October 30, 2009

Good Mothers

Since the requests for posts from SOAR are coming in, along with requests for any posts at all, since I was quiet for an uncharacteristically long time, I'm just going to bite the bullet and tell you all. 

I'm not at SOAR.  I'm home.  I came home on Wednesday, and I don't really know what to say about being here and not there, except that I felt that my family needed me, and I wasn't sure what to do, and in the end, I decided that there were worse things than being home when someone didn't need you, but little worse than being away when I should have been home, and I thought I could live with the former, but not the latter, and three planes and 18 hours later I was home.

This I thought, was a very mature and grown up thing to do.  I saved all year for SOAR, it's the first time I signed up for the whole week, I got all the classes I wanted and I even gave up going to other stuff  like Rhinebeck so that I could afford it.  My friends are all there, including some I only see at SOAR, and we've been talking about it for months and months - and I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you that I was really, really bummed about leaving. 

I know that as good mothers we aren't ever supposed to resent sacrifices for our children. I know this because in the few days since I came home and have expressed disappointment in missing SOAR, I've been getting the standard message quietly from part of the world around me, and loudly from the Mother Police that live in my head.   (If you are a mother I'm sure you have your own Mother Police. They never take a day off and have unreasonably high standards.)

The Mother Police say good mothers don't mind when somebody throws up and they miss dinner with a friend who only comes to town once a year, so that they can do 6 loads of pukey laundry instead.  Good mothers don't mind when a babysitter cancels and everyone goes to the party without them.   Good mothers are selfless. Good mothers put themselves last, good mothers never mind when they miss a good time as long as they are there for their kids.  I got the good mother memo.  I know how I am supposed to feel.  I'm supposed to need to walk away from a trip I've been looking forward to for a year, and I'm supposed to say that it's perfectly alright and I don't mind even a little bit, and that my family is so important to me that the things that I want for myself don't matter at all.  They need me and I'm here.  Good mothers don't talk about what they want or what they feel. 

Well, maybe it makes me a bad mother, but I'm calling bulls**t on the Mother Police.  Screw it.  I wish I was at SOAR with my friends.  There. I've said it.  I think the fact that I'm not supposed to care about the things that make me happy is stupid.  I think that treating women like nothing matters as long as their families are happy is stupid, and that teaching them to put themselves last and not bitch about it is a big chunk of what's wrong in the world.   I'm part of my family, and so are you, and the things that I need or want matter too.

I am here.  I did come, I did walk away because I was needed,  I am doing what I need to do, and I would do it again, because I do put my family before myself.

The good mother memo says that all of that means that I shouldn't feel bad about SOAR- and that a good mother wouldn't talk about feeling badly about missing it.   I respectfully suggest that's pretty stupid.  I think the fact that I really wish I was there, that I really wanted to stay, that I've been honest about my disappointment and sadness about leaving and that I came home and did what I had to do anyway?  I feel like the Mother Police should give me extra points, because  instead of that sadness making my family feel like I love them less...
I bet that them knowing that I put them ahead of all those things I really, really wanted for myself means that they can see just how much they matter to me.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:55 AM

October 26, 2009

Yes, It's true

Just to finally answer the question "Can you knit on a plane?"

Yup. Once again, on Air Canada, it was no problem.

Denny, Rachel H and I made our way from Toronto to Oregon for SOAR, and we knit the whole way.  The only thing that security said was "What you're carrying is perfectly safe, but.. what is it?"  Answer, spinning wheels, spindles, needles and yarn.  Thanks for asking.
The only thing the flight attendant said was "Is this the Stitch and Bitch row of my plane?" Answer - "Yes. Didn't you get the memo?" She laughed.  Turns out she was a knitter.  The only people on the flight who thought it was weird were the other passengers, who just couldn't keep their eyes off the knitting section.

We felt very normal.  Safety in numbers.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:50 AM

October 21, 2009

Absolutley Positively

Last night, lying in the bath I swore that when the furnace guys came back today I would be more positive, and I am. 

I am positive that this sucks.  Today's contribution to the experience is not just unexpected work or financial outlay (we've adjusted to that) but the fact that the old furnace needs to be removed and severed into pieces small enough to exit the house.  This is done with some kind of really, really big saw that isn't just loud enough to shake the house, but is so unspeakably loud that I am actually worried that it might shake some of the fillings out of my teeth.  It is a noise so loud that even though my intellectual self is not frightened, my emotional self simply can't be convinced that I am not having an emergency. The result of this is that I alternately sit here knitting and being just fine (other than the fears for my dental work) and then periodically have to breathe deeply to avoid the urge to run screaming from the house because the part of my brain that's pretty darn primitive can't be convinced that a noise that big doesn't mean that I should run for my life before the herd of robotic evil T-rex's bursts out of the basement, murderous bloodlust in their LED eyes.   (Yes, I do think that robotic T-rex's would be worse.  Don't you?) 

