October 31, 2006

Say nothing, in three examples

1. Megan (15) announced that she is going to be "Tinkerbell" for Hallowe'en and produced a dress the size of....well. Tinkerbell. I reminded Megan of the purpose that clothing serves (to provide warmth and protection from the elements) pointed out that it is winter in Canada, and asked her, really rather sincerely whether or not she was planning on trick or treating in a red light district. Megan responded that if Tinkerbell could wear a strapless mini dress in a Disney movie rated for little kids, that surely I could have no complaints with this attire. I countered with the fact that Tinkerbell in the movie is ANIMATED and had no real breasts and bum under there and also she had wings to fly away if she got cornered in an alley wearing her hussy dress, and that Tinkerbells mother must have been an idiot to let her out of the house that way.

Meg said that she bet that Tinkerbell snuck out and changed her clothes at a party because her mother was totally out of touch with everything that mattered.

I took a deep breath and said nothing (a huge parenting skill.)

2. Joe had the phone with him while he took a bath today, since he couldn't take the chance of missing an important call. (I actually believe that this was more because he was playing a game of phone keepaway so that I couldn't call anyone and thusly shift the balance of phone possession, but I have no hard proof.) Halfway through his bath he decided that he could give up the phone for 10 minutes and called me to come get it. As I started up the stairs I heard him making another call and turned around and went back into the living room. A few minutes later he sang out to me again that I could have the phone, and I went upstairs and collected it.
Me: Thank you.
Joe: No problem. Why didn't you come get it when I called you first?
Me: Because you were using the phone.
Joe: Not really.
Me: How do you "not really" use the phone?
Joe: I wasn't.
Me: You were.
Joe: It was just a quick one.

Me: Is this phone wet? This phone is all wet!
Joe: Not really.
Me: Not really? It's an electronic device and it's all wet. Water and electronics don't go.
Joe: It's ok.
Me: How is it ok?

Joe: It's low voltage.

I said nothing (an excellent marriage skill.) I just dried off my phone, and I knit.


3. Phone call with my sister this afternoon:
Me: How are you?
Erin: I'm exhausted. I've had quite a day.
Me: What were you doing?
Erin: Drawing chalk outlines of a friend in a hundred dead guy poses on sidewalks all over Toronto.
Me: Why?
Erin: Steph...it's glow in the dark chalk.

Say nothing. Knit, knit, knit


Happy Hallowe'en.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:07 PM

October 30, 2006

Not for lunch.

For about six years now, Joe has owned a custom built recording studio here in Toronto. Designed perfectly, it was 2600 square feet of the stuff that music is made of, and every inch of it packed with things that make music geeks all excited. (I know there are music geeks out there and some of you are going to ask me now what these things are. I don't know. I hear words like Studer, Neve, Drawmer and McCurdy. He speaks of Analog and tubes and resisters. He can't explain the fleeces in the basement, I can't explain the boxes at the studio. It's an understanding.) This studio isn't just a business for Joe, it's also where he has his stuff. It's where he talks on the phone, it's where he can take things apart and leave disassembled stuff in a box on his desk. It's where he can have paintings I don't like and posters I think are stupid...it's his space entirely, and it keeps me from having to have all of that stuff in our tiny house. It's good. Really good. I work here where I have manuscripts and wool lying around, he works there where he has albums and wires everywhere...nobody gets in each others way. (Much. There is a small issue with my office also being his home and whether or not that means he has the right to sit in my office chair and touch my desk hang out here during any part of my workday, but I'm sure that by the time I'm 84 we'll have hashed that out.)

This month, however, Joe's landlord suddenly decided that he was not going to be in the landlord business anymore, and whammo, Joe doesn't have a business any longer. (I really think this is harder to take than a bankruptcy. Closing a successful business bites.) Joe will start the business again when we find another location to build a studio in, or maybe Joe will begin a venture of another nature, but these things take months to sort out, and until that happens Joe has had to vacate the old space. There are three problems with this.
1. Joe is unemployed freelancing now.
2. Joe's stuff is EVERYWHERE. All the big stuff, consoles, tape machines, that kind of thing went to storage, but if Joe's going to freelance, a lot of his equipment needs to be set up and accessible, and that means this is in the kitchen.


This is in the basement. (Formerly known as the house of Washie)


Worst of all (and a clear violation of home sharing rules) this stuff is in my office. My sweet little office, my room of my own...


My space. (There is yarn and needles in that cupboard...now totally blocked by sound equipment.) There's even more in the backyard waiting to come in.


Joe is working hard to move stuff in and out, but right now it's a lot of traffic, all through the tiny office I'm clearly not going to be working in for a few days.

We have a 1300 square foot house with a family of five in it, and even just bringing part of a 2600 square foot studio into this place is way, way too much. (Truthfully, if you have a family of five in a house this size, a bar of soap can be a difficult addition to negotiate.) If one more thing with a resistor or a transistor comes into this house we're going to have to start going outside to change our minds...and that's not even the worst of it.

3. Joe is home. All day. With me. In this house, which, during the day is not in fact our home, but my office. He is drinking coffee. (That means I keep going into the kitchen and finding no coffee. That is a problem.) He is talking on the phone. (It is daytime. Nobody should be talking here.) He is turning on the tv (Dude? No tv in the office.) He is organizing his stuff....well. I can't really complain about that. Not if I want the kitchen, office and backyard cleaned up, but you know what I mean. I love this man, I really do, but this is My Space. I work here. I write here and there should be no other people drinking coffee while talking on the phone in my space. I feel sure of this. So sure, in fact that I am hostile and edgy, annoyed and bothered - as well as locked in the bedroom.

This is not part of my system, and I really do like, love, need my system. The system is the only thing that helps me get anything done at all. I know this is temporary, I know this is necessary and I am certainly ever so sympathetic to how hard this is for my darling man. I have taken deep breaths and unkinked my shoulders and I am working hard to remember that this sort of thing is part of being a team...but it doesn't change the fact that I'm on a deadline and there's a hairy coffee drinking dude surrounded by wires and tubes talking on a phone in my our office.

