March 31, 2008

Oh my

I'm finished the book.


(Note the empty coffee cup. I swear that the last two days have been so over-caffeinated that I have grown new nerve endings in my hair and teeth.) Instead of emailing it to my editor right now, I'm going to wait a few hours. I'm so thrilled and delighted with this thing that I'm taking just a little time to revel in the thrill of being the only person who has seen it, and knows it, and thinks it's good. When I am done patting it and looking at it and taking pictures of it, I will turn my attention to the speech I have to give tomorrow night, since impending public humiliation is a powerful motivator. The speech is all I have left to do, having gone to the Gap yesterday to buy pants (I don't know why it always comes down to pants) and a bra. (I thought that might be a nice touch to my attempts at professionalism.)

Tomorrow morning will dawn bright and early, and with it - the knitters of Toronto (some of them) will take to the streets and take inexplicable knitter pictures all day long. At the suggestion of some very clever knitters in the comments, the equally clever Rachel H has set up a Flickr group so that a) my inbox isn't flooded with pictures, and b) you guys can see them too and C) that you can write in the descriptions what your pictures are.

The group can be found here

You can send your sock pictures there, and if it's an entry for the "Freestyle" category, please make sure that you say so in the description. (In the interest of silencing public outcry, I have decided that there can be an "international" freestyle category as well. Take your picture tomorrow, make a note in the description title that it wasn't taken in Toronto, and go right ahead.) *** In the I AM AN IDIOT DEPARTMENT (May I just say? It's remarkable how often I end up there) It has been pointed out to me that this solution leaves out the rest of Canada. (Again? IDIOT) So, we now have three categories. Toronto, Canada at large and International. Better?

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this. I won't lie, mostly I'm looking forward to tomorrow being the first day in years that I have woken up without any sort of a book deadline hovering over me with its hot sick breath, but it is a close second that I get to spend the day knowing that the city is covered with knitters, all doing what we do best, doing it with good humour and a champion sense of fun, and that the whole rest of the city is going to wonder about it. It is going to be a stupid amount of fun. Just stupid. I hope everyone has a fantastic time.
Remember (for those of you who missed it the first time) The list of pictures to scavenge is here, and the launch is at the Isabel Bader Theatre tomorrow night. The doors open at 6:00 pm, (the U of T bookstore will start selling books at the launch at that time too) Andy and Michael take to the stage about 6:30, Rachel will be declaring winners in the picture hunt around 6:50-7:00 (just bring your camera and your list with your points- we have a system planned) and I take the stage when all that's done, should I be able to bring myself to do it. Pub afterwards. (I assure you, I will be able to manage that part.)

I'm off. I've got to read a speech to the cat.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:54 PM

March 29, 2008

Second favourite

My nephew Hank turns eight today, which I can scarcely believe. (Remember when he was four?) and I decided to knit him somthing. He's exactly what you would expect from an eight year old who carries McPhee genetics (meaning that he is fast, loud, difficult and opinionated and can talk his way out of anything with his superpower - large measures of charm) so I knew that there was a chance, or even a probability that he wouldn't like what I made him, no matter what I knit him. I don't invest much in knitting for children (except babies, who you can force to wear it) just for this reason, but I decided to take a shot and make him the Sock Monkey hat from Knitty.


It was a super quick knit (one evening - extra time allotted for getting the nostrils straight - which seemed to me to be critical to hat acceptance) and I took it along to my Mum's last week when we celebrated his day.


(I will not say that Hank is cute, because he would hate that, but he can't stop me from thinking it. )


He started unwrapping his presents, discarding underwear from my mum (which I can totally understand) and moving pretty quickly through the new pants and shirts and stuff (also, I can see how from an eight year old perspective, as much as he is loathe to be nude, this would garner less excitement.) then he opened a Pokemon Wii game (I have never played Wii, but I hear it is big) from Ian and the kid flipped out. Loved it. This shattered all my hopes that a hand knit Monkey hat could compete on any sort of a level, and I praised myself inwardly for not being too invested (which was sort of a lie, but I still think the pretence was valuable.) I held back our other present (another Wii game which the guy at the store told Joe was cool if you were eight) so that if he thought the hat was lame I would have a way to recover my cool factor in Hank's eyes, and I forked over the hat.


Dudes, not only did he like it, he wore it, and is seen here doing a monkey impression which, while it has certain rabbit influences, is still excellent for a child growing up in Downtown Toronto with very little actual monkey exposure. It's a little small, which is disappointing, but now that I know it's acceptable, I'll maybe knit him a bigger one. (After I knit another 12 or so, since ever person in the family wants one. Including my mother, which is sort of flipping me out. I feel a very odd Christmas coming on.) He got the other Wii game after (which did help with my image) and even with receiving TWO video games, Erin phoned me that night to tell me that Hank was wearing his hat while he played the games, and that he had said that it was his second favourite present. I couldn't be happier. What a heartening moment for a knitter. An eight year old ranked a hand knit hat ahead of a video game. The child shows great promise...maybe it's in his name.

Hank shares his birthday with my niece Kamilah (who would point out that technically, she had it first) and I'd offer to make her a hat, but she's a good enough knitter that she could make her own. Happy Birthday Kamilah! Happy Birthday Hank!

(Kamilah, you can have a hat if you want. All the cool kids are wearing them.)

Note: Sock monkey yarn is Patons Shetland Chunky, 75% acrylic, 25% wool, purchased at The Madrona Retreat from Linda's Knit 'n Stitch, where she had it conveniently kitted up (with the permission of the designer) for the impulse driven auntie with a hat fetish. Totally worth it, just to get a monkey impression.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:14 PM

March 28, 2008

love, Cher

I wonder exactly how long I can get away with posting pictures of pathetic progress on a small sock?


Yeah. Today is probably it. Sorry.
I would have written something interesting about .... something, maybe even knitting (I screwed up another sock. One I wasn't showing you. It's terrible. It's knit like I've never even SEEN a heel and is the best evidence possible that I don't have the brain for anything right now) and instead I went to Thomas Allen (the Canadian Distributor of the book) and signed books for Tuesday:


Seriously. HOW LONG IS MY NAME? (And doesn't that look like too many books? I think so.) That's three and a half hours of signing my name. My HYPHENATED NAME. What was I thinking when I put a hyphen in my name? I should have started this whole thing with something shorter. Like "Steph" or "Cher"

(PS. If you're planning to come to the pub afterwards, could you put a shout out in the comments? Rachel's trying to get a head count so we don't crush them.)

Posted by Stephanie at 8:55 PM

March 27, 2008

Getting there

Who ever said getting there was half the fun obviously wasn't a writer - or a knitter, since in knitting almost all of the fun is in getting there and in writing, almost none of it is. I am getting there with the final review of the manuscript and except for a crisis of faith last night in which I was convinced for several hours that I cannot write my way out of a paper bag and should be shot for the attempt, It's going pretty well. (I drank a large glass of wine, knit on my sock and went to bed when I thought that. This morning I have a little more faith and renewed dedication. I don't know if it was the wine, the knitting or the sleep that fixed me, but I'm going to keep doing all three just in case.)


I'm still tired and stupid, and couldn't find a way to organize my thoughts in a reasonable way, so I'm calling today Random Thursday and just throwing stuff out there.

1. I am only pre-signing all of the books for the Launch. Everywhere else I will pre-sign some (so you could just take one and go if you don't want to hang around) and then do a signing the way I always have.

2. This is especially true of the event in NYC on the 2nd of April. There's no way to do an event in New York City that will have enough chairs (short of doing a repeat of the event in Toronto on the 1st, which seems like too much.) since space is at a premium, so Jayme and I did the next best thing. She's found a bookstore that has as much room as possible, they are putting out as many chairs as they can, I'm going to keep the talk and the Q&A a little shorter (not by much- just for the sake of anyone standing) and lengthen the signing. It's as fair as we can make it, without renting another big place.

