November 28, 2008


I worry, when I am leaving the house, that I won't take enough knitting.
(Please understand that I am using the word "enough" here to mean "enough that I would be totally fine for yarn if I were kidnapped and held for 24 hours in a yarn free zone by someone with a fetish for watching people knit at gunpoint - and I then knit 5 times faster than I usually do." )

This has never happened, and indeed I've never heard of it happening, but one time when I decided to pack a little light I had a plane delayed and I came perilously close to running out. (Here I am defining "close to running out" as "I only had one more skein of sock yarn to get through 20 minutes".) It scared me. I can't imagine how I would fill time, trapped in an airport or stuck on a bus (or waiting in line at the bank) without my knitting. It fills me with dread - and if the world knew how much I'm using knitting in public to pretend to be a patient and kind person - the thought of me running out would scare them too.

The upshot of this means that Wednesday night when I was heading to my LYS for knit night, I tossed my current work in my bag (the 1x1 rib scarf) and headed for the door and was entirely seized by concern that I might "run out" or not have "enough". I panicked and ran back in, scouting quickly for another project. (Please overlook that I was going to a yarn store, where if it turned out I didn't have "enough" I could have gotten more. It makes me look unreasonable. Besides... what if something happened on the way there? Considering the risk to both me and those around me, it's negligent to not protect everyone by ensuring that there is not a moment without yarn and its mood altering abilities. Practically a safety concern.) Pulling together a project takes time, and I didn't have any, so I grabbed this month's sock club package (which I had barely just opened - by the way, I checked to make sure that everyone had received their package before posting these... so I'm reasonably sure it's not a spoiler... unless your postie is a terrific slacker.) wound the yarn on the swift, took needles off the table (there are advantages to never putting things away properly) and bolted. I never do this. The decision to knit a new thing is never undertaken lightly or quickly, so I can't say I had much hope that this leap would work out for me... but desperate times....
By the time I was switching from bus to streetcar, I was entirely besotted.


I loved the colour, I loved the pattern- I loved everything about this sock and may (just may) have driving a few friends insane with nattering on about it ad nauseam at knit night. The colour is "Muddy Autumn Rainbow" and because of how it's dyed, (Tina wrote in the dyer's notes) that there will be no two skeins entirely alike. I know she dyed hundreds of this colourway, but I feel confident that I got the best one.

The pattern (Holidazed) is by the incomparable Anne Hanson, so it shouldn't surprise me that I like it... our tastes are so similar that I often feel like she's designing just for me. The knit/purl pattern makes it unisex and breaks up the colours in the dye job in a way I adore, it's got a lot of give but clings nicely to the foot... I love it. Everything about it. In fact, I pity anyone who isn't in the sock club who's going to have to wait until the pattern is released to the general population. Pity I tell you... pity. I was so enthralled that by the time I got home I had a leg, and by last evening, less than 24 hours from winding the wool


I had a whole sock. Dudes. I have this Christmas thing SO licked.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:16 PM

November 27, 2008

Entirely over it

Check it out.


A sock. (I know. I'm relieved too.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends and readers. I'm thankful for all of you.
Hope you're enjoying your holiday, and are surrounded by those you love and that which you enjoy.

It's just a Thursday here in Canada.
It is, however, not just a Thursday where I have to go to parent/teacher interviews (which always makes me nervous - I still feel like they could give me detention or something) but also a Thursday where I'm nominated in the Canadian Blog Awards, where I was very gratified to kick arse honoured to win last year. I'm nominated for Best Blog here, and Best Activities Blog here. If you feel I'm worthy, I'd love it if you gave that a click, you don't have to sign up or anything, and you don't need to be Canadian, just like their blogs. There's some other really, really great blogs nominated, including my dear friend Lene at The Seated View, for Best Disability Blog (although her blog is so much more than that) so do take a little bit to poke around. There's some very fine writing out there. I don't know when the first round of voting ends, but it's soon. (I sort of forgot to mention it until now. I was very busy with the 1x1 rib thing. Obsession has its costs.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:25 PM

November 26, 2008

In Retrospect

One of the most interesting (or frustrating, depending on who you are in the process) things about publishing, is how long it takes things to go from start to finish. It takes a really, really long time for things to go from beginning to end. Sure, we can put people on the moon, and a whole computer can fit in your pocket, but it still takes more than a year for a book to go from my head to your bookstore. For the last few months I've been working on the 2010 "Never Not Knitting" page a day calendar, and the whole thing has made me a little freaked out. Firstly, there's the fact that nobody is using the 2009 Never Not Knitting one yet, so who knows what anyone thinks of it, and here I am, boldly churning out the next one, without benefit of any feedback at all. Thursdays in that calendar (and this one) are titled "The Way Knit Was", and for all I know, all of knitterdom will universally agree that you hate hearing about knitting history in a calendar, send me thousands of emails begging me to never do it again, and I will be helpless to change a word of it.