I'm reminded of my Great Aunt Helen. My Uncle Don had finally retired and after 50 years of marriage and spending her days alone I wondered how Helen would like having Don home with her all the time. I called and asked her how it was going. "I don't know dear" she sighed "I have to tell you, this might not be working out. I really married Don for better or for worse... not for lunch."

I get that now. Reach over that amplifier and pass me a coffee.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:29 PM

October 27, 2006

In no particular order.

I've tried, but cannot make the things I wanted to talk today go together about in any sort of a charming and cohesive way. This established, I shall no longer attempt it. Be prepared for galloping segueways and hopeless lack of reason.

1. KnittyOtter writes:

Do you have an itemized inventory list of your yarns/roving/kits or anything? With so much it can be a bit of a hassile to dig through when you want to find something.

Sorry. I thought I could answer this but I'm laughing too hard.
(The short answer would be "no". My Stash is of the Free Range variety.)

2. Juno and I took the sock to Princeton. She's been bugging me to post pictures, so to appease the woman (plus I am sucking up so she will leave me her new wheel when she departs this earth) here they are.





As an aside, I noted while I was there that Princeton is exactly the sort of school that reveals all my biases. I see all that ivy and architecture and (Independently of their educational reputation) I think "Wow. You could really learn something good here." I've probably seen one to many movies.

3. I finished the Harlotty socks.


Pattern: Feather and fan sock from Socks, Socks, Socks. Yarn "Harlotty" colourway in Socks That Rock from Blue Moon (if you email them I hear tell that you can get your own skein.) A note about this pattern: I don't know what mystic thing warps the time space continuum when you start...but these are the fastest socks in the world to pull off. I can't explain it. Totally trippy.

4. I am knitting new socks. These socks. These incredible socks.


These are the Kitri Socks from The Tsock Tsarina, where I had a wee accident at Rhinebeck. I am in love. The sock is knit in a fan pattern that's a trip and a half, but the real excitement is the lace cuff. The beaded lace cuff. The beaded lace cuff with the beads PRE-STRUNG on the yarn. (Sorry. That last thing was the clincher for me.) I am delirious with the joy of it.

5. Note to whomever ate the last Jamaican veggie patty from that freaky good shop in the downstairs of Bathurst Station that I had in the fridge for my lunch: It should be that the wife, mother, organizer and Commander in Chief of this family that can put a savory pastry in the fridge for later without fear that the plague of teenagers who come in and out of this house at a thousand miles and hour will scarf it down while I knit a sock, sleep, bathe or earn a living with which to purchase the groceries, housing and pants that you so desire. I do not know which member of this family ate it...and judging from the wave of denial I encountered during the first stage of my investigation this morning, I suspect that I shall never know, but let each of you understand this.

I'm watching you, and I am not above laying a trap.

That will be all.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:53 PM

October 26, 2006

The Plan and How it worked.

I left Toronto for Rhinebeck with a pretty good plan for wool shopping avoidance. I recognized in myself my susceptibility to become overly excited in the presence of wool (I blame fumes) and my special vulnerability to the ways of other knitters. I've got stash issues lately, and I'm trying to reel it in. I'm not stash dieting, because we all know that works with wool about as well as it does with food. (Lose two pounds of merino, gain four of mohair because you felt deprived.) Nope, the only answer to getting a hold of the stash is long term sensible change. These last few months the stash has outgrown it's space and although I do not feel that it is a problem to use wool decoratively, I have issues with using it structurally, and that's where we're headed. (I have considered doing whatever it takes to contain the stash until one of the girls goes off to University and the stash can have its own room, but I think that when Amanda goes she won't go far, and worse than that I'm starting to realize that explaining to Meg and Sam that they still have to share a room because "Mama's a little loose with the wool money" isn't going to get me that Mother of The Year Award that burn for.) Storage issues aside, there's some really great stuff in the stash and I want to use it. Everything in there is something I adore and deserves to come into the sun a little. Burying it under further acquisition is not doing it justice. Furthermore, (the use of the term "furthermore" signifies that I have given this a great deal of thought) I have come to be convinced that the secret to living a calm, organized, spiritually centred life is possessing less stuff, and purchasing things makes there be more stuff. Therefore (another word indication thoughtfulness) I came up with a Rhinebeck plan and attempted to follow it.

Point: I would not purchase anything that I could get at a local yarn store. I would seek only the excellent and rare, the unique and spectacular. I would only buy things that I loved. Really loved.

Score: Excellent. This rule allowed for a small Morehouse Merino purchase (ONE skein...a personal best) and for a small baggie of naturally coloured baby Camel/silk roving from Fiber Kingdom that literally makes me weak in the knees. There are no camels in Toronto.

Point: I would not purchase anymore of anything that was already in the stash, regardless of other points.
Score. Whoops.


A Grafton Fiber batt. Mea Culpa. (In my defense, that was inevitable, and there is only one.)

Point: I would not purchase anything on the first day. Saturday would be for consideration, contemplation and assessment. I would simply not remove my wallet from my purse on this day, but instead admire the goods and sleep on the possibilities.

Score: Not good, but who really nails a new technique straight out of the gate. The Grafton batt was obtained on the first day, and...err...this.


This is a sock kit from Tongue River Farms. It has a book with the patterns for six really, really beautiful pairs of socks and three skeins of naturally coloured icelandic sock yarn with which one can make all six pairs. Six pairs of socks, six patterns and nearly endless entertainment for $60? I'm only human, and I'm pretty smart. It would have been irresponsible and foolish not to buy it and it looked like they were going fast. This was in my hands within about two seconds of sighting.


Successful delays include this Foxhill Farm Cormo that I "visited" four times before buying. (Four times! You hear that? I'm a tower of strength. If you could feel how soft and cushy this is you would be so impressed. Four times.) I also got this kit from Shelridge Farms, which I have wanted for three years. (Sorry guys, I don't know what's wrong with that link. It's supposed to go to the Border Collie Shirt tail.) I've had a long running deal with myself that if it was ever there at the end of a show I would get it...and lo. This time it is mine.

