In which we mess around with Norah Gaughan’s Swirled Pentagon Pullover
Note from Steph: I'm almost done, I swear it. This is the last of That Laurie's phenomenally interesting guest blogs, and it will (almost) coincide with me running out of time to write the book. If anyone cares, the "writing" part is definitively done, and I'm onto all of the revisions and re-reading and organizing...and writing the introduction, which for reasons I have never been able to reconcile, I always do last. (Dumbass, but true.) I'll be back soon. Perhaps a hollow shell of my former self...but back.
My sincerest thanks to That Laurie for the blog rescue mission. Those of us who blog can guess at how long it took her to put these together...and I'm very grateful.
By now you may be tired of spirals, You may not even be interested in moving onto swirled pentagons, even though the construction is really quite different. This sweater design appears in Norah Gaughan’s delectable book, Knitting Nature. There are several projects in this book that I have in my sights, but my absolute favorite is the swirled pentagon yoke sweater. I found this pullover even more appealing when Grumperina knit one without the turtleneck, and I realized that the yoke all by itself looked pretty cool.
So once again I was knitting a yoke, but this time I wanted to have my color ranges WITHIN the six individual pentagons. Off to do more dyeing, but this time I did it by space dyeing relatively small rovings, 1.5 to 2 ounces. And I even spun and swatched to see if I was getting the color array I wanted:
Once I was SURE that the pentagons would look the way I wanted, I spun up all my little skeins and began knitting them sequentially onto each other:
And here is my completed yoke:
One of the nice things about working this way (top-down) is that you really get to take a good look at what the crucial section of the sweater around your neck and head. And, of course, you can manipulate the shaping to fit your body as snugly or loosely as you wish as you knit your way down the body!
However, from here I had to do some moderately challenging things in order to knit DOWN from the yoke. I used three-ply yarn from roving dyed the same color as the Myrtle Green in the pentagons. And I used Barbara Walker’s book shamelessly, taking a lot of her advice to make the top-down set-in sleeves.
My first step was to use short rows in order to knit down on both the front and back edges to the depth of sleeve listed for my size. Please note: I did the back first and then, trickster that I am, rechecked my gauge to make sure that the total stitches I was planning for the body would really, truly fit my particular shape well before knitting the front down the same way.
Then, at each edge of the front side and back side, I cast on the same number as the original pattern indicated for the bind-off for the sleeves. I joined the front and back and knit a couple of inches so I would have a totally stable sleeve opening before the challenges of a top-down set-in sleeve.
At the upper edge of each sleeve I picked up, relatively closely together, the same number of stitches that Gaughan lists as the bind-off AT THE TOP of her sleeves in my size. I centered these around the “shoulder seam.” Then I placed a marker so I would know where the top stitches of the sleeve were. Then I took note of the total number of stitches her sleeve reached BEFORE the first bind-offs as the knitting moved UP the sleeve. That number was my target for picking up the stitches around the sleeve opening. When I reached the place where I had started picking up, I put another marker. That set of stitches at the top of the sleeve served as the center stitches for my shortrowing. Basically I knit short rows all the way down the sleeve cap, picking up one more stitch with every row until I reached the stitches that I had cast on when knitting down the front and back. Those I picked up all together.
I actually picked up the stitches around the sleeve opening for BOTH sleeves before starting to knit either sleeve. Then I began to knit down on both of them simultaneously so I could match and check shaping. That way I could try it on!
PLEASE forgive the extraordinarily smug expression; it is actually a grimace because my husband takes pictures while offering a running commentary about how strange it is that I want pictures of things before they are completed!
To finish the project off, I reiterated the shirttail hem from the Quiggle sweater…. And here you go:
I hope my explanation of top-down set-in sleeves was not too confusing; it really does make sense when you try it!
Just to answer a few of the questions that have come up over the last few days, I offer the following information.
The Charlotte Quiggle pattern uses the shirttail hem and gives a nice description of how to achieve it with shortrowing. You can manage the same effect in knitting on the way down by beginning short rows once you reach the sweater length where you want your shirttail to begin. By that point you have a really good sense of your row and stitch gauge! Sally Melville has a super, detailed description of how to get the exact curve you want in Great Knits: Texture and Color Techniques (82-85). This essay also appeared in Threads 47 (June 1993): 34-37. The book is a wonderful collections of Threads articles, but it is now, alas, out of print. You can usually find it via interlibrary loan.The basic principle is easy--you want steeper shortrows in the upper third of your shirttail hem, achieved with single stitches between turns, and you want less steep--that is wider spacing-- between short rows in the lower parts of your shirttail hem.
On the raglan issue and yokes for narrow shoulders, I have some suggestions. Raglans look dreadful on my narrow shoulders because of the strong diagonal line of the increases (or decreases as you knit UP the sweater); however, I can significantly counter that effect by creating some kind of strong color contrast in a stripe that falls at or near my shoulder width. If you are knitting the raglan in the round, this strategy is particularly easy. The stripe then makes a square (or rectangle) that actually emphasizes my shoulders and makes them look wider. Along the same lines, if I place my yoke design so that the color work (whatever it is) ends at or near the edge of my shoulders, the design makes the most of the limited space I have from shoulder edge to shoulder edge and makes that area look larger.
To do the offset spinning, I arrayed my colors (roughly) as follows for the different plies:
ply #1 -- .5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. purple
ply #2 -- 1 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1 oz. purple
ply #3 -- 1.5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, .5 oz. purple
This array makes .5 oz pure purple, 5. oz rasp/purp/purp, . 5 oz rasp/rasp/purp, .5 oz rasp/rasp/rasp -- and so forth.
Note from Steph: Unbelievably, as the deadline approacheth...I have been able to pull my head up enough to remember that there are other things in the world besides me and my deadline, and recall that today is a most auspicious day. It is the birthday of my esteemed guest blogger and excellent friend, That Laurie. Please take a moment to wish her well in the comments...will you? She's a fine knitter and a good person and I haven't seen her in months and months. I miss her. (...and Laurie? Don't blame your lovely husband. He can confirm that I was way ahead of him when he called, though he did call, his love for you being big, wide and unstoppable. Give him a kiss. He's a dear.)
Happy Birthday That Laurie!
(And thanks again for the guest blogging.)
I am not the only one who has been tempted to knit a variation on the Spiral Yoke Sweater. Given how intriguing I have (obviously) found this design, you will not be surprised to hear that I was instantly drawn to a sweater called “Ribbing is no Yoke,” designed by Charlotte Quiggle. In fact, I have wanted to knit this pullover since it was published in 2000 (Knitters Magazine, issue # 60). Quiggle uses a shirttail hem (which you can tell that I favor in the other variations of the SYS), and her design uses ribbing in the yoke rather than traveling stitches. All very appealing.
Given all these attractions, you might ask why I waited six long years after seeing the pattern before giving it a whirl, as it were. I even had a suitable commercial yarn in my stash for the project! The answer is that I was waiting for inspiration; I wanted the perfect handspun for the sweater. My interest in the Quiggle design was renewed by a new strategy for spinning a slowly variegated yarn. I wanted to try a three-ply where one ply at a time shifted from one color to the next, along the lines of Trekking sock yarn.
The first choice I had to make was the fleece, which I purchased from Lindy Gallop at the Maine Fiber Frolic. It was a fine-crimp Romney-corrie cross fleece with a VERY nice hand; as a result, the roving was pure pleasure to spin and spun up fine enough for three-ply. Also, though it was only a six and a half pound fleece, I managed to get enough yarn from it for both this sweater and the next one in this little series. My next choices were colors: Jacquard purple, Country Classics Raspberry, Jaquard Aztec Gold (a coppery orange) and Golden Ochre.
However, to get the array I wanted, I couldn’t rely on spacedyeing the roving. Instead I did a batch of each color in my crockpot. Basically I set up the roving (about 4 ounces each) as if I were going to paint it and then submerged my pantyhose packages in the crockpot, dosed with a single color. Here is the result:
My plan for the three-ply yarn meant that I had design singles with color changes at offset intervals. My singles are reasonably even—and three-ply does even things out-- so I managed this feat by weigh everything very carefully and staggering the weights, as you see in picture above. The resulting yarn looked like this:
With my yarn for the yoke in hand, I then went on and dyed the yarn for the body with a combination of purple and raspberry, matching the yoke. You can get a better sense of how this yarn experiment worked in this picture taken as I finished knitting down the yoke. I simply started from the top edge stitch number and then transformed the decreases in the Quiggle pattern into increases, always noting the number of total stitches after each series of increases. And this is what I got:
Here you can really see that the color changes did work, although there was more orange than I had envisioned. At this point in the knitting, in fact, I was overwhelmed by that orange and more than a little depressed. However, as a friend kept reminding me, the bulk of the sweater in purple would offset that appearance of excessive orange. Even as I got down to the waist and made the decreases there, I could tell she had been right:
And here is the final product, suitably photographed in Maine’s autumnal light:
While I think one of the commercial yarns with long color repeats could also work with this version of the SYS, I am glad I tried the plying experiment. Reliable sources suggest that FOUR-ply would work even better!
Next time: In which we mess around with about Nora Gaughan's Swirled Pentagon sweater using color variations within her pentagons.
