August 29, 2008

Things I won't be knitting today

I won't be knitting my Josephine Top today.


Well. Truth be told I wasn't going to be knitting it anyway. I made a big mistake the other evening (I got suckered again by "at the same time" in the directions, so I tidily made all the neck increases (wrong actually, I had to do them twice) and then after making all of them (twice) I read "At the same time...." and it was too damned late and well. Third time's the charm. Except that while all of this was going on I totally had to put a sweater on because it was only 13 degrees out, and I suddenly the whole fire for the soy silk tank top went right out of me.. ya know? (It's supposed to be 30 degrees with the humidex today, and even warmer tomorrow, so I guess the jokes on me there. I suppose that if I pick the tank back up the temperature will plummet again. I'm not naive.)

I won't be knitting on my Hey Teach today...


even though the passion for it burns in me yet brightly. It's an impulse knit. I got the yarn for it just the other day, and although I don't usually knit with cotton or bast fibres (the lack of elasticity doesn't please me) I'm having a pretty good time, though I did only just start. This is Misti Cotton (83% cotton, 17 % silk) and though it's still not my favourite fibre combo to knit... I think it's going to be one of my favourites to wear, and a lovely little bridge garment for the fall. I'm going to see if I can finish it for my next trip, which is to London on Wednesday. (Is is already too cool to wear this in London? Note to self. Check weather in London. Also, buy one of those plug things for the laptop.) This isn't usually the sort of thing I would rush out and start, but something about this one just got me. I labour under the delusion (though the orange one did totally work out) that this sweater will let me look both professional and knitterly at the same time, which I've noticed is not always the easiest look to pull off. (My mother would be so pleased that I've considered having "a look". I hope she doesn't hope this is going to lead to lipstick.)

I won't be knitting on my new socks either.


I started these the other night after Curlerchik gave it to me. I'd seen them on her needles and admired them mightily, and totally by co-incidence I had right that second started not liking the sock that I had on my needles, so off that came and on these went. (I'm sure that how much I love this colourway had nothing to do with suddenly finding the other one - which I shan't identify, since I'm sure it's perfectly lovely and simply not to my taste - a steaming heap of wooldung.) This is Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Sock colour HS04 (I appear to be on a bit of a Misti Jag. Odd that.)

No, no... I won't be knitting any of that - no matter how much I want to, because I am a grown up, and grown ups sit down and do their paperwork when push comes to shove. Sure, sure... they rent three movies, get good chocolate and decent bottle of wine before they do it... but they sit there and do it, and that's what I'm going to do. No email. No internet. No knitting. No internet about knitting. Nothing but trashy movies and a stack of stupid paperwork that is threatening to take over not just my desk, but my entire office and swathes of other parts of our home. In fact, there's so much that I am starting to fear that I'll have to issue whistles and avalanche beacons to visitors who don't know the danger areas. I know it's going to feel like a million dollars to have it done, I really do. I know that it's going to set a good example for my kids about doing your stuff and not getting behind digging yourself out gracefully when you get really far behind... and in tomorrow, (assuming that this mess can be dug out of in a single day, which I have to assume, since the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.) I can return to knitting while feeling guilty about the cleaning, shopping, laundry and writing. (Actually, I can return to knitting while feeling guilty that I don't feel guilty for not cleaning, shopping, doing the laundry or writing.)
I'm going to do my paperwork.
That's what I'm going to do. Totally. Almost totally.
For (mostly) sure.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:58 PM

August 27, 2008

An Actual Conversation

Yesterday afternoon I was knitting on the subway, headed toward Rachel H's house so that we could go up to the Aurora Guild and drink beer and eat butter tarts speak to the guild. (Good times.) I sat there, going round and round on a sock with four DPNs, and a woman and her son, maybe 7 or eight years old, got on and sat opposite me. The boy watched me for a little bit, and then turned to his mum and said
"What's she doing?" The mum looks and me, then turns to him and says, quite confidently
"She's crocheting". I smile at the pair of them, and then I say to the little boy
"Actually, it's knitting!"
...and the mum looks at me, quirks her eyebrow up, and says, in a haughty and reproachful voice:

"Excuse me... I think I know the difference."

I was stunned. Stunned stupid. Stunned speechless (which actually happens more often to me than you would expect, considering how many speeches I give.) Who argues with the person actually doing a craft? Who does that?
I stared at her, trying really hard to figure out what to say... and I came up empty. I had nothing. Not a single word. (That's a lie. I had a few things, but they were rude, or bordering on rude, or not particularly clever, like "Are you sure about that?" or "Nuh -uh" and I'm not the sort to be rude, or at least I'm the sort who tries to avoid it.) I sat there opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish.

Usually, when this sort of thing happens, I have a brilliant retort. Not then of course, I never have one then....but way later, maybe 3am, when I sit straight up in bed and think of a brilliant, but now entirely useless comeback. This time though, I've come up with nothing.
Any suggestions then, for a civil, clever comeback? What would you have said?
(Not that it's ever going to come up again, I mean... Who says that?)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:41 AM

August 26, 2008


Marjorie asked in the comments yesterday if I'd finished Manon, and I heaved a huge sigh. I hadn't. I finished all the pieces last week, and I sewed it up and blocked it... it looked fantastic really, and the only thing it needed was some form of closure. (I'm sure we can all sympathize with the sweater.) Norah's pattern called for a hook and eye, and I raided my sewing notions box and couldn't come up with one, so the whole process stalled out until I could get out and buy some. Some time in the last while, the Fabricland at Jane and Bloor closed (I discovered this when I rode over and couldn't get a zipper) and I haven't figured out a new place to go yet, so the whole thing seemed complex to me. (I am a simple creature.) I decided that it would help to bring it to Cape Cod, because I thought (?) that I might come across one in my travels. (How I thought that a family vacation might cause a hook and eye set to fall into my hands fully formed, I just can't explain.) Sadly, there were no sewing notions on the Boston history walk, nor in the Graveyard where Paul Revere is buried, nor in Provincetown (lest I rip one from the evening gown of a guy way bigger than me, and since they were only barely covering their bits at best...) Nor was there a sewing supply store sprung up amongst the trees alongside the Cape Cod Rail Trail. In fact, I arrived back home without a single opportunity to buy a closure having presented itself. (I was a little surprised about that, which really just means that there's something wrong with me. I didn't even look for a store.) In any case, I was a little sad then, when Marjorie asked about it, because it was so close and yet so far... and, I reflected forlornly, ironic... since I don't even like hook and eye closures.


