November 30, 2006

My joy is green

Dudes, I could not be freakin happier. It is my pleasure to announce that as of 10:35am today, I am done the damn step outs for Knitty Gritty.

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Step outs, for anybody who missed it the first time around, are a TV thing. (I just learned that. I had no idea what they were until I had to make some.) Since I will only have 30 minutes to show how to knit a sock (and that's impossible) through the magic of "step outs" I can show the whole thing. It's like a cooking show, you know, where Martha puts batter in the oven and pulls out the baked cake next to it? For Knitty Gritty, each place where you change technique or do something interesting has to have it's own "step out". Understandably, in order for this magic to work and the viewing audience to be sucked into our deceit, they all need to be the same yarn. (I actually think this would not have worn on me so if I was able to mix it up a bit.) Here's the steps.

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1. Needles and Yarn for demonstrating cast on.
2. Ribbed cuff, ready to begin leg.
3. Leg done, ready for heel flap.
4. Heel flap done, ready for short rows.
5. Short rows done, ready for picking up gusset stitches.
6. Gusset stitches picked up, ready for gusset decreases.
7. Decreases done, ready to do foot.
8. Foot done, ready to decrease for the toe.
9. Toe done, ready to be grafted.
10 Finished sock.

Even though I have a few socks-a-day left to knit for this, they are not green. This has filled me with a glee I have previously reserved for successfully putting together IKEA furniture. I am knitter. Hear me roar.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:35 AM

November 29, 2006

Get as much as you need.

I go to the store almost every day. I've adapted to this, it's a peril and a perk of city living. Back when I lived in a suburb of Toronto I did one major shop a week, along with popping out for a refill of milk, bread and veggies in between. Now that I live right in the city I've got a whole other thing going on. The bakery, grocery store, fruit and vegetable store....they are all minutes away from my door and I pop out for what I need as I go along. The perks are that I don't have to be organized enough to commit to a plan early in the week and that everything we eat is lovely and fresh, and the peril is the loss of efficiency in shopping for 30 minutes a day. Downside, we rarely have enough in the house to pull a meal together without walking out. (The romance of popping into the bakery each day is largely evaporated by rain or snow.) Upside, my lettuce is never wilty and we eat warm bread.

This jaunt in and out also lets me say Hi to my neighbours, get a little air and forces me to fight my perennial urge to sit in my house all the time knitting and writing. (I would make an excellent hermit.) Since I walk by all of the homes near me on an almost daily basis, I knew that the house on my street next to the alley I take to the grocery store had new occupants. My natural curiosity has had me trying to check them out for a while. All I've been able to divine is that he/she/ they are likely a household of one or two people, since their green bin is almost always empty and they have only one small bag of rubbish. They don't subscribe to a paper, and they put up new blinds. They also fixed the siding where that car hit it. So far, he/she/they seem like nice neighbours. I considered taking them "welcome to the neighbourhood" cookies or something.

Last night as I was walking past their front door to go to the shop and get greens, black beans and some yellow peppers I think I met them...or her. Or possibly a friend that they shouldn't invite back.

As I passed by their door (the doors in this neighbourhood sit only about two metres from the sidewalk) the door exploded open and this woman came out. Well, came out may be a bit of a misleading statement. Sauntered. Maybe Sauntering with a smidge of stomping...it's hard to say, but the woman was definitely moving with a great deal of aggression and assertiveness. Her chin was up, her shoulders were back, her arms pumped back and forth with each step. She stormed the six or seven strides to the sidewalk, ending up right in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, slapped her hands on her hips and screamed "What are you looking at?"

I was stunned. What I was looking at was a woman of ample curve, perhaps a hard living 50 years old, about my height (5') or perhaps a little taller. She was one of those women who's age is hard to figure. Her hair was yellowy bleach blonde, her dark brown roots were perhaps an inch or two long and she had a leathery face that looks like it's been outside a whole lot and not washed much. She had sort of skinny legs and a small "upstairs", a double chin and a very big belly. If she had been a younger woman I would have suspected for a moment that she was pregnant. Her skin was sallow and loose and she didn't look well at all. Her panties were.....

Sorry did I neglect to mention that? This woman, our new neighbour or an associate of my neighbour had stomped out of her home (or the home of her friend) onto my busy metro street aggressive and unwashed in the chill November air of Toronto wearing only the skankiest of used-to-be pink panties and a completely done in bra to go with.

I was stunned. Stunned enough that I was actually unable to fully answer the "What are you looking at?" question that she had posed to me by evening light on the sidewalk...Stunned enough by this sudden public almost-nudity that I stammered for a minute...helplessly trying to both avert my eyes and sum up the situation, searching for a position that was both polite and....well. Frankly got me the hell out of there. As I stood there with my mouth open, trying desperately not to look at her victim-of gravity bra and wondering what the protocol on this one was, the woman looked me up and down, gave me a sneer exactly like I was the near-naked woman on the sidewalk and yelled "Get a good look Honey....Get as much as you need!"

...and with that she was gone. Not back into the house, which was where I would have gone as directly as possible, were I she...but down the street, boldly and brashly and straight as an arrow. Completely purposeful. She had gold shoes.

I continued to the store then (sort of crooked and shaky-like) got my groceries and came walking tentatively back about 15 minutes later...approaching her house with trepidation and extreme caution, this time with a plan in place. If she was still there (and still lacking the appropriate clothing) then this time I could bolt for my door. I rounded the corner and looked.

Standing at her front door was a clean cut young man with a clipboard, behind him another guy with a huge video camera mounted on his shoulder. They were knocking on the door, looking for all the world like they had arrived to interview her.
I bustled past the camera man, glancing at the door as I went by and saw through the un-curtained windows that she was coming (still not well clad) to answer their knock.
I went home and I wondered. Was it news? Was it an indie film? Was it art? What the hell was going on four doors down? I pondered these things as I started dinner and I realized I only knew two things for sure.

I need to go to the store less often... and a tray of "welcome to the neighbourhood" cookies is right out.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:14 PM

November 27, 2006

Sock Haiku

Sockadayws1127


Each day I must knit a sock.
It bores me to tears.
This small one is a cheat.

Smallsock1127

(My basic sock recipe reduced by 1/3 and worked in garter stitch. Yarn, Claudia hand paints fingering merino "Stormy Day" colourway, bought from the Loopy Ewe. 2.25mm needles.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:14 PM

November 24, 2006

R is for Router.

I swear that I am a woman on the edge. I swear it. Other than a trip to Knit Night at Lettuce Knit....Oh, wait. I have got to show you pictures. We have the best knit night in North America. I'm sure of it.

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That's Denny. What's she doing? I don't know. Something with a half knit sleeve. (It's totally cracking Ken up.)

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That's Julia, the Julia from Vesper Sock Yarn. She brought her mum and her sister (good cookies) and a box of her yarn and she was freakin' mobbed. I was only about 10 minutes late and the colourway I was most hoping for was gone. It was really good fun watching it walk out the door at a million miles an hour. (See the arm reaching for yarn in front of her? Wild crowd.)

Julia is holding a green sock, because all I have done for the last nine days is knit socks and for the last three days it's knit green socks and now Joe has upgraded the router and I think I might really be losing my cool.