Note from Steph: I am an idiot. After very carefully sorting the guest blogs from That Laurie, I then equally carefully posted them in the wrong damn order. That Laurie is to gracious to say anything about this, so I am just copping to it. Today I bring you the second of That Laurie's guest blogs, which is actually the first of That Laurie's guest blogs except that I posted the second one first instead of the first one first. Please go back and read the second one after the first one so that things make more sense and so that you can have the full effect of the genius that is That Laurie. My apologies. I'm a little brain dead. I promise to try harder.
Today we celebrate the yoke sweater, which I often knit from the top down. Basically, I will extoll the joys of yoke knitting and its eminent suitability for many body types, while I stealthily lure you in thinking that top-down construction is worth the effort that goes into the calculations. After all, my very first all-handspun sweater made of all handspun was a top-down, yoke sweater!
And, just for fun, here’s a better look at the all-important yoke. It is less complicated than it looks because I used Mosaic stitches rather than two-color knitting:
Before we proceed, an admission: I am a pear. Among the body types that Maggie Righetti explores in her very useful book Sweater Design in Plain English I am a classic Anjou, perhaps a Barlett, with my upperworks smaller that my ample backside. And the pearness of me is more noticeable because I have narrow shoulders as well. In Chapter 6, Righetti’s book identifies the different possible body shapes and explains in detail how to get the pertinent measurements; Chapter 11, “Choosing the Most Flattering Design for the Wearer,” addresses what particular uses of light and dark colors, stripes AND, most key, what sweater designs work best for which shapes.*
Unless you are an hourglass (and therefore can wear practically anything, darn you!), you can get useful ideas from this chapter. And, if you are a pear like me, you will read and read only to discover that the one real piece of advice she gives is that the typical Icelandic yoke sweater and the “Bottom-Heavy Hourglass Figure” (I prefer “pear”) are “a natural, made-for-each other combination” (128). Later, when explaining how to design an Icelandic yoke sweater, she makes the statement still more general: “the whole family of Icelandic designs with their radiating, overlapping, and concentric diamonds is flattering to almost all types of figures” (328).
Now, you might think from this introduction that I will regale you with stories of spinning and knitting Icelandic Yoke sweaters. But, no! For all matters Icelandic, visit Cassie at Too Much Wool. I am sure I will get to Icelandic patterns, but I haven’t yet. As some of you already know, I have a SLIGHT tendency to take information, patterns, fiber in a different direction than intended. What I take from Righetti’s analysis is that, whatever yoke inspires me, I should gravitate toward it. As long as I keep my narrow shoulders in mind!
One of my favorites is Meg Swansen’s Spiral Yoke sweater, shown below in “conventional” form.
You can tell that the shape works on me. However, you cannot SEE the yoke detail unless you look more closely because it develops very cleverly from traveling stitches:
I wasn’t TOTALLY conventional in knitting this sweater even though I chose the adult sweater design in Handknitting with Meg Swansen (pp. 24-35). I started on a provisional cast-on from the waist and knit UP, knitting and joining the sleeves before the yoke, so I could work through the way the spiral sections were formed. Then I knit down from the waist! The handspun originated as a Shetland moorit fleece from Joe Miller here in Maine, and I did not have a lot of it. The fact that I sometimes am not sure whether I have enough of my handspun to finish up a sweater as I would wish—one HUGE factor in my tendency to knit from the yoke down!
Tomorrow: (Or yesterday, if the blog mistress is a raging idiot) The Rainbow Spiral: Wherein I worship at the altar of Meg again but play with dyeing, spinning, and the two-color version.
*Lily Chin also has a useful article on “Fits that Flatter” in the most recent Vogue (Fall 2007, p 46+).
Note from Stephanie: Dudes, it has become traditional, as I fall toward a book deadline and am reduced to singlular focus on that goal, for my good friend That Laurie to step up and guest blog. That Laurie is sadly, blogless (sorry Rachel H. ...I mean "blog-free") and these guest blogs are an opportunity for us to learn from her genius. That Laurie's handspun, hand knit sweaters are always the darling of every fibre ball, and anyone who knows her knows that her answer to questions about how she comes up with this stuff is usually "I'll do a guest blog and tell you". Here you go. I couldn't be more grateful for her timing. Please give a warm welcome to my friend and yours...That Laurie.
Before we spiral into spinning for a rainbow yoke, please note that Meg Swansen’s Spiral Yoke sweater is actually designed from the bottom up. Moreover, I freely acknowledge the appeal of that upward knitting trajectory. After all, knitting UP holds out the promise of the “exciting knitting” to get you through miles and miles of stockinette; perhaps as a result, knitting from the bottom up is by far the more common direction in sweater designs. In fact, most of the patterns I will mention here are written from the bottom up.
So why do I, perversely, insist on descending down the bodies of my yoke sweaters, perilously anchored on mathematical calculations that I could avoid? Top-down knitting is really the refuge of those, like me, who want to make shaping adjustments and check them by trying on the work in progress:
(consider this a teaser for NEXT post!)
That’s the high-minded reason. But, basically, I have serious issues with sheer indecisiveness and yarn quantities. I always have trouble deciding about the bottom of the sweater: how long do I want it? What edging do I want? Will ribbing draw too much attention where I do not want it to go? Do I want a shirttail hem? Moreover, when I am using my handspun, I am never 100% sure how much I will need for a given sweater. I would rather run out as I barrel toward the bottom of the thing than just as I reach the upper parts of the yoke.
I may even have a VERY limited amount of something delicious that I have spun up. I know there is not enough for a sweater, but it will be enough for the yoke, as long as I knit from the top down.
For this one, I had only four ounces of a precious, handdyed, shiny Icelandic roving, but I had a lot of black Galway in my stash! For both this sweater and the one featured in the previous post, I used mosaic stitches from Barbara Walker’s Mosaic Knitting for some rounds, increased the yoke, using EZ’s percentage system on the NON patterned rows, and changed the stitch pattern, if necessary, to accommodate the new number of stitches. Another good resource is Roxanne Barlett’s Slip Stitch Knitting"Slip-Stitch Knitting: Color Pattern the Easy Way" (Roxana Bartlett). It sounds more complicated than it is.
The decision between top-down or bottom-up is a very personal one, and, frankly, top-down sweaters pose unusual challenges. Folks who WANT to work from the top down but face a pattern with the other orientation have a few things to consider and some resources. The first question is whether your stitch pattern in the sweater looks the same from the bottom up as from the top down. Some do: stockinette, seed/moss stitch, ribbing of all kinds, and so on. If the stitch pattern DOESN’T look the same, well, you may want to rethink. Second is the vexing question of sleeve construction. Some, like set-in sleeves, require careful thought and work best in simultaneous sleeve-knitting.
The best resource for these matters that I know is Barbara Walker’s Knitting From The Top. Basically, she tells you how to convert ANY bottom-up sweater pattern into a top-down version. Raglan? Piece of cake! Fairisle or Icelandic Yoke sweater? No problem. Even set-in sleeves (as we shall see when I start mixing it up with Nora Gaughan.)
Where, you ask, is the rainbow spiral and what has it to do all this stuff about top down knitting? I am glad you asked! Since that sweater is basically stockinette, the straight knitting sections will look the same either way. The yoke, I thought, could be negotiated, but first I tested one of the variations on the spiral yoke sweater Meg Swansen offers:
As you can see, this version gives you a two-color spiral, and it inspired me to imagine what I could do by using some of my handdyed roving with the slow color changes. (See the previous guest blogs on dyeing roving). Basically, I dyed my roving in a rainbow of colors, spun it and then navajo-plied it to keep the colors together. Then I went about knitting the Spiral yoke from the top down. To get the effect I wanted, I combined the two versions of the pattern: the stitches travel AND the two-color knitting introduces the rainbow.
I even started from a provisional cast one so I could decide later how to treat the neck—I wasn’t so sure about how ribbing would work. Here is a closer look at the color changes:
I admit to fudging JUST a little when it looked as if the gold section was going to be too dominant. And I miscalculated so that I had some colors left over from my rainbow spinning. So I used them for the cuffs. An excuse for a final picture:
My bet is that this variation on the SYS (Spiral Yoke Sweater) would work just as well, though to slightly different effect, with a Noro yarn, perhaps Silk Garden Lite, which would match more closely the worsted commercial yarns you might want as a contrast.
Next time. Quiggling the Spiral: In which we explore yet another variation on the spiral yoke, this time using ribbing and color gradations produced in another way!
1. Ever since I came back from my trip and found this book in the bathroom:
I have had an impending sense of doom and spotty internet service. Joe has "tweaked" the router into absolute uselessness. (He has also asked me for my "system disks" so that he can "improve" something on my laptop. I'm no idiot. He's not touching anything until the book is done.) Just when I am about to beat it to a thousand tiny pieces with the blunt end of a hockey stick, the thing springs to life, delivers mail and blogs for mere moments before doing the electronic version of fainting dead away.
2. This is making me insane.
3. I have mere days to finish the book, and am alternately cackling that I am so close to the end, and sobbing that I still have so far to go. I have no idea how it always comes down to this. I am a bright, reasonable woman who has been down this path before. How do I manage to let the whole thing come down to such a wild place that I am yelling "do you want another piece of crazy pie? Just keep it up!" at my family.
