January 31, 2008

Winter and My Discontent

It is my favourite sort of winter day, and this is saying a great deal, as it is well known that I am not a fan of winter. It is too cold, too damp, too windy (I especially hate the wind. Walking from Lettuce Knit the other night I could feel the wind push the cold in through the seams of my coat. The wind makes you a thousand times colder. I swear it.) too grey, and too sunless. After a couple of months of this I can feel it pulling the joy right out of me. I'm not depressed, I'm just surrounded by stuff I don't like. I miss my garden. I miss my bike. I miss walks that aren't physically painful. I miss stopping on the street to chat with my neighbours... I miss shopping for fruit and vegetables in the village and buying fresh baguettes that aren't %^&*ing frozen when I get home. (That happened the other day. I bought a warm and lovely baguette...walked home and the thing was bread-sicle when I got here.) I hate the way your hair freezes if you go out too soon after washing it. I hate the way that snow is always melting on the floor by the front door. I hate worrying about the furnace. I hate chapped lips (and faces, and hands and legs.) and it totally pisses me off in my entirety that the little tub of Carmex I had in my coat pocket froze and now it's weird and grainy. I really loathe the way that I get cold in October and don't feel warm again until April. (When we were all walking and freezing the other night, Denny was the only one who was warm. She says the answer is alpaca. I'm going to get right on that.) I am essentially an optimist and a happy person though, so I work hard at staying chipper in the winter. Days like this help. (As does offering a daily offering of thanks to the universe that forces in my past never conspired to have me living in Edmonton or Yellowknife. I would die.)

Today there is a storm. The wind is fierce, the cold is trying to come in through any crack it can find in the house., but the mighty octopus furnace is fending it off. The snow is getting blown around so hard that it is sticking in the cracks of buildings and making them white. It's terrible driving, worse walking, schools are closing, and much of the city has stayed home if they can.


I was smart. Yesterday when I heard it was coming, I did all my out of the house chores. I went to the store, I took care of the green bin and recycling. I did everything I could think of so there is absolutely no reason at all why I would have to go outside. None, and that makes today one of my favourite sorts of winter days. The outside is terrible, and I am inside. Me, coffee, yarn, knitting.


I am delighting myself. It can bluster all it wants to, and for today I have myself a wee victory over winter. (Now would not be a good time to point out that there are two months to go. ) Today I can sit and knit (assuming I get my work done) and I can make little lists of things I like about winter, just to get me over the hump.

- Soup. (Today is barley, leek & potato.)
- That heating up the house with baking is a good thing.
- Watching knitters get dressed to go out in the snow.
- How much it makes me like the summer.
- Shovelling.
- Storms that give you a day off.
- That it is dark enough to light candles before supper.
- The way that you feel like finishing your knitting is urgent.

I'm sure you have your own list. Feel free to share, I could use it. Today for sure I will finish the body of the Vintage socks, and that only leaves the leaf-o-rama to be done.


There's an "integrated i-cord bind off" that attaches a bunch of them, and at the risk of sounding even dorkier than usual... I'm extremely excited. I'll take pictures for you. The minute my work is done today I'm for my warm chair, a shawl round my shoulders, pot of tea on the table, this quote in my mind.

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

-Hal Borland

(By the way? 945 ft.)
(By the way again? Go read Sara's entry for today.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:43 PM

January 30, 2008

There goes an afternoon

You can thank Lene.

Flight of the hamsters. Nothing to do with knitting, but oddly compelling none the less.

(PS. My personal high score is 455ft. 633!!! I'm stopping now. I think.) Actually, could someone please come shut my power off? Thanks.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:25 PM

January 28, 2008

and the sky is grey

Yeah, yeah, as the tremendously astute Rachel H. noted yesterday, I totally blew the deadline on these socks. They should have been done on Sunday, and on Sunday, I was still deep in the depths of book-work, only coming up for (as Inky called it in the comments...) "some fine looking OCD". It's ok though, because the recipient didn't turn up on Sunday to collect them, so I was granted a reprieve and didn't even have to beg for it. (I'll admit, I'd like to see this last of the Christmas presents out the door before February, so I'm not slowing down.)

Sure, the leaves were sort of a fetish knitting item, and sure, I can see how many of you think it was nuttier than Aunt Mary's walnut bars, and I know a lot of you are shaking your heads sadly my decline in to wee knitty maddness...and more still are wondering how you get 34 leaves on a single pair of socks and have that work out. (It's going to be grand. Open your mind.)

I have to say though, from where I sit, those little leaves were a lot more interesting than the plain stockinette on the second foot of the socks they will adorn. I'm up to the embossed grape panel again, so things have picked up in interest, which is excellent, because all of this was really starting to get to me.

When I feel ennui with my knitting, whether because of project monogamy (not my natural state), a plain bit or a forced march, I try to suck it up. (Usually. Stop that laughing.) I keep knitting, I finish the thing, I carry on, and I will this time too...but when I'm done with something and it's not done with me, I do a little something that makes me feel better. Something that speaks to the future. When I really can't stand it anymore?


I wind sock yarn.


I don't knit it, I just wind it.


(C'mon. I bet you do it to. Just a little winding to take the edge off? You know you wanna....)

PS Finalists are up in the Canadian blog awards, and there I am, proud and pleased as punch. (I'm in Best blog, and Best Activities Blog. Vote your conscience (you don't need to be Canadian), should it please you, and thanks a whole bunch if ya do. Deadline is tomorrow I think. )

PPS. Rick Mercer is up for Best Celebrity Blog. While I don't know Rick personally (and frankly I think he could step it up in the blog department a little bit ) and we are not friends in our waking lives, while I sleep - Rick and I are apparently the best of friends. (Get your minds out of the gutter. It's not like that between me and Rick.) There was the time that he rescued me when I got myself chained up in the coffee shop.... and then there was my most recent dream. Justin Trudeau and I were contestants on a reality television show, and we were going to live in this house that had been decorated just for us, and Rick Mercer was the host and he was going to live there too, and the three of us were standing around in this open concept nightmare of an architectural oddity, talking about how entirely transparent the decorating scheme was. There was roses and fleur de lis on the fabrics everywhere and we all just about bust a gut laughing because it was just such a transparent and stupid way to suck up to Justin, and then I woke up... and I realized that I totally need to watch less CBC and read less Can-lit, because dudes, isn't that the most Canadian dream ever? Anyway. I figured that I should mention that Rick was up for a vote, because he must be good if he can even entertain my sleeping subconscious. Carry on.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:07 PM

Get along little doggies

Yee haw. I'm still in editing hades over here. (Now I'm onto the first edit of the calendar, so it's way less stressful than the last edit on the book. ) I'm perfectly happy though. Perfectly. My hair could be on fire and I would be happy. Why?




All the leaves, all of them, even the one that needed to be inlaid into the toe of the second Vintage sock is done.


Done, and done without incident. Nothing unravelled. Nothing mis-knit, no great honking errors, no wrong counting or gauge mistake, just 34 tiny little leaves for socks. All blocked. All just grand.


Towards the end it was even sort of zen. It was only the leaves. Me and the leaves. Leaves and me. Finish one, cast on the next. As you can imagine, I had the pattern memorized by then so it was a seamless flow of one leaf to the next. I somehow got into a headspace where I didn't even want to knit anything else. It was as though the leaves and I were one endless being. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. It was so mind-bendingly surreal that the only reason I stopped was because I happened to mention to one of the kids (the answer to "So, Mum? How many leaves are you knitting?") that I only had to make 34 ("only"....see how it gets to you?) and they counted and I was done. If they hadn't have broken the spell I would likely still be knitting. Leaves.


I've decided to leave them like that for a while. Just so I can look at them. My leaves. Yee haw.