Then there's the fact that I'm writing entries for dates so far away, that I worry that something will happen in the world that makes what I'm writing now totally irrelevant. The day you guys will start using this is more than a year away, and there's no way that I can know that what I write for April 10th of 2010 will make any sense at all, considering that I don't know what will happen on April 10th of 2009. Sheep could be extinct, wool could be rare - knitting could be revolutionized by the invention of something I can't even imagine right now (self installing zippers would be good) and here my calendar will look stupid and ignorant. I worry. (I know that me worrying excessively will come as a terrible shock to all of you. It's so unlike me.)

I've been trudging along, finishing these things, making decisions, writing, writing, writing.. all with an eye to the deadline of December 1st, and I think maybe it was making me a little more stressed out than I thought it was, because today (oh glorious, glorious day) I finished the thing and emailed it to my editor (days early, I feel so proud) and sat here completely stunned by what happened in my head.

My first thought was "Wow. I'm so glad that's finished. What a load off my mind."

The second one?

I think I might want to knit something other than 1x1 rib.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:04 PM

November 25, 2008

If loving you is wrong I don't want to be right

Dear Blog,

I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize publically. I'm sorry. I know that some of you come here for the entertainment of watching a parade of interesting knits go by (and that likely the rest come out of force of habit) and I feel badly that I'm letting you down, for all I have to show you today is all I've had to show you every other day for some time now, and I know that it's got to be a bummer to click on over and to see what I'm doing and be confronted with the same thing, over and over again. I know it's boring. I know I'm boring. I've tried not being boring. I tried all day to not be boring and here we are, at 4:30, which is almost so late to be posting that it's probably pointless to even try not being boring. I should probably just have accepted that I'm boring today and given up, and moved on... lived to blog another day. I could have tried hard to get it out of my system overnight, prayed that some accident or knitting malady would befall me before another blogging day dawned bright and early - but no. I've been me all day, and I'm boring and I'm sorry about that.


I'm still knitting a two row striped Noro scarf. I may be helpless to stop, there's no way to know. This is scarf number three, and as much as I know that this must be the reader equivalent of watching paint dry (Oh... bloody hell. I've hit rock bottom. I actually did that on the blog this week) but I have a problem with trying to be not boring that I can't seem to get over.

Heaven help me... I'M NOT BORED. I'm not. I'm not even a little bit bored. I've knit about five and a half metres of striped scarf in 1x1 rib, (that's about 18 feet, for the metric impaired) and each and every row is still a sparkling point of interest and a shiny opportunity for joy. Yes, it turns out that I am exactly so simple that watching a scarf turn colour can be so gripping that I've got no aspirations for other knits at all. One would think (me - for one) that doing the same beginner level project over and over might wear on me, that maybe after one or two of them I would be thinking "Maybe a little lace might be nice" or "You know what would hit the spot? A nice fat cable." but no, no. Not a glimmer of boredom. Not the slightest urge to haul off an knit something else. Sure - I did hanker for a change at the end of the scarf that was Silk Garden 267 and 245,


I admit it - and that was exactly why I did the next one out of Silk Garden 267 and 205. Whole new ballgame, and I was as enthralled mid scarf on that one as I was with the first.


Now I'm only human, so it's not like I can totally keep doing the same thing over and over - not really. I mean, I do have an intellect that needs challenging. I'm not so entirely dim that my entire self could be totally consumed by knitting a plain scarf three times back to back without adding enough variation to hold my interest.

That's why on this one, (289 and 269) I shook it up like a milkshake and cut loose, for the sake of my sanity and yours.

I did a tubular cast on instead of the long tail.



(Who can't exactly promise you that tomorrow will be better.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:56 PM

November 24, 2008

We now return you to your regularly scheduled scarf

I have, despite my base personality (which is sort of ironic) a very, very low threshold for chaos and a trashed house. I can stand untidy. (I'm actually really comfortable with untidy.) I excel at "pretty cluttered", having figured out a long time ago that neglecting housework is an excellent way to maximize knitting time... but once we start talking about furniture in the wrong rooms and stuff from bookshelves piled up in other rooms, paint trays in the kitchen and lumber lying around the house I start thinking homicidal thoughts. I don't know what the difference is for me, because I'm certainly not a great housekeeper or a neatnic. I can have laundry thrown all over the house and I'll wish someone will clean it up, but it won't bug me the way that a half laid floor makes me want to strip old paint off of metal railings with my teeth. It is for this reason (the homicidal thoughts) that renovation must occur around here at a breakneck pace if I'm going to be anything resembling sane. There is a limit to how many days I can put up with all of the furniture from Megs new room being crammed into Meg and Sam's current room with a mattress in the downstairs hall and sawdust through the house, so after a wicked big push, the thing is done.
In a nutshell:


My brother Ian dismantled the loft bed (it was attached to the walls) took down shelves and an old ceiling fan that wobbled in an alarming manner and was therefore never, ever turned on, and he whacked a coat of primer over the whole thing, being sure to leave his mark.


