July 30, 2008

Flow Goes

I adore this tank. I wore it all day yesterday and just can't get enough of it.

Flowgardens3007

This is the Flow tank, from Norah Gaughan's book two with Berroco, knit out of a really interesting yarn called Seduce, (colour is 4451 "Passimenterie Green") a core wrapped yarn made from 47% Rayon, 25% Linen, 17% Silk and 11% Nylon. It's a remarkably weird yarn for me to choose to knit with, not at all what I usually buy, and I would have walked right by it in WEBS, if there hadn't happened to be a shop model hanging above the yarn. (There's a lesson in there for shops.)

Flowdetneck3007

I enjoyed knitting with this yarn about as much as I enjoy knitting with cotton or linen or rayon at the best of times - which is really not much at all. I love the bounce and springiness of wool, and inelastic fibres like this are hard on my hands as I knit them up. The shop model of this was so beautiful though, that I though that I would suck it up for one garment, and I did, and I'm so glad I did. Where the yarn was inelastic and unyielding, the fabric it created is stretchy, graceful and ... it just flows.

Flowtankdoney13007

I think it's going to be a workhorse of a top, possessed of all of my favourite qualities in a tank. I like high necklines and high armscye... wide straps to cover my bra straps (I've never adjusted to the idea that it's ok to show straps) and this is perfectly shaped in that department. I made only one modification (which seriously, is a pretty good ranking for any project I make) and lengthened the body by about 4cm (1.5 inches) after the shaping was completed. Even though I'm only 5'1", it was too short for my taste as written, but I think it's just perfect now. I can see this top going anywhere. With my standard brown linen skirt it went to yoga and the pub, looked great while I was riding my bike. (The advantages of that high neck again... when I lean forward on my bike I don't blind oncoming traffic with the stellar view of my breasts.)

Lookmanohands3007

(This picture was a little blurry, on account of Rachel H was riding her bike at the same time too...and don't say a word about the no hands. I can ride no hands if I want to. I'm 40 years old and wearing a helmet.)

As great as this looks casual, I think that with an elegant skirt or my wide linen pants this could easily go to a meeting or dinner somewhere fancy - which is great, because sometimes that comes up and I don't have anything to wear.

Flowbeerknit3007

Near as I can tell, the only thing wrong with this tank is that I only have one.
Thrilled to death with this knit. Thrilled.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:48 AM

July 29, 2008

In which I drink coffee alone

Every year my mum takes the girls up to the cottage for a while, and that leaves Joe and I here alone. As you can imagine, Joe and I are often terrifically lonely during this time and must turn to each other for comfort... why just last night we had to go out to dinner to celebrate cope with our grief. After all, what was the point of cooking just for the two of us? None. Similarly, A glass of wine did much to take the edge off of the emptiness in our home, and eventually (after watching a really good movie with subtitles that nobody complained about) we just went to bed early. There was no point in staying up without the children.

There are four more days of this kind of emptiness stretching out in front of me, and I can't hardly think what I'm going to do with myself if the children are not here to trash the house, filthy all clothing, smear cosmetics all over the bathroom and then sweep through the kitchen with their friends laying waste to all produce in their paths like mighty unremitting locusts. Why, just 10 minutes ago I saw a telephone lying fallow. It's battery wasn't even dead.

We're only one day into the five-day child free abyss, and already I have finished the reknit on Flow and tried it on to see if it fits (it does)

Flowfinished2907

and now it's blocking. (I'll get Rachel to take some pictures later.) With that done, I am so lonely that I have been forced to cast on a new sweater just to feel better and less bereft.

Mononstart2-907

Manon
I hope it helps... because I really feel like without my darling girls, I can't hardly fill my idle hours. I have no purp.......

Oh, sorry. Gotta go. Meeting a friend for lunch. Then I've got yoga...then beer on a patio, then maybe I'll talk on the house phone for a while without wrestling a teenager to the ground for it.
I miss them so much.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:48 AM

July 28, 2008

You get what you pay for

I had 1205g spun before the final push in the Tour de Fleece, and I had this monster batt to go.

Brbattop2607-1

The thing was way to big to get on my tiny scale, but I couldn't imagine that it didn't weigh at least 300g. No way. I embarked on it with dedication like you've never seen. I spun. I spun more. I spun without worrying about the colours or where they landed. When one bobbin was full I moved onto the next. It was a blur. The limp started to come back. I spun anyway. I spun though meals, I spun through sleep time... In fact, the only break I took was to go meet Megan's baby, but I had spun so much that I was feeling pretty cocky. I had time to spare. By Saturday night I had three full bobbins.

Brbattsing2807

So I did a three ply. It filled three bobbins again on Sunday morning as I plied, and I was thrilled not just with the yarn (dang it's pretty) but that it was Sunday at about 2 in the afternoon when I was all done. 3 skeins of beautiful yarn. Totally done. Done the Tour de Fleece.

Brbattyarn2807

Here I thought I wouldn't make it at all, and I was done with time to spare. As I skeined it and admired it, gave myself little congratulatory lectures on sticking to a thing and not giving up. Being a bit of a procrastinator, I'm not usually finished with time to spare - and it really felt good. Fantastic in fact. I was heading upstairs to set the twist in a bath when it occured to me to weigh the skeins. I wondered how far over 1500g I had gone! I came back downstairs, knotted them up small enough to go onto the scale and....

Ohnoitslight2807

Whoa. I stared. I took it off and put it on again, making sure that the whole knot was on the scale. Then, feeling a little shocky and looking at the clock (1:22, for anyone who cares) I did the math. 221g. 1205 + 221 = 1426. 1426, my woolly friends, is less than 1500. I started to panic. No way. Just no way... that roving was huge - how could it be only 221g? Rat Bastards. I started to panic. Really panic. No way was I coming within 74 grams of victory. NO WAY.

I threw the skeins onto my desk and bolted for the spinning stash. I rifled through it (making a huge mess that I totally have to clean up today. I grabbed a roving of 50/50 wool/alpaca and started to spin. Spin fast. (This is the point that I probably should have made a decision to spin chunky singles yarn, but I promised myself at the outset of this that I would rather not finish than spin yarn that I didn't like. This is probably also the point that I should have remembered that alpaca is lighter than wool, and that's probably why that huge batt was so light, and likely why going and getting more alpaca blend yarn was a little dumbass at that point, but in the heat of battle, things are lost.)

Woolalpaca2807

There are no pictures of the singles, my friends, because they were finished at 10pm, and I couldn't stop long enough to photograph them if I was going to make the deadline. The three bobbins (why I decided to do three ply is beyond me) were mounted on the kate (I refuse to call it a lazy kate) and I started plying. I whipped through two bobbins and with moments to spare, I had this.

Woolalpacafin2807

168m of the alpaca/shetland three ply, and decent, though spun fast. I popped it on the scale:

Thankheavenal2707

Whoa.

Classphotoyarn2807

Total weight spun : 1540 grams, and about 2500m of yarn I love.
I gathered the guys up today for a class photo (minus the green sparkly yarn, since I already gave it away.)

Mission accomplished.

Maillotjaune2008

Now if you don't mind, I have a spinners limp to put ice on. Same time next year?

(PS. I know some of you will ask, so I'll add it here. All of these skeins are gifts. It was a stash busting exercise, so as hard as it is to let go, they are all leaving for homes in other stashes. All but one. Any guesses which one I'm keeping? )

Posted by Stephanie at 3:11 PM

July 27, 2008

Snips and snails and puppy-dogs tails

Internets, please meet Megan's son:

Megansbabyboy2707

Elwood.
(Don't you love it? You could grow up to be anything with a name like that.) Megan sent me a note confirming his name choice (and telling me that she and her husband James read every comment and had a ton of fun) and it read:

Obediah Ukulele and Penelope Pearl welcome their baby brother Elwood Ulian
(Ulian is in reference to ulian pipes, a musical instrument similar to the bag pipes).