(First person to mention how many ends there are to weave in gets their smart-ass self banned from the blog. I'm ignoring that, and I don't want my bubble burst. )

Posted by Stephanie at 1:36 PM

January 25, 2008

Like cures like

You would think that the persnickityness of the proofs would have me knitting garter stitch washcloths, but nope. Leaves. Who knew? There's a homeopathic principle that says "like cures like", and it seems to be the case for me this time. Somehow, even though I'm still busy writing stuff like this on a manuscript:


(Added later, when seeing some confusion in the comments: I wrote that note. The red marks are from the editor, who is trying to change a sentence so that it begins with a conjunction. The black note is from me, where I am "stetting" her. I thought it was extra funny that I was correcting her while simultaneously making two errors (the misspelling of "conjuntion" and "sentance") but perhaps you have to be in my rather frayed frame of mind to find that rippingly amusing in a terrible but ironic way. Har-dee har-har. I may need a nap.)

I feel a real relief in the tiny, little, perfect leaves that are "just so".


The Deadline for getting this proof out of here is today, so I'm copping out on the real blog writing and answering questions from yesterdays comments.


I am currently reading The Yarn Harlot's Guide to the Land of Knitting, and I noticed that it's "color" and not "colour". I love seeing that extra u in words (I secretly wish I were Canadian), and I wonder where the decision to leave the u out comes from? Is that the author's choice? the publisher's? Does customs take the u out when the book comes over the border?

It's definitely the publishers choice. They get my manuscript with Canadian spellings, but they are an American publisher, so my choices are changed to reflect standard American spelling. The very first time that I encountered this, my copy editor phoned and told me that the manuscript was very clean and they liked it and they were just "going to correct my spelling."
"Correct my spelling?" I queried. (I am normally pretty careful about spelling. I have a multitude of flaws I freely admit, but a am a good speller.) "Are there lots of errors?"
"No, no" she backtracked "we're just taking out your Briticisms."
"Briticisms?" I said.
"Yeah, you know, added "u"s, extra Ls... Briticisms."
"Hmmm.... "
"You don't call them Briticisms?"
"What do Canadians call it then?"
" English." I replied

Okay, I'll be the rude, impatient person and ask what we really all want to know. How soon can we expect you to haul yourself around the planet for signings? And when can we start clamoring (and bribing) for our favorite cities to be on the list?

It's not rude to ask. I'll be on the road for this book April 2nd. As far as I know, there are 20 cities booked, pretty much back to back. When I have details, you'll have details. (...and for the record, I believe the publicity department to be fairly immune to bribes, or I would have had a seven day book signing in Fiji by now.)

Why is it more expensive at amazon.ca rather than amazon.com.... is it an american publication ?

Yup, and all American books (and a lot of other American things) are more expensive in Canada. American books are distributed in Canada by (not surprisingly) Canadian distributors. The price rises to cover the distribution costs. A lot of people believe that it's the exchange rate that causes the difference, but as many Canadians discovered this year when our dollar was at par (or above) the American dollar, it didn't make the book prices on par.

How long (in general, I know all your books are different lengths)is the first manuscript in terms of word processed pages? I'm guessing it's different than what is type-faced, justified, headed, and illustrated in the final version.

It depends. Manuscripts are managed by word count, but books are pages. (My books are usually between 25 000 and 50 000 words.) I would guess that I lose about 3-10% in the editing, but it's pretty variable. Usually the publisher has an idea how long the book should be - or must be... have a look at a book from the side and you'll see that there are "sections" of paper. When they print a book they can add one more of those, or one less, but not a part, and as an author, your work is trimmed to reflect that. For example, this new book needs to be 160 pages. After my work was typeset and made pretty, I was told that I was coming out at 8 pages too long. Part of this last part of the process is deciding what 8 pages should go. (I hates it - but I'm trying to be mature.)

One reads about authors getting huge advances to write books ... is this true or does it depend on whether your name is, say, Stephen King or Joan Didion or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee?

One does read about that, and yeah. It does depend on your name and reputation. (Hint: my name is not Stephen King.) An advance is exactly that. It works like this: A publisher makes a guess about how many copies they think a book will sell. They offer the author that money "in advance". The author writes the book, the book is published and (with a little luck) the book starts to sell. The author gets a portion of the book when it sells. That portion is called a "royalty" and it's usually somewhere between 4 and 15% (depending on your name and publisher... think under 10% for "not Stephen King" types - the industry average for a paperback is 6%.) of the price. If a book is $10 the author will get a 60 cent royalty for every book sold - assuming the royalty is 6%, which - a lot of the time....it isn't.

So the book sells, and the author waits, and every time someone buys a book, 60 cents goes into their account with the publisher...BUT, the author has to pay the publisher back the advance before they make any money. If you got a $10 000 advance, a book needs to sell more than 16 THOUSAND copies before the publisher owes the author any more money. Only once you have paid back the advance do you get any more, and if your book never sells 16 000 copies, you would never get any more. (Technically, without a clause in your contract that says otherwise if a publisher paid you $10 000, and your book only ever sells 2000 copies, they could ask for their money back, which is a black nightmare that haunts the dreams of all writers. I don't think it ever happens though.)

In addition, an author is not paid for being on tour, or otherwise promoting their book. If you are lucky (and I am) being on tour doesn't cost you any money and the publisher covers the costs. That's not always the case though, and it's difficult for many writers to lose that time to income earning. I remember when I started all this, and was boggled to learn that out of all the people involved in selling a book, the author earns the least per book. (Although I don't really know a lot of rich publishers or booksellers either.) It explains why a lot of writers work so hard to keep the books coming. It's the only way to earn a living at it....and it isn't just the case for middle of the road writers like me. I was listening to Nino Ricci on the CBC a while ago and he said something to the effect that if he added up all the time he spent writing, revising, proofing and promoting, he would have earned more working at McDonalds - and he's a bestselling, award winning novelist.

In short, yeah. Authors get advances. No, they are not usually huge, and I think you really have to love writing if you want to make it your day job.


Although you do get to knit leaves at work.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:49 PM

January 24, 2008

A small word

There are lots of phases of a book. Authors are involved in some, and not the others. (It's more complicated than I'm implying too, there's galleys and other stuff, emails and conversations and probably whole long parts of it that I'm not involved in and thankfully know nothing about since they would probably only make me more anxious.) Also, there's all the parts with contracts and agents and money. (If you're interested in the money and author part, read this.) This is just a peek at what it looks like from here, there's other stuff.

Phase One:
The writing, naturally, is an authors job. You propose what you would like to write, then they say yes or no (or negotiate) and then the writer sits down to do the deed. (The proposal may be really formal, or not. When I submitted my first proposal I used this book as a guide (it worked too) but now that the publisher is pretty sure I have good ideas, I can just tell the editor what I'm thinking.) As the writing phase passes, depending on the writer or the publishers policy, the author is babysat to varying degrees. Sometimes the publisher asks the writer to submit the writing in chunks (this is so they know that you're really working and your book isn't crap) and sometimes, if you have experience in actually handing in books on time that aren't total crap, and your publisher is the type, they leave you entirely alone and you just hand it in on the deadline. (There may be one or two phone calls from your editor broached as kind enquiry about your well being, "just calling to see how you are, it's been ages" sorts of phone calls, but these are really "I'm calling to get some sense that you're actually working on a book and have not gone barking mad, become an alcoholic or are otherwise endangering the odds that I will get that manuscript" calls. When these calls happen, both the author and the editor pretend that they are 100% unconcerned about anything. They are both lying.) This is the last time that the author will have absolute control over any part of making a book. The finished work is called a manuscript, if you are the editor and publisher, and "My Precious", if you are the author.

Phase Two:
The author sends the book to the editor. The editor reads it. The editor then makes decisions and forms opinions about the whole rest of the writers life and whether it is worth living. When they are ready to tell the author about these opinions and decisions, they call them. (The time that elapses before that phone call comes is so unbelievably awful that it makes the time that I fell asleep on a dock in Bala and got a sunburn so bad that I couldn't wear clothes for four days seem like a spa day.) Once the editor has called the author (who cries, either from relief or shock) they begin the process of editing. The editor marks up the manuscript with words that rip your soul open like "unclear" or "wordy" or "will you ever, ever learn to pay attention to its and it's, or are you stunned as a bat?" (Well. They don't say that. They just underline it, but I know what they are implying with their red pen.) Then they send it back to the author and they have a couple of discussions about how it's not wordy, those words are vital and if you take out even one of them the integrity of the whole thing washes down the toilet - which the editor endures politely until you are worn down and take the words out yourself.