Then the light got swapped out for something less likely to decapitate a member of the family, and Meg picked a colour of paint and helped Ian put it up. She wanted a colour just like chocolate milk. She chose wisely.


Walls done, Ian's help was up and I was going to lay the new floor by myself. The old floor (a thousand curses on the people who lived here before us) was just plywood, and Joe showed me how to use the big saw...


and he left. Turns out that using a big saw is sort of easy, and that a healthy fear of loosing a knitting finger or three keeps you pretty alert. Also turns out that if you use the big saw inside, it fills the whole house with dust in an instant. so only three boards were cut inside. Then I moved it to the back garden, which worked much, much better except that I needed to run up and down the stairs with about 49873 boards.


New floor down, I installed trim, hung a curtain rod, hemmed curtains, put on a new duvet cover - and Meg moved all of her stuff in - including the furniture, which is now the only ratty thing in the room, but you can't (as I told Meg) have it all.


Rachel H came over with some tools and Joe cut the bottom off of the old door so it would clear the new (higher) floor, and Rach and I (using my extremely good google skills) hung the door, which totally works just like a door, so we must have done it right. After all that, I give you Meg's new room:


Which is so beautiful to me that I feel hugely guilty about Sam's current room, so there will have to be a renovation there soon, since hers can't be the only room in the house that's a total trash scene.


Pretty, pretty... and Meg thinks it's very grown up- despite the fact that she kept a couple of "stuffies" and dollies,


but I guess seventeen isn't all the way grown up, for which I'm rather grateful. (Meg knit that blanket on the end of the bed herself.) As for me at the end of all that, I'm feeling supremely proud of myself. I learned how to lay a floor, I used big power tools, I cut trim and (with an awful lot of Rachel H's tools and help) I hung a door. All things I didn't know I could do, and I feel really empowered with all the new skills. Oddly, this frenzy of learning and exciting change has left me wanting to knit only one thing.


Yup. Two row scarves. I'm on number three - although did entertain ideas about a sock the other day, so maybe I'm almost over it.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:49 PM

November 21, 2008

Things that don't work

Dear Universe,

As I've worked on this renovation for the last few days (almost done, no thanks to you) I've compiled a small list of things that Do Not Work. Thought I might pass them on.

1. Cutting floorboards for the upstairs bedroom using a saw in the backyard, although my arse has never looked better - thanks to 87654 trips up and down. Also, my sincerest thanks for the 10cm snowfall that compounded that. Nice touch.

2. Tentative hammering does not work. Turns out you gotta swing it like you mean it or you'll be smashing away at one little nail for a good long time.

3. Carpenters glue. I don't know exactly what it's for, but I do know that for the things I've tried to use it for, it does not work. Very misleading name. Maybe it's because I'm not a carpenter.

4. Keeping the carpenters glue in the painting section of the Home Depot. No wonder I couldn't find it.

5. Nail sets. They need to be much bigger, both for the purposes of locating them, and for striking them with a hammer.

6. Also, maybe nail sets could have some sort of hand guard. Swinging a hammer at my hand and a little tiny thing you have to clutch with your best knitting fingers is lame. (As now is the pointer finger on my left hand.)

7. Assembling a bed by yourself also does not work. At all. In any sort of a way. Period. *&^%$#.

Thank you.

PS. This floor, scuzzy old plywood:


Is now this.


Hear me roar. (Knitting is way better than laying floor.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:25 PM

November 19, 2008

Perfectly time

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.

-General George S. Patton

A quote like that can only mean one thing is afoot Chez Harlot, and that thing, my stalwart friends, is my old nemesis... home renovation. I've spoken before about the fact that my house has, to be rather frank - some problems. It's a tiny Victorian semi, 120 years old, so some things about it are a given, and It's about a thousand times better than when we came to live in it, when there was a hole in the kitchen wall that went to the outside and allowed every single raccoon in the neighbourhood to use this building as their local whorehouse/crackden -but it wouldn't be very hard to upgrade a family home past that, if you know what I mean. An eviction notice to any mammals who weren't us - coupled with a piece of plywood and a few nails made us feel like we were living like royalty. We've got new walls and some of that fancy "insulation" in most of the house now, the kitchen was redone 8 years ago, the piece of crap lean-to on the back of the house became my office, we redid our bedroom, laid new floors in the downstairs... It's very slow going, but we get there.

Now, this wee house is only a 3 bedroom and they aren't big bedrooms, so Meg and Sam have shared for years, and Amanda had her own room. Amanda moved out recently (months ago, actually, but I didn't want to mention it in case she wanted to come home - I didn't want her to have to 'fess up to the blog that she had changed her mind) she's happy, 19, in her second year of college and doing just fine, and as much as sometimes I wish she would come back... I don't think she's going to.