3. Ken is doing a good thing. If it speaks to your heart, you know what to do.

4. It is the birthday of my friend and our lady of the comments, Rams. Please join me in extending very best wishes to her. The professional and dedicated commenter is a rare and valuable niche to fill in the blogoverse, and I love her for it.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:48 PM

March 26, 2008

Grip Getting

Whenever I start losing my grip (like yesterday, thanks for the reassurance and encouragement. It really helps) I look around for what's missing, and opportunities to do thing that shore me up. Normally, when I'm this stressed out I would take a day off, read, watch a movie or some TV, (I have just discovered Stargate SG1. I'm such a dork.) and spend a day knitting and recharging the batteries. Works every time. This time though, if I take my eyes off the prize for a whole day, I'm going to blow it, so I'm opting for some mini-breaks. Last night I went to yoga (good move, that one) and today I'm going to at least fulfill the knitting component necessary to my mental health.
Everything I'm knitting right now takes looking and attention, so I just haven't been able to do it, and it's starting to make me crazier than a bag of wet cats. This morning (I'm so messed up I just thought of this) it occured to me that I could start something new and simple, something that could just chug along in my hands on autopilot while I read and revise the manuscript.


This is a new yarn from Lion Brand called "Sock Ease" that I don't think is out yet. They sent me some so I could try it (this is a great week to remember that this job has it's privileges). I prefer natural fibres, so Lion Brand isn't a yarn I use a lot (although Megan is knitting an afghan with their Homespun right now) but this is one that I thought might be right up my alley. I don't have an unlimited yarn budget (although sometimes I like to pretend otherwise) and so I'm a big fan of basic, good yarns that don't cost the earth, and this one had some potential. It's 75% wool and 25% nylon, which puts it in the same fibre content group as a lot of other brand name sock yarns I've thought were good like Regia, Fortissima Colori, Trekking, Knit Picks Essential, Opal, Valley Yarns Franklin, and my longtime friend Patons Kroy - which while not the softest yarn in the world, wears like IRON and lasts for as long as forever can be in a sock yarn. (That's the nylon.) Like Austermann Step (which I haven't used yet) the new sock ease is "finished" with Aloe Vera, and I'm not sure what that means or if I like it, but if it does what it says it can for my hands, now would be a good time to try, and try it I am.


No full review yet, since I've only knit a wee bit but so far it's quite pretty, soft enough to be pleasant and it doesn't suck, that's for sure. It's no handpainted merino, but that's not what it's supposed to be, and if it's priced like I suspect it will be, it could be another affordable and decent yarn to have in my arsenal. If nothing else, it's definitely going to be the reason that I don't end today sitting in my yarn closet gibbering, rocking and chewing what little cashmere I own, and for that, it will always have my thanks. (Plus I'm sort of low on socks. The cobblers children and all that. I need to give fewer pairs away for a while.)


Sock Picture Scavenger Hunt.

1. All pictures must be taken with a sock in progress.
2. All pictures must be taken on April 1st.
3. All pictures must be on your camera to show to Rachel at the event, where, like in Bingo, she will see if you've won a prize the way you think you have.
4. It's up to you to add up your points, and tell us what you have, so maybe print this out and check off what you've got, and bring it with you so you can do the math.
5. Don't hurt yourself, break any laws or upset anyone. (Any more than sock pictures normally upset people.)

Ready? Your mission, should you accept it, is to gather photos of your sock with the following items (should you be able to) in the fine city of Toronto.

-at a Tim's, 1 point. (They're everywhere.)
-at a Tim's held by an employee of said establishment, who is also holding the donut of our people, a maple glazed. 2 points. (Drive through accepted, even encouraged)

-with Canadian Tire money, 1 point.
-at a Canadian Tire store, being held by an employee who is also holding Canadian Tire money? 2 points.

- At the ROM with the new crystal. 1 point.
-At the ROM with the T-Rex, 3 points.
-At the Hockey hall of fame. 1 point.
-With a hockey player. 1 point for amateur (everybody knows a hockey player) 5 points for a pro. 6 points if he's a Maple Leaf.
-At Skydome. Rogers centre.1 point.

-Held by a TTC driver (subway, bus and streetcar all accepted.) 2 points.
-With the CN Tower 1 point. (It's big.)
-on the glass floor of the CN Tower, 3 points.

-With a pint of beer. 1 point.
-With a pint of beer brewed in Canada, 2 points.
-With a pint of beer from a local (Toronto) indie. 3 points.

-With a sign in another language, 1 point for each language. (Considering how diverse Toronto is, that one should be easy. )
-with the neighbourhood signs. (You know the kind with the neighbourhood name on top and the street on the bottom) 1 point for each one.

-At City Hall. 1 point.
-At City hall, held by an employee, 2 points,
-Held by the mayor - 10 points.

-At Union station. 1 point.

-At Allen Gardens 1 point.
-At Queens Park. 1 point.

-With your MPP. 3 points.

-At The AGO, 1 point.

-with a group of seven painting. 2 points.
-with a Henry Moore sculpture, 2 points.
-on the ferry to the island. 3 points (It's cold.)
- at St Lawrence Market. 1 point.
-At St. Lawrence Market with one of those really good eggplant sandwiches from Mustashio's, 3 points.
-At a head shop. 2 points.
-With an animal at Riverdale farm, 2 points. (3 if it's a sheep.)

-At The Shoe Museum. 1 point.

-On the boardwalk in the beaches. 1 point.
-At The Textile museum. 1 point.
-In any Toronto yarn store. 1 point.
- Held by any yarn shop employee who is also holding a hot chocolate you bought them, 3 points. (multiple points for multiple shops. )

-At The Prince's Gates. 1 point.

-At Ontario place. 1 point.
-At The horseshoe 1 point.
-At a legion hall. 1 point.
- At a legion hall with a veteran 3 points.
- With the geese at the Eatons Centre. 1 point
-With actual Canada Geese, 3 points (they can be mean.)
- With your boss. (If you are a parent at home, your kid can be your boss.) 1 point.
-With your office photocopier. 1 point. (2 points if you bring a photocopy of your sock.)
-At The map of Yonge street on the ground at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets. 1 point.

-With one of Toronto's finest. 2 points. (4 points for a mounted officer, and I mean on a horse.)
-With a street meat vendor (Veggie dogs accepted.) 1 point.
- With those warm roasted chestnuts that the street vendors sell downtown, 2 points.
-At Casa loma 1 point.
-At The Castle playstructure at High Park. 1 point.
-At the Duckpond at High park. 1 point.
-With a bartender at the Old York Bar and Grill. (My sister owns the place.) 1 point.
-At Honest Ed's 1 point.
- At The Bay. 1 point.
- with any star on the Canadian Walk of Fame, 1 point for your choice, two points for getting Gordon Pinsent, Margaret Atwood, or William Shatner.
- With another sock belonging to a scavenger hunt player, 1 point. (No multiple points for multiple players.)
- With any Toronto Knitblogger, 2 points.

Finally, there will be a Freestyle category. You can take any sock picture (In Toronto, on April 1st) that you think will amuse or entertain me, because there have just got to be a thousand things that are a killer sort of brilliant that I didn't think of. Entries for that category (one each please) won't be judged that evening, but you can email them to me at my regular address (make the picture small so it doesn't cripple up my inbox) which is stephanie AT yarnharlot DOT ca (change that stuff) before midnight April 3rd, and I will choose a winner from among them according to my entirely arbitrary whims and mail you a little prize.

Good luck, my stalwart knitters. Go forth and sock.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:43 PM

March 25, 2008

Six Days

That's how long I have to accomplish the revisions on the book of essays, (all the writing has been done for about a week now, all wool be praised) write a speech to take on the road (I wonder what I'll say...) prepare the family for my five week absence (I have no idea how to do that) and wait for the reviews on the latest and plan the launch and inexplicable knitter behaviour around North America. I'm essentially out of my mind.