Phase Three:
The publisher starts having meetings. Authors don't really go to them, so I don't know what gets said. They claim that this is when they make decisions about design, layout and title, but they might be just talking about what pains in the arse authors are. (That's my theory.) At some publishing houses authors are "consulted" on this stuff, in others they are not. Generally speaking, publishers decide on the cover and the title, although they consider the feedback of the people in sales a great deal. Unless you are dealing with a special sort of publisher - authors are not going to win any debates at this point. I can't speak for all authors, but I know that I find the lack of control at this point pretty much excruciating. At least twice before there is a final cover and title, I cry out of sheer helplessness...(and that's saying something, because although I do tend to over-invest in things, I am not normally a crier.) The author will probably be shown several covers between now an publication, so it's best not to flip out over the first couple. It's changing anyway. (This doesn't stop the bad and soon to change cover from being on Amazon.)

Phase Four:
While the publisher is thinking about the cover and the title and stuff like that, the manuscript has gone to a copy-editor. This person edits your work for the five C's. (They make sure the work is clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.) Sometimes at this point it comes back to the author, sometimes it just goes to the next step. Sometimes if the author sees it at this point they have a seizure for no reason.

Phase Five.
The work goes to the layout and design people, and they make it pretty. They make actual "pages" or "spreads" of how the book will look when it's a real thing. Now the work is called " A proof" or "The Pages" and these are proof-read (by a proof reader) and then sent to the author, who heaves a sigh of relief because they think that this part should be called The Proof because the author finally has fairly good proof that the publisher is actually going to go through with this. This stack of paper is the last time that the author will see their words. The last time that they can make changes (but not too many - or the publisher is unhappy). The last time they can check for mistakes. The last time before the publisher turns it into a real book.
That's what I'm doing today.


This is this book. (There it is. The cover that won't be the cover, I think.) I can't tell you how horrible I think it is that it is both on my coffee table and up on Amazon. It feels a little like a promise you aren't sure you can keep. Like "Are you sure you want to sell something that isn't even a book yet? Are you sure?". I am painstakingly going over it with a fine tooth comb, checking for mistakes, thinking over the editing job one more time and deciding if it is ready to go into the world. This part makes me nauseous. Totally nauseous. If I make a mistake now (or if the editor, the copy editor or the proofreader made or missed a mistake that I don't find) an error will be in the book forever that a whole bunch of you will email me about, probably for the rest of my life. 50 years from now there will be one beat up copy of this book in the Toronto Public Library and some knitter who hasn't even been born yet will take it out, read it, and then send me an email about the dumbass mistake on page 7 and how I should have fixed it. (Excuse me. I just made myself dizzy with my own vision.) It's a lot of pressure. Horrible actually, and although I love being a writer, I hate this part with a stinking and unholy passion. I have tried tempering it with sock knitting....


But my mood is still bleak and worried. (Perhaps I should go back to leaf knitting. At least that was only endless, not scary.) The only comfort a writer has at this point (and who knows, perhaps there are writers who LOVE this part. If there are, and they are sober, I'd love to hear from them.) the only thing that is a glorious and shining revenge and compensation is the word


Stet is a really fantastic latin word. It means "let it stand" and if you write it near a change an editor, copy editor or proofreader has made, it means "Put. It. Back". I love it, for though it is a word of enormous import, power and dominion, it is very fast to write.

After all of the arguments a writer will lose during all of the phases of publication, after all of the negotiations, all of the compromises, all of the discussion and polite persuasion.... It is the authors final weapon, the last line of defence.....and I adore it with the full force of my being. Stet means "I wrote arse and I mean arse". Stet means, "Yeah it's a run on sentence, but maybe I like run on sentences". Stet means "the serial comma is not a law, and you and your comma fetish can back right off." Stet. It is a final, brief and dignified return of control to an author, and you should try writing or saying it to feel the real power in it. (Ever time I write it I cannot help but think of all the things I would STET if I could. Not just on a manuscript either. Curfews for a teenager? STET. The way I told you to pick up your socks? STET. What I said about that boy that you only think you like? STET.)


Stet. Let it stand. The word that cannot be argued with. Damn straight.

(PS. I know that the fact that I wrote "Stet Please" diminishes my claim to the inherent strength of the word. I'm Canadian. I can't help it.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:57 PM

January 23, 2008

Four years of screwing up knitting

I was working this morning, writing, knitting, writing, knitting (taking short breaks to think about how much cleaner my house would be if I ever substituted "cleaning" for "knitting", then having a little chuckle to myself about how unlikely that is) and then I had a very nice phone call with a friend I don't talk to very often (and thinking about how much cleaner my house would be if I ever substituted "cleaning" for that sort of thing too.) and right thereafter I came to landmark place on the Vintage sock. Once the inlaid toe business was out of the way, this sock has flown. I knit the plain bit, then started the embossed bunch of grapes pattern, and was absolutely delighted to discover that this part was entirely, well. Delightful.


The chart makes it a walk in the park, and there's a pretty cool "make 4" to start the bottom of each grape and an equally charming "decrease 4" that rounds off the tops of them,


and the whole thing was a pleasure. Now that I have knit it, I can smirk without fear of retribution about how easy and fun it is. (I refrained from blogging yesterday about how I was knitting it without difficulty. Considering my track record with this sock I think the thing would have been unable to resist the urge to spontaneously combust or burst into a million wee snips of yarn just to rub my face in it.) I knit half the grapes, knit the "inverted wine glass heel" (again, a pleasure. Not a single misplaced stitch.)


and today I decided, that with the worst of it behind me I could blog about how truly beautiful it is, and how I'm having such a good time that I have almost forgotten that I still have about a billion leaves left to knit and a whole second sock...


and with that I remembered that I have a deadline on these bad boys, and I went to the calendar to check and see how much time I have left. (Five days, but lets not dwell on that. It's not the point.) While I was running my finger down the calendar and trying to sort out what day today might be (I have a loose relationship with the passage of time) I saw that my blogiversary was coming up. Then I sorted out what day it was and realized that TODAY is my blogiversary.

I've missed it in previous years, not being someone who's big on dates in general (which is really good, since I never know the date) but having discovered it by accident today, I wanted to take a minute to mention it, and to convey to you my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude.

Thank you.

I had no idea what this blog might become when I started. No idea. Ken gave it to me as a Christmas present (probably thinking that it would be really great for me to have some sort of outlet for my knitting angst that didn't involve his phone ringing) and it turns out to have been so much more than a way to find other people who worry about buttonholes at three in the morning. (Although, that's really great too.) I feel like I really found a community with knitting in general, and this blog in specific, and as someone who has never really fit in very well, I can't tell you how much that has meant to me. I've always struggled with the fact that I'm rather undeniably a dork (Don't bother arguing. I direct you to locking myself out a hotel room, dropping a shoe out of a window, and an encounter with a turnstile as proof....this isn't low self-esteem. It's self knowledge.) and while that hasn't changed...I appreciate with my whole dorky self that I'm welcome here in the big blog world. It's like finally sitting with the cool kids in high school... and my gratefulness knows no bounds.

Time flies when you're screwing up knitting.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:51 PM

January 21, 2008

The benefits of procrastination

It's super cold out, and I have to walk to the bank. I love walking, but I hate the cold. If it falls lower than -10, you're going to have to practically drag me from my house, and if it's below -20 (which is where we are today, -23 with windchill) then the odds that I am leaving my home unless it's on fire are just about zero. (Even then, fires are cozy.) I hates it, and today I have no choice but to go out because I've got to go to the bank or something terrible will happen...like running out of food, and when you have three teenagers, you don't want to go there. We have never run out of food before, so I'm not sure what they might do, but the children run in packs, and Joe's still away so I'm very badly outnumbered and have no muscle. Not a good day for experiments. Sum total, I'll be outside for about an hour (it's a bit of a walk)...and I know for a fact that if I had gone upstairs and put on my long underwear (don't laugh. it's that cold) and just got going, I'd have been back in the time I've spend avoiding it.

