December 31, 2007

At the last

New Years Eve. Today is the day that I'd planned to have all the Christmas knitting done, no matter what, but as is nearly always the case with my plans, I didn't quite plan enough. It's not so bad though, I've only got one pair of socks remaining, but we'll talk about them another day - for today, today we glory in Argyle victory!


Finished. Finito. Terminé. Stick a fork in these babies because they are done. Done, wrapped, unwrapped and happily adopted since the recipient has an argyle fetish that these fed nicely. (They are seen here on my feet, which they don't fit very well.) I was thinking, while I was modelling these that it's a very good thing that they don't fit me, because I really like them and probably would have tried to keep them.


When last we left off on the argyle pictorial, I had knit the patterned leg flat, and was ready for the next part. The next part is where argyles get sort of weird, and for a little while here, the argyle process is odd as fish. I promise it's not hard. Just odd. If you're really interested in how this works, and wind up feeling dissatisfied with my quick and dirty guide (for which you could hardly be blamed) there's way more out there than my meagre musings:

Julia (The Argyle Queen who got me started on the whole thing) has a whole series of posts about argyle, but the most technically helpful one (for the purposes of this post) is here.
Julia, in her infinite wisdom has a page of resources
Edie Eckman has a fantastic
Argyle tutorial here. (I used it to figure some stuff out. It's good.)
Zarzuela knit a gorgeous pair...there's some good tips (and great pictures)
Knit Science has a
podcast about Argyles Here.

On most socks, heels are worked on half the stitches, so 1/4 of the stitches on each end are set away to become the heel in a little bit, and work continues down the top of the foot.


I know. I said it was weird. Breathe. When the diamond is finished, all of the intarsia for the whole sock is done and you finish the rest of the sock in one colour. The stitches for the top of the foot get held, and to start turning this beastie into anything resembling a sock you sew the seam up the back of the leg. (Julia points out in this far superior explanation of argyle fashioning that one must not be tempted to cheat, and she is right. Shoddy seaming has dreadful consequences. Don't do all that fiddly intarsia and then mince out on the seaming.)


Seam sewn, all of the heel stitches are lined up and I knit an ordinary flap heel.



Next, well. Next is hard to explain. Next you pick up stitches along the sides of the flap, just like you would on an ordinary sock, except where you would usually then knit across the top of the foot, here you already have the top of the foot knit, so you're going to work the bottom of the foot back and forth. You go back and forth, from one gusset to the other, making decreases like you would normally, trying really, really hard to ignore the fact that you're not working the top. When you have the bottom of the foot knit as long as the top of the foot


you pick up those held instep stitches, heave an enormous sigh of relief and knit the rest of the thing in the round like an ordinary sock. (I've marked the point of normalcy with the green dots.) When you're done you have this wee seam to sew at all the insteps:


But that's it. See? Not so hard. Just fiddly and weird. I'm totally going to do it again, because let me tell you, it's weird, fiddly and time consuming....but totally charming. (My next ones are going to be these. How can I resist?)

With the departure of the argyles, and the arrival of New Years Eve, I started thinking about the last years knitting. Things that were disappointments, successes, failures and surprises. I contemplated what the best thing I knit over the last year was. (I think you would be surprised if I told you what it is, which I'm not going to do until tomorrow.)

Today I'd like to hear what you think the best thing you knit in the last year was. What was a stellar project...and why? Was it the yarn? The pattern? That you learned something good...or that you found out that you're a much better knitter than you thought? Did you surprise yourself with your skills?

Tell us your best thing - if you've got a link to a picture, enter it in the "URL" field of the comments so we can see it. Tip: Clicking on a persons name in the comments takes you to their website - if they have one. (For anyone who doesn't know - entering a url in the "comment" part of the comments instead of the URL field means that your comment might not get posted. It's an anti-spam thing.)

Walk proud....

and Happy New Year. It's been a great one, and this blog and enormous way it enriches my life has been a big part of that.
Thank you.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:52 PM

December 28, 2007

An Afterthought

I think that most people are smarter than they think they are, and that most people know more than they think they do. It is a shame that this sort of theory is mostly proven out by pub quizzes and rollicking games of trivial pursuit, but there you have it. I include myself in this category, since my brain is a huge repository for information - largely stupid and irrelevant the classification of stars or I Picked My Apples Today to help remember the phases of Mitosis - Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase Anaphase and Telophase - which, although it was vital information at one point, is now stuck in my brain for all time for no good reason, using up room that keeps me from remembering where my house keys are. My point, and I do have one, is that you never know what's up there in your head, until all of a sudden something shakes loose and you remember something that you once passed briefly, or even disregarded as stupid at the time.

Such was the case with Elizabeth Zimmermanns afterthought heel. Seldom do I think this of even one word in the great and collected works of EZ, but when I first read about an afterthought heel, I recall deciding (rather firmly) that it was dumbass. I mean, an afterthought pocket? You bet. Damn clever in fact. How many times have you been rubbing your hands down the front of a sweater or something and thought "Crap. As an afterthought, I really wish I'd added a pocket." All the time, makes total sense. Pockets are optional and sometimes you just don't know if you will have enough yarn or if you want one or where you want one.

An afterthought heel though? I mean, c'mon. Have you ever been knitting a sock and thought "You know, I just don't know if I will want a heel on this sock or not. Maybe I'll just knit a tube and then see if I still have heels on my body when I'm done." Of course not. See what I mean? Dumbass.