Yesterday I worked all day, knit three rounds on a sock, made dinner, supervised the kids, did laundry and vacuumed the living room (I found a hard boiled egg under the couch. Glad I caught that.) and then worked again until 3am and today it's another brutal slog, and so will tomorrow, and the day after that. I have a sense of impending doom that I would ordinarily chalk up to stress, but I'm worried, because I think it is likely reality troubling me this time. (I know that, because usually if it is stress it goes away if I eat chocolate for breakfast while taking bath and then knit for five minutes while weeping a little, which didn't help at all today.) I hate getting ready for a tour. (Though I don't mind the tour part.) I hate finishing books (though I quite like having them finished) and I hate waiting to see if people like my books. (Although I like it when they do.) I was sitting here this morning wondering how all this stuff managed to end up in one week, and found myself thinking (forgive the strong language) "Man... My boss is a bitch. She has no idea what sort of pressure I'm under, that I don't have the self-esteem for criticism when it arrives when I'm overworked and she doesn't have any respect for the limits on my time and energy. It's like all she cares about is me as someone who works for her, and doesn't care how tired I get when I have to meet all those demands. She doesn't even listen when I tell her that it's too much, although maybe that's my fault for not being clearer with her. I have got to learn to be more aggressive with setting limits around my time, because someone like her is just going to take advantage of me if I don't."

Then I just sat and stared. I'm self employed.

I'm going to be so happy when these six days are over. Seriously.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:38 PM

March 24, 2008

Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour

It is my experience, that people don't have a clue about knitters. They think that everything we do is pretty nutty. If you don't believe me, rent a mini-van and drive to another country for a sheep and wool festival with four knitting friends. Hell, just say you have "knitting friends" and watch ordinary people glaze over. I used to think that it was a problem of stereotypes (which I still do) but now I've gained another layer of understanding. I think that knitters upset people because we lack a demographic, and because you don't understand knitting until you do it.

Think about it. Imagine trying to finish the sentence "Knitters are...." and see what kind of trouble you can get yourself into. Can't say old, can't say young, can't say women. Can't say we all like wool, can't say we all knit acrylic. Can't say we all enjoy knitting socks, can't say that all of us see the pleasure in an afghan. We don't all knit for charity, we don't all have cats. We didn't all vote for the NDP, we don't all go to church. We don't all have grandchildren, we don't all go to Knit Night, we aren't all hip - or not hip. We don't even all stash yarn or knit in public. We are almost impossible to describe, and the things we have in common aren't really visible. Now try "Knitting is...." and you'll have the same trouble. What are you going to say? Fun? Easy? Hard? Challenging? Meditative? Cheap? Expensive? No matter what you try to say, a thousand exceptions are going to crop up and ruin your point. The truth of all of it is (I think) that the answers are so complicated because they have to do with what we've learned about knitting and how the practice of it has influenced our thinking and behaviour. Which sort of brings me to this book, which has just arrived here (one copy) and has been carefully examined and held proudly by yours truly to the point of obsessive weirdness.


I like it.
It's hard for me to say that, because I wrote it, and that makes it sound terribly prideful to say I think it's good or funny, but the truth is that I wouldn't have sent it to the publisher if I didn't think it was good or funny, because writing things and putting them out into public for people to say whatever they want, is scary enough without at least believing in my heart that it's a good book. You need at least that to come back to when you're done reading all the reviews. (At least my picture isn't on the cover of this one, so I at least only have to read opinions about my work, rather than my appearance.) I do think this is a good one. It is, I hear, in stores today in the US though I have no reports of it being successfully hunted in the wild yet. I'm not going to pretend it's an important book, or even a big one, but it is one that I worked very hard on... and I really hope you like it.


While I was carrying it around this weekend (Yeah. I know, but it's sort of a big deal to me) I was talking to someone who clearly wanted to be kind to the little author with her silly book, but totally could not get what it was about. Once we had established that there were no patterns and no instructions for knitting, he was clearly at an impasse about what the hell could be in it? "Humour and Philosophy about knitting" I said, and he looked at me exactly like I had said it was full of "the crushed and dried entrails of a wildebeest with my personal diary written in blood". It was, I realized, inexplicable to him. Just like a bunch of knitters partying in a yarn shop, or travelling to a knitting event, taking over a coffee shop or filling a bookstore, it was inexplicable knitter behaviour. Next to the stereotypes, it's probably the biggest thing that knitters face. They can't define us, so they can't understand us, so they ignore us, or stare.

Now, this is not a call to arms (or needles). We are never going to get them to understand us. Instead, I have realized that the way that non-knitters find us inexplicable is an invitation. I can't be the only one who, upon realizing that they don't get us and don't care that they don't get us (in fact, they don't think about us at all) suddenly develops an urge to be as absolutely inexplicable as possible.

There is, I think, a tremendous freedom in it. If they don't know what we've learned from knitting, or what we get from it, if they are confused because they can't pigeonhole us, If they stare and whisper when four knitters have dinner in a restaurant, may I humbly suggest a knitting dinner for forty? If they think that knitting at a pub is weird, then take over a pub. Invade. Wear tee shirts. Ride the bus en masse. Take sock pictures, pose sweaters in trees for for blog pictures. Give up. Don't try to explain yourself. Don't make any attempt to explain. All those things that make sense to us and don't make sense to them? Just do it. Be knitters, and let it rip, and that's what I'm doing with this tour this time (which doesn't really represent a lifestyle shift for me, but might for you.) Starting with the launch, I'm going to suggest that everywhere I go, that knitters spend that day getting as inexplicable as possible. Embrace your inner knitter and go nuts. Your choice. Think up the weirdness and get to it. Imagine our goal as trying to make as many of the non-knitting as possible, wander home smiling to themselves and saying "I saw the damnedest thing today".

Since the launch is here in Toronto, which is the first time that one of my books has launched properly and first in Canada (which is a very big deal to me) we have a special opportunity to show everybody what knitters are made of in these parts, and we are taking it just as far as we can. I (with the help of Rachel H and Joe) have arranged a few things that should make perfect sense to all of you, and be entirely inexplicable to everyone else.

1. April 1st, all day, there will be, here in Toronto, a Sock Picture Scavenger Hunt. A list of sock picture opportunities will be posted (here, likely tomorrow) and knitters have all day on the 1st (and only the first) to scramble around the city scoring sock pictures. I imagine that this should be seriously inexplicable. At the launch, prizes will be awarded for mad sock picture skills. It is going to be weird. It is going to be good.

2. For the fist time in Knitter history (I think) a Canadian knitting author/philosopher/ comic is getting an opening act of iconic Canadian musicians. Andy Maize and Michael Johnston (Skydiggers) are starting up the show, and if you don't think that's cool, you're not thinking. (It's also pretty inexplicable.) I have given them very little direction, and only asked that they start somewhere before I do, (Doors open at Six, I go on about seven) and keep you company while you knit. They are brilliant and funny and you will love them. I promise. Hell, come see them and forget about me. (I don't really mean that.)

3. Rachel H, that organizational genius and generous heart, has sprung for more of the famed (and pretty rare) Knitters Without Borders pins.


This means that you can have one at the signing in exchange for a donation (give big) to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, which we will hand right over to them for you. There is a limited number of these pins, and it is really pretty likely that the only place you are going to be able to get one this year is at this launch. Last year they went almost all in an evening in NYC, so this year it's Toronto.

4. I'm pre-signing all the books. If you buy a book at the launch it will be signed with no waiting around. Last time, that was not the fun part, so we're skipping it. This makes the next part super fun.

5. We are all going (me too, since I don't have to sit and sign) to meet up afters at The Foxes Den. (If you are from Brampton, that's probably cracking you up, because in Brampton there's a strip club (where men, rather than women liberate their clothing) by the same name. This is not that place. Everyone will have clothes on. I think. I can't promise anything for all knitters.) We'll head over there after, hoist a great many pints, laugh, confuse the wait-staff and other patrons and I'll personalize any books that you simply must have done. It will be grand, and I think we should go over together. I suggest a parade, just to mess with the non-knitting.

The Isabel Bader Theatre is huge, we are going to have tons of room, you don't need tickets or an RSVP (no matter who tells you differently) and there should be enough knitters that it gets truly weird, and should shock the pants right off of the University of Toronto, who own the joint. (You can already hear it in their voices. "Knitters?") The whole thing is going to be big fun, and I'm looking forward to what else people come up with, for that day, and for other days in the future of the tour. Hundreds of knitters congregating is as inexplicable as it gets to the non-knitting, and If people already think you're inexplicable, then you might as well take it as far as your wildest dreams go. There is much that knitting has taught me, not the least of which is that we're a subculture, and I know that to the non-knitting, it all looks like most of our behaviour is odd. I don't care, and I think you shouldn't either. People who don't knit aren't going to get it, and that is an awesome opportunity to mess with them. We can serve our own purposes, create events and occasions that make sense to us, and boldly go, unfettered by the norms of the rest of society, since we're already weird enough that we have nothing to lose. It's taken me a long time to figure it out, but one of the things I've learned from knitting is that it changes you. It shapes your life, and you're not the same person once you know how, and that means you think differently than other people.