That's when it occurred to me. (I know.. I know.. but Norah Gaughan said I needed a hook and eye. She's a goddess. I have a hard time discounting the things she says.) I could use a button. (I cannot believe that I'm writing a blog entry about the decision to switch from a hook and eye to a button. This is doing nothing to support my position that I'm a really interesting person.) I crocheted across the front edges on the inside to stabilize the edge - they flared out because of the ribbing...


I crocheted a little chain loop...
I fastened off...


and Tah Dah!


Love it. I think it fits just right, I think the colour is just perfect. One reader wrote to say that didn't I think that orange seemed to her an impractical colour. Orange, she felt, wouldn't match much in a wardrobe. Clearly she doesn't own enough seventies appliance coloured clothing. This sweater matches almost everything that I own.
It's an interesting pattern, entertaining to the knitter but still not ending up being some odd as fish freak sweater. Super wearable. Elegant details.


Manon, pattern from Norah Gaughan Vol 1. Knit from Valley Yarns Amherst. Colour "Cayenne".
4.5mm needles.
(Also, my hair is not that colour in real life and I don't think my shoulders are like that.)


I'm going to wear it tonight to speak to the Aurora Guild. (It's a Guild member thing. You can read about it on CurlerChik's blog if you're interested.) I think this is one of the most fun sweaters I've knit in a while, and I feel very properly dressed when I'm wearing it... like maybe I have on an outfit, instead of just clothes.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:32 PM

August 25, 2008

The Point of Balance

The point of balance is exactly what I've been seeking the last three weeks, trying to balance out all the time that I've been away from the family by having tons of time with them, and trying to seek that point of balance before (rather frankly) I leave them again. Between the cabin in the woods and the tours and the wool events and a thousand other things, I have found that being a writer- and the huge amounts of privacy needed to be a writer (combined with the public stuff) is not exactly conducive to family life, being that families thrive on the opposite.

Finding that balance has been challenging for all parties. Joe had been asking me to make the family a priority for a couple of weeks for a while - to not share me for a while, and though it was hard for me to see through the neverending haze of the work that is supporting this family, I started to understand that no matter how much everybody needed me to work, they also needed me, and it was never going to balance itself out if we didn't take the time to balance it on purpose, and this last little while, that's exactly what we did.

As I'm sure you noticed, towards the end there I didn't even blog - although the last couple of days were due to the fact that I got a humdinger of a cold as soon as we got back. (All that vacation can wear you out. Joe's got it too now. The girls don't. There's a lesson in that.) We had a blast. Whole days without either Joe or I worrying about work or doing work, whole days without conversations being interrupted by anything other than the kids... whole conversations and days with the kids.... and the knitting? True vacations are wicked good for the knitting. Socks got knit in the car on the way to Massachusetts, socks got knit in Boston while we saw the sights and visited with Joe's Aunt, Uncle and cousins (they were wonderful hosts) and socks got knit on a very fun day in Provincetown.


I may even have found some sock friendly Carnival Revellers to hold a sock.


(The beard and moustache with the sparkly gown is hysterical to me, as is the willingness of just about everyone to hold a sock without any sort of an explanation. ) We went for a fabulous ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail.


We stopped and played at the beach a little.



(The truth is out now. I have Fred Flintstones feet. Short and wide.) We rode and rode, the whole lot of us.



And we ended the day the way we know how. Joe's Stella, Ken's Bass Ale and sweater in progress.. my sock and Sam Adams Summer ale. (When in Rome...) I finished that sock in the car...


But here's a better picture.


It's a pattern of my own devising, and I'm going to knit the other one after I write down what I did so I can do it again. (Yarn is Sanguine Gryphon's little traveller, which seemed really appropriate.)


The blue trekking ones were finished too...


Trekking 108, my plain vanilla sock pattern.


and I even started a new project, even though I promised myself that I would absolutely finish the other socks first.


I am worthless and weak. That's the Josephine Top from Interweave Knits Summer 2007, done in a yarn I've been wanting to use for a while. It's the SWTC Pure 100% soysilk, and as someone who eats a lot of soy, I was really curious about knitting with it. It's soft and reminiscent of cotton, in the way that it's a limp fibre, almost flaccid. It's a tiny bit splitty on the needles, but I think that I could get around that if I used a slightly sharper needle, which I totally can't be bothered to do, so how splitty can it be, really. It's got gorgeous stitch definition and I think the lack of body is going to work for this project.
It's going really fast, which means that I'm not really cheating on the socks. I'm just... on a break. Yeah. That's it. Besides, I can't really knit the other socks until I finish the pattern, which I didn't so I can't. Besides it was a vacation and you can knit what you want on a vacation... and besides, now that I've started I should finish or now it'll just be another UFO (Un Finished Object) lying around the house and trying to avoid that was the whole idea anyway, so If I put this down then I'm just being hypocritical. For sure. I have to knit this. It's morally important.

(Ps. A whole bunch of you asked, so in the interest of not replying to you all individually, which I'm sorry for, but a couple of weeks off makes the inbox a place crazier than a kindergarten yard growing candy trees... No, the Baby Yours and Baby Mine patterns are not going to be made available in the future... they are available now. Here, and Here. Sorry. Forgot to mention. Also, Yes. Really. The first and second sizes of each of them can be made with one skein of STR medium weight, should it reside in your stash... and Sorry, No, those are vintage buttons from my bin and I can't tell you where to get them. In addition, Yes, Baby Mine does have the same lace as my Lenore sock pattern, and yes, that sock pattern will be available from Blue Moon soon, it was a sock club pattern so it has to do its time as an exclusive before it can be released to the general public. Yes, that will be in October, which is soon. Did I miss anything?)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:12 PM

August 20, 2008

After the beep

Sorry, Stephanie can't come to the blog right now, she is continuing to make amends to her family for all the time that she was away this last year by spending virtually every waking (and sleeping) moment of her life with them right now. (This has not begun to wear yet, but the trip is young.)
She is working on two pairs of socks at present, pictured here in the current location of Stephanie's family.



