and several of her designs (like Lotus Blossom or the Triple Mohair Triangle) are written for larger gauge yarns, so you don't have to get used to lace and tiny yarn all at once. Really, I don't think lace is difficult, it's mostly just yarn-overs and knit two togethers, it's keeping track of where you are that takes learning. My solution involves moving post-it notes around the chart.

WavyBrains (love that) asks:

What ball winder do you use/recomend for these herculean tasks?

I've got me a standard issue ball winder. The gears on it are starting to go, but it's served me nobly for many years. The design limits the ball size, some huge skeins (like the shropshire) need to be broken down into smaller balls, but I don't mind, especially with lace, when a large ball is more likely to result in a tangled ball.
Some knitters swear by nostepinnes, but when it comes to winding 3000m of yarn (that's 3km!) there's no way I'm doing it by hand. I want to be able to use my hands when I'm done.

Mardi asks:

I'm knitting a baby blanket in the Lorina Shell stitch pattern, and have resorted to knitting off my #2 needle onto a #5 just before the row that says "knit 4 stitches together" because otherwise one ends up paralyzed after attempting to work the needle through the 4 frickin' stitches umpteen times over. Anyone else out there ever have this sort of problem??

Yes. I myself work multi-knit togethers using a complex system requiring a decent Shiraz, a very pointy needle, isolation and curse words. You don't want to know what "PURL 4 together" takes.

Other solutions welcome.

Filambulle says:

That whole lace thing is addictive, isn't it?

Yes. Next question?

Tour update:

Jayme-the-still-seems-pretty-wonderful-publicist who is completely in charge of where/when/why I go places has sent me some updates for the tour page.

Sept. 10th I'll be at Yellow Dog Knitting in Eau Claire, WI at 6pm

Saturday, September 16th I'll be at the Park Slope Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn at 7:30.

Sunday, September 17th I'm going to the Knit Out in Union Square
(New York, New York ) from 11am to 5pm

....and there's one change. The Powells event in Portland is at Powell's Books for Home and Garden, 3747 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd, not at the other store.

I'll update the tour page shortly, but for now, I'm off to bake birthday pie.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:14 PM

August 14, 2006

Paging a smaller fisherman

The ladies are back and order disorder is restored. I remember what it's like now to have no phone, no food and no quiet. It's all coming back to me. I'm not sure I mind though, except for the abbreviated work-day. That really bothers me. Trying to cram a whole days worth of work into the few hours/moments/seconds of peace per day that three teens affords you? Tense.

Might not allow much work time, but it's pretty good for knitting time.


Here's Joe's handspun gansey, moving right along. I cast on 200 stitches and knit 6.5 cm of 1X1 ribbing, then increased to 228 and began working in Stockinette.

A bunch of you have asked for more information about Ganseys, so I'll try to explain about them as I go. For starters, a gansey is a fishermans sweater of a construction that predates other sweater types (like Aran) from the British Isles. Ganseys, unlike Arans were not knit for commercial sale, they were working sweaters and every characteristic of a gansey was knit for a practical reason.

Allegedly, both Ganseys and Arans were knit with particular patterns to help identify drowned sailors. This has turned out (probably, depending on who you believe) to be untrue of Arans. The legends surrounding the meaning and significance of the patterning of Aran sweaters were likely developed in this century as part of a completely charming marketing ploy. (I actually find this pretty intriguing by itself. The idea that knitters came up with the Aran sweater and it's legends to supplement their meagre incomes is fantastical to me. I love stories of genuine resourcefulness.) There is very little in the way of photographs or actual historical evidence to support the idea that anybody was really knitting (or wearing) Arans until pretty recently, when they were adapted from the Gansey, and supplemented with the particular Irish artistic sensibility. They were knit for beauty.

Ganseys on the other hand, were actually worn by fishermen (and were often knit as betrothal gifts by the fisherman's lovie) and as such have some very practical details. (More on that later when I knit the very practical details.) For starters, they use a very sturdy double cast-on (or other strong techniques) to make them wear better, they are knit from a tightly spun yarn worked at a tight gauge to repel wind and water, and because the patterns were passed on knitter to knitter, by watching or telling, the patterns used vary from town to town across the British Isles. (In Gladys Thompsons cool book she collected these patterns by region.)
After a couple of rounds I knit in Joe's initials.


This is a traditional feature of a gansey, allegedly for identifying a drowned sailor. (Another feature of the gansey is that it is close fitting, so as not to wash off in the water.) Joe is a fine sailor, and unlikely to wear his gansey swimming, but I thought that it was best to include this. If I'm going to knit a handspun traditional gansey then I might as well go all out. This is an appallingly poor photo, but the initials read J D.

