December 31, 2009

Dear 2009

 If I had to sum up 2009 in one word, that word would be "Change".  This year has brought more of that one thing into my life than anything else, and it's been a challenge. Change isn't my best thing, I admit that, and this year was apparently sent to fix my little wagon for once and for all.

In 2009 I made some easy changes - like I spun and then knit a sweater, becoming someone with a new skill.  I made some hard changes,  becoming someone who could- together with a friend, start and run a company and change the world into a place with the Sock Summit and Knot Hysteria in it.  I changed to have the skills that took, and I changed into someone who could handle that.  I learned new software, I hired people.  I fired people.  I changed.  Our house changed. Sir Washie moved on, the plumbing broke, we got a new furnace, and we had a big hole where it turned out that 120 years of change had changed our foundation in a big way without our permission.

I watched other people undergo huge change too. I have had friends and family  divorce, separate, lose jobs, get jobs, marry, have babies -get sick and get better. They all changed in the process.   I supported my husband while he started a new company and changed into a person managing that big construction process.  I watched him continue evolving as a spouse and a parent and changing into someone who can make a decent pasta dish. (Big change.)

My oldest daughter Amanda changed.  She became a 20 year old, found the part of her that was brave and left the country and the continent and went to swim on the Great Barrier Reef and walk in a rainforest without me.   My middle daughter Meg became an adult, and changed into a University student and someone who could ride her bike to Montreal to create even more change in the world.  My littlest daughter Sam was 15, and she has endured the deeply personal change of taking on the world on her own terms and learning the hard thing, that sometimes change happens whether you are ready or not, and she rose to the occasion in a way that made me proud.

A lot has changed in the last year, a lot. Good change, scary change, big change, change that improved things in the end, change that really did not. Change that shook me, frightened me, made me laugh and then left me crying in the bathtub. Change that changed everything and change that oddly, changed nothing.  There was change that I resented and fought like a demon, and change that I had been waiting for that left me breathless with relief when it came.  Change that made me ashamed, change that made me proud of myself and others, change that made me feel like I don't think I can take much more change, and change that made me understand deeply that change is all there is, and I don't get to pick, even if I don't want to change anything. 

2009 was change, and as I sit here on the last day of this most eventful of years, looking around at nothing that is the same as it was 365 days ago... I realize that as beautiful, necessary and enriching as much of this change is, I can only do one thing.   I can end as I mean to go on.  Strong... worried, brave, frightened, happy, sad, hopeful and not alone.  In other years I have tried to end the year as I meant to go on by cleaning my house so I don't take dirt forward, tidying my business so as to not take unfinished things forward... and this year, all I can think is that in the face of all this change, I might need the big picture. 

This year I am ending as I mean to go on by trying to appreciate the change in myself and others, and by acknowledging that I'm not really in charge of much change, and that all will be as it should. After all, everything will be alright in the end, and if it's not all right, it's not the end.  My house is dirty, my business is unfinished... but I know where my girls are, safe and strong,  my husband loves me, our families are intact and my changed house is still standing.

I'm ending as I mean to go on....and 2009?

Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out.

Happy New Year everyone.  All our best to you. Catch you on the other side.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:27 PM

December 23, 2009

As Fate Would Have It

In the last few days and hours it has become obvious that our family, both nuclear and extended,  will not be having our normal Christmas - and haven't been having a very normal time for the last little while.  It has been extraordinarily difficult to blog away happily, acting as though this year is like any other, and so I've decided to stop pretending and worrying and devote my energies where they feel more right. 

The reasons for our hard time are entirely private.  It is not that it is something so awful I can't tell, or so hurtful I can't say, or even too shameful to speak of.   It is none of those things, and doesn't even start to be in that category, and I know that I when I say "something has happened and I won't be blogging about it" it makes everyone wonder what hideous monstrosity must be going down over here, and it just isn't like that.   It is simply that the blog isn't for everything- and that even if it's something I don't mind telling, it doesn't always matter.   That behind all of these stories and entries there are real people, and not every story belongs to me.  The story of the last little while in this family belongs to someone else, and they will maybe tell it someday, in their own way, and in their own time, and if it serves them,  but for now their story is their own entirely, and we are all working to have it unfold as destiny means for it to happen.