Still, I have been avoiding it, and so desperate have I been, that I actually fixed the leaf thing. Other than the horrendous upset of having hard work undone, it turns out not to have been that difficult to repair. Not hard...just fiddly, like everything else on this sock.

Step one.


Identify lost stitches. Use crochet hook that Fibergal gave me at SOAR to ladder them back up and otherwise secure them. (I love this hook)

Step two.


Make some sort of crazed guess about what the next step might be. Decide it is decreasing and do so.


Step three.


Begin to work crazy little attached i-cord without standing up, taking the sock from my lap nor...possibly...breathing.

Step four.


Sew down stem end. Drop darning needle, take 14 months off life as I experience flashbacks.

Step five.



Now. I'm going to the bank. I deeply, deeply regret that I thought it was too cold to go to the bank on Saturday and put it off. It was way less cold. (Idiot.) This has got to be the planets way of making sure I learn some sort of lesson about procrastination. (Again.) I wonder if there's some way I could do that later...

Posted by Stephanie at 10:38 AM

January 19, 2008

I have always said the cat was in on it



What ya doing? Taking a bath? I heard you tell Sam that you can't ever get a minute alone and you were coming up here before you "Freaked the frak out", so I thought that might be worth watching, you know? I don't know why you say you can't collect your thoughts because you're constantly invaded by others. You don't look that invaded. Sort of wet though. That your book?


Any good? How's the bath? Good too? Hello? Meow? C'mon. Don't make me claw your leg. I'm just here to find out if you are enjoying your alone time. Water nice?


That is nice. Warm and cozy on the tail. Tails are extremities....did you know that? Yup. Chilly house like this, gets sort of nippy on the tail. Feels great in the water though. Can I ask you a question? What exactly do you mean by "solitude". Are we having solitude now? I think I like how that sounds. Yeah....me and you. Solitude together. You know, this was totally worth getting up off that grey sweater for.

Hey! That's not nice. Do I tell you to "piss off"? No. No I don't. Sure, I mean, I can't talk, but even if I could I wouldn't ....... Holy cow. I'm disappointed in you. That was not a very ladylike thing to say. You talk to your kittens with that mouth? Fine. Fine.


Better? Now I'm sitting in the sink, just trying to watch you have your alone time. I AM out of the bath, just like you asked and now I'm just going to stare at you. For the record, I think it's really nice of me to supervise this. Thank heaven I know how to open doors. Why do you close them? Aren't you glad I'm here? ...
Whoa. I think you have an anger problem. "Shoo" is a really rude thing to say to me, especially since I let you stay here in my house. You're starting to really piss me off. I just came up here to watch you have your precious "alone time", and you don't even care that without me there would have been nobody with you. Seriously. How would that have been...eh? Eh? I swear that if I had opposable thumbs I would totally call PETA and get your non cat arse hauled out of my house. You're seriously insensitive. Seriously.

Actually? I can't even stand to look at you.


(Note: No. I didn't have my camera in the bath with me. Generally speaking, nothing bloggable happens in there, or ....at least nothing I would like to be bloggable. When the cat (Millie) got weird, I had Sam bring the camera up to me, thinking I'd get a cute picture of her peeking over the side. The rest was just crazy-dumb luck. That cat is odd as fish though.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:32 PM

January 18, 2008

Totally weird

I got a message today that I had to call my bank, so I did, and when I did I got caught in one of those crazy "voice" systems, where you talk and the computer lady listens. ("If you would like to proceed in English, say English, now" )
and ten minutes later I was out of my mind because none of the options for things I could say were things that I wanted. ("To check your account balance, say account balance, now")

I was starting to flip out, and the voice was saying things like "Sorry you're having trouble" which is what the voice says right before they unceremoniously dump you with a saccharine "Goodbye" when I snapped, and said something that wasn't one of the options. In a tone that I can only describe as hostile and sarcastic, when the voice said "Please tell me which option you would like" I said

"What I would like, is to talk to a real person."

And the bank voice said...

"I think I heard you ask for a representative. Please hold".

Seriously. I asked a machine for a real person, and I got one. Stunning, isn't it? What this means (I think, naturally, not working for the bank I have no actual proof) is that the bank has taught the computer that the words "real person" mean "this person wants a representative or they will come off the rails", which has to mean that I'm not the only person who's said this. Very reassuring somehow, and totally weird. It gave me the disconcerting feeling that the bank computer was actually listening to me, which isn't something that even the real people at the bank do. Freaky.

The weird wasn't even over. When I got a representative? It was this guy who said his name was "Andy" (a likely story. If I needed a fake name for bank phone work that's what I would choose), but I swear to all my wool with absolute certainty that it was David Reidy from Sticks and String podcast. I'd know that voice anywhere.

He denied it. Which was weird too...'cause he seems so nice on the podcast.

Nice try David. Great speaking with you, even if it was about my client card.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:19 PM

January 17, 2008

Perhaps I'll go on

The sock and its recalcitrant leaf still languish. Let me be clear here, I'm not quitting. I'm not giving up, but I am putting the leafy little arse in time out until I feel ready to take it up again. I should have backed away from it a little bit when the whole thing got obsessive and weird, since I should have learned a long time ago that the more interested you are in something, the more you attract the attention of the knitting fates, who cannot resist an opportunity for a little knitting joke at your expense. My goal is to have those socks finished by the 27th, which is 11 days away and totally possible, should things begin to go well, which they have to, since at some point the sock and I will run out of ways to shaft each other and we'll be forced to dabble in success. In the meantime, I've resisted the urge to knit a plain garter stitch scarf (it's the only thing I can think of that has no room for error) and I've returned my attention to the Must Have Cardigan. (By the way? Some people have mentioned having trouble finding this pattern, which is in the "Street Smart" booklet from Patons. If anybody knows where to get it, could you perhaps give a shout in the comments? I'm no help, since I got mine from the sadly departed Lewiscraft at the Woodbine mall.)


That there is two fronts and a half a sleeve, and it was while I was working on it last night that the five balls of yarn I've got started looking to me like they might not be enough. It was at this point that I checked the yardage requirements for the pattern. (I know. I've totally got a problem with the knitting order of operations. Don't tell me you've never done that.)

The sweater (in the medium size) calls for 7 balls of Patons Classic Merino.

7 balls at 204m = 1428

I substituted Valley yarns Northampton (in light grey), of which I bought 5.

5 balls at 225m = 1125

Er, yeah. I'm an idiot. It is a small comfort to me that at least I didn't do the math wrong...I rather didn't do the math at all, which can entirely be blamed on the fact that I bought the yarn at Webs, in person, and there's just no way that the wool fumes in that place don't get to a knitter. I'm surprised that they don't have to vent in extra oxygen to just keep knitters on their feet.

I called there this morning and bought two more balls, which will be more than enough- and I even got the same dye lot. I'm trying to finish this sweater before I go to Madrona, which should be enough time for the package to negotiate the border and get knit up. I'm tremendously pleased with myself for getting a clue on this one before I ran out of yarn and time to fix it in, which is my usual schtick. I'm loving this sweater, which I think is going to be a good all-purpose hanging out sweater, and the interesting thing is that my cat seems to agree. Millie is the perfect knitters cat. Doesn't play with wool, doesn't eat wool (except for silk, and who can blame her. Sometimes I want to eat it too) She even likes to sit beside me on the chesterfield instead of on my lap, where she might impede knitting progress. Millie isn't ever big on lying on works in progress and that's why it's totally bizarre that she feels the way she does about this sweater.....which is obsessed.


Every time I turn around, she's got herself planted on the thing. Just after I took this picture, she tried to bite me when I suggested she get off. (We have entered negotiations.) Totally bizarre.