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Aren't they starting to get to you?

As many of you will know, Joe and I share our house/home offices now...and for as long as Joe is "between opportunities". We've been learning how to (with rather limited success) share space, coffee, air and phone time. Joe gets about 22 phone calls a day. There is no point in me answering it. I have three teenaged girls and a work from home husband. I assure you that that phone call is really not for me. Likewise, if your phone is ringing, I can assure you that it is not me calling you, since I would have to either have to have drugged every member of my family into passive, drooling unconsciousness to obtain said implement of communication, or be alone in my house...which is likely going to happen again sometime in 2011 when everyone has gone to University and I take a small, secret apartment across town where I sit, alone and talk on the phone uninterrupted and take baths uninterrupted and I make meals for one person and then I eat them uninterrupted... but now I'm losing track of the router story. Ahem.

So everybody is on the phone all the time and the router (which provides me with the internet, the only form of communication I have left to me) isn't working. The thing is ass. It only routes when it wants to and it doesn't want to much. I keep trying to get on the internet with my laptop and the router keeps laughing in the face of my attempts. Everything was tried and eventually, yesterday, the router was summarily replaced with a new box of wonder which promises to route the daylights out of the internet and direct glorious uninterrupted bandwidth right to my lap and lo - it is good.

Joe hooked the thing up and damn, it routes. Routes good. Routes so well that I am forced to admit that Joe was right, that upgrades can be good and that I am very happy with the routers routeing. The Router continues to fulfill my every wish and routes real good until 9am this morning when it stopped.

Then it started. Then it stopped. I don't know if you could say that it quit really, since Joe's computer still had internet, and the family computer still had internet. Just me. Just my laptop. The bulk of today has been spent with me trying to convince Joe that the router isn't routing (which is not his experience, since the plugged in people keep having internet while only I - who has the only wireless connection in the house, has none.) Joe doesn't want to hear this because (at least it seems to me) that he is on the phone every time I'm trying to tell him that the wireless is out. By the time he's off the phone and comes back upstairs, the wireless is back.

It's like when your kid's really, really sick so you get an emergency appointment and take them to the doctor and their fever goes away in the cab and by the time you get there they've pinked right up and are playing tag with their sister while demanding a nine course meal while you try to explain to the doctor that you really aren't a psychotic parent and you swear that the kid was half dead 16 minutes ago? The router is like that. Joe goes downstairs to make a phone call....router stops working. Joe gets off the phone and comes back upstairs to see what's wrong with the router, router starts working. Infuriating....and I'm an idiot. It took way more phone calls than it should have for me to catch on that it isn't a cruel coincidence that Joe is on the phone while the router isn't routing....

The router isn't routing because Joe is on the phone! The phone and the new router are incompatible. Completely incompatible. Something about the phone's signal messes with the routers signal and the phone wins. If the phone is on, the router wireless part of the router is off.
Clearly, since I have a work from home husband and three teenaged daughters, The phone screwing up the router is a really big problem. Investigations are being made. Channels and antennae are being changed, nothing is working so far.

I suspect, as I reel from the apex of situational irony in which we discover that the router was purchased because I need it to communicate because I can't get on the phone, only to discover that the very thing which was purchased to fix the phone problem is now a victim of the phone problem itself... and I know you suspect as well that if enduring this were not enough, that to add insult to injury, I am about to discover that the first principle of interior decorating now applies to home electronics.

You know the first law, where you buy a new chesterfield and your curtains are suddenly crap, so you buy new curtains and now the carpet doesn't match and.......

I have a new router and my phone doesn't match. Any bets on where this ends?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:50 PM

November 22, 2006

And so on.

Hey look. A sock.

Stepsock121122

and a half...I'm behind a little bit. It's starting to be a little monotonous. (Really Steph? You don't say...) I'm beginning to get the urge to knit this, or this, or this or this or......Never mind. Socks are us. All socks. All the time. Sigh. I'm trying to take comfort in wee things. Like a really beautiful heel.

Steponeheel1122

More Q&A? (Has anyone caught on yet that I'm using this Q&A thing to add interest to the blog when I've got nothing to say? Is it completely transparent.?) Tracy wrote:

I'm curious about what order you will do your step outs in. You know, each stage is further along in progress and takes longer. Will you do longest to shortest, so it gets easier and easier to get each one done, or shortest to longest, to count completed ones faster? Or will you do them at random to keep it interesting? Dumb question, but I am curious, it tells something about one's personality and way of thinking, you know?

I have decided, in my infinite wisdom (stop that laughing. You, in the back. Get up off the floor.) to do the longest ones first. I labour under the delusion if I do the biggest job first that then, as my interest wanes, I shall have less and less to do with each sock. The folly here of course, is that my interest waned about midway through that first sock. I have now developed a couple of strategies to take the edge off of the rest of the identical socks.

First line of defense: A series of rentals from the local video joint. I have watched every episode of every season of Six Feet Under, I have seen Mission Impossible one, two and three and I am stalking the place waiting for season one of Deadwood to turn up. (I want this one really badly. So far my rental guy has refused to tell me who has had it for weeks, perhaps suspecting my plan to "procure" it from their private home. I am not through with him.) I have knit my way through Pride and Prejudice (the BBC one) Other suggestions for entertainment during my internment are appreciated. I hear good things about Firefly.

Second line of defense: I have reserved a few of the "example of a variation on a theme" socks to break up the monotony. Admittedly, they are still socks, but at least they are socks of another colour or style. There are only a few of these left to knit - since I did the lace one and the cable one and the small one while I was waiting for my yarn to arrive, but the option to knit a pastel sock when the green ones begin to erode my tenuous grasp on everything I believe to be real this process is a lifeline I'm looking forward to.

Third line of defense: Cleaning. That's right, there's nothing like scrubbing out a bathroom or taking a swing at whatever that sludge behind Sir Washie may be to make you think that sitting on your arse knitting green socks is really not such a bad job. It's all about perspective my friends.

Fourth and final line of defense: Lay's baked chips, Strong drink and cookies. I'll be drunk and fat (and likely that mother the other mums whisper about at the parent council)...but I'll have the damned socks done.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:21 PM

November 21, 2006

Wool pig

Megan called, I flew.

Theboxoffa1121

The Fleece Artist box had arrived, and I dug in. (Megan pretended not to be appalled as I rooted through the wool in the box in the exact same manner that a pig roots for truffles.) I chose this:

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That's five skeins of the same colourway, headed to be identical socks for the step outs. Identical. Socks. Lots.

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and so it begins. Again.

To keep from snapping from the all-sock-all-the-time monotony, I observed "Tuesdays are for spinning" for a whole 20 minutes.

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Baby camel/silk (50/50) spinning on my wee Spindlecat spindle. The stuff on the bobbin is what I've finished, I transfer it from the spindle when it fills. the stuff on the spindle is 20 minutes worth. This is, much like knitting...very slow magic.
Luckily, I have a 12 year old daughter to entertain me with interpretive dance. (I swear it. It was a 4 minute program.)

Saminterprets1121-1

Ever get the feeling that it might not be dull over here?