Point: I would not purchase anything that I already own just so that I could use the stuff that I bought before I got home. This point was designed to stop me from buying needles and spindles so that I could cast on/spin stuff just purchased. I'm an "instant gratification takes too long" sort of girl, and have been guilty in the past of buying sock needles to start socks on the way home from the yarn store...even though I have 25 sets of decent sock needles at home.

Score: Nobody's perfect,


and in my defense, that little spindle is exceptionally good, totally appropriate for the fibre (that's the camel/silk) very beautiful and was made by my friend and yours, S. Kate. I started spinning that stuff before left the festival. Some things are too good to walk away from.

Point: I would not claim that yarn "doesn't count" because it was on sale, very beautiful or present in small amounts. (Sock yarn included.)

Score: I did pretty well, with one tiny exception, but we may have to do an intervention with Cassie, since she tried this game with an enormous bag of unprocessed fleece, claiming that it "didn't count" because it was going to the processors instead of to her home. Right. Is that a receipt in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Point: I would only use cash and I would not use the cash machine at the fair.

Score: Also well done, and to further impress you, I came home with leftover money and didn't steal any money out of Juno's purse while she was sleeping.

Point: I would resist peer pressure and not buy something just because everybody else was getting it.



Let's just let that big bag from Spinners hill speak for itself. Shall we?

That's it. That's all I got, well. Except for this.


We'll talk about that later. It broke a couple of rules, but it's a sock kit, so it doesn't count.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:47 AM

October 24, 2006

In the woods

Use what talents you possess--for the woods would be silent if no birds sang but the best.

-Henry Jackson van Dyke.


I think that we, as knitters (and often as women, but that's a long and more complex thing) often diminish our skills. You make something beautiful, you sweat, you curse, you use a calculator and maim reams of graph paper, you rip, you redo, you cultivate a skill...you hang tough and you churn out something remarkable. Something that is the end result of hours and hours of your life and effort, and you feel pretty darned proud of yourself. Then someone walks up to you and says "Wow! Did you make that? That's fantastic/complex/clever" or "You are very talented" and then we as knitters turn to them, look them dead in the eye and say "No, no...it was easy" or "I just followed a pattern" or "It's not that hard...you could do it."


This is an interesting thing to do, considering that we so often complain that we aren't taken seriously as artists or skilled people, and that knitting remains largely undervalued. (We're back to the excellent larger question about women in general again, but I'm resisting.) This desire to make everything we do seem easy, our uncomfortableness with the recognition of our talents, it's a unique approach. Do you think this is something other people do with their skills? Do lawyers say "It was nothing"? Nope. They say "That's $250 an hour. It took me a long time to learn how to do this." How about National League Hockey players? No way. They cop to working out and practicing hours and hours a day. Artists don't say "It was easy." they tell you how they got there, and then because they have respect for their efforts...so do we.


Screw it. Knitting is a skill and some of the stuff we make is a huge reflection of the time we put into developing our skills and from now on I'm going to try and hold myself to a higher standard. I'm going to cop to it being hard when it is. I'm not going to pretend a fancy lace shawl of my own reckoning just fell off my needles the way that sweat falls off wrestlers and just blush myself off demurely into a corner.


The next time someone comes up to me and tells me they think my knitting is awesome, I'm going to do my level best to look them in the eye and say tell them the truth. I'm going to say "Thank you. It was a challenge, but I did it."


My wedding shawl (a little late for the wedding) photographed in Washington State Park on my way home to Toronto yesterday.

Approx. 2000m Habu Textiles Shropshire laceweight on 3mm needles. Top portion inspired by a Tablecloth pattern I adapted, found in The First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, The border adapted from Mediterranean Lace found in A Gathering of Lace, and the two patterns were joined together by me in a wave of hard work, sheer luck and wizardry involving some manner of increasing and integration I shall surely never be able to repeat....

...and I am proud.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:06 PM

October 23, 2006

Rhinebeck Hangover

In place of words (or a very great many of them...) I give you the weekend in pictures.

Three bloggers finish their sweaters on a long car ride.


This sheep likes me.


I like these wheels.


Sheep again.


More sheep. (There are a lot of kinds.)


Stitchy signs books. (Gads I laughed. See the cookies? They are $15.95, but they come with a free book. Stitchy tells you this after you take a bite.)


Some girl playing some instrument. (Actually Hannah Mason, playing the nyckelharpa, thanks to the folks who told me.)


Bloggers fill the hotel lobby and freak out the staff.


Cate teaching a complete stranger how to spin. (Another one bites the dust.)


Bloggers as far as they eye can see at the meet-up, a good time had by all. I'm going to go lie in my new wool until my plane home.
It was grand.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:22 AM

October 20, 2006

Be The Pin

One rainy New Jersey evening, two knitters blocked a wedding shawl.
They started with a soak a little Eucalan and warm water.


The shawl did not disintegrate in water. (I always fear this.)
We put down Juno's interlocking foam floor tiles (they are freaking brilliant) and ran blocking wires through the top edge. This was a reasonable expenditure of human time. Then we began to pin.


This was an unreasonable expenditure of human time. It took two quick pinners one and a half hours of total pinning immersion.


We pinned out the centre line, we pinned out the large points, and then, oh then my gentle knitters, then...
After a while, time suspended. Pins were placed. Pins were replaced. Pins were adjusted. Arses cramped. Thighs seized, Spasms set in places where we didn't know we had places. It became almost meditative, like entering a trance to walk on coals.


Each loop of the crochet cast off was pinned out. Every. Single. One. By the end we were blurry and folded, more or less permanently into this position. (If you see us at Rhinebeck, know that it is a blocking injury that has reduced us to our crone-like posture. Waving some yarn above head level may help to unkink us.)


Each pin in place...we spritzed it with water. (It has dried a little bit much while we pinned.)


Imagine the pins. Boggle.