I know I should be happy about that, motherhood is, after all - about putting yourself out of business and creating functioning humans who do leave you if you do it right, and most days I am thrilled that she's moving along properly, because we were totally starting to drive each other crazy, and she's not quite out in the big bad world, since she's moved in with my mother - who is closer to the college and work, and is making for an excellent intermediate step towards total and complete independence. (It has taken me a while to wrap my head around the idea that moving in with my mother is a step towards independence - since for me it was moving away from the same woman.. but I'm learning. My mother is a very different grandmother than she was a parent - the proof of this being that she has given my children cream soda floats, which when I was growing up were treated as the nutritional equivalent of heroin and turned up with about the same frequency.. but I digress.)

In any case, Amanda moved out and I just let her room sit there. I moved nothing. I didn't even close the door. Her room sat there (since March, if you must know) and her sisters (still crowded into their one wee space) eyed this room with the focus of vultures circling a carcass - and they had absolutely no regard for my emotional process. They argued and dreamed continually about the day that they would no longer share a room, and the room taunted them. I couldn't commit. I don't know why it was hard for me, but it felt unfaithful to Amanda, who was understandably hesitant to see her room in our home wiped from the earth - and so the room still sat there.

Eventually, Amanda took most of her stuff out, and Megan started talking about just taking the room. A guerilla move. Just waltzing in there and installing her things like a squatter and that would be that.. and while she was talking about usurping property right out from under me, that's when I woke up and smelled the coffee. Our house was too tiny to have a room unused, and Meg should be using it. It wasn't reasonable to hold a room for the possibility that an adult child who was totally old enough to be out of it would want to come back, and waiting for it to feel right, or for it to be perfect just wasn't going to happen. Amanda was absolutely not going to say "Yeah man, give my sister my room, I don't need a safety net, I'm sure I'll never, ever need my mother again." (or at least she was never going to say it like she meant it.) I was never going to feel like I should close that door on her. I was never going to want to paint over the yellow daisies I painted on the walls for Amanda when she was 14. I was never going to want to see the loft bed torn down, even though there isn't anybody in this house who's short enough to sleep in it anymore. It was never going to be perfect. It was never going to feel right...

but it is time, and now while the room is empty is the right time to rip down the loft bed, paint and tidy up the room and make it Meg's. Time marches, and we renovate in it's wake.

So that's what we're doing.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:31 AM

November 18, 2008

Many Questions, Some Answers

Since I am still busy knitting the worlds most beautiful scarves, which also happen to be the worlds least bloggable topic (I am finding it hard to be intriguing about 1x1 rib for days on end) I'm going to do a little Q&A.

I went to my local LYS to look at the Noro. I thought it felt too much like straw to knit into something so gorgeous. Does it soften in the wash?

The Silk Garden does for sure, although it's never going to be as soft as a pure merino or something like that. I find it totally approachable after a wash, and I have a couple of hats out of it an don't find them itchy at all, though I have a high wool-itch threshold. I'm willing to sacrifice that tiny bit of a rustic nature for the pretty colours and the way it wears like iron. The Kureon's another story. It softens some too, but always feels a little more scratchy than the Silk Garden. It's the nature of the beast.

Would The Scarf work as well in Kureon? I've got a lot of singles in a variety of eye-popping colours and I'd love to stash-bust rather than running out to buy Silk Garden. (Oh, gods, MORE yarn?!?!)

Sure it would work, though have a slightly different look. Mick made one. Hello Yarn has a pretty one, Saartje did it too. Check it out.

Seriously? Sculpted butter?!?!? Well, I suppose it doesn't melt like ice, but I'm curious, what happens when it softens? Does it still keep it's form?

Seriously, sculpted butter. It's even got its own wikipedia page here. I'm sure that these dairy glories do lose their shape when it warms up, but they keep them in refrigerated cases at the Royal. (Also, Canada is cold.) I'm seriously interested in what they do with a multitude of kilos of butter when the thing is over though.

Do they use real butter for the butter sculptures? The Iowa State Fair has butter sculptures but I think it is actually colored lard.

They do use real butter, and the Iowa State Fair should be ashamed of itself (if they are using lard, and we'll just consider it a filthy rumour until it's confirmed or denied) if that's true. Butter is the one true medium - and doesn't "lard sculpture" just sound wrong?

Could you share the hat specifics? All the how to's? I'd love to make that hat to match my scarf.