(PS. Since it is hard to find I wanted to tell you that Megan has Sea Silk back in stock.

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I freely admit that I have known this for a some time, but there was one that I was saving up for and I didn't want anyone to buy it before I could. I'm going to do the one-skein seasilk shawl thing with it. I was briefly ashamed that I was keeping this information to myself, but then I remembered who I was.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:50 PM

November 20, 2006

It's coming.

Hey look. A sock.

Pinklance1119

Hey look. Another sock.

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Good Grief. (Is this getting old yet?) Both socks are Fleece Artist. Both socks are patterns in my head (I'll write them down after the Knitty Gritty thing) and both are variations on the basic pattern that I'll be knitting until the delivery of Fleece Artist that has the yarn for my step-outs in it arrives.

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I spoke with the producer on Friday and yes, she would far prefer that the step-outs all match. (Note "far prefer". If I had been truly upset or off the deep-end about it I think they would have let me do as I please. I was however, completely helpless in the face of a polite well reasoned request backed up with intelligent discourse and....I agreed. I hate it when people cloud issues with facts and logic.) The producer did say that my metal needles were fine...the issue apparently is noise. Wooden and plastic needles make less noise than metal ones do, and it's easier for the sound guy to contend with. Instead of either them replacing all my needles or me replacing all my needles (both of which are entirely inane) I shall do my level best to knit quietly.

In the meantime, I need to procure several matching skeins and it's Fleece Artist to the rescue, with a shipment to Lettuce Knit arriving any minute. Embedded in this shipment is the yarn that I need. I can't wait. (Megan assures me that coming down to the shop and waiting with her for the box to come for as many days as it takes would not be the best use of my time. I am not sure I agree.)

Special thanks here go to shops and suppliers who supported me in my faithfulness to this project and attempted yarn rescue missions. Jo-Anne at Four Seasons Knitting here in Toronto offered, Nancy at Colorsong went through her inventory to see what she could find...Sheri at the Loopy Ewe offered too. It reaffirmed everything that I have ever thought about yarn store owners that they would take the time to do that. Decent folk, the whole bunch of them. (If Megan had not had the order coming already I would have been all over them like sequins on Cher.)
Special thanks too, to Pick Up Sticks (a new Canadian mail order joint I didn't know about.) for choosing this exact week to mail me some really fantastic new sock yarn that I can't knit right now. You're killing me.

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Spinning Bunny hand dyed by Susan "Roses for you" colourway
and a skein of
Painted Yarns Merino 2 ply (this lady is Canadian too..) in "Spring Greens"
It's the dark side of yarn stores. Temptation. I'm going to have to bury this yarn in the back garden for a while just to stick with my mission.

I'm going to go sit on the porch now. Megan has my phone number and I have my shoes on. The minute she calls I'm out the door to raid the box and get my yarn. Maybe I'll go to the bus stop. Maybe I'll go to the coffee shop near Lettuce Knit. If you live in Toronto and you're thinking about racing me there because you've worked out that a Fleece Artist shipment is arriving? I wouldn't. I'm highly motivated.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:49 PM

November 17, 2006

Some socks, some answers.

I think the worst thing about knitting a sock a day is going to be the complete lack of blog fodder. I mean, there's really only so long that you can type "Hey look, another sock" before things get sort of boring for all parties concerned. This time next week you're all going to be hoping for one of them to spontaneously burst into flame and singe my hair or for a stampede of ravenous goats to break into the living room and buffet-lunch on my stash, just for the interest.
By the way...hey look, another sock.

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and, while I'm at it...Hey look, another sock.

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I'll distract you from my incredible monotony of the sock-a-day quest with questions from yesterdays intriguing set of comments. (I really feel the commenting on this blog is top notch. Clever, respectful of others, intelligent and yet a little bit smart-assed. Really top-notch.)

Jennie and Carina had the same thought, and Carina writes:

I do have to ask, though: What did they do with all those socks? Were people so rough on their handknit socks that they needed a new pair that frequently? What about darning them? Odd. It sounds like there should be mounds of socks hidden somewhere.

They sold 'em. One of the reasons that these knitters of yore produced so darned much was because they sold them for money to support their families. Knitting stockings wasn't something you did if you were well off. You bought them (likely at a fraction of what they were worth) from people who knit them to supplement their incomes. I bet it really lights a fire under your knitting fingers if you're going to starve your kids if you don't finish a sock.

Amy writes:

Weren't all those stockings knit with heavier gauge yarn? So the number of stitches per inch were less than the 8 or 9 you're getting? If you're going to compare, it's got to be apples-to-apples....

Clever knitter, that Amy. Sadly, this only further damns me to the fires of slothful, shiftless indolence since while it is true that the stockings that the knitters made for their own families were often of heavier gauge, the stockings that they were selling were of much finer yarns, and often knit at a gauge that would finish you and I. A staggering 10-20 stitches to the inch or (take a deep breath) even greater. They knit on steel knitting "pins" and these were frequently the equivalent of US size 0000 or smaller. (That's about 1mm everywhere else.)

Liz notes:

"Children as young as four were being taught to knit at this time in England, and certainly by the time that they were seven or eight they were expected to be making stockings in a way that contributed to the families income."

This may explain why my friend in Dublin has a dicken of a time finding decent yarn and why the present day population finds her interest in knitting "quaint".

Yup, in the Sad but True category, there's lots of people walking around who have a negative relationship with knitting because they associate it with work. These cultures have often dropped knitting faster than Michael Jackson going into a cosmetic surgeon the minute it wasn't necessary. "Why don't you knit a sock?" sounds, to these people like "Why don't you chop logs for fireword?" Knitting as an industry, particularly a low-class industry is a persistent belief in many places. When Joe was on tour in China a couple of years ago he went with a knitting rock'n roller (hi Colleen!) who pulled out her knitting during sound check once or twice. She was immediately asked to stop by the locals in charge of the concert, since they didn't want her to look bad. They didn't want her to look low class. She was supposed to be a better class of person than that. Here, knitting is mostly a relaxing pursuit of the idle rich (remembering of course, that comparatively speaking, you're rich if you're not knitting for food money) and that's certainly not the case in many parts of the world.

Jan asks: asks:

I don't think you're crazy, I can do a sock a day. It's just the why so many socks for Knitty Gritty that I don't get.

Excellent question. Knitty Gritty apparently (I've never seen it...we don't get it on TV up here in Canada.) works like a cooking show. I can't knit a whole sock in 30 minutes, (I still have some connection to the real world and what is possible in it) so for the purposes of illustration I need to knit a whole bunch of socks at various stages. They call these "step-outs". (The things I'm learning...)
I need a just cast on sock, a sock with the ribbing, a sock ready to begin the heel, a sock with the flap knit ready for short rows, one with the short rows done ready to pick up for the gussets, one with the gussets picked up ready to do decreases, one ready to begin the toe and one ready to be grafted. (I think. Like I said. Still learning.) Then, for the purposes of inspiration and illustration, I need a bunch of socks that are a variation on the same pattern.