4. Knitting socks is keeping me from slipping away into absolute senselessness.
My basic sock recipe, 2.25mm needles. Very pleased. Very pleased indeed.
5. I started another pair. I don't know how I think knitting works, but it is entirely possible that my fixation with finishing the book is leading to fixations with finishing other things, and when these were not instantly finished...
I thought about snipping them up with a sharp pair of pinking shears for daring to take a reasonable amount of time.
(They are too pretty though. Yarn is from Hazel Knits, with the very clever name "Sailors Delight". Pattern is the ubiquitous monkeys. (Except I added a picot edge)
6. The house is trashed, but someone who is not writing a book needs to clean it up.
7. There is nobody who agrees with me that the house is trashed who is not writing a book. I have no idea how you can not see that this place is trashed, but this family has dirt immunity or something.
8. This is making me insane.
9. The garter stitch jacket is almost done. I still love it, but am harbouring some resentment that it is not finished as well. Maybe I only like finished things right now. (Maybe that explains why the kids are driving me wild.)
10. This may be a theme until the book is finished. Must go drink coffee now. Book waiting.
PS. For reasons I don't understand at all (because when I load my own blog, I see pretty red monkey socks) some of you are saying you see tattooed ladies. I don't know why. I choose to blame the router. I'm going to place the picture here again.......
Better? I swear. Doesn't technology save us SO MUCH TIME.
You know how when you travel, all you can think about is home and everyone there and how much you miss them, then you walk through the door and the kids are fighting and the house is a mess and you think "This is what I was missing? Was I out of my mind?" Not this time. Sure, the house is trashed and the daughters are engaged in a perennial argument about clothing possession, and I can't tell you how badly we need a trip to the grocery store (I suspect that if the Wanigan box were not delivered without anyone doing anything, they would all be dead) and I don't know what they have against the vacuum (you could make a whole new cat out of the dust buffalo roaming the dining room) ...but for the most part, I am still so glad to see them...and near as I can tell, although with teenagers it's tremendously complex...I think they missed me. I certainly feel appreciated by Joe. I'm hoping the general gratitude they all have lasts long enough for me to finish the book before the spell breaks.
Now, imagine if you will, that I am not home, that I am back in Virginia, and that I am still doing that part of my job.
I made my way from Atlanta, Georgia to Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia, which is right smack next door to Washington DC. (That's the Federal City, sort of like Vatican City. It's it's own whole place. ) My hotel was close to the event, rather than DC, but I had an interview there so I got to have a bit of a poke around. (Especially since I was lost, briefly.) It's a beautiful city, and there is something spectacular everywhere you look, but it's very hard to get close to all the really interesting stuff. (Like the White House, or the President. Pity. There are some questions I would like to ask him. ) Many, many things have fancy eagles on them:
(This is another city where I have to be extra aware of poles and trees because the architecture you are looking "up" at puts you at risk of a nasty bonking.) I also saw the Pentagon, though it's really hard to get at too.
In real life it is bigger. Much bigger. Huge in fact. (Interesting facts I learned from my cab driver (I checked. He's right about this stuff.) 23 000 people work there, it was built on a swamp/dump/wasteland in only 16 months, and it has twice as many bathrooms and drinking fountains as it needs because when it was built in 1941, Virginia required separated facilities for "coloured" and "white" personnel.)
That evening, after rewashing my hair to get the alarming amount of hairspray out of it, I turned up at the Borders and what should I find?
Knitters. The place was filthy with 'em. (The staff was right freaked.) Knitters in general, and knitters in specific.
Felicia and Brooklyn
Laverne knit my Tiptoe socks
The first sock brigade: Meghan, Laverne, Susan, Dale, Jaclyn, Lori, Becca, Jeni, Lee, Mazhalai, Meghan (another one) and finally Jo, with her 1st socks, version 3.0.
Sharon outdid herself in the Bad First Sock Department:
Seriously, the worst first sock ever. Sharon is competing at the Olympic level. Luckily, she recovered on the second pair, demonstrating that no matter how badly that first pair went,
You can totally live to knit another day.
Speaking of competing at the Olympic level, Johann knit this in just about 16 days for the olympics.
Amanda made a Virginia Washcloth, Gillian came up with "Virginia is for knitters" and Jane knit me one with a crab on it to be Maryland. (Maryland is not crab shaped. It's another symbolic thing.)
This is Mum Tamara, her baby Annabelle and her 3 and a half year old son Edison.
Edison brought his knitting. (All together now... Awwww...)
Betsy and Ken were celebrating their 32 years of marriage.
This is Crazy Lanae. (I'm pretty flipped out to meet her.) She brought me Black Sheep Ale, and conquered sock modelling right there.
and I completed my set of Rainey sister meetings, since this is Sally.
Dawn rocked it out with her yarn based tattoo
Marseille knits tiny, tiny things...
Our Esteemed hat lady, Claire.
and finally, Daniel, who ran the gig for Borders, and I think everyone there will agree was totally Captain Charisma.
What he was doing in that place, I cannot say, but I have witnesses.
I'm writing from a cab, headed for the airport to go home, so even though my heart just leaps thinking that I've survived and tonight I sleep in my own bed, pretend I'm still on the road..I've got two more events to tell you about.
I arrived in Atlanta totally wiped out an a smidge on the cranky side. I found the bathroom and teetered in. I was standing there, waiting for my turn and all I could think was "Who does this? Who lives this way? I have got to be the only human being in the world this tired and worn out from travelling in the name of knit" when the door to the stall in front of me opened, and I just started to laugh.
Vicky Howell. Seriously. What are the odds? If I hadn't gone to the bathroom right then, if she hadn't gone right then, if the person in the next stall had been a little quicker...totally bizarre. We stood and laughed about how crazy this whole flying around for knitting thing is, we confused the living daylights out of some poor women by photographing each other right there, and we parted. She for North Carolina and then Webs, and me for Atlanta and then Virginia.
It was a bizarre moment. Totally. If I didn't have this picture I would think that I had hallucinated it.
Leaving Vicky and the airport, I staggered up to the hotel and met this fine gentleman.
Anthony. Anthony should be, if he is not yet, the poster dude for the famous Southern Hospitality, which is really saying something, because the south OWNs hospitality. Don't let his work face fool you either. This is the real Anthony.
He was charming, gracious, welcoming and restored my faith in all of humanity, which is quite a feat, considering that I have been in so many airports, which really seems to bring out the worst in people. The ladies from Knitch who dropped by the hotel were just as entirely smitten with him. He defines elegant charm my friends...defines it. Restored by Anthony's existence...I meant to blog but fell asleep, and when I woke up, it was time to wash airport off me, and go to Knitch.
I can't say enough about this store. Kim, the owner is a lovely gal, who's sensible and kind nature is only topped by her organizational skills and good thinking. Knitch went whole hog on this bad boy, and were rewarded with the attendance of 700 or so of their knitterly kin, and while their are few people who can handle that with grace (Steve and Kathy over at Webs managed too) it's a big job keeping that many knitters rolling along, and she did a grand job.
Behold. The knitters of Atlanta! (and surrounding areas.)
Terrifying. En masse they flipped me right out, but individually? Well. They flipped me out, but in a good way.
Adding to the general madness was the fact that it was International Talk Like a Pirate day, which I did, but only briefly. (It's hard to maintain. I don't know how the pirates did it.)
Heather and Arden. (You know my fondness for very young pre-knitters.)
Angie, Jill, Marsha. Sara,
and Cindy (sporting her 1st sock version 5.0), Holly, with a particularly sad first sock (that poor little white thing), Nina, Samira (her first three..none finished) and Michelle,
In the "go big or go home" department, Deborah knit these knee highs.
and Jane even wore the scarf she made out of my handspun that she won in Claudia's auction. Very snazzy.
Courtney, who designed and screened me a tee shirt that Joe is going to laugh about for weeks.
It says "Squirrel Killa"
Mary and Lydia, with washcloths.
(I am going to have one weird collection when we are done.
Gracious hat lady and wonderful hats.
and finally, the whole team of staff and volunteers who kept the whole thing from going off the rails. If you're ever in town, give them a visit. Knitch has a zen corner you can sit in. You wanna go.
For now...dudes. I'm home. I am so happy.
I think the last time I was this tired, I had a newborn. You will have to forgive me for being a bad blogger and not keeping it together on the posting front, but every time I get more than 20 minutes in one place where I don't have a job to do, I opt for sleep or food. (Mostly sleep.) Opportunities to blog present themselves in 10 minute intervals (like now, I have 10 minutes before I need to go do an interview) and while I ususally find time to blog in airports while I wait for planes, this morning something came over me and I just ....knit. It was grand. I had a whole hour (you can't really sleep in an airport) and I watched "Boston Legal" on my laptop and knit. Very restorative, though I have developed a disturbing crush on William Shatner. (It's probably the exhaustion talking.)
The last time I wrote I had left New Orleans and gotten on a plane or two and headed for Texas. Houston, to be exact, and upon my arrival I (slept) and then staggered off to a spectacular event put together by Eve and Shelley, the fine owners of Twisted Yarns, which is in my humble opinion, a very, very nice yarn shop.