From here I just have to go on and on and on, around and around and around doing nothing but knitting until it measures....well. I don't know what it should measure, I'm sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I'll keep holding it up to Joe until it looks right. (I think this is also a very traditional approach.) I know it's not long enough now, so I haven't even measured it or him.

What I do know, now that I've knit a bunch of gansey, is that I am definitely not going to have enough yarn. I knit the ribbing out of one ball, then joined another ball and started alternating rows. (This is an attempt to hide any inconsistency in my spinning from one ball to the next.) I've just run out of the first ball, and I only have 13, so clearly....


I needed to wash more fleece. I'm trying not to be crushed by this realization (and have drunk a great deal of coffee and eaten a great deal of chocolate on the path to acceptance) and to embrace the opportunity to spin more wonderful yarn for this great sweater. (Sigh.)
The only thing comforting me, considering the long history of the gansey, is that I really can't be the first knitter who sat there watching her wool run out and thought "Man. In my next life, I'm going to love a smaller fisherman."

Posted by Stephanie at 5:37 PM

August 10, 2006

Natural habitat

Last night I freed myself from my self induced tower of isolation (Chained to my desk, writing a book) and headed down to Knit Night at Lettuce Knit. I didn't get much knitting done, but I remembered why it's the best S&B in the world.

1. If you are an idiot, who despite having knit about a thousand things in the round over the last 34 years, casts on 200 stitches for your darling mans gansey and then knits three rounds with a stinking twist in the aforementioned cast on, when you realize this and sort of whimper a little, the other Toronto knitters will quickly realize what has happened and immediately call for a cold alcoholic beverage. This will help immensely, as do the gentle mockings and offers of help. Gansey status?


There you go. First ever gansey picture, actually on the needles. 200 stitches (10% less than the number I'll have for the chest) and a pathetic amount of knitting that would have been a lot more if I were not an arse who rushes ahead without double checking.

2. I love this picture.


This is Zoë. She's a charming newcomer to LK and she looked so engaging sitting there with one sock on the needles and the other on her foot.

3. I'm not the only knitter with delusions of grandeur. Here's Michelle...


laughing because we are laughing because she held out this wee cuff of a potomato-whatsis sock last night and said "I'm starting to think I might not be able to finish this by Friday". We all collapsed in a heap. There is nothing quite as entertaining as us knitters "loose" relationship with space and time.

4. Remember Alice and her beautiful shawl knit from one skein of sea silk?


The pattern is at Lettuce Knit now, instead of just in Alice's head. (Go Alice Go!) It is also on my table, where I am ignoring it in favour of the book-in-progress, Icarus, a gansey, the shawl (with the open leaves, how can you fight that sort of a consensus) and two pairs of socks. Once again, you may see Rachel and Rams to lay bets on how long I shall continue to be successful. (ONE SKEIN people. Who can resist that?)

5. When I am there? I am closer to the societal normal. This is a far cry from at home where I shall now return myself to the tower of isolation, where eventually I may be rewarded for my hard work with some knitting time and this DVD, the bribe de jour. (Two episodes to go. I can't stand the suspense. Am I the only one who's completely pissed that the second half of season two is a separate set of DVDs that aren't released yet? I'm so tripped out about Sharon. I think she might still have a little too much Cylon in her for any of this to work out.)
Knitting lace, writing books, resisting sea silk, watching geek shows. Totally normal. Right?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:46 PM

August 9, 2006

Not quite

A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-Lao Tzu, 600-531 BC

The shropshire laceweight has spoken, and it is talking about an opus. A wonderful big work, an heirloom piece of lace, a real sort of undertaking. Clearly, this is where my knitting heart is right now, as I embark on the gansey and a big shawl all at the same time. My love for things that are challenging and huge has reared it's head, perhaps as some sort of response to writing so much right now, perhaps as a response to the kids being away and me being able to devote some clear thought to my goals, whatever the reason, the 3000m of Shropshire thread-like yarn suddenly seems like a really good plan. (You may feel free to guess how long this mood lasts. I suspect that Rams and Rachel H. will be running a pool by now.)

(Icarus is fine by the way. Miriam had a look and we exchanged photos and it's totally fine. I am a simple neurotic. I'll keep going.)


I started winding the wool yesterday, and I'm here to tell you that winding 3000m of laceweight takes a good long time. Hours. You can't go too fast or the wool is stretched as it comes off of the swift and into the ball. I experimented with speed a little and only discovered that winding quickly meant that I had stressed out tight little balls of yarn. That seemed an insult to the fibre, so those fast ones were re-wound. (That took longer than just winding them right the first time.) Wool that has been wound into balls that are too tight is stretched, particularly if it sits around for a while in those tight balls. Since wool has memory, this can mean that if you knit this stretched wool, that when you wash it after it's knit and the wool returns to it's original size, that you can have some gauge issues. Since I have enough gauge issues without being sabotaged by my own inferior winding, I decided not to wimp out.