Tracy is the lucky knitter who guessed boy (and wanted to name him Bart) and was chosen by the random number thingie, and Tina and I will be mailing her a kit for Baby Yours (the blue sweater above.) I hope she knows a little guy who will look as handsome in it as our boy Ely. If you guessed girl, you certainly weren't alone, and I held that baby live and in person yesterday and still couldn't tell till I peeked at his netherbits. (That's a boy for sure.)

I like how he looks like he's waving up there. Hi right back atcha Dude.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:24 PM

July 26, 2008

Introducing

I saw Megan this morning, and she and her wee beloved (only 15 hours old) both look very, very, very well and happy. Her labour was fast and easy (in as much as it is possible to move another human through your body easily, which is not very easy at all even when it is.)

Megbaby2607

Megan wouldn't tell me the gender, and I had to go investigating to find out... it was a thrill uncovering the truth for myself, and Megan and I have agreed that this mystery is a great deal of fun, so we're passing it on.

Is it a girl baby?

Megbabyg2607

Megbabyg22607

or is it a boy baby?

Meganbb2607

Meganbabyb2607

Leave your guess, along with a potential name that goes with your gender (or, you know, get all smart and suggest something like "Pat") in the comments, because although this baby really does have a gender, she/he actually doesn't have a name. Megan loves unusual names, so fire away.

I'll choose randomly from among the people who get the gender right and mail them a kit for either the Baby Mine sweater, or the Baby Yours sweater... depending on what the right answer is. Have at it!

(Correct answer tomorrow at this time.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:24 PM

July 25, 2008

All safe and one more

Megan's baby has safely arrived as of this evening. 9lbs, 14oz of some kind of human gorgeousness.
She tells me I'll have to come over tomorrow and change a diaper to find out more.

Suddenly.... I don't care what sort of baby it is. It's just so wonderful.

Breathe. Tonight we are one more.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:01 PM

Theory of Relativity

Major action yesterday. Just when I had admitted defeat, things got all efficient and whammo, I may (possibly, maybe, don't count on it) be back in the game. I finished spinning and then plied all the singles from the latest Spinderella batt and no sooner than you can say "put ice on a spinners limp" (thanks for the tip, by the way, it actually really, really helped, along with elevation) I had turned this:

Gbattbs2507

Into this...

Gbattbssing2507

Into 120g of wool/stuff "thrums" from Spinderella, about 150m, chain plied 3 ply.

Gbattbskd2607

Gbattbsk2607

Not only that, but because I had a good chunk of that spun up before the limp hit, the day was still young. Inspired (and watching Stargate Atlantis) I decided to at least make a start on the next day's spinning, and I pulled out my last Spinderella batt, one called "Midnight Light". These are very fast and fun to spin, since all the little bits in it make it impossible to spin an even single. Since perfection is off the table, I don't fuss and they happen pretty quickly, especially compared to the wool/silk I was spinning before this.

Gbattmlb35-7

Into this.

Gbattmlbsk2607

115 of the "Midnight Light" Spinderella thrums, again, chain plied to about 150m.

Now, 115 + 120 = 235, which is way, way more than the 132g minimum I needed yesterday. Yesterday's spinning brings the Tour tally to 1205 so far, with 295g left to go.... and three days to do it.

That - my friends, means that I need only 98g a day to nail this thing and I'm totally overwhelmed by hope. I think I might make it. I really do. Only 98g - and every gram more than that I spin today means I have even less to spin tomorrow, which is really good because I do have a life and responsibilities and things I should be doing, but I really feel like the stars are aligning. Take today for instance. Today was a day that I was supposed to be doing mountains of laundry to get caught up and ready for next weeks activities, and lo and behold, 10 minutes after I made a pot of coffee.... the guys working on the road at the corner turned off my water for the day.
That's a sign. There's little to no housework I can do without water, so I may as well spin. It's destiny. I would be doing laundry, if only the water was on, which it's not, so there's no shame in spending the afternoon at the wheel. I'm going to start with this:

Brshbttsp2607

A Brushstrokes batt from Indigo Moon Farm. (Are they closed or gone? I couldn't dig up their website.) This is A Lot of 50% alpaca, 25% merino and 25% silk, and I have no idea how I'm going to handle it.

Brbattop2607

By the way? It just occurred to me that once again, setting myself a crazy goal has changed my idea of what I'm capable of. At the beginning of the Tour I thought that 65g a day was going to be a very seriously big deal, and now here I am totally and completely thrilled about a goal of 98g per day and the only thing that changed was that I spent all day yesterday knowing that I had to do 132. Crazy.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:22 AM

July 24, 2008

Not my best colour

It turns out that earlier, when I was quipping about all this spinning for the Tour de Fleece giving me a limp, I wasn't really fooling. What was a vague ache turned into a bona fide inability to lift my toes without a pain screeching up the front of my shin. It was a curious muscle pain in a place where frankly, I didn't even know I had a muscle.

I really want to win the Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey) but I'm not quite masochistic enough to hurt myself to do it, and that means that I had to take a spinning break for a few days until it didn't hurt anymore. (I figured that trying to explain to the my family that I was crippled up and unable to do stuff with them on account of a "hobby" was going to be another one of those moments where they looked at me like someone had better find a really gentle way of telling me it's all gone too far again.) Luckily for me, this break coincided with the need to re-knit the Flow tank, so I was distracted. Yesterday afternoon my leg didn't hurt at all, and I went back at it with a fury. (Well. A fury who doesn't want to limp.)
I plied all the singles kicking around and spun some more and here's what I've done.

Gbattb2407

That's one of the beautiful Grafton Batts that I got at Rhinebeck a couple of years ago. I love these. The prep on them is outstanding. As my buddy Denny would say, you put one of these in front of the wheel and say "spin" and it just does it all by itself. Free flowing, delicious, soft and lovely. One of the things I love best about these colourways is that they are graduated, and if you spin to preserve that...

Gbattsing2107-1

You get a singles that does that same thing. Now, I adore that (you can see the last time I tangled with one of these here) so I chain (or Navajo) plied these to preserve that same graduation.

Gbattdy2407

This yarn is lovely. Exactly what I wanted, and I'm totally impressed with how much better a spinner I've become since the last time. 100g (I didn't measure the yardage) of 3 ply gorgeousness.

Next up, a merino/tussah silk roving from The Fiber Factory in Arizona. (I think the colourway is "rose")

Ffmertussahr2407

This was dreamy too. The singles was pretty..

Ffmertusasing2407

but the finished yarn is a beautifully subtle thing.

Ffmertussfyws2407

This ended up being spun very thin.. this 110g came out at 260m of beautiful two ply - and far less underspun than my last shot at two-ply.

Ffmertussfy2407

This brings my grand total for the Tour de Fleece to 970g of fibre spun.. which is still (heavens help me) 530g short of my 1500g goal. Since the Tour ends on Sunday, that leaves me only four days to finish, and that means I would need to spin a rather whopping 132g a day to be done. That's a lot. If I hadn't lost the time to the wicked case of spinners limp I might be a contender, but now? Now I'm reminded of more of Denny's immortal words.

"Never mind. You look like s**t in yellow anyway."

Posted by Stephanie at 4:40 PM

July 22, 2008

Classic Plotline

I chugged away on that "flow" top yesterday determined to finish it before tonight. This is partly because I think that if you're only going to make one summery knitted thing then you should wear it to a knitter thing and tonight is that gig at the Vaughan Library but my secondary motivation is that it would be a clean article of clothing and now that I'm this deep into the Tour de Fleece, it might be my only one.