I am sure then, that if Elizabeth could have seen me last Saturday night, she would have cracked herself up. I was on a very tight knitting schedule, but Christmas isn't Christmas without the Skydiggers Concert at the Horseshoe, so I went, but was going to knit.


A little while into the evening, I realized that I had a problem. it's way, way too dark and crowded to turn a heel in the horseshoe, and the schedule did not allow time for fixing mistakes. I was going to stop (sadly) and then, from far back in the corner of my mind that also knows that rose windows are gothic, shook out idea of the afterthought heel. I could keep knitting, keep getting Canadian musicians to hold my sock in progress,


(That's the Cash Brothers)


(That's the indomitable Andy Maize)
...and chug all the way straight down to the toe and add the heel later. It was brilliant.

Here's how. Knit a tube. Make a toe on the end. (The one I use most often is the one at the bottom, here)


Then lie the sock down, toe flat, and figure where you would like the heel to go. (Tip: make sure you have the toe flat before you start working this out. Toes and heels on humans should line up, and you don't want your heel sticking out the side of the sock.)

Scoop up a this row of stitches. (You want it to be half of the if you have a 64 stitch sock, pick up 32.)


Snip a stitch in THE MIDDLE of the row below,


and start picking up stitches below that too. I find it easiest to unpick that middle stitch, and then grab the stitches a few at a time.


When you have 32 picked up on the bottom too, then knit another toe.


(I know it seems wrong, but toes and heels are the same, for the purposes of knitting.)


See that?


I'm not sure it's going to ever be my favourite technique for heels, but I have to say, I owe EZ an apology for thinking it was totally dumbass. Another piece of useless information....that turned out not to be so useless.

The yarn:
I bought the yarn for these socks from The Unique Sheep and it's "Verve", a sock weight yarn in the colourway Doctors Without Borders. 50% of her sales of any yarn in this colourway go to the good guys. Naturally, these are Ben's Christmas socks, since he is one of the good guys.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:51 PM

December 27, 2007

A big nog scented loop

Christmas around here goes on forever. I'm not complaining, since I'm the biggest fan of the holiday that there is, and if any of you are having half the good time I am, you're a very lucky person, but I've got to tell you, it takes a little out of a knitter. Today is a designated day of rest, and I'm thrilled about it. We enjoyed Christmas Eve with Joe's family, then Christmas Day was with them as well. Yesterday we had our own Christmas at home (quickly) and then went out to my Great Aunt Helen and Uncle Don's house (as I have done every single boxing day of my life.) Don and Helen remain the worlds oldest people (you think I'm kidding, but I'm not) and the proud owners of Cricket, the perpetual dog.


(Have I ever told you about that? I think I said I would and didn't. Never mind. Today is not the day.) After that command performance, we went back to my mums, Christmassed is all up again with my family and then retreated to our home, which we lost control of several days ago when I declared the dining room "Wrap Central" to try and keep there from being bows and paper everywhere and somehow there ended up being bows and ribbon everywhere anyway. This place is trashed. Totally trashed - and one of the gifts I got from someone is a cold- so today I shall spend the whole day drinking warm drinks, picking tape off of the floors, recycling wrapping paper and asking people to put away their new underwear. (Note to self - put away own new underwear first so as to be able to lecture from a place of moral superiority.) Maybe I'll make soup. For sure, I'll knit, since I missed the deadline on one present, and need to bust a move to keep it from spreading. There are two more gift giving occasions, and I am going to be done. Mark my words, I'm on a roll.

Finished on time: The community scarf for my Mum.


I knit the two bobbley ends, and everybody else took turns churning out the rows of garter in between. Random rows of double-wrapped drop stitches break up the monotony.


I spun the yarn (Roving from Steam Valley Fiber Farm - procured at Rhinebeck and called "Copper Penny") then started the scarf and left it out. In the end it was knit by my daughters, Amanda, Megan and Sam, My friend Ken, my sister in law Kelly, my mother in law Carol and .....I'm not sure who else. It made the rounds at a party we threw. (Honourable mention goes to Ken, Kelly and Meg, who all poured on the burn in the last few days before delivery.)

Finished on time: The Great Big Secret Thing.


Which turns out to be Ken's Christmas present, The Cobblestone pullover, by Jared Flood from Interweave Knits Fall 2007.
Please forgive all of these photos, our day was so rushed yesterday that all I could manage was to follow Ken around and take pictures of the sweater during festivities at my mum's. The light was bad. We'll have a photoshoot another time.


(Yes. We all wear the cracker hats at dinner.)

In some bizarre turn of events, stash diving for this project I turned up exactly the yarn called for, in exactly the colour. (That means you can click on Interweaves much better pictures or Jared's much, much better pictures to get an accurate look.) It's the discontinued Classic Elite Skye Tweed, #1272 (Upland Green) which, I admit I like the looks of more than I enjoyed the feel of the stuff. It washed up very, very nice, but while knitting I found it rather rough and really dry and inelastic in my hands. (One person asked if it was cotton.) I knew Ken would adore it when it was done, and I also knew it would be fine after it was washed since I had washed and dried a swatch thoroughly when I first felt these concerns. Still, knitting takes a long time, and generally speaking I'm not going to spend that sort of time with a yarn that isn't pleasant to work with.....I only broke the rule this time because...well. It was so darned pretty.