Inexplicable knitter behaviour. Coming soon to a city near you... but starting right here. Party on.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:31 PM

March 20, 2008


I'm home. Joe hiked in with a proper sled yesterday, and we towed my stuff out and made the long drive home.


I'm fine, but taking the day to be with the kids, knit on a stealth project and try to find the house that I know is here under this mess somewhere. (I don't want to know why there are three rolls of toilet paper in the dining room and a bag of almonds with a fork in the upstairs hall. I'm sure it's complex.)
I don't miss the peace of the woods at all,


but I sure miss the scenery. For those of us hanging on by a thread here in Ontario, I'd like to take a moment to remind you that no matter how it looks outside today... It is officially the first day of spring, and the date or the equinox. The day and night are equal today, and tomorrow, the day will be longer. There can only be so much more snow before the rotation of the earth on it's axis makes it impossible. Hang tough.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:55 PM

March 18, 2008

I thought you had my back

So, in the time I've been in the woods, you all have been very cautious. I have been duly warned about everything from frostbite, to wolves, to bears, to axe handling, to leg breaking and zombie management. I have only to whisper that I am headed into the woods and sixty-five of you counsel me on every possible bad thing that could happen to me, and advise me of the caution I should use, should I wish to survive. I appreciate it too. When you're all alone in the woods you just can't hear enough about the impending doom lurking around every corner. I've taken it all with a grain of salt, learned a great many things, and proceeded with caution. Which brings me to my point.

Where the hell were you people yesterday? I announced with all possible clarity my intention to walk into town for a full FOURTEEN KILOMETRES and not one of you, not a single person, left a comment saying "Holy Mary Mother Of God What Are You Thinking?" Nobody. Not a single person typed a comment that contained the words "For the love of wool, don't do it." Nada. It makes a girl wonder who's side you're on, you know that?

I left the house in the woods at a about three. I walked and walked in the direction of the store. It's a dirt road (or more properly this time of year, a dirt and ice road) and I walked briskly along the twisty, hilly one lane road that leads into town. (Actually, they don't have the audacity to call it a town. It's a "Village") I walked and walked. The sun was shining, it was only -3, I was warm and cheerful. I greeted chipmunks, I frowned at a squirrel, and then I walked some more. After a while, a long while, it occurred to me that I had been walking a long time. A really long time. Although I'm in pretty good shape and I walk far all the time, I was starting to feel it. I figured though, that I had to be almost there. One couldn't walk this far and not be almost there. I kept walking.

At the point when I first began to lose faith, I spotted two girls, about 12 years old, crossing the road from one farm to another. They were the first humans I'd seen in five days, and I called out to them. "Hello!" I said, and the girls stared at me. A stranger? This is small town Ontario. There are no strangers, or at least if there are, they are in their cars driving through. A stranger walking up a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. Now that was something. They looked at me and then cautiously said hello back. Then one of them squared her shoulders and said "Where'd you come from?"
"Just up the road" I waved my hand vaguely behind me. "I'm walking to the store. Am I going the right way?"
The girls suspended their disbelief (the walking thing was clearly a shock to them) and assured me that not only was I going the right way, I was close. "Real close".

I kept walking. I walked and walked and walked. By now, saying that I was "feeling it" was a joke. Things were starting to hurt, but honestly, I'd walked so damn far that it just had to be around the corner. If I turned around and walked back now, I still had to go all the way back, and there was no way I was giving up when I was so close. I walked on. I was not close, it wasn't around the next corner, but every corner I went around only made it more likely that it would be around the one after that. I walked. I came upon a man out shovelling the drive of an Inn.
"Hello" I said, as cheerfully as the throbbing whole bottom half of my body would let me.
"Howdy." He replied, sizing me up. "Where'd you come from?"
"Up the road" I waved even more vaguely than before, mostly due to fatigue. "I'm walking to the store."

He looked at me for a second, and then with a good natured half chuckle, he said "Well. Are you now."
"Yes. Am I close?"
"No." He said, and my heart sank to my feet.
"Fifteen more minutes". My hear leapt! Fifteen minutes! Hell, when you'd been walking as far as I had, what was fifteen more minutes. Sure I was tired. Sure I was hurting, but fifteen more minutes was doable, and it was stupid to go through all this and stop fifteen minutes short of my goal. I strode off. Fifteen minutes. I could do anything for fifteen minutes, and I could have too.... if he hadn't have been a filthy liar. I don't know how long it was (it just has to be around this corner) when I finally found the store, but it was a lot longer than fifteen minutes - or maybe it wasn't. Maybe time had just crawled by for however long it was that I walked the road.

I staggered into the store and a kind and friendly looking guy looked up at me. I closed the door behind me and I said "Holy Hell. This was way further than I thought."
"Yeah" he said. "I saw you walking. All I could think was 'Where'd she come from?'"
"I came", I said "from Smith Road, up by Jones Line". (Those are made up streets. Don't come looking.)

He stared. "Smith and Jones? All the way from Smith and Jones? That's... like seven kilometres." He shook his head trying to imagine it. In this kind of town nobody walks anywhere. Everything is so far apart and so rural, that if you see someone walking you know their either crazy or in trouble. He looked at me like I might be both.
"You can't walk from Smith and Jones" he said, very seriously.

"Au Contraire!" I wheezed. "Au contraire.... You certainly can. I don't recommend it" and here I raised a shaking hand for emphasis "but it can be done."

"Geez" he said. Still reeling. "That's something. It sure is." then he paused, and asked me "What did you come for?" and looked around the store, as if trying to figure out what the hell he sold that I could need this badly. Suddenly I felt stupid. Totally stupid. I felt like the only thing i could say I needed after this sort of lunatic move was "Insulin" or "an ambulance for my dying father" or "food, I've been out for days and finally had to walk or die." Instead, all I had was the truth, and it suddenly seemed rather weak.

"Toilet paper and beer" I said.
"Fair enough" Ron said, because it turned out his name was Ron. We chatted for a bit about what I had been thinking and where I was staying and why. I got the beer and the toilet paper and I loaded it into my backpack, and I slung it onto my back and pulled on my mittens. Then I sighed.
"What are you going to do now" asked Ron, though I think we both knew the answer.
"Can I call a cab?" I asked.
"No cabs out here" said Ron, and I think he felt pretty bad about that.
"That's what I thought. " I managed a weak smile. "I guess I'm walking back." I tried to look brave.
"Well." smiled Ron, still looking stunned in a nice way, "Ain't you the craziest thing I've seen all day."

"Thanks" I said, and I smiled as genuinely as possible. I took my leave. I was walking back up the road again. Walking, walking. Thankfully the excruciating pain in my arse had settled down now that the numbness from my thighs had spread. I realized that I had made a mistake, being happy to get to the store. I'd been a fool. The store wasn't my goal. The store was HALFWAY. If I wasn't in public I would have cried. I considered how if a car passed me (which was INSANE, I'd walked seven kilometres without a single car passing me) I would try to hitchhike. Yessirree. The slim possibility that the person who picked me up would try to kill me was a fair trade against the certainty of the misery that lay ahead. One step at a time, I plodded along. Walking, walking.

After about 20 minutes, when I had realized there was no way I was getting back before dark and a whole fresh hell was opening up in front of me, a car came up behind me on that little dirt road and slowed to crawl alongside. The window came down, and a pretty girl of about 21 or 22 years old called out.
"Excuse me? Excuse me..." I turned to face her and tried a the best smile I could muster.
"Are you Stephanie?" she asked. "were you just at the store?" I stared. I could barely open my mouth. I couldn't remember how to talk. I nodded.

"Get in" she said. "My dad says I have to give you a ride."