This family is lucky.   We all have each other. We are all loved,  we are all safe.  We all have shelter, and none of us are hungry. This is what we will be thinking about right now, and as we stumble through the holidays in whatever fashion is right for this year, and I'll blog as seems right as we go.  We're going to hunker down and love each other, and if we start to feel sorry that this year isn't the way we would have it if we were in charge, I'm going to read this, and I'm going to remember that no matter how bad things seem, they could be worse.

Best to you all, back when I can be.  Love what you've got. It's all you're really getting this year.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:08 PM

December 21, 2009

For the record

Someday a bunch of knitters are going to be sitting around, and they're going to have a conversation that goes like this.

"Hey, remember Stephanie Pearl-McPhee? What was her blog... Yarn Whore?"

"Yarn Harlot.  Sure, I remember her."

"What ever happened to her?"

"Dude,  you don't know? She disappeared."

"Really? Like actually?"

"Totally. Her family get's postcards from Belize or something.  It was that Christmas, the one where she tried felting like... five pairs of slippers or something, and she had this flipped out idea where she would do it in a bathtub with a plunger or something.  It was even like, a mini plunger - it was totally stupid.  Anyway, it turned out that the felting didn't go that badly really, or it was really stupid, but she switched to a bucket or something and that was easier... the police report wasn't that clear.  Anyway, the pairs all had to be done separately because they were linting on each other, or at least they think that was the problem.  Her neighbours heard someone screaming "%^&*(&^%$ING LINT" at the top of their lungs.  Assumed it was her.

"Well, I always thought she was kind of like that anyway."

"Exactly.  So she's felting with this plunger in the bucket in the bathtub and it's going pretty well, but she has to do one pair at a time right? So it's ... it's hours of pounding these slippers in the bathtub, and finally, the whole thing gives her this spasm right between the shoulderblades, just from the plunging, and then I heard that she tried to finish them in the front loader... but something went wrong, I don't know what. Neighbours report hearing something about "overflowing suds" and something else about a "Sir Washie"  whatever that was.

"So, what, then nobody ever heard from her again?"

"No, no.  She was totally fine after that - or at least as fine as any knitter/mother of three is in the days before Christmas, you know?"

"Totally.  Last year I was nuts. Cookie incident. You never know what'll take you down."

"Exactly.  So then everything is pretty good and she's working on some kind of plan and I think she thought she needed different soap or something? I dunno. Really fuzzy details.  All anyone knows is that somebody asked her if she was doing meringues this year, and then I think they were out of beer, and she still had the felting injury between the shoulderblades, and maybe there was even something about a carpenter coming the morning of the 22nd?  By all reports she totally had it together until there was just too much and then she wigged out and took off."

"What was the last straw?"

"Apparently four days before Christmas she couldn't find her clog pattern."

"That would do it."

"I know."

Posted by Stephanie at 12:28 PM

December 17, 2009


I missed the felting party at Lettuce Knit last night, so now I am going to try something, and I have a big plan involving this:



and this information.  How hard can it be? 

I know, I know.  Those five words have proceeded more messy episodes in my life than any other.  (Maybe.  It might be a tie with "You know what would be fun?") If this were a novel, then the moment when I way "How hard can it be?" and then buy the dedicated felting plunger (I have a strong, strong belief that plungers should be single-purpose) would be a noted plot point, and the answer to the question in English class "At the end of chapter 2, the protagonist suffers a bizarre setback.  What was the moment that foreshadowed this setback?"

I tried to explain it on the phone with Megan.  I tried to explain that I'm not going to get weird with it.  That it's an experiment, and that if it doesn't work out or seems not to be going well or is taking too long or making a big mess that I will get off the crazy train at the next stop, and then take the streetcar over to somewhere where there's a top loader, and don't worry, it's all going to be very sane.  I just want to see if it works, or works well, because with Christmas breathing down my neck like a rabid reindeer, I need to give it a shot.  It could be awesome.  It could be the answer.It could be faster than travelling to where there's a washer and  there's no way to know until I go up to the bathroom, wing some ginormous slippers into the tub and beat the snot out of them with a dedicated plunger for a while.  Maybe 20 minutes.  If it's not working out at the 20 minute mark, I'll stop, put away the plunger, fish out the slippers, wring the water and my bitter tears out of them and head over to a top loader.  No worries. There's eight days until Christmas, and I'm not going to let it get weird. 

