June 30, 2009

Making a break for it

Tomorrow morning, the mister and I are getting on a plane and flying westward across Canada into the Rocky Mountains for the wedding of one of Joe's best friends. I'm pretty unreasonably excited for a couple of reasons.

1. Joe and I haven't been properly away together - alone, in years and years. Even a few years ago when we were married, we went to a hotel for one evening and reported for brunch the next day.

2. I love British Columbia. It's a beautiful province, but we are going to the Slocan Valley, which is particularly stunning.

3. The company will be wicked good.

4. I AM GOING TO KNIT ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE BLANKET. It's going in my suitcase, because I really can't quit on it entirely, but it's at a size where it's an unreasonable thing to take on a plane and expect it not to a) take up my entire carry-on and then some, or b) annoy people with its unreasonable measure of wool.

I haven't decided yet what my plane knitting will be, but I am giddy beyond all reason at being forced to abandon the "all blanket all the time" rule, especially since I didn't cop out. (Yes. I believe that. I believe that I have no choice but to knit something else. Don't burst the bubble. I'm being forced. I wouldn't knit anything else if it wasn't for the plane. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Maybe I'll knit a pair of socks. BC is far. Suggestions welcome. (Can you even believe that with all the Sock Summit stuff I still like socks? Stunning.)

For now I'm off to wade through the stash to find a candidate yarn, tidy the house enough to be able to tell if we get broken into while we're gone, and pack a reasonable set of clothes for a wedding. (I think that the threadbare pair of yoga pants I've been wearing for a week aren't going to cut it. Maybe I'll hunt up my bra.) Before I go though, I want to say an enormous thank you not just on behalf of Megan and Pato, who are thrilled and grateful that they met their goals (and are continuing to kick arse in that department) but to thank you as a mother. It is the goal of every mum to raise good people. People who like other people, contribute to society, care for those around them and have empathy and understanding for those who need help, and that isn't a job that parents can do by themselves. I really think that human beings are simple creatures. Largely, although there are a few sainted examples, we do things because it feels good to do them.

If you could have seen Meg and Pato yesterday, when they got back in from fundraising and saw that their efforts combined with yours had earned them both spots as top fundraisers who will be wearing the gold jersey on the ride, then you would have seen what I saw... and you would have been just as moved. Yesterday afternoon, you guys created something that it's valuable for a society to have. You created people who like to fundraise and help others. They were good kids already, and good kids do good things, mostly... but yesterday you helped me teach these two something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

You taught them that it feels good to do good, and they were encouraged and supported in a way that will make them do-gooders for the rest of their lives. No question - and as Megans mother, and someone who cares for Patricio, I really want to thank you for it. Changing the world - a couple of teenagers at a time.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:10 PM

June 29, 2009

A is for Attitude

We've been trudging along, this blanket and I, for just a little while now, and I can honestly tell you that I'm bored to death. I didn't want to say it, because really... I have so far to go and if I turn on it now it's just going to get ridiculous. I've said it before, I'll say it again. You get more of what you pay attention to, and so I've been trying not to pay attention to the part where every time I pick this blanket up to do another 79 miles of the knit stitch I am overcome with the urge to haul off and purl the snot out of a row, just to mix it up a little. I am instead trying to get Zen with the blanket. Me and the blanket. The blanket and I. Me, the blanket and 79 miles of garter stitch in neutral colours. Which I love. A lot. Enough that I don't miss any other kind of knitting at all. Totally.

Blanket Size Check '09

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That's Megan and Pato, who have a message for everyone.

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They're very, very grateful (and are starting to send thank you notes) to everyone who sponsored them for the Bike Rally. ( Meg's hand is much better too.) They have until June 30th to meet their fund-raising goals (pledges will be accepted after that, but if they don't make their goals by that date then Ken is the only one who's wearing the gold "top fundraiser" jersey, and Meg and Pato feel like they can't let him out-do them) and both of them are out all day today, beating the bushes, making phone calls, dropping off cards and doing their level best to get there. Considering that they are the youngest people in the Toronto-Montreal Ride this year - and six days riding a bike across a chunk of Canada to raise money for People With Aids isn't the way most 17 year olds are spending their summer, I'm sure they're going to have a lot of success. (Added, for those who were asking for a place to click... you can sponsor Megan here and Pato here, if you like. They'd be very appreciative.) One of the interesting things we've noted as the kids fund-raise for this goal is that on average (though there are many very generous exceptions) people donate less to kids than they do to adults. Ken riding his bike on the same trip has had a much higher average donation than Meg and Pato. Meg has a theory that this is because Ken's friends are grownups with resources, and her friends are working for minimum wage at the local grocery... and she might have a point, but the truth is that even with the formidable help of knitters, Meg and Pato have worked really hard to raise this cash, train for the ride....and I'm really, really proud of both of them. Joe and I keep thinking of what we did the summer we were 17.

Without going into any details...the kids are sort of ahead of us in the philanthropy department.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:54 AM

June 26, 2009

Sock Museum

Surprise! It's a Sock Museum!

(ST-1 is just getting so much done that we shock ourselves.)