An additional element of crazy is introduced if you go and look to make sure that there are no robotic T-rex's because the big saw that they are using  (by they, I mean Greg and James. Nice guys. We're becoming very close) actually makes huge sparks that light up the basement.  (They also set off all of my smoke alarms, which is another nuance of the entire effect.  I was afraid that all this noise would damage my hearing, now I'm hoping it will.)

Finally, while this is the one part that I cannot hope to convey to you in any sort of realistic way... there is a smell.  The smell of rotten eggs (residue in the old gas pipes, apparently) burning hair and dust (that would be from the burning hair and dust within the old furnace, ignited by the saw) musty damp soil (that's from the digging) acid, chemical smells (primer and glues from the new ducts) and the unmistakable smell of charred camel dung with notes of rubber cement, four day old un-refrigerated salad greens, and the vaguest whiff of sulphur and cattle. (I have no idea where that comes from.  I have terrible suspicions, considering the big animal bones that were revealed when the digging started - a little reminder that this used to be farmland.)  I wish, more than I can tell you, that this blog had a scratch and sniff so that I could share this with you, in even a minor, unrepeatable way.  (Greg and James assure me that it will all be fine. They also assure me it doesn't smell that bad, which makes me think that what I was hoping would happen to my hearing has taken out their sense of smell.)

Still (positive, be positive) things are going forward, and the noise, smell, dirt and fear are all wonderful indicators that these people are going to be finished soon and that makes me unreasonably happy. As of this writing, my antique, much beloved, never missed a day, worked when the power was out furnace has been hacked to bits and sent forth from this place and before it left it gave back a final gift.

Sam's once cherished "blue tiny baby", which accidentally went down a hall vent when she was three years old and prompted two full days of heartbroken sobbing.  (Her, not me.) I'd forgotten it was gone until they split the furnace open way down in the basement,  and there, in the bottom of the cold air return, was blue tiny baby, along with all the memories of how we were parted, and how hard we tried to get it back.
I can't wait for Sam to get home from school.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:51 PM

October 20, 2009

Whatever it takes

You know, you would think that after years and years of living in an old house, that I would have learned by now that absolutely nothing ever goes the way that it should, and that everything is more complicated than it needs to be.  We can't just replace kitchen cupboards, because the cupboards are attached to plaster and lathe walls that crumble when you take down the cupboards, which fall to the ground to reveal that the main support of your house partly gone, which you discover is because the sill plate has rotted out.  (AKA: How the cost of a reno quadruples in a nauseating week from hell in which a hole to the outside is made in your kitchen and must be defended so that raccoons do not gain entry - but I digress.)   I should have known.  We have never so much as hung a picture in this house without having to deal with some sort of unexpected outcome - part of which I blame on the fact that 125 years ago when my house was built there were no building codes.  Just what the guys whacking the place together could manage or thought would be good.  (Thanks, mystery guys from the past, for such wonders in my home as leaving the grounding wires off much of my electrical, and thinking closets were for sissies with too many clothes.  Awesome.

All of this should have braced me for the knowing that as awful as the furnace things was going- that it likely wasn't the end of the upset, and that was certainly true last night when the other shoe dropped.  Turns out that the portion of our basement that is a soil crawlspace wasn't deep enough to allow the furnace guys to crawl in and though they thought they could work with that they can't and they called last night to essentially ask us how the digging we didn't know we neeed to do was going.  Naturally, since we didn't know we needed to do it, work had been proceeding rather slowly.

(Do not judge my little house in this picture. I told you, it's very old. Old basments are complex places.)

It isn't now. Joe called in the reserves (like Pato, what a good boy) and started to dig a trench through the top layer of the crawlspace, and hauled dirt onto the basement floor, then bagged it up, then it was carried by me and Ken (ok. Mostly Ken) to the backyard... where... where I'll have to figure out how you make it go away.  Work can now proceed on the furnace on schedule tomorrow morning, and for a little while there, the tears had stopped. (Let's not discuss the mud/dirt slurry in the basement.  I'll figure that out later.)

At that point, we were pretty sure that things were as bad as they could get, and we were feeling pretty good about our ability to roll with the old house surprises, when Joe showed me some bricks he'd noticed.  (You can actually see them on the left of that picture.)  There had been cosmetic half wall build in front of the dirt years and years ago, and apparently that hadn't let us see that bricks were mysteriously landing there on the floor. 

Joe: Look at this, it's bricks.
Me: That's weird, isn't this a wooden house?
Joe: Yeah, it's really weird. The only place that there's bricks in this house is the.....

(Here, Joe pauses for so long that I wonder if he's having a stroke, and then it hits me.)

Me: The foundation, right Joe? The foundation?  Those bricks are falling out of the @#$%^UI(*&^%$ing foundation, AREN'T THEY JOE?