"That's what you say now" Megan said, and I know that's been true in the past.  In the past I may have gotten a little locked in or determined. I know. This time though, I'm just nipping up to the bathroom with a  plunger and a bunch of wool. It'll be fine.   It's just an experiment.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:52 PM

December 15, 2009

Quickie also Random

1. The tree is up, the shopping has been begun and I might pull a Christmas off after all.

2. I am knitting a lot of French Press Slippers.  Don't think I can stop, don't want too.

3.  I'm not felting them though, just piling up these weird long slippers all over the place.  Freaking the family out a little.

3. Another pair of socks churned off the needles last night, knit entirely while waiting.

My usual plain vanilla sock recipe, worked over 64 stitches on 2.25mm needles.  Berrocco Sox in colour 1433.  A nice manly colour, though Joe thinks they're a bit "wild". 

(Joe's a bit of a plain dresser.  If by "a bit" you understand that I mean that he's "a bit" of a plain dresser the way that Madonna's bras in the 80's were "a bit" pointy.)

4.  My link to the knit-klips thing from the other day is corrupt.  I don't know why - the rest of the website works and it worked when I linked to it, so it's a mystery. Here's another link that works fine.

5. Gifts for Knitters Day 12: Anything from Jennie The Potter.  I love her pendants, her mugs, her bowls.... I think I really have it in for the square pendants.  They're simple, gorgeous and made by real human hands that also happen to be on a nice person. 

6. Gifts for Knitters Day 13: Tee shirts bearing messages appropriate for knitters.  Choose one that sound like your knitter.  How about "Veni. Vidi. Knitti." or this great Knit/purl one,   or (and I think this one is appropriate for a lot of us "I knit so I don't kill people".

7. Gifts for Knitters Day 14: The Lantern Moon Yarn Ball Door Mat.  I didn't buy one of these the last time I saw them, and I have regretted it with a passion that still stings. It's sold out everywhere right now, and I know it's sort of unfair to list something here that you can't buy, but hope springs eternal.  Maybe one of the knitters in the comments knows where to get it and we can all jump on it.   (There's a sheep one too, but in my opinion it lacks the sophistication of the elusive yarn mat.)

8. Gifts for Knitters Day 15: The Year in Yarn Calendar.  Enough said.

9. It's snowing.  That's festive.

10. I think it's snowing just to make things pretty and Canadian for my girl Amanda (who looks pretty fab, considering she's been travelling for 30 hours)  home at long last from Australia-

where she did lots of things that sounded very fun (rainforests, hostels, snorkeling, submarines, saw huge spiders, got way too close to a crocodile, almost died on a rope swing)  that I don't want to know the details about.  (I'm her mum.  I'd like to think she went to a lot of really safe museums. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. For the mothers of 20 year old global travelling backpackers, it's a way of life.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:31 AM

December 11, 2009

Slipper Thoughts

1. Those French Press slippers are as cute and easy as promised.  There is sort of a lot of sewing though, but at least it can be crappy sewing. (I specialize in crappy sewing.  I have so much practice.)

2. They really do take 90 minutes.  I think I could even pick up speed as I go.

3. Sewing on the straps and buttons takes about 15 minutes.  That should be added on too.

4. I felted them in my front loader - even though I know that people just about turn around three times and spit when you suggest it.  I figured that if it didn't work and I destroyed 90 minute slippers I would probably be able to recover - but that if it worked that would be made of awesome.  I threw them in with a load of towels to see what would happen.

They felted almost all the way, but in some spots they got folded or bent and didn't felt evenly.  I didn't dare run them through a second time because I worried that they would felt too much or more in the wrong spots.  You can't stop a front loader part way through to see how your mittens are doing either.

5. I felted them the rest of the way by hand, alternating agitating them in hot soapy water in the bathroom sink and shocking cold water in the bathtub. That fixed almost all the troubles and got them the rest of the way down to size - really pretty evenly too.