I'm very glad I persevered. The sweater fits Ken brilliantly...which is another lucky thing. The pattern didn't have a size small enough to fit Ken the way he likes, so I adjusted the width just a bit, taking out about 4 cm (1.5 inches) of stitches and adjusting things accordingly. This decision probably also saved my arse, yarn wise.

The pattern called for 11 balls for the smallest size....I had 10 and Christmas Eve I finished the sweater with about 15 meters left. Very scary.


I think he likes it, and here's hoping your holidays are going brilliantly well. More tomorrow, when I resume the war of the argyles and show what an afterthought heel is good for.

PS. This was the joke in Megan's Christmas cracker.


- if you can't read it, it says -
Patricia: Savais-tu que ca prend 3 moutons pour faire un cardigan?
Émilie: Je ne savais même pas qu'ils pouvaient tricoter.

Translated (should your french be rusty) it reads (roughly, since my french is not much better)

Patricia: Did you know it takes three sheep to make a cardigan?

Émilie: I didn't even know sheep could knit!

Posted by Stephanie at 10:00 AM

December 22, 2007

Put me out baby

....because I am ON FIRE.


See that? That's the WHOLE LEG of an argyle sock. The WHOLE THING. (My apologies for the Caps, I'm dreadfully excited.) From here, I only have to continue the intarsia down the centre half of the stitches, as the 1/4 on each side get set aside now to become the heel. When that centre triangle is complete, then I knit a heel and gussets on those stitches that are at either side, sew a seam up the back of the leg, and the rest is knit in the round, plain black, with no screwing around. I hate to say it...but this might just be possible. (Let us not focus on the other items in the queue which remain unfinished. One must have these moments of hope and glory in order to retain a festive feel to the process.) It all seems so possible.


Oh yeah. There might be a few ends to weave in.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:48 PM

December 21, 2007

On the other hand

The good news: I am so close to the end of the manuscript that I can smell it. Seriously. It is, in the absence of my computer exploding or something (holy crap. I didn't even think of that. Excuse me while I go back it up to a cd..) going to be absolutely finished, gone and out of my mind by about 4:00 today.

The bad news: 4:00 is exactly the time when the schools release the hounds for the winter break and I will not be alone again (unless you count the bathroom, where frankly, there are no guarantees) until January 7th. Excellent timing on my part.

The good news: At least I am not trying to finish a writing project with no time alone, because that is horrible. All I have to do for the next several days is shop (I am trying not to think about that) bake (and only a in a supervisory capacity, see aforementioned detail about school releasing the hounds) clean the house (who am I kidding) and knit,knit,knit.


The bad news: There may be more knitting that I can do. Yesterday I accidentally left the great big secret thing off of the list of stuff yet to be done, and while it was rather inspirational to imagine it being done, this albatross is likely the one that is going to drag me to the murky depths of failure.

The good news: I got this much done on the argyle.


The bad news: I got that much done on the argyle. This part is knit flat, on 2.5mm needles, in intarsia, and while I wouldn't exactly call it hard...I wouldn't exactly call it fast either. The best thing about argyle knitting is that while there's definitely a pattern happening, you don't need a chart. You set up the first row according to the chart, and then you can pretty much get rid of the thing, because the whole pattern moves so predictably from that point on. Oddly, this makes intarsia on tiny needles a good "do anywhere" project - which is excellent, because I see myself doing it everywhere for the next few days.

The good news: The sock that had only the barest beginnings of ribbing yesterday is now almost all the way down the leg.

The bad news: It's the first leg. No pictures of this one, because the colourway would be a give-away to the recipient, and we here at Chez Harlot are not in the habit of spoiling Christmas. (At least not in this manner.)

The good news: The community scarf is continuing to grow (remember that one?)


The bad news. Not fast enough. All three of the girls have knit on it, I have knit on it, Ken has knit on it....clearly, the reason that it is not finished is Joe. I shall speak to him directly.

The good news: my sole goal for this entire weekend is knitting, knitting and more knitting. I have purchased egg nog and screech, and procured the second season of Dr. Who to make this possible. I shall fight to the last.
(I'm planning to blog over the weekend if things work out.)

The bad news: The last is only three days away.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:00 PM

December 20, 2007

A walking oxymoron

(With perhaps the emphasis on the "moron".)

Just a short post today my poppets, since the day is gaining on me and there is much to be done. I've a funeral to attend this afternoon, where even I (who can usually rationalize knitting anywhere) cannot find a way to knit and find it appropriate. (Thank you in advance for your condolences, but know that this loss is in my extended family, and that there are others who deserve your sympathy today. You may direct your kind thoughts to my lovely sister-in-law Alison and her family if you wish. They have lost her sister, a good knitter and a fine human.) I don't regret the loss of knitting time at all, considering the circumstances.

That said, never before has a knitter done so little, yet expected to accomplish so much. I have merely embryonic beginnings of the second argyle sock...


but somehow still expect fully that it, along with a whole other pair of socks (of which I have only the barest whisper of ribbing accomplished) a hat (which is still a skein of yarn) and a manuscript will be finished Christmas Eve. Obviously I have slipped so far into some sort of Christmas delusion that my sense of possibility is all off.

More tomorrow...when we shall examine exactly how much knitting I got done while...not knitting.