Joe: Yes.
Me: That's structural.
Joe: Yes.
Me: That's four really expensive bricks.
Joe: Yes.

At that point we neatly piled the bricks, Joe got a beer and two codeine/tylenol for his back, and I bumped up my painkiller from cashmere to Bison. 

There's nowhere to go but up.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:25 PM

October 15, 2009

Bugging Out

I just bugged out of the house instead of freaking out inside it, and now find myself down the street in a slightly crappy café, with wonderful espresso, a warm croissant and no internet - which is the only thing that really makes it slightly crappy.  (I went to the good café which has all of the above, but it was full, probably because it is the good café. I'll shift to somewhere with internet and post this soon.)   What this café does have going for it is that right now it's not my house.  I had to stay long enough for the work to be started and to understand where things were going and what they were doing, and I had to stay while the energy audit was done, but as soon as I could I bugged out of that joint. It's a crazy place.  Everything is in the wrong spot.  Everything. 

Now, I'm not the sort of person that dirt bothers.  I'm not.  I'm not very tidy, I don't scrub hardly anything unless I'm worried or having company, so you would think that a big reno like this wouldn't throw me much, but truth be told, while I fight against it every minute of every day,  deep down inside I am one of the worlds least flexible people.   I don't like noise.  I don't like people in my house, I don't like people touching my things or invading my space. I can't bear it if Joe sits at my desk, so people in the house touching my things, messing up my stuff - moving my stuff, cutting holes in all my floors and ceilings and running power tools while smashing out plaster and lathe is a really, really big challenge for me, and Joe called twice this morning to make sure I was "handling it", on account of his belief that I have a history of not managing renovation well, which I suppose might be true if you think that flipping out and attempting to micro manage, interrogate or over-control the craftspeople in your house before bursting into tears and taking a three hour bath with the door locked is an unreasonable response to home renovation... which I do not.

In any case, I was struggling but doing well, and I stood a chance of portraying a normal human until they blocked my access to the coffeemaker and started saying "uh-oh" while peering into the heaps of rubble, and even then I might have made it, had they not accidentally bumped into a wall and knocked down  something I love.  It's broken, and not fixable and I was upset. They are nice men, they are doing a great job,  these things happen, they were not reckless with my things...   It was not worth much, it might even be replaceable, and it's not like I don't have too many possessions anyway, and really, if I didn't want that in the line of fire I should have moved it to protect it and .... well.  That's the logical argument.

The illogical part of me however,  barely managed to  control myself long enough to mumble "It's okay" and to jam my knitting and laptop in my bag and make it onto the street before pulling out my phone and calling Joe to tell him that NOT ONLY are they touching my stuff but now they are breaking it and that the whole house is trashed and that all of our things have been moved - all of them and that the wardrobe in the back room has to be on the other side of the room FOREVER and that it's the wrong side, all wrong, and that I just don't think that is going to work but I have no choice, and there are BIG HOLES in the floor and you can see the rooms below through them and that they are big enough for the cat to fall through, and isn't anybody worried about that? That the cat might fall through?  Is anyone concerned?  And how about those big saws. Do they need to be that loud? Are they thinking about the wiring? Does he know that shelf by the front door? The one that we keep bike helmets on... it's gone.  Now we have nowhere to keep helmets and also we have one less hook by the front door and some of the coats won't fit and really, this means we can never have company again because we're short coathooks and also, that wall was plaster and lathe and now it's all rubble and that made a huge mess and I would vaccuum it up except they're still making more mess and did I mention that the energy guy sealed up the house with a strange fan thing and that .. well, it was weird and the world is weird enough without our home getting weird and did I tell you that they're not just touching all of my stuff but they're touching yours too - and they saw the bulk of the stash and I don't think they were okay with it because the guy just kept pointing and saying "Is that wool? .. Is that wool?" Is that.... more wool?" and you know what? People think I'm crazy enough when I tell them I write "knitting humour".  I don't need them coming into my own home and thinking I'm crazy and those people do think I'm crazy and that's making me crazy.  It's a circle of crazy.   That I just don't know what to say when people are touching and breaking my stuff and I do know it's crazy, I know it is, but they even went in our bedroom, and they need to move not just the downstairs wool but the upstairs wool too, and that I just can't stand it. 

Now, Joe and I have been together for a long time, and he knows that I'm only able to appear normal as long as nobody messes with me too much, and Joe listened to all of that, while I'm yelling and pacing and telling him all of it, and he finally says "Honey?  Honey.  Are you going somewhere where you won't talk to people and nobody will talk to you?"    So I said I was doing that now, that I was walking to the café  and I told him too that those guys in our house blocked off the coffee maker and that the toaster was dusty on the inside now, and that I didn't even know how you got plaster out of a toaster so I hoped that he bloody well had a plan to cope with that, and furthermore...  and he interrupted me.