(I bought yarn. I have developed very high resistance to yarn shops - largely promoted by the knowledge that anything I buy I will have to carry for days in a suitcase that's plenty heavy already. Even so, when that rare beast, a yarn shop that seems to be stocked according to my personal taste appears...I am helpless.) On my way to the yarn shop, having squandered all 2 of my precious sightseeing hours on sleep and basic hygiene, I saw these guys.
Freaky, eh? Who are these little guys? I tried to get a sock picture with them, but they startle easily and are very quick, and I think they were slightly alarmed by all of the sock brandishing. "Slightly alarmed" also describes the hotel staff, watching me sneak ever so quietly and slowly around their garden, camera and sock aloft. I've never seen anything like them. The bottom guy had a big red thing that he could blow up under his neck. Totally weird, and worth the trip just to see them.
(Whoops. My 10 minutes are up. I'll try again when I get back.
Ok. I'm back. Quick but terrifying tv interview where I was attacked wholesale in a makeup booth by a woman who put scary tv makeup on me and then sighed and said " and WHAT will we do with your HAIR!" and then came at me with aerosol hairspray out of freakin' nowhere. There was no time to defend myself at all. My hair is immobile now, and sadly, still frizzy. I could have told her there was no point if she had given me time. )
Where was I? Right. Houston.
The event was in a high school next to the store and I had a pretty good time, once I settled in. I had a seriously good time back at the store after the time of my trial. This is Gus and Hannah.
Gus is a serious baby, and is almost unique in the world in that my considerable baby charming skills meant nothing to him. He was totally immune. He liked me, he looked at me intently, but nothing i did...not "ahhh - boo!" (which is very funny to most babies) nor my exceedingly baby amusing fish imitation...nor the big gun...pretending to eat his leg, coaxed a smile out of him. Stoneface. Dude should take up poker. (You know. When he can hold cards.) Witnesses will agree that I went to tremendous lengths, but he is immune.
I found the youngest knitter of the evening,
Tonie, 10 years old and a perfectly competent knitter. We should all be so solid.
Dolores may have had some trouble with gauge:
but prefers to say that "everything is bigger in Texas". (I love that knitterly denial let her make a pair.)
Zari is knitting an anatomically correct fair isle cuttlefish, which she, naturally is calling "the cuddlefish". He still needs a siphon and some tentacles.
(No. I didn't ask her why. Sometimes it's better not to. )
Teri wants to help me get over my spider thing:
so she made a spider washcloth. (Also soap with plastic spiders imbedded in it. I know where she's going with it, but even the thought of rubbing pretend spiders on my skin gives me the heebies. Much inner work to be done, apparently.
Freida went the traditional state shape direction....
while Lynn ann made me one with the lone star, and no, I didn't tell her it was a tremendous co-incidence that Texas was shaped like a star. (I had already gotten the tip off from Freida.)
Cheasty represented for the non-knitters who like me even though they don't really get all the jokes...
David represented for the male knitters wearing utilikilts and hand knit hose.
(There are more of them than you think)
Amanda proved that my sock recipe works. This is her first sock.
Sara was no end of interesting.
See her hat? She wanted to make a hat with a firm round brim, so she disected an idea organizer and got the plastic ring out if it. Good thinking, eh? She's also wearing a pretty nifty lace bolero. Now, me and lace boleros are pretty heavy with the "not so much" but I loved the way that the pattern she used handled colour changes.
The thing is knit with three strands of laceweight, and the colours shift by swapping out one of those strands at a time. The first section would be purple/purple/purple, then purple/purple/red, then purple/red/ red......see how that would create the shift? Very cool. The bolero is the The bolero is the Merging Colors Feather & Fan Bolero, in the Caribbean Sunset colorway, from Candace Eisner Strick. (There are tons of cool things on that link) and if you hang out at Sara's blog, (which I really suggest, should you enjoy tech stuff about knitting) I bet you'll see the hat pattern up as a freebee sometime soon.
Finally, last but certainly not least,
All in all, a very good time in Texas, I'd love to go back, especially with more time to investigate, though those strange little lizard guys were a high point. There's nothing like that at home.
PS. I know someone will ask. The yarn I fell for was Jojoland's Harmony. It's a laceweight. A very nice all wool effort that changes colour in long swathes...like Noro or the Kauni yarn.
I love it but have no idea what I'll do with it, maybe this, but really, for this price for 800m/880 yards?
I've struggled a lot with how to write about New Orleans. I feel like Katrina defines so much of what is there now, but it's such an old and spectacular city that I somehow don't want it to be defined only by that awful thing. I keep starting to write, and finding that I want to be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth, feeling mournful for what this city lost without even understanding what they lost...since I'm not even from here, and pretending that I could have any real sense of it gained in an afternoon feels like it would be demeaning to them. Then I delete everything I write and try to just write about how stunningly beautiful, and interesting and wildly enthralling the place is, and then I realize I'm gushing and delete all of that. The mind numbing thing about New Orleans right now, is that it is both. Sad and happy, devastating and uplifting, thrilling and crushing. Right next to each other will be something repaired and beautiful and old and fantastic right down to its very molecules, and right next to that will be something just as ruined and sad and....it's almost impossible to take ten steps in the city without goggling at one wonder or another while simultaneously having your heart broken. As much as I watch the news and read the papers, I don't think that I had any real sense of what had happened, or the enormous scope of it. In the complete absence of the ability to sort out my reaction to it, and what the right thing to say is,
I've decided just to let it roll. My tour of New Orleans was graciously given by Dez, who also makes an absolutely Kick Ass veggie gumbo.
The French Quarter was stunning beyond all. There was wrought and cast iron everywhere. Buildings with Spanish style architecture are everywhere (which struck me as sort of odd, considering that it's the French Quarter) but of course:
I need to remember what little history I know. Mardi Gras beads hang year round from some of the balconies and trees, and it's like coming upon little sparkling treasures everywhere you look.
We walked (and ate) our way through the streets, hot and steamy with my hair huge and ships going by on the wide Mississippi while we went. I saw a band, made up only of a man with a tuba and a man with an upright bass, playing fantastic jazz while a tarot card reader sorted out peoples destinies feet away. I looked for good sock pictures.
(This is an Alligator, not a crocodile and if you make that mistake you are quickly corrected by every person within earshot.) I laughed and laughed as I came upon balconies dripping with enormous plants that are wee potted things in Toronto.
It's like everything green in New Orleans is on steroids. We went to a very beautiful yarn/ needlepoint shop in the French Quarter, (The Quarter Stitch) and the place was like a jewel box.
Despite the way they wrap up the yarn that you buy like it's your birthday and how tempted I was to buy something just so that I would get a pretty bag, only Dez had a falling down and my virtue remained intact. Nevertheless, that can all really take it out of a girl, and I recovered the best way I ever have.
Coffee and beignets at the Cafe du Monde, out in the open air with ceiling fans spinning in the heat above us and live street jazz and people laughing and just beside us, the river with boats and ferrys going along. The menu at Cafe du Monde is printed on the side of the napkin box and I'm pretty sure all you can order is Café au lait or black coffee with chickory, and the only question about the beignets is how many. They take your order and bring you your things in about 2 minutes, and the whole shebang cost $7 for the two of us, with a tip.
It was one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. Ever, and I don't say that lightly. I almost laughed myself stupid when Dez deliberately sweetened her café au lait by tipping some of the sugar from her beignet into it. Very efficient. Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but took 2 months to reopen after Katrina.
Then we drove through some other parts of the city. The French Quarter and much of the old city are on high (comparatively) ground and they sustained some minor flooding and significant wind damage. With the occasional exception of a building where the owners didn't have insurance, the insurance hasn't paid out or there is some other big issue,
most of the stuff there is fixed up. I think you can see that the French Quarter is beautiful. As you begin to drive out of the Quarter, the ground begins to slope, ever so slightly, and the amount of damage you see begins to be significant. There are whole communities where they have lost their schools, their stores...all the places that support a community and make it possible for people to live there.
It's a catch 22 for them. The people can't come back (HALF of the population of New Orleans is gone.) if there aren't things like stores, but the stores can't rebuild (even if they have the money) if they aren't going to have any customers.
By the time you get into the 9th ward, where the water was very deep, it starts to look like a third world country.
The incredible thing is that people are living here. These are their homes and they can't afford to move. Most of them didn't have insurance, and if they did, some of them got screwed. Some of them can't afford the repairs so they are doing it themselves, slowly..as the find the money. Many of them don't have jobs any more, because their places of employment are in the same condition. Beside most of these houses there is a small white FEMA trailer. That's where they are still living, two years later. It's easy to be angry. Two years later thousands of citizens of a superpower country are living like this? I know it's expensive, but it makes you wonder why they aren't cancelling all the gala's at the White House to divert money to these communities until its fixed. I doubt anyone would complain. It's also easy to be impressed...since I cannot believe what enormous work has happened in the last two years to get trucks out of trees and boats out of of roads, and move the mud and the garbage in the streets and put the power and gas back on....and the huge amount of engineering repair that has happened to just get and keep the city dry is impressive alone. Somebody has seriously busted a move in this place. It just seems....stalled.
I found it incredible the way the consequences of the hurricane are viciously unbalanced. Compare these two schools two years after Katrina. The first is a public school in the 9th ward, the second, a private Catholic school in the old part of the city.