(The good news? In my experience, Christmas happens, replete with joy and family whether I finish knitting or not. Pass the egg nog.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:19 AM

December 18, 2007

Walk away from the fun

Since the universe decided to get all complicated on me (and because I have insisted on having a little fun. Big mistake.) I am behind on the Christmas stuff and frankly, there isn't going to be a recovery. I am not so much of a dummy-head that I don't know an impossibility when I see it.. so I've made some changes in order to survive this with my sanity intact.

1. Finished. One pair socks (STR Dixie Chick, mediumweight, my basic sock recipe)



Done. This is excellent.

2. In a very clever move on my part, I dug up some of the step-out green socks from a long time ago, and since they were started already, they took a little less time.


(Fleece Artist, my basic sock recipe.) These didn't save me a ton of time, since I used the plan to bail myself out last Christmas and all the socks that were really far along got used up then....but I didn't have to knit ribbing on one, and ribbing and part of a leg on the other (these are step outs 2 and 3, for anybody who cares) so it's still good times.

3. During a recent shopping mission (In which I went to the mall and scarcely escaped with my life) I just happened to find two wonderful presents. Presents which are, in fact, so good and perfect that they are more likely to be loved by the recipients than the knitting that I was going to do for them. Since I am behind and running out of time, I had the good sense to accept the help the planet was offering me and take those people off the knitting list. One pair of socks and one pair of mittens bite the dust.

3. One Argyle sock, almost done.


Obviously there's going to be one more to go, but that's just one sock. Argyles are interesting enough that they just whip along. (Remind me that I said that later, will ya?) I know some of you will be wondering how argyles work, and I'll show more pictures of the process with the second one. Promise. (Sisu yarn, pattern sorted out with input from a bunch of sources, but I'm mostly following the technique shown here)

4. The great big secret thing is both big, and secret, and also...


not done. It is 75% done and therefore a bright and festive hope dwells within my heart.

Where does that leave me? I need to finish the argyle, then knit a hat, then a pair of socks, then another pair of socks, then the great big secret thing. I might be able to finish. Maybe. Technically, one pair of socks doesn't need to be finished until the there's a bit of room there. The trick is going to be choosing only knit friendly activities, and then walking away from the fun. Today is the beginning of the crunch. The buck stops here. No more parties and relaxing and especially, no more activities that are not compatible with (extensive) wine drinking, cookie decorating...


or curling. (Which turns out to be very big fun, and not at all something that Joe and I suck at. Still, knitting time was sacrificed for this knowledge, and that will no longer be tolerated at camp harlot.)

Down to business. No screwing around. There are seven days (and nights) left, and I am going to make them count. Pouring on the burn. Watch out. Now, if you'll excuse me. I have to go dry off all my knitting.


It's the problem with using snow as a backdrop.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:23 PM

December 17, 2007

Snow day

The pace here is tremendous. There has been a sad loss in our extended family, I'm still working to meet my deadline (you will note the use of the singular. I am getting things done.) and the knitting schedule has totally gone bust in exchange for the needs of my family. I stood a chance of making up time until I fell down the basement stairs Saturday and lost a full day of knitting time to holding a damn ice pack on my elbow. (I am bruised but not broken, although I do find it ironic that my fall was softened by the enormous load of laundry I was carrying.) With all of the work and the difficult things, this season was starting to be less fun than it should be. When a massive storm started to blow in on the weekend I got really annoyed. There are things I need to get done, there were places that people needed to go and the planet was clearly not on the side of efficiency. I looked out the window, I thought about all of our plans and I got pissed off. Then I had an epiphany. There was nothing I could do. I can't make there be more time. I can't knit faster. I can't clear the roads. I can't work harder...I certainly can't stop the snow. Screw it.


I gave up. Just for one day. I took a deep breath. Baked cookies and made five colours of icing.


(I got the sheep cookie cutter at Rhinebeck.)

Then we threw open our door to friends and family. Whatever happens, happens. (Yup. That's snow piled up outside our window to table height. It's a lot of snow.)


We were stunned. Turns out a lot of people were feeling how we were. Joe and I knew our evening was a winner when amid the chaos we were dusting off the extra chairs from the basement, had the Bee Gees Christmas album on the record player (Yup. Old school) ran out of wine glasses, washed icing off the wall upstairs, heard people singing and playing Christmas Carols (the best musicians in the world cannot hold a candle to a whack of little kids with percussion instruments) and saw snowshoes piled by the front door. (We all agreed that cross country skis and snowshoes were the only solution. Certainly cars were out of the question.) Our house was filled to bursting, and everybody decorated gingerbread. Grown-ups, kids, knitters, non-knitters...



The best part is not just that we got some great looking cookies....(Although I think you can admit that these are some fine looking cookies. I think a little kid (or maybe my mum) might have eaten Rachel H's stockinette sheep. It was quite brilliant.)






but that we spent a whole day (rather forcibly) unplugged from pursuing whatever mayhem modern life would have us believe is Christmas and its trimmings... and there, buried in the snow, we found a nice big dose of the real thing.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:22 PM

December 13, 2007

The kid with the viola was pretty good

Last night I went to Sam's Winter Concert. In this neighbourhood, The kids go to a tiny (280 students) school for JK-6, then a larger school down the street for 7 and 8, then High School for the remainder. That middle school goes from JK to 8....though my kids only go there for two years. Sam is in grade 8, moving on to high school at the end of this year, and so it hit me last night as I sat there in the school gym... the aroma of desperate parent all around me....This is the last one. This is the last time that I will sit in an elementary school and wait for my kid to get up and sing or dance or do any of it. The very last time.