This is a very simple knit. Very. The front and back are identical, it's seamed at the shoulder and sides and there's a reverse stockinette band round the neck and sleeves. Very simple. I I had the front (back?) done Wednesday night at knit night, and I cast on for the back (front?) and zoomed through. Last night I had only the armscye shaping and the neck to do, and considering how much yarn I had left and how I like my tops a little long, I opted to make the top longer than the pattern calls for by about 3cm (in the neighbourhood of an inch). I'd been leery to do that until I saw that there was tons of yarn to make that change, but there is. (The yarn is Berroco Seduce, and I bought all that there was in this dye lot when I was at WEBS. Usually I would buy an insurance skein, but there was only exactly six skeins there, so I was allocating carefully.)

As I sat there last night, I knew that this meant that I would need to rip back the finished front (back?) to the armscye and make it longer to match, but that didn't bother me. I don't mind a little of the old frog and tickle now and again, and I had time for a quick bit of a reknit. While I was knitting the armscye, I noticed that the decreases seemed to be taking a long time, and while I was puzzling over that I found an error in the pattern for the size 38. (At the armscye the pattern says you have 78 stitches, then you're to decrease two stitches nine times and then have 58 stitches. Since I'm pretty sure that 9X2 is still 18 - not 20, that should read ten times, if you're going to get 58 and have your ducks in a row for the neck shaping) and it occurred to me then, as I found and noted that error, that it was odd that I hadn't noticed it when I knit the front. (back?)

This should have been a big moment. This should have tipped me off that something was not right. This should have been the moment in this story where, metaphorically speaking, the operator tells me that the calls I've been getting from this tank top all night are coming from inside the house- or the moment where the guy who's been convinced that there's a serial killer at the party finally loosens up and admits he was wrong, right when the rest of the partygoers see the serial killer over his shoulder? It should have been like that, but I was knitting and it's a simple tank, and I told myself that the reason I didn't notice the error when I knit the other part was because I just decreased however many times it took to get 58 and didn't count, and since I am the queen of Didn't-count-it-land, that made sense.

Flowisfkd2207

I finished the back (front?), set it aside, and then turned my attention to the front (back) so I could rip it back to the armscye, add the same amount of length so it matched the back and reknit the shapings. Easy and quick. While I ripped back I thought about how now I only had to do the seams (not so many) and the tiny bands (not so big) and I would be wearing this badboy tonight. I may have cackled - perhaps even gloated for a second. I wound the yarn back up, put the stitches back on the needle and gave them a quick count to make sure that I hadn't ripped back too far. I got the wrong number of stitches. I counted again. It's not my best skill, so troubles often disappear with a do-over.

Not this time. This time, I had ten stitches too few. I scratched my head, I puzzled over the pattern book, I looked for other errors. None. I examined my knitting for the place where I had made too many decreases - but I was bang on. I simply couldn't figure out where I'd lost ten whole stitches... and then it came to me. Wednesday night I'd been puzzling over what size I had been knitting, and while laughing and drinking beer with my friends I'd worked out that I was making the third size and cast on. I remember that now because at least four of the people there chastised me for not circling my size on the pattern, or at least adding a post-it note or something. I realized, as I sat there with a finished back (front?) and a very nearly finished front (back?) that something may have been amiss there - that maybe I screwed up. Maybe the reason I didn't notice the error for that size when I knit the first piece was that I didn't knit that size. Maybe.... and I looked at it, and I knew it.

The two identical pieces of this sweater are not identical. A quick stitch count of the cast on edge of the first piece confirmed it. This sweater has only two pieces. The entire pattern consists only of knitting the same thing twice. Knit one, repeat. That's it. It's the whole thing. This pattern is - very correctly, I might add... rated "Easy" in the pattern book - and I have found the only real way to create an problem that can't be fixed quickly. I'm furious. Furious that I saw all the signs and kept on knitting, furious that I didn't count stitches back when it could have helped me. Furious that I wrote a blog post detailing my difficulty in casting on THE WRONG NUMBER OF STITCHES and didn't notice... Furious that I only have one skein of yarn left - so that means that I can't even reknit the piece that I have pulled back and make it as big as the finished piece, no no. I don't have enough yarn for that. I have to finish the unfinished piece, then rip back the finished piece and reknit that. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. I am thinking about eating the remaining skein of yarn, calling it roughage and turning the back (front?) of this thing into a potscrubber and taking endless delight in watching bits of cheese and zucchini from last nights casserole get stuck in it before I go out to tonight's gig braless and wearing a tank top out of Sam's laundry basket that says "I dress this way because it bothers youl" on it. Screw it.

A half bag of stale salted almonds could knit better than me. I'm having chocolate for breakfast.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:27 AM

July 21, 2008

And now I have a limp

This was the weekend for catching up. Last week I took a serious look at where I was in the Tour de Fleece and I realized... It's not good. I'm behind. Not a little behind, not slightly behind. Seriously behind. I'm the Wim Vansevenant of the Tour de Fleece. Wim is contending this year to be the first ever guy to be the Lanterne Rouge three times in the Tour de France - if he can maintain his position, that is. In the Tour, apparently it's better to be dead last than second last. The last guy gets a title. He is the Lanterne Rouge. (I admit, part of the charm of this maybe that I quite like the idea of being the "Red Lantern", perhaps because of some youthful association with "The Green Lantern- who has great jewellery and superpowers.) The second last guy? Nobody cares.

I love this idea. If you're going to fail, darn it all, why not be the best failure you can be. Why be in the middle when you could be the very last guy in the peloton. Everybody remembers the extremes, and there's really something to be said for hauling it up in last place without quitting. There's a certain dignity in it - failure or not... but I figured (while realizing that I'm definttly in the running for the Lanterne Rouge) that there's no dignity in failure without effort. It has to be an honest last place, not a deliberate one, and to that end, this weekend I spun my little heart out, though all I have to show for it is singles.

It is my understanding that it's a good practice to let singles "rest" on the bobbin, at least overnight, before plying them, and I don't mind that. Usually I spin the singles the day before, the ply in the morning and then start that day's crop of singles. This time something happened, not sure what, but I just never got around to plying. There's two bobbins of this,

Wssing2107

a bobbin of that,

Bbattsing2107-1

and a bobbin of something else.

Gbattsing2107

Clearly I need to have a plying party, before I run out of bobbins. If I sit down and ply my little heart out I'll be soundly rewarded with another huge leap forward in the game. Does anybody know why you should let singles rest? Does it make it easier to ply? What happens if you don't? Is it too hard? Could I just be plying as I go with no rest phase? Who decides how long is long enough? Does everybody do this? A thousand questions...

All of which may have to wait to be answered, because I sure would like to wear that Flow tank top to the thing at the Vaughan Library tomorrow.. and I've got a bunch of it left to knit.

PS. As far as I know, there's no baby for Megan yet.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:05 PM

July 18, 2008

Last night in knitting

I tried to count to 130.

I was casting on for the second piece of Norah Gaughan's "Flow" tank top, because it seemed like I should finish that before the snow flies. I always feel stupid when I start a tank top at the beginning of the summer, imagining it a useful thing, and then finish it in just enough time for it to be a ridiculous garment. Not this time. I've got the front done (or maybe it's the back, they are both the same) and that means it should be a really quick dash to the finish. I sat down to cast on 130 stitches, and 10 hours later I had what I believe is the right number.

Backbft1807

Ten hours. That's about 9 hours and 59 minutes longer than it should have taken, and I have no explanation beyond the fact that as much as I love summer, my brain may actually have been poached last night. Toronto continues to be a scorching place to be, and last night it didn't even help that the burning day star had gone away. It was sultry and hot and steamy, and as romantic as the unrelenting heat is (and it does hold its charms, especially to a city that has as much winter as we do- don't let my complaining steer you wrong.) It does influence ones intelligence. There is nothing to do in this heat but lie about drinking things like ice water with fresh mint leaves in it... and here I hauled off and tried to count to 130.