Admittedly, the old part took mostly only wind damage and not wind and extensive flooding, but still...the consequences and the way they are divided are unbelievable. To paint it with broad strokes, all the people who are least equipped to cope in this disaster are the ones with the most to cope with. On our way to the bookstore, we saw some of the old and beautiful homes in the garden district. These sit on higher ground and suffered terrible wind damage, but not as much flooding. The wind damage shouldn't be underestimated though, it's tremendous. One old church had its entire spire ripped off. Almost everyone had their roof trashed and their windows blown out. In some cases trees falling did a lot of damage.
For the sake of history it's a lovely thing that these homes weren't taken out, and that the people living in them are affluent enough to have adequate insurance to bring them back. It's stunning through this part of the city. I love the "live oak" trees.
I would find it incredible that there would be an old an beautiful live oak next to a smashed up house. The things are built to last.
Dez pointed out that they grow in a slightly twisted, spiral growth pattern. I didn't get it at first, but she asked me what happens in spinning when you twist fibres. "They get stronger," I said. "Oh....I get it. Holy Crap Dez, are you saying the trees are PLIED?" She was. Nature is a smart cookie. We journeyed on, arriving at the bookstore at almost the last minute (everyone needs a little adrenaline now and then) and I met the Knitters of New Orleans....
Er...sorry about that. I have no idea why, but my camera didn't take the pictures of the crowd. Some weird New Orleans voodoo. It apparently perked up later, and I got a few fantastic ones. (I think I figured out what goes wrong actually, there's a little wheel with settings on the back and if it's between settings...er, that's what you get. I think the wheel gets turned while it's kicking around in my bag. I'm onto it now. I hope the knitters can forgive me this time.) It was a small but thoroughly charming crowd. thoroughly. Evidence? You bet.
This is Allie and her brand spanking new knitting tattoo. So new it's still pink.
This is Christina and her knitting tattoo.
This is Christina and Allie laughing because they both thought they would be the only ones with knitting tattoos.
This is Debbie B, saying hi to Ms Too Much Wool.
and this is Sarah, knitting tiny, tiny, teeny tiny socks for preemies.
This is Martha, blaming me for enabling her right into a Kauni Cardigan of her own...
(I'm not sorry either.)
She brought me a little of the fabulous Cafe du monde coffee to make in hotel rooms. I may love her entirely and forever.
This is Dez with a wee New Orleans gift for me.
A squirrel voodoo doll. (I am armed so many ways now. Do not speak to Lime and Violet about this.)
Finally, Dez, fulfilling her role as hat lady,
seen here with the charming Vanessa who gave me a ride back to the hotel, which was incredibly fortunate, since as we were driving along...we saw this. Vanessa was beside herself, saying that these are rare and wondrous.
It's a bottle tree. They are an African idea, transported to the American south with the slaves, and it's a remarkable and beautiful thing. It's in the front yard of an ordinary house in an middle class neighbourhood. Some of the houses are repaired, some are still trashed, stalled without insurance to fix their homes. Some of the people got their insurance money but are waiting to see if the community comes back before they rebuild. Many people, moved out of their modern 3 and 4 bedroom homes are living in tiny trailers next to their homes. These people are. You can see their unused home on the left of the bottle tree and the trailer on the right.
Here they are, living in a trashed neighbourhood with their trashed house and this crude little trailer and half of the people they know have moved away and things sort of suck, and what do they do? A bottle tree. Bottles are hung in a dead tree, along with other sparklies. Bad spirits and luck are attracted to the bottles, go in, and can't get out. When the wind blows across the bottle tops you can hear them, but they are stuck. It's meant to improve things for you.
It's hopefulness, and I think it's really something remarkable that people who lost everything two years ago and don't have it back yet, would come out of this cruddy trailer and make something this beautiful in the hopes of improving their lot. There's a small sign on the tree that reads "rebirth".
I loved it. I wonder if they are knitters?
All right. This is going to be a long entry, but at least it will get me back on "real time". There's something tremendously weird about writing about cities you left two days ago while flying through other ones...so I'm going to do LA and Wichita and get back on the horse that threw me. I'll try not to leave too much out.
In Los Angeles....
I think that I can't be the only one who finds LA a little hard on the ol' self esteem. There is an alarmingly high ratio of tall, beautiful people compared to us ordinary souls, and it usually doesn't take long for me, the shabby and usually bra-less to feel out of place. Add into this that I was in a downtown hotel on the eve of the Emmy's (thus increasing the number of tall beautiful people) and you can see how it might get to you. It didn't though, because this time when I was in LA...I got to walk among my people. (Not that they aren't tall and beautiful...but you know what I mean.)
I spoke at the LA public Library in their Auditorium (The next speaker is Alan Alda. I'm feeling sort of flattered about that.) It's a beautiful space.
The knitters, as always, were the very best part. A sampling....
Meet Kris and Andrew..representing for the um....Cute pre-knitters and their charming mothers.
Shirley. Representing for the Wool Pigs.
She gave me this one. It's made out of her very own handspun. (It's a finger puppet, and I have already used it to amuse a baby sitting in front of me on a flight. The baby was as charmed as I was.)
There was the first sock crew, representing for those taking the plunge everywhere. Here's Robin,
Kate (her first socks are a Mens size 13.)
Laura (who also donated some beautiful stuff for Knitters Without Borders)
Rose's first socks were her olympic project...
Anna's 1st socks were shamelessly shredded by her husband.
Lynda's first sock may have had some gauge problems.
Annette had potomatamus....(I am never going to be able to spell that)
Collen did just fine too.
Amanda had a whole pair of first socks...but I am too kind to post her picture. (Sorry Amanda. If you saw it you would thank me. ) Lori made me a washcloth with a golden snitch, and Kristie made me a California one.
Finally, the lovely and charming Jean, hat lady #1
and Wendy from the Sand and Sea Knitting Guild who was hat lady #2 . You know you gotta love a city where an abundance of hat ladies turns up.)
Exhausted by the good times and flurry of first socks, Wendy took me to Little Tokyo where I had a good beer, ate some awesome tempura, window shopped a Japanese dollar store,
and then returned to the hotel where I was in bed by 8:00 so the early morning rise wouldn't hurt...which it did anyway. (The irony of missing the Emmys on TV when they are practically next door to you is still funny to me.)
It turns out that the thing about LA? It doesn't count if you're a knitter. All knitters are beautiful, and some of them are even short.
I think I might be in love with this city, just a little bit. It's nothing like home, which I always like, (not that I don't like home, I just appreciate the differences a lot) and it is long and low and flat and a breeze blows all the time. (This is, I think, because there are no trees or hills to break it up.)
The other interesting thing about Wichita, is that it is "The Air Capital of The World" (I read that on a sign) because their have a massive number of airplane building companies and a big Air Force Base. The interesting-est thing about that?
They have a really, really little airport.
They do have really, really a lot of knitters.
They have Melissa and her entirely cutie-pie baby Ella (shown here simply because I cannot resist her little pixie face.)
and they have Ingrid.
Ingrid just finished basic training in the Army, and she had the following fantastic story to tell me. She was knitting during some period of waiting at a hospital, and her Sergeant came in and saw her.
"Are you KNITTING soldier? I have never seen a SOLDIER KNIT."
Ingrid, without missing a beat, replied:
"Would the Sergeant rather I was wasting my time or being productive, SIR."
He looked her up and down, thought about it, and replied:
"Carry on Soldier."
Beth had a Missouri washcloth, which is excellent, since I don't think I've ever been there. (Although I might have...things are a little blurry around my edges.)
(Beth appears to be a little blurry too. Sorry about that.)
Beverly knit me a Kansas washcloth with a buffalo on it....
Which I totally missed the point of and remarked on the incredible irony that Kansas, having so many bufffalo was also buffalo shaped! (It isn't. I'm an idiot. To her credit, Beverly didn't totally fall down laughing at the dumbass Canadian.) Her shirt reads " I knit because the voices tell me to...." (I love that.)
Annell knit me a washcloth with the actual right shape of Kansas on it...
which turns out to be not at all buffalo shaped, but rather rectangular.
There were knitting kids galore, this is Miranda, sporting a "knit" tattoo.
(It's not real. It came from Twist, which has such devoted fans that it must be one of the worlds great yarn shops.)
And this is the lovely trio of Avalon, Molly and Elodie.
Knitters all three.
There was more, much more, but dudes, I have got to get to the end of this. I am in New Orleans, and I have 3 hours free, and as much as I love you, love Kansas and have entire and wholehearted dedication to both, I am not so far gone as a blogger that I can miss a chance to see this place.
I'm going to leave you with this. It came via Carin (filling in as big helper over at Lime and Violet) was made by DragonMadKnitter, and is the brainchild of the aforementioned two podcasting terrors.
It's a felted squirrel, and he has a note that reads:
We, the members of the Squirrel Fleece Liberation Front, have your fleece.
If you ever wants to sees it again, leave six pounds of nuts beside the back door.
And No More Trapses!
PSes. Limes and Violets made us write this. They offered us sunflowers seeds and we cant' resists them. They are going to sell you fleeces on ebays and make moneys to take over the world they says.
I really hope nobody searches my bag at customs. This one is going to be hard to explain.
You'll have to forgive me if this entry doesn't quite have it together. Location: Los Angeles, time:
Yee Gods. It is a wonder I am not weeping.