"Steph, you gotta get away from the house and not talk to anybody.  Don't go back there.  Go to my mum's if you have to, nobody will talk to you there. Go somewhere quiet and knit something.  It's going to be okay"

... and as soon as he said it I realized that he was using soothing tones with me, like you do with someone who's way close to the edge, and I stepped back from it.  Not all the way, but far enough that I can order coffee without trying to show my server the pictures of the holes in my floor,  and from here I'm going down the street the otherway to the pub with the internet so I can post this, and I'm even going to have myself a little afternoon pint, and then I'm going to knit and knit sorting out stitches  until I feel better, and I'm going to think about these  questions.

How do non-knitters handle stress?  I mean, I know they must do something, since it's not like I see them all weeping on the bus all the time, but when everything in their lives is all messed up, what is the thread of sanity and sameness that runs through it and keeps them from being a lunatic?   Does knitting attract people who need something to moderate stress more than others?   Do you think that you use knitting to moderate your behaviour, and in this spirit of this shirt (I knit so I don't kill people) do you think your behaviour would be different if you didn't? 

Thoughts to renovate (and knit) by.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:38 PM

October 14, 2009


I'm on a mission these last few weeks. I know we've talked about it before, but this is my furnace. 

It is very old. It is bigger than Utah, takes up just about the whole basement,  and it works great.  It's an old gravity furnace.   It has no fan or electrical parts, so I have heat when it the power goes out, and if our bills are compared to our neighbours, it's actually pretty efficient, which shocks the hell out of me because it can't be true... but we're not spending much more than them.  It makes no noise, except for the tiniest little gentle and friendly ting-ping sound of the ducts expanding when the heat comes on, and because there's no blower, it doesn't even dry the air out the way a forced air one does.  In short, I love this furnace, and up until the last winter, it's been as reliable as your favourite grandpa.  

Last winter though, there were two really scary days (because not having heat mid-winter in Canada is scary) when the thing died, and even though it was simple to fix (Joe did something with a screwdriver the first time, and I thumped it Fonzie style the second) it was also scary because it's not really a repairable furnace.  If we can't fix it, it can't be fixed, because the minute a repair guy gets  look at that he's going to be obligated to "lock" it for safety.  (I don't necessarily buy that - I think they're just scamming to sell and install new furnaces some of the time.)  If that happens, we're suddenly obligated to buy and install a furnace on their terms, not ours, and at a time we don't choose.  That didn't sound good, so as I type there's an energy auditor here to figure out what we need, and dudes, I'm getting a new furnace.

This makes me happy, partly because I won't have to worry that the extended lifespan of the beast in the basement will run out on a Saturday morning in January when it's -40, because as cheap as this one is to run, the new one will be cheaper and have much, much lower emissions, which is fantastic, and because as much as I love my furnace, it is old, and it does have a hard time keeping up when the weather is really cold... which, as I may have implied, is most of the time here.  (We put our heat on only when absolutely necessary and that's usually 8 months of the year.  October to May.)  It also gives us the option to someday install central air conditioning, which isn't possible with a gravity furnace.

The downside is huge.  First, and I'm sure you might know this.  Furnaces are not cheap.  Mine is particularly not cheap, because it's a shocking thing to have extracted from your home and takes some special handling, and because gravity furnaces work entirely differently than forced air does... I need to have ducts installed throughout the house.   Gravity furnaces are essentially big fires - with ginormous ducts that run from it.  Two big ones go in the bottom of the furnace, and about six come out the top.  Cold air sinks (is pulled down by gravity) through big returns in the house down to the bottom of the furnace,

and it gets heated in the big fire and warm air rises through a central "chimney" which has a few runs to some other rooms, but mostly pumps out heat into the center of the house.

Modern forced air though, has cold air returns in the middle of the house and the heat at the edges... which means that even though my house is full of ducts twice the size of escape tunnels dug out of Sing Sing... none of them are any good and they have to chop up my house and install a whack of them, which is sort of thrilling, because when this is done, we will actually have something that we've never had before, which is the absolute decadence of heat in every single room in the house.  (Megan's room is one of the unheated ones, as is my office.  We're both pretty pumped.)

The down side to this is that people are coming into our house, they need to move things, go into all rooms, shift furniture, climb in the attic,  cut holes in the walls and floors.... and really, I don't know if you've gathered anything from this blog over the years, but I have a really tiny house (like... 1100 square feet) and four of us living here (it was five before Amanda moved out) and it only has two closets in the whole building (built before closets were popular) and I'm not at all the organized minimalist who would do well in this sort of set up and...  I can't stress this part enough. 

I have rather a lot of wool. 

I've spent a week gutting the hell out of the house, destashing (some of my buddies have scored huge) and getting rid of anything that I can to make room for the new ducts and make it possible to move furniture around.  I'm  living in fear of the moment they tell me to move the wardrobe in my office and that means moving everything in it - and that means emptying it into another space that doesn't have space and...