I wound for so long that by the end of it my whole arm ached and I was inventing stories in my head that began with the immortal lines "It was in the days of the winding-time, and the moon rose and set over the whirling swift..."

As I wound I took breaks and consulted the Oracle, and he helped me to find exactly the pattern that I could see in my mind, as well as talking through some technical stuff. (Dude is a walking lace dictionary. Befriend him at your earliest opportunity.)


On the right is sample one, two sections of a square tablecloth in Marianne Kinzels First Book of Modern Lace Knitting. By only knitting two of the four triangles that make it a square, it's pretty easily converted into a triangular shawl.

On the left is sample two, same exact pattern, but instead of increasing two stitches in the centre leaf by way of a M3 (Knit into the front, knit into the back, knit into the front again - two stitches increased, which naturally begs the question of why this is called a Make three when it clearly only Makes two.) I've increased two by doing a paired set of yarn overs around the increase stitch. (YO, Knit one, YO). It makes it much more open, and I may prefer it. ( I may actually love it with the burning fire of a thousand suns, but the jury is still totally out about which one I'll choose.

Closed leaves...


Open leaves...


When I've worked enough of the whole thing to have a shawl, I've got a border that I've chosen to whack on there, and Bob's yer uncle, I've got a shawl. (I am making this sound unreasonably simple when the issue of how to affix the border to the shawl in the proper mathematical way while still observing the balance of the thing has me a little freaked out. I went to sleep thinking about it last night. When I woke up this morning I decided to have faith. I'll work it out when I get there.)


The astute among you will have noted that both swatches are "live" meaning that all I did was start the shawl twice, then put the live stitches onto a length of yarn (Note to self: cotton or silk would have been better than wool, getting them off of the sticky wool is proving harder than it needs to be.) and wet block them as is. This way, when I choose between them I don't need to start over again, I'll just pick up the stitches and keep knitting. Total cheat way around a swatch. I am feeling pretty freaking lucky that I'm loving the gauge and don't need to change needle size, since choosing the wrong needle is really the only way I'd have to start over again. )


I love both of them and I am torn.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:27 PM

August 8, 2006


Icarus has one more chart to go, though I'm a little stuck.


Icarus is a really great knit, but that thing has happened again where I'm really, really emotionally done with a project before it's technically done. You know the feeling? It's a lull, and not an unexpected one, but it does mean that the rows are a little bit of a slog at this point, what with there being no love between us. The great thing about knitting lace is that the love comes trotting right back the second that you block it. I'm psyched. Totally.
The only thing is...


Does this look right to you? I've been over it a hundred times, looked at the chart, looked at the pattern, looked at the photo and the three things just don't match. I think I've made a mistake, or maybe not, but for the life of me no matter how many times I look at the chart I can't see any other way for this to come out. I know that there is no error in the chart (what with a) Miriam being a genius and b) hundreds of knitters before me pinning this sucker down.) so if there is a mistake, it's mine alone.

Miriam? If you're lurking around out there...what do you think? I'd rip it back and have a do over, but I honestly can't think of anything I'd do differently, so ripping back seems like a bit of a waste. Plus,


I like what I'm getting, even if it isn't what the pattern intended for me to get, and I think it's ok to embrace serendipity in your knitting once in a while, and all may become clear in the fullness of time, or when I block it. What say you all? Right or wrong? Stay or go? Rip or carry on?

I'm going to go and contemplate all of this as I dribble coffee down the front of me, since in a triumph of good adult sense over instinct, I went to the dentist this morning and began the process of getting the 25 year old mercury out of my head. (I know, I know. The jury is out on this one.) Since I seem to have some sort of PTSD about my mouth (likely emotional fallout from having had a whole whack of teeth pulled and orthodontics in the 80's, which, if you had teeth pulled and orthodontics in the 80's you will completely understand) I am very pleased with myself for only feeling faint once, only calling my very nice dentist a few bad names (and only in my head) and booking an appointment for next week to do it again. Very grown up.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:16 PM

August 7, 2006

Why isn't there milk here?

The ladies are away with my Mum at the cottage and it's just Joe and I alone in the house for a week and the whole deadline writing plus lack of parental responsibility has just turned me into a completely feral human being. The lack of structure on my particular personality type has turned out to be just devastating. I simply don't do anything civilized. I'm sleeping, eating and writing all on my own internal schedule and I am getting a ton of stuff done, but it's all very surreal. Not having to make lunch for other people means there is no lunchtime (why cook if it's just you?) and not needing to get up in the morning means not needing to go to bed at night, and not having to be anywhere at any particular time means not knowing what time it is. This lack of children has revealed several things.