That's the plain Trekking ones (#108) for knitting in the dark while we drive.

These are a very nice sock out of Little Traveller sock yarn from the Sanguine Gryphon. (Stephanie regrets that she no longer knows the colour, and the colour is greener than this, but does think it very fetching.)


(We were just checking it out with Meg. No big news.)


This leafy little sock is a pattern of my own devising, but I like it a lot. Today, Stephanie is having a family adventure of the cycling kind - and will return to the blog as soon as the aforementioned family permits.

PS. There are several really good comments yesterday on the library issue, as well as more information here, and here. Keep in mind, as you debate - that we were not presented with all of the facts (and as suggested by the director - see the comment from Maureen August 19 at 8:25am- perhaps the ones we got were not even wholly accurate.

In addition, remember that this is a very, very, very tiny library - open only part- time hours in a very small community. Unlike a city library, or even a town library, there aren't whole days to fit in programs, nor are there multiple activity rooms - or even multiple librarians. Think singular. There aren't as many choices as there would be in a larger space, and that matters. Finally, the library has said that the video games (which would be an occasional evening, not a bi-weekly programme, like the knitting) would be part of a larger themed literacy evening with other components, not just a whack of teenagers sitting around wailing on guitar hero. This article was written by a member of the knitting group (which it turns out, is not just a group of little girls) and has - as you might expect, contains a bias towards their situation designed to make you sympathetic to the cause. ) Nowhere, in any of the articles has it said that knitting or arts and crafts is being replaced by weekly video games. Nowhere.

Finally, please, please, please, remember than nobody has 'BANNED" knitting. It sounds like you are welcome to knit in this library, and the group is even welcome to continue the group in the library if - like the other programmes there... they make it obviously about literacy, which to me (someone who has managed to combine books and knitting somehow) makes it sound even more lovely.

Carry on.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:31 AM

August 18, 2008

Discuss. I give you a topic

I've gotten email and notes on Ravelry, and private messages and noise in the forums.. all, over this.

Children's knitting group turfed from library under new craft ban.

You can click on that to read the article, and I hope you will before we go any further, and I hope you do, because it's easier to discuss things with people who know what you're talking about. In short, (but do go read it) a library in Eastern Ontario has decided to shift more of it's activities towards literacy, and this means that they will not be using their resources to run a knitting club any more. Actually, they are not going to do any arts and crafts at all.

Now, I've been hearing a tremendous amount of noise about this. Tremendous, and I wasn't going to write about it at all (on account of I don't run the library) and because most of the mail I was getting was along the lines of "Stephanie, please organize a march with flaming torches in which we all go down to the library and right all wrongs in the name of knitting." which... I'm sure it will shock you... I'm not really inclined to do.

Let's lay down the arguments, and have a proper debate, shall we?

Points made against the Library by lots of people who have emailed me.

Knitting is good for the human brain, therefore, discouraging children from doing it is wrong, no matter what the setting.

The library is a community space, and the community should define its use.

The children were being very good, so who does it hurt?

Anything that gets kids into libraries is good - even if it's not about reading.

Many education systems, (notably Waldorf schools) believe (as I do) that reading and knitting are linked activities for the human brain, and that engaging in one, supports the other. Besides, knitting has pattern reading, which is sort of about reading.

Knitting good. Lady stopping knitting bad.


Points made for the library by... well... me. Though I'm sure there're others.

All activities run in the library take up space and staff. Since the library is not a community centre, but a municipal service to promote literacy, they don't have a responsibility to do arts and crafts with the kids.

A library deciding to focus on literacy is not really all that shocking or wrong.

Even if knitting and literacy are connected (and frankly, as much as I wish it were not true, there's little proof), the knitting club was only appealing to a few girls, and the library needs to shift its programme to something with broader appeal.

If the library makes an exception for the knitting club, they have to make exceptions for all the other crafts programmes at all the other branches, because who says those other kids don't love and enjoy the value in their crafts too? I don't think there's any way to put back what one group loves without putting back what all kids love, and then .. well. They haven't managed to change anything, which they must be doing for a reason.

Finally, the manager of library services has said, "If they want to knit in the library, why not formulate a book club and knit as you discuss a book?" This seems to me to be some sort of evidence that the woman is not on a personal mission to obliterate knitting or make little girls suffer, but instead seems sort of hung up on this whole "the library should be about books and reading" thing, which isn't really that terrible, is it?


I'm the same sort of knitter as most of you. I think that knitting is really valuable, and really important, and has far more significance than most mortals know. I also think that there is almost no place and no time when knitting isn't appropriate.... but this isn't what we're talking about here - is it? What we're talking about is asking a library to run a programme that isn't about books or literacy, and use their time, space and staff to do it.

The library hasn't, in the end, "banned" knitting, as I've heard... they've moved their programme, for which they have a municipal budget, closer to their mandate. They aren't a community centre. They haven't asked people not to knit in the library, they've said they won't pay for it... and more than that, they've said that if the little girls will give their knitting club a bookish bent, then they are welcome to carry on. Now, I don't know about you, but I think that asking the little knitting club to discuss a book each week while they knit, should they like to use the library (rather than a community centre or a home) isn't exactly an offence that qualifies as child abuse or a crime against our grand and venerable art.

When I've thought about all of that (and worked through the little bit of anger I had because I do think knitting is just that valuable) I have to wonder...

Just because I don't like their policy... does that really make it terribly wrong?

Posted by Stephanie at 10:15 AM

August 15, 2008

The Hurrier I Go

Sweater? Oh yeah.


The pieces are all done, but there's been no time in the last few days to sew it together and find out if it fits or anything. I'm in the studio this week recording this book, and it's crazy trying to pull anything else out of a day. I was seriously behind on all of my work when we got back from vacation on Monday, and now being in the studio full-time hours is totally messing with me. The fact that Joe's here too is fun and it's sort of neat working together again, but it means that there's nobody even pretending to be taking care of the kids or the house.