Sure. I started with Le Slouch (a great pattern, Meg's made a bunch of them, just as Wendy wrote it. Also - have you seen Wendy's new book? Custom Knits? Very nice, and worth the price of admission just for the instructions on how to make a duct tape mannequin.) and about 74 stitches and worked 1x1 rib in the round on 4mm needles, striping as I did for the scarf. When I had about 5cm, I switched to 4.5mm needles and began to work in stockinette, increasing to 114 stitches in that first round. (Increase as you like. I used a simple yarn over, and worked them through the back loops on the next round to close the hole.) I carried on, still striping, until the hat measured about 12cm from the cast on edge. When I was there, I decreased at six equal points around the hat. (k17, k2tog - six times) then worked a round plain. On the next row I decreased at one stitch less (k16 - k2tog) and kept going like that, alternating a plain round with a round of decreasing -with ever fewer stitches between the decreases. (Interesting fact: If you k2tog for the decreases, the spiral on the top of the hat moves clockwise. If you ssk instead, you get a counterclockwise one.)
When I had got down to the last few rounds I worked only rows of decreases because I don't like hats to have nipples on the top, and that's the only way I know how to avoid it. The last round was just K2tog six times, then I broke the yarn, drew it through those six stitches and bob's yer uncle. Hat.

(Disclaimer: I winged this sucker, and I'm not guaranteeing those instructions are right. Your mileage may vary.)

Can you tell us how you are doing the slipped stitches at the beginning and end of each row? I feel like that will make a big difference in how polished the finished scarf will look.

It does change it, and it hides the colours you're carrying up the side beautifully. I'm doing it by slipping the first stitch of every row purlwise (or tip to tip, depending on how you like your phrasing) with the yarn in back. ( I think that Brooklyn Tweed said that he slipped the first and last stitch of every other row, but to each their own, and the end result is similar - though if you do it my way you don't need to know what row you're on when you come back from getting coffee.)


I'm being a little bit careful to keep the tension's easy to give it a tug, especially on the yarn switching side, and have one selvedge tighter than the other. Done right, it's pretty slick.


What's an apple dumpling? Like a turnover?

Nothing like a turnover, and I feel tremendous pity for the empty, shallow husk of a life you have been leading if you've never had one of these. I just so happens that I took pictures of the process. (Once a blogger...)
The whole shebang starts with a whole apple, that's cored, peeled and spiral cut into a continuous slice.


The the core gets stuffed with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, and wrapped in a piece of pastry (and more butter, sugar and cinnamon.)


Into the oven they go, right there at the fair, and the sugar, butter and cinnamon melt into the apple as it cooks and makes a sort of yummy sauce. The outside is crispy and has more cinnamon and sugar on it.


When it comes out of the oven they put it in a tin while it's still hot and add ice cream and top it with butterscotch. You can get it without that stuff, but frankly my dear, I don't know why you would. Granted, you have to skip nine meals to make up for the calories, but who cares? It's once a year. (Although really - that's only because I don't know where to get them the rest of the time - but I'd rather pretend I'm virtuous enough to limit it. )

Many people:

Did you know your feed at bloglines isn't working? I didn't know you were posting. Please fix it.

I know. Ken knows. The problem is on the bloglines end and they are working on it. Apparently the "RSS feed is stuck". Probably has butterscotch on it. Sorry about that.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:29 PM

November 17, 2008

Randomly on a Monday

1. I finished the scarf.


2. I sort of made a hat to go with.


(Loosely based on Le Slouch, but not slouchy and with more stitches to account for the different gauge.)

3. Me, Rachel H and Denny went to the Royal Winter Fair. Denny plied on the streetcar. (Being able to ply on the streetcar is one way that spindles have it over wheels for productivity.)


Nobody made direct eye contact.

5. We went to the fleece auction to not buy fleeces.


6. That didn't go very well.


We bought 4. (I am sharing them with Denny and Rachel H, so it's not like that's really 4. It's like... 1.3, and besides we sent them away with the Wellington people to be processed so it's not like we have them, so they don't count.)

7. We were not the only ones.


(Our group seen here making the spinners gang sign. We invented it last year.)

8. We saw the world's largest rutabaga.


The best cows.


Ate the best apple dumpling.


Saw the best butter sculptures.


8. Rachel made friends.



9. We got advice.


10. Then the cows went home.


So we went home too.


(Sort of.)

I just love the Royal.

(Ps. Idon'tthinkIcanstopwiththescarves.)


Posted by Stephanie at 4:11 PM

November 13, 2008

I used to have other projects

The scarf.


It's all about the scarf.


It's so much about the scarf that last night, by the time I got to Lettuce Knit for knit night, I had fully accepted that it is so much about this scarf that I was going to have to make at least one more, and I headed straight for where the Silk Garden should be.


It wasn't. Megan is out. She doesn't have any. I was so shaken by this, having become so involved with the scarf, that for several really weird moments, all I could think was "Oh man, what am I going to do? I'm not going to have anything to knit."