Another chunk of the Sock Summit fun and games are up and running, and this one is for everybody, whether you're involved with the Summit or not. The Sock Museum is live (in no small part, thanks to the generous sponsorship of WEBS and Blue Moon Fiber Arts. We love them.) In this section, you (or your local knitting group, and we think this would be a blast to do as a group) can sign up to knit a sock from history (recent or long past) to submit to the Museum. Once submitted, the socks become part of the Museum, which will be present in person at the Summit, as well as on-line for all to see. We've included a "starter list" of socks, but are actively seeking the input of knitters worldwide, for additional projects. Read about it here, sign up if it sounds like fun, or submit a sock you'd like to do that you think we've missed. The museum is intended as an ongoing work in progress, so feel free to contribute your ideas.

Have fun (and yeah, time is a little short. Thank the server. It's now not just the fun of submitting a pair of socks, but a race to get them done.) We think it's going to be a blast.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:21 PM

June 25, 2009

Dye For Glory

Back when this whole Sock Summit thing started, everybody had their thing. While everybody on the team is really invested in all aspects of the Summit, we've all got facets of it that really sing to them. Mine was the teachers (Okay. I think everybody was interested in the teachers). I am a knitting teacher, and I had in mind the way that I always like to be treated, and have treated them accordingly. For me it's really about the process and techniques of knitting and who's doing it. Tina's special pet was the vendors. She is a vendor, she has lots of vendor experience, and the same way I have insight into the teaching experience, she's got it going on vendor wise. She's been a tireless advocate for all the vendors. (They got free wi-fi. If you've ever been a vendor at a large convention, that should impress you.) The people coming to sell yarn, the dyers who make yarn, the shops that stock yarn... not surprisingly, Tina being who she is, was all about the yarn - and especially (again, being who she is) about the dyers.

Tina loves dyeing fibre the way that I love knitting. While I was imagining all the wonderful little knitterly nuance, Tina's been busting a move to imagine all the wonderful ways that dyers could really strut their stuff at this conference. She came up with all sorts of ways to invite them into the community and show them off. There's the Colour me Crazy booth in the marketplace, where you can talk with dyers about who they are and what they do, and there's the demonstration area, and where all the vendors can show whatever they like to you, and then... then there's this.

Dye for Glory. Tina has already imagined many aspects of the Sock Summit in yarn (She has new colourways called SockGate, ST-1 and ST-2. SockGate is still cracking me up. ) and she got to thinking that this would be a fun idea for everyone. Now, my friends can tell you that I am the sort of person who, if I say "you know what would be fun" everybody runs for cover, and Rachel H gets out a clipboard. I specialize in big crazy knitting ideas, and Tina is the first friend I have ever had who does the same thing - so when she said "you know what would be fun..." and followed it with her plan for how we could have a cool on-line dyeing thing, and all the dyers who were going to have their yarn for sale at the Summit could come up with some sort of colourway, and we could put them on line and then everybody in the whole world could vote on them and look at them and see them, and we could ... like PIMP their yarn all over the place and build community and show it off and really connect with people about the dyers community and c'mon... dyers influence almost everything that knitters make, they're like... the heart of the thing and don't you think that would be great?

When Tina said that, all I could think of was ... YES. Yes. We should totally do that. Totally. Dude, we can have this huge thing and we'll have pages and pages of yarn and people will really celebrate dyeing and ...

It was about 3 hours before either one of us thought about the important stuff. What website? Who would do that? How would they do that? We would need a way to put pictures of yarn on line with all of its details. We would then need a community of knitters who could communicate how they felt about that.. .and ...that sounds really hard, and it would take someone like .. maybe Casey to do that and he's already got a job putting yarn up on Ravelry and having a community of knitters communicate about it and, really, I don't think he's got time to do that, which sucks, because something like Ravelry would really work...

That's when it hit us (Actually, not really right then, but we don't like to appear dim in public) and we dropped a note to Ravelry asking them if they could help and if they would help us host a really big yarn party, and Jess, Casey and Mary-Heather (who writes really funny emails some days) stepped right up and made a super beautiful on-line yarn party for the Sock Summit. It's a beautiful thing, just like yarn... and we're proud (so proud that we're simul-blogging. Check Ravelry and Tina) to announce Sock Summit's Dye for Glory event, brought to you by the lovely, clever and generous folks at Ravelry.

Go have a look here: Dye for Glory. It's very cool, and there's a brand new Ravelry thread about it here.

(Ps. Thanks Tina. Your ideas are pretty good. Just do me a favour, and slow down with them for 10 minutes.. will ya?)

(PPS:

Blanket Size Check '09

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(Thanks Joe.)

(PPPS. The blanket totally looks smaller when given to a larger person. I'm swapping my model back to smaller daughters rather than a larger husband next time. Better effect.)

Posted by Stephanie at 6:26 PM

June 24, 2009

Pick-up Lines

A whole bunch of you expressed interest in how I was picking up stitches in garter for the blanket, and so the other day when I finished one block and began the next, I took a bunch of pictures so I could show you. I experimented with a bunch of techniques at the beginning of this project, and this is what I've found that seems to make them really tidy. A whole bunch of other knitters asked why I was casting off stitches at all. If a pattern calls for casting off and then picking up again, they queried (and it's a reasonable question) why on earth would you bother? Why not just leave the stitches live, placing them on a spare circular or stitch holder until you needed them again? My answer is both personal and technical. First, I like that each square is accomplished and bound off. It makes me feel like I'm "finishing" the squares, and perhaps like I could stop any time I wanted, since every time I bind off I have a blanket of a different size. (That's the personal reason.) The technical reason is that binding off creates stability of a sort, and I think that's valuable to keep the blanket from stretching all over the place. (I talked about that more in this post, and you can read that for more information if you like.) It might all come down to how much you hate binding off/picking up, which is for me... not at all. Knitters choice.