6. That took about 20 minutes.

7. Those 20 minutes sucked pretty hard.  I can now declare with absolute certainty that while felting in a front loader is possible,  I think a top loader is way better for felting and if it weren't for the energy/water requirements I would go and get another one right away.  I miss Sir Washie.  (The holidays are the hardest.)

8. I think it's funny looking at the difference between the unfelted and felted slippers. 

9. So does my cat. (Sorry. I don't usually blog the cat but she just wouldn't get out of the shot and I just didn't care any more.  I'm to smart to argue with a cat. They always win and they fight dirty.)

10. The hole at the side of the house is filled in.  I know that's unrelated, but really, I'm just so happy that I want to tell everyone.  If it wasn't so cold I'd have a party out there. I feel a lot more Christmassy now.  Thinking about a tree. I'm going to need something to put over these slippers.

Gifts for knitters, Day 11: These really cool Knit Klips. I have a package of them and use them all the time.  They're clips that have one spiky thing that can hold two pieces of knitting together better than pins and faster than basting.  I'm using them when I sew the tops of the slippers to the bottoms. I centre the seams at the back and front then clip in a few places to make sure that I sew it together evenly and that things stay aligned.   I've used them for sleeves too, and they're handy as all get out.  I got the 10 pack, and it's as many as I've ever needed. Pack of those in a stocking while you toss around the phrase "mattress stitch" and I bet your knitter will be seriously impressed.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:59 PM

December 10, 2009

Thar she blows

Every once in a while in my knitting career, I run across a project that takes hold of me in an unreasonable way.  When it happens, it's like a food jag in a two year old.  The same way that all they want is cheerios for two weeks, all I want is whatever project it is that's triggered the reflex.  It happened with the Felted clogs. (We will not discuss how many pairs of those I have knit. More than thirty for sure. I'm pretty sure I had the pattern memorized for a while. I could probably still manage a pair without the pattern if there was some sort of clog emergency.)  It happened for a while with Latvian Mittens . (That was probably about 10 pairs.. but at least there was a little variety.) It happened with the Tulip Baby Sweater. (Pretty sure there were four of those before I got a hold of myself, and even now when I see the kits at Lettuce Knit I feel a little dizzy and weak- which makes no sense at all, because it's not like I don't have two kits in the stash in case I really need to knit one of those sweaters and the store is closed or doesn't have one.) It happened - most recently, with those Noro 1x1 rib scarves.  That was a bad one. I think I powered through four or five of those (a couple with matching hats) before whatever it was ran its course, and last night when I was at Lettuce I bent down to look at some other yarn that just happened to be near the Noro Silk Garden- and Rachel H practically staged an intervention. 

Usually, there is no warning.  Usually - I knit one of whateveritis and while I'm knitting it I think something casual, something like "this is a really good and fun project. I am enjoying it tremendously" and then I think "I really love this" and then usually someone else, usually a non-knitter, says "that's really beautiful" or "Wow, what a great scarf" or "Seriously you knit that?" and then the combination of internal satisfaction and external validation hits me like a ton of bricks and then next thing you know I'm back at the yarnshop with enough yarn to make five more of whatever it is, or worse yet... I have Joe driving around the city trying to procure all of it before other people get my yarn.  This is the pattern, and I know that I am helpless in the face of it.  I never know when it will strike, and I am usually pretty surprised when it does. I've usually got a pretty short attention span for a pattern, so  if something gets a hold of me like that, there is no point in resisting. Resistance is futile.  Destiny has waved a wand over me and I will knit that one thing until I have wrung all the charm from it.  (And sometimes longer.)

I don't know if what I am about to say means that I'm experiencing personal growth or not, but for the first time ever - I see one of these knitting jags coming. This time, I know it without even knitting a stitch.  Three things happened that triggered it, and I even know what they were.

1. Megan knit Andrea a pair for her birthday a few weeks ago, and the minute that Andrea saw them she came unglued with glee and put them on with her sexy little black dress.. right in the restaurant.

2. All the knitters and the regular people in the restaurant said they were awesome. 

3. Megan says you can knit the whole project, beginning to end in 90 minutes, and because they're felted, you don't even need to knit them well.