I hope this is worth it.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:11 PM

October 13, 2009

Things Finished

1. My plan to have teenagers sprayed with a gas that makes them find the idea of a partner disgusting.  I just need to figure out how to invent the gas. The plan is otherwise good.

2. Thanksgiving. Good holiday, great meals, one leftover pie.  I shall do my level best to finish that too.

3. One Drops Jacket 103-1 (Bewitching name.)

Yarn: My own handspun.  Fleece was a beautiful corridale I bought at the Royal Winter Fair, was processed by Wellington Fibres, and spun into a gorgeous cushy, bouncy two ply (6.5wpi).

Modifications: None really. I'm short, but like jackets long, so I deliberately didn't shorten this, which was kinda lengthening it, if you think about it right.   I put on fewer buttons, and I didn't make any button holes, just crocheted some loops after the fact, which is really great because it meant that I got to decide just where I like the buttons while I was wearing it, not while I was knitting it, which to my way of thinking should be a little more accurate.

Overall, I think I love it. It's cozy and light, but warm and comfy.  It seems a little dressy, and I like the shape of it, though if I had it to do over again I might do some of the A-line shaping at a different rate.  This flares sort of low for me.

I wore it for a walk yesterday, and it felt really, really chic.  Crunching along through the leaves with a warm wool jacket on...very autumnal vibe... which is good, because the only flaw I can see with this jacket is that it really is a jacket, and too thick to wear under a coat, so in a few weeks it's going to be too cold to wear it.  I'm going to compensate by wearing it constantly until then. 
(Furnace not on yet, so perhaps I shall wear it indoors.) 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:39 PM

October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

What a wonderfully cozy day.  We're in between family Thanksgiving celebrations, my family yesterday and Joe's today,  I'm making a wonderful mushroom tart, a pie is almost ready to go in, and I'm finished my Drops Jacket and contentedly picking buttons from my bin while the sweater dries. 

I'm listening to a documentary on the radio, Sam's taking a bubble bath, Meg will arrive shortly, all bundled in wool from outside,  and our whole home smells of marjoram and thyme. The kettle's about to whistle and I'm poking through the stash looking for a little something to knit this evening.  I feel so lucky really, and the only thing that's not quite right is that I miss Amanda, and for the first time since she left,  wish she was home from Australia.

It's fitting to me somehow, to remember the first North American Thanksgiving (and actually, the first English prayer service), when explorer (and pirate) Martin Frobisher stood on Baffin Island in 1578 and gave thanks for the for the safe crossing of the Atlantic and an understandable relief at having survived arctic weather. He was, as makes perfect sense if you've been anywhere near any of those places.. overwhelmed with gratitude and promptly had a feast of Thanksgiving for having come safely home to shore.  Admittedly, the feast would have been total crap.  They were at the end of a long voyage and I can't even imagine what sort of stuff was left in the hold of the ship.  Maybe that seems like a feast if you're really just so glad that you're not an iceberg ornament.  (Canadians may have had the first thanksgiving, and are truly grateful for the harvest that we find in this big country, but you've got to admit that the English colonists who landed at Plymouth nailed the menu way better when they had their first one 43 years later. Seriously.  Corn, squash and pumpkin pie vs dried salt beef, dried peas and crackers?  Stroke of genius.)

It's hard to compare what they were thankful for compared to what I'm thankful for today. (Gas stove.  Top of my list.) I'm so outrageously spoiled and pampered compared to a bunch of guys standing on a rock in the freezing wind feeling real, sincere thankfulness that their crazy-arse explorer/pirate boss didn't kill them all that it's hard to believe.   I'm thankful for the abundant harvest in this country and that I can afford access to it. I'm thankful for the luck of living in such a peaceful and safe place.  I'm thankful that I've got a wonderful family and  two daughters home with me and one who's lucky enough to be travelling.  I'm thankful for mushrooms. (I love mushrooms.)  I'm pretty thankful for beer, coffee and wool.  Mostly though?  I'm grateful for the lifestyle I lead that lets me knit.  Being a knitter is evidence I have time that I don't have to spend working or trying to make ends meet, and that I have some sum of money that I don't need for food, or shelter and that's pretty fortunate.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.  Go hug some yarn.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:09 PM

October 9, 2009


Just a quick note on this rainy Friday to congratulate our Meg.  We spent this afternoon at her high school commencement - where she's finally officially graduated. 

Also - I know.  A lot of you pointed out when Amanda graduated that holding commencement in the fall is weird, odd, strange or even... wrong.  I assure you that it's just one way to hoe the row, and it works fine. Anybody who didn't quite make it has the summer to patch up their last credits so they can still graduate with their friends, everybody has final grades, awards and scholarships in place, and this weekend is Thanksgiving, so most kids are home from University anyway. Fall is commencement time in this part of the world, and it's a wonderful reunion for all the kids who haven't seen each other since high school ended, or University started. It was great seeing them all together.  I have a special fondness for Meg's friend Maddy, who's spent so many sleepovers at our house that we call the trundle bed under Megans "the Maddybed".  Meg's going to University here in Toronto, but my Madeleine is further away - and I miss her.   They've known each other since they were 5 (seen here stringing beads for necklaces in dress up clothes) 

and I think they're only improving with age.  What beautiful, bright, successful girls. 