The Log Cabin Moderne calls for several rectangles knit off of each other in different directions, so part of the challenge in picking up stitches is that in one row, you'll be picking up from bound off edges, and then the sides. This means that in one row you'll need two techniques. Here's how I handle it.

Step 1. Okay. There's a rant here about the loss of knitting techniques/terminologies that I could get into, and if you've taken a class with me then you've likely heard some version of it. Synopsis: In creating directions that are easy to read and use, we've lost fine distinctions between similar techniques. Best example, the distinct and important difference between "pick up" stitches, and "pick up and knit" stitches. One involves a working yarn, the other does not. I advocate knowing how to do both, and using them when they make sense. For creating new stitches along a garter edge, I advocate "picking up" stitches. This includes no working yarn. I work LEFT to RIGHT, and scoop up the stitches that I want. First I identify the loop I want to collect. In this case, its the edgemost ladder of the edgemost garter stitch. (Note that this is not that weird little knot on the very edge of all garter stitch. That sucker is odd, and impossible to collect neatly. Ignore the rotter.)

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Continuing to work LEFT TO RIGHT, I get all those stitches on the needle, taking care to collect them all in the same manner. This is one advantage of "pick up" rather than "pick up and knit". The stitches aren't distorted by the action of knitting them and therefore it is plain as day whether or not they are picked up properly and uniformly. (It also makes it dead easy to see if you've missed one, which is harder the other way.)

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Step 2: When all the little dudes are picked up, including one in the cast on (or off) edge, I examine them all from both sides to make sure that I've always collected the same portion of the stitch, and I get my working yarn.

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Step 3. I knit them. I insert the needle in the traditional manner. (If I thought that was making a big hole, I might go in the other way. EG: knit into the front of the stitch.)

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Step 4. Now I'm at the point where the direction of the source knitting changes. Now I'm collecting stitches from the length wise rather than vertical edge of the garter stitch. Since the work has changed direction and what I have to pick up has changed, I'm changing techniques. If I were married to "pick up" rather than "pick up and knit" at this point I would have some trouble collecting the little gaffers. Luckily, I have another way to go about it.
I'm going to switch to "pick up and knit".

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Step 5. I find the first loop of the source bind off, and choose the inner leg. I know that right about now some of you lost your everloving minds. You are coming unglued because you've always been taught that you should pick up both legs, because the work is allegedly stronger. Well... I know no master and this works better for me. In my experience, picking up both legs isn't any stronger. Most knitting is one single strand of yarn carried through another single strand, and I don't see any reason to change here, and picking up both strands creates a large ridge on the other side of the work that I don't care for, especially in a project like a blanket. Not doing it, and it works just fine.

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Step 6: Once I've identified which leg I'll be picking up, and had a good look-see at its location, I'm off. I pick up and knit the stitches in order, being sure not to miss one. I come UP THROUGH THE STITCH. Bottom to top...

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and then knit it like a regular stitch. Some people like to twist that stitch. I think it makes an already bound section more bound and creates a pucker. I don't do it either.

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Ta dah! This is the wrong side, where you can see that the leftover leg snuggles right down into the source garter stitch and is practically invisible.

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This is the public side, where it looks - to my way of thinking, very tidy indeed.

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Finished, front...

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and back.

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In other blanket news, I've been grounded for a couple of hours by a dye lot problem I'm not ready to talk about.
(Also, the fact that it is a million degrees (Celsius) in an un-airconditioned house makes draping this thing on my lap seriously unappetizing. Gotta figure a way around that.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:47 PM

June 22, 2009

Public Service Announcement

My little Meggie (should stop saying that, she's almost 18) works in a restaurant and is very competent and clever. She kicks arse in the kitchen, and has been working a brunch shift for years. This has been of tremendous use to our family, as on holidays, Meg and Amanda (who works as a server in the same place) can whip up a truly awesome Christmas/Mother's Day brunch and slap an eggs Florentine in front of you like they were born to do it. Meg's been working there so long that she thinks that making your own hollandaise sauce is like pouring yourself a bowl of Cheerios. Simple and straighforward. Meg know's what she's doing and she doesn't make many mistakes at all...

Until this weekend, when she made a big one. The restaurant has new pans, and these new ones have metal handles. Meg's used to the old ones with the plastic handles, so she took a hot pan out of the oven, removed the food, and tossed the pan into a stack. Two minutes later, she went to pick it back up again. Now, with the old pans, the handle would have been cool enough to touch...but with the new ones,

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Oops. That's 1st degree burns to all her fingers, and 2nd degree burns to most of her palm. You can imagine how much that hurts. We didn't find out that she'd burned herself until hours later, after she had mostly finished her shift (she's a tough cookie) and we picked her up and took her into Urgent Care so that they could look at it. She's got those fancy bandages for a while, but there should be no permanent scars or "contractures". (Not sure what those are, but they sound bad, and I'm glad she won't have them.) Now for the public service announcement.