I cast on as I counted, got 130. Recounted to be sure, got 118. Added enough to come up to 130, got 140. Took away 10, got 123. Counted again. Got 125. Counted again and got 126, and at that point I went upstairs and sat in cold water in the bathtub (that's why it's sitting there) until I could remember my middle name, then came downstairs and counted again. 125. Excellent. Added five, got back in the bath and then went to bed. This morning I counted and I had 129, added one and got 130 twice in a row - which was good enough. 10 hours. Seriously. I can't believe it.

This morning, after yet another cool bath and a little sleep, I can think of at least 3 good ways that I could have done that. I could have slipped a marker onto the needle every 10 stitches... could have marked of sections with the tail of the yarn, could have... Ok. I can only think of two, but my point is that 10 hours for a grade 3 counting job? Should I really be in charge of this family? (Wait.. yeah, that's it. I'm incompetent and should be immediately relieved of duty. Lets start with dinner. I'm probably not bright enough to be trusted with the stove. Should order in. Also, that washing machine looks complex...)

In any event, Now that I've done the hard part, the back of this should whip along. I've got something to do today that isn't spinning wheel compatible, should make good time on it. The heat hasn't effected my ability to spin much... except for at the height of the days heat, and I actually think that my inability to think might have helped me on this last skein. I started with 120g of combed top from Mind's Eye Yarns, though I don't remember the name or brand. (Better notes, must take better notes. Hey Lucy? Do you remember what this is?)

Toptdflme1807

I fall for top like this all the time, mostly because I forget that it drives me mental to spin it. I always end up with something muddy with all the colours mixed too much, when really what I want is yarn that resembles the roving. Usually what I do is spin the top exactly as it comes. Actually, I spin the top exactly as it comes while cursing profusely because I am essentially a woollen style spinner, with a preference for long draw. This style of spinning is (I think... although I'm only going on my experience here) a really bad match for top. Top is combed rather than carded like roving, and that means that it's very straight and slippery. My personal spinning style (which I appear helpless to change despite all efforts) just leaves the wheel grabbing this sort of fibre out of my hands no matter how lightly I set my tension. This time though, I broke all the rules because I was just too hot to care.

I steamed the top first - using moisture to restore the crimp to the wool and give it a little more of the resistance of roving. Then I pulled it into strips and started spinning. I didn't worry about the colours, I just ripped off pieces lengthwise so I could spin "down" the colours instead of spinning across them. The bobbin didn't look as promising as I had hoped it would be,

Ppyarnsingtdf1807

Though there was definitely more colour separation than I usually get in this sort of top. When I had it all spun up.. no thinking, no worrying, no trying to arrange things... I Navajo plied the lot, and wow. Did I get a surprise.

Pptdfyarnha1807

Prettyprettytdfy1807

I couldn't have planned it better. After years of trying to make this sort of top turn into the sort of yarn that I wanted, it took a heat wave that robbed me of the ability to overthink to give me results I love.

Prettyyarntdfw1807-1

150m of worsted weight 3ply, 120g, wool.

I adore this yarn to the point of distraction. Distraction. It's beautiful and fluffy and squishy and If I spin nothing else during the Tour de Fleece, this will make it worth it. It's on my desk and I just keep squeezing it and touching it and marvelling at how interesting each little strand is. See?

Theprettiestytdf1807

Sigh. My precious.

PS. I keep forgetting to mention that I'll be at the Bathurst Clark library (900 Clark Ave West) in Vaughan on Tuesday July 22nd at 7pm. It's free, but you do need to register (so they can get you a chair) by phoning the library at (905) 653-READ. It's going to be a smaller event than I've been doing, and I'm thrilled by that. I'm going to read a little from the latest book, and then I'm hoping the rest of the time will be filled with a really fun Q&A. Please think up a question for me, and come on down. (It's air-conditioned.)

PPS. No baby yet.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:18 AM

July 17, 2008

It's go time

Last night we showered our lovely Megan (Lettuce knit owner, not my daughter Megan) with gifts and best wishes for her impending wee babe, showing both of them the sort of love that only knitters know how to do.
There were sweaters, (I made these ones.)

Bmbymegan1607

and blankets,

Laurasbmeg1607

and shawls,

Shawlmeg1607

and more sweaters,

Mollyswemeg1607

and bibs,

Bibmeg1607

and longies (sort of ironic in the 40 degree heat, but winter will be back, and a Canadian baby needs that sort of thing.)

Longiesmeg1607

and another shawl,

Shawlssmeg1607

and hats,

Hatmegan16007

and sheepies and sheep books,

Sheepsmeg1607

and one very special blanket, brainchild of the wondrous Denny, knit by all of us.

Ourblmeg1607

Denny doled out half skeins of cotton - telling us to all cast on 12 stitches and knit until it ran out.

We did, wondering how she was going to pull it all together. (Never doubt Denny. You will be wrong.) Denny matched all the strips of different lengths along their midpoints and sewed them together, making a wonderful stepped edge. Then she assigned each of us a number for our strip, and embroidered that number on ribbon and sewed it on.

Ourbldetmeg1607

There's a longer piece of ribbon left, and Denny will embroider the baby's name on it... when we know what it is, and that will be sewn along the top. Cunning.. yes?

It was a wonderful evening, with wonderful friends and the most glorious sense of of an approaching good thing. I don't know who's in there, but I know that they are going to be someone really, really great.

Itstimemeg1607

Now, if you don't mind, and as you can clearly see from that picture, Megan is more than ready to meet her baby, so please take a moment of your day and send the charmer this message.

It's a good day to be born, we're all waiting to meet you. Move along - and safe trip. It's great out here.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:18 PM

July 16, 2008

I can see the line from here

It's super hot again, and Megan (owner of Lettuce Knit - not my daughter Megan) is still pregnant, and I absolutely don't want to be responsible for keeping her pregnant by failing to finish baby sweaters for whoever is in there.

Bmdet1607

Family myth has it that no baby is born before I finish their knitting, in fact my three daughters (one two weeks late, one two weeks early and one right on time) were born the day after I finished their blankets, as was my nephew Hank. There's a string of them - and it's mostly true, although a couple of years ago I did get totally messed up by a set of premature twins. Took two of them to take me down though.

Bydet1607

Last night I got to thinking about how very pregnant she is, and how very heavy babies are towards the end, and how they are in such a really crappy place in your body, right there in your pelvis and abdomen where you used to keep organs you used all the time, like your bladder and your lungs... and the guilt just swept over me, and I stepped away from the wheel and sat down and finished the sweaters.

Bmineb11607-1

There's no way that I want to be responsible, not even on a molecular level, for her being pregnant one second longer. (Besides, I think that if she thought that I was the reason she was still pregnant with this kid my life would be in danger, and it's not like I can avoid her. She owns a yarn shop. Near my house. A yarn shop near my house with my friends in it. A yarn shop near my house with my friends in it and beer. See? Even if I tried not to go in there, we all know she'd have the best of me in a couple of days.)

Bybuttons1607

The sweaters are blocking now, and I'll have the buttons on them later, and then I'll be able to look Megan in the eye again, and know that if she's still pregnant, it's got nothing to do with me.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:20 PM

July 15, 2008

I'm flying a plane

No actually, that's just a desperately interesting title to lift the tedium of another entry about spinning.

Spritelybatt1507-1

Spritely Goods batt, Merino and firestar in "Bursage"

I'm beginning to feel dreadful about it, worried that the parade of rovings, batts, singles and yarn of various plies is going to eventually wear on you, my gentle reader. I worry that in as much as I love yarn and I know you love yarn, that at some point saying "Hey look, I turned this into this" will begin to make you as fidgety as a two year old caught eating coffee beans, seeing as how many of you aren't spinners, and don't care to be, but I am helplessly caught in all of this.

Spritelylayer1507-1

Hiding in layers, the sparkly firestar and tones of green.