Posted by Stephanie at 2:20 PM

November 12, 2008

Turns out I am like that

I like to think I'm largely immune to knitting fads. That when everybody is making something, that I make it or not, based on my own whims... not because I'm falling victim to some version of knitting peer pressure. I don't like to think of myself as a sheep, someone who's falling for a yarn because everybody else is, or liking a pattern because everyone else does. That means that sometimes I know I resist something just because everyone else likes it, which is really, really stupid, because when you think of it, not liking something because other people do is just as lame as liking something because other people do and isn't really any more of a statement of my individuality. (Yes. I'm 40. Yes, I'm just getting that now. Yes - I'm sometimes as sharp as jello. Got it.)

That means that last year when the Noro striped scarf made the rounds, even though I really, really liked it - I didn't knit it. Kate did. Norma did. Mary Tess did. Monika did. Trish did. Cheryl did. Teresa did. Brooklyn Tweed did, and that one was really hard to resist, because he could photograph a pile of dog doo and make it look like it was elegant and interesting. Alarming Female did. Mollie did. Maryse did. Carole did. Miriam did. Nelson did. Andi did. Sandy did. Kate did. Kay did. Kmkat did. Jackie did. Jessie did. Anny did. Courtney did. Cassie did. Everybody did... or at least it seemed that way to me. (Also - doesn't the word "did" look funny to you now?)

I didn't. I resisted. All I did was look at the Silk Garden Noro every time that I went into a yarn shop. Not for any reason though, because I'm not like that. Then I put it in my Ravelry queue. Not for any reason though. Just so I could sometimes look at it and think about it - and I did think about it. I would think about it, notice that there were 1841 knitters who had already knit it (that's a real number- taken right from this scarf's Ravelry link at 12:50 today) and then I wouldn't want to anymore. I'd be over it, because I'm not like that. I'm not the type. No way. I'm an individual, and I knit to make unique things that nobody else has because that's one of the points of knitting for me. It's a way to get things that are unique and just mine and don't exist anywhere else and seriously if I wanted something that was being mass produced I would just wander off to the store and buy a scarf - for less money even.

Then I noticed that every single one of those scarves - go click on those names - or flip through this Flikr group... I'll wait here.

They are all different. All of them. There aren't two the same. Even if two knitters used the same colourways they ended up different because the yarn came together another way. It's a beautiful thing - and all those scarves are a beautiful thing. There isn't an ugly one in the bunch, and I had another epiphany.

Sometimes something isn't a fad because it's neutral enough to have broad appeal to the masses. Sometimes - it's because it's really, really good.

Then someone mentioned they would like a scarf for Christmas.
Then they said they loved stripes.
Then - it was just a matter of choosing from among the bizillion combinations possible. (That took three hours and a half bottle of wine) and bingo.


Silk Garden #267, and #245. Which I already think might not be the best ones and I may or may not buy several more other colours before the day is over so that I can make another one.


Posted by Stephanie at 1:11 PM

November 11, 2008

Two minutes of silence

At the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Canadians pause to mark two minutes of silence in remembrance of the sacrifices made by those who paid a terrible price to right horrible wrongs.


My Grandfather, Lt. Colonel James Alexander McPhee, was a pilot in the second world war, and he taught us this. What was done in the great wars was awful. Human life, lost or taken in any cause is always tragic and wrong, even when necessary. He was not proud of what he had done, nor did he want to be thanked, although he understood our nations gratitude for his willingness to do it. The regret that he felt that it had been necessary, and that he had done it was the genesis of our family's pacifism.

Were he alive today, he would have done as he did on all the Remembrance Days following the war. He would have stood in his uniform, the bravest, strongest and most beautiful man that I ever knew, poppy pinned to his chest, and he would have wept for the loss of his friends, the loss of those whom he fought, and the loss of a life where he didn't have to face it.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

If you didn't mark two minutes this morning. Please think about making some time. The motto for remembrance day in Canada is twofold. Lest we forget, and never again.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:22 AM

November 10, 2008

Real Mountains

The Fall Retreat was, without a doubt, absolutely wonderful. Well organized, tons of fun (at least from the teacher perspective, the students looked like they were having a great time) and full of the quirky stuff that makes things memorable. I'll remember these two, Lorie and Tracy (Auntie and Niece)


both tatooed with a line on their foot that tells them to start decreasing for the toe.


I don't think anyone will forget the team-building guy who ran in from the other conference when he heard us singing Happy Birthday to Nancy Bush - and forced us (heaven knows how. Likely some Canadian inability to refuse to co-operate- you know that joke? How do you get 50 drunk Canadians out of your pool? You say "Would you please get out of the pool?") to put our arms rapidly left and right while yelling NANCY! (arms right) NANCY! (arms left) NANCY NANCY NANCY! (arms quickly right, left, right.) At the time we all (especially Nancy) thought the guy was a bit of a wiener... but 48 hours later when ever person was being celebrated with it every time we thought well of them...