Pain for Beauty. The shawl, in all it's glory is being has been transported to Rhinebeck (we draped it over our luggage in the back of the Jeep so it didn't lose it's block)


...where I shall take it's portrait and wear it the whole day. I've very proud. It might be the most beautiful thing I've ever made.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:02 PM

October 19, 2006

A little free time.

I'm feeling better and I'm in New Jersey. I'm not sure if those two things are related, but I'd be hazarding a guess that you could expect that if you take a slightly flagging mum/wife/knitter/writer and absolve her of maternal responsibility, toss her on a plane, install her in a good friends house, hand her a glass of wine and promise her a fabulous sheep and wool festival that she'll perk right up.

In fact, while I do miss wiping orange juice off the kitchen floor and arguing with teenagers because it is my life's work to deny them all the things that would make them happy, this time away from home (I know. It's only been a few hours, but that's enough if you're the one who cleans the toilet.) has already paid off.


That's all the pieces of the Diarufran sweater, knit, but unblocked. Looks okay to me. (That's an understatement. I love it. I love it deeply and passionately and if it does not fit me in real life the way it does in my imagination I shall be sorely ticked.) It needs a swish, a sew up and a neckband. (I am contemplating more picot edging.)


And this....


This is the wedding shawl, finally finished.


There's a 6.5 hour crochet cast-off on that bad boy, and I love everything about it. Now, I know what you're thinking...you thought it would look better, but do not forget the magic of blocking lace. This shawl will be a very different thing after the ritual blocking. That brief dunk into miracle waters, the adrenalized application of wires and guy-lines, the assiduous and thorough pinning of points and edges...the enraptured reveal of detail and lightness...


Oh yeah baby. Oh yeah. Blocking lace just never gets old. I can't wait.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:56 AM

October 17, 2006


Sigh. I am not well, again. This is definitely starting to wear a little thin on me, although in an attempt to be optimistic, I've decided to note that a little illness for a knitter can be a good thing. It is an excellent excuse to sit and knit the better part of a day, and absolute permission to drink tea quietly on a cold and rainy day while making pretty snappy time on a really big shawl. (I can't be the only knitter who has ever fantasized about a vague ankle sprain that would keep me seated and choreless for a week or so...can I?)

In the meantime, to distract you from the fact that this is a total blog cop out, I present a game. Last night Ken and Sam played Scrabble.


Here's the board:


Here are Ken's letters.


(Really. Bummer, eh?)
Needless to say, Sam won that game, but I'll send some snazzy sock yarn to the person who can come up with what would have been his best option...as judged by Ken. Ken's a pretty interesting guy. There's no way to predict what criteria he may use. It is equally possibly that he is looking for total points scored or charm. No way to know and I'm certainly not going to fence him in.
Do your best.

(Answering Lene's question before she asks in the comments. Yes.
Your try has to be in english. Danish is totally cheating.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:40 PM

October 16, 2006

Missing time located

So all weekend long I worked on the wedding shawl.
I'm determined that even if I didn't finish it in time for my wedding, (a disappointment that still burns a little bitter) that at least the thing should go to Rhinebeck. It would too, except it is taking forever. Absolutely forever. I knit and knit and knit, and after a good long session I've got nothing. Last night the kids and I rented a movie and I sat down and knit my way through the whole movie. 107 minutes. Non-Stop knitting.


Now, this surprises me because as a general rule, I'm a fast knitter.
I'm reaping the benefits of 33 years of practice, and I'm pretty darned quick. I'm not Wannietta (who is officially the fastest knitter in North America) or Eunny or Wendy or anybody like that... but I've got me a little street cred, and I usually don't embarrass myself, but TWO ROWS on a shawl in 107 minutes? That's a humiliation.


There are, admittedly, a lot of stitches in a row, but still, something is wrong with the time space continuum on this one. I would begin a row and time would practically stop. It would suspend, the stitches seemingly endless, a half a row creeping by, each second dripping as molasses. In the time that I knit a row, whole babies could be born. Kings dethroned, economies ruined. This shawl is so slow to knit on that I took to giving myself a "whoo hoo" and a cuppa tea each time I hit the halfway mark on a single row.
This shawl is going so slowly that the other day when I realized that I had miscounted the chart and instead or 8 rows remaining, I had 10, it just about broke my spirit. What is it about this shawl that's making it so slow? It isn't me.... See this?


Yo. A whole sock. Cast it on Friday, cast it off Sunday. That's good time for a sock. Darned good time. (That's the Harlotty colourway from Socks That Rock. I'm so proud of it...I think it's really me. All seventies appliance colours. Beauty.)


More proof. The new Diarufran sweater, booting along. There's a sleeve, a back, most of a front. See? I can too get things done. I understand that there's a pretty big difference between a wee sock or a stockinette sweater on 4.5mm needes, but doesn't it seem odd to you that I could do most of a whole sleeve in an evening...or TWO ROWS?

I was trying to explain to Ken that I was seriously bummed about my speed on the shawl when he pointed out that they were long rows. I thought it was nice of him to try and make me feel better, but frankly , that can't be it either. No way. I've done tons of shawls, some with 400 or 500 stitches on the needles near the end. It is not a big deal, and certainly not a cosmic time-deal breaker. I reiterated that to him and stressed the TWO ROW issue. I'll admit that I was thinking that Ken was being to nice to me, as well as ignoring the clear mystery I was trying to convey to him. In a wave of frustration, I tried to prove to him that the rows aren't that long, and it isn't that hard and that truth be told, I thought we needed to look a little deeper at this. Maybe call a paranormal research group that investigates missing time or something. At the very least I thought he should stop looking at me like that while I tried to explain it.

I counted the number of stitches in a repeat and counted my repeats.
Then I sat down.
Then I recounted.
Then I checked my math.

880 stitches in a row.