When Meg got burned, a bunch of people gave her "first aid" and advice. Meg took some, and not the others. Unfortunately, some of the advice she accepted made things worse, so Meg's about to be signed up for a St. John Ambulance course so that she knows what first aid to give herself. The bad advice she didn't take (thank goodness) was to put toothpaste on the burn to dry it out. (I know. Try to control yourself.) The bad advice she did take, was to put butter on the burn. Joe and I were shocked that this old fashioned advice is still out there, but it is, and we couldn't believe that we were meeting people yesterday who were surprised to learn that butter on a burn is dangerous. For the record, butter on a burn makes the burn worse, seals in heat and promotes infection - plus it has to be cleaned off by medical staff and that's really, really painful. If you don't believe me (and I know some of you won't. When I learned that sugar doesn't make kids hyper I couldn't believe it either, and was incandescent with rage that they would suggest such a thing) then google "butter on a burn" and see if you can find anyone (qualified) who thinks it's a good idea. Then maybe read this page, on what to do for a burn.

For now, the worst part for Meg is that she has to suspend her training for the Friends for Life Bike Rally. Some of you will remember that Ken did this last year to support the People with AIDs Foundation, and in so doing, he inspired Megan and her boyfriend Pato to join him this year. The ride goes from Toronto to Montreal, and begins July 26th. It's about 600km (372 miles) in six days - so the training is pretty intense. (Meg was scheduled to ride 100k today, but it will need to be put off for a little until she can put weight on her hand and the blisters are healed a little. Probably a week) If you were so inclined, I bet that Meg, Pato and Ken would love your support this year.
(You can click on their names to give to them. Every little bit helps, since all of them need to raise at least $2200 to ride. Also, anybody who raises more than $6000 before June 30th, gets a gold jersey, which... although none of them would say it... they all crave deeply. Don't tell them I told you.)

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That's Megan and Pato before they went to Prom on Friday. How can you refuse such cute kids anything?

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(Actually, if you have 17/18 year olds yourself your resistance might be quite high.) I'd love it if you did these two a great favour and sponsored them, but even if you don't want to, the I'd really love it if you did everyone a favour and took a minute to read that burn first aid stuff.

(Edited to add: A lot of you are asking, so I'll answer here. Yes. Megan and Pato are indeed the youngest riders taking part this year, and yes. I'm stupid crazy proud of both of them.)

Tomorrow, we return you your regularly scheduled blanket. (I know. The excitement must be overwhelming.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:46 PM

June 19, 2009

Maths were never my strong suit

Churning along on the blanket, I bring you version #2 of

Blanket Size Check '09

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(Thanks Sam. )

I wondered where I was at today, percentage wise, and so I looked up the final dimensions of this bad-boy.

50 X 60.

Well, I thought. I wonder where I am now?

26 X 32

Wow. I reeled. See that?

26 X 32
50 X 60

26 is more than half of 50, and 32 is more than half of 60, therefore (and I was so giddy with joy about this) I concluded that I was MORE THAN HALFWAY. What great news. I mean, this thing was dragging a little but if I was making this sort of progress then dudes, I wouldn't have to stick with this for long. I mean, more than halfway? That didn't hurt at all! I can do that! I can't even believe I was complaining! (Apparently, when hope is dangled in front of me like that, I lose all restraint in the area of exclamation points. Dreadful.) It was whole moments before I started to apply logic to the thing.

Wait... If the blanket is only the size that is shown above, and that's more than halfway, then the blanket can't be halfway because it won't be 50 X 60. I boggled. 26 really is more than half of 50. 32 is definitely more than half of 60. (I double checked.) I sat there for a good long time trying to get how I'd screwed it up - before I remembered a grade school concept called "AREA" and its relationship to (heaven help me) multiplication. I did the calculation for area.

50" X 60" = 3000"

okay.

26" X 32" = 598"

Then I looked up how to get percentage (don't mock me. I'm a writer. I don't need to know it every day.)

598 divided by 3000 = .193333.... X 100 = 19.93 %

That's not halfway. That's only about 20%. Hope was dashed, the urge to use exclamation points vanished... but at least it explains how I can be halfway on a blanket that isn't half it's eventual size.

Freakin' math. I hate it the way I did in grade 9, and it still makes just about as much sense. 32 is definitely more than half of 60.

---------------------

Edit: Okay. That's seriously the funniest thing ever. I put up a post about how bad my math skills are and then do the math wrong. Man. When I say I'm bad at something I don't screw around.

Turns out that 26 X 32 = 832, which means I'm 832, which means I'm 27.7% done, which is a far better number.

Now I understand exactly what was happening that day that my grade 7 math teacher flipped right out on me when I was attempting to explain my approach to division.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:18 PM

June 18, 2009

Snap

Really, I knew that when I promised myself I would only knit on the blanket, that it would only be a matter of time until I tried to break that same promise. Myself and I are rather well acquainted at this time, and I know that great honking swathes of garter stitch executed in neutral colours is a recipe for knitterly infidelity, and that the deadline alone wouldn't be enough to keep me faithful. I knew it would only be a matter of time (a short time at that) before I was trying to weasel out of all sorts of parts. I would be saying things like "I said I wouldn't knit on anything else, but I didn't say I wouldn't work on socks. Socks don't count." or "Well, when I made the promise to only knit on the blanket, what I really meant was that I wouldn't start anything new. Finishing things already underway doesn't count" or even that old standby "I know I said that I wouldn't knit on anything else but really, it would be reprehensible to ignore the fact that Christmas is in only 191 days and I'd better get cracking on that." or how about "Holy cow, so-and-so is having a baby? That's just cause. Allow me to drop this blanket faster than a boxful of dead gerbils and get right on that". I knew that after a tiny little time, I would be looking for knitters with broken arms and knitting deadlines and proffering up help, exclaiming that it was my duty to help the poor souls.