I love to spin, for starters. I love many, many elements of it the same way that I love knitting. I love the act of creation that it is, I love waving my hands around (as with knitting, for a very long time) and then sitting back and looking at what has happened and realizing that I have done magic again. Slow magic, but magic. Turning one thing into another. Yarn into socks is almost the same feeling as wool into yarn... spinning feels as clever and validating as knitting... especially when I get it right. The fact that I don't get it right very often because I have so much left to learn only makes it more thrilling when I actually get what I wanted... or at least something good. Add to that the thrilling oldness of spinning, and I am entirely in it's thrall.

Spritelysing1507

Fine singles, half of the batt on each bobbin.

Knitting, as we do it now (and excluding the crafts that inspired it's birth, like nålebinding) is probably about 1000 years old, at best. By human standards, it is young. So young that there is no goddess who knit, no patron saint for knitters, no Greek or Roman myth that has knitting as it's plot line- nor even a word for knitting in any ancient language. The first time that a reference to knitting is made in a play was in Shakespeare's time. Knitting is a new human thing. Very new.

Spinning on the other hand, has been with humans for just about as long as there have been humans. Spindle whorls have been found dating back to Neolithic times. The ancient Egyptians said that Isis taught women to spin, the Greeks said it was Athene and Artemis. There is the Germanic Goddess Holda, Japanese Goddess Amaterasu, Norse Goddess Frigg. Native peoples on the continent where I live have long believed in a Spider woman who spun and wove and taught people these skills, along with bringing them the sun, or the moon or fire. Africa has Anansi, the spider and spinner... even the Greek Fates themselves, the Moirae began with Clotho... who spun the thread of life. Spinning is old. Spinning is so old. Spinning is so old that there is virtually no historic event that you can think of that did not have spinning as a part of it.

Lacesprt1507-1

60g (2 oz) of laceweight, shades of green with sparkles like dew. 200m.

Mummies are wrapped in cloth made from handspun. Confucius gave advice wearing clothes of handspun. Socrates thought, Ceasar ruled, Hannibal crossed the alps with his elephants, Euclid fathered Geometry, The battle of Hastings was fought in handspun. Columbus sailed to the new world with sails of handspun. Imagine a time, up until not very long ago, that if you needed thread or yarn for anything in your life, it was handspun - All handspun. I can't imagine it. It takes hours and hours for me to make yarn - and I don't even have to deal with sheep, shearing, skirting, scouring or carding, unless I want to - and I'm not even making good yarn. I am at an entire loss to conceive of a world where I spin enough for my product to be woven (or knitted) into all the clothes, sheets, blankets or even sails that my family needed. It is magical.

Totally magical, and so I'm sort of sorry for the boring parade of wee skein after skein, parading by as the blog grows ever more dull in these weeks where I'm doing a lot of spinning, but when you think of all the history that has come before my rovings, batts, singles and skeins... maybe think for a little on how this is a vitally important piece of humanity....

Spriteskein31507

It's not really all that boring... is it?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:00 PM

July 14, 2008

In which I am all over it

Moments after I typed "I can do it" on Friday, I felt a wicked sense of foreboding. You know that feeling where you look at a friend and say "I'm sure he'll show up" or "There's no way that could happen" or "I know I've covered all the bases" ... that feeling where as soon as those confident words are out of your mouth, you know that sure as anything you've just about guaranteed that you're about to get a face plant into a pool of muddy humility - assuming you dodge the immediate lightning strike?

Usually for me, I feel that feeling and then the planet takes a look at me and my cocky self assurance and says "Listen, I can't let you carry on thinking that you know what's going on here. Your perception that if you get it together you'll have it together is wildly wrong. I'm in charge here, and I'm a fickle, unsteady, mercurial planet, who mixes things up for no other reason than it's Wednesday, that oil spill has me seriously pissed off and you're getting a little big for your britches. I'm flooding your basement. Have a great day Little Miss I-can-do-it"

I had that feeling. I said "I can catch up, just give me the weekend" and I felt a shiver go down my spine. The basement window did leak during the last storm... it was cocky to think I could get back on board with two days... but dudes: Behold the power of positive thinking.

1. The Baby Mine sweater is moving right along, after only two rips back, both in the very embryonic stages.

Babyminesk1407

This part is now working perfectly, and I know that there is no way that this will take a total rip back at this point. Sure, the yoke and I might get into an unseemly wrestling match, but this part? Licked.

2. I finished spinning this pretty, pretty fibre from Clouds of Fiber. (I'm pretty sure this is her website here... but my note taking at the time of acquisition has clearly failed me. Let this be a lesson. Do not think that fibre is so memorable that you will remember from whence it sprang. You will forget. No matter how lovely it is, no matter how stellar the day.... you will forget.)

Tealmer1407

Similarly, I'm not sure what sort of fibre it is. Clearly a down breed, maybe merino... something really springy and cushie for sure. What it is now is 140g of a nice, soft, thick two ply, perfect for a hat or mittens for the winter. My original spinning teacher told me that part of being a good spinner is being able to spin what you want - and that all spinners have a tendency to spin thinner and thinner with experience. She advocated spinning a thicker yarn from time to time, lest you lose the knack. It was clearly good advice, since it's way harder for me to spin thick than thin these days.

3. More. This is a pretty batt from Spinderella, one of her mixes that I love called "thrums".

Thrumspi1407

Now it's a gorgeously sparkly skein of three ply yarn. These thrums are mixes of tons of stuff. Wool, sparkle, nylon, silk, bunny, silk.... bits of cut up yarn. They're deliciously fun to spin, though the mix means that they resist all urges to spin them as a very even single. You're spinning along and you hit a snip of yarn or a clump of silk and that's it. You've got a thicker spot and there's nothing you can do about it.

Bbthrumpi1407

What I did was rely on the magic of three ply, the way that any handspun single looks smoother, rounder and more perfect when paired with two of its friends. I navajo (or "chain") plied this. It's a tiny skein, only about 90m and 60g, but I love it.

4. That fun led to going back into the stash and pulling out another of her "thrum" creations. This one has wool, mohair, alpaca, nylon, soy silk and "other"....

Thrumsbatbb1407

which turned out to be wee snips of navy, marine blue and cream yarn. Big fun. Seriously big fun.

Thrumsks1407

Churned out 160 metres (120g) of three ply, which despite its clearly non-Stephanie stuff (namely the sparkles, which usually move me not) is a yarn that I adore and makes me think of things like the Ice Queen or cool sparkling brook water, spilling over rocks.

Bbthrums1407-1

This latest push in the Tour De Fleece means that I've spun a total of 580g, with 14 days to go, meaning I still need to spin 65 g a day to meet my goal, but I think I can do it.

(Note the careful use of the word "think". I'm not pushing my luck with any more absolute statements.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:25 PM

July 11, 2008

Mystery object

I posted a picture yesterday of a wee obsession, and most of you guessed it, and some of you were rightly hesitant to make a guess, especially since I am fickle as the wind and just about as consistent.

Carol observed:


It's the Baby Mine sweater! Gotta be.

Bmsle21107

She's totally right. Two points to anyone who remembered that while I'm spinning up more and more things and fussing about twists per inch, Megan of Lettuce Knit is getting bigger and closer by the minute. (I'm remembering to add "from Lettuce Knit", since someone said they were thinking it was my Megan my SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER who was about to have a baby and even the suggestion of that gave me palpitations and may have ruptured something in my brain. Lucky for us Joe talked me into that chastity belt for daytimes and the cage at night, so I don't have to worry.) it was starting to feel reckless to not knit this little gift.

Jennie says:

It looks like the cuff from Lenore to me (but maybe I'm just seeing things now I'm so far behind with the Rockin Sock Club?)