I'm up early to catch a flight (Los Angeles to Denver, Denver to Wichita) and I'm just a little bleary. I did the LA thing last night (more about that later) and I went to bed at 8pm knowing that my wake up call would be 3am and ....it's still awful. (There may be no way for me to get up at 3am and be chipper about it. I am aiming for "civil".) I'm going to try, despite the early hour and it's basic incompatibility with my base personality (and there was 8 hours between the end of an event and when I had to get up, so Jayme is still sock worthy) to get caught on how it's been going. Simply put, it's been great. Totally great. Seattle was my first stop and it was a blast and a half. I kitchenered the toe of the first travelling sock and began the second in the cab on the way to Third Place Books
and the last person to hold the old one as well as the first person I got to hold it was my very nice cabbie. (I loved him. He didn't even ask me why he should hold a sock.)
Hold on, gotta get in the cab to the airport........
Okay. Location, some car in Los Angeles...time 3:45am.
Man, was it fun. That many people is always scary, but I got up there and looked around and noticed that I've been there enough times that the place and the people are starting to look familiar. This is my third or forth time to Third Place, and it's a powerful and moving thing to feel at home in a bookstore. I spoke, I lived, I went to sign at the desk and then the big fun started.
This is Susan. She's holding a picture of herself dangling her sock in progress over a rock ledge in Peru...showing it to a llama. (See? I told you there was nothing wrong with me.)
First socks Holly,
Baby Sarah, 4 weeks old and holding her first knitting needles. (Killing two birds with one stone actually. She is both holding the sock and holding her first needles. It can only improve the future of both.)
This is Carol.
I tried several ways to get her whole project into the frame but it's impossible. The thing was HUGE. This cracked me up. Not because the sweater was huge, that happens all the time....but because it was so much huger than. Carol had intended, and she knew that and kept knitting and even sewed it up. I love knitterly denial.
Karen is getting married next week, and it couldn't happen to a nicer gal.
She came with Karen Jo and Ann and they brought a big (symbolic) cheque for KWB. Karen had accepted donations instead of gifts at her shower.
Lovely thought. (Karen holds an exteemed positon amoung designers. Her Rock and Weave socks are the only hting I have ever knit more than once without ever changing hte pattern. Only Nancy Bush can also claim that honour. )
Ryan finally finished her Olympic sweater. She came with TMK.
She's the late arrival of the Knitting Olympics. (In 2010 when we do it again, she's going to try and get it down to a year.) Not surprisingly, It is a squirrel sweater,
which likely explains everything. Ryan also did us the honour of being the hat lady.
Sorry....hold on again - just have to stagger through LAX for a while.
Right. I'm back. I think I'm going to flip out a little though. Time: 4:35am, location: my gate at LAX, Situation: NO COFFEE. If it doesn't open at 5am I am going to have some sort of an episode. It's got to open at 5...right? I'm going to try not to think about it.
Jimmy is modelling his 2nd project. A binary code scarf knit in the round out of Jumper weight wool. Jimmy is what we in the business call an overachiever. So is Molly, since this is her first sock.
(These people have just never heard of a learning curve.)
Joan and Heather brought me a washcloth:
Which, since the knitter in question is a woman after my own heart, was still damp, having been blocked in the bathroom at the bookstore.
This is Marti's daughter Shannon. She is a young and lovely knitter, and I don't know if it shows in this picture,
but she's keeping her yarn under her HAT.
Marcia is my stalker...I've met her a bunch of times. (Once even in Alaska. I half expect to see her today.)
Dawn demonstrates a fine and noble level of geekdom in her Jayne hat.
Jacob likes to take pictures. Let's just leave it at that.
Excuse me for a moment. It's 5:02. I'm going to go check and see if the coffee place is open.
I'm back. Location: sitting on the floor in LAX. Time: 5:18. Situation: NO COFFEE. The place is open but the queue is so long that there is zero chance that I will get one before they call my flight. I have decided to sit here until they call the flight in 15 minutes and then resume hope that something caffeinated will appear.
I don't know what will happen if that is not true.
After the signing, Ryan, The Mysterious K and I went out to dinner at -- I've totally forgotten. Somewhere that brews their own beer. It's awsome beer, and we were served by the charming CJ, who was extraordinarily good at his job. He knew good jokes, suggested wicked beer, could hold up his end of a coffee conversation, had excellent chocolate knowledge and
Had tried knitting in his past. All servers should have half the charm.
Oh, sorry. Calling my flight to Denver.
I'm back. Time: 9:17am. Location: Denver. Situation. I have had one cup of some brown water they called coffee on the flight, and just discovered that my fly has been open for who knows how long. Grand.
So, after taking leave of Seattle, I made my way to Los Angeles, where, within moments of arrival, I found out that I am very short. I have always suspected this, but Los Angeles confirmed it. I made my way to the......
Darn it....we're boarding for the flight to Wichita.... more later, after I find some coffee.
Now I'm in Wichita...(with coffee). I'm leaving for the auditorium in two minutes. Forgive the lack of links.... I'm telling you. I'm a moving target. As soon as I find some wireless....I'll post this.
Here I am in Seattle, minding my own business and doing and interview, and I look down at the sock I'm working on because I can't figure out what to do next, the sock seems to have stalled in my hands...
and that's because it's done. Finished.
I was so surprised that you could have knocked me over with a feather. This is the Travelling sock that I started when Casts Off came out, and it has been everywhere I've been since March. Somehow, even just observing the travelling sock rule, which is to just knit a few rounds after each time I take it's picture, it's done.
Huh. Guess you get socks no matter how slowly you knit, even if it's only a few stitches per week.
I suppose I had better cast on its mate before I get to the event tonight. I'm a little lonely without it.
Thanks for helping me do my homework from yesterday guys. It's a big help. For those of you who asked if I were going to sort out the average speed or something like that - I'm not. I'm not trying to figure out what average is.
I gave it a lot of thought and here's my thinking. Lets say I do the math and establish a number. (First of all, I try to avoid math whenever possible, so we're already in conflict, but lets assume I did it anyway.) Now this number, let's call it "X" is average. Now that we have established X, all of you are going to be one of three things. Either you knit faster than X and you'll receive accolades for no reason other than quick fingers, or you will knit about the same as X and that will make you "average" (I personally don't find "average" much of an inspiring compliment) or a lot of us are going to come out below that number. Those of us will be "below average"and I don't want to set anyone up (especially me) to be "below average". (I'm already short with bad hair. There's only so much one woman can take.)
That said, the numbers are there for anyone who wants to work 'em for their own gratification.
What I am trying to work out is the scope of normal. You are all getting socks at the end of your knitting so I know you are normal. (If you weren't normal sock knitters when you tried get socks you would be getting hats or mittens or small knitted cows.) How far across the range of knitting speed does normal go? Here are some interesting things.
1. If we were making a curve, then one end would be at 12 stitches per minute and the other end would fall at 144 stitches a minute. (Before you go lie in the road, I think that might be an error. The worlds fastest knitter pulls in about 85 stitches to the minute..so either we need a recount on that one or we need to get his knitter to the contest immediately where the full scope and glory of that speed can be known to all humankind.) If we exclude that one, the far end of normal was more like 75 stitches per minute. For the curious, I just timed myself and came in around 55 spm "cruising speed".
Jinxsa made me laugh when she said her speed was "Negative 40 as I did the wrong row and yanked back too far." This, sadly...is also in the range of normal.
2. Many, many knitters felt that there was/ would be a difference between their "cold" speed and the speed they got up to with warm hands. This is true, but cracks me up anyway.
3. Many knitters gave qualifiers, "on wooden dpns", "with Opal yarn", "with big cables", "on 2.5mm needles", "throwing" or "over lace". I thought this was fascinating, because it told me all the stuff you guys think affect your speed. (Props to Lynn S for remembering another influence on speed "37 spm, fingering weight, metal DPNs, two glasses of wine" )
Intriguing, all of it. Thanks for helping me. I've been knitting away on the jacket, but didn't get much done, since last night was Knit Night at Lettuce Knit and there were things were more interesting than the jacket.
LK is having a baby boom.
That's Jen, Joyce and Mel, all due (rather incoveniently, from a knitting perspective) all in a row. (Photo shamelessly ripped of from Laura, the only organized soul who didn't suffer camnesia that night) The LK clan got together a few weeks ago and knit them each a blanket...
in exchange for producing us pretty babies to play with. It was a big honking baby shower. These three babies are going to be the warmest in Toronto. Sweaters, socks....hats...Joyce is the first to hold up her end of the deal, providing us with the beautiful Zoë, just 10 days old and already at Knit Night.
She was gripping to all of us. We huddled around, watching her blink, curl her fingers, touched her thick hair. I think it's safe to say Joyce outdid herself. Sigh. Hard to believe that someday she's going to break curfew, date and arse and refuse to do her chores, eh?
Off to pack my knitting. Flight to Seattle in a couple of hours.
1. The back of the Garter Stitch Jacket is done so fast that even I can't believe it.
It's knit on 6mm needles, so it practically knits itself. That kelly green you can see is not really there. It's a trick of the camera. It's more dirty-lime...but I can't seem to talk the digital wonder into registering that right.
2. One very crazy part of me thinks that this means I can knit two fronts and two sleeves, sew it up and knit the collar and then wear it on the tour that starts Thursday. (That would be tomorrow.)