I knew it. I knew that a couple of thousand stitches into an exercise in repetition, I would be begging for an excuse, so I made my promise to myself iron-clad. I promised that I would not knit on anything else. Nothing. Not socks, not emergency baby blankets (there's irony), not Christmas, not birthdays, not rescue missions. Nothing. Knit this. Only this. Just the blanket. No other knitting. All other knitting counts. Knitting. This. Blanket.
I recognized my basic nature, copped to it and fenced myself in. So yesterday, when I really was about to run screaming into the night and had cleaned the bathroom with an old toothbrush so as to avoid the blanket... I finally found a way out.

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That's an Abby Batt (wool, silk, alpaca) being spun on a Trindle that I'm test driving. It's a neat tool. It goes fast, but takes some getting used to.

It's not knitting. You've got to admit it. I'm a genius.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:25 PM

June 16, 2009

Bright questions about a boring blanket

The blanket continues to go well, and so I bring you the first in a series:

Blanket Size Check '09

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Nope. Not done. Clearly just entering the lab robe phase. (Thanks to Natalie for holding the blankie, and thanks to Joe for the new camera for my birthday. it's really cool knowing what the pictures look like in advance again. I was pretty much over the element of surprise on that one. )

Let's try some questions to liven things up, shall we?

Dianne asks: Just wondering - what yarn are you using?

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I'm using Cascade Ecological Wool. This yarn comes in natural undyed sheepy colours, and I really think that the combination of the bold shapes and natural palette is really sophisticated and modern. Mind you, I thought that about mint green batwing mohair sweaters with spandex pants in the 80's, and now everytime I see a picture of myself from then I practically have to breathe into a felted bag to get a hold of myself, so who the hell knows if its true.

Terri says: Love the blanket. First thing I thought when I saw the picture was ...
soothing. I'm putting money on the yarn being Eco Wool. How many skeins
do you figure it'll take?

I'm guessing that I'll use about 8 skeins, since I'm hoping that this will be a big blankie. This pattern calls for Silky Wool, so I've adjusted the stitch count to account for the larger gauge so that the proportions will be the same. I think. There was math. No way to know if it worked, but I like how it looks. I figure (cue ominous music and sense of foreboding) it's a bunch of rectangles. What can go wrong?

Mim Bird thinks: Even if you are on deadline, I am having a hard time believeing you have only one project going. Surely all this garter stitch is going to cause repetitive motion injury to your brain. Your stash called this afternoon and begged to hold an intervention. Come on...just a few rows of lace or a small cable, just for a relish, just to keep things lively? You'll come back to your garter stitch refreshed and alert. Come on...You now you want to. xo

Actually, I do have one teeny tiny (really) stealth project going, but it's going to be done tomorrow and then it's all blanket, all the time. I figure I can take it. I'm usually all over the place with the knitting. A little monogamy should be not just possible, but pleasant. (Stop it. Laughing is rude. I'm serious. Get a hold of yourselves. )

Holly wonders: Are you caught up on Doctor Who? You probably have time to watch all of them... not just the new ones!

Sadly, I am caught up, and heartbroken that they can't seem to make dorky TV as fast as I can watch it. I'm currently shopping for a dorky new series to love. Suggestions for dorky TV are welcome. I also think that this blanket is probably a wicked time to catch up on movies - which would be why the DVD player broke last week, but that's easy to fix. Computers play DVD's.

Alex inquires: What differences do you find between the Knit Picks and Addi Turbo needles?

I think that the KnitPicks needles (options) are a good needle, excellent value for the money, and supremely pointy. (I like pointy.) I find that the Addi Turbos are less pointy, but slightly more comfortable, smoother, I like the cables better, and think the joins are nicer. That said, the Options give you... well. Options. I can change cable length - change needles... that's a nice thing to have, and I (clearly, since I own and use them) like the KnitPicks needles just fine - especially at their price point. That said, I really think that when it comes to needles you get what you pay for, and in a subtle, overall warm-glow sort of way, I prefer the Addi Turbo's for this project, and for most projects that are really, really big. Anytime I'm getting a megadose of time with a project, I like both the yarn and needles to be the ones I like best. Reduces the odds I'll stash it in a damp corner of the basement and disavow all knowledge of it.

Kathy in KS suggests: Something tells me there's going to be an awful lot of these "the blanket is still going well" posts, aren't there? At least keep us informed as to the color changes or something. Like "I went from the medium light gray to the medium gray today, and tomorrow will be the darker one. I can't wait!"

Okay. No problem. (Although really, I see where it could be sort of a downer that I picked neutral colours on this one. Bummer.) Today I think I will finish with the black, and then it will be white again. I can't wait!

(Better? No. I didn't think it would help much either. How about if I promise a tutorial on picking up stitches in garter stitch? Favourite cake recipe? Anything?)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:52 PM

June 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to me

I am 41 years old today. I can do whatever I want for the whole day, and now that my kids are bigger, that's really what happens. (As all the mum's out there can attest, you can say that you're getting a day all you like when you have little kids, but it's not true. You get what they can spare, and not a moment more.) I'm pretty psyched, although being given a whole day is a little like being asked what I'd like for a present - I suddenly can't think of a darned thing I need or want.