( I know, I know. My kids are teenagers and I shouldn't worry so much, but I really think that teens need more supervision than 11 year olds who can't think of anything really awful to do.) The place is trashed, there's still suitcases with laundry in them in the living room, and yesterday when we called the house and asked Sam what she was doing and how she was getting on, she said she was really busy smoking crack, drinking beer and watching Law and Order. Smartarse.

At least there's only her to worry about, since our little Megan turns 17 today, and that's way too mature to get into any trouble at all. Right?


Happy Birthday Meg.. see you later. Dinner's going to be awesome.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:33 AM

August 13, 2008

Mostly Armless

I hate to say it, because I know that it invites the wrath of whatever weight in the universe dictates the path of knitting, but I'm still knitting Manon, and it's going really well. Fantastically well. Not a glitch, not a missed stitch, haven't ripped anything back, haven't even tinked a stitch.

I finished the peplum of the thing while I was in Newfoundland, while waiting for the other ball of pink yarn to turn up, and it worked out perfectly.


I even had the presence of mind to check for errata before I started, printed it off and put it in the pattern book. It's so unlike me. I knit a swatch, I washed the swatch, I almost got gauge, knit another swatch on a smaller needle and even washed that swatch to be sure. I've knit the fronts and back now, and they look great, and like the picture, and I think there's really no problem.


There's just sleeves to go and then I'll have a sweater. A trauma-less sweater. A sweater that just sort of arrived. I know that by talking about how fun and easy this sweater has been that I'm inviting the knitting muses to smack me hard - something like - I finish the whole sweater in record time with no problems and it doesn't fit, or it fits, but it looks like crap on me anyway. Or I finish and it fits and it looks fantastic, and it's stolen out of my knitting bag by a strange and mentally ill one eyed ex-hunter, now homeless and wandering the streets of Toronto, driven to collect garments this colour by the once valuable knowledge that wearing orange could make them safer. (The sweater, by the way, is not quite this orange. The WEBS picture of this yarn is closer. I have no idea what's up with my camera.) In any case, the straightforward nature of this sweater has left my mind free to wander, and I've come up with an idea.

Rachel H, Molly and I take part in a private yoga class at one of the nicest yoga studio's in town. I like the place because it's not too fancy or weird or anything. Just a good space with nice teachers. After months of this, we noticed that as knitters, there were certain exercises that we were good at, certain ones we could feel we needed, and we realized that there might be an interesting idea here. We talked with Rosanne (our very nice yoga teacher) and she's agreed that we should try something.

Yoga for knitters. These will be regular yoga classes that have a special focus on loosening and strengthening arms, wrists and shoulders and helping to prevent repetitive strain injuries, as well as some general yoga that is a good idea for anyone who takes part in a sedentary hobby... like knitting. You don't have to be a knitter to come (we think this would be a good idea for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting at a computer too) and the classes will be suitable for raw beginners who don't know a thing about yoga and have never done it, while offering modifications to kick it up a notch for those who have experience or take to it really well.

Since I'm the one who talked Rosanne into this (she loves the idea, but has no idea how fast a knitter train can come into the station) I'm going to organize it for her until she decides if it should keep going or not. It's a pretty unique idea, and one I'm willing to sign up for (I'm not in business with Rosanne, so you know I'm being honest here- ) since I think it could be really, really neat. Rosanne has a really relaxed style of teaching, not too hippy crunchy, but still very true to the principles of yoga - and she's used to knitters. In any event, we'll decide how many classes or how often to run them when I hear who's interested. Classes will be limited to 12 people - knitters of both genders are welcome and the first one would be Friday the 22nd at 7:00. (There will be ones after that or on other days to fit everyone who's interested in... assuming there are more than 12 of us who think it's fun or want to keep going.)

Email me for more information, or if you want me to sign you up.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:03 PM

August 12, 2008

Home again, home again

While that was one of the nicest trips we've had we're home today, and properly sad to have left and thrilled to be back. I'd been aiming to finish the Hibiscus for Hope socks on the trip, and totally would have done it too, except for the days that the yarn spent travelling from Toronto to St. John's. My fault. I knew I would forget something, I always do. These socks are knitted toe up, so I divided the yarn into two balls, put both in my suitcase - then decided I would start them on the plane and took one ball out and put it in my purse, then started to think about how the plane could get delayed, or since we were flying standby, we could maybe not get on that flight and have to wait for the next flight with open seats... or maybe I would suddenly knit way faster than I usually do, and I would finish the first sock in the first two hours of the flight and be unprepared for the last hour, so at the very last second I took the other ball of yarn out of my suitcase and put it on the chesterfield beside my purse, and apparently then, walked out the door. I knew before we were even halfway to the airport that I'd forgotten it. I emailed Ken when I got to St. John's and asked him to send it, but it was a couple of days before he could do it. Apparently he has one of those lives to live, and he doesn't just sit around waiting to mail me yarn.

In any case, there was a bit of a lag while I waited for the yarn to turn up, and that put me behind schedule and the socks didn't get finished in St. John's, but on the flight from St. John's to Montreal. I did the bind off while we waited for the flight to Toronto, and got Sam to model them in the terminal.


She was thrilled to comply, since modelling knitwear in public places while your Mum takes close up pictures of your feet is every teenagers dream.


In fact, she was so thrilled that shortly before I took this picture, asking her to please extend her feet a little more into the meagre light in the departure gate, she said "Mum, you're ruining my teenaged years" which I know is a joke because aren't those pretty socks?


I'm sure she meant to say something along the lines of "Darn I'm proud of you mum. You're just the cleverest" because I happen to know that there are way more embarrassing things that this. Things like your mum standing outside the change-room at The Bay and yelling in, so every person shopping in the whole store can hear her "How are those pants in the crotch? Are they too tight in the CROTCH?" Ask my how I know. Modelling socks is small potatoes.

I'm thrilled with these socks.


That's a shot from when the first one was done, but the colour's way more accurate.

Hibiscus for Hope socks, a pattern for the fight against breast cancer (follow that link and pledge Ramona in the Toronto weekend to end breast cancer if you want it.) knit on 2.25mm needles from STR Rosebud lightweight.

Why the rush? Why ship yarn all over Canada and knit like the wind? Meet Elsie.