Adds up to a lot of socks. Turns out I've likely sunk myself too....since I just got an email from them saying that I shouldn't be using metal needles (That's a big deal. I don't own any dpn's...never mind 10 pairs (each step out stays on the needles) that aren't metal. I only like metal for socks.) and that all the step-outs all have to be the same colour. (That , my gentle knitters, is the sort of thing that would have been far more useful to know before I knit the first two out of a colourway I can't get more of...but c'est la vie.) I don't even know if I can get enough Fleece Artist in one colourway in time to pull this off. I'll be calling the producer of the show now, and suggesting to her that I am at my very best when I am a charming renegade making my own rules....you'll know she didn't buy it if you see me lying in the road surrounded by half knit socks waiting for a Mack Truck to end it all. A sock a day is one thing. A soul crushing do-over is another.

Rachel H writes:

Ok, so you've got the production timeline crazy covered. Good for you. But what about the attention span crazy, I ask you? The fact that yours is, well, short and skittish and a sock is a sock is a sock no matter how many beautiful colours of Fleece Artist you get to knit it in? How long till the call of the Sea Silk or that Kate Gilbert sweater in the new IK wails to you so loudly you think you'll go mad from the strain of Just Knitting Socks. Or spinning, now that you know you can spin cashmere and Claudia and I both know you have cashmere in your stash just begging to be brought out and fondled and loved and made to flow gently and softly and sublimely through your fingers on its way to becoming beautiful yarn that won't want to be a sock...

I'm only thinking of you, dear. Really.

You know, I really love Rachel, both in real life and in her career as a professional commenter, and that's why I'm sure she's going to understand completely when I come over to her house and smack her a little. Right after I knit another sock.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:29 PM

November 16, 2006

A sock a day?

I gathered, as I read some of the comments yesterday about my intention to knit a sock a day for some time to come, that there were those among you, my esteemed colleagues, who felt that this statement spoke to a certain "je ne sais quoi" in the area of my sanity.

There were also those of you that came right out and called me nuts, a few who wondered how many hours were in my days now that I can warp the time space continuum, and one person who felt compelled to send me a charming private note asking me to kindly seek help for my knitting addiction before I hurt myself.

The writer, whom I feel absolutely certain is not a knitter (and must really not read this blog at all), urged me to (and I quote) "try and get out a little more". When I got up off the floor - where luckily, my as yet unpacked suitcase cushioned my fall (get out a little more indeed.) I got to thinking about this sock a day plan. When I was younger my grandfather used to say that if one person told you that you were wrong, you could safely ignore them. If two people mentioned it, then you had to check, and that if three people brought something to your attention then, no matter how convinced you were of your correctness...you were likely wrong. This was more than three people, so I did a little research.

The first thing I did was stop and notice that I didn't need a whole lot of research. I knew a sock a day was possible. I did it.

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(Admittely, this pair is a cheat...it's only kids socks.)

Then I did it again.

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Full size adult socks (Fleece Artist Merino Sock yarn, my pattern, not theirs) A full one knit yesterday and a half one for today, which is only half over so I think I'm on target there.

Moreover, while I definitely spent a good chunk of my time over the last couple of days knitting and/or thinking about knitting (which is sort of my job as well as what I do anyway) I didn't think that was a problem, since I also fed my kids, went to the grocery store, made a nice dinner, did two loads of laundry, spoke to the other people who live here and went to Knit Night with my buddies. In short, I had a pretty normal day...except that whenever possible, if my hands were free for even a moment...
I knit. I multi-tasked.

Granted, I've got 34 years of knitting experience and I'm on the quick side of normal, but I still didn't think that this whole sock a day thing was so crazy. I looked to history for a little support.
I totally found it. How about this from the Icelandic Knitting Website:

By the eighteenth century, an Icelandic servant girl was expected to be able to produce one long stocking, or to card. spin. and knit a pair of short socks each day.

Dudes... card spin and knit? Remember too that these people had other stuff going on. Totally. They couldn't order pizza to get it done, their husbands didn't do any laundry to help free up knitting time, they couldn't buy butter already churned to save time....The servant girl wasn't employed for the purpose of turning out stockings. She was doing her knitting in her idle "extra" moments, like me and you. She multitasked.

In Folk Socks (one of my most favourite knitting books of all time) Nancy Bush writes:

In 1595 the collectors of Aulnage (excise duty for woolen cloth) reasoned that one knitter made two pairs of stockings per week.

For this to be the average...and remembering that a stocking goes to the knee (or better) and is therefore probably three socks to a stocking - knitting wise, this means that most knitters would easily have been turning out the modern equivalent of a sock a day while meeting their other responsibilities.

How about Richard Rutt in A History of Hand Knitting:

Moreover, it is a mistake to think that the early knitting -frame quickly speeded up the bulk production of stockings. A framework knitter working hard might produce ten pairs a week, while a good hand knitter could make six.

Six pairs of stockings in a week? Twelve stockings? Admittedly, Bishop Rutt is here speaking of professional knitters working at it for a living, but seriously...If I lifted all burdens from you for eight hours a day and let you work at stocking knitting for a living...would you be producing six pair a week? I'd be gibbering in a corner.

How the hell did they do it?

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Image from Folk Socks

This is the chief employment of the women. The dexterity and expedition with which they dispatch a pair of stockings are almost incredible. To them light and darkness are indifferent. A woman seen walking without a stocking in her hand is stigmatized with idleness.

Richard Valpy 1754-1836
(Describing Jersey, in Richard Rutt's History of Handknitting)

It's incredible to think of. Children as young as four were being taught to knit at this time in England, and certainly by the time that they were seven or eight they were expected to be making stockings in a way that contributed to the families income. Women, men, children...all knitting away at stockings, producing certainly far greater than my measly sock a day while chopping wood for the fire, baking bread, sewing and mending clothes, knitting all the other items that the family needed to keep warm, caring for their children and in general leading an extraordinarily difficult life with far less leisure time.

Contrasting that with my trifling idea to knit a sock a day while watching Lost on DVDs and I'm not sure you have a knitting obsessed manic on her way to a mental breakdown or that I'm even perhaps headed for some sort of vague incident concerning the men with the huggy coats and a sedative blowdart....

As a matter of fact, historically speaking? I might be a slacker.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:35 PM

November 15, 2006

Squeaky cheese and socks

Seriously, I think I may have overshot. To get everything ready for the Knitty Gritty thing (I promise that when I know when it's on, you'll know when it's on...I wouldn't dream of all of you missing the opportunity to mock me severely) I need to knit....well. About a sock a day. I thought this was reasonable.

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Apparently my relationship with reality is loose, at best. I'm about a sock (and a day) behind. I have decided to not think about it (if by "not think about it" you understand that I am thinking about it all the time) ...and distract myself with tales of Montréal knitters.
After a stay in the best B&B in Ottawa (technically Manotick) with uncle Tupper and his charming paramour Susan...

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(Forgive the computer-cam shot. It was late and I couldn't find my camera. The dog is Boogie. He's like....the best dog ever.) Tupp drove me to the train and I rode along to Montréal where I was taken under the lovely wing of our dear Lee Ann.