1. Our house is very quiet without three daughters in it. It is even quieter at night, I think I had never realized how much they filled the house up with just their breathing. Without them, I am prompted to wind Gansey wool just to fill up the house with a noise.


Isn't it beautiful? My own handspun, sitting there looking like real yarn.

2. I always think that if I didn't have any children that I would do all this stuff, go all these places... Now that I don't have any children I can't remember what those things are or why I wanted to do them. (I imagine that I will remember what they are on Friday, the moment the Ladies roll back into town.)

3. I wonder if the girls are wearing enough sunscreen or eating right or if the Blackflies are bad. I wonder this almost all day. The realization that I can't unplug from them is tempered with the knowledge that the minute that they walked out the door they stopped thinking about me.

4. I have figured out my writing process. I need to get bored. Really bored. Then I start thinking up stuff to entertain myself, and then I write it down. (This explains a lot about why I don't get anything at all done when the kids and Joe are around. They are a lot of things, but boring ain't one of them.)

5. We had been out of milk (and a lot of other stuff) for 4 days before Ken, who was just visiting, went to the store to get some. Joe and I had begun drinking our tea clear rather than disrupt our slothlike child-free state by going to the corner store. We are not ashamed either.

6. If you have no children/teenagers, mostly, when you clean something? It stays clean. (This brings a singular joy to my life that I can scarcely contain.)

7. Romance level is currently sitting at the top of the chart. Turns out that Joe and I will totally still make out in the kitchen if someone 15 years old doesn't scream "OH GROSS!!!" at us while we do it. Who knew?

8. Left with enough time, I will swatch for the Gansey.


(That noise you just heard was Rams and Rachel H smacking their foreheads trying to figure out what their goals in life are if they don't have a gansey to bug me about.)

I began the swatch with 4mm needles and worked my way up to a 4.5mm, then a 5mm. I was hoping (naturally) that I could work on bigger needles to make it go a little faster, but after much reflection (where I tried to convince myself to like the 5mm part of the swatch) it turns out that the fabric really looks better at 4mm.


This isn't really devastating to me (much) though I did do the math. At 5mm I was getting 4 stitches to the inch, Joe's chest is 48 inches, so my cast on would have been in the neighbourhood of 192 stitches.

At 4mm I'm getting 4.75 stitches to the inch, which means casting on 228 stitches. That's 36 more per round, or about 252 more per inch of body height, which is about NINE THOUSAND more stitches in the body than it would have been if the 5mm had looked right.

This is a very cruel lesson in gauge, and I assure you that the 4mm looks way, way better than the 5mm, or there would be no stinking way that I would be able to bring myself to accept knitting NINE THOUSAND extra stitches before I got to the sleeves. (Dude has long arms too.) Let this be listed in the big book of proof that I love this man. A lesser woman would be casting on with the 5mm right now. (I am still considering the 4.5)

9. I am contemplating this yarn...


and waiting for it to speak to me. (3000m of Shropshire laceweight from Habu in NYC. I forgot it was in the stash. My love for it is pure.)

10. I finally have time to write about Aurora, now that so much time has passed that I scarcely remember it. I rememeber that it was hot. Stupid hot. So hot that it is a wonder that anyone came. Susan chauffered me from Toronto to Aurora, and consented to take this photo with the sock before we descended upon our enabler.

The enabler in question here, was Sandra, who opened her home and (her beer fridge) and make veggie quesadillas for me and at one point, as I sat knitting in her kitchen, noshing away I took this picture. There is something so homelike about it.


Sandra laughing, the Clifford plates, the yarn, the ball winder bolted to the kitchen counter. The casual clothing, the bantying about of "eh?" in it's proper linguistic context... The butter tarts... that perennially Canadian of deserts. (They were wicked ones too...Thanks Jen!)


It was all very much a homecoming, despite the 48/118 degree heat that kept us from going anywhere near her beautiful deck. (When I think about it, that excessive heat was very Ontario as well.)
Properly fortified by the York Guild Executive, I ventured to the shop where the guild meets. Now, I've spoken to this guild before. They are a very lucky guild, in that they have acess to the upstairs room at Tove's yarn shop (Needles and Knits) which is one of my favourite yarn shops of all time. We all trucked upstairs, and I spoke to the guild while they did their level best not to faint dead away.