Elsie is a dear family friend, staying with Joe's mum and dad in St. John's while she has radiation treatment for breast cancer, since where she lives in Newfoundland doesn't have a machine. (Small town.) She's going to be fine, but it still totally sucks, and I thought that deserves some special socks to wear while she's there. Old Joe flew with us to Toronto, and right back to St. John's last night, so by this morning, Elsie should have her socks.

It's a real pity that I can think of more people to knit these for.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:16 AM

August 11, 2008

Walk on the beach

Mere moments outside St. John's is the Memorial University Ocean Studies centre - right here on the edge of Logy Bay. Imagine for a moment that this -


is where you go to school to learn about the sea. Pretty good deal, eh? (We may have been presenting this as an idea, but because we are very cagey parents we were very subtle about it and simply ran about the lab shrieking "Wouldn't this be GREAT!!) Outside the lab (where you can't go unless you're a student, but doesn't it look INTERESTING!!) there's a big water table full of stuff from the ocean. A third year student in Marine Biology comes outside when you turn up and teaches you all about everything. It sounds a little silly, but it was one of the neatest things we did. You can touch everything (mind the crabs- they touch back) and hold everything and we loved every minute of it. Even the almost 17 year old was hugely amused.


See this?


It's a sea cucumber. Sea cucumbers fill themselves with sea water - this one is emptying himself (herself? I suspect it's hard to tell) of all the water because he's nervous. (I know humans with the same problem.) When he was done he was considerably deflated, which is sort of the goal, he's trying to look less delicious. The girl told us that if he was really panicked, he would take very drastic measures, which include expelling much of his internal organs in the same way. The idea is that the predator after him would then be distracted and eat those, and the cucumber would use that time to escape, hide somewhere and re-grow his innards. Hell of a plan really.


This is a little sea peach (I'm holding it. It was not firm.)


This is a scallop. See the black dots around the edge? Those are its EYES. (I'm serious. I wouldn't lie to you. Plus, I asked the girl "seriously?" and she was all "why would I make something like that up?" The whole thing just seems so implausible, doesn't it? I mean... eyes?


Sea Urchin. Very stiff, very spiky.


Sea star. (What a great colour. They were all brilliant.) The girl stroked the mouth of the thing and this is what happened.


That's how it eats. If it finds something good, it ejects its stomach, surrounds the yumminess, digests it, then brings the stomach back in. I know that seems like a risky manoeuvre, but the oceans full of these things, so it must be ok. After learning all about this stuff, we went walking down on the beach at Outer Cove. (In capelin season, the fish "roll" on the beach. So many of them come in that people scoop them with buckets. Millions of fish. Millions.) We walked along and we all did what we liked best.


Old Joe threw rocks.


My Joe tried to remember why he left home.



Sam thought that maybe becoming a Marine Biologist would be a good job.


I took pictures with a sock. (No starfish were harmed in the making of this blog entry.) I am indeed coming along on the second sock of the Hibiscus for Hope pair, despite my yarn getting stuck in the mail. It was to be delivered on Friday, but that ended up being Regatta day, and that meant that it wouldn't have arrived until the next mail day, which was today (Monday.) Being a city girl, I thought that there was nothing that could be done about that, but I forgot where I was in the world. Joe called down to the National Purolator office on Friday, got the number for the St. John's office, explained how much I really wanted that package, and they went into the back and fetched it for him, and he picked it up from the depot on Saturday. No issues.
I couldn't believe it. "Welcome to Newfoundland" Joe said.

PS. For all of you who noticed my eldest daughter Amanda missing from that family photo yesterday... Yup. She's not with us. She's 19 now, in between her first and second year of college and working this summer. No time to lolly-gag around with all of us. I miss her a lot. I keep thinking "Amanda would love that" or turning to tell her something. Funny, I thought my kids would go on vacation with me forever.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:43 AM

August 10, 2008

Born upon the bright blue sea

I knew that I was going to love Loyola O'Brien the minute I stepped on his boat and he gave the "little bit of a safety talk" and told us how to put on a life vest. "There's two ways to put on a life vest" he told us, "The wrong way, and the right way, which is quickly me by's, because she's not a big boat, and if she goes down, she's going fast." Then he acknowledged that if the boat did go down, that the life vests would be of little help in the freezing North Atlantic, and suggested that if there were a little trouble, we put on the vests (the right way) and then follow him to the life boats in the back. The Captain, he advised us, would not be going down with the ship.


We sailed out of Bay Bulls, and as we did, Loyola sang "Fiddlers Green" into the waves as Greg sailed us out past the incredible rocks and caves carved by the surf, right past Witless bay, and out into the sea (big waves) to an ecological seabird reserve, all of us hoping to run into a whale on the way, and to out run the fog and the rain that are still dogging this trip. (I'm writing this on Sunday morning, and it's raining again.)


The birds were really something. These are mostly common murres, known to Newfoundlanders by their two other names, according to Loyola. Some Newfoundlanders call them a Turr, and others use their more usual name, which is "delicious in a big pot of stew".


There was boatloads of them. Just boatloads. They swooped and dove (more than 100 feet into the water for food) and I found out that they live for about 35 years, which seems to me to be a seriously good run for a life on the sea.


Those are puffin holes (and puffins, though they are a little wee in that picture) 60% of North America's puffin population live on these islands off Witless bay, though only when they are breeding. The rest of the time they live all the way out on the open sea. Those burrows they make in the ground are .5 to 2.5m long (2-8ft) and the puffins use them like runways for takeoff. They dive and swoop and crash into the ocean, hunting up the capelin that they love to eat. Capelin is a little smelt fish that swarms by the millions and millions in the waters here, and are food for everything. Seabirds, squid, seals, cod....everything eats capelin, and when the capelin is running, the waters here are practically infested with every sea creature you can imagine, including whales at every turn.


This is a humpback whale, and I know the pictures aren't very impressive, but the whale was. Huge guy. Massive. Maybe 14m long (that's 46 ft). That's his long pectoral fin above as he rolls in the water. He was travelling rather than eating this day, and he was fast. Loyola said that even though whales may seem to be alone, their calls carry so far in the water that this whale could have been answering a dinner call from his buddy whale two bays over, and in a whale context, they would still be "together".