Nope Jennie, you're bang on the money. (Very observant knitter there.) Months and months ago I designed a sock for the Rockin' Sock Club. It was a gothic sort of sock called "Lenore" (because it was in a Raven colourway - get it?) and from the moment I charted this little bit of business I knew it would make a perfect sweater pattern as well. I've been thinking about it ever since. The pattern for the sock isn't widely available yet, but if you're in the sock club, this probably did ring some bells for you. I can't wait to show you (and sort of me) what this looks like as a baby sweater. I'm pretty seriously psyched up for it. If I didn't have to eat, sleep, parent, talk to Joe and work for a living, this would be done. Maybe also a bonnet. With a cream coloured satin ribbon. Not that I'm thinking about it much.

CTJen enquires:

Is that the lovely soft pink STR you had especially dyed for your friend who's oven timer is about to go off? Lovely. I would be obsessed, too.

Bmbsts1107

Good call. This is Quilla, one of the two colours that I had Tina at Blue Moon invent in honour of Megan's new baby. (The other one was Nyame.) I've had lots of people ask if these are just skeins in that Tina dyed for me or if they are going to be made available to knitterdom at large, and if you follow those links by clicking on the names you can see that they're already available. I'm making the sweaters out of STR mediumweight, but the colours are available in all her yarns. (I think. Mostly. A lot for sure.)

Kit says:

Ah yes, sometimes I get like that too. We'll send in reinforcements to make sure you get your hydration. Would you like an IV?

Yes. Thanks for understanding. (Also, if there exists out there a human who feels the same way about mopping a kitchen floor, doing the laundry or figuring out where the (*&^%!!! the ants in the kitchen are coming from as I do about this sweater, feel free to drop by.)

Fiona says:

You obsessed???- I can hardly believe it!!!

Yeah. I know. Came outta nowhere. Oddest thing. Whoosh.

Minnie says:

funny, that doesn't look like a spinning wheel! 1500 gms indeed!

HA!

Tourdfsing31107

I'm spinning too! Yeah. Ok. I'm a little behind. I can catch up. I swear it. Just give me the weekend. I'll have a sweater and a bunch of yarn spun up. And a clean house. And no email in my inbox. And I'm making dinner.
I CAN DO IT.

(Ok. Just bring me over some beer will ya? We're still out, and it's starting to effect my coping strategies.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:25 PM

July 10, 2008

Can't Talk

Quillast1007

Totally obsessed.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:30 PM

July 9, 2008

Fast, but not faster

The Tour de Fleece continues, with me falling further behind at every turn. Yesterday I finished spinning the merino/tencel roving.

Mertentdf20707-1

It's lovely stuff. The Tencel ("Tencel" is a brand name for lyocell, an engineered fibre made from wood pulp) makes the fiber want to be thin. Like with silk, the long length of the tencel fibres make it easy to spin it thin and fast.. and by fast, I don't mean quickly, I mean with the wheel going fast.

Mertensingtdf20807

Now, I'm a really, non-technical spinner. I spin yarn I like - or I try to, spinning is like knitting, lots of times your results can be a surprise. I spin yarn that I think looks right, and I apply techniques to that that make it work for me. Still there's some stuff that's usually mostly true in spinning. For example, generally speaking, a fine yarn needs more twist to hold it together than a bulky one does. The finer the yarn gets, the more twist it needs and since what makes twist is the wheel (and therefore flyer) going around, you either need a "fast" wheel or to treadle more to put that twist in. It's sort of a question of scale. I have drawn this very poor illustration to show you what I mean.

Tpisortof0807

If you have a thick yarn, lets say a it's a bulky - there on the left, and set out to spin it so it looks right, then making it look right isn't going to take very many twists per inch. See how there's only two twists in that measure? Now compare it to the skinnier yarn on the right. The two yarns both look the same, that one is just smaller, but that lesser diameter means that now it's taking 10 twists per inch. (Those are, by the way, totally made up numbers, not the actual suggested twists per inch for bulky or laceweight.) Since this particular fibre wants to be skinny, and therefore have lots of twist, I used my Ashford Joy, because it's got higher ratios than my Traditional. (Higher ratios means that for each treadle, the flyer spins more times.) The Traditional (I have an old one that only has one choice) has a ratio of 7:1 (I think) so for every treadle, the flyer turns (or twists) seven times. At that rate, spinning a laceweight is going to be pretty hampsteresque in the treadling department. The Joy has a higher ratio available so that makes it a "faster" wheel. It made it easier to get enough twist in the single (what's on the bobbin in the picture above). I'm a chronic "underspinner". According to a lot of people who know this sort of thing (which I don't) an ideal knitting yarn is "underspun" in the single, and then "overplied" to give it the right amount of twist. (For you non-spinners, plying is when you take two (or three, or ten singles, and twist them together in the direction opposite to the direction you just spun them in.)

I am, in addition to being a chronic underspinner, also a chronic underplyer. I simply don't add enough twist to things. I've forgiven myself for it in the spinning (since apparently a slightly underspun single can be desirable) and had hoped this time to try and add the right amount of twist in the plying. I thought I had it too.

Tenmersk0807

I treadled during plying until I thought I had enough. Then I added more. Then I added more until I had added so much that I felt like for sure I had added too much.

2Tdfmtarn0807

Then I set the twist with steam (I use the highly advanced "hold it over your kettle" approach, and the fibre relaxed and, a thousand curses....

Finishmttdf2Y0907-2

Still not enough. Can I just say that I know that there's a learning curve, and I understand that I have to be on it like everyone else, but that I still think it sucks? There's a solution here. I could put it back through the wheel and add more ply twist... but I just don't want to. I just want it to be right next time and I want to know how you tell that there's enough twist in the first place? Is there a formula? Can you count it? Experienced spinners... how do you tell when you've got it right?

In knitting news,

Allbypiece0807

All the pieces of the "Baby Yours" sweater are done. At least I know when I'm doing that right.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:13 PM

July 8, 2008

Too hot to handle

It's one hundred million thousand degrees (Centigrade) in my house and I am not exaggerating even one little bit. It's so hot that the butter melted into the inside of the cupboard and the cat has spent the day assuming various lewd positions to try and cool off. With humidex, it's 36 outside (that's 97 F) , and it is definitely hotter in the house than it is outside. Last year we had a little room air conditioner we stuck in a window, but that's dead, and there hasn't been the spare change to replace it. We've managed to claim a used one, but it's not hooked up and Joe's out of town. It sits there by the door taunting me with my complete inability to hook it up, even if I marshal the girls into helping me. It's just too damn heavy and we need to go to the hardware store (for what, I am not sure) and it's too hot to go to the hardware store and dudes.... it's just too hot. I've been taking refuge outside in the evenings, and it's been more than lovely, and the only place you can be that your wool doesn't stick to you. Saturday night, a few other spinners had the same idea as we began the Tour De Fleece. We spun in the cooler night air, quaffed few cold ones and were entertained by babies who have clear interests in the Fibre Arts.

Babiesgonewild0607

(Edited to add: I know I just said it was really hot but here this poor baby has a sweater on. I swear it was cooler that evening - we aren't out to poach poor little innocents who are helpless to defend themselves against our sweater/wool/knitting zeal.)

Needthis-0507

Jen won the evenings award for multitasking when she managed to rock and nurse her baby while simultaneously learning to Navajo ply.

Jenmultitasks0507

(I still can't believe she could do it. )
I happily spun away, working on the first thing in my 1500g challenge (that is never going to work by the way. I'm starting to understand how wrong I was to set it as a goal) ... a practically antique mohair/wool roving from Blue Moon.

Rovfdf10607

This roving is so old (by roving standards) that Tina doesn't even work with this fibre anymore. (She just does the sheep to shoe.) This roving is also so old that it had felted a little from being jockeyed around my stash. That made it hard to spin smoothly, since it wanted to stick to itself in a really dedicated way.

Singtdf10607

I stuck with it though, getting through about half of it that evening, and the other half on Sunday evening, then plying Monday morning before the searing hot day star came up and roasted my house.