Never mind.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:51 PM

October 13, 2006

That Flat Scout

Some time ago (too long really, but I plead book related insanity and shortages of time) Flat Scout came to Toronto. Flat Scout is the two-dimensional buddy of the Real Not Flat Scout, who did a fabulous job of shepherd(ess)ing me around Albuquerque when I was there. Since The Real Not Flat Scout was not coming anytime soon, she sent her way less interesting envoy. Flat Scout. Our Mission? Show her Toronto. We did our level best. Our first attempt? We gave Flat Scout and a camera to the children and sent them out into the world. This was not as effective as one would have hoped. (Next time we shall send the children with Flat Scout, a camera and spare batteries.)Several wonderful opportunities at The Canadian National Exhibition (it's like a county fair, but for the whole country) were lost, though the girls did try to get Flat Scout and the Canadian International Airshow in the same shot.


Those planes are fast though. Undaunted, the girls stopped in to see Hank. Undaunted by laminated cardboard hotties, Hank immediately grasped the importance of his guest and dressed up in his Spiderman muscle suit for the occasion.


From there, Joe and I took over. Armed with fresh batteries and faced with an epic rainstorm, we took to Toronto's streets. What the hell. We do it all the time with a sock.
Where to go first? Our favourite...


Little India. I thought that since Flat Scout was used to hanging around fibre artists she might enjoy an Indian silk shop. She was moved I think. (That's more than I can say for the owners. Their son tried to translate about what we were doing, but the words "Flat Scout" "New Mexico" and "Knitbloggers" apparently don't translate well into Punjabi. We settled on calling her a "Tourist". )

We continued East and went to The Beach,


and proved to Flat Scout that there is surfing on Lake Ontario.


We like to pretend she was stunned. (Frankly, not much seems to impress her.) We took her to Toronto's Historic Distillery District.


It's Toronto's only pedestrian only district and full of galleries, arts centres, dance and things to do. (There's a Spa too. Flat Scout made some noise about that. We looked the other way and went to Chinatown...


where Flat Scout did no better at identifying vegetables than we do.
We hit Old City Hall (1899)


New City Hall


We took her to Yonge Street, the longest street in the world, and to the Financial District.


Joe wanted to take her to eat a breaded eggplant sandwich in St. Lawrence Market...


but I pointed out that she needed to still be "Flat" Scout when she left. (If you do nothing else in Toronto, eat the eggplant sandwich at Mustachio's at the bottom of the stairs in the centre of the market. I hate eggplant, but I love these. Turns out just about everything can be yummy if you slice it thin and deep fry it.)

We were almost done with Flat Scout, but there was one more thing we wanted to do with her.


We took her for a pint (or two) at the 'Shoe. The Horseshoe Tavern (Do call it "the shoe" if you want to sound local) is a club that's been open since 1947. On any given night of the week this clubs got the cream of the crop hanging out, and there's no end to the interesting people you'll met. Flat Scout sat in a room that's hosted Blue Rodeo, Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip, Melissa Ethridge, The Watchmen, Big Sugar, Amanda Marshall, Wide Mouth Mason, Great Big Sea, Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Band, The Blues Brothers, Prairie Oyster, The Police, Hootie & The Blowfish, Wilco, Ben Harper, Leahy, The Ramones, Cramps, Dick Dale, Bruce Cockburn and, in one of their surprise Toronto events (1997) The Rolling Stones. (The Stones actually have a close relationship with Toronto.) In any event...Flat Scout seemed unmoved by all of that too...and unlike Real Not Flat Scout, she can't really handle her beer.

We pitched for home, where Flat Scout hung out on top of the piano for a while (I was writing a book and getting married) until today, when I showed her that I had finished some socks:


Opal colour 226, 2mm needles, my standard sock recipe

That I was thinking about some more socks with some really special yarn.


More about that on Monday...


and I proved to her that I'm still working on the Wedding shawl, even though it missed the wedding.

Who gets Flat Scout next?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:23 PM

October 12, 2006

One row handspun scarf

( If you're not a spinner and you don't want to be and you don't want to wade through this, the recipe for the scarf is at the end.)

I'm sure that this is a subtle element of my personality and that nobody has really noticed, so I'll point out to you that I may be just a smidge on the obsessive side. This wee quirk occasionally pays off, and my fixation over the last 24 hours with the Grafton Fiber batt has totally encouraged this trait. I loved the progression of colours, and I was determined to have a project at the end of it that reflected that.

This can be sort of tricky with spinning. How you pull something off the batt, whether you spin woollen or worsted, pre-draft or not...they all effect the result you get, with occasionally unpredictable results. (I actually have to credit Deb Menz with helping me to figure this out. Her book Color in Spinning really helped me learn how I could spin to get what I want, instead of spinning the way I like to and learning how to enjoy the element of surprise. I recommend it.) It totally worked. I took strips off the batt, working from one side to the other, spun singles 1/3 the grist of the final yarn (or what I thought would be the grist of the final yarn), navajo plied it as one continuous yarn, and knit.






(I feel so clever I can hardly stand it.) It totally worked, and I couldn't be more thrilled with the end product. Wanna make one?


Yarn: About 12 wraps per inch, or roughly a worsted weight.
Needles: 5mm
Gauge: I got 20 stitches to 10cm in pattern.
Size: Mine is about 13cm (5 inches) wide, and about 135cm (53 inches) long. That's pretty little, but it's enough to go round my neck, knot in the front and tuck into my coat. If I had more yarn I would have gone on for another 15-20cms (6-8 inches).

Start: Cast on 26 stitches (to make it wider or narrower add or remove stitches in groups of 4 )

Row 1: *knit 2, knit into the back of the next stitch, purl 1. Repeat from * till there are 2 stitches left. Knit 2.

Repeat that one row every row until you can stand it no longer, your scarf is long enough or you run out of yarn, whatever comes first.


Cast off.

This pattern is quick, easy, has only one row to learn, is reversible, looks good in any gauge, is easy to make wider or narrower (making it awesome for handspun) and looks (I believe) fabulous.

Final step?