When the tail comes up like that it means that the whale is probably diving deep, just the way that your feet might come up if you're going to the bottom of the pool. We followed this guy for a bit, and minke whales swam nearby us while we did.


That's one of the three islands of the Witless Bay Ecological reserve. Chock full of those birds and whales and everything else, and not a single human.


That's us. The sea looks still, but it's not. Really not. Really not enough that even Joe took gravol, which shocked the snot out of me (and made me feel way better about being sort of green if I didn't stay close to the water line.)


This is Greg, captain of the boat and all round good sport and fun guy. We had a blast.

Then it rained. (That's starting to be really thematic.)

Posted by Stephanie at 9:20 AM

August 8, 2008

Regatta Day

I swear, this mobile civic holiday is the oddest thing. The whole province getting up at 6m to listen to the radio and find out if the weather is good enough to row on one little lake in Quidi Vidi - and if it is, the entire province closes and everyone has a holiday. Nobody goes to work, no mail comes, everything is closed....Newfoundland is a really big place, and every city, town, outport and village gets a proper day off on Regatta Day and the whole thing gets decided in the morning based on the weather. I'd say it was crazy but I've been living their weather for a couple of days now, and I totally get it.

This morning the sun finally came out a little, and the Royal St. John's Regatta went grandly ahead after a two day delay, full of pomp, history and outstanding good humour. From the Grandparents backyard in Quidi Vidi we could see one end of the lake, and sure enough, rowers appeared straight away this morning, turning at this end before heading back to the party end of the lake. There's a whole lot of races run all day, whittling down the teams until there's only the male and female championships left to run in the evening, so we did some other stuff before heading down. I for one, finished a sock.


That's the first of a pair of Hibiscus for Hope socks (you can get the pattern by sponsoring Ramona in the 60k walk that is the Toronto weekend to end breast cancer fundraiser) in the very pretty and pink "Rosebud" STR - lightweight.


I left the other half of the skein balled up on my chesterfield in Toronto, but Ken launched a rescue by sending it along to me here...

Unfortunately, today was Regatta Day and no mail delivery (and Saturdays don't have mail delivery in Canada at all - never mind in Quidi Vidi) so I'm hoping it will turn up soon. Pretty single sock non-the less. Finishing that meant I had to take another sock on our hike today - but luckily, I am a complete professional who packed more knitting projects than clothes. (I admit, on some of the nippier days here, I have regretted the proportion there.)

While Old Joe took the ladies to Water Street for a poke about, Joe and I walked to the old village of Quidi Vidi and into the harbour ("The Gut")


and had a beer and a black horse in the oddest little pub down the lane.


When we got back, Old Joe, Joe, the ladies and I, set up a nearby hill, on a hike that Old Joe assured me was perfectly safe and a "walk for old ladies".


He's simply out of his mind. I want to know how many old ladies per year that hike kills. It ended up being another hike that gave me cramps while I watched the girls cavort on the edges of yet more cliffs of doom - although in a moment that I am sure took years off of their lives, it was me who slipped for a second and flirted with death. (Ironically, this moment occurred because I thought Sam wasn't being careful enough and stopped concentrating on my own footwork so that I could urge caution on her part. I feel that the planetary shove in the direction of the cliffs edge was just the earths way of coming down hard on the side of Old Joe and my husband, who think that a little danger is good for kids and I should lighten up. They're likely right. The kids are steady as rocks out there.)


The team gave a big rock a shove...


Old Joe thinks that it likely moves a little each time they do this, and that after years of effort his various grandchildren will eventually succeed in pushing the thing of the cliff and into the sea. (He is not the sort of man who needs instant gratification.)


The girls think it's a grand rock for sitting on.

(I think that shoving it to make it loose and then sitting on it while it's tipped to the sea like that is madness. Joe thinks I should drink less coffee.) We mad our final assault on the summit, then wound our way back down, looking over Quidi Vidi Harbour, Quidi Vidi Lake (where the Regatta is) and St. John's on the way.


When we were all the way down, we went the whole way around the lack and took in the Championship races. (Very Exciting.) It was more than grand, and I'm going to let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves - with just a couple of captions.
Click to embiggen any shot.

Smiles: Constabulary, dog, coxswain of the women's champions.


food - Chips, gravy, dressing... samosas.... moose burgers.


The Lake side Motel (Aka Her Majesty's Penitentiary) overlooking the whole Regatta.


Games of chance:






Row, row, row a boat:


I don't think there's anything like it. The soundtrack for the whole thing was the CLB (Church Lads Brigade) Band playing grand Newfoundlander classics wafting along the water.

It was worth the wait.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:58 PM

August 7, 2008

Way far away, with whales watching

Still too windy for the Regatta today, though I think most of the province suspects (as I do) that a Friday Regatta would be an incredible thing and didn't really hope for a clear Thursday. We spent near all of today at Cape Spear, the easternmost point on the entire continent of North America, and one of my favourite places on earth, though when I am on Newfoundland I somehow find myself saying that over and over again.


When you are in Cape Spear, Ireland closer than a host of other Canadian cities (not to imply that Cape Spear is a city, far from it. Now that the Lighthouse is automated, I think the population is zero.


The sock. As far east as you can go on the continent without fear of a rogue wave taking you into the sea.

Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary... hell, Vancouver is 5078 km away, but the green coast of Ireland is only 3000 km away over the fact, Cape Spear is closer to Greenland than to my home in Toronto 2112 km away.


This proximity to Ireland explains much of the place, especially the geography and - were you here to listen, the accent of the people. It's a remarkable thing.

Newfoundland is hard edges and blowing wind and grey skies and a big fierceness that is moving to the core of you. Everything here is large and striving and it can kill you if you are a stupid city girl for even a moment, and it's heartbreakingly, achingly beautiful.

Here, my Newfoundlander husband tries clearly to kill our children.. or at least that's how it seemed to me while every internal organ I had cramped up... but I don't even like them to stand too close to the edge of the subway platforms, never mind the cliffs of doom.


Joe's right to let them do these things. Wild hikes, leaning over cliffs, searching for whales....


... even finding whales... a whole pod right off the cape, blowing and breaching in the intermittent sun. While I trail behind, trying hard to let them have an afternoon like his whole childhood, and trying to figure out how he lived.