I sat there there knitting (oh...I'm making argyles.)


I thought about that. It turns out that I lack the mathematical facility to tell you how many of these I have been to, but I think it's a lot. There were the years that it was just Amanda. Her up on the stage, me in the audience with a toddler and a baby, trying to juggle both of them while still waving up at my oldest. A few years later Meg joined Amanda up there, and except for the toddler I had with me, those were the really neat years. Then Amanda went on to middle school and Sam started elementary, then Amanda went on to High School, Meg was in middle school and Sam was in elementary and those my friends...those were the killer years. Three concerts per season. It was during that difficult time that Joe first began calculating how many more we had to do. While the high school band played or the middle school choir sang or the elementary school teacher tried desperately to herd grade ones in and out like unruly sheep, Joe would sum it up. "22 more!" he would whisper conspiratorially, as I tried to appreciate the somewhat melodic strains of.....well. I actually couldn't tell what song it was, but that's hardly the point.

Back then, with the holidays being what they are and life with kids being what it is, getting out the door to three concerts was a big deal. A very big deal. (Actually, life with three little kids being what it is, trying to get your hair brushed by lunchtime was a big deal.) We did it though. Every single one. I have heard "must be Santa" so many times in my life that I feel confident I could perform it. I have developed some sort of coping mechanism for the stunning auditory experience that is a middle school string section. (Mostly, instead of trying to listen I spend that four minutes staring at the teacher and trying to figure out how that is anyone's job. They are Saints. Heros. Demi-gods of decency. Last night Ken said that if he taught instrumental music he would cry at work. I told him that I wouldn't cry where the kids would see me, but I might nibble borax sticks in my office after hours. I have no idea what sort of love for children you have to have to do that, for whatever it is, I do not possess it. The squeaky squawking, bleating noise that is the sound of people learning to play instruments is far more than I could bear for six hours a day.) For fourteen years, I have (band pain aside) sat there at least once every holiday season.


(Actually, I did sort of miss one. Sam was a toddler and everyone with kids has been that mother who had to remove her kid from the gym because they threw a fit when you insisted that it was the Choir leaders turn to play the piano and they really didn't need any help and your toddler, barely holding it together after the piano disappointment, decided the secondary activity should be lying on the floor licking the road salt off of the boots of strangers, and when you saw them doing that you threw up in your mouth a bit and then had to leave with your thrashing, wailing kid under your arm because it turns out that LITERAL boot licking is the only thing that they want to do, and when you picked them up off the floor and gently tried to distract them from that unspeakable activity, the kid had a meltdown that made a failed nuclear reactor look like a small problem, so you flee to the hall way. Then you're there. Sitting in the hall outside the gym, listening to the concert going on without you and you think "Wow. Nobody else is in the hall with a boot licking toddler" and suddenly it hits you...this mothering thing is not going to work out because you suck and your kids a freak? I know you have had that day. My day was Tuesday December 17th, 1996. I will never forget it. )

Fourteen years. Bad music, little bands (it's funny how much better the bands were the years my girls were in them.) choirs of angelic cherubs wandering in and the time I thought it was pretty tedious. At the time...I watched the clock and wondered when it would end and sat there knitting and consulting the program eight hundred times to see how many songs there were left. At the time, the only part I liked was when my kids were on stage, when I would stand up and wave and call their name out...and then my kid would look over at me and I could tell, when they finally found me in the ocean of mums and dads, that they were both embarrassed at their dorky mum waving around knitting and beaming up at them....and that they were thrilled and proud to be on stage. (I always loved that conversation after the concert. "Did you see me? Did you see me singing?" )
Fourteen years of counting it down. Last night though.... four more.

Four more, and they are all High School Concerts. No more kindergarteners singing "Must be Santa". No more grade fours forgetting the words to "What a wonderful world". No more of the parents with camcorders rushing up to the stage with a tripod and a big plan. No more of that wee girl in a darling red dress who's standing and singing in the front row - who then hikes up her skirt and scratches her bum in front of everyone. No more.


As I sat there last night waiting for my turn to stand up and wave at Sam in the choir, it turns out that I think I'm going to miss it. My kids are big now, and we'll go to concerts where the band is pretty good, the choirs are impressive, the string players also belong to orchestras and none of the boys pick their noses in front of everybody during the last song. (Or at least if they do, you hope your daughter isn't dating them.) I couldn't believe it. Miss it? All these years I've thought that I just could not wait. That I would embrace the new phases my kids went through and I would never feel melancholy for years gone by...and suddenly, last night, sitting there on a crappy chair in that funny smelling auditorium, uncomfortable, squashed, watching a toddler (probably thinking about licking something) wander up and down the aisle, listening to the worst ever rendition of .....well. I still can't tell what song it's supposed to be...and I looked around and thought, wow. My kids are growing and I'll never sit at an elementary school concert again...and then I thought the unthinkable.

I wonder if the school would let me come back....