Put it on, note how nicely it goes with your fall coat and go walk around Bloor West Village (or some neighbourhood near you if you don't live here) pretending to buy vegetables while waiting for someone to ask you where you bought your scarf.
Gloat. (Nicely)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:00 PM

October 11, 2006

Dead to you

Dear Linda Diak,

Remember me? I'm the polite Canadian spinner who keeps politely coming to your Grafton Fiber booth at all of the fibre shows and quietly buying your cool looking batts and then bringing them home and using them for decorative rather than spinning purposes? Ringing a bell?

In any case, I had a couple of your batts that I dearly, dearly loved and I was not at all sure what to do with them, such was their beauty.


Yesterday I wanted to give my new wheel a test drive (Yup. New wheel. An Ashford Joy so I can spin on the road. I don't know if you know, but I have mentioned before that my knitty friends at Lettuce Knit are the best sort of human beings and threw me a really cool shower for my wedding...but I digress.) and I staggered into the place where I keep all my fibre and this batt was sort of on top (or at least in the "canopy" of the spinning stash) and I grabbed it and brought it down. I opened it out into a big sheet of fibre onto the chesterfield...


and started tearing off strips, working one end to the other, taking each strip in the progression you carded them into and spinning them into a reasonably fine single.


I say "reasonably fine" because as with all new relationships, my wheel and I will need some time together to work out the kinks. Our love affair is presently a little teenaged, and it's all sort of fast, giggly, and lacking in finesse. In any case, as I reminisced about old boyfriends I Navajo-plied it into a three ply to keep the colours in the order that I spun them and you carded them.


I won't pretend I did a good job (I blame the tender relationship with the new wheel) but I was still simply gobsmacked by the resulting yarn. The colours. The softness...the ....well Linda, the everything. I was so taken with the yarn that I did something I don't do (often). I cast on for something with it straight away...forsaking all others. Forget the sweater, forget the gansey, forget the shawl. Me and my new scarf...


Two for the open road.


I devised a quick reversible scarf pattern and I am in love. Complete and total love. I am so entirely smitten with this plan of mine that I feel inspired.

Linda? This inspiration is dangerous. See, I really like the batt I started with. I really like the one or two upstairs too. I like them so much that I want to do this over and over again. I labour under the delusion that the next one will be even better than this one, and I've already gone upstairs and tried to find the other ones that I thought I had. (Suddenly, I am deeply concerned that I may have given them away as gifts, and I'm not comfortable admitting to the petty feelings that realization generated. I'm sure I'll find them.)

Linda, here's where you can help me. I am likely going to email, call or accost you soon. I have no intention of calling you now, and I truly believe that I am not going to email you and order 20 batts anytime soon. I think I can handle it. The problem Linda, is that we both know that I am a weak person, and that you are probably going to be at Rhinebeck, as am I. While I have every intention of holding myself together, for the sake of my mortgage, my family and my closet space...there needs to be a back-up plan for when my strength fails me when I see this fibre in person, and this is going to be your job.

When I come up to you at Rhinebeck (or SPA, or a thousand other places where we will surely meet) please, please DO NOT sell me that fibre. Do not speak to me, for I am charming and convincing when I need to be, and I will say what I need to in order to procure the goods. Do not trust any of my known allies, and be suspicious of other bloggers purchasing large amounts of your batts, possibly in my favourite colourways - I am not above enlisting other agents to do my bidding. Do not agree to send fibre to suspicious addresses and do not believe me when I try to tell you that I am buying it for someone else and have no intention of using it myself. Reject my arguments that I am only "holding it" and that I am "in control" and "don't have a problem" or that I am "only getting a little bit" or that I am going to "share".
I'm not.

Linda, if you feel anything for me at all, I need to be dead to you.

fondly, as ever


(PS. I was thinking just now and maybe we could agree on a number or something. Like ...two. Two batts would be fine...right? Two batts at every show. Per month. Something.)

(PSS. Maybe you should mention this to Tom.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:42 PM

October 10, 2006

Go on, Dare me.

Yes, yes indeed, I did fix the green sweater problem. I was actually totally down with the suggestions given in the comments (several of you all came up with a brilliant solution) of finishing the sweater, then taking off the offending hem, picking up the bottoms of the stitches and knitting down in a smaller gauge. (I know. If you're a new knitter that just made your head hurt. Don't worry, it's actually way, way easy.) This idea fit right in with my general philosophy of knitting which is based on "I'll worry about that later". Just the thought that I could keep on trucking while I had correct gauge and fix the hem at the last moment - very appealing. Appealing enough actually, that I kept knitting for a bit. A little bit. Just long enough to notice that I seemed to be messing with the stitches a lot just to slide them along the circular. Now, circulars are not my first choice for needles, I'll use them if they are the smartest way to get things done, but I far prefer straights, and the perpetual vague annoyance that circulars cause me means that sometimes I miss other genuine annoyances. Like this one.


Idiot. You know that instruction? "Join, being careful not to twist?" Yup. Again. This never happens on straight needles. It was however, the nail in the coffin of the green sweater, which had now pissed me off in every way that 5cm of a green sweater could. I thought all the ways I could solve the green sweater problem, and then I fixed it.


Voila. New Sweater, problem solved. (Sometimes you just have to walk away.) Bonne Marie's Ribby Cardi, out of Diarufran, a pretty sincerely thrilling yarn I got in Rosie's Yarn Cellar the last time I was in Philadelphia.


It's a chained yarn (totally wild) and really, honestly, sincerely the most astonishingly light and soft yarn you could ever want to hold in your hand. I have developed an extraordinary relationship with it during the last 48 hours, and when the gauge on the Ribby Cardi wasn't working out (I knit the better part of a whole sleeve before I could accept the truth).....


I solved that problem too. Enter another new sweater. I decided the only answer to my complete failure to get gauge in any sort of way that doesn't make me want to pull out nose hairs instead of cope was to work up something simple that reflected the actual gauge I liked with this yarn.