We're very proud.  Congratulations Meg and Maddy. 
(Both knitters, just for the record.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:32 PM

October 7, 2009

The moral of the story

Once upon a time a knitter in Toronto, who had a tremendously messy house, took some of the time that she should have spent on housekeeping and knit something.  Now, part of the reason that this knitters house is trashed all the time is because this is pretty much how she lives, and thing have only gotten worse not that she's reached middle age without anything really bad happening because she doesn't clean-  but we digress.  This slacker of a housekeeper sat down with a little ball of cashmere, and she fussed around until she had a very pretty cowl. 

So pretty in fact, that she called it Pretty Thing, and it turned out that some other knitters (who probably had trashed houses too... since there seems to be a connection - not that we're judging or anything, just noticing that you can't knit and vaccuum at the same time) thought it was very pretty too, and they asked her for a pattern. 

Now, the first knitter, the dumpy one with the sticky kitchen floor... she may have given these other knitters (the ones who are suspected of being way, way behind on the laundry) the impression that she would eventually get them the pattern, and then realized that she doesn't really make or sell patterns (and that making and selling patterns sort of isn't knitting)  and then started hoping that they would forget about it. 

Problem is, they didn't.  Turns out that all of that time that the other knitters didn't spend doing laundry, was actually time that they had freed up for cowl stalking, and stalk it they did.  Comments to the  first knitter became charming but persistent like "Beautiful hat, you've done a lovely job with it.  Don't forget I want that cowl pattern you slacker."  Or "I've found that slipping the first stitch of every row gives me a nice selvedge, perhaps you could try that RIGHT AFTER YOU GET ME A COWL PATTERN WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG DON'T YOU LOVE ME?"  and every time the knitter saw those she sighed and made a mental note to get right on that. She even wrote the pattern and forced her friends to knit it to make sure it was right. She just didn't do the second part.  The part where she put it up for everybody.  She knit instead.
The knitter was reasonably sure that the other knitters (the persistent ones with the smudged windows) had a crush on the cowl and would forget about it before she had to figure the next part out. 

That didn't happen, and by the time the first knitter (who travels for knitting all the time and actually meets a lot of knitters) figured out that things were going to get personal (this was right about the time that a knitter asked her for the cowl pattern while they were in the ladies room at Sock Summit) and that it was probably worth getting on with it.  Then, inexplicably, the knitter didn't do that, but she did send it out to a few more people for test knitting, while the other knitters, the ones who don't even think about the way the kitchen sink is anymore, upped the requests from "persistent" to "absolutely nagging". Still, a woman who's been ignoring a gansey for 3 years despite a level of nagging that is nothing short of elaborately dedicated is not going to be coerced easily.

In fact, the knitter pretty much let all of that be water off her back until two things happened.  First, RachelH knit the cowl and said "There is nothing wrong with this pattern, stop pretending it isn't ready"  and when the knitter countered with not knowing how to put a pattern up for sale, the formidable RachelH then emailed her instructions on how to do it, thus effectively painting her into a corner.  (RachelH can be like that. It is her ability to wield the twin swords of fact and logic that both annoy the snot out of the first knitter, and compel her to love her to absolute bits, depending on what direction this superpower is pointed.)

The second thing, was that the first knitter decided that she would like to knit another one of the Very Pretty cowls, and then realized that unless she wanted an unprecedented level of nagging in which the comments to her blog (yeah, she had a knitting blog. Get over it) that she would have to knit in in secret... that she realized that she should just do it.

Turns out that it only takes about an hour, once you've taken 9 months to do all the other parts. Pattern available on Ravelry, or by clicking on the link under the picture there (which the knitter thinks will work for people who aren't on Ravelry?)

Moral of the story?  Nagging eventually works.  Bummer.

Yarn: I used 20g (.7oz) of Roving Winds Farm 2ply cashmere in soft grey-brown, which was less than 150m. (164y) Almost any very soft fingering weight yarn would do.

Needle: This cowl is knit in the round on a 40cm, 3.5mm circular or DPNs (that’s a 16” #4 for Americans) but use whatever needle gets you gauge. (There are not enough stitches to go around a circular larger than 40cm. Don’t try.)

Gauge: 24 stitches to 10cm (4”) but gauge isn’t tremendously important, as long as you don’t knit it so tightly that it won’t go over your head.