We kept the lights low to prevent the addition of extra heat because man....



there is just no freaking way that any air conditioner installed in Canada has the guts to deal with 48 degree heat and 60 + knitters in the upstairs floor of a yarn shop. Despite air-conditioning and large fans pointed at the knitters, several threatened to melt. (I was one of them, having selfishly - and foolishly, declined a fan out of concern for the audience.) My grandfather used to chastise me when I was little and would say I was "sweaty". "Stephanie" he would intone, "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies merely "glisten". "
He would have been very disappointed in all of us in Aurora, let me tell you. The instant I was done talking we all went downstairs where we replenished our fluids, talked, shopped and I signed books while trying not to drip on them. (Sorry again Grampa.)

Here's Boop!


Poor Boop had surgery that week, was drugged to within an inch of her life, drove from Fenlan falls and then was baked in a yarn shop. She was charming anyway, which is more than I can say I would be under similar circumstances.

Jo-Anne turned up, wearing what her daughter had informed her (and my daughter had informed me) was very inappropriate footwear.


My foot on left, hers on right. Clearly, great minds think alike. (Our heels are equally matched, by the you some idea of the freakishly small, wide, square feet I walk around on. My feet do not have a cell of elegance.)

Here's Sarah.


Holding a sock and not melting despite her recklessly warm dreads.

And here is my beloved Tove, who has an accent just like Lene and her mum Bea, and always makes me thing the best things about Danish people.


Tove was fresh back from the Icelandic knitting symposium (Knitting in iceland. I wish I was her.) and cracked me up so bad I couldn't even speak by trying to teach us all how to pronounce the names of the shawls in this book.


(This is the one that Hyrna H. is in.) She told me that the problem is that there are 36 letters in the alphabet to wrap your tongue around. I'll buy that, since there are at least ten that my mouth can't even get near.
Note to Canadians who don't want to import the book from the states? Tove has it. She has it, and it's cheap. She has it, it's cheap and she has the icelandic laceweight to go with it.


I actually have some too, since going to Tove's store always results in just the worse yarn seizure. (I am the only person in the world who didn't know that Lopi made a laceweight? Stunning news.) Totally worth the drive. Ladies? Keep that beer fridge plugged in. I'll be back.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:55 AM

August 4, 2006

Ann Arbour, Aurora, Angst And Apparently, Alliteration

Man-o-man, are the last couple of days kicking my arse. I'm absolutely fine, but writing to a deadline and hitting re-entry off the tour at the same time has just knocked me off my game and left me feeling strange. It's like all of the exhaustion that you can't cop to on the tour because if you do you'll miss a plane or screw up an event or be late for knitters just all lands on you when you stop moving. I keep sitting down to write the blog or the book and finding myself just staring straight ahead. This creates anxiety and angst about staring instead of working which apparently only reinforces the tendency to stare off into the ether. Knitting is slow too...I keep finding myself so tired that I just "hold" my knitting. I think I'm knitting, but my hands aren't moving. I've managed only a few rows on Icarus since I got home, but at least I'm onto the lace part at the bottom edge.

(The yarn is Alchemy Haiku. Colourway - Chickasaw Ground)

I finished some socks too....


I actually finished them before I left, but the ends weren't woven in so it didn't count. These are plain vanilla socks knit using my basic recipe out of the hand-painted merino/tencel from Mind's Eye Yarns. The colourway was a one-off accident I happened to snag.


This pair has joined the others in the Long Range Planning Department Box, a small concession to trying to make Christmas less crazy this year. (It is an homage to either hope or stupidity that this year I think it will work.)

Ann Arbor

This is how much waiting you do to get to Ann Arbor from Texas...


And this is how long the flight is.


(Flights, actually, since to get to Ann Arbor from Texas I had to go to Chigaco first.)

I arrived in Ann Arbor in the wee hours of the morning, and didn't see a thing. I looked, but it was dark. The next morning I ordered a full pot of coffee to my room and spent a delicious couple of hours just, well. Breathing. (I also watched something on TV about a Brady wedding that was very disheartening if you try to believe in the basic intelligence and sensitivity of humanity...but I digress.) Noonish, the lovely librarian responsible for pulling this shin-dig together fetched me up from the hotel and we went on a hunt. Lucky for me Jackie reads the blog and understands that a sock has needs, and lucky for the sock, she understood that the competition for cool things to show the sock is quite stiff.

Ann Arbor is a quirky, charming place, with loveliness and interest and students up it's ying-yang. The place is littered with young people doing interesting things and artists and music and no end of interest. Despite being really close to Canada, Michigan in general is a mystery to me, having only been (briefly) in Detroit (where we went to a liquor store where you are separated from the shopkeeper by a large brick and acrylic wall, in which is mounted a drawer that slides from his side to yours. You put your money in, slide the drawer over to him, and he puts the liquor and your change in the drawer and pushes it back. It was like buying wine from Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs or something. I know it's not an accurate picture of Detroit or Michigan, but other than my brief visit to Kalamazoo last year, it was all I had to go on.) I have a better idea now.