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(Lee Ann seen here winding wool off her knees in a coffee shop. Camera still AWOL at that point and Lee Ann is really so beautiful that she looks that good with a crappy web cam.) We drank coffee - a skill that we both excel at, wound wool in the shop to freak out the natives and then trundled off to Radio Canada for a phone in thing.

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Yes, that is the sock strapped to the rear wiper of a Radio-Canada truck, and no, we did not feel that this was an odd thing to do in a parking lot. We stood there, in the warm beer scented steam of the Molson factory....

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and then we did the interview. Here's Meredith Dellandrea from Radio Noon, and she did a bang up job of walking me through an hour long phone in show. Live. You just gotta know that was brave of her. Me, live...for an hour? Could have gone very wrong, but Meredith is a knitter, actually part of the Montreal Knits group, and she not only is working to make Radio-Canada Canada's knitting station (all knitters all the time!) but she (and the Montréal Knitters) are also helping pull together a project for Dans La Rue (in the street) to bring blankets to street kids.

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They collected squares until Oct 31st, and now they are going to be sewing them up forever. From there we went back to Lee Ann's for a lovely lunch (try and get Lee Ann to cook for you sometime. She's really good at it and can be bribed with a pittance of fibre) and then hustled ourselves (along with her daughter, the charming Twinkletoes) down to the McGill Bookstore café for a talk and a signing put on in conjunction with the People's Liberated Knitting Front. (Quite possibly the best name for a knitting group ever. Big thanks to El Comandante for helping me so much.) I was worried no-one would come because it's an english language book.

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Apparently I'm ok. Dudes, the coolest knitters were there. Seriously. Before I was even done talking there was Jennifer.

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Do you see her socks? Do you? They're bowling socks man! They've got bowling pins and a bowling ball on em! Do you see how they make my socks look stupid? They're freakin' awesome.

It's Jae!

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Relocated to Montréal from my own beloved Lettuce Knit S&B. Babe, I thought I'd never see you again. (Sniff.)

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Barbara...showing signs of an entrelac outbreak in Montréal (must have spread from Kingston.)

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Patricia, who comes from the same town as me and went to the same High School as me. (Bramalea Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario.) Different years, I am sure.

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Kathy who came from Alaska (not just for the talk, because, you know, that would be creepy) but happened to be in the right city at the right time.

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Maria-Michele, who's name proved to be an intelligence test for me. (I mangled her name and she still gave me that pretty yarn from her trip to Italy. I am not worthy.)

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Anny and her husband Stephen. Anny, we all know and love, but Stephen has his own claim to fame, being the cheerful and clever originator of that most threatening of Knitting Olympic gizmos....the countdown timer. Remember that? It started out friendly green, then turned a warning orange, then finally a ominous and looming red as the timer ticked down and you ran out of time, knitting until wee hours of the night while you wept? Good times.

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Kate, aka Miss Ewe, who drove from Kingston to see me, even though I had just been in Kingston two days before. (Don't ask. It's complicated.) She was as much fun as I had been hoping. It's nice not to have to lie about her. Charming, funny...everything you'd hope for in a knitter.

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Kate Gilbert, designer extraordinaire...(Have you seen her stuff in the latest Interweave Knits? The Equestrian Blazer is So. Going. To. Be. Mine.) Kate captured my heart forever when we were at dinner in Rhinebeck and she and Juno were sharing something that had an ice cream and cider sauce. When the guy came to clear the plates, Kate noted that there was melted ice cream remaining, stopped him, picked up the cup and shot the melted ice cream like so much tequila. My kinda gal.

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The lovely Brainylady, another expat Ontarian....There was Deawn, Kadi, Mona, Witchy-knits, Molly Ann, The fabulous Nadine Fenton (Ok. She wasn't there, but she really wanted to be so I'm mentioning her anyway. It's my blog, I make the rules.) Sam la tricoteuse... so many. It was fantastique. I went for a beer with the Montréal knitters (plus a few random Ontario ones) and then retired to my hotel room where I remembered something I truly love about this place.

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Nice. The next morning I got up and planned to walk around the city, but it rained, and rained and rained. I ate bagels and cream cheese in my hotel room with fresh hot café.

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(A really big shout-out to whomever left the Montréal bagels at McGill for me. They were wonderful. I ate two and shared the rest when I got home. Thank you!) Thus fortified, I went out for a little on a mission to find what I really love about Montréal, squeaky cheese curds. I lasted about 15 minutes in the cold and the rain before retreating, heartbroken. I gathered my stuff, grabbed a taxi to the train station and comforted myself with my bagels. At the train station I sat, deeply regretting my painful dairy loss until I remembered that there is little chocolate can't heal and headed for the dépanneur de la gare. It was there, among the chips and the chocolate, near the Pepsi and beside the milk that I saw them. Snuggled near smoked pepperoni, looking for all the world like they were waiting for me.

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One package.

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squeaky cheese curds at last. I ate them all. Je ne regrette rien.

À la prochaine Montréal. Je t'adore.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:40 AM

November 13, 2006

Yarn can't walk

Before I tell you about how yarn can't walk I'm telling you about Thursday in Ottawa (our nations fine capitol) and Kanata (home of the Ottawa Senators.) I spent the trip to Ottawa noting how remarkably easy it was to tell I was travelling in Canada. Several things.

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Better cheap coffee. (By better I just mean stronger. This, to my way of thinking, makes it better, if still bad tasting no matter where in North America you buy coffee in a train station.)
Everything (including people) in English and French.

At 9:15 in the morning the TV in the waiting area the tv in the waiting area of the station was set to a hockey game and we were all watching. Furthermore, as I got on the train the guy ahead of me was carrying his full gear and stick.
I had a butter tart for breakfast.
Every person had a poppy on. (I kept knocking mine off with the strap of my bag and I was so worried about losing it that finally decided to move it to my right lapel for just two seconds while I boarded the train. I stood at the bottom of the steps, moved the poppy to the right side, walked up the five steps of the train and was very gently corrected by not one, but two people about my mis-placed poppy. Took less than a minute for someone to call me on it.)

I arrived at Yarn Forward in Ottawa were the knitters were all hanging out. I was just there to do a signing, but I had the best time. When Melinda asked me if I would put the travelling sock on her stuffed elephants nose (I didn't ask) I realized that this might be a good gig.

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Here you can see remnants of the flyaway nature of the lotion incidents. (Also...it would appear that whole chunks of my hair were freakishly straight...I'm wearing the finished Diarufran sweater. I forgot to tell you.)

Meet Judith.

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Begin runway voiceover here: Judith (in Ottawa - which is how she signs her comments) is wearing a beautiful example of the Flower basket shawl, knit as a square instead of a triangle. Twice the work, twice the fun. For extra points, Judith knit this shawl out of her own handspun, edging it with a small portion of my own handspun I mailed to her for her birthday some time ago. Isn't she lovely? Thank you Judith.

Here we have sweet wee Bailey...

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Who, although she did not wake up to look at the knitting needles I placed in her hand, did grasp them tightly. She'll be a fine knitter. I can tell.

From there I went to The Clocktower and had dinner with some nice knitters from the Museum of Nature (not nearly as geeky as you'd expect.) and rolled on to the Kanata Yarn Forward, where the hordes ravened knitters waited nicely.