Cape Spear is still an operating lighthouse, a newer automated tower sitting to the left of the old one,


but the original lighthouse is still there, restored to the way that it was when the only people who lived on Cape Spear were the lighthouse keeper and his family, and they lived in this building together, keeping a light on for ships aiming for St. John's harbour. My friends... it is, like all of Newfoundland... a very knitty place.

There are sweaters draped over chairs and in chests, hanging by hooks near wool pants with garter stitch suspenders.




mittens drying by windows,


socks in the lighthouse keepers boots,


There were knitting needles spied in baskets in the lighthouse sitting room...


big baskets of roving and cards by the window.


Even what Joe thought might be okum, roving of wool - not the typical cotton you would find elsewhere... you can't grow cotton in Newfoundland, waiting to be soaked with wax or tar to chink holes in buildings and ships.


There was even the famous Cape Spear Coverlet, which I have long dreamed of seeing.

There it lay

in all it's glory, and it was worth every minute.


It must have been knit on needles no larger than 2.5mm - maybe 3mm if you wanted to be generous, out of cotton thread that must have been really dear at the time. The dude there to answer questions said that each little shell would have taken at least 45 minutes, and I think he's about right. I don't feel like guessing how many of them are there. It's a testament to the length of the Newfoundland winters... right there.

There's another...


and there's something that makes teens laugh if you take them there.


Sperm WHALE. For the record. (It was used to fuel the light. Git yer minds out of the gutter.)

It was another grand and glorious day, and we loved the whole thing and wish you were here to see it. (More or less. I wouldn't cook for the lot of yee.)


Tomorrow, all of Newfoundland agrees, has to be Regatta day, and since Quidi Vidi Lake is in the backyard, we're sure to have a grand day. Truly.

(PS. Seriously. My hair in that first shot? The smallest it's been in days. Scared straight.)

(PPS: I forgot to tell you. Through a twist of fate that involved rain (there's a shock) I ended up at the Avalon Mall yesterday and wandered into a Coles. They had a bunch of my books so I signed the lot of them. If you were hoping for a signed copy and you live on the rock... there you go.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:10 PM

August 6, 2008

Where the hagdowns sail and the foghorns wail

It did indeed rain here today, so in keeping with the rules, the civic holiday of Regatta Day, and the Regatta itself will be moved the next non-rainy/windy day. That left us with a day free and we knew just where to go.

There's an iconic song here called "Let me fish off Cape St. Mary's" and today Joe and I drove across the peninsula to find out about the place. Dudes, let me tell you, it was one of those days you file away in your heart or your head, one of those days that you tuck into the description of your days on this earth, and can draw on when you have to list out what you did while you were here. If I ever have to describe the earth to an alien, I'll have to try and find a way to explain the things I saw this day.
First, a lesson. A couple of comments and emails yesterday let me know that I need to toss out a little more information out there if people are going to follow properly, so here's a little background. We are in the Newfoundland part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I have thoughtfully circled it on a map of Canada that I have thoughtlessly boosted from the Government of Canada.


Newfoundland was the last province to join confederation in 1949, but has been inhabited longer than nearly anywhere else in North America... people have lived here since at least 7000 BC and St. John's is the oldest English founded city in North America. The Newfoundland part is an island, far off in the North Atlantic.

Closer look? Sure. This is just the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I've circled the Avalon Peninsula, which is where St. John's is, which is where we are. (Mostly.)


This is a map of just the Avalon Peninsula, taken in the car today, and it shows where we started in St. John's,


and where we ended up in Cape St. Mary's, about 3 hours away by car. (We hear it can be done in 2 hours. We aren't sure how that's happening, but we're pretty sure it's not raining when they do it. That this jaunt across a tiny piece of the province takes 3 hours also gives you an idea of how big this province is.) It was still raining when we got there, but it did let up enough for it not to be a miserable experience, just a damp one. Upon stepping out of the car there were sheep and and a lighthouse overlooking cliffs to the sea, which is just about as cool as I thought things could get,


and then we started walking. It was damp and muddy and I kept hoping that there would be something really excellent at the end of the walk, but by the time that both of my shoes squishing when I walked, I couldn't imagine what it could be. There were irises growing in great swathes where we walked.


Rocks and cliffs are pretty to look at, very pretty indeed, but still a titch on the dismal side. I hate rain so much that it's possible I may have been a cat in a previous life, so there was little joy in me as I walked, I admit it... especially as the grass soaked my pants to the knees. We walked some more, and far off we saw some birds.


Don't see the birds? They're the white on the rocks. Seriously. We walked more all the way around those cliffs... see birds yet? (Yup. Joe has short hair at present.)


Dudes. Birds everywhere. Birds on rocks. Birds in the air. Birds rocking on the sea.


Northern gannet, (gannet are huge, up to a 2m wingspan. That's 6.5 ft.) black-legged kittiwake, murre, razorbill, double-crested and great cormorants, they've all decided that Bird Rock is the place to be, and its a swirling incredible thing. You stand on the edge of the cliff on a spit of rock that juts out, and the birds are on a sea stack right there in front of you.


The noise - I can't even tell you about the noise. It's like some sort of bird plane is landing.. or a bird train is running. There are calls and squacks and no end to the beating of wings and the cries over the ocean. Top that off with the foghorn going off back where we starting walking and it's a cacophony the likes of which I've never heard. We were pretty stunned,


and then the rain picked up again, and back we went along the top of the cliffs through the grass and the iris to the lighthouse and the sheep, and drove back home along a road by the ocean, across the Avalon Peninsula, all the way back to sit in a wee house by the sea, drink tea (and wine) and see if the rain stops for the Royal Regatta.

I love it here.

(PS. If you have any knitted goods to sell, I have it on very good authority that a table can be had at the town festival in St. Brides (a stones throw from Cape St. Mary's) for only $10.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:45 PM

August 5, 2008

We found land

Here we are my friends, in drizzly Newfoundland, where yesterday's sock picture was taken from near the overlook at Cuckold's Cove, in Quidi Vidi (say "kitty vitty") Newfoundland. (That's Cape Spear in the distance. More about that another day.) Several clever knitters will be mailed a skein of sock yarn, since the magic words "Cuckold's Cove" appeared several times in the comments. (I'll email the winners when I've got a minute tomorrow.)