Just to watch the grade ones.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:59 AM

December 12, 2007

The buck stops on me

A thousand curses upon gainful employment for getting in my way. I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed I am in myself.
I am bloody well self employed. If you are self employed, then theoretically you are the boss. (Note that this is not true if you have small children. Then you are not master of your own days no matter who employs you. If you have little kids then the success or failure of your day hinges on the whims of beings who are very small and yet very powerful beyond their means... Sort of like skunks.) Sure, I have contracts and responsibilities and things have to keep moving or we shall starve to death and be homeless, but there is no boss who can make me do things. I am the boss. This means that I should be able to arrange December as a light month...right?

Well smack me with a waffle and call me stupid, because I arsed it up again. I thought I was being smart when I made my manuscript deadlines in the fall, but I forgot that the edits would come back to me now and all of a sudden my desk is covered and there's a deadline for a page a day calendar (Right now it's still on my desk. I would link to the Amazon Canada page, but my name is miss-spelled and I'm pretending I don't care.) It's not due until early January but I thought that was no biggie because I would finish it in early December so it wouldn't screw up my Christmas knitting. Now my Christmas knitting and the calendar are not done because some total moron who ought to know better (that would totally be me) didn't remember that the editing on the next book would come back now and...well. You know. It's like that. I'm behind on the knitting and the Christmas baking and the present wrapping, but staying on top of the gainful employment. I can't believe what an idiot I work for though. (That would be me again.)


All of this is a rather long way of saying "hey look...I have one and a part of a sock instead of a pair of socks." Also...I think my cat (who refused to budge from her spot) looks rather disappointed with me. (STR Dixie Chick, mediumweight, my standard sock recipe.) The schedule claimed these should be finished this afternoon for me to stay on track, and they are not, nor will they be. I'm officially behind. I'd promise myself that I would co-ordinate better next year so I can avoid this, but I think that considering I promise myself that every year, it might be a lie.

Do you think the planet would notice if we all called in sick to work this time next year and took a week off to sit around in our jammies, drinking hot tea and knitting? I won't tell if you won't.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:24 PM

December 10, 2007

Big Teeth

The schedule, my friends, is starting to kick my arse. It is starting to loom behind me, bearing down on me with hot fetid breath and big teeth. I can feel it lurking behind me all the time, waiting for me to lose my grip for even a moment. It's like I'm running fast on the Christmas knitting and the schedule is just waiting for me to slip on the ice and lose speed...just for a second, and that will be enough that it overtakes me and all is lost.
The schedule is tight. Darned tight - and it's all that stands between me and the annual descent into lunatic behaviour and midnight knitting sessions that I was trying so hard to avoid this year.
The schedule said that a pair of socks had to be finished this morning...


and they are...but it was by the skin of my teeth. (Standard issue sock pattern - but with a short row heel so as not to disturb the fetching little stripes that turned up, Duet Sock Yarn in "Chocolate Crunch".) Duet sock yarn comes with a variegated colourway for the main part, and a co-ordinating solid for the heels and toes. (Hence "Duet") I made a ladies medium sock, and there is plenty left over. If I were a bold toe-up type who had bothered to weigh and divide the skiens first, these would have made much bigger socks.


I was hoping that the lead I had on the schedule would last, but I'm only part way through the first sock on the next pair...


(STR "Dixie Chick"...which is not my colourway but will thrill the pants off of the recipient this Christmas.) It is the presence of a real job which seems to be slowing me down, along with the fact that I was the tree-putter-upper last night, since it would appear that the teenagers I had counted on to do the task have a schedule all their own....
and Lene didn't make it. Epic time lost to light wrangling, ornament hanging and an attempt to be merry about it.


I think maybe I am going to need an elf.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:57 PM

December 7, 2007


I recovered fairly well from the clothing incident yesterday ( what with these sorts of upsets being so frequent, I need to be good at coming back from them) and left triumphantly wearing a different wool skirt (the one that is a little narrower than my stride so that I can't walk very fast. I hate that one.) and the pair of stolen tights. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing until I crossed my legs in the airport lounge and noticed that the stolen tights were navy blue, not black...but it was too late and I decided that if I tried hard I could compensate for tight colour with charm.... and that point, who cares.

Freaking out over skirts and pants ate up a chunk of Lene's knitting schedule for me, so I applied myself most diligently while I waited to board and finished the Embossed Leaves socks...seen here photographed in that most elegant of settings, a hotel room.


They don't fit me, which is something I shall be noting on the post it note I'll stick to the pattern. I have really little feet, and these would need to be knit on much smaller needles to come down small enough to fit me, but at pattern gauge they are going to fit the recipient (who has average womans feet) rather nicely.


Embossed Leaves socks from Favorite Socks, Lotus Yarns sock yarn in "Hydroponic".

While waiting for the plane to take off I started another pair of socks, but was thrown off the schedule by a hyper-vigilant flight attendant who felt that my needles posed a risk to others during take off and landing. There's no arguing with the people who run things (though I was tempted to show her the schedule and explain that Lene really hadn't figured on this) so I stowed them until the seatbelt light went off....but there went a chunk of knitting time on each end of the flight. I shall have to be superquick today to recover.


It will be easy, since I am so in love this yarn so much I want to marry it. I surprised myself when I bought this colourway, since this group of colours isn't usually my thing, but I love it. Adore it. Am charmed to the point of unreasonable behaviour by it. Last night at dinner I totally dorkified myself by forcing people who really don't care at all to admire it at some length. It's Duet Sock Yarn in Chocolate Crunch and I am totally, completely obsessed with it.