Size: small-medium (fits over my 21 inch head) Feel free to upsize if you don’t care to have it fit so closely to your neck, knit very tightly, or have concerns about big-headed- ness. You can add another 17 stitch repeat of the chart very easily, and each repeat will add about 5cm (or 2”). Remember that increasing the size will take more yarn.

This pattern has a chart, but does not provide line by line instructions. It’s only 61 rounds though, so I encourage you to try.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:21 PM

October 6, 2009

Things going well

Friends,  I am having a really good few days.  Considering that I usually spend most of my time trying to clean up messes ones others create for me  (yes family, we are alluding to the state of the kitchen at this moment, and ones I create for myself (yes self, I am alluding to the state of the kitchen at this moment), things have gone really, really well for the last few days. (Exception of kitchen status noted.)

Thing the first:  The Frankenmittens are finished, and I love them to bits.

Gauja yarn, from Headwater Wool.  Colours #1 and #21. Took .3 of each skein at $6 CAD per skein, making these a really thrifty pair, which thrills me to no end.  I love it when I find a good, cheap wool.
I wrapped up the second one on the flight home from Portland on Friday, and they worked out beautifully.  I used the braid from Lisbeth Upitis brilliant Latvian Mittens book (pg 24) then part of a chart from the same book (#36) then the beautiful tops are from Terri Shea's Selbuvotter.

That's Annemor #15, which is actually a set of gloves, but I repeated the pattern from the back of the hand twice, and voila. Mittens.  (Big shout out to Heather for her great idea which was the total inspiration.)  I did a stripy thumb - since I think that stripy thumbs are dead sexy, and winged a little cross pattern for the palm.   Absolute success in my eyes.  They're beautifully fussy and traditional and pointy and everything that I wanted. 

Thing the second:  Jacket proceeding well.  Big needles, big yarn = progress-o-rama.

Today is Tuesday, so I'll be spinning a little.  I have to ply and wash another two skeins to have enough yarn for this, and I've decided to spin a companion yarn to this one out of the same fibre  I don't like to seam bulky things with buky yarn because it adds bulk.  (Predictable, but still took me forever to figure out.)  I'll spin a yarn that's the same, only lighter weight, to do do the seaming with. Expect jacket in the next few days, assuming that it's not knitting that's making my shoulder hurt but really thing the third.

Thing the third:  I ran 5k.  It was really hard, but I had a secret weapon. 

The delightful creature on the left in this shot is my sister-in-law Katie's friend Lexa, who is an actual distance runner and some Canadian Version of Sporty Spice.  (After the run she went to yoga and then to play vollyball. It didn't even touch her energy level)  and Lexa did Kate and I the favour of pacing us for the race.   When she said that we were all going to stick together for the race, I was mortified - and not at all sure it was a favour.  All I could think of was that I was not only going to hold them  all back with my pathetic wheezing and molasses like speed, but that I also wasn't going to be able to let my failure be a secret. Like most people,  I prefer my humiliations pretty private, so it was all I could do not to insist that they leave me to my fate.  She insisted, and it turned out to be wonderful. She's the best kind of encouragement.  Cheerful, kind, and firm as bloody concrete. 

There were absolutely a few points where I contemplated dying just so that I would have a good enough excuse for stopping, and a few more times where I absolutely would have stopped if I didn't know for sure that the other thousands and thousands of runners behind me would have trampled me...

but I learned something really interesting about running, which is that at some point, there's a trick. When your legs are burning at the second kilometre, your brain tries to tell you that you should stop - because if you feel this bad now, you're only going to feel worse when you're more tired... and it turns out that for me at least, that's not true.  I felt pretty rough at the 2k marker... but my gentle knitters... that's as bad as it got.  3k wasn't a third worse, and 4k wasn't twice as bad.  It got hard, it stayed hard, but it wasn't a continual descent into hades and the fires of doom.  It was just really hard.

In the end, I walked for about 30 seconds, 4 times - and I finished the run in about 32 minutes, which means that I ran way more, better and faster than I ever have - and used way less language unbecoming a knitter. (Lexa informs me that 32 minutes is absolutely respectable.)  There's a lot that I credit with that.  You all were right, the emotion and adrenaline carries you a lot, having a friend or two to keep pace with was hugely helpful,  the people along the route encouraging and cheering does give you the will to go on...  and I can't say enough about not wanting to let the team down, and wanting to deserve all the donations that you all generously made.  I felt like I had to earn them... and that helped me haul it.  Thank you for your really important part in it.  I'm proud of me and I'm  proud of you. 

I'm a runner.  (I think. Funny how I look the same.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:11 PM

October 1, 2009

On Becoming Something

Today I went for a run on the beach.  In the rain. 

If you know me, then this should be about as stunning as if I'd hauled off and bought a lipstick. (I haven't.) I am a creature about comfort.  I seek cozy wool and warm baths and crackling fireplaces.  I hate the rain. I hate being cold.  I hate sweating - and logically I therefore can barely express to you how much I hate sweating while I am in the cold rain.  On good days, I can motivate myself to ride my bike (which is really more about transportation) and go to yoga (which is really sort of cozy.) Most of my exercise and generally fit self has always come from that, and walking a lot, and  having a personality type that moves a lot - when it's not knitting.