Poorlyspuntdf10708

That's about 300m or (really, really poorly spun) yarn where there was fibre. That's about 200g of my Tour de Fleece challenge, with my goal being 1500. So yesterday there was 21 spinning days remaining, about 1300g left to do, and I did the math and worked out that means I need to spin about 61g of fibre a day to make my goal.

If this heat keeps up, that may end up being about as likely as fairy princesses showing up to do my laundry.

Last night I took the wheel into the backyard (actually, the tiny patio that pretends to be a backyard) when the heat broke and it was possible to have fibre slip between my fingers again, and I started working on this:

Mertentdf20707

This is a pretty, pretty merino/tencel blend from The Sheep Shed, in a colourway that I can't remember and is probably irrelevant anyway, since I bought it way back in 2004 at Rhinebeck. It's interesting, this decision to go back into the stash and spin some of the oldest stuff first. I'm all surprised by my own stuff... It's like it's Christmas in your own stash.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:49 PM

July 5, 2008

On your mark

Le Tour de Fleece begins today, and I'm starting to get ready. The official beginning is later with some compatriots, but for now I have got to figure out what my challenge will be. The rules say that you should set yourself a challenge (no matter what that is), that you start when the Tour starts (today) and finish when the Tour ends (July 27th) and you should spin from stash. (No problem here.)

I'm loving reading other people's goals. Diane is a new spinner, going to make one skein of yarn, Rebecca is going to spin three bobbins full, Spunsilver is doing an Abby Batt and adding sequins (I have no idea how to do that.) Silke is going to spin 400g of camel, but has been training. (I think, my German is a joke) Teresa is going to work on getting 1200-1600 yds of 2 ply.

I've thought long and hard on it, been diving in the stash, kicking around various ideas, and I think I've come up with a good challenge for me.

1. Spin every day, even if it's only a little, on a spindle project that has been kicking around way, way too long.
2. Working more or less oldest to newest, stash bust to the tune of 1.5 kilograms. (That's 1500g, or 3lbs, 5oz)

I know that sounds like a crazy amount, but I actually just backed off of a 2000g commitment when I saw how big that pile was. It was insane, although I think maybe this pile might be a little bit too insane too...What's that look like?

Tourdefleecestuff

It looks like a lot of fibre, that's what it looks like. (Please do not mention that the problem with busting the fibre stash being that it creates more yarn stash. It'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

Allons-y!

Posted by Stephanie at 1:04 PM

July 4, 2008

Well look at that

Finished. Totally finished.

Donefinbook0407

Everything that I have to do with this book before it is a whole real book? Done. I wrote it, I submitted it, I survived the negotiation that is editing, then copy editing... and now it has spent several days on my desk being proof-read by yours truly one last time. I'll walk to the post office in a few minutes and mail it, and that will be it. The next time I see it, it will be a real finished book. Any typo I didn't find, any errors at all... once I mail it, that's it.

In a few days it will have made it's way to Kansas City, where my editor will look at the things I found, change the master manuscript and then send it to production with her fingers crossed that between the two of us, we've made the best possible book. I hope we have.

I love this book. It's another book of short stories and essays, sort of a sequel to my second book (Yarn Harlot, the secret life of knitter). The pieces in it are longer and more developed than in the other kind of book I write. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of all of my work. All of it, but the other books are like cookies. Fun, good, awesome food, but they don't make up a well balanced diet by themselves. The books of essays are different. I can take as much time as I want to explain an idea, I don't have to dwell only in the realm of knitting for every moment, I can go further afield into human interest and experience - and I can allow a story or point to unfurl as quickly or slowly as it wants. It means that over the course of a whole book there will be funny things, happy things, silly things, sad things, thoughtful things....
The books of essays feel more like meals to me, and they are intensely satisfying to write. I feel like I get my way. I feel like they are not just a part of me, like my other books, but really reflective of who I am.

Writing something that you feel really reflects who you are has a downside, of course. .. and those of us who dabble in low self esteem from time to time know what it is. If you hang something out there that is really a part of you, something intimate, then if someone doesn't like it, that feels like a very intimate hurt. (This is one of the problems with writing a personal blog too, if it's personal, and there is criticism, then that criticism feels personal, because.... well. Frankly it is. Writing a blog has thickened my skin over the years and made me able to stand apart from criticism (or what passes for it, like "I'm never buying your book again because of how you vote" or "You're a complete obsessive-compulsive who cares nothing for others") far better than I would have been able to otherwise. There's nothing like a drive-by comment about your parenting, politics or choices and how it relates to your worth as a human being to make you realize that you've got to pull back a bit if you're going to retain any sense of true self.)

This is all a long way toward saying that putting this in an envelope and mailing it is the weirdest feeling.
I'm relieved to be done. I'm proud of what I've written. I'm scared to death of it being read. I'm horrified and honoured to have been given the chance. I'm worried about everything. I'm delighted it's happening.

I'm going to the post office. I'm mailing my book. A whole, finished, big book that I wrote. Wow.

(PS. Happy 4th to my American neighbours. Have a fabulous weekend.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:59 PM

July 3, 2008

I'm sure you'll understand

This baby sweater, if you could see all the knitting that has actually gone into it, would be the size of an adult garment. The back's been knit another time (killme) and now I've had to rip the shoulder all the way back to the end of the cable because when I was done, the top was bigger than the bottom. I tried to figure out how to make that a design element, but since newborn babies don't wear a lot of really huge 80's style shoulder pads (they don't have the hair volume to pull it off) it truly presented a problem. I stared at it, pulled at it, blocked it, and could not figure out what had gone wrong. I had cast on 30 stitches, knit in garter stitch for a bit, then increased for the cable, then switched back to garter.

Babyyswep0307

Now normally, I would be horrified to report to you that it took 40 minutes to work out that increasing totally makes things bigger, and that if you want something to be the same size at the end that it was at the beginning - then you should have the same number of stitches at the end that you had at the beginning. Normally, this would be one of those blog posts where I would be embarrassed that such a simple explanation didn't make sense to me straight off, but frankly the working conditions around here make it a miracle that I figured it out at all.... and I blame Joe.

I was doing just fine (by a knitters standards) until my loving and erstwhile husband said something unbelievable to our daughter Samantha. Something no parent that worked from home would ever present to a determined 14 year old musician, should they be planning on surviving a summer. That something? The something that has made it a miracle that I know my own name or can function as anything other than a raving lunatic and leaves me proud, PROUD, I tell you, that I can even knit garter stitch, never mind count? He said this:

"If you learn to play the guitar solo from Back In Black, you will never have to do the dishes again. "

Backingblackoso0307

All I want is a jury of my peers.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:26 PM

July 2, 2008

Little Pieces

Tuesdays are for spinning on this blog, and though I totally screw that up on a regular basis, I actually have a little product to show for yesterday.

Sangrybatt0207-1

This is a batt from the Sanguine Gryphon in beautiful reds and orange, with gold and sparkles. (It's not nearly as violently coloured as the photo would lead you to believe.)

Detsanggrybatt0207

It spun up like butter, and although I'm usually anti-sparkle, the amount of glitz in this batt was charming rather than overwhelming, and the resulting yarn has become a skein that I may be able to use as a bribe to get one or two loads of laundry out of a sparkle loving teen or two. (I may hold it back until I see the action.)

Finyarnsang0207

The only bad thing about this wee skein is that it is a wee skein, (and that it's rather underspun) not even enough for a pair of mittens, though it would make a pretty border on a hat or something. I've got to start spinning larger quantities of stuff, or find a better use for these wee ones. Their role as decorative skeins is charming, but sort of pointless.

Even though I've created another wee skein of pointlessness to kick around, it was good practice, since I've decided to take part in Katherine's clever Tour de Fleece this year. By now some of you know that I'm for sure not doing the Knitting Olympics this year. The Knitting Olympics will remain a winter Olympic sport played every four years just like other sports in the Olympics. (I know this disappoints some of you, but keep in mind that things are more special if you don't get them to often, and that waiting is more than half of the fun.) In addition, I'm not so keen on taking part in an Olympics hosted by China within the context of their current human rights issues. I know there's a theory out there that when you boycott the Olympics the only people who suffer are the athletes, but knitters aren't really real athletes in the Olympics and none of us will have a crushed career if we don't compete this year (especially since it's only been two years.) If the politics of it don't bother you and you want to compete this year, can I suggest that you do what real athletes do if they want to compete in the Olympics every two years?