Thanks Ron.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:48 PM

March 17, 2008

Another Monday in the Woods

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Erin go Bragh! (Or more properly - Éire go Brách!) Feels a little odd to be away from the family today. I wonder if Joe reminded them to wear a little green for luck, if he'll make a vegetable stew for dinner... Someone will have to make the soda bread for today. (That was a direct hint to Ken, who's Irish brown bread is very good, although I think he'll be happier with it when the learning curve doesn't allow for bread with "tumours" that develop during baking. Odd, that.) I think I've decided that my concession to the day shall be that I walk to the corner store/gas station/coffee shop/liquor store/ beer store, buy myself a Guiness, and trot back here to drink it by the fire while I work. Round trip, it's about 14k, but 12 of them are along the town road, so it's not so bad. I think I wouldn't normally wouldn't walk that far for a beer (St. Patricks day or not) but I'm almost out of toilet paper, and I've developed a rampaging case of cabin fever, so I can tell myself it serves a duel purpose.

I'm in very deep with the book. The end is in sight, hope glimmers on the horizon. I'm trying to finish it a little early, since the launch for the last book, (here in Toronto on April fools day, it's going to be big fun) is the same day as my deadline for this book - and I leave the next day for the tour. (Actually, this is a good time to mention that Jayme-the-wonder-publicist has sent me details for April 29 in Carmel IN (Barnes and Noble) and May 4 in Salt Lake City at the Public Library. I've put up the details on the tour page, as always. I think Jayme is adding 4 more events, all before May 4th, and then that's it. Finito. Tour done. We're trying something new and doing it all at once instead of spreading it out.) I'm trying to give myself a couple of days in the next few weeks to breath a little. As a result, very little knitting is going on. I'm still working on my sister's Urban Aran, and I was doing pretty well. I'd finished both sleeves, the back and was halfway up one of the fronts when I finally accepted that I couldn't live with the way that I'd handled the front edge. It seems silly to say it now, but the fact that I had decided to only add one extra stitch to allow for the zipper was a mistake, and the longer I knit the more sure of it I became. I was this far when I ripped it back entirely.


Tiny bit of a pain in the arse, because I'm knitting from two balls of the Araucania alternating every two rows, but totally worth it. Doesn't it look much better?


Yeah, I know. I can't tell either.
I swear it will matter when I go to put the zipper in. The front edges of a cardigan are, I am telling myself, not somewhere that you don't want things to look right, even if that does mean you are knitting a blue cardigan for the rest of your life.

Other stuff? I have a few random bits.

1. The yarn that I'm using for this sweater is on closeout at WEBS, right down to the colour. (105) (Yeah. I didn't know that when I bought mine. I bought more though, so I feel better.)

2. Sivia Harding is doing an auction of some very nice stuff on her blog to honour her father, who very recently passed away. Profits go to Doctors without Borders, and Sivia is a wonderful person, so please consider taking a look.

3. Fun details of the Toronto Launch are coming. The lovely and esteemed Rachel H has found us a pub for the afterparty, I am compiling a super odd plan for the rest of the day (Hint: you will need a camera and a sock) and Joe is working with the Isabel Bader Theatre to pull together an awesome bonus for the people who come. It's going to be a blast, and I swear, I will write all the details down if you just wait a couple of days while everybody confirms everything. Promise. Inexplicable knitter behaviour (on April fools day - there's an invitation) takes a little planning.

4. If you were thinking about buying my book and coming to an event, can I ask you to consider something? You can, of course do entirely as you like, but if you're coming to an event, would you consider buying your book there? The yarn shops and bookstores who put on these events don't get paid to do it, or receive financial help from the publisher. If they need to rent a space or a microphone or something, they pay for it themselves. (The publisher helps them promote it and pays for travel.) As it's free to get in, the way they make their money back is by selling you books, or in the case of the yarn shop, books and yarn. I know a lot of you will buy or have bought your books elsewhere, or even pre-ordered and that's just fine. You can bring it (even if I'm in another bookstore) I'll sign it, and nobody will be bothered. If you haven't bought it yet though, please consider giving the bookstore or yarn shop holding the event your business. I know it might mean waiting a few weeks to get the book, but all of the events are within 5 weeks of the launch, and they are a lot of work to set up. if you're going to buy the book anyway - why not buy it from them. (Naturally, if you're not planning on buying the book, you can ignore this.)

5. In the "stupid things I have done in the woods" category for today: Yesterday I went on a hike and found this place where there was warm (comparatively) water seeping out of the rocks. It was making a puddle that melted the snow and on the rocks where the water came out, the moss was alive, green and beautiful.
It was like finding a little mini-spring in the middle of all this winter, and I was so smitten that I moved closer to get a better look/picture.


Well, I got this picture,


and a soaker.


I stepped closer without thinking, and naturally the water ran further under the snow than it looked like. Idiot. A whole bootful of icy water rushed in. it was breathtaking really. All the way home my foot was frozen and my boot made an embarrassing sloshing, squishing noise with every step.
At least I had wool socks on, and I wasn't as alone as I thought.

Who's this?


Posted by Stephanie at 11:40 AM

March 15, 2008


Early this morning, I got up, made some coffee and sat down to knit and listen to myself on the radio. Well, I can't make the radio here pick up any FM, so I listened to the radio on the internet, and sat here and knit. Me and the deer.


I told everyone to listen at 7:30, but it turns out that the news is on at 7:30, so I got everyone up 5 minutes earlier than they needed to, which made me feel really guilty, since it's the weekend and everything. I sat here listening to the news and suddenly realized that my interview was going to follow an item about how the Ontario Government is increasing colorectal cancer testing. In my anxiety ridden state, I started to wonder about how that was going to influence how people thought of me, or knitting. The closer it got to my interview time the more all I could think was "Stop saying rectum! Stop talking about rectums!" I felt awful, and then they said that colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading sort of cancer in Ontario and then I felt much worse because I suddenly realized that all this rectum-colonoscopy talk was clearly life and death and it obviously needs to be mentioned, and probably people are dying because lots of people, not just me, sit around thinking "Stop talking about rectums!" and then, well. It's not good.

Then I started to worry that after this important item about this important thing, that I was going to sound flip and silly. I began to wonder if people would think I was callous, rambling on and on about knitting when there were people dying. I tried to remember if I'd mentioned colorectal screening. I was pretty sure I hadn't, although I did think I'd said "arse". That might help. I cursed. Why hadn't anyone told me on Thursday morning that there was going to be this news item (I had, in my aforementioned anxiety, forgotten the nature- or even the definition of "news") I could have at least said something about rectums. I could have suggested knitting to cope with the stress of an impending colonoscopy. Now here I was, going to be all flip and giggly about stupid things.

Giggly? Oh man. I had probably laughed too much, and my laugh is awful. I sound like a horse and I laugh at my own jokes. For crying out loud, this is why I'm a writer. Nobody can hear me laugh. This was going to be disastrous. At least it's not the newspaper, I thought to myself as my world descended a notch deeper on the freakout scale. At least I can't be misquoted on the radio. I began to plan how long I could stay here in the woods. Until the outrage over my giggly cancer mocking interview died down at least. Until the publicist stopped hunting me like a wild dog in a sheep pen, until the children could go back to school. I wondered how long it would be before anyone at the CBC would speak to me again. £¢∞§!!! I'd probably blown any chance I ever had of charming Rick Mercer at a party. Not that we go to the same parties, but we might have, if I hadn't of screwed up the entire interview and laughed in the face of COLORECTAL CANCER. What kind of a person am I! What was I thinking! I can't go on the radio, I can barely get up a road with sled of red wine. Does red wine cause colorectal cancer. Damn. Should I get one one of the screening tests? Can you knit during a colonoscopy? Was there any point in saving myself now that I had offended all of Canada and made everyone hate me, humiliated my children and ended my career with one interview on the CBC?

I started to feel sort of sweaty, and I knit and knit, faster and faster and suddenly they had stopped talking about rectums, and for a second, I thought maybe they would cancel it themselves. That maybe Karen Gordon was sitting in the studio right that minute, listening to the cancer thing and thinking "Holy crap. I can't put this on now" and then before I could call her and say "Don't do it, don't air that interview. I've had a moment of remarkable clarity and I can see now that I'm an insensitive raving lunatic." It was on.