In other news, thanks so much for the emails about the Canadian Blog Awards. I'm absolutely tickled pink to be nominated in the first round of choices for Best Blog and Best Activities Blog, especially since the competition is a pretty flattering assortment of clever Canadians. Feel free to vote (even if you aren't Canadian...it's the bloggers nationality that matters here, not the voters) and, well. Feel free to vote for me if you think I deserve it. Even if you don't think I deserve a vote, it's totally worth poking around among the choices. I'm a fan of A Veg*an For Dinner, (nominated for Best New Blog) and Knitnut is nominated for Best Blog Post ( twice) Mamatulip is up for Best Family Blog (I like her.) My own delightful buddy Stephannie is nominated for both Best Personal Blog AND Best Activities Blog (where you will have to delicately choose between us.) Go forth and vote at will!

Finally.... I leave you with this. A knitter in our Wednesday knit night took a trip to Barcelona, and while she was there she made it her mission to find a local yarn to bring home as a present for Megan and Denny.


Can we simply say that the put up of yarn is a slightly unusual length?


( I assure you, every possible joke was made about this last night, including the one you are thinking about right now that has to do with the more "erect" nature of Denny's skein compared to Megan's. Still. Feel free. I know it's irresistible.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:30 PM

January 15, 2008

I don't want to talk right now

So last night I got the leaf sewn in and even me, the queen of hard-on-herself-land thought it looked pretty freakin good.


I paraded it around. Ken was here for dinner and I showed it to him a lot, because you know, he's a knitter and he respects the crazy that leaf represents. I made the kids look at it, and since they are my kids and they are teenaged girls I had to force them to pretend to respect the knits, which they did...so that was super-fun. Then I worked the plain foot up to where the embossed grape pattern begins. I did stop every few rounds to admire the leaf, which I think is not just normal, but necessary.

This morning I promised myself that I wouldn't knit on the sock until I had my word count done, but me and myself are serious with the bargaining, and I talked myself into just doing the attached I-cord leaf stem for the little inlaid leaf. That way the leaf would be really finished (except for the embroidery, which I am not really thinking about right now.) and I could take a super cool blog picture of the leaf with the stem and the everything.

There are three little live stitches at the top of the stem. See them? In this picture they are being held on that length of yarn.


To work the stem, you slip those live stitches onto a dpn, then work just a few rows of I-cord, attaching it to the sock foot as you go. It's deadly clever.

So I picked up the stitches,


and then I sat at my desk to work the five (I thought five would be good. I like stems) rows of I-cord. I knit the first one, then the second. It was easy. I worked a third. My i-cord was lying flat and beautiful on the sock. I knit another one. That's four. Damn it was beautiful. Beautiful and clever. Beautiful and clever and I was picking up all the stitches in exactly the right spots and did I mention to you the inlaid leaf that was sewn in so well? Did I mention that it really does look like a leaf and not like an amoeba and maybe I'm a pretty solid knitter? That little stem lay there, knit into the top of the sock in a fetching wee curl and DAMN IT WAS GOOD. It made me want to scream things like SEE THAT YA BOSSY LITTLE SOCK or NOW WHO KNIT YOU, EH? EH? or even WHO'S YOUR DADDY, which I don't really understand as an impulse, but there you have it.

I was overwhelmed with the glory of a perfectly knit leaf with it's attached stem inlaid into a sock toe of near perfection. ( Or as near to perfection as you're going to get with a knit inlaid leaf toe with an attached i-cord stem, which is fine with me.) That' s right my little knitterly poppets, amat victoria curam. (Victory favours those who take pains) I had one more row to go and I was so hopped up that I was feeling indomitable and using latin phrases, which is so bad a sign that the use of it should be considered foreshadowing in a knitblog. I was poised to do the last row of tiny i-cord when it happened.

I dropped it. I dropped the sock. For no reason at all....it just fell from my hands and landed on the floor.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that it can't possibly be a serious problem to drop a sock. Perhaps I dropped it in coffee? In the sea? Perhaps it descended onto a landmine and was blown to a thousand bits? Nope. Worse.

As the sock fell, I realized in a horrible crushing wave of nausea, that I WAS STILL HOLDING THE YARN AND NEEDLES. The sock, with which I had only been engaged by way of three tiny stitches, had slipped off the dpn, and my hands still held the working yarn, tensioned around my right hand. This meant that as it fell the short trip to the floor, I felt in my hand the slight and sickening popping tink of stitches unravelling as it travelled.

plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plink....

I sat there, yarn and needles still in my hands, frozen in horror. Frozen. For sure the i-cord had unravelled. For sure, but the stitches at the base of the i-cord had been live. Live, available stitches. I stared at it. It had, in the manner of all things that have fallen on the floor, like toast with peanut butter....landed with the most interesting or disastrous side down. Looking at it didn't tell me of the scope of the cataclysm that lay beneath the smooth back side presenting. I took a breath, which was sort of necessary, since all of the oxygen had swept out of me when my hand felt that plink, plink business and watched the terrible tumble. I breathed. I looked at it.

For one moment I thought about just walking away. Going into the kitchen and making coffee or something. Not looking at it. Just getting on with my day and forgetting that there ever was anything with a leaf on it at all. More than that, I thought about stepping on it out of spite on my way there. I didn't though. I reached down, I picked up the sock and I lay it on my leg. As I said to Denny on the phone later, I took a few moment to think that maybe it wasn't that bad. I focussed on how it might not be that bad. I thought "nottoobadpleaseohplease" thoughts, and I flipped it over with a ginger hand.



It's unravelled. It's unravelled back into the leaf. It's gored. It's a (*&^%$%^&*ing gored inlaid &^%!!ing leaf corpse sewn into a *&^%$%ing &$%&er of a leaf hole. Rat Bastards. Pig dogs. Son of a (*&^%$%^ing tangled skein of laceweight silk.

I'm going to have a lie down now. Or maybe a drink. Or maybe a lie down AND a drink.....or maybe....

Maybe I'll have me a smallish bonfire.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:38 PM

January 14, 2008

Random Monday

1. This morning the furnace wasn't working again, and I thumped the thermostat in frustration and the whole furnace came on.
It was exactly like being some sort of domestic Fonz or something. Good times.

2. Joe is away for a week. This leaves me more time to work, but removes the only other moderating effect in the house. I have told the kids to be extra nice to me while Joe is away, since it's really only his presence that keeps me from killing them some days.

3. I have reknit the amoeba like opening in the toe of the vintage sock. The designer, Lisa, left me a comment when I said it looked like an amoeba, saying that I shouldn't rip it because hers looked like an amoeba too, and the amoebaness of the whole hole is moderated by sewing in the leaf.

4. I ripped it back anyway, because it wasn't just an amoeba, it was a badly knit amoeba.


5. It's better now.

6. Last night I worked on sewing in the leaf for an hour. By the time that I had ripped it back and done it a bizillion times it was midnight and I realized that I had to either stop and try again when I was better rested, or start up with some strong drink.

7. I went to bed. I figured that the only thing worse than knitting a terrible amoeba toe hole and then sewing in a leaf like ass was knitting an amoeba toe hole and sewing in a leaf like ass and then waking up with a hangover. I consider the decision to go to bed and try again today a sign of my improving maturity, and my ability to learn from previous knits created under the influence.

8. It is still not going very well.


9. This may end in strong drink after all, but I am going to try the judicious application of patience and language unbecoming a knitter first.

10. Again. I feel this is mature. (Do you think there's something wrong with me for enjoying a knit-challenge so much?)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:52 PM

January 11, 2008

Leaves are the new black

1. I love the leaves.


2. There may be no stopping with the leaves.


3. Ken said I should take a picture with a penny or something so that everyone could tell what the size of the leaves were.


4. There are leaves on a penny. They are maple leaves. A healthy mature maple tree has about 200 000 leaves. This project only feels like 200 000 leaves.


5. I have knit 18 out of 34 leaves. These are grape leaves. I don't know how many grape leaves there are on a grape vine.


6. It only takes 17 leaves for one sock, so I started the first sock. (I can keep knitting leaves part-time.)

7. The sock toe has a "leaf hole" that you sew one of the leaves into, but I knit it really, really badly, and it's sort of more the shape of an amoeba, not a leaf.