(Here you see the group of knitters at dinner - engaged brightly in "AMY -- AMY -- AMY AMY AMY!" ) We all had to admit that out team had been built, and that this guy who had run in out of nowhere for 2 minutes had totally changed the weekend. Bizarre - and I can see it sticking too. When the retreat was over, and we all had a little time before flights - Amy and Sandra (owners of Make One) decided we (them and the teachers) should all take a quick trip to Banff. We set out in a couple of cars and hit the road. Amy missed an exit, and we were on the wrong road for a bit, and when she got us back headed in the right direction, the whole car broke out with AMY, AMY, AMY AMY AMY. (I almost did it to a flight attendant who got me a drink on the plane last night. Addictive.)
Speaking of the trip up to Banff - Wow. What a great place.



I think it spoils you for mountains for your whole life. I think once you see the Canadian Rockies, you just spend the rest of your time in North America saying "You think that's a mountain? That's not a mountain. The Rockies are THE mountains."


Cookie A touched the top.


Even Nancy was impressed, and she comes from Salt Lake, where they have some mountains that can compete.


Cookie and Amy saw an excellent opportunity for a sock shot...


and so did I.



Right to left (the way knitters do it) that's Jocelyn (chauffeur extraordinaire) Cookie, Nancy Bush, Amy (knitty) Me, Amy and Sandra (Make One) all having an excellent time at 5100 ft. (Except for the lack of air. My only complaint about the place is that they have a dreadful lack of oxygen.) Mission accomplished, sock pictures taken all round...


Nancy, Cookie and I got into Jocelyn's car, and were whisked to the airport. (Hey Cookie? Did you make your flight?)


To ice the cake, I finished the latest pair of socks on the plane.



STR lightweight, colour Basan. 2.25mm needles, (these are way too big for me, which is excellent, because they aren't for me) basic sock recipe in my book, worked over 64 stitches.

It was wonderful - and I miss the mountains and the knitters.

(PS. My students were all ridiculously smart. I've said that to a whole bunch of people since I taught them, and I thought I should say it where they could hear me. Very, very, very clever crew.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:32 PM

November 7, 2008

It's pretty obvious

So sometimes, when I'm travelling for the purposes of knitting, I have to look for clues or think really hard about where I am to know where I am. This is not the case today.
How do I know I'm in Alberta, Canada? (Here is a map in case you don't know where the province of Alberta is. If you are Canadian and you click on that, shame on you. )


The Rocky Mountains. (I am very close to Banff, which you are more likely to have heard of then Kananaskis - which is where I actually am.)


Moose on the carpet. (Could be Elk, now that I think of it. Very hard to tell the difference on a hotel carpet)



(Warm) Hand knits in all the shops.


Black bears (not real ones) wearing knit sweaters.


Sweaters that are patriotic.


The paper you see before you go for a walk.




(They got grizzly here - although now that it's snowing, they are likely all gone to bed.)

Finally - in case you were wondering?


Okay then.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:10 PM

November 5, 2008

It is like a stargate

Tuesdays are for spinning, so yesterday (prepare yourself, those of you who have noticed I have trouble observing my own rule) I spun. I'm still churning out the singles of the polwarth roving, and now I have five, count 'em FIVE, bobbins of the stuff done.

My big plan, since I want the colours (and my uneven spinning) to come up as randomly as possible, is to do all of the spinning, then all of the plying, swapping out the bobbins at then end of each plied bobbin. This means, that if my bobbins were named A, B, C, D, E and F, then when I ply (and I'm making a three-ply) I might begin plying with A, C and F on the kate, and then, when I had a full bobbin of yarn, stop and ply A, B and D. The next time, B, D and E.... and so on.


This approach has a lot of advantages. It means that all of the skeins of yarn will have different, random colours, which overall means that they will go better together. If I didn't swap them out, I would probably end up with three skeins that went ABC and three that went DEF, and that's going to be two obviously different types of colourway. Mixing it up like this means that I'll have six different skeins with six different colourways that are all basically related, and that seems like it will give me a more harmonious sweater overall.

Now, even if all of my bobbins were the same colour, I would still - if I were doing a big spinning job, mix up the bobbins like this. See... over the course of 40 hours of spinning, all done on different days, it's really unlikely that my spinning is going to be really consistent. It's more likely that there's going to be a subtle shift from the beginning of the spinning to the end - a few weeks later. If I mix three bobbins, one from the start of the spinning, one from the middle and one from the end, then I'm probably going to end up with plied yarn that's more consistent than if I plied as I went. In knitting terms, having several bobbins of yarn spun over the course of several weeks is a lot like having several examples of one colourway, dyed over several weeks. They are all likely going to be a little tiny bit different, because they weren't made on one day.