I think it was ok...although I did laugh too much, but I think not so much that I can't go home. I don't think I offended any major groups, but I suppose I'll have to wait to see if the email starts. I have to tell you though, that I've totally remembered why I don't listen to myself on the radio. Raving lunatic. Check.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:07 AM

March 13, 2008

I can do it

On Tuesday, at yoga class (where I go to a private class with my mum, my sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, my next door neighbour and Rachel H.) our really clever teacher asked us to do something very hard. It was an arm strengthening pose (which I am all in favour of, wanting the muscles under my biceps to stop waving when I do) and she said "It's good to do this, to remember that life can be difficult but possible", and Rachel H. exploded with giggles.

"I'm Ok." she said. "I've got that figured", and I took the yoga teachers side, and said "Yeah, but it's good to know it physically and not just emotionally" and Rachel laughed, that way that people laugh when they know that a statement like that is totally going to come back to bite you hard on the hind parts.

Well today I got my come-uppance. Today was challenging. I got up early, packed up all my stuff and Joe took me to the CBC building downtown to do an interview for Fresh Air. (If you're in the area, listen at 7:30 (HA!) EST on Saturday to hear the interview with Karen Gordon. If you're not in Canada you can listen to CBC internet if you like.) Work completed, we took to the highway in Joe's mum's car (thanks Carol) he drove me North East for almost four hours to return me to the house in the woods where I can think straight, be alone and finish my book. This trip is the second wave, planned to compliment the first trip up here, and to allow me to manage the fact that the kids are off this week for "March Break" which is what Canadians call "Spring Break" to avoid having to kill ourselves out of disappointment that it's really not spring, but I digress.

We headed up here, and truly, it was not spring.


It was white-out conditions on the highway for much of the way, and it was when things looked most dismal that the thought first occurred to Joe and I. "Damn. I hope the plow has been." As we considered what we were up against, our trepidation only grew. If the plow had not been, then there was no way to drive up to the house. If we couldn't drive up to the house, we would have to hike in all of my stuff. Six days in the woods demands a lot of stuff. Water (the well water has not been tested) food, yarn, clothes..... it was a lot, and carrying it a kilometre appealed about as much as licking yaks does. We repeated the mantra all the way up. Please plow. Please plow. Please plow.

We arrived, and our hearts sank. Not only had the plow not been today, it was worse. The plow had clearly not been in some time, and there has been an easy 50cm (20 inches) of snow since then. We both stared. We were both agog. Joe looked at the clock. It was late. Later than it should have been and he had to get back to the city for a gig. it was really, really important that he leave, and soon...but how was I going to get all the stuff up?

We decided that Joe had time to make the 2k (slightly over a mile) hike in and out... once. We loaded him up like a pack mule with the heavy stuff I couldn't do without, I took the perishables that wouldn't last if they froze in the car, and we set out.


Dudes. It sucked. The snow was deep. Way deep, and we didn't have snowshoes and we had seriously overestimated what we could carry and by the first half km, we were both thinking about lying face down in the snow. Never before has a string of such filthy language been strung together by two people. This was, and if you don't live in a snowy place, you might not know this sort of snow.... Exhausting snow. It's the deep fluffy sort with the hard crust on top, so each step punches through and mires you in, then requires you to extricate your leg, only to embed it with the same force and hopelessness with the next step. It took forever, and the only reason we did not cry was because neither of us wanted to look weak to the other. Abject misery.
We finally made the house in the distance and were stunned to discover it damn near buried.


(Note location of door, marked by yellow arrow.) With this image came the knowledge that I shall be shovelling until my arms ache, which was hardly the main issue, since only half of my supplies had made it to the house. Joe and I dropped off the stuff, began to trudge dejectedly back to the car (still snowing) and Joe had a brainwave. We ransacked the place and found a superslider. One of those round sleds for careening down hills at a thousand km an hour and scaring the hell out of your mother. Joe rooted around his stuff (he made a record at this house in the summer, and as with all engineers, he left stuff in his wake) until he found some spare wire.

He rigged it to the sled to make a handle, and we headed back (heavenhelpuswhatkindofforsakencountryisthis) to the car. When we got there (I will spare you the gnashing of teeth) we made a decision about what absolutely had to go up to the house with me. (Food. Wine. Yarn.) and what could be stashed by the town road in snowproof garbage bags until I could stagger back for it. We loaded up the sled with what I could pull (or thought I could pull) and Joe took this picture:


and left.

I began my time alone, towing food and six days worth of water up the hill (there is surprisingly more up than down.) I will say this, and only this of the 1km hike in with that stuff. IT SUCKED.
I abandoned stuff all the way up to the house. At the 1/4 way mark, the wire on the sled broke


and I said some language that was unladylike in the extreme. I retied the wire and abandoned a couple of kilos and kept staggering. At the halfway mark the wire snapped again and this time, I was going uphill and I dare not write of the thoughts that I had as the sled slid backwards down the hill, and away from me. I will tell you that my reaction scared birds from nearby trees. I swore all the way back to the sled, abandoned more stuff and retied the knot again. My foul mouthed self and I made it about another 300 steps (I was counting) before it snapped again, and this time I lay in the snow for a moment and may have wept a few tears. Then I abandoned more crap. (At this point I was wondering WHY I HAD SO MUCH CRAP but I suspect I shall desire drinking water sometime tomorrow and go retrieve it.) By the time I made the house, scrambled my way in, hauled the crap in and lit a fire, all I could think of to do was think up filthy cruel nicknames for the plow guy, and lie on the floor.

I've recovered somewhat and I want you to know that as I am a woman of some sense, I did not abandon the things that one really needs to survive in the woods.


Damn straight. I'll go get the rest of my stuff tomorrow, and Rachel H?
Sorry I laughed.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:28 PM

March 12, 2008


We are changing our home internet service to get everything (phone, cable, internet, cell) onto one service so we can save some money. There's going to be some downtime today while we switch from one service to another. Here are some things that have been said about this switch.

It is going to be seamless.
It is going to be easy.
It is going to be fast.

Excuse me. I can't type when I'm laughing this hard.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:07 PM

March 11, 2008

One point in the crazy column

This was a birthday weekend. My sister Erin, my comrade Ken and my daughter Sam (who turned 14 and is probably the only one of them who wants their age mentioned) celebrated their family birthdays together at my mum's house. McPhee's are a frugal people and we have a tendency to lump birthdays together. Everybody gets together, we sing the birthday song with three names in it. ("Happy Birthday, dear ErinKenandSammy" or "IanStephanieandBonnie" - except we never agree on an order ahead of time so that part is always a mess.)


(Note my mum carefully supervising Hanks carrying of the flaming cake.)


(Note Hank's expression. It clearly says "I can't believe this isn't my cake." )

Everyone had a great time, but I blew it with my sisters gift. She was supposed to be getting the Urban Aran that I've been working on, and I didn't finish. It wasn't even a near miss either, All I have is two sleeves and a half of the back. There was a huge storm here this weekend, where it snowed for about 36 hours, and Joe and I rented a bunch of movies and when I wasn't writing (that is still killing me) I knit. That means that I had more time than I was expecting to have and I still didn't make it.


Araucania Nature Wool Chunky (In some navy blue colour. Cannot locate ball band because I am under the impression my whole life is falling apart because I am 20 days from a deadline. I got it at The Purple Purl. I wonder if they remember?)

I feel really bad about it for some reason. I was thinking of Erin as this years "big winner". I don't knit a lot of sweaters for people (too big, too expensive, too much of a chance that I'll do all that knitting and spend all that money and they won't get it or love it.) and here I am, with this really fantastic gift for her and I miss the deadline and she gets sweater pieces, (which I then took back) it was sort of anti-climactic. Really anti-climactic. Like, it felt like a crappy present (to me, I'm hoping not to her, or I'll be really miserable.) I've given stuff on the needles before. A lot, actually, but this one feels like a real bummer.

I've been thinking about what's different. How come I can usually hand someone a half knit hat and take it back and not feel at all bad but this one feels awful? Are the stakes higher with a sweater? Is this a case of "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" so of course a sweater hurts more than a hat? Is it because I know that non-knitters don't see the potential in wool the way we do, so I know that giving them a present that's half wool might disappoint them, even if the eventual sweater will delight them?