We are indeed (as another knitter guessed) in Old Joe's backyard, more or less, since Joe's parents split their time between Newfoundland and Toronto and we're lucky enough to be able to enjoy their home here as base camp for a weeks vacation in what's home for my Joe (Young Joe.)

Today we began our grand adventure, traipsing about St. John's. Megan is really taken with the brightly coloured old row houses, and I was really taken with how taken she was, so I took pictures of Megan taking pictures of row houses.


The girls really were delighted, exclaiming each time they spotted another particularly bright one. A yellow house with purple trim and a bright pink door just about put them both into a fit of sheer joy. We went to The Rooms, which is a beautiful, beautiful museum here. It's a gorgeous place, full of traditional Newfoundland things and art and animals.

The animals (we discussed it) are all dead.


Joe and Sam felt badly about that in the case of this eagle.

We were all relieved in the case of the giant squid though.


This is Meg looking it over. The thing was massive. Huge. Palaeolithic sort of enormous. They grow up to 18 metres, but this one was a rather reassuring 6m (that's 18 ft.) Dudes. Gross.

There were whale parts:


and some very keen, very old sail makers needle sets, but I didn't get a picture. It's a fantastic place, and the price of admission (only $20 for a family) included this wonderful view of The Narrows and St. John's harbour.


You will note the weather is still of a questionable nature, though it doesn't take long here to get the hang. By the afternoon, when it was just gray and cold rather than cold and raining, we were all stomping about the downtown admiring fishing boats and saying "Didn't it turn out to be lovely?". My hair was huge. I think it's the mist.

I think some of you have heard me talk about NONIA before, it's the Newfoundland Outport Nursing Industrial Association, and it's the only health care system in the world built on knitting. (You can read more if you click here.) We went by there this afternoon, and I poked around a wee bit.

I learned something interesting while I was there. See Joe's arm?


Joe's pointing at at many fine and sturdy pairs of good wool socks, most all knit from Briggs and Little wool, near as I could tell, and he was enchanted with them. Kept saying "Look at those! Those are good socks! Those are grand socks. Oh, yes. Those are socks that really know what a sock should be." If I'd have known that worsted weight socks would thrill the man so much, I could have been churning out his sock supply a lot faster than I have been. Buddy's got big feet.

There were sweaters and beautiful notecards I always buy there... and it was a lovely afternoon.


A lovely day really. Tomorrow is Regatta Day here in St. John's, provided it doesn't rain. It's a provincial holiday (one of the only ones in the world that moves to the next day if the weather doesn't co-operate) and we're very excited. The Royal St. John's Regatta is the oldest continuous sporting event in North America, and tomorrow 50 000 people will descend upon the shores of Quidi Vidi lake for a huge garden party the likes of which cannot be described. I will be there, and I'll have a sock in progress.

Stand by.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:12 PM

August 4, 2008

Where in the world

We left Lake Huron, and flew to the next stop on our vacation. We knit on the plane.
My mother-in-law Carol knit on the plane:


Meg knit on the plane:


I knit on the plane.


(That's STR lightweight in Rosebud, in the beginnings of a Hibiscus for Hope.)

The flight attendant laughed every time she walked by our row. Then we got here.


Where's here? You guess. I'll send a skein of yarn (when I get home) to the person who guesses where I was standing when I took this picture. Be specific if you can... the closer you are, the better your chances.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:35 PM

August 3, 2008

Simple interests

On the shores of Lake Huron, my eight year old nephew and I have a conversation.


We decide, he and I, to walk up and down, scrambling all round, in and out of the water, and between us, gather the most beautiful rocks on the whole beach, and then make an art installation of unparalleled beauty.


I think we did.


Then I knit on a sock.


It was a very good day.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:47 PM

August 1, 2008

Woman on fire

I'm moving at a thousand miles an hour today, having grossly miscalculated the amount of time it would take to get this family ready for a trip. There's a wee one over the weekend to collect the girls from the cottage (and have a brief swish in the lake myself) and then Monday we're off on a grand adventure. For reasons I can't explain at all, I totally thought I could pull all of that together today. Boy was I wrong. Even hugely over-caffeinated (which I totally am, I can practically feel my hair growing) I'm still swamped with all the stuff that is my regular job, plus all the stuff that we need in the way of packing, plus housekeeping, plus shopping, plus, plus... It's all yet another huge honking dose of "What was I thinking?" as I motor through an enormous pile of chores. On top of all of it, I'll be away from home for more than a week, and I haven't even chosen the knitting I'll take with me yet, never mind winding it up and photocopying the patterns. (Wait! I heard some of you start to flip out there - Remember, it's fair use of copyright to make a copy of a pattern you purchased for personal use... and totally a good idea, especially if you're going on vacation and don't want to lug the originals, or get them wet, or get sand on them, or spill a beer on them, or want to mark them up in a thousand ways with notes about how you're knitting and what you're changing. Photocopying for someone who didn't pay for it = bad, photocopying for personal use when you paid for it = fair.)

I've got a couple of ideas, but you'll have to wait and see because I'm nowhere near committed. There's going to be a ton of knitting time over the next week though, so I'm choosing wisely and generously. One of the things I'll be taking for sure is the Manon Cardigan that I've been working on all week. (Oh Norah Gaughan... how I adore thee.)


For this sweater, I've reverted to type and have substituted another yarn for the one called for (Berroco Pure Merino) which is a lovely yarn I quite like, but wasn't lingering in the stash in sufficient quantities (of one colour, at least). What I did have was a whole bag of Valley Yarns Amherst (procured the last time that I fell down in WEBS and came home with three bags of three different yarns all in the same colour. I despair of my predictability sometimes.) This is one of my favourite colours in the world, a sort of burnt orange that reminds me of paprika - but is actually called "Cayenne" in this yarn.


I'm loving the cables and unique construction (I promise it's going to work though it looks like an odd object at the moment), and if I had my choice of it, I would spend all of today knitting instead of going to work and doing all of my chores.
There are days when I just hate being a grownup.

PS. Have you seen the brand spanking new glory that is The Twist Collective? What I'm going to knit next just got way more complicated.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:19 PM