Unfortunately for me, something is happening to me that I am helpless to reverse despite my best efforts.  Something that is trying to slow me down. 
I am aging.   (I hear it happens to the best of us.)  I don't mind aging, I'm not bothered by the numbers that tell how long I've been walking the earth... and I'm not opposed to it as a concept.  I don't believe for a moment that I'm losing value as I age.  Quite the contrary - actually, I think I'm a better, wiser, smarter, more valuable woman as I age.  I don't even mind how it looks.  (Mostly.  I deeply miss the previous location and nature of my bust some days, and I agree that I needed less self-esteem to wear a bathing suit ten years ago... but that's superficial and I try not to think about it.)

The truth is though, that I'm a 41 years old.  I'm a woman.  I'm small framed.   I'm white, and I had a hysterectomy more than a decade ago.  That, my friends, is a short list of risk factors for osteoporosis, and I've decided not to go that way- or at least to do what I can to avoid it, and that means weight bearing - high impact exercise.  Despite my fondest wish that it were true, bike riding and yoga don't do a lot for your bones.  Running does, so shortly after my 41st birthday last year, I bought a pair of running shoes and gave it a whirl. 

By December I had tons of pain, and by January I'd been diagnosed with an "osteochondral injury" which is a sort of fracture in my ankle. (Ironic because of course, I was running to avoid fractures.) That took forever to heal, and when it did, I did a lot of research to try and avoid it happening again, and I found out a lot of stuff about running that's helped.  (Like, when you start running, even if you have a really enthusiastic personality, you shouldn't try running a lot every day. It takes time to build strength to avoid hurting yourself.)   I started again in the spring, really slowly, and well.. my improvement has been slow. 

I've been slogging away running and running, trying and trying and frankly, it's been months and I still suck.  I'm slow.  I still have to walk for 30 seconds sometimes to make it possible to go on.  I still think I'm going to die most of the time that I'm doing it. I'm still not sure I even like it, and a few weeks ago I had this terrible realization that what I'm waiting for might never happen.  I keep thinking that if I run enough it will get easy... and then I was out sweating my way down the street and one of those really buff runners passed me.  You know the kind, with all the gear and the shoes and the right sort of jacket and the little water bottles stuck to them... and he had 2% body fat and and you know what? He was sweating like a pig.  He really looked like he was working, and I had this horrible thought. 

I think maybe running is just really, really hard, and that's why it sucks.

Even after realizing that though, I've kept running.  Mostly because I'm stubborn as a mule, I don't like to get beat by things, because I want to be able to do lots of things when I'm old, because I still think that maybe if I stick with it I'll get good at it, because I hope that at some point I'll be a runner, rather than someone who's running... and because I really, feel like there's value in trying to do hard things.  I think that if I manage it I might really like it about myself.  (Should I survive.) Also... I did something that sort of locked me in.

Several months ago, when I was still trying to figure out if running sucked or I sucked at it or if I just wasn't trying hard enough.. I went to dinner with Joe's Aunt Julie.  Julie's a breast cancer survivor (and a former Minister of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador) and she's done the Run for the Cure every year since then, except for this year she can't, and that night at dinner she said that she was looking for a family member who would be her stand in and do it for her.
I'd had a glass of wine and am the sort of person who rises to a challenge in general.. so... I.. um.  I told her I would do it - and I didn't just sign up to be a walker.... I hit the run button, because I thought that having a goal would help me become a runner, and because I thought that really, sticking up for a family member who had breast cancer was probably good motivation.

So I've been running.. and as of today, I still suck.  I still have to walk about 10% of the time that I'm covering 4k (which actually means that I'm running 90% of 4k, and that's a big change) and I've been living in fear of Sunday October 4th for months now.  I'm terrified of it, and frankly I can't believe it's this Sunday.  I've actually been scared enough that I haven't really mentioned it a whole lot, because I was hoping it would go away if I didn't talk about it, but it hasn't, and whether I feel ready or not, whether I think I can do it or not, whether I can live up to Julie or not...
On Sunday I'm going to try and run 5k.  You can sponsor me by clicking here if you would like to,  and I'm putting here the little list of things I'm writing on paper and putting in my pocket and taking with me on the run.  

1.  When I started I couldn't run half a kilometre, never mind 5k.
2.  If you can't run the whole thing without walking a little, they actually don't line you up in front of a firing squad.
3. Running 5k is a pretty ridiculously easy cakewalk compared to toughing out the treatment for breast cancer.
4. Eddie Izzard.   

Wish me luck.  I'll catch you on the flip side, and with a little luck, maybe I'll have become a runner by then.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:10 PM