8. I am going to rip it out.

9. I might knit a few leaves before I try again.

10. No, I feel fine - why do you ask?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:35 PM

January 10, 2008

quickly quickly

Sorry guys, Joe and I had a business meeting today that sucked up most of my day so I don't really have time to post, but on my way out the door I realized that if I didn't post today you would all think the wee leaves had put me right over the edge, and I didn't want the knitters version of a SWAT team blasting in here around suppertime to rescue me. I am fine. I am still knitting little leaves, but it has not cost me my sanity just yet. (As a matter of fact, I am still having a lovely time, and last night when I took my sweater to knit night instead of the little leaves.... I missed them passionately.)

I also wanted to thank those of you who have emailed to see if we're ok and let you know that we're totally fine. There was indeed a really big windstorm here, but we had a new roof when it started, and (as far as I know) we've still got the whole thing. We aren't even any of the thousands of people on Ontario without power, and we actually had the good luck to be on the right side of the street last night when the people across the way had theirs go out yesterday afternoon. The worst troubles we had was that I was held up on a streetcar last night because of re-routing due to "falling debris" (but I had my knitting, so who cares) and the tree in our back garden lost several branches. Considering that many of our neighbours lost trees, we're really feeling rather lucky. (I suspect our tree does not concur. Best not to mention it.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:53 PM

January 9, 2008

Knitter fun

When I was at Rhinebeck I had a quick visit with Jennifer, who is the lady who makes the yarn for the way far out there crazy-compelling Tsock Tsarina sock kits, which spring from the brain of Lisa and are a very big sort of knitter's fun. You will see here shortly that I am defining " knitter's fun" as it applies to me personally. Every knitter is going to define fun in their own personal and unique way, and what one knitter calls fun another may well call "torture beyond that of taking a bus to to the mall with a two year old and a newborn by yourself, at naptime, in the rain to try and buy a swimsuit for your shockingly postpartum body" which actually happened to me one horrible day 16 years ago and still makes me feel both nauseous and depressed when I recall it in any sort of a real way. Any one of those individual things would be enough to flatten any mortal woman, and all of it on one day was frankly an afternoon that has both shortened my eventual life-span and strengthened my character...but I digress.

While I was visiting with her, I saw this crazy sock kit. Vintage. How crazy? Five colours, little leaves knit and sewn on, embroidery, embossed grapes, lace and an toe with a grape leaf inlay. Inlay, as in you knit a little grape leaf shaped window in the toe and then knit a leaf and then sew it in. That sort of crazy. Crazy crazy. The kind of crazy that just makes you sort of hitch in your breath a bit when you see it, and then reel with possibility. That crazy.

Naturally, because I am me and I love crazy, I felt instantly that my life would be empty without it, and Juno (who was acting as my personal shopper because I was signing books) was dispatched to the booth to procure said crazyass kit, and return to me with it.


She did. There are three colourways, Claret, Chablis and Pinot, and I got the Chablis, partly because Jennifer was sort of cleared out on kits (so I know I am not the only knitter who owns this kit. Fess up.) and partly because the person who will receive these socks is both a tremendous knitting fan who will faint with joy and appreciation of the work involved, and a big, big fan of Chablis. Perfect. I decided to knock off the socks as a Christmas present to her, and then the world exploded over the holidays (I'm sure you heard it) and hers was the gift that got put off. Turns out that delaying it was a probably a good thing, since although this is exceptionally good knitter fun, it turns out to be a smidge on the time consuming side. Straight off, the pattern asks you to knit 16 leaves, four in each of four colours, plus two more for the toes.
Okay. I got out all the stuff, I followed the directions (which are excellent. Lisa may be out of her mind, but she's very concise.) and one full hour later, I had this.


Not tremendously exciting. One whole hour of my life shot and I have a ratty little knitty thing? I get this feeling a lot with lace, and so I did what I do with lace when it disappoints me. I blocked the ratty little leaf.


Oh my. I looked at that leaf, that tiny little knitted grape leaf with it's endearing points and it's charming little i-cord stem and something snapped. Something went completely loose in my central processing system and I picked up my needles - my 2mm needles, and I made another one.


Then another one. Then I made some coffee...and I thought maybe I should put it down and go to work, or write the blog or ....was that the phone ringing? I cared not.


I knit another one. The children came home from school. It got dark. I made green leaves. No-one made a real dinner. I went to yoga but all I thought about was the little leaves and the three shades of green and how maybe I liked the orange ones best and how many I had to make. 16 for each cuff, that's 32, then one for each toe, that's 34.... I went home. I knit. The moon rose. I knit tiny, tiny i-cord stems from crazy-ass provisional cast ons. Time suspended...then stopped. Joe asked me if I was going to bed. I knit on.


Eventually exhaustion and the night overtook me and my wee leaves and I slept. This morning I looked at what I had wrought.



If the blog goes dark for more than 48 hrs .... Send knitters. Knitters with small needles. Knitters with high thresholds for crazy and big bottles of wine. Knitters who are not afraid.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:24 PM

January 7, 2008

In praise of cheap wool

The furnace is fixed. Joe went downstairs while we were heatless and used a set of pliers to "short" the wires on the furnace together and it lit, which told him the problem didn't lie with the furnace. (I had visions of a furnace that we ran with a pair of pliers for a while, but he took them off.) Instead it appears to have been a wire that connects the beast to the fancy new thermostat. I should have known that such a stanch and reliable piece of machinery wouldn't fail me, and indeed, it did not. Yet another time when "they don't make them like they used to" seems to hold true. That furnace has been running beautifully and reliably for at least 50 years, the thermostat is 2 years old and appears to be failing. We have bought a new wire, things seem fine. I am deeply respectful of Joe's ability to do stuff like that. Imagine using pliers for anything other than straightening a knitting needle or tightening the connection on a set of interchangeable circulars. Genius. It was sort of nerve wracking while we were heatless though, and I got nervous when the heat was out and responded the way any chilly knitter would. I started a new sweater.


This is the Must Have Cardigan, from Patons Street Smart booklet, knit in the very nice and surprisingly affordable "Northampton" in light grey, from Webs. It's soft, it's beautiful and it costs $4.99 a ball/ 225m, 247 yards. That means that this whole sweater, knit out of soft warm wool is only costing me $25. Seriously, I don't know how to beat that. There's other yarns like this out there...Patons Classic Merino springs to mind (mostly because that's what the pattern called for in the first place) or even one (new to me) that I just saw at Lettuce Knit, Nashua Shepherd, which is $6 for 200m. (I admit, I have not squeezed that one and can't tell you if it's soft.) In my experience, which is totally considerable, since I knit way back in the eighties when acrylics were queen and wool was expensive and rare, knitting something like this out of an acrylic just isn't worth it, and I can't sing the praises enough of an affordable wool like this.

I hear you. Some of you are freaking out because you think I'm trashing your good friend acrylic, and in this instance, I sort of am. Acrylic has it's place, there are good acrylics. There are even people like my good buddy Amy who can't play with wool and have to make other choices. I'm not talking about that. I'm not talking about knowing all of this about the differences between the kinds of yarn and choosing them anyway. That's your business. You're the knitter, you get to pick... I'm talking about how often I hear knitters say that they would like to knit with wool but it's too expensive or too hard to care for.

I'm talking about what can be best accomplished with $25, in the context of this sweater, or ones like it, and in sweaters with cables, the characteristics of wool help you a lot. First, an elastic yarn helps. Cabling non-elastic yarns is a way more difficult thing, and because acrylics aren't really blockable and don't have any memory, you're going to notice a difference in your end result when you knit something with a lot of stitch manipulation. Stitches you pull out of shape don't want to rearrange as nicely in an acrylic, and it's harder to move stitches that aren't stretching. Wool is hugely forgiving and has all that lovely memory that will help your stitches settle in to their pretty new shapes after you stretch and manipulate them....and that's something you're not going to get with an acrylic.