The sock saw the Historic Michigan Theatre


(I had to walk pretty far back from it to get it to say more than MICHI")

Nickels Arcade


The oldest Arcade in America (I think. So I was told. I didn't look it up to confirm.) Pretty neat, especially since I really thought that an arcade had to do with video games, which, it turns out, is not right at all. (Took me a long time to make the works "Historic" and "Arcade" go together in my head though.)

The best thing?


Fairy doors. Seriously. See the sock in the picture above, hanging out on the sidewalk? Look closer...


I love this. I just love it. Something about it appeals to the perennial nine year old girl inside me and (even though I made my Barbie wear pants and go on UN missions) I feel....I dunno. Girlie.

Here's another, this time inside a dress shop.


Here's one more, where the "closed" shade.....


Matches that of the door of the shop it's on.


Little children leave sparkles and pennies and goldfish crackers and crayons and drawings and notes to the fairies at these doors, and there are more...all over Ann Arbor, even in elementary schools. It's a gripping urban magic, the work of one artist and I love the idea that much of Ann Arbor is marching about their day doing very important grown up things and doesn't see them at all...while children look for fairies.



From the Fairy doors to the Ann Arbor Library, where I saw a completely reasonable number of knitters sitting in an Auditorium. I'm used to this number of knitters. I felt ok with it. (As long as we accept the new sort of ok, where standing up in front of any number of knitters is ok, which, despite the cramps I get every single time, it would appear is ok.) I took a deep breath and found out that this camera....


Was beaming my talk to 200 more knitters...upstairs in the "overflow room" watching me on cctv. (The overflow room? The overflow room? There's an overflow of knitters?) The cramp was bad. Really bad. How do you talk to people you can't see? This isn't just knitters. This is tv knitters. I didn't like this at all. I was glad to know that the library had figured out a way to avoid turning people away, but to say that I was totally tripped out would be an understatement. A serious one. Despite microphone troubles (we will discuss my angst with microphones another day) I got through. It's hard sometimes, to do whatever it is that I do at these things with that voice in the back of my head screaming "HOW IS THIS MY LIFE" all the time. I have no idea how we got to the point of an overflow room, but it points to the knitterly plan to take over the world enjoying some success.

Here's Jillian!


Jillian's one half of the genius behind Big Girl Knits
and the editor of KnittySpin, plus she's really fun.

Here's Kim


showing off her little daughter and her sweater

Shelly and Kathy are knitting Dulcimer players...


and Drew and Larry came to get a book signed for their knitter who was writing the IBCLC exam.


(My heart goes out to her. The test is long.)
Then there was Theresa, and Laureth, and Rhonda and here's Dana and her daughter.


She is holding the petition for her mate that we all signed. He is knit-blog resistant, and feels that Dana doesn't need custody of their digital camera because all she does is take pictures of her knitting with it. The petition states that the undersigned demand the immediate return of the camera so that Dana may further persue the noble art of Knitblogging. She tells the story here. 350 knitters set him straight.

Elizabeth (16 years old) brought her snowdrop shawl knit from my pattern over there in the sidebar...


She was 15 when she knit it. She's got me outclassed.

Then there was Elli (who has a great picture of my terrifying face on the overflow room screen), Melissa, Amby, Trish (who I said yesterday was in Texas but wasn't. Trish is raising money to fight breast cancer. She wants a dollar from you. I know you can do better than that. ) Tracey, and a whole knitting family,


Linda, Kate and Molly. (Are you beginning to be a little stunned by the diversity of knitters yet?) then Kendra and Amanda and Mouse.


They knit snowdrop shawls (quickly) when they heard I was coming. Ladies, I'm honoured to know you.

Then came Rae (she makes a wicked knitting messenger bag) and Sandy and Riin (you should see the wee spinning wheel she brought me. It's beautiful. Her roving is nothing to sneeze at either.)


Lynn! (who wrote about the afternoon quite eloquently here)


Be still my beating heart, it's Sarah Peasley, Hand knitter.

She had Pat in tow and man, it was nice to meet them.

There was also Teyla, Meg and Kat, Janette, Rachael, Amy, Kelly, Terri, and Vicki and I don't know who else, (if I missed you, speak up!) except one.

I had the honour my lovelies, of being attended the entire time by Our Lady Rams Of The Comments,


Seen mugging here with a large frog. (I can't quite explain that, so I shan't.) I adore Rams, and it's one of the cruelties of the internet that it lets you make friends that you don't see much. A day with Rams is a treat.