3. I know that's nuts, but apparently my inner knitter is an unrealistic optimist.
4. I have been working hard to process all of the Knitters without borders emails you guys sent to rebuilt the database. There were a lot, so it's taking a long time. I think if I can keep up my current pace I should be done around the time that I get back from tour, and then we can give out some karmic balancing gifts, including some beautiful Bohus stuff...or maybe you all forgot about that.
5. Working on the emails means there is a new total. $ 368 318.41. (I'll update the sidebar later) That sort of money changes the world, and not in a little way, either. I have hopes of hitting a half a million dollars.
6. That is probably only a little nuts, considering what you guys have done in the past.
7. I'm getting organized for the tour, and I'm sure you all know by now that we use the events to collect hand knit hats of all sizes and sorts to give to folks in the local communities who need them. I've been over my tour spreadsheet (kill me) and I think I still need a volunteer to be the hat lady or gentleman in Atlanta and LA (That's Los Angeles, not Louisiana, I have a hat lady for New Orleans.). (Do people need hats in Atlanta and LA? Is it too hot? ) This volunteer takes the beautiful donated hats all the knitters bring, from the event, to a charity that would like to distribute them. Would anybody like to do the honours? Never mind. You guys are awesome. Got me some great hat people. Knit on.
8. Can I ask a research favour for the new book of the sock knitters out there? I'm wondering how fast you knit on a sock. If you have time, could you pick up your sock in progress, check your computer time, knit for one minute, and see how many stitches you accomplished in that time? Don't really pour on the burn, just knit. I'm not interested in knowing how fast you CAN knit (which is likely quite a bit faster, especially over such a short time) just how fast you knit at your usual, relaxed, non-deadline, just for fun speed. I'm trying to establish the range of normal. Any takers?
While I was at the fair on Saturday, (That's the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters Fair, by the way, I forgot to link it yesterday) I was standing in front of the Camilla Valley Farm booth, and I was looking at all the kits for the Fleece Artist Garter Stitch Jacket. I've been wanting one of these for years. It strikes me as a super easy, totally wearable jacket. It would be a cinch to knit, closing as it does with a pin, or a single button or loop, and I imagine that it would be warm, fuzzy, light...the perfect thing to throw over jeans and a tee-shirt in the fall. I have given this sweater enough thought over the years that I know that I would wear it overlapped, like this. (I actually have a pretty sick obsession with that jacket too...but it's probably best not to go into that right now.)
Lettuce Knit gets these kits in with their Fleece Artist order all the time, and every time they do I stand over the bin, root through all the colourways and then wander off. I love this kit, but I have a specific colourway in mind, and since The Fleece Artist just dyes according to her whim and ships them off...I've been waiting. Everywhere I go, everywhere I shop, I root through the jacket kits and bide my time. My colourway has to come up eventually, and although I can't tell you exactly what I'm waiting for...I've always known that I'll know it when I see it.
Oh...there have been ones that were close, ones with a green too green, or a brown that was too red, or ones with blue, which was right out. There was even one autumnal one that had the right green and brown and even a little rust that made it all the way to the cash register before I flipped it over and saw a spot of please-don't-shoot-me orange. Each time I put the big hanks of yarn back without even a whimper, because I know how The Fleece Artist works. She's over there in Nova Scotia, just dyeing her little heart out, and these kits turn out as she fancies, and one day, oh, one glorious day, the same way that a I knew that just by playing the odds game, she was eventually going to dye my perfect colourway, and one magical day at a store somewhere I would look up and suddenly, after literally years and years of looking... It would be mine.
So on Saturday I'm standing at the Camilla Valley farm booth, and I'm riffling the kits that she has and they are all very beautiful, and I'm explaining to Sandra, or maybe Emma (because I know I wasn't explaining it to Rachel H, since she has witnessed the existential search for my garter stitch jacket kit on a near weekly basis for quite some time now) and I'm telling them about how I always check, because someday I'll find it, and I'm telling them that even though I've been looking for years I'm not bummed....and I'm totally not, because I know that when the stars align and the wind blows from the west and the fullness of time is accomplished....it will appear.
I was going on about this, when Emma (I'm pretty sure it was Emma, though it all happened so fast) pointed at the bottom row of kits hanging there and said "Your perfect colourway? You mean....like that one?" and she stretched out her finger and pointed...and I followed her hand and there it was.
I snatched it up. I clutched it to my breast. I may have uttered an oath. I'm sure my pulse quickened. The green is not too cheerful. The lime is not to bright. There is not too much brown, and there's the perfect amount of dark brown to set off the green without being muddy. It is a perfect seventies appliance colour kit, and there it was, waiting for me just like I always knew it would be.
I am living the dream.
Except for the part where then I used a non-working credit card to pay for it, but I didn't know that then so it didn't spoil the moment between me and the mohair.
It's the perfect finishing-my-book-and-can't-waste-a-brain-cell knitting. It's like a fairy tale. The poetry. What a moment.
Ray needs a ride to the Atlanta (whoops!) HOUSTON event. Can anybody help him out?
On Saturday I went to the Knitters fair with Rachel H. (Those of you who know us will be very impressed to know that we drove STRAIGHT there and STRAIGHT back. We didn't get lost at all. Incredible, especially in that neck of the woods where we have previously had a very great deal of trouble.) Many of you will also know that I have been on a big yarn diet for some months now, to pay for the new stove. Realistically, I should still be on that diet, but apparently the Knitters Fair, lots of fun knitters, 50 vendors in one place and the rigours of working to finish a book are far more than I can bear and there was a serious falling down (or three) in the yarn department. Sigh.
Now, what you don't know is that about a week ago I lost my debit card. I reported it gone, but hadn't yet turned up at the bank to pick up a new one. Round about Thursday I ran out of cash and started waving around my seldom used credit card. I used it for a couple of bizarre international purchases as well as some Canadian stuff in rapid succession, then tucked it back into my wallet.
Then I got to the Knitters Fair (where I was not going to buy anything I swear) and had the aforementioned falling downs in the yarn department. Not having cash, I used the credit card.
Afterwards (and it really didn't take long to get to afterwards - Rachel H. and I are nothing if not efficient) we went out for lunch where I once again produced the almighty credit card....which was DECLINED. I whipped out another one, but while I was signing I had a horrible feeling. A terrible feeling.
The vendors at the fair were just doing manual transactions. There was no way to know if the card was working at that point, it should have been working...it had been working.... I was pretty damned sure that I wasn't over limit since I don't carry a balance on those things, but if it wasn't working now (which it very clearly wasn't) then when had it stopped, and when would it start again and what was I going to do in the meantime?
We scurried home (STRAIGHT home) and I called the company. Turns out that if someone who hardly ever uses their card uses it several times in what seems to be several cities or countries all in the run of a day, it triggers their fraud buttons and the card starts being declined until they can confirm if you are really using it, or if it's been boosted by some horror who's trying to party on hard via your credit. It takes 1-2 working days to fix it.
I tried to explain to the guy that they had to fix it now. That those yarn people were going to go back to their shops and they were going to run the card and then it was going to be that The Yarn Harlot had stolen yarn all over the fair. I tried to explain that I am, while pretty damned fixated on yarn, not yet so far gone that I would steal the stuff....
I tried to explain about the yarn and the fair and the kits that I got and the price of mohair and that he really had to fix it...but it turns out that Greg at the card company has little or no actual power, and that poor Greg may have been a little flustered by how upset I was about yarn and the whole Yarn Harlot thing might not have gone over very big either.
It will be fixed tomorrow. I have sent emails to all the people I stole yarn from, and for reasons I can't explain they are very understanding about the fact that I am sitting in a house full of their yarn that I didn't pay for.
I have promised not to knit it 'til I own it, sometime tomorrow. (This is ample punishment, I assure you.)
I feel better just for admitting it. That's me. Yarn thief.
I suppose it was inevitable.
Not the book, just the socks, though the evidence of one finished thing is providing hope for the other.
Yarn is STR "Flower Power", pattern is "Summer of Love Lace" by JC Briar. This was the August shipment of the Sock Club, and while it's exclusive to the club right now, it'll be available to anybody who loves it as much as I do sometime next year.
These socks are a little big for me, for a very good reason. They are a bribe. Jayme-the-wonder-publicist, who is in charge of where I go and what I do for 8 days starting next week...loves them. Adores them, covets them deeply. When she said this, I realized that I suddenly have some leverage. After some complex negotiation, Jayme and I have agreed that if she can arrange my travel and life for those 8 days in a way that does not leave me weeping, starving or sleep deprived....
I will give them to her.
They have been knit in her size, and I am providing these pictures and this public declaration of my intentions as proof of our deal. Jayme suggested that she could have the socks if she could find a workaround for these common tour occurrences.
1. Lying on a hotel floor crying out of sheer exhaustion.
2. Having a nervous breakdown in an airport.
3. Starving (technically speaking, not eating anything except airplane pretzels for over 24 hours).
4. Going to sleep at 1am from an event and waking up at 3am for a flight.
Understandably, my standards are a little bit higher. I would like the following:
1. Eight hours between when an event ends and when I have to get on a plane.
2. No starving, with starving defined (for our purposes) as the absence of food (or the time to eat it) for a period of greater than 12 hours.