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The Ottawa knitters are partially blurry. (I have managed to blur the sock as well. Clearly things are getting worse.) I staggered through the talk (holy cow the Ottawa knitters are funny.) and got on to the serious business of taking pictures of strangers with socks.

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This is Kit, and she's holding her brand new book (well, not just hers, but in the delightful glow of the newly published we gloss over things like the word "anthology" or "collection" and all is reduced to high pitched squeals of "my book! my book!" ) It's a good book too...and Kit's parts are my favourite bit, even if they don't have knitting in them.

Natalie brought me a gift.

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Colour coded conditioner and shampoo with a light up magnifying glass to use in the shower. I laughed and laughed and laughed. (I admit it was the light up part. I laughed at first, the little light really tore me.)

Here's Suzanne wearing a shawl knit out of (one of) my favourite sock yarns....

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Meilenweit Mega boot stretch by Lana Grossa. I used it to make these socks (scroll down), but I think that Suzanne's a genius. Beautiful shawl.

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Susan and Lisa were crocheters. I promised not to blow their cover until they were safely out of the car. Not that we knitters dislike crocheters (in fact, some of us are crocheters) but I knew that if thie jazzed up crowd discovered them they wouldn't be able to get out without a lesson. (or 30) Susan has since emailed me and said that she has dreamed of knitting socks for two days. (We got to her. Comrades, it is these small victories that make it all worth it .)

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Lissa, who had a yellow Mariah the last time I met her and totally tricked me (I am a simple person) by wearing another colour.

There was Heather, Leanne, Justine (I signed her hand and felt like Mic Jagger) Betsey, Tara, Orris and my lovely friend Sarah, and I found out that Louise at Yarn Forward is making something really good...

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and Holy Cow....
Mairi. Look what Mairi is knitting.

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Think it's cool? Look closer.

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Get it? It's a scarf being knit out of I-cord tubes, braided as she goes (according to a mathematical formula that I really couldn't follow....the minute she said "squared" my mind shut down) and she's handling the gap in the i-cord by crocheting up the backs of them so the don't have a right side and a wrong side and. ...

Well. Mairi is clearly out of her mind in the best possible way. Maybe when I grow up I can be Mairi.

Ottawa is seriously fun. Montréal was fun too....I'll get to that tomorrow.

I took the train home on Saturday night and yesterday I sort of cleared my head a little and looked at my work lists and in some sort of fit of anxiety and fear, I started doing the knitting I need to do for my visit to Knitty Gritty. I am very worried about my visit. I am worried because it is LA and I have bad clothes and questionable TV hair. I am worried because I'm pretty sure that I'm not the right sort of knitter. There is a difference between a designer and a knitter who has some good ideas and I am decidedly the latter. I also have some concerns about the shows "hipness" and my lack thereof. (I know that you are going to be tempted to say something reassuring about how hip I am....don't bother. I've only just now got the lotion out of my hair.) In any case, I took a deep breath yesterday and decided that the only thing that could be worse than yours truly having a meltdown on TV was yours truly having a meltdown on TV without the proper knitting. Now, I may not be hip, but I can knit damnit...and I will have the right stuff if it kills me.

Off to a roaring start, I knit the first of a kid sized pair of socks. Well, I mostly knit it.

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(Basic sock pattern, scaled down according to the rules) I did the cuff and heel in a contrasting grey and I ripped right along in a self congratulatory fashion. I used the grey for the heel, leaned forward, put it on the table, picked up the coloured one (Patons Kroy Socks...54573) knit the foot, leaned forward to get the grey for the toe and.....

To borrow a phrase from my Quebecois neighbours..."I look on the table and there it was....gone." I began a search. I looked all over the table. (My house is slightly untidy.) I looked all over the living room. I looked under the chesterfield, I looked by the chesterfield, I got on the floor and crawled around, I stood on the chair to see high places...I ranted. I screamed "Yarn Can't Walk" and "Things just don't disappear" and I essentially lost my cool. After a fairly shameful display I poured a glass of wine and started thinking. I tried to think like me. I retraced my steps. I had gone into the kitchen...did I put the yarn in the fridge instead of the coffee cream? Did I put it in the cupboard or the crisper when I put away the dinner stuff? Was it on the shelves with the dishes from unloading the dishwasher? I checked on Mr. Washie. I looked in the bathroom. I ripped up the cushions of the chesterfield in case it had slipped down. In a weaker moment I went downstairs and interrogated Joe, and I accused the children of theft. I asked if they had taken it, I offered amnesty. I told them that I was just going to go into the kitchen for a few minutes and that if, when I got back the yarn was simply on the table...no questions would be asked. (This, in properly trained family members, usually works very well.) No luck.

Bereft and furious I went to bed, seriously ticked off that the day had been wasted. I have no more of that yarn, I really do need a pair (especially for tv.) and that means that I need to yank back the whole thing. Stomping ensued.

This morning (while I continued to shred our house while screaming "yarn can't walk") Sam was putting her coat on to leave for school and ever so innocently... the ball of grey yarn fell out of her sleeve.
I have no explanation for this. (The horrified look on Sam's face as she realized that she was connected with this whole scene proved that she had not put it there.)

Maybe yarn can jump? I'm going to knit a toe now.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:06 AM

November 11, 2006

Whistle Stop Wireless

This entry brought to you courtesy of the wireless on board the train from Ottawa to Montréal. Seriously. Wireless on a train. I think it's just about the slickest thing I've ever seen.

Note: This turned out to be a red herring. The wireless on the train is present, but apparently signing onto it was an intelligence test that I failed. I kept getting a very apologetic screen. This actually comest to you from my Montréal hotel, days later than I intended.

When last seen, I was taking my lotion head down to the Kingston Chapters where I was going to actually let people see me. It turns out that lotion hair is the exact opposite of what you think it's going to be. It's massive. Each hair curls and frizzes independently of every other hair and it's just....well. Unforgettably huge. Dolly Parton dreams of this kind of volume. Behold the knitters of Kingston!

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Well, not all of the knitters of Kingston, but it's not a huge city and I didn't give them a lot of notice, but I think that I got most of them in this picture. (You will note that Kingston is not a blurry city at all.)

This is Joan H. from the comments.

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She is wearing her first lace ever (the Branching Out scarf) pretty, non? Meeting Joan was a lovely surprise, since I know her from the comments here but I had no idea...NONE, that she lived in Kingston. That's the miracle of the internet. Anybody can be anywhere. (I imagine that I picture you all living far more exciting and exotic places than you actually do.)

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Here's Molly Wolf, Writer, Editor, co-mother of the Knitlit series of books...I did know Molly lived in Kingston, but I'm surprised she could leave the house, since she's gone over to the dark side and is still in the honeymoon phase with a new loom. (I didn't ask her the details. I know how these weavers work. You ask them a couple of questions, you let them tell you stuff, next thing you know there's a warping board in your kitchen, you use the word "weft" in normal conversation and you don't think there's anything wrong with sleeping on a fold out couch because you gave up your bed space for a floor loom. Not this girl. I'm wise to it.)