I haven't even got to the co-ordinating yarn for the heel yet. I expect it shall put me right over the edge. It's these little one row stripes that are making me so happy.... I am a simple woman.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:25 AM

December 6, 2007

How it goes

- Trying to leave for airport. Realize that my favourite brown pants are not clean. Begin hunt for alternative, pausing briefly to berate self for not being the sort of person who looks into this the night before.
-Find charcoal wool skirt. Remember I like charcoal wool skirt.
-Put on skirt. Realize that I need tights with skirt.
- Begin hunt for tights. Locate brown pair immediately. Celebrate.
- Remember clothes should match. Discard brown tights.
- Begin hunt for black tights.
-While hunting through drawer, locate 23 pairs of ratty underpants that nobody would ever wear and try briefly to understand why anyone would keep these underpants when what they really need is tights. Leave underpants in drawer because hunt actually concerns tights. Begin to understand why the underpants are still there.
- Locate black tights. Put on. Celebrate.
- Discover huge run down leg that will not be covered by skirt and boot combo.
- Examine brown pants to decide if syrup on leg is actually a big problem.
- Decide syrup on leg is always a big problem.
- Re-launch hunt for black tights.
- Find pair almost immediately and put on. Celebrate.
- Discover huge run down other leg. Curse violently.
- Suddenly realize that it is the same pair as before, only I have put them on backwards.
- Briefly regret dreadful lack of ass that would prevent this mistake. Move on.
- Try to wash syrup off leg of favourite brown pants.
- Fail, but try to work out if I have enough syrup off pants to pass for clean.
- Remember any degree of syrup is bad. Curse.
- Go to teenage daughters drawer and search for black tights that she has not cut the feet off of in a moment of misguided vogue.
- Find pair. Celebrate.
- Remember that daughter is 5' 8 and I am.....not.
- Decide that if tights fall down the extra will collect in boots. Not a problem.
- Put on daughters black tights. Feel grateful that I will be far away when she discovers that I have taken same.
- Discover daughters tights have huge hole in crotch.
- Contemplate.
- Decide that chain of events that will reveal large crotch hole is, even for me....unlikely. Put on skirt.
- Take deep breath, wonder if anyone else has this much trouble getting dressed.
- Go downstairs. Pour cup of coffee. Walk to desk.
- Sit down and pour entire cup of coffee on lap. Curse violently.

- Go back upstairs. Take off skirt and spike it violently onto floor by brown pants.
- Spend unreasonable amount of time trying to decide what's worse. Syrup on brown pants, or coffee on charcoal skirt.

- Realize that all of this is moot because I still have not found my bra.
- Go lie in traffic.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:31 PM

December 5, 2007

Dashing Done

Just a quickie from me. I've got to travel tomorrow and I'm running off to get a haircut. I always wash my hair before haircuts because while I love the guy who cuts my hair, I do think his shampoo smells funny and I'd rather use mine. I'd have tons of time but for the winter. It's cold enough here that going out with wet hair means frozen hair so I have to budget time to blow dry this mess. I recognize that the fact that this is all I have to tell you....that I'm drying my hair so that it doesn't freeze solid is rather profoundly look!


My pair of Dashing was finished last night and are here modelled by Joe (who obviously missed his true calling as a hand model. Look at that elegant pose.)


Joe thinks they are rather good (though they are not for him) and I loved the wool. It's a mystery two ply worsted from the stash, and I liked it before I washed it, but see below?


Swished in a warm bath the yarn bloomed and softened like nobodies business. (Wish I could remember what it was. A thousand curses on stray tags. This is the downside of a well-aged stash. I'd buy more of this if I had any idea what it was.) The astute among you will notice that my pair has cables crossing to the right on both hands...that's a mistake. The pattern for Dashing actually indicates that they should cross left on the right and right on the left, but I didn't see that particular instruction until I had knit both of them and although I can usually compete in the obsessive compulsive error correction category at the Olympic level, I snapped and chose to ignore it.

I'm all for perfection and good knitting, but I just didn't see how it was a big enough error to rip one of them back. Actually, it not only seemed like it wasn't a big enough error, but that it was sheer lunacy to care that much. They are good looking. They work fine, are very cozy indeed, and the recipient certainly isn't going to take them out of the box and heave a sigh of regret that they don't cable in opposite directions. As a matter of fact, since I am likely the only person who will ever notice, let alone actually care in any way at all... I'm letting it go.

It's the 5th of December and that's one item off the list...14 to go.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:57 PM

December 4, 2007

Schedule Day 2

I am on fire with the schedule. Seriously ON FIRE. If this keeps up I will not suffer at all with the Christmas knitting. I am Blowing Through the schedule with an enthusiasm and dedication that is pleasing me to no end. I haven't had this much fun since Steve and Kathy said I could come and live in the back room of Webs when I get old. (Don't worry. I haven't told them yet - and I sort of think it's a moot point when we outnumber them this way...but I'm setting up the Webs Home for Aged and Vaguely Confused Knitters. We can all go. It will be lovely.)

Example of the way I am winning the Schedule War #1.

These are the socks that are job one on the schedule. According to Our Lady of the Extreme Organization, if I want to make this Christmas thing work, these need to be at the halfway point tomorrow around 6pm.