90 minutes?  90?  As in, one and one half hours?  Only 5400 SECONDS? Are you kidding me?  There's two weeks before Christmas  somebody dangles a chic, quick, cheap knitted thing in front of me and thinks I won't go off?  Who can resist that?  You would need to be made of stone, I tell you, stone.  I feel like this is going to rescue Christmas, make my house cleaner and possibly contribute to world peace.  I've cast on for a pair of them, and I don't know when it will stop and with street cred like 90 minutes, who cares?   I have 9 skeins of Cascade 220 and I'm calling that "a start". I think this one's going to be bad. 
I give you The French Press Felted Slippers.   Try to resist them. (Apparently that link isn't working for some. Here's a Ravelry link, and here's a link to Melynda's blog which has a "buy now" button on the right sidebar. Try to resist them now that you can actually get them. Ha.)

Gifts for knitters day 10:
Since today I'm talking about felting (sort of) I thought I'd mention these nifty things.  They're awesome for knitters who like to felt or even knitters who like to wash their handknits.  They're these zippered laundry bags , and I don't know what the manufactuer intends them to be for, but what they really are is a way to avoid clogging up the pump on your washing machine.  If you're going to felt something you whack it in there before you toss it in the washer, and it keeps all the loose fibres from drifting into the pump where they mass into an incriminating clump and cost you (in my experience) about $300 and some marital strife.  (Pump prices may vary, as does the degree of marital strife.)  They're also pretty slick for handwashing knits of all kinds, but particularly lace, since it protects the knitted thing from stretching out of shape when you lift it out of the water.  They're great, and the finer the mesh the better.  A couple of those in a stocking with some feltable wool would make you look like a rockstar.

PS.  I always feel awkward mentioning this sort of thing, especially since I'm about to bore the snot out of the lot of you by knitting nothing but slippers for who knows how long... but this blog has been nominated to be nominated (I know. It's a process) in a couple of categories for the Canadian Blog Awards. If you were so inclined, you could vote for whatever blog suits you (there's some really good ones besides this one) in the categories of Best Overall and Crafts, Cooking and Other Activities (I know. What a name.) Thanks guys.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:42 PM

December 9, 2009


I'm trying something a little different this year, and making a few woven scarves. I've written before about the appeal that weaving holds for me, and it's still true.  I'm never going to be someone who forsakes knitting for weaving, and there's still the little issue of not being able to tuck my loom in my purse to have something to do while I'm out of the house - and actually, square-footage wise, a loom does eat up a little real estate, which is a pretty big disadvantage for me. (The irony that I'm actually saying that while knitting takes up so much of my home is hysterical, but let's overlook it for now.)  I do have room for my little Cricket loom though, and it's perfect for wee weaving projects, especially since I got my hands on this really neat book, Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom .  In it is a pattern (is it a pattern if it's weaving?) for a plaid scarf, and yesterday I went on a hunt for yarn to make one - thinking that it would make a good present if I could pin down some manly colours.

A couple of years ago I made the Sunrise Circle Jacket, and I used a great coned tweed yarn from WEBS. For knitting, I skeined and  washed the yarn first to get an accurate knitting gauge ( you can see the difference in that old blog entry if you click, coned yarns usually are quite compressed and have spinning oil on them) but for weaving that's apparently pretty great, since you weave first, then wash out the oils in the finished project, and the yarn blooms then and fills in all the weaving holes.  (Technical term.)   Steve had given me the test cone, which had small amounts of several colours on it, plus I had the leftovers from the jacket, so I chose three I thought would look very manly together, and I warped the loom in what I hoped would be a really funky plaid.

Actually, I warped it three times. The first time, as I pulled the warp yarn through I totally missed a slot, so had to pull back and start again. (I'm sure the experienced weavers would have a better solution, but right now I'm new, so I can only do it the way that Denny taught me and no other way.) The second time I got it through all the slots, and actually got so far as to wind the warp on, and pull the warp through the heddles... (one yarn goes in the slot, and then the next one goes through the hole) and had the whole thing done and tied off before I saw that I had missed a hole.  I untied half of the warp then (all the while considering my premise that weaving is faster than knitting) and rethreaded it properly, then promptly discovered that I had been totally screwed from the get go, because the hole was empty because the slot next to it had two threads in it, which means that I had to do the whole thing over again, when really - if I had demonstrated any sort of attention to detail in the first place, would have meant that really, I just needed to move one thread rather than half the whole warp twice.  That was when I got a beer.