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Faye and Sheila, dream team.

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Deb....

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and Randi. See what they've got? Entrelac. There was more too...there was a lady with an entrelac scarf who got away from me, (She was really quick actually.) and another lady who I think was doing a bag. Since Entrelac (especially well executed entrelac) is quite rare, spotting four incidences in a group this size represents a substantial outbreak. Maybe something in the water? I have notified the CDC of this, and I have hope for Randi as well as the bag and scarf ladies...but Deb....Deb is too far gone. That's a whole sweater she's got there, and interestingly, she seems very normal. All we can do for Deb is send her to NASA where her gift/illness may serve her and humanity best.

Overall, Kingston was a treat. It's really, really nice to do this in my own country and to talk to Canadian knitters. Special thanks to that little boy (I bet he's a friend of Hanks) who turned the squeaky bookrack to my left while I was talking. It wasn't distracting at all.
Thursday I did Ottawa and Kanata, (I'll tell you about that soon. It was seriously fun.) and last night was here in Montréal. Serious knitter infestation. I'll get it all posted....

I took a moment to remember today. Did you?

Posted by Stephanie at 9:04 AM

November 8, 2006

While on the train

While on the train from Toronto to Kingston I...

1. Wondered what the lady one seat up and over was knitting. It was fine white yarn being knit on pretty little needles. I was too shy to plunk myself down near her and ask, especially since I have recently endured chatty seatmates while travelling and wouldn't want to be the person who put her through that horrible thing where you wish the person would go away but are to polite to do anything effective enough to get them to leave or shut up. (Since I am sort of overly curious about knitting I don't trust myself to take a "go away" hint.) I tried to see what she was knitting anyway, but couldn't get close enough to tell without being close enough to freak her out.

2. Picked up my stitches for the lace cuff and unzipped the provisional cast on with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. None.

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I pulled the tail of the waste yarn and zippo...the new stitches were sitting there on my needle perfectly acting for all the world like provisional cast-on's always unzip without incident.

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It was so good it was almost creepy. (Probably shouldn't have said that before I did the other one of the pair, but what the hell.)

3. I dug up the pictures from when I was in Granby Connecticut a couple of days ago so I could show them to you. This chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer foundation is pretty knitty...and they charged $25 per knitter to hear me speak (in exchange I tried not to suck) and had fabulous knitty door prizes and a gallery of funky knitted stuff and a reception and it was really neat. Really.
Here are some very blurry pictures of the knitters.

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I have a new theory about the blurriness. I think it may be related to my personal level of terror. Maybe when I'm really nervous I'm shaking? From now on I'm going to try and brace myself and see if that helps. I was very, very nervous when I took these, and they are very, very blurry. It's obviously not a focus thing because nothing in that bottom one is in focus. Not even me.

This is Morgan. (Sadly, blogless)

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She brought not a gift for me, but a gift for my beloved Sir Washie.
(The magnets are fantastic by the way. It is an exquisite treat to go down to the washer after a cycle and see where they have gravitated to. Very keen.)

This is Lisa.

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See the socks she's holding? She knit them and then she gave them to me. Designed them herself too. Very charming and clever knitter. Very clever. They fit freakishly well, even though, as far as I know Lisa has not had access to either my feet nor my sock drawer for research. I'm pretty impressed. (My picture does not adequately display the super good sweater she's wearing either.)

Behold Olivia,

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The youngest knitter of the day, putting a little of her mojo on my sock.

Finally, Christine ...

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I'm putting this picture up for everyone who signed the cards for her while we were all at Rhinebeck. Christine has been having sort of a crappy time, since a bad string of headaches turned out to be (suddenly, out of the blue) a huge freaking tumour in her brain. They took it out and she's well now, with the exception of the loss of her ability to knit. (I know. I gasped too. Don't try to stand up.)
She's destashing to buy a spinning wheel. Maybe see if she's got something you want so she can get a great one and rejoin the fibre obsessed?

There were other knitters of course, Tamara comes to mind (she was wearing a really, really great sweater I'm a little obsessed with.) and a group of very nice women who claim not to be stalkers that I'm not going to encourage by naming names.

4. I ate two bags of sunchips.

5. I beaded. I love it.

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I can't stop. I can't wait for the train to Ottawa tomorrow so I can do more.

Who's coming for a visit at the Kingston Chapters tonight?

PS (Added later)
I just took a bath and washed my hair and I used the shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom here at the hotel. I washed my hair and then I put in the conditioner, then rinsed. Just now, as my hair is drying I noticed that it's ....well. Weird. I little oily and slippery and strange. I let it dry a bit more and decided things were very bad, hair wise, and went into the bathroom to take note of the sort of conditioner it was so that I could endeavor to never, ever use it again.

It's lotion.

Firstly: I am an idiot. I have covered my head in lotion.
Secondly, what sort of a hotel puts shampoo and lotion together like that? Where's the conditioner? Don't they know I have my glasses off when I'm washing my hair?
Thirdly, there is no time to rewash before I have to go. Do you think anyone is going to notice?

PSS: It does smell very nice.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:35 PM

November 7, 2006

Make it count.

So I got home yesterday, and I'm leaving tomorrow. Just long enough to wash my pants (and everyone else's) to pick up my train tickets, recharge the yarn supply in my suitcase, talk to the girls in person, wash the kitchen floor and keep on trucking. I'm trying to squeeze so much into this time at home that it's ridiculous.

The schedule for the next three days is a sort of last minute spontaneous swing train ride east, with stops along the way. It's so spontaneous that I'm going to need some help spreading the word. If you're a knitter and you know a knitter who might be interested (or a knitter who is totally going to send me some aggressive email later for not giving them enough warning that I was coming and therefore ruining their chances at having a chance to come to a knitting roadshow.) could you please let them know? I know I don't read all the blogs I read everyday, so I'm sure thats the way it is for everyone else.

Wednesday November 8th (that's tomorrow.) I'll be in historic Kingston, Ontario from 7-9pm at the Chapters at 2376 Princess Street. (You can just show up for that one. No RSVP necessary, I think they are likely expecting just a couple of knitters and I sort of like the idea of surprising them.)

Thursday, November 9th I'm doing not one, but two events in and around our Nations Capitol. I'll be at the Yarn Forward on Bank Street in Ottawa at 2pm for a signing (not a talk) and then at the other Yarn Forward in Kanata (474 Hazeldean Road) for a talk/signing at 7:00...Please RSVP to them if you are coming by calling 613-831-8027.

Friday, I get a chance to freak out a whole other province and I'll be in Montréal, 5:30 pm at the McGill University Bookstore, 3420 McTavish. Note: this talk will not be an opportunity for me to display my completely humiliating french, and will be me in all my anglophone glory. I do promise, as a nod to our other national language that should I feel the need to use strong language, I will indeed swear in french, assuming that there are not too many bagels in my mouth at the time.

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While I'm on the train (I love riding the train. It's such a humane and comfortable way to travel.) I'm going to try and sort out the beaded cuff for the Kitri socks.