Look at that! Mwaha ha ha! That's more than halfway now! Now...when it's noon on Teusday....not 6pm on Wednesday! That puts me ahead on ITEM ONE. (For the record, Item one is The Embossed Leaves socks from Favorite Socks, 2.25mm needles, Lotus Yarns sock yarn in "Hydroponic".)

Example of the way I am winning the Schedule War #2

This is a super-sneaky-secret project that shall not be named here (except to call it Item #2) nor shall yee who have a guess reveal it in the comments. Yeah verily, we shall not speak of what this might be or who it may be for...but I shall revel in the truth that this is scheduled to be at the halfway point Sunday at midnight and dudes....


It is there now. This is the biggest project on my list, and the fact that it is ahead of schedule makes me want to weep with joy.

Example of the way I am winning the Schedule War #3

Item #3 is a pair of Dashing (Yarn is unknown and antiquated stash, all I can guarantee is that it is 100% wool.) and Lene suggests in the document which rules my life that I would be happiest if I were to have the first one completed by 8pm tomorrow.....


and I'm ahead on that too. That's a whole one, done like dinner.

Plus, before I even got to the schedule I finished these socks:


Which then didn't go onto the schedule thus making the schedule something that was sort of possible for a human to do. (STR Rocktober, Feather and Fan socks from Socks, Socks, Socks - except I changed the heel and toe)

I hate to gloat, because I know that anything even vaguely resembling a smirk is a signal for the knitting fates to punch me in the metaphorical face, but really...doesn't it seem to be going well? Every year when Lene embarks on the writing of the Christmas knitting schedule, she asks me how long I think things are going to take, and every year I tell her how long, and then I get screwed because I'm apparently unconnected with reality an eternal optimist. This year when Lene asked me how long it would take, I actually looked at how long it has taken in the past and applied that information. Do you see that? See what I did? I gleaned information from my previous experiences and and applied it in a way that will give me more success in the future. That my friends...that is the very definition of learning.

Seriously. My mother is going to be shocked. Neener neener.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:46 AM

December 3, 2007

Lene runs my life and I like it

A thousand curses on a real life that keeps interfering with my desire to blog and knit all day....Friday sort of got away from me, and the weekend wasn't much better. Still, today is the first official "Lene Schedule Day" and so far, so good. I assured Lene that I could finish the beaded Swallowtail, and that she didn't need to put it on the schedule and it took a reasonable amount of busting a move (and neglecting laundry...but what else is new) to finish it, but finish I did.


This is the whole enterprise, unblocked.


I used Misti Alpaca Lace in "CD43" (Love that colour name. So appropriate. It's like poetry.) and the pattern from Interweave Knits, Fall 2006, along with some beads from Arton Bead on Queen Street West here in Toronto. (They were 75 cents. I love that.)

And post- blocking.


To turn it into a beaded swallowtail instead of the pattern as written, I placed a bead in the centre of each little motif in the top portion and replaced each nupp with a bead in the bottom part. (I used the crochet hook method here, so I didn't have to string them all on ahead of time.)


When it came to the border, I just put them anywhere that there was a line of stitches that didn't get messed with in the pattern. I'm totally thrilled.


For the rest of today, Lene has me working on a pair of socks,


(Embossed Leaves socks from Favorite Socks, in Lotus Yarns "Hydroponic" (I got this skein right from the dyer herself, but I know that The Sweet Sheep carries this yarn, as does Knitch. Happy Hunting. )

When I've done my time on those, then I work on a mysterious something, then a pair of mitts in the evening. Progress report tomorrow, but it feels good to have Christmas knitting underway, especially in this beginning part when nothing is screwed up or behind yet, nothing has fallen apart and everything seems possible.

Knitters Without Borders:

I got totally bogged down dealing with the gifts on Thursday, and still haven't heard from a few of the lucky knitters, so I've got things on hold while I wait for that. The gift giving is a smidge complex, and I don't want to screw it up by letting it get weird, so I'm going to do one "wave" at a time. I know you'll all be patient. (As much fun as it is to watch me come unglued, I don't think any of you want actually unhappiness on my end....right?)

I haven't decided what our new goal should be. I don't want us to loose track of how incredibly stunning and boggling what you knitters have already accomplished is.... This is an incredible thing you've done. Just incredible. Stop and look at that total....then divide it by whatever you think the average donation size is...and do a little math about what it's taken to get here. Then try and breathe. It's staggering. Absolutely staggering, and I don't even know how to guess about what you're capable of anymore. I remember getting an email from my Brother-in-Law Ben (the one who works for MSF) when we hit $15 000 and we were all just so stunned....
I don't even know what reasonable expectations are mighty is the power of the knitters. I'm thinking on it.

To start gearing up for this year though...I'm going to attend to the first job, which is updating those of you who give on a monthly basis. If you're signing up to be a monthly giver OR If you signed up to give to MSF each month last year (or the year before), and you're going to keep going for this year, I'd like to update you in the database with your new total. The address for letting me know is kwb AT yarnharlot DOT ca. When that's done...I'll open the floodgates to the rest of you! (It shouldn't take that long either, since Sam is going to earn her Christmas money entering names for the grand price of 10 cents an email.)

PS. Tracy got Barack Obama (he's a presidential candidate in the US) to hold a sock. She's just my kind of people, an absolute NUTTER, but my kind of people.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:08 PM