I'm wondering if it's because I really, honestly thought (because I am clearly mad) that I would finish it? I really did. On Brooklyntweed's blog he says that it took him 17 days to knit this and so I thought (because there is REALLY SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY MIND) that 11 days was almost the same as 17 days, and that 11 days is especially almost the same as 17 days if you are focussed hard on a book deadline, knitting other stuff for other birthdays and generally running sort of short on time in general. (Have I mentioned it's the March Break and the kids are home for 9 days?

In retrospect, I'm not surprised I didn't make it, I'm absolutely shocked though, that I thought I would.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:00 AM

March 7, 2008


Meg (16) is going away for the weekend, and this morning she was pulling together her knitting. (The young one has much to learn. She packed her clothes last night but left the knitting until this morning.) She chose a handwarmer pattern from this book - which actually sees a lot of play in our house, and went through her stash to come up with a skein of yarn, and packed the yarn and the book in her bag. While she was upstairs getting dressed, I started thinking. Meg's a pretty quick knitter. Three hour drive up, weekend at her friends cottage, three hour drive back. Hmmm.

When Meg came back downstairs, I had tucked another ball of yarn and some appropriate needles into a ziplock and put it in her bag.


"What's this?" she asked.
"Extra yarn." I answered.
"Mum, I already packed yarn".
"I know, but there's six hours of car and 48 hours of relaxing and all you packed was yarn to make one pair of worsted weight handwarmers and that's not a lot of knitting. What if you stay for an extra day? What if you knit extra fast? What if the weather is bad and you spend the whole weekend inside?" It made me just sweaty thinking about it. I mean, who doesn't pack a little insurance yarn? What kind of mother would I be if I just let her go without taking enough yarn....

"Yeah Meg?"

"Try not to spread the disease."

Posted by Stephanie at 9:59 AM

March 6, 2008


I feel a little like the blog is hopeless right now, and I hope you'll all bear with me over the next couple of weeks while my attention wanders. This book is sucking up almost everything I've got (my sanity, my time, knitting and otherwise) and if I sit down to write or work, my focus keeps going back there, not here...which is a shame, sort of, because this is usually way more fun. (You can work on a book all you like, but when you finish a story nobody leaves comments telling you what they think, or if you suck, or if your grammar is pathetic - not that I'm sure that the last one there really helps me a whole lot, but I suppose it's still feedback.) As a result of the cosmic life-sinkhole that is that last few terrifying weeks of a book, I don't have much to show you. Just this.


This is a redo of the sock I started the other day, the one that tragically, hit the frogpond going a thousand miles an hour while it was still mostly in the toe phase. The yarn is STR lightweight, in Ravenscroft from Tina's (sort of new) Raven Clan series. (It's blacker in person. I lost a camera war.) I was telling her that I wanted to make an elegant cabled sock with my precious skein, and from nowhere, she produced this pattern by Sivia Harding. (I worship Sivia, and the Diamond Fantasy pattern is one of my favourites reasons. An edge produced as you go. Surely the woman is so blessed by the knit fates that she walks on silver slippers. My version is here.)

Turns out that she's putting together a book of patterns to support the series, and this will be one of them. It's not ready for release yet, and I said that I would sort of test-knit it.... if we use the words "test knit" here to mean "I shall attempt to tell the difference between the millions of mistakes I make all the time from the very slim possibility that Sivia has made one". So far, the pattern is perfect, and I am stupid, exactly as expected. I made two mistakes reading the pattern, which I would like to pretend is because it isn't formatted yet, and is really because I, as I mentioned, am apparently as smart as a streetcar. I failed to actually read the pattern and assumed that the first size was a size small, which it wasn't. (It will be, by the time it gets to you.) It was a medium, and I managed to ignore virtually every instinct I had that the beast was too big for a really good long time. Then I arsed up the twisted rib. (Knit one purl two. Tricky that. )


(The colour here is a little closer.) So far, the second time appears to be the charm, although my ability to reinterpret Sivia's genius into error should not be underestimated, especially while I'm flipped out this far on a deadline. (Proof: Last night I had to frog the back of the Urban Aran three times for a failure to count. TO THREE.)
Sigh. I can't wait until this is over. The minute this ends, the tour starts (I'll be adding an Oak Lawn IL event later today, although details are here for you if you can't wait for me to wrestle the server into compliance) and should I survive that, I have some primo time set aside for gibbering in the foetal position. Good times, big plans.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:49 PM

March 5, 2008

Deer don't talk back

Joe came and fetched me yesterday (which answers the question of how I got where I was, drop off, and pick up. No car while I was there.) and brought me home ahead of another nasty storm. It was the day I was supposed to come home anyway, and though I had actually entertained the idea of staying for a few more days, with the way the weather was looking, if I didn't get out yesterday, it might have been Monday before I could bust a move out of there, and I absolutely had to be home for Friday. (Turns out, when I did get home last night, ahead of the storm, that the reason I absolutely had to be home on Friday got rescheduled to Monday. (When I run the world, things will be more reliable.)

A big storm did indeed arrive, and is still arriving as I type and I am so glad to be home. I missed everybody so much, even my little cat, and I am not the sort of woman who normally thinks very much about her cat. It's a testament to how very alone I was up there, that one dwells on the creature comforts of home, and the creatures that go with it. (Until, at least, the creatures remind me why it was I left in the first place.) For now, it is very true that absence has made my heart grow fonder, and I'm enjoying the family's comings and goings. Compared to listening to the roof bury me in the woods, the sound of Joe shovelling us out today is a pleasure. (Especially since the former means I shall be shovelling, and the later clearly does not.) I cleaned up the kitchen last night and (somebody note the date and time, this shall likely never occur again) I enjoyed it. Laundry? Just hand it to me. I'd be happy to put it in for you. As challenging as the last 6 days were, as lonely as I was and as skittish, I surprised myself by feeling rather winsome yesterday when we left, and feeling positive about the idea of doing it again. There's something about being in charge of your whole self and it's survival, with no help from anyone, that feels a little (dare I say it?) brave.
I was in the woods in the easiest possible way, with a bathroom and a stove and frozen pizza, and it still made me feel like a strong and competent woman. (When I wasn't scared stupid.) It also made me talk to deer for company after only 6 days, so I don't know what the long term effects on my psyche would be.

What did I knit? Surprisingly little. Like I said, knitting and typing aren't very compatible, and neither are cooking or stomping in the woods, and I did a lot of all of them. Still, I managed a bit.


One pair finished socks, STR mediumweight, in a colourway that's a one of a kind "rare gem".


My own pattern (such as it is) invented on the fly. The 2x2 rib grows into two rows of twisted stitches along the fronts of the legs, which then become plain rib again on the feet. Grafton Fibers needles, 2.75mm.

I started another pair of socks in STR Lightweight (Ravenscroft), but you should ignore them because I screwed them up bigtime and I've already frogged them. Forget they were ever here.


Last, but certainly not least, The Urban Aran (Cardiganized.) Two sleeves.


Want a good laugh? I thought this (and the black socks above) would be finished by Sunday. Seriously. I took three more skeins of sock yarn away with me so that when I just whipped through the sweater and socks (You know, knitting at 15 times my normal pace, just because I'm not home) I would need at least three more pairs of socks on top of finishing the socks above, plus the sweater, plus the black socks. (IN SIX DAYS.)
I crack me up too.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:41 AM

March 3, 2008

In case you thought I was alone

Yesterday the weather changed abruptly. A storm of snow, freezing rain and rain (in that order) blew up from the south and after a tumultuous afternoon and night today the temperature is above zero and I think every single animal around here got the same message. "Go for a walk you moron, it won't last". It's like a gift designed to make sure that you keep believing in spring. Today on my hike my hands didn't freeze the second I took my mittens off and I even experienced the briefest moment of temptation where I considered taking off my hat. The snow on the top of the ice out there is melting, which means that if I'm very lucky, tomorrow when it snaps back to freezing again the river will be glassy and smooth, and I may see some iceboats.