I hear you in the back. You're waving that beautiful cabled sweater you knit out of an acrylic. You're telling me that you bought a FANTASTIC microfibre or a high end acrylic and then knit some exquisite cabled thing out of it, and I know that you are telling the truth, but I'm talking here about what you can get for $25 bucks....and the nice synthetics are priced much higher than that. (Case in point, this sweater would probably work really well in Rowan Calmer which has many of the elastic qualities of wool while not containing any...but it would cost about $96.00 to get done.)

Now I hear that other knitter. She's telling me that she doesn't mind all of the downsides of an acrylic, because she's not stupid enough to spend the rest of her life handwashing, or she doesn't think the person she gives it to will handwash. To you I say three things.

1. Humans aren't machine washable, and most of you have given birth to something you're going to hand wash way more than this sweater. I bet you even handwashed yourself today. it's really not a big time suck.

2. Good things take a little special care. You wouldn't not buy a dress for a party because you have to care for it specially, and you wouldn't give up wearing suits to the office because they don't get tossed in the washer. Something that takes this many hours of your life to produce are not ordinary clothes, and deserves special care. It's a special item.

3. Here's how I wash wool sweaters. I fill the washer with water and no- rinse wool wash. (My current favourite is Soak, but have loved Eucalan before.) I turn off the washer, and I add the sweater(s)-I try to do more than one at a time to save time. I go away for a while. I come back, I drain the washer, I put it through the spin cycle, then I take out my sweater and nicely hang it over the stair rail upstairs. If I'm feeling especially energetic I might get out a drying rack and lay it flat like I'm supposed to...but I don't usually. That's it, and because wool forces dust and dirt AWAY from itself (it is naturally anti-static) and acrylics draw dust and dirt into them (they generate static) you don't have to wash them as often as you would their man-made alternatives. Since most synthetics can't go in the dryer anyway, I'm not sure how the handling of them would be all that different.....except there's less work with wool.

Another advantage, and this doesn't matter much with a sweater for a grown up like me, and it's actually not all that relevant, but I think we can't talk about it often enough... is that wool is flame retardant. I hear a lot about people knitting acrylics for babies, especially baby blankets, because they want them to be washable, inexpensive and durable. Those are good reasons, but this is what a wool like this is made for. Wool is self-extinguishing. That means that it will burn rather reluctantly if exposed to flame and that as soon as the flame is removed, it goes out. That means that if thing knitting of wool were in a fire and on a person, when that person moved away from the fire (or in the case of a baby, was moved away, since they can't move themselves) the knitted thing would stop burning. Fire blankets were originally made of wool for this reason. Acrylics, on the other hand, catch easily, burn quickly and at a high heat and continue to burn if you move them away from the flame Most catastrophically, if an acrylic on a person is on fire, it will melt into the burned skin, compounding the injury a very great deal. Infant sleepwear and blankets are made of only synthetics specially treated to be flame-retardant for this reason. Acrylic should never, ever be used on a baby or child when they are alone or sleeping. Save it for a sweater they will wear when grown-ups are around.

I know that there's still some people typing furiously. They are writing about how wool is too scratchy, or wool is not vegan, or wool isn't for them....and that's really ok. Nobody (well, not me anyway) is trying to take away your choices. If you truly love, appreciate and are satisfied by an inexpensive acrylic..... knit it. Knit tons of it. Knit it by the acre and I wish you well and good happiness. There's acrylic in my stash and I like it there. I think some of it is pretty nifty... but for a plain good cabled sweater like this one, that will wash and wear brilliantly, last a long time (but not stay in a landfill forever when I do toss it) make my knitting look even better than it is, be soft and stretchy and even block out slightly bigger or smaller if I screw up....

I don't know how you could possibly do better than $5 wool.

(Except for moths. Little arses.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:02 PM

January 4, 2008

Timing is everything

It's freezing in the house today. At first I chalked it up to my antique furnace not being able to cope with the extreme cold, or maybe the fever I still have on and off, but this morning it's not extremely cold or windy out, and I'm feeling a lot better (I napped, then had pizza, two glasses of a nice shiraz and watched Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Still a classic.) and it's still frosty inside here. I think it says something about my priorities that I didn't check the furnace, but instead I finished my toasty warm socks.


Beauty, eh? I just love them. Adore them. Want to hug them and kiss them and call them George. I have a crazy bold affection for them. If I only had one pair of hand knit socks for the rest of my life, these could be them.


The astute among you will note that these are not my usual sock pattern. Normally I knit a plain, good top-down flap heel sock (immortalized in Knitting Rules, for those who will ask) but with this special yarn I wanted to be able to use every single centimetre. To make that possible, I used my ball winder and scale to divide the yarn exactly in half, then cast on 16 stitches at the toe (I use Judy Beckers Magic Cast-on. She's a genius) , increased at the sides of the toes (4 increases every other round) until I had what seemed right (60 stitches).


I knit plain until I got to the right place for the heel, then did a short row version so as not to disrupt the stripes. (Laura's tutorial here is very good, and almost exactly how I went about it.) From there it was just around and around and around until I had accomplished about 14 cm - then I switched to 2x2 ribbing. When I got to the bottom of the calf muscle I began to increase to accommodate it.


I hid the increases in the ribbing at the back of the leg (made sense to make the sock bigger where my leg was getting bigger) and carried on until I ran out of wool - then did Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn cast off to make sure that the edge was stretchy. It is.

Yarn: Laurie's (Yeah, That Laurie) hand-dyed, hand-spun, three-ply, one of a kind, self striping sock yarn. Needles: 2.25mm, pattern...cobbled together.


I love these, and I haven't taken them off since finishing them. I'm sure someone else with socks exactly this length is going to ask if they fall down, and it's true. I stopped mid calf muscle (as opposed to above or below it) so even though they fit perfectly and I knit all that lovely vertical ribbing, they do have a slight tendency to slouch. It doesn't matter though. They are just so beautiful that I'm willing to cut them some slack in the function department. (For the record...I think that's how this girl I knew in high school graduated, but I digress.) It's a good thing that I finished them when I did too, because once I had them all done, pictures taken and blog entry written, I noticed that even though I was wearing a lot of wool (socks, slippers, sweater) and even though I'd turned up the heat twice, it was still really cold in the house.

Turns out that the socks were a great idea, and I'd better keep knitting, because the furnace isn't working. Joe's on his way home to do battle with it now, and the upside of having an antique furnace is that they aren't very complex beasts. (Insert the furnace scene from A Christmas Story here, and know that you are not very far off.) Keep your fingers crossed that it's something like old wiring. Joe can totally fix that. If it's any more than a minor problem we're going to be cold for a while....The downside of our antique furnace is that it is one of the original Octopus Gravity furnaces - so we would need some ducts installed before we could even buy a modern furnace. (If you're wondering what the hell an octopus- gravity fed furnace is.....there's a great blog post on it here.) Our furnace has run, silent and obedient for decades and decades and decades. Here's hoping it's not fatally injured.

Fingers, toes and needles crossed.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:56 PM

January 3, 2008


This Holiday season has really taken the snot out of me. I've been trying not to complain, since I think personal whining on a blog is annoying and unflattering unless done really, really well....but dudes, it's been surreal. First Ali's sister died, then I took a really terrible fall down the basement stairs (I am still spectacularly bruised) then, when Joe and I were moving a piece of furniture I managed to get my head caught between the stair rail and the furniture (don't ask. It was as humiliating as it was painful.) and all of that while I was busting on a writing deadline that alone would be enough to make me a twitchy mess, and dumped on top of it was trying to get a Christmas together for three teenagers with their own agendas....which I can only tell you is about as easy as trying to sculpt tomato aspic into the leaning tower of Pisa or train a cat to get you your mail.

Still, I was holding up. I was crying in public a little, but I think during that time of year lots of people are strung sort of tight, and I can't be the only one who feels distraught within 25 metres of a mall that time of year. I kept taking deep breaths and going to whatever the next event was and turning out all of my work and presents and Christmas cookies and I even wrapped things with really beautiful ribbon this year. It was all working out and it was crazy bad hard, but every time I started thinking that this Christmas was kicking my arse something fun or beautiful or good happened and I would forget and just keep going. Then I got the flu....or the plague or whatever the hell the monstrosity that felled me on the 26th was.