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I'm starting slow. I have a cup of coffee that Joe made (I love it when other people make the coffee. It's like a miracle to me) the Premier Crossword from yesterdays Toronto Star (I saved it) and my knitting.

I wonder what I'll do after that?

Posted by Stephanie at 9:57 AM

June 11, 2009

Blanket update number one

The blanket is still going well.

I have changed from a KnitPicks needle to an Addi Turbo just to keep it fresh. (We will reflect later on the fact that I am like... 1/8 of the way into this blanket, and have already decided to try and "keep it fresh." Bad sign.)

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That's all I've got - except for the news that this morning I spit a stitch on it, but I noticed right away and fixed it... so it was fine and not really interesting. Sorry about that.

(I told you this was going to be boring. I'm going to have to think of something.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:18 PM

June 10, 2009

Let the Boring Begin

I have bad news. I've come to realize over the last few years, that there are two things about my knitting that make it interesting to others.

1. I knit sort of fast, and a lot - and when it comes to knitting projects, I have the attention span of an infant gerbil. This means that even if you don't want to look at what I'm knitting, it will be over soon and I'll be on to something else - alarmingly, whether I finish it or not. (Someday, someone is going to add up all the projects that came to nothing and present me with a really horrible list.)

2. I am not a really, really clever knitter, and I am compelled to be honest about it because I know that's how it goes for (almost) everybody. (I say "almost" because I freely admit that there are some knit bloggers out there who never seem to screw up, and simply knit smartly through astonishingly accomplished knits without even once having to do the cast on edge 14 times. I don't know how they do it. In my heart of hearts I like to believe that they are screwing up as often as I am, and just not admitting it - but I know that's probably just what I like to tell myself while I'm fixing my 16th miscrossed cable.) I screw up, and don't take myself seriously enough to miss the fact that my screw-ups are entertaining for others who have also been victims of their own intellects from time to time. Really, how much fun would this blog be if every entry read "I knit a hat. It went well."

For these reasons, what I am about to tell you about my new project is very, very bad news.

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I am knitting the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket (Rav Link) from Mason Dixon Knitting, and I am knitting it on a deadline.

It is garter stitch. It is simple. It goes on forever, and I have to do it and not much else for some time. As it is garter stitch squares and rectangles, I regret to inform you that the chances that I am going to make an entertaining mistake are very slim. (Although, if I do screw it up, I suppose that will take me into a whole new and lower realm of mistake making that - while it will shake me to my very core, will likely be pretty fun to watch. Again, I repeat that I truly believe that the odds on this happening are just about zip. With this move, I have pretty much wiped out any chance that I will either move on to another project anytime soon, that this will finish anytime soon, or that I will entertain you in any way.

You have my regrets.

------------------------

In other, more interesting news, Claudia is at it again, in her usual indomitable style, riding to support MS research. Maybe go see if her efforts are your style? Good prizes, big fun.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:41 PM

June 9, 2009

Randomly on a Tuesday

1. I'm home.
2. I'm so glad I'm home. I've still got the tail end of whatever plague beset me three weeks ago, and I can't seem to kick it, so the idea of sleeping in my own bed and having my own things around me makes me really happy.
3. I'm convinced that my cold/cough/plague would leave if summer would arrive. I can't believe how crappy and cold it is outside. The Canadian summer is short enough that this last run of cool weather is a heartbreak.
4. I don't even have my garden in.
5. I loved the people I met in Saskatchewan.

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6. Aviva said in the comments: "The Benedictines are so incredibly cool. Have fun with them. Extra points
if you get them to pose with the sock."

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Done. (Thanks Father Dimitrius. You're a good sport.)

7. My house is so messy and dirty that it's bugging even me, and I have really, really ridiculously low standards.
8. There is a strange smell in the fridge and I have been trying to figure out what it is since Sunday. It's driving me crazy. I've looked at everything. It's like a ghost smell messing with me or something. I hate when that happens.
It's like fridges only have one way to try and express humour. It doesn't work.
9. I finished a pair of socks while I was on my way back.

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Plain vanilla sock pattern, yarn Creatively Dyed "Luxury" in Salsa. (80%merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon. Seems to be good stuff.)

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10. I regret pretty deeply that I didn't make these my size.
11. That makes me feel a little selfish.
12. I think I'm okay with being selfish about socks that I knit myself.
13. I finished something big.

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It's the Miralda shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia, knit in the extremely delicious merino/angora blend from Toots LeBlanc. I used three full skeins, and a little bit of the fourth one.

14. Considering the rough start this project had, I'm surprised how much I loved knitting it. The nupps are an extremely entertaining bit of knitterly fun. Something like deciding to turn a cartwheel in the park for no reason other than it's a beautiful day.

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15. I was really worried that the angora would shed all over the place. They said it wouldn't, but I have been told yarn lies before - and when a yarn is expensive, it really annoys the hell out of me.

16. This wasn't a lie. I love this yarn. It's tightly spun, tightly plied... and it's developing the loveliest angora halo without leaving angora anywhere, even after washing and abusing a little. The tight twist means this has stitch definition that shows of my work, while the halo makes it so soft it would break your heart. I absolutely got what I paid for here... and more.