I was back to hiking the woods this afternoon, and I think every other animal around here was doing the same thing. Crows heckled me from the trees, I even saw an eagle soaring on the warm windy air. I saw a snowshoe hare (by the way? BIG BUNNY) and came pretty close to a big deer who (although I could not see the parts in question to confirm this) had to have been a buck. He stared me down, turned his whole body to face me and stomped his feet. There are no records of people being killed by deer, so I didn't retreat out of fear, but respect. He's a full time resident. I'm just visiting. Clearly, these are his woods. The delicate hoofprints of the deer are everywhere, sprinkled like confetti,


and there's other stuff too. This track is deer like, but made by something larger and heavier by comparison, and that only leaves moose I think.


Or these ones, which after careful consultation with Hinterland Who's Who. (If you're Canadian, you just had a flashback) looks like it's the snowshoe hare.


These ones, I have no idea about. None. I'm wondering if it's my friend the bobcat? I bet one of you guys knows for sure.


Check this last one out. It looks to me like the strangest track, so I'm wondering if it's a compound track (two body parts? Maybe something sat down?)


I'm hoping it's a compound track, because dudes, a footprint bigger than my hand? That's a track big enough to keep this knitter out of the woods. Tomorrow, knitting.


I promise. I know this week has been a little light on the wool content, but it's hard to type and knit at the same time.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:48 PM

March 2, 2008


The snow that fell the other evening has had the effect of making me feel, at least temporarily, even more isolated, although it did remarkable things to further beautify the woods around me.


(I feel sort of dumb posting another woods picture, since I now that to you the must appear more or less the same, and I sort of imagine that now, as I post yet another picture of the snowy woods that you're scrolling by them faster and faster, thinking "YES. I get it. Woods. Trees. Snow. MOVE ON." but I just can't help it. To me, up here with these woods as the defining feature of the whole experience, the changes from one day to the next are huge. To me, the woods look very different with more snow in them. Remarkably different enough to take endless pictures of them and post them here. Bear with me. I'm charmed.

The snow covered all the deer track, leaving me unable to journey into the woods until they re-establish their meandering routes, and covered the path that I had been pounding out for myself, should I need to escape in the night. (I've decided that the real source of my anxiety out here is not the woods, but the deadly combination of being a person possessed of a bad ass imagination and the woods. A slightly less inventive person would be way, way more comfortable.) I'm uncertain about what would provoke me to attempt to escape into the night, but I felt good about having my options open, and for a while there, they were closed.


The snow landed, heavy, soft and white and by morning when I ventured out, there wasn't a single surface that wasn't blanketed. Then the sun came out, and the dark, sloped metal roof of this place started to do (rather unexpectedly, if you are me and didn't give a moments thought to the function of a dark, sloped metal roof) what that sort of roof is supposed to do, and that is to shed snow. The roof heats up (even in the cold) enough that when the sun comes out the snow all slides right off the thing. In chunks, in pieces, in great huge slides. It pokes itself over the edges, then when enough mass is hanging over, thwumps to the ground in grand crashes.


The first chunk falling off creates instability in the rest, which then goes too, and within about 10 minutes the massive roof had shed about 90% off it's thick layer of snow. The remaining 10% clings on tenaciously, then leaps off when it sees you are at your most relaxed, or - in one rather stunning and well targeted shot by the roof, onto my head as I passed under it to the door. (Remember when you're a kid and you're at school and one of your buddies (or someone who isn't your buddy at all, but is simply a powerful playground player) gave you a snowjob? A generous mittened handful of snow right down the back of your coat. Getting dumped on by the roof was like that only multiplied by about a thousand percent. I was cold for hours and had to dry out my coat by the fire. I had snow in places I didn't even know I had places.)

When I arrived here, I noticed that the house was surrounded by drifts of snow in odd places. Big drifts, standing a metre or so from the house. That's odd, because if the wind is going to push snow up against something, it usually blow it right up against things, and not to the same depth on both sides of a building. "Strange" thought I, but since so much of this has been strange, I didn't give it more thought. Yesterday though, I got it.

The snow that falls off the roof makes walls. Walls of snow all around the house.


I went out and shovelled for a long time at the front door. (That's where I got the snowjob) and noted, with both astonishment and trepidation, that at the front of the house, where the kitchen window is, and where the longest part of the roof sheds,


That if it snows again. I won't be able to see out the windows. Snow walls. I'm increasingly surrounded.


Posted by Stephanie at 4:50 PM

March 1, 2008

Do you hear what I hear

Yesterday was all about noise. The temperatures came up to a balmy -10 (plus wind chill, but I'm trying not to focus on that, except for the calculation of frostbite risk) and I only went out a few times, and not for long. I can stand the cold if it's still, but the wind drives the cold right into me and gives me earaches, even with hat (and hood.) I did hike to the gate and see if the road was still there.


It is. It only seems like there nobody left but me. The warmer temperatures made it possible for all sorts of things to happen. For starters, the deer were out in force. I guess they had largely hunkered down in the extreme cold, something that only proves to me that the know what they're doing out here. I'd be sitting in the house writing or knitting and hear the sound of branches, then look up and see them looking right back. They're bold as brass as long as you don't go outside. Around dinner I was making a salad and two of them watched me rather intently through the window, I could almost imagine their conversation. "Dude, is that greenfood? Where did that small human get the greenfood? She looks warm in there. Can we get warm? Can we get the greenfood?" I was sort of nervous about opening the door after that, since I thought that their lack of opposable thumbs and therefore, the ability to turn doorknobs, left them with only the solution of rushing the door when I opened it.

Knitting in the early afternoon, sorry.. knitting what? Oh. Right. Knitting blog. Forgive me. Knitting on a pair of socks in the afternoon,


you've seen these before, sort of. I had them started and got all the way to the heel when I realized accepted that the yarn, for which I'd misplaced the label, wasn't actually STR in Lightweight, but STR in mediumweight. Knit at my standard gauge for socks, which is pretty firm to begin with, in this heavier yarn they were practically foot armour. They have been yanked back, and are now being knit on larger needles (My Grafton Fiber ones. I love these.) with fewer stitches. Much better. I have no idea why it took a half a sock to deal with it. I knew it was wrong and I just kept on going. Depressing lack of intellect. In any case, my poor intellect and i were knitting on those socks, and suddenly there was a huge crash. Then another... it went on and on, and it was so sudden and loud that it scared the wits of me. I ran from window to window, it was (remember, poor intellect) several frightened minutes before I actually saw what was happening. The house had been bedecked with massive icicles.

(These were taken the first day, before these big icicles got massive)

When the sun and higher temps warmed up the metal roof, all of them came crashing off, very nearly simultaneously. I can't tell you what went through my head before I figure it out, but it involved deer on the roof.


It took me a while to settle down after that, but settle I did, (scotch would have been faster than tea, but I didn't have any) and shortly after I'd gotten a grip back on myself, there was an earthquake. Or a bomb, or Something with a capital S. Out of the blue, there was an enormous CRACK-SMASH. It was just one of the biggest noises ever. It literally shook the ground and rattled the windows. It was all I could do not to throw myself under the desk. I may have screamed. I've been a little on edge anyway, and this noise was so massive that I lost it. I looked out the window, thinking that....well. I don't know what I thought I would do, actually, the noise was so big that I can't imagine that whatever made it would be something i could defend myself from.

Off to the side, at the edge of the river was sort of a rising column of snow or mist or something. Tree fall? Ice Crack? The ice makes some pretty trippy noises, and icecrack can be crazy loud, but I'm going to go with tree fall.
Scared me half to death. I tried to hike down there later, but the deer were uninterested and hadn't blazed a trail for me, so I remained curious.

The whole day went on like that. The wind made noise, the trees made noise, deer made noise. Branches fell, the ice growled... an enormous fight was waged by crows in the tree by the door. it was a crazy amount of noise, a super loud day. By the nighttime, I had just about gotten used to it, and as I was knitting (I swear I'm writing. I think I just only hear stuff while I'm knitting.) I suddenly realized that things had changed again.

There was no noise. None. I went to the door and went out, and I understood straightaway.
Snow. Snow was falling all around me, and whatever noise the world around me was inclined to make was wholly muffled by the snow. I tipped my head back and watched it swirl out of the darkness.

Then I went inside. It may have been beautiful, but it was #$ª%^^£¢∞§**ing cold out there.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:55 PM