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I've knit both socks (just about, there are only a few rows on a toe to go, and you'll notice that the toe isn't grafted. That's because the needles

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those very pointy 18cm/ 7inch ones, as well as my safety pins, were deemed perfectly safe to take on my flight, but I was asked to "surrender" the blunt darning needle stuck in my purse. I swear I am never going to get the hang of thinking like the TSA.) and then I pick up stitches from the provisional cast on and start the cuff, which...as near as I understand it, is knit perpendicular to the knitting for the sock. I'm feeling a little nervous. I have my reasons.

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1. I've never beaded knitting before and I'm feeling uptight about it.
2. Provisional cast ons give me hives. (I cannot be the only person who always manages to knit into the wrong part or miss a loop or do something that totally guarantees that they won't un-zip when they are supposed to.)
3. The beads are prestrung on the yarn for this cuff, but I have become possessed of an incredible fear that I will do something that will make the beads come off. In the world of my imagination they spring free on the train, scattering throughout the car and I never find them all, or I find them all but don't know what order to put them back on in, or I don't know how to put them back on or...I don't know. I'm very worried.

Perhaps I shouldn't do this on the train. Perhaps I should do this in a hermetically sealed room with a white unseamed floor and walls to prevent bead loss while I am enveloped in a cone of silence to protect me from mishap? Perhaps I should read about beaded knitting before I just leap in and do it? Maybe I should study it, or think about it or find some blogs where people are knitting beaded stuff and bad things aren't happening? Is it really that hard? Who's done this? Is it fussy? Should I do it on a train?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:26 PM

November 4, 2006

SOAR report

Sorry for the absence dear ones, but the while there was heaps of wireless at SOAR, it all stopped working on my computer for reasons that are totally mysterious to me. Then there was no internet in Connecticut, so this is (probably?) coming to you from Bradley airport where I'm perched with a coffee ready to fly home.

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(There seems to be wireless here. We shall see. I've been disappointed so many days in a row that my faith is shattered.) I'm hoping that it just all starts working again sometime soon. Since I didn't do anything to screw it up, I labour under the delusion that doing nothing will fix it. (What got you in will get you out...right?)I started to write this in the airport in Reno...(There are slot machines at the gate...

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Just out of sight on the right in this picture is a lady yelling "Just one more dollar" at a guy I assume is her travelling partner. Rough crowd. )

Lucky for me I've been so busy that I didn't have time to need the internet anyway. The days and evenings at SOAR are busy, busy, busy, and when I'm not busy, I'm asleep. I'm learning that my sea-level living self doesn't agree with these heights and I was sleeping huge amounts of time. Toronto sits at 347 feet above sea level and Lake Tahoe at at what my lungs clearly consider an astonishing 6225 feet. This altitude really leaves me breathless and gasping, and perhaps a smidge queasy. I actually considered putting my head between my knees when the world got a little dark around the edges after carrying my suitcase, purse, laptop and wheel up three flights of stairs while I was there. While I can't show you what oxygen deprivation looks like, here's some stuff from SOAR I can show you.

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This here is an intriguing SOAR phenomenon known as "pine-henge"

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Apparently SOAR participants artfully arrange the cones under cover of darkness. It is ever-evolving, and everytime I walked by it it was different. There was apparently a pyramid at one point, but it had complex structural difficulties. (These pinecones fall from tall trees above and Amy Clarke Moore and I were almost bonked severely on the head while obtaining the first picture. )

The Keynote went fine, though it was very scary. (I wasn't sure about talking about spinning instead of knitting. It was a leap.) Lo....
the spinners of SOAR.

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(Half of them are blurry. I don't know why.)

That was Thursday. Friday I took two classes. The first one was with Alden Amos called "As The Wheel Turns" which was an overview of the technical workings of a spinning wheel. He had this HUGE flyer and bobbin that he had built just for SOAR to explain the relationships between all of the parts of a wheel.

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Big eh? It was so big it was sort of shocking. (What was shocking actually, was that it was a working wheel. Not an elegant working wheel, but a functioning wheel none the less.

Gogorachs114

Rachel sure thought it was shocking. I had a fantastic time following her around. We made a beer and ATM run that was exactly what I needed. The woman is a fountain of joy to be around. I got her to hold the sock...

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and Alden too. (He was....bemused, I think. At the very least he resisted the urge to tell me what he was thinking when I asked him to "hold my sock", for which I am grateful. If you have met Alden then you must know how difficult that would be for him.)

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We had lunch, I regrouped and spent the afternooon in a class with Judith MacKenzie McCuin

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intriguingly called "Three Wild Downs". The class was an introduction to spinning the down fibres of bison, yak and cashmere. I was a little worried, mostly because the last time I tried to spin cashmere I managed to turn the little cloud of fibre into my hand into a mass of twisted $30/oz craptastica... but Judith is a wonderful teacher, and once she tells you a few magic things ("relax" is a big help) it's really wonderful.

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We spun about 16 different samples of varieties and blends. Yak/silk? Yum. (After the class I went to the market and found the booth from The Fold and made an embarassment of myself to Toni feeling up little wee bits of very good things. We shall not speak of it.)

This was the spinner next to me in Judith's class.

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Nancy Bush. I Love SOAR. There is simply the finest collection of fibre arts teachers in one place that you're ever going to find. Jeannine Bakriges, Stephenie Gaustad, Andrea Mielke...

Debandsaras411

Deb Menz and Sara "freakin" Lamb...the list went on and on. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was really wonderful, you wouldn't believe the things I learned. Getting to go in exchange for giving a terrifying speech to some of the people you respect most in the world was totally worth it. Totally. The icing on the cake was the view from my room...

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and the promise of seeing a bear...

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which I did.

I've got way more to tell you, like about the breast cancer fundraiser I just did in Granby, or the way that the altitude in Lake Tahoe makes all of your pens explode on your knitting, or the gigs I'm doing later this week. Heads up Ontario, it's Kingston November the 8th, Ottawa the 9th and Montreal the 10th. Details tomorrow. ...but that

Myplanebrad411

....is my plane. It's not very big....is it? Someday we will discuss my irrational belief that big planes stay up better. I have no idea where I got my idea that something heavier was more likely to fly...but there you have it.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:49 PM

November 1, 2006

I don't even unpack anymore.

I am throwing wool into a suitcase to catch a 12:15 flight to Lake Tahoe for SOAR where I am giving the keynote address. I'm very nervous. To help ease my anxiety (and because I leave at 10:00am and arrive at my hotel at 9:00pm tonight...that's some time on my hands) I have packed a mitten kit, three socks in progress, three things to spin, a backup skein of sock yarn and my knitpicks options so that if I run out of yarn I can still go get more and have needles. I am still wondering if I should take more. (Maybe a shawl....)

Today is my darling Joe's birthday. We're not celebrating properly today (what with the plane) but I couldn't let the day go without marking it. I've said nice things about him on his birthday before (here and here, for those of you so compelled) and I only care for him more today than ever.
There is nothing more that I can say about this sweetness of a man this year, except that I love him, he's a good learner, he is more ethically decent than I could ever convey in words and he's handled an extraordinarily difficult few months with grace, good humour, and less whining that you would ever believe possible. I'm truly proud to be his wife and I'm glad I'm with him every day.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:53 AM