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17. I am thinking about wearing this shawl with my track pants and tee shirt when I go to buy toilet paper from the corner store later.

18. I think that this is a good idea, because the tee shirt is black and will really show off the shawl, and I will look great.

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19. In reality, I know that I am actually going to look like a homeless lady who found a really great shawl.

20. Sigh.

.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:40 PM

June 5, 2009

Where did you think it would be

Have you ever had a day where you realize that if you tried to explain where you are and what you do and how things are in your life that people might try to get you some help or something?

Today was one of those days. I'm here in Saskatchewan to teach knitting and give a knitting speech, so when I woke up this morning in my room in the guest dorms of the Monastery I'm staying in...

Oh... see that! SNAP! That was it. Turns out that the Saskatchewan Stitches Conference is held in a Monastery.
Yes. A Monastery.
No, not a building that used to be a Monastery and is now used for something else..
A fully functioning Monastery, full of friendly and kind Benedictine Monks who bake awesome bread.

They are all lovely, have a wonderful sense of humour and a delight to be around. The conference has a lot of classes. Quilting classes, silk painting, sewing... and my favourite (just because we're in a Monastery...)
Bra making. For real. (Can you think of anything better for a monk to be good natured about that a lingerie class?)

I'm knitting pretty socks. I'm living with monks. More later.

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Pattern: Loksins, Yarn: Sleeping Dragon Hand painted merino in "Pool"

PS. The sky in Saskatchewan is the prettiest anywhere. Prairies really know sky. You can't tell me different.

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Posted by Stephanie at 7:41 PM

June 4, 2009

Could you get that for me?

It would seem that I dropped a couple of days there, not quite sure what happened. My memories of the last few days really only seem to be a collection of vignettes of my computer screen, endless cups of coffee and database searches, and I see a lot of replies in my inbox, so I must be emailing people. Every day the number in there is lower, and hope is dawning on the horizon with a warm glow. In the meantime I'm knitting garter stitch (about a row a day, I'll show it to you later - it's a whole new project) wishing that my camera was fixed (I've done nothing to make that happen) and now... sitting in the airport again, on my way to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and I'm thinking about Dallas (and about how I really, really wish I could teleport all these places because I am starting to be automatically cranky in airports) and how surprised I was there.

I don't know what I was expecting Dallas to be, but I'd never been there and I watched TV in the eighties, so its PR was really all I had to go on. I expected it to be flashy or something. I expected cowboy hats - maybe big jewellery. Absolutely an unusual standard of lipstick and hair and perhaps the tiniest little proclivity towards shoulder pads and evening dresses at lunchtime.
Nope. It looked like this. (As always, you may click to embiggen small knitters)

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See that? Just the sort of knitters that you would expect. There they are, looking for all the world like I could be anywhere, and I found that really, really comforting. I know I say it all the time, but I can't tell you how much I like it that knitters are about the same everywhere I go. Their accent's change, what they're wearing changes, what they're knitting changes, but the basics stay just the same. Proof? There were lots of pre-knitters:

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That's Erica/Tom/Nathanial, Michelle with wee Joseph (very serious guy) Emily and Isaac, Cindy and Connor, and Nancy and Evie - with Evie modelling a very nice February Baby sweater. (Rav Link.)

There were lots of first sock knitters, brutally honest about the perils that lurk in the depths of a first pair of socks.
It went reasonably well for Cynthia, Diana, Randi,Joanna, and our resident overachiever, Sabina. (Perfect, patterned knee socks that fit - right out of the gate. Don't hate her because her socks are beautiful.)

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Then there were these 1st sock knitters, sent here by the fates to make all of us feel better about our own mistakes.

Christy knit a beautiful pair of first socks...

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but the bind off is too tight, and they cannot be placed on human feet.

This is Sharon, who knit two beautiful first socks...

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that came out two entirely unrelated sizes.

and this is Trisha, who's first socks are absolutely perfect...

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if you live in the Arctic, which Dallas is not, even if you do jack up the AC.

Finally, this is Stacia, who is not displaying her first socks, as they had fallen prey to another really common problem knitters have.

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Her husband stole them and won't give them back.

People brought me things ( I never thought people would bring me things, and I know that I should probably love it less for the sake of being humble and less consumerist and all that, but I really, really love it. It's charming and thoughtful and makes me feel less lonely and far from home, and I just love it. I'm thrilled and surprised everytime someone does it. I never expect it, and I think it's unbelievably kind. I'm also really, really glad that not everyone does it, because I would be buried in really great stuff really fast, so I'm glad it's just the occasional things here and there.) Mary Kay brought me a Boa, in case there was some sort of Texas accessory emergency, for which I am, by nature... woefully unprepared.

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Enid brought me a totally great Hawaii washcloth to add to my collection.

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Lara brought me a seriously funky little fertility doll that her mum Ruth dyed the fibre for, and she spun,knit and wrote the pattern for. (It's my fault she's making that face. Sorry.)

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Lissa and Magnolia brought me DINNER, which was really grand, since vegetarian feed can be in short supply in Texas...

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I totally got a "private" beer. (This was in response to a twitter I wrote earlier in the day about a very kind person who wrote to me to let me know that I was in grave spiritual danger (I believe that means I'm going to hell, not sure) because I am a role model for people and therefore shouldn't speak of drinking alcohol in public. Apparently this person believes that my influence is far greater than anyone had ever imagined.)