This morning I started weaving.  I put the three colours on shuttles, and I wove the weft to match the warp - with the same numbers of the colours.  My warp went: 2 charcoal, 4 mustard, 4 grey, 2 charcoal, 10 mustard....

So my weft went the same - 2 charcoal, 4 mustard, 4 grey, 2 charcoal, 10 mustard... etc. I followed the pattern until I was out of room to weave, and then cut it off the loom and tied the fringe, 4 strands in each overhand knot.

All that took - at most, with time out for coffee, work, email and the phone, about 3 hours.  With the 2 hours for warping last night (which really could have been an hour if I was smarter more experienced) that's a men's scarf, about 18cm/7' wide and about 150cm/60' long, in five hours.  Five.  Totally just five.
(If you can't see what implications that would have for your Christmas list, I can't help you.)

I took it upstairs and gave it a good rough wash to get the spinning oils out and to fluff up the yarn, and then dried it in the oven.  (Sometimes I can't wait. 30 minutes at 225F got it bone dry,  if you're going to try it.)

I love the result.  It's soft, funky,  has a really cool 70's feel, and looks to me like I snagged it out of a vintage shop rather than made it in just five hours.  (I feel compelled to keep saying that.) I love the really obvious difference between the unwashed fabric and the post bath one - everything about this project worked. (Except for having to re-warp the loom, but I'm thinking about that the same way I would ripping out something that had a mistake.) It's got that great handmade vs homemade look, and I considered keeping it before checking the date.

I'm feeling pretty keen to make another one - maybe using the other yarns in the same family in another combination. For the time being though, it was so much fun so fast, and made such a good gift so quickly, that it's influenced today's Gifts for Knitters.

Day 9:  A simple rigid heddle loom, like a Cricket or the Ashford Knitters Loom.  (Mine is a Cricket and came from The Spinning Loft). While you're at it, maybe send your knitter to Syne Mitchell's WeaveGeek blog. Looms are fun, funky and don't take up much space, and really don't take a skill set that your knitter can't manage. Promise. (I'm not sure the same can be said of a big loom, but the weavers will chime in, I'm sure.)

Just to sweeten the pot?  If you're one of those non-knitters who wishes there were less yarn in your house? Weaving uses a lot of yarn, really fast. That closet space you had before knitting? This could really help you get some space back.*

*Weavers, just shut it.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:39 PM

December 8, 2009

Baby Steps

Yesterday, while Joe and I were outside throwing $50 bills into the hole every 15 minutes (we've decided that's the fastest, least expensive way to fix it) my next door neighbours did the craziest thing.  They walked up the lane between our homes with a huge Fraser Fir Tree, and after greeting us warmly, they took it in their house.  Joe and I stood there stunned - and then I said something like "a little early isn't it?" and Joe mumbled a phrase along the lines of "bloody keeners" and then it hit us. 

There are really, actually only 17 days until Christmas,  it is really December 8th, and the world didn't get our memo about how we were really just too swamped to do it this month and would need to defer until late January. (February at the absolute latest.)  In short, we're screwed.   The shopping,  buying, wrapping, baking, knitting, decorating, tree,  stockings, cleaning, visiting... it's all ahead of us, and you would think that would send us scurrying for a tree, but nope. There's still a great big hole, and for reasons that I can't really explain to you (lets call it a cascade of crap) because I have a new furnace I don't have an office, and that can't change until the 23rd of December, which leaves me in this horrible limbo place.  When things are good Christmas leaves me with a twitch over one eye, what with the stress, money and time... and this year we're coming into it with crazy, crazy amounts of stress, no money and no time, and that - That is making both Joe and I crazy enough that when we see someone taking a tree into their house all we can think of doing to cope with that is to begin taking turns burying each other in the construction waste that fills the backyard.   