I decided to let it be itself. Plain stocking stitch sleeve, part of what will be a very plain pullover. Pattern cobbled together from a variety of sources and my handy dandy calculator. I am enjoying it beyond all reason. The thing is just whipping along too...which must be a side effect of getting my life back when I finished the book. I'm thrilled with it. Which doesn't mean that I won't solve a problem with it by getting out the new sock yarn, if you know what I mean. If I were the new pullover, I'd be watching my step. Mamma's got a hair trigger.
For now?


This Tuesday is for spinning.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:42 PM

October 9, 2006

Turkey time

Happy Thanksgiving.


(Oh....and I solved the problem with the green sweater.)


Simple really.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:57 PM

October 6, 2006

Side effects

How to Start a Sweater

1. Determine sweater of choice. Trash the stash while looking for yarn to go with it. Tell the children it is not a mess, but a "reorganization". (Pretend that the five bags of wool that won't go back in the closet are out because I need them.)

2. Make a Neo Citran, Knit swatch. (That's a lie. Start sweater, call it a swatch.) The sweater has a hem (That's also a lie. it has ribbing but I don't care for it.) and hems need to be knit at a tighter gauge than the rest of the sweater to keep it from flaring. The sweater needs to be at a gauge of 24 stitches to the inch...the hem needs to be less than that.

3. Notice immediately that this sweater is too big. Understand, thanks to many long years of screwing up knitting with incredible variation and surprising inventiveness, that my gauge is off and this sweater will definitely be too big.

4. Measure the gauge. Curse as I discover that I have 20 stitches to 10 cm instead of 24. (Or less...since this is the hem.)

5. Decide that I like it that way, and that I don't want the stitches any tighter. Make an educated decision to knit a smaller size, and to cast on 10 fewer stitches.

6. Rip back.

7. Cast on 215 stitches instead of 225. Knit two rows. Think "That still looks like a lot". Do a quick bit of mental math. Remember that I can't do mental math and get a calculator. 5 stitches to the inch - 215 stitches = 43 inches. I have a 37 inch chest.

8. Rip back. Take more Neo Citran.

9. Decide to cast on 110 stitches (thus removing another inch.) and go down another needle size after all. Worry briefly about what I will do about the shaping when my numbers are so far off and decide (sometime around when my good buddy pheniramine maleate kicked in) that I will worry about that later.

10. Knit for a while. Wonder how it is that I can be knitting a sweater on smaller needles than before, with fewer stitches than before and still be getting a sweater that is way, way too big.

11. Measure gauge again and discover that despite all of this, I am now getting 22 stitches to 10 cm (instead of the 24 I was aiming for.)
Curse violently and loudly. Consider setting a match to the whole thing and then remember how bad burning wool smells.

11. Take the sweater off the needles and pull it up over my hips. Confirm that it is way too big. Way too. Wonder absently, since I am drinking so much neo citran, and because I have taken a lot of measures to make this sweater smaller.... if I am shrinking.

12. Decide that I don't give a crap and I will just have a big sweater. It might be cold at Rhinebeck. I may have to layer. I'll put this sweater on over.....I don't know. 12 other sweaters. I keep knitting.

13. I purl a turning row and change to the larger needles. (I realize that this will make the sweater bigger, but it turns out that I would rather have a sweater the size of the last Dell Recall than rip back again.) I continue knitting.


14. When I am about ready to begin the first little bit of colourwork, I pull out my measuring tape to make sure that I have knit enough. Absently, I also measure my gauge. Imagine my shock when I have 24 stitches to 10cm.

15. Sit in stunned silence and try to figure out how my gauge went down when my needle size went up. I examine things closely and notice that the sweater does indeed look smaller now.

16. Realize with stunned horror that I must have the wrong needles. Instead of the sweater getting bigger after the row, it is smaller. This is the opposite of what I was trying to do with the hem.

17. Realize with further horror that I have 225 stitches instead of either the 215 I believed I cast on originally, or the 210 that I cast on after that. Feel burning bitter irony, since 225 was the number that the pattern suggested I cast on in the first place.

18. Measure the circular that I started with and the circular that I'm using now...discover that (you aren't hardly going to believe this) that they are THE SAME SIZE. Two distinctly different gauges over the same number of stitches using the same type of needle.


I don't know squat about knitting.

Sedating antihistamines do not go with knitting calculations.

I will never, ever believe that gauge is my friend.

Now, completely by accident, I have the right gauge, over the right number of stitches and I have to rip back anyway because the freaking hem is all wrong, even though it was knit on the same size needles.

All suggestions as to how to proceed accepted. (Including the wool burning one. I'm too stuffed up to smell it.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:45 PM

October 5, 2006

Answers, questions and tea

Holy crap guys...you all really approve of a wedding! Many, many thanks for the lovely well-wishes, gentle teasing and lovely congratulations. Joe and I read all of them, and loved each one. It's an overwhelming party in the comments, and we're so very, very grateful. Thanks for starting us off right!

You get questions and answers today me lovies, since I've caught a wicked bad cold since the wedding and simply can't be arsed to put any more of an effort into it than that. I'm here on the chesterfield with knitting, and blankies and strong tea (I never drink coffee when I have a cold. Just tea...I always know when I'm getting sick since coffee starts to taste funny to me. It's my cue to go buy a box of cold medicine and take a kilo of vitamin C.) Here's questions from the comments and private mail...

1. It's you and Joe that got married...right? Yup. (Although wouldn't it be funny if it was someone else?) After all this time Joe and I took the plunge. We've been common-law under Canadian Law for years and years and years, and though that makes him my husband, and me his wife...and though that affords us almost all of the privileges of legal marriage (pensions, taxes...etc.) there were a few rights that only marriage conferred. (More interesting stuff here about being married or not, though it is largely American info.)
Mostly, our reasons for choosing to marry now are reasons of the heart, and as such, are entirely private. I can assure you with full enthusiasm however, that I am absolutely not knocked up.