Aurora... I'm too tired. Aurora tomorrow, even though it's Saturday.
Somebody get me a coffee, will ya?

Posted by Stephanie at 5:01 PM

August 2, 2006

Keepin' Austin Weird

That's the unofficial slogan for the city of Austin Texas, and I've got to tell you, I find cherishing and encouraging weirdness a pretty endearing quality in a city. They're doing a pretty sharp job too...Austin has all the weird you care to go looking for. I straggled off the plane to Austin, hot, tired (exhausted, to be fair) and I'm sure I was unintentionally contributing to the weirdness...and I stuffed myself into a cab and managed, despite my huge freakin' hair
and rather frazzled demeanor, to get myself to the hotel, where I staggered through the door (Austin can really, really compete in the heat department) and practically lay down on the floor of the hotel while croaking out my name. "Hey" the guy behind the desk said, "I have something that some shop left here for you...." and from behind the desk, buddy lifts up a frosty, ice cold, fresh for the picking bottle of Shiner Bock Beer.
I opened the beer (yes. Right in the lobby. If you have a problem with that then you must live somewhere where the heat doesn't inspire that sort of behaviour)...and began a 24 hour love affair with Texas, Austin and Hill Country Weavers.

Me and my beer scorched our way to the hotel room where I found that the ladies were still lookin' out for me and had graciously provided some beautiful Austin Handspun, some kick-arse ass (when in Rome....) bits and peices of Austin and what was soon to become my beloved Cowboy hat. I've got to admit that up until the exact moment that I slapped that sucker on my head in the Austin sun for a walk I didn't really get cowboy hats. I thought they were sort of a cute fashion statement, but I didn't really get it. I do now. Now I understand that they are a lifesaving head management technique for Texas. The brim in the front keeps the sun out of your eyes, the long back sheds heat from the back of your neck, and if you are like me, then the whole thing holds your enormous frizzing hair down. I was driven by heat to put it on, but then I looked in the mirror.

I have long been of the opinion that I don't look good in hats. I've tried many, I've had an open mind...goodness knows that in a desperate attempt to be both stylish and not frostbitten in my native country I've worn them anyway, but the horrible truth is that hats...all hats, up until now, have made me look phallic. My head is too round or something. It's a bad look. (You know it's a bad look when even your own mother confirms that you look a little like a penis when you put on hats...which my own lovely mother has done.) Imagine my shock then, when I discovered that the problem this whole time has been that I have a head shape for the wrong climate. It is a horrible thing to discover that, as someone who comes from a city with a 58 day summer, someone who is cursed to wear toques for all of the other days of the year, looks...despite being far to old to lay claim to the word....


pretty cute in a Cowboy hat.

(For those of you who will inevitably ask...Here is how I look in a hat that is more appropriate to surviving the climate of the country in which I live.

Fate is a cruel, cruel mistress.)

Me and my cowboy hat went from the hotel out to dinner with the Hill Country Weavers ladies (Hi Suzanne! Hi Deb!) and went to dinner (Austin has great mexican) and to see the bats.


This is the view from the Congress Avenue bridge, under which lives North America's largest urban bat colony. (There's a better picture of the bats on that page.) Come twilight (which we missed by a little) millions of bats stream out from beneath this bridge. There are bats in the picture above, though you can't see them. To comfort me for missing the best of the bats, the sock found this guy at the local Bat Shop.


Walking back through Austin, this dude was found, doing his best to keep Austin Weird.


He charmed me completely, especially when he not only held the sock without question (unusual response to being accosted with the request) but by kneeling to receive the sock, and then hid his face with his hat when I took the picture. I wondered for some time who he was hiding from. (Ex ? FBI? Bats?)

I collapsed in my hotel then, but got back up in time to take a moment before the event the next morning to pay my respects on Joe's behalf to Stevie Ray Vaughan.


It felt appropriate, since I was visiting on behalf of my guitar playing mate, to lay the sock at the feet of the statue. Anything less would have been disrespectful.

I went from trying not to disrespect Stevie, to trying not to disrespect anyone else as I spoke at the Baptist Church.


Once I got over the shock that I would be speaking from the pulpit, (likely becoming the first Harlot to do so) I think it went pretty well. Deb introduced me, showing off her Chibi to help me understand that everything really is bigger in Texas.


Yo! Austin!



Since I arsed up the pictures again (this camera is having trouble with low light) I'll point out that Jo has really great pictures and stories of how it went. (Picture of my big hair too...) Trish has more. From the church we went back next door, where in true Austin style, the ladies had knitters and yarn and cold beer and pralines and all manner of yummy stuff. I met Janna, who trucked it all the way from San Antonio. (Knit buds in tow.)