Since burying Joe would only dirty his clothes and deprive me of the only person in this house who is trying to fill the hole, I have resorted to drinking obscene quantities of coffee and knitting.  Beyond it's usual effect on my mental health (which is to say that as long as I keep knitting I don't yell things at my neighbours - things like "QUIT FLAUNTING YOUR TREE AT ME YOU  HOSERS") the knitting is having the side effect of helping me get ready for Christmas, which is awesome, since I've got nothing else. 

Finished item #1, Swirl Shawl (Scarf Version) 2 balls plus 11.4m,  Jojoland Superwash Melody, colour #MS 18, lot number unknown.

4mm needles, lots of ends woven in, completely worth it, a really neat looking knit that looks way harder than it was. 
(Running out of yarn notwithstanding.)

Finished item #2, Escher Socks from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn

Yarn is the very nice Claudia Hand Painted Yarns fingering weight in "Navy Olive"  (Lot number 007, according to the new system). 

They're a mens medium and took almost all the yarn, but worth every metre. 

I love them- and they put me one step closer to whatever it is that we're calling Christmas in these parts.

Gifts for knitters

Day 4: The Knit Kit. A really nifty little set that includes scissors, thread cutters, stitch counter, crochet hook and a couple of other handy things all in a little case that is apparently (and this is really neat) TSA approved.  That means that at least within Canada and the USA, you're going to be able to take it on a plane. Darn handy.

Day 5: A really beautiful holder for your knitters interchangeable needle set from Della Q. Slots and zip pockets to hold it all, in several pretty colours.  Way nicer than the boxes they usually come in, and you can choose between metric and US labeling, which is a pretty great thing.

Day 6: Also from Della Q, the straight needle version, holds up to 60 pairs (which would put a dent in most collections)  also in your knitters favourite colours, also with metric or US labels.

Day 7: The Swift Knitting bag from Tom Bihn.  I've got about 10 knitting bags, and this is a favourite for going out into the world.  It's seriously durable and has lots of neat accessories, and even comes with one of those yarn stuff sacs with the clear bottoms. Nifty.

Day 8: 14k Gold Needle Gauge pendant from Debra's Garden.  I don't know a single knitter who wouldn't like this, it's pretty and useful, and I like the way it looks like regular jewelry.  It's like a secret handshake.  Regular people think it looks like a seashell pendant, but any other knitter you meet will know it straightaway for what it is, and smile.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:40 PM

December 4, 2009


A thousand thanks to everyone who offered me 11.4m of the yarn I needed in the correct dye lot.  I would have absolutely jumped all over that if I were the sort of knitter who knew where the ball band was, but sadly, I'm not.

This has prompted a new policy to keep track of the ball bands of all the yarn I use.  Never again. The fact that a a gajillion knitters possibly had exactly what I needed to make this happen without any kind of a crazy pants yarn dance, and that because I can't keep track of a ball band I had to rig a solution? (Admittedly, ball bands are really losable.)  Nope.  The solution was way, way too easy.  From now on I'm listing the lot number along with the colour number on the blog- at least once.  I go back and use the blog all the time to remember what stuff was, and I can't believe that it didn't occur to me that this tool was sitting right here all along.  There was probably a bunch of this yarn in the world, and here I was shredding a whack of another lot number when it was totally unnecessary.   It worked out okay in the end (I think)  it's not like the whole thing was ruined or like puppies died because I lost a ball band, but I did have to spend time and money because I didn't do one easy thing.  It's crazy to spend this much time on something and not do what it takes for something to be the best it can be.  Still,   I don't think the fix is obvious... do you?

How about if I show you?

Not too bad? The whole time I was disemboweling balls of yarn and test knitting to find 11.4m of yarn that would work (which took about 4 hours, by the way, since I was wrong and had to re-knit twice.)  I kept thinking about this joke I heard while I was bartending.