3. Absolutely no hotel rooms without phones, room service or internet access. (Also, there are worse things in store for Jayme than a little sock deprivation if I ever have drunken karaoke on the patio under my hotel room window during the three hours I have been allotted for sleep again. I know that she could never have known about that, or hardly prevented it, but someone should pay.)
4. The absence of all armed drivers or media escorts.
5. Not getting up before 5am more than 3 days in a row.
6. If there must be connecting flights, more than 4 minutes must be allotted to traverse a huge freakin' airport.
7. If I do run into trouble not related to Jayme, like say, locking myself out of my hotel room in my underpants or dropping my shoes out of high windows, Jayme will, when I tell her about it, not laugh until I am home. (I understand that this one will be difficult, given my track record, but these are nice socks.)
8. No bookstores with only 10 chairs available for knitters.
9. No 3 hour flights with guys who want to know if I am lonely without my husband. (I know this one is mostly luck, but it's so gross I want to try and avoid it anyway.)
10. An understanding that if coffee is not available to me within 15 minutes of my awakening I can hardly be blamed for ANYTHING.
I am willing to let her off the hook for the nervous breakdowns in an airport because they are not always her fault, and she can hardly be blamed for my continuing difficulties with O'Hare or that thing in Detroit.
Game on Jayme. Lets rumble, and remember, I know other people with size 7.5 feet.
I suck at self discipline. Just suck. Last night I missed Knit Night because I'm trying to use the carrot and stick approach on my own psyche. This is tricky, since my own psyche usually sees me coming. In a desperate attempt to finish some writing work I told myself that if I made my word count goal, and only if I met my word count goal, could I go with my friends and play at knitting. I didn't make the goal. I forced myself to sit in my office the whole time, and all I did was get totally pissy about it. Angry with myself for making rules for myself that myself apparently feels are unfair.
(Part of myself is obviously about 13 years old.) In any case, the rule is that I sit at my desk each day until the word count for that day is done. When it is done, then I can go to knit night, or yoga or watch tv and knit... but until that work is done I am to sit. I allow myself to earn "time off for good behavior", by getting ahead of schedule, writing extra so that I can take a day off without falling behind (that's how I got to go canoeing.) The only other things I am allowed to do at the desk are drink and eat (because my psyche is neither cruel nor hopeless) parent the children (because neglect is still illegal, even if you have a book deadline) and knit. Knitting helps me think. I choose something plain and let my fingers zouk along while I sit there. Right now, this means that I knit a lot through the day. (I think way more than I write, apparently)
I was feeling pretty proud of this level of self discipline, right until it turns out that it might be backfiring, since the more fun I miss because I am holding myself to these rules, the more angry I get, and the more time I spend sitting there fuming instead of writing. I'm starting to feel like I have myself in prison for writers. (At least there is yarn here.) Apparently I need a little more balance (or chocolate) before I get this self discipline thing down.
I am making very good time on the socks though. I am apparently never too annoyed to knit.
STR sock club socks "Summer of Love", str lightweight, 2.25mm needles.
When I got the latest STR sock club package I was heading out for camping. I made a snap decision, wound the yarn and boogied out the door. It wasn't until I was actually knitting it in the car that I noticed that the pattern called for some things I didn't have with me (I improvised) and wanted me to do something.
I pondered this something for a little bit in the car, and at the campsite. First you knit the cuff of the sock, then you did this "something" then you carried on and finished the sock. What was this something I was supposed to do to the cuff and why do I think it's so funny now? (Now that I have skeined and dried and rewound the yarn?)
Wet block it.
Seriously. Do you suppose an overturned canoe and full immersion in the French River for 30 minutes counts?
I guess that's what I get for sitting around a campsite reading the instruction and saying "I really don't want to get this sock wet..." and scoffing. "Can't be that important. I'll keep knitting and I'll block it when I get home."
In retrospect, I imagine the knitting goddess somewhere tossing her hair with fury that I am ignoring a pattern again, and then waving her hand to overturn my canoe while screeching "I SAID WET BLOCK THE CUFF".
This weekend was a grand success. We left Toronto and drove north, headed for backcountry at French River instead of Algonquin, having been tipped off that there weren't many sites to be had there. (I have a nightmare where we paddle and paddle looking for a good site and can't find one.) French River is a little harder to get into, and therefore quieter. Our odds were way better. We went with Joe's brother Chris and his lady Robyn...all the better to share the workload and paddle for help when you are gored by a bear.
Saturday was spent paddling far out, looking for a good place to stop. Just before sunset (dudes, you do not want to canoe in the dark) when we were getting pretty far out in the middle of nowhere and had seen and rejected a whole bunch of places...
and we were starting to worry, we saw an inukshuk pointing round a bend...we followed it and found, I kid you not, the Hilton of all stopping places. It was a small island and obviously someone has loved and cared for this place for many years. There was a long smooth rock point to pull canoes onto,
There was benches built by a beautiful fire pit (which someone had thoughtfully stocked with firewood)
There was a table built from a split log and rocks...
and, in some sort of backcountry miracle...
There was a seriously high end latrine. (It had an actual toilet seat. It was fantastic. I was stunned to discover that after only one or two trips into the woods without one, finding a box in the woods is like finding a spa. I never thought I would think that sort of thing constituted luxury...but there you go.) We had a lovely evening and woke up the next morning ready to take on the world. We headed down the part of the river that had either some rapids, or a very long portage. We thought we would have a look at the rapids and make a decision about whether or not it was safe. We paddled (upriver and into the wind, very rough going) and came to the spot. We pulled in the canoes and walked the rapids, trying to assess if it was doable, or...at least, if it was doable by us.
There was some fun rapids, then some swift water, then this 1 metre drop, which, while I know it doesn't look big here, is really, really, really huge if you're the one talking about taking a canoe over it. Joe and Chris puzzled over it for a while.
What they finally settled on was this:
We would come round the S bend after the fun rapids (class 1, for anybody in the know), and swing hard left to do the slowest part of the swift water. This would mean we weren't going so fast when we came to the drop. We would avoid the ledge with the white water, coming down to the right of a huge honking rock, then down the fastest but simplest part and then navigate the white and swift water and the rocks after the drop. We were especially going to avoid the rocks marked with Xs. As we went back to the canoes and tied everything down and pushed off from shore, I asked Joe what he thought what the odds were that we were going for a swim.
"50-50" he said, "Just avoid the rocks my Honey."
Well. The sock and I probably wouldn't have pushed off if we had asked the question before getting onto the swift water.
As we came round that first bend we were perfect. We came exactly as the diagram indicates. We swung round perfect and were feeling pretty good as we came to the right of The Rock. That would be This Rock.
This picture is deceptive. The drop to the left of the rock is actually about 1m ( that's about 3feet), that's HUGE. The Rock is massive, extending far under the water. The part sticking above the water is about a metre as well. Big Rock. Big Bad Rock. As we came up to it, following our plan brilliantly, the wind suddenly gusted from our right and drove us over to The Rock. We hit it with the left side of the canoe and because of the shape of the canoe, that effectively rolled us over. Thus began just about the scariest 3 minutes of my life. As the canoe tipped right, I remembered everything that I ever learned. I pushed off hard from the canoe with my feet so that it couldn't roll on me, drew up my legs, pulled in my arms, pointed my bum to the rocks (rule one: protect the head) and began a path through the rapids...sans canoe. I did very brilliantly well, yet, hit (I believe, it all happened very, very, very fast) the rocks indicated below.
When I regained control, I swam hard across the current of the river and clambered up onto the rock I took this picture from. I was stunned, as I dragged myself up, to discover that incredibly, I still had my glasses, still had my paddle (good girl) and most amazingly, due to some thoughtful toe curling on my part.... had not lost my birkenstocks. Joe was fine (better than fine, he thinks this sort of thing is big fun) as well, though he did lose his paddle and sunglasses.
We have some spectacular bruises. Chris and Robyn followed a few minutes later, having pulled harder to the right when they saw our sorry arses bobbing in the river. Our canoe (and Joe's paddle) were retrieved
and I looked to assess the damage. My sock and camera ride here when I canoe.
The camera rides in my sock bag inside of a dry sack (a bag that is meant to keep stuff dry) but it's not meant to be entirely submerged, certainly not for the 30 minutes that this stuff was underwater before we got to it. I was prepared for disaster.
The camera was fine, just fine. Spotlessly dry, and the only damage, other than an extraordinarily wet sock in progress and a huge bruise on my arse and arm, is that there is now a Knitpicks 2.25mm dpn at the bottom of the French River. Never fear though....
I had another sock in my backpack.
The rest of the weekend passed without incident, if a little damply. (Takes a long time to dry out from a dunking like that.) We had a fire and some whiskey,
and by the next day,my shoes were dry and all was forgotten.
We took pains to leave the Hilton campsite a little better than we found it by building an end table/ beer stand out of some found objects. and we took the time to mark the point of the island with an inukshuk to mark it as a good shelter for the next passers by. (People sometimes build these just to be art, but used right, they are pretty handy directional markers.)
We paddled for home.
It was fantastic. It was rugged. It was empowering (and bruising) as all get out.
I am Canadian Knitter. Hear me roar.
(Ps. My yarn is almost dry.)