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She need not worry. I drank this one in private. It was very good.

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This here, now this is a good one. Its a Texas Knitters' 6-pack from Ron and his lovely wife Theresa at Buffalo Gold (That, all by itself is almost enough of a reason to want to live there) it's a little bit of their lovely yarn, and ... um....
"Coffee". Yeah. That's what was in that cup. Absolutely.

I got to meet Melanie from Pink Lemon Twist , creator of the mystery stole series and wearing a shawl of her own devising - I think it's Flamenco. (I wonder if she realizes how many people she influenced?)

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I met Harrison (11) and Stuart (7) both competent knitters,

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and that's Kimberlyn in the picture with Stuart, holding open Knitting Rules to the page where I explain how to measure gauge, which I signed for her, because she claims that page changed a very great deal about how well gauge was working for her. Kimberlyn apparently was shocked to see gauge being measured horizontally across the stitches in that picture. Up until that exact moment, she had been measuring it VERTICALLY - like row gauge, which would totally make it hard to "get gauge" ... well. Ever. Things are better now. I think I love her for copping to it.

Finally, there was Laura with a good old fashioned knitting tatoo. (I love that sentence.)

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See? Totally normal - at least for knitters.

In fact, the only thing that I was shocked by in Dallas, television didn't help me prepare for, and if you're Canadian you might want to sturdy up, or take a deep breath or something before you look at this. It's a little hard to imagine, and certainly not something you expect to see.

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A guy in a zamboni, WEARING SHORTS.
I may never recover from the juxtaposition.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:26 PM

June 1, 2009

The way things are in Texas

Some cities, it turns out, have nicknames for no reason. Like... Chicago being the windy city. Chicago really isn't that windy. It's average. (Boston is the windiest US city, and It turns out that calling Chicago the "Windy City" might be a marketing ploy from around 1880.) Also, I've heard people call Cleveland "The Mistake by the Lake" which, after visiting, I can say it clearly isn't, unless you are a Washington Wizards fan (or so I'm told) and that hardly seems like a fair concensus. All of this is to say that when you hear a slogan like "Keep Austin Weird" you think.. yeah, well. How weird can it be? I mean, people are the same all over... right? I was only in Austin from 4:30pm to 9:00AM (and the booksigning stuff started at 6pm and I was in the airport from 7:30am) but I still gathered the following.

Austin is weird. Good weird, but definitely weird.

Evidence 1.(As always, click to embiggen.)

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(That last one is still more of a good shot of my sock than the knitters, which I'm sorry about, but the screen on my camera is still broken, so I'll take what I can get.) They totally overwhelmed and surprised the bookstore, who ran out of books and were lovely and welcoming, but pretty shocked. (I know that Hill Country Weavers and The Knitting Nest tried to tell them, but dudes, nobody believes it till they see it.) I actually take my hat off to everyone concerned. Awesome job. Book People is a really awesome indie with pleasantly weird staff. Loved them, and they stuffed knitters into every available spot.

Evidence 2.

David, in all his kilt-clad glory, showed up to exact revenge. A few years ago at Rhinebeck I councelled him to buy a cone of wool for kilt hose. I can be pretty compelling, and David walked away with that yarn. Now immediately thereafter, the poor little dear declared it "scratchy" and began plotting his retaliation.

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It was this. A thong out of the allegedly scratchy wool, which I assure you, I will never, ever put on. Not because that wool is scratchy (because it is not, David just doesn't like it rough, which is all I would expect from a man in a skirt) but because I'll die before I concede the point.

Evidence 3:

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Not one, but TWO independent knitters decided, for no other reason than that it would be funny, to knit enormous socks to demonstrate that "everything is bigger in Texas." I'd agree. (And it is funny. That's Elizabeth with the first one, and Carol with the second. Elizabeth worked toe up, Carol... top down.)

Evidence 4.

This is Lauren, Gardiner and Patrick.

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They are unrelated to each other, but Lauren somehow converted Gardiner into a knitter anyway, and then Gardiner spread it to Patrick. Clearly, Lauren emits a knitter vibe that is deeply, deeply contagious.

Evidence 5: (Which is not really evidence that Austin is weird, but that knitters are the same all over, no matter where you find them, which I find reassuring)

Sue and Kristi with their first socks,

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Jelayne, who, although she couldn't bring me her young knitter Andy, did bring me a picture of him. 7 years old, and totally competent.

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And finally... a message:

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Always happy to help a knitter out.

From there, I slept briefly, and got on a plane to Dallas where the good times kept on rolling. (Seriously. I think I love Texas.) Part 2 is tomorrow, since this post is long enough.

A quick note about The Sock Summit. Tina, me and the whole team are reassured, touched and bolstered by the outpouring of love and support we've received in the last few days. We can't tell you how much we hate our server, and how much we love all of you back. We're still working through the emails we've gotten at our Contact us forms, and if you haven't heard from us soon, you will. We can't thank you enough for your support and patience. You made up for the bad stuff in a big way. (The donations to KWB were an outstanding touch. You're all made of kindness. I'll be adding those to the tally and thanking you individually when the SS09 inbox isn't such a pressing concern, but know that we see and love every one of them.)

Until tomorrow.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:09 PM