Get another sport. I've long suggested that the summer Olympics are the perfect time for the Crochet Olympics, and that having them separate would mean that people who don't knit at all get something good too, instead of standing in the shadow of another craft, and besides it's double fun and another opportunity for those of you who are bi-craftual, or would like to be.

Me? I don't crochet (or I do, I mean, I know how, but don't care for it and am rather terrible at it) and I've sort of got that little Tibet thing that's bugging me, but your abilities and politics (or maybe your ability to understand that Tibet and fun with crochet are actually unrelated may be greater than mine) and this idea might be just your cup of tea.

Me? Tour de Fleece. I'm all over it. Now I just need to think of what my challenge will be.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:06 PM

July 1, 2008

Oh Canada

Now, I really, really hate that I have to do this, but every year I've been given a whupping. Saying "Canada is a great country" is not a direct translation for "The US stinks". Being pro-Canada is not being anti-US. Saying "I love the way we do things" does not mean "and therefore, you do it wrong". This is a whole different country with different laws and culture. We will never be the same and that does not mean that either country dwells in the heart of darkness. Loving where I live is not bashing the US any more than having fireworks and shouting "USA #1" on the 4th of July (which I thoroughly recommend, since I think a country is only as good as the people who love and defend it) constitutes an attack on Canada. Thus ends the pre-emptive strike. Don't be a hoser.

Every year I take a minute to write a little something about my country on its birthday. I love how international the blog community is, and can't resist the opportunity to do a little PR for the good thing I think we've got going on here. I did "Things to do on Canada Day" and "You know you're a Canadian Knitter when...." then "Stuff you maybe didn't know about us" (Clearly I didn't work hard on that title.) Then last year "Canada A to Z" (and that's "Zed" not "Zee").

This year I was at a loss. I felt like I've done it all, I took my knitting and a good brew to the backyard, and sitting there in the sunshine knitting, it hit me:

Candaybrew0107

In the fine tradition of Random days on blogs, this is:

Random stuff about Canada

This is a country where if we accidentally elect an arse, our political system allows for a do over. Admittedly this creates other problems (like 1984, when three Prime Ministers held office) but at least there's a way out of a bad call, leadership wise.

This is a country with access to good beer, and nobody thinks you're a lush if you drink it at lunch. (Also, if it is hot or if it is a long weekend you can drink it anytime you want. Heat and long weekends are a free pass in the beer department.)

This is a country with something as grand and glorious as CBC Radio. (Three cheers for Vinyl Cafe, As it Happens and DNTO.)

This is a country with a national sense of humour. We are a funny people, and a people that value not taking things too seriously all the time. The best evidence I can offer is that this is a country where a politician running for office appeared bare bummed and leaping into a lake during his campaign and it improved his chances of being elected.

This is a country where the Government (finally) apologized, took responsibility for and began the process of compensation to the Aboriginal People of this land for the shameful way they have been treated. While I can't help but think that this might belong in the "too little, too late" category, I felt proud to hear the words "The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry." come out of Stephen Harpers mouth. (It's one of the only times I've enjoyed hearing the man speak.)

This is a country with the worlds longest National Highway. The Trans Canada Highway is 7, 821km long and goes from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland.

This is a country that is home to David Suzuki.

This is a country that generated the genius of The Logdriver's Waltz, (which still fills me with joy no matter how many times I see it.) not to mention the National Film Board.

This is a country with Universal Health Care, which means that no matter what goes wrong with me or my children, we'll be cared for by the best person for the job, not the best person we can afford. Sure, it's a triage system which means that if we're not very sick we'll have to wait, while sicker people go first, but the fact that the only thing that can move you to the front of the line is your need, not your money? It just makes me more proud.

This is a country that is ranked the 4th most livable country in the world, has one of the highest life expectancies, low infant mortality, and 48% of Canadian adults have a college or university degree. (That's the highest of all OECD countries.) We're ranked 11th on the Global Peace Index, it's safe here, we're very tolerant and we eat more Kraft Dinner per capita than any other country in the world. (I can't explain that last one.)
(Kraft Dinner is the Canadian name for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I don't know why it's labelled differently here.)

This is a country that prides itself on being a mosaic, rather than a melting pot.

This is a country that has the second largest oil deposits in the world and provides the US with more of their oil than the Middle East does.

This is a country with an exceptional Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (It helps that it was written in the 80's. Nice and current.)

This is a country where 77% of the people believe that global climate change is a big problem, where Henry Morgentaler is about to get The Order of Canada, where the flag on Parliament Hill is lowered any day a Canadian Soldier is killed overseas, where 95% believe that our government has a responsibility to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment in other countries, 25% use marijuana at some point in their life, (93% of Canadians support Medical Marijuana use) 78% believe in life somewhere else in the universe, 74% of people consider President Bush a threat to world peace, 54% use alternative medicine along with allopathic medicine, only 8% of us belong to an evangelical Christian church, but 10% believe they have seen a UFO. If Canadians could vote in the next US election, 17% would vote for McCain and 46% for Obama.

This is a country that values "Peace, Order and Good Government." (This is Canada's equivalent to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness")

This is a country that knits. A lot. Think huge knitting guilds with hundreds of members.

This is a country that invented peacekeeping.

This is a country:

where you eat a chocolate bar (not a "candy bar")
where you line up or queue up
where you can buy milk in bags
where almost all tea is served hot, not cold
where you write the date day/month/year.
where you can still do all the hand signals to Skin-a-mar-in-kee-dink-e-dink, and you can't imagine who can't.
where there is the Queen's Plate, longest running stakes horse race in the North America.
where when you and you're kids design hallowe'en costumes, you make sure they can go over a snow suit.
where if a cop gives you a ticket you thank them.
where if the government wastes money it's a scandal that brings down the government.
where it's spelled colour, honour, woollen, woolly, centre, theatre, cauldron, axe, catalogue, cheque, grey, favour, glamour, misdemeanour and ardour.
where you can buy two-fours, chesterfields, Mickeys, poutine, screech, serviettes, tuques, pop... and if you have enough money... Tories or Grits.
where Cuba is an awesome vacation spot.
where you feel very sentimental about Casey, Finnegan, Rusty Jerome, Sharon, Lois and Bram.

This is a country that wants you to keep your stick on the ice. (Literally, and metaphorically.)

Happy Canada Day, and how about using the comments for your version?

Canada is a country where.....

(PS. Sorry about this guys, so many of you are leaving such wonderful comments, but I'm closing them. I know that won't stop the private mail and I can live with that. Really, there's a few people that I'm just gong to save from themselves. For the record, although I'm probably going to have to type it a hundred more times, Canadians having an opinion about the country with whom they share the worlds largest trade relationship and the worlds largest undefended border is appropriate and necessary. The US is a superpower, and what happens in the government there influences the lives of people around the world. US economy down in a mortgage mess = Canadians out of work. I understand the urge to tell the world to mind their own business...but as long as the US has a hand in everyone's business, that's simply not a reasonable request. To quote Spiderman's Uncle Ben "With great power, comes great responsibility." How Americans vote influences the world.)

(PPS: Seriously, as per the disclaimer at the top, saying Canadians have a national sense of humour is not a statement about the US. It's a statement about Canada.)

(PPPS: While we're correcting things, as for the Pride Day thing? Slag me all you want, but I still think that Human Rights should be extended to all Humans, and that Humanity should be the only criteria. I won't be calling you names or threatening your livelihood if you disagree though.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:49 PM