2. How's it feel to be all "mainstream"?
Had you been there (and some of you were) that this wedding was not at all mainstream. I wore red, Joe wore boots. The guests laughed, the piper played "Love me Tender", people were knitting, our girls got rings too and we were married by a lovely woman who was Humanist Officiant. (That means it's legal...but still godless, to answer the "are you giving up the godless thing" question.) Still, the ring on my finger is oddly comfortable, and Joe keeps talking about how "really, really married" we are... so I think it feels pretty good. I love too, that unlike in our shacked up days, someone has written down and registered in a big official book that we love each other and are a family. I didn't think that would matter to me, I thought I was too much of a hippy to care if anyone knew what I did, but it turns out that entering that information into the public record really meant something.
Who was it who said that a wedding was a public declaration of a private intention? It feels like that. Oddly raw and human.

3. Pictures? Eventually. I promise you some lovely ones when the get here. We're still waiting for people to send them to us. I do have a sock picture or two, taken by my lovely friend Julia, to whom sock custody was relinquished for the evening.


(In which Julia helps me to prove that my dodgy sock pictures are clearly not just operator error.) From the far left, our daughters, Samantha, Megan and Amanda, my Best Man - Ken, my Maid of Honor - my sister Erin...then me (the short one in the red) then Joe (the big guy with all the hair) ...Joe's best Man- his brother Chris, then his groomsmen, Lorne, Jeremy and Jody. You can see we married by the lake and it was a big crowd. Friends and family from as far as Kelowna in the west and Conception Bay in the East, from the states...Joe's sister Kate and her partner Carlos even came from Spain. It was the best part really. All of those fantastic people in one place was completely staggering.

I'll tell you more about it as the pictures roll in. (I'm sure you'll be thoroughly sick of it and the pictures by the time I'm done.)

4. Was there knitting? Yes knitters, there was. The place was filthy with them. I laughed and laughed when someone told me that one of the servers was pretty flipped out by all the knitting. The knitters knit while they waited, they knit during the service (not just allowed, but encouraged) they knit during dinner, they knit after dinner.....


it was brilliant. (That's our lovely Juno, and I don't believe those are all her beverages, but it could be so.) One of Joe's uncles said to me "That knitter over there never stops. I've never seen a thing like it." I followed his finger and lo and behold...it was That Laurie. Made perfect sense. (Both That Laurie and I had a good laugh last week that I was posting for her while she was blogging for me while I was writing a book and she was flying to Toronto.)
As if all the knitters weren't enough, I had a knitted guestbook,


made for us by Emma. It's a hand bound book made from her own handspun yarn. It's beautiful.

5. Gonna change your name? Nope.

6. How do you do all this? I am not alone. Joe (who I deeply regret calling Bridezilla during part of the organization of this wedding- it was a bad day) did most of the work and our families were fantastic. Every time someone asks me how I accomplish anything at all I point to the team around me. I'm a loser who couldn't manage her way out of a paper bag. They, however...are spectacular.
(Also...my house is trashed and not one person in this house has a pair of clean pants.)

7. Are you on a Honeymoon? Nope, but we did have 10 great hours at the King Eddie. Pillows excellent, ceiling height impressive, bed size staggering, bed-mate equally top notch.
Other than those hours, Joe and I are both back at work. The timing on a honeymoon wasn't right, and since we as a family got married, then we as a family wanted to honeymoon...and that was financially over the top. We'll get there.

Since we're right back in our real lives, I trucked myself (cold and all) down to Lettuce Knit last night, hoping to catch some special company. ( Did I mention that I missed Tracy Ullman and Mel Clark at the Museum of Textiles this weekend and I shall never be the same? I love Tracy Ullman. I am ashamed of my feelings for her. I could have given her one of my books, I could have explained who I was...(I'm certain that would have gone well.) I could have babbled like an idiot and said things that would have had me lying in the road afterwards out of shame. I could have a signed copy of their book, I could have told Mel I really like that Euroflax skirt in there. I would have laughed at all of Tracy's jokes. I would have asked them to hold the sock. Why don't people tell me when this sort of thing is happening? I know I was busy getting married, but I could have worked something out for Tracy Freakin Ullman.) In any event, sick or not, I wasn't going to miss out on anyone else. I scored big too.
I found Amy Swensen, author, designer and Yarn Shop Owner, fresh in from Calgary:


Amy's got a crochet book out there and she's doing a new one on all sorts of felting. She's buckets of fun and contaminated me with a burning desire for the incredible yarn she was knitting, Curious Creek wool/silk handpaint. (Take me now.) I've been trying to stay off her shops page all day so I don't hurt myself.
If Amy weren't enough...


Jillian! Jillian was in town working on the photoshoot for the latest collaboration with our own Knitty Amy, a follow-up to Big Girl Knits.
I really adore Jillian. She's centred and calm and funny and ....I just really really like her.
(I don't know who else besides me would be stunned by this, but in addition to meeting those knitters, I also met Linda "Coach" Smith. If you don't travel in IBCLC circles that might not mean much to you, but for me it was breathtaking. She was right there. Knitting like an ordinary person. No soft glow coming off her or anything.)

It was totally worth limping out and back with a box of Kleenex, especially to see all of the Lettuce Knit regulars, who I can't thank enough times for the yarn shop wedding shower last week (see? It's not just me who can keep a secret!) and for the wonderful gift they all chipped in for. I'm a lucky, lucky knitter.

For now though, this lucky knitter is going to curl up with season 2 of Lost, a big mug of tea, a whack of rather intense cold drugs and a new project. New projects heal. Pass the Neo Citran and that set of 4mm needles...will ya?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:15 PM

October 2, 2006

I did, I did not and I do.

I did finish the book. (Or very much close enough. It's gone to the Editor and I feel an ethereal lightness. I don't think Joe could be any happier either.)


I did not finish the shawl before our event on Saturday.


Nor did I finish its companion, Joe's gansey. These two projects were intended for greatness this weekend, and sadly...the limits on this knitters time were too much. It's quite funny though...that out of all of the times that I have pulled off a completely wild amount of knitting on an insane deadline, it strikes me as hilarious (and perhaps a smidge ironic) that these are the two projects that didn't make their intended event. The event?


Any Guesses?

How about now?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:42 PM