I kept calling it a "cold" because I didn't want it to have power over me, but the truth was that the thing was a virus of absolutely foul proportion. By the morning of the 27th I was so sick that...and I can't stress this enough...

I did not knit.

Not a single stitch, not for a whole day. I'd get up and write the blog or go to the loo or make a cup of tea and that would exhaust me so much that I'd go back to sleep again for hours. The 28th was only marginally better, and the 29th I went to my mum's Christmas party like I always do only I don't think I remember it right because I took those Benylin-all-in-one capsules and I was so high that I... You know what? Never mind. Let's just leave it at me being sort of "absent" at my Mum's party even though I was there. The next day I was so tired I just couldn't move, and that feeling has persisted.

I keep getting up the energy to do one small thing and that empties me so completely that I'm a mess again. This morning I tried to get through a yoga class and between the bruises from the accidents and the exhaustion from the flu and the fact that I fell on the ice last night and gave myself another good whacking (which didn't hurt last night at all because I had been outside for a while and it was -25 or something ridiculous and when it's that cold you can't really feel your body)..... I couldn't really do it. Everything hurt. No matter what pose I tried to get into I was on a bruise or a sore spot and in that moment... I had the most perfect thought I've had in a while.

I quit.


Screw. It. What sort of a moron has this sort of a couple of weeks and then just keeps getting back up like the energizer bunny? I'm a twit. I've been overworked, I've hurt myself, I've had the flu.... I have no idea why I kept trying to work or catch up or clean up or do stuff. The way I keep falling asleep at my desk (and the stove and on the bus and at the store) is a sign. I'm taking this beautiful knitting I'm showing you to the chesterfield, I'm getting a blankie and a cup of tea and I'm giving up.


It's the perfect thing to be doing, and if this yarn can't restore a soul battered by a bad couple of weeks, then nothing can. This yarn is the most beautiful yarn in the world, and I don't say that lightly.


It is That Laurie's hand dyed, handspun, one of a kind you-can't-buy-it sock yarn (three plies of perfection) and it is one of the most fantastical knitting experiences of my life. (Other times I have had some of her handspun have been close, but this time she's outdone herself.) It isn't just that the colours are so beautiful (but they are) and it isn't just that she spins like a dream (but she does) or that she started with some of the nicest fleece ever (which she did.)


It's that the whole time I'm knitting it I'm aware that this is a gift of hours and hours and hours of her life....
and it's just the perfect antidote to the crappy shortage of time over the last few weeks. I can't put it down.
I just love Laurie (Yeah. That Laurie.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:52 PM

January 2, 2008

At least it's predictable

Today's post was going to be all about the best thing I knit last year, but this morning when I sat down to do it there was a complication.

Joe objects to the state of my laptop. He has a passionate belief that I have too many photos on my computer, he also believes that this number of pictures slows down my computer, and that I would be happier without these pictures. I disagreed, but the man, who has not a single photo on his computer, believes that when one has a great many images of yarn and knitting, that there is no real reason to keep any but the most current. I've tried to explain to him that he's dead wrong. That a knitblogger has excellent cause to have a great many pictures of yarn and sweaters and socks, and I tried to explain that a few years worth wasn't too much at all. I told him I liked my pictures, and even if I did have too many, I liked having too many...and that it wasn't slowing down the computer, and even if it was, that was perfectly okay with me because I think I even like my computer running sort of slow.

Joe, in his infinite and annoying wisdom, pointed out that actually he has seen me throw myself face-first into the unyielding surface of my desk several times a day, fists clenched and knuckles white with fury while screaming "THIS FOUL COMPUTER SLOWNESS IS SUCKING UP MY LIFE FORCE", and that he had actually taken this to mean that maybe I did mind the slowness a little, and moreover, that when I had followed the daily screeching about the slowness with "YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SOME KIND OF GEEK WHY DON'T YOU DO SOMETHING" - that he had assumed, for some reason...that I was requesting assistance with correcting the slowness.

"No." I said. "I like things the way they are."

Now, that was a total lie, but the thing is that every time Joe decides there's a problem with the way the technology works around here, we all enter a terrible phase on the path to correction. Like when he decided Amanda didn't have a good wireless signal in her room. Amanda thought her signal was fine, but Joe had to go improving it, and he did too... After a two week learning phase in which almost everything to do with wireless in the house was disassembled and non-functional....the wireless signal was better. Admittedly, this would have meant more to Amanda if she had been bothered by the signal in the first place, but that's not the way things roll around here. Same thing with the backup system or the routers or....I don't know. A hundred things. Joe's a brilliant man and he can figure anything out....but it can take a while, and the process of the improvements and upgrades are hard to take, especially if you're sort of an idiot like me. I can barely work things the way they are now, never mind if they are changed. I hate learning new tech-stuff, I respond bitterly and viciously to having to learn a new system, and most of the time this means that I'll use a terrible system that totally sucks for years rather than learn a new one. I think I've got software on this computer that cavemen had installed on their macs. It's practically Pong.

So I lied, but Joe saw right through me, and the next thing I knew he had taken all of my pictures and put them onto some thingie drive that he swore, SWORE would be the perfect place to keep them because I could still get one of them if I wanted to, but they wouldn't be taking up room on my computer, and the computer would go faster. It would be, he said...perfect. So I agreed (which seemed like the best thing to do considering that he had already done it) and my computer did go faster (which I think is because he put in a faster drive thingie, but he says it's because he took all my pictures away. I think he is just anti-picture, but that's an argument for another day.)

Today, I got up, and just as I predicted, I needed a picture that was gone. I tactfully reminded Joe that this day would come, and asked him to please ask the drive thingie to cough up said photos. Joe asked the drive thingie to do just that, and what happened? What? NOTHING. The drive thingie won't talk to my computer, because Joe fixed some network thing with a router, and then he was talking about the DNS whatsit, and renewing a lease dhcp guy something happened with the home network, and then he told me that my IP was static (which doesn't sound like a problem to me) and that I shouldn't have taken an icon of of my desktop (which I didn't, it was under another file because he didn't look right) and then he said he had to leave and he would have to spend some time later figuring out "What I had done to it."

What I have done to it? You know what I have done to it? NOTHING. I don't even know what the *&^%$#@!! it is, so I don't know how I could have possibly broken it? I didn't move his stinking icon either, he just looked for it the way that he looks for everything else. That icon thing is just like when he's all "have you seen my blue book" and then I say "It's on your dresser" and he says "no it's not" and I say "JUST LOOK" and he says "I did look" and then I go all the way upstairs and go over to his dresser and pick up a magazine and the blue book is right there. Right on the dresser like I said it was, and then I give him the book and he says "Where the hell did you find that?" and I say "right on the dresser" and he says. "No. I looked" and then I think "Holy Crap. All I want is a jury of my peers when this assault goes in front of a judge" and instead I say "Well. I don't know what to tell you. It was on your dresser" and he looks at me suspiciously like for some insane reasons based on revenge and indecency and a plot to drive both of us mad I have snuck the blue book onto the dresser after he looked there....

...and the icon was just like that, because it was right there. Right on my desktop where he left it, and even when I found it he still couldn't get me my picture, even though he told me that the reason I couldn't have the picture was because I had lost the icon, and if only I hadn't taken things off my desktop...then he would be able to help me, which was a total lie...because, well. Do you see a picture here?


NO YOU DON'T. This super easy system that was going to solve all of the problems and be just fantastic won't give me my picture and now Joe has gone out and the super easy system has screwed me over and I just can't help myself. I am a bright woman. I know I said I would be flexible. I know I said I would try. I know I said that I understood that I can be a little inflexible sometimes and that I would entertain the possibility that I don't relate well to change, but here I am, exactly where I told him we would be if he took my pictures away....and I can only think one thing.

This is why I like knitting. It's never like this. It never has a new system, you're never blocked from all your knitting because of a network problem, and you never, never need to wait for someone who can't find an icon to come home and figure out 24 insane things before you are able to get to your rightful wool.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:55 PM