(You will note that it will appear here that I am signing in a garage. I was. It will stun my fellow Canadians to tell you that this was an Air Conditioned Garage. I swear it.)



It was her birthday. (I did not sing to her. If you have ever heard me try to sing, you know that this is a remarkable kindness.)

This, in a heart stopping moment that stunned me completely, even though I was expecting to find her there somewhere....


Stalker Angie!! (I did note that she's a pretty crappy stalker, considering how far I had to fly for her to pull it off.) Angie tells the story of our meeting so well that it would be a disservice to try and attempt it here. Go read. I'll wait. I especially love the part where her mate calls her "Dork Vader" when she told him that he underestimates the power of the blog side. (He does. They all do.)

Christine (Blog here, podcast here.) gave me a texas snowman.


(It's just water and a hat. I find that hysterical, but I am a simple woman.)

Staci and Julia, who have something in common.


(This is just my kind of crazy by the way. Two women with matching knitting tattoos that I wish I had the nerve to get.)



Nice to meet you eh? (These little islands of Canadian mean the world when you're away.) Carolyn was another one of those bloggers who really bring home that the people on the other side of emails are real. It was trippy to meet her. (Because you know, meeting a million knitters all over the continent while you truck around a sock talking about knitting isn't at all trippy.)

(Anybody but me noticing that the stream of knitters into the signing seems endless? 200+ knitters takes a while to get through.)

This is Lianne, Laura and Barbara...


who came all the way from Louisiana. My American geography, while improving, is still quite sketchy, but that sounded like they came really far.

Now, when I was in Oklahoma, in the basket of very nice Oklahoma stuff was a facecloth (knit by a Texan) with the state of OK on it. This amused Susan to no end, so here she presents me with...


A facecloth with the state of Texas on it! (She finished it in line. This is my kind of knitter, right down to the wire.) As if this were not charming enough, in line shortly after her?


The Texan knitter who knit the Oklahoma facecloth. Wild. Totally wild. The world is not as big as we thought.
(This means that I have facecloths for two of the 50 states. I am considering how much touring I would need to do to have a whole set. It's staggering.)

Here's Corey,


He came at the end of the signing and produced a book that he had come to get for his girlfriend Reagan (in GA) who couldn't make it. It's a fine man that will stand in that heat for a knitterly cause Reagan, be sure and give him some sugar.

Finally, as the icing on the cake (as if the cake needed icing)


David. David is the second man I've met not afraid to wear a utilikilt in public, and not coincidentally, the other is Ken, who also knits.
This leads me to hope that all male knitters will take to the practice, which would be fine with me, since utilikilts are HOT. Really hot.
(David was also the guy who sent me a spider identification email when I mentioned (to everyone at the event) that I had killed with my shoe (on the advice of Juno, who was on the phone with me when I discovered it) a brown spider the size of a HUMVEE in my hotel bathroom. According to David it was a brown recluse. It was huge, it scared the crap out of me, and I'm really glad I didn't know what it was until I left Austin.)

Who else? Dene, Diane S, Sarah, Susan Rachel (who brought her own Ken), Mary, The Central Houston Stitch & Bitch, Kim, Sarah, Amy, Kelly....the knitters went on and on. I had a wonderful time, and as I waited to leave Austin, heading for Ann Arbor, there was one more knitter...


but I didn't get her name. I just spotted her in the wild at the airport and was too shy to talk to her. I hope she lives in Austin. It's a good place for knitters.

on to Ann Arbor...

Posted by Stephanie at 6:58 PM

August 1, 2006

Home, home, home.

I'm home, and despite being telling absolutely breathless things about the heat in the desert to anyone would listen, I've come home to discover that it is just as hot here as anywhere I've travelled. (Today has a humidex of 48 degrees. That's 118. That's hot.) That Toronto is steaming away in competition with the American Southwest likely means the world is ending, but I digress.)

I have made the executive decision, as the knitter in charge of this blog, to fall over face down onto my bed (instead of blogging) until it is time for me to get up and go to the event in Aurora tonight. ( 7:30 at the York Region Knitters Guild meeting at Needles & Knits (15040 Yonge Street).

I am imagining that my fine Canadian compatriots will have laid in a supply of beer, yarn and excellent company, which will restore my travel weary self entirely. (I will quietly admit that I wish you were all coming here to my house so I didn't have to travel to Aurora...but I bet it's going to be worth it.)

Tomorrow, long juicy blog posts about Austin and Ann Arbor, knitters, glory...and the discovery that I look fabulous in a Cowboy hat. (That last one is something that you just don't discover living in Toronto.) for now....Bed.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:23 PM