If you had to knit one sweater out of several dye lots, you probably would notice the difference if you used one skein for the top half and another skein for the bottom half. There would likely be a discernible line halfway. (If we actually follow one of murphy's laws about knitting, that line would probably be in the place you would least like it to be. Like right across your breasts or right across your belly, depending on which you would rather not draw attention to.) To avoid this, as a knitter, you would probably alternate your skeins as you went, one or two rows with one, then one or two rows with another. This blending would make the difference between the dye lots not at all obvious, and that's what this spinning strategy is like. I'm acknowledging that I essentially have different "spinning lots" and that it might show up if I don't blend randomly. Get it?

In any case, my big plan was to do all off the spinning, then all of the plying and mix the bobbins all the way down the line. Yeah, well. I've been thwarted by something.


This bag of polwarth is apparently a gateway to the seventh dimension, where no matter how much I spin, the universe is shoving more into the bag through an equalizing dimensional gate. (I actually have this same problem with sock yarn.) I have spun five whole bobbins - which is totally a LOT, and I don't appear to have less roving.

At all.
It is still a huge pile, and I'm almost out of bobbins, so I'm going to have to start plying whether I like it or not. I've already freed up more bobbins by deciding to ply on another wheel, which means that I can use all of the bobbins that fit on this wheel and not need to hold any back for plying.. but damn- I wish I could close that gateway and finish. The irony of course is that I started out the spinning for this sweater worried I wouldn't have enough, am now concerned that I am going to have way, way, way too much...

and will eventually run out of yarn halfway through the second sleeve. Can't you see it coming?
(The spinning fates like a good joke as much as the knitting ones do.)

All of this will have to wait until next week though. I've got to go pack for Alberta, since I'm leaving in the morning, I'm teaching "Knitting for Speed and Efficiency" (there's another bit of irony for you) at the Make One Fall Knitting Retreat. I'm excited and nervous.
Also.. not packed. Gotta fly.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:01 PM

November 4, 2008

The top ten things I did this weekend

1. Celebrated my darling Joe's 40th birthday. He's a good egg.

2. Decided, with Denny and (Lettuce Knit's owner) Megan, that Denny and I are going to actually do what we said we were going to do last year, and have a "How not to buy crappy fleece at the Royal Winter Fair" class at Lettuce Knit, the morning of the fleece auction. The Fleece Auction is on the 16th of November, at 2:00 in the afternoon. Denny and I will begin to hold forth on how to choose a fleece (what's good, what's bad - we have samples of totally crappy fleeces we have bought in the past so that you may learn from our mistakes) from 10-12 (am) at Lettuce Knit. Then we can all make our way - together or apart (Denny and I will be taking the TTC- you're welcome to go with us) down to the Royal Winter Fair where we will all look at the fleeces at auction and attend the auction. It should be bags of fun, especially since you get the value added of watching Denny and I try not to buy more fleece since we didn't use up the fleeces we got last year (or maybe the year before that too.)
Call Lettuce Knit for more information about how to sign up, and what it costs and all of that. (Remember too that you'll need a ticket to the fair as well, but it's well worth it just for the butter sculptures.)

3. Started a new scarf. Waves of grain, which I am knitting in the exact yarn ( Royale Hare alpaca lace in Moravian Barley) that the pattern calls for because Romi made a gift of it to me when I was in California.


I know it looks a little scrambled, but it's lace in alpaca. It always looks especially rough before blocking. I have faith.

4. I could start that because I finished the vest.


Adding one more repeat gave me all the length I wanted, and I'm happy with the width as well.


(There's a squirrel in the tree next to me) I feel like it fits well, and is another piece I can add to my "could wear it to work and look knitterly without looking so knitterly that you're over the line" collection.


Foxhill Farm "cormo cross" (I love this yarn. Super cushy, tons of life, but I expect nothing less from the incomparable Alice Field) in "Chestnut". I used three skeins, although I have enough left of the third skein to make mittens. Pattern was "Diamond Rain" from Purlescence. Knit the medium, added an extra repeat of the diamonds for more length, otherwise knit as per the pattern - right down to the single crochet around the armholes.

5. Remembered that one of the reasons I crochet like a drunk howler monkey on smack is the difference in terms. I get messed up with the whole "single is double if it's American" and remembering who's double is treble? (Or is it the other way or do they just want me to chain around the edge?) I ended up following the directions for American single crochet because I figured that was the right thing to do, since it's an American pattern, but I really wish we could get an international ruling on crochet terms. It makes me nuts.

6. My book has finally arrived at Lettuce Knit - and I'll be celebrating tomorrow evening at knit night. If you'd like to buy a copy or have me sign a copy you have.... I'd love to.

8. I made a very, very good banana bread and realized we are very sick of banana bread. One bunch comes every week in the Wanigan box, and nobody here really likes eating them out of hand. Any ideas besides banana bread?

9. I started another scarf.


I feel a scarf phase setting in.

10. Has anyone seen the sock I was knitting out of Basan? Can't find it. Making me nuts.

(PS. If you're American, please go vote. The suspense is killing the rest of the world.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:26 PM