There's this great guy down on his luck, who goes desperately to church to beg God for help.  He walks in, falls on his knee and prays.  "Please help me.  I'm broke, my family needs help, I'm too old to work... please.. let me win the lottery."  He goes away, doesn't win the lottery.  The next week he's back in church.  "Please help me. Please.  I really, really need to win the lottery. I have no other option.  I'm desperate.  Please, please help me."  He doesn't win.  He can't hardly believe it.  Here he has ultimate faith and he's being let down. Buddy goes back a third time, and this time he's wracked with grief and desperation.  He prostrates himself on the ground and says "Why Lord? Why?  Why won't you help me? I've been good my whole life.  A good man.  A good husband, a good father, a good citizen.  I've done everything I can to deserve this, and now when the chips are down and my beautiful wife and I are eating cat food - and not much of it, let me tell you... now you abandon me.  Please. Please... let me win the lottery."

Out of the blue,  he is answered.  As he lays there sobbing, wondering why he hasn't won the lottery, a voice comes from above.  The voice, booming and resonant declares "For crying out loud man.   Meet me halfway.  BUY A TICKET."

Yeah.  Thanks for offering all the help.  Next time you all try to help me win the lottery,  I'll have a ticket.

For the record.  I have started a pair of socks.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:43 PM

December 3, 2009

Should have seen that coming

If you were ever thinking that maybe knitting isn't out to get you, or that there are no knitting fates up there cracking themselves up while knitting screws you over,  I offer you the latest proof.

I've been working on this swirl scarf, (that links to the shawl, but there's a scarf version on the same pattern) and I could tell that I wasn't going to have enough yarn.  Fair enough, as I stated in a previous post, it's not like I swatched or concerned myself with gauge, and if you don't do that, then you can't complain.  Fine.  Noted.  I hopped online, ordered more yarn (er... quite a bit more, but what's the point of paying international shipping on one ball? None, I tell you, it just doesn't make sense.  I practically had a moral obligation to buy a bunch.)  and carried on.  The yarn finally came the other day (The Loopy Ewe ships fast, the border is slow) and knowing it was here I carried on with the scarf until I ran out of yarn.  That, my friends,  that exact moment, was the minute that the cosmic knitting fates flipped me the bird.

I didn't have enough yarn by  TWELVE METRES.  That's ONE SWIRL.  That's right.  I've knit 35 swirls and that took 400m of yarn and that means that each swirl takes about 12m of yarn (11.4 if you want precision)  which means that the knitting fates are up there laughing so hard that one of them has had to get a drink of water to stop the hiccups.

Better yet?  The new yarn, which has the same colour number, is a different dye lot, and that dye lot resembles the previous one exactly the way that my mother resembles June Cleaver, which is not at all.  The original yarn was autumnal and had tones of green, orange, copper, brown and a little greeny blue.   The new one is like that colourway on acid.  The blue is really denim blue.  The copper red is shrieking pink. The green is... well. The green is with the brown, which appears to be nowhere.  They are four (I told you I got a bunch) really, really different balls of yarn.  They resemble each other, but not the original dye lot that I had.   If I haul off and knit the last swirl with this, then it's going to stand out like Britney Spears in a bikini at a bake off.

This doesn't make me mad at the yarn company.  No sir.  This right here, this exact moment is why we are told all the damn time by yarn companies to buy enough of one dye lot to make a project.  They're very clear about their own inability to reproduce things the same way twice (though really, I thought it would be closer than this, I mean this yarn has HOT PINK.  As an aside, this is exactly the shade of pink that was my shag carpet when I was 12, but I digress.) and I was the fool who didn't buy enough.  The shop only had two balls, the pattern called for two balls, I took a shot and tried it with two balls, and then.. .I invited this disaster by not checking gauge.  Got it.  

Now, most of you are at least as smart as me, so you're probably thinking now what I did. "Make a shorter scarf dummy",  and that is totally clever and absolutely what any rational knitter would do and the first thing that  I thought of.  Sadly, it is the month of December and that means that knitting has to mess with you more than it usually does (I think that knitting thinks this crap is festive? Not sure.) and that means that making this scarf shorter is impossible at this point. 

This is Yoda's scarf.  There is only do or do not. There is no try.  It cannot be a different size unless you plan from the beginning to have a different size. The length is determined by how many spirals you knit in the the first long course. Then, naturally, all of the spirals are knit onto each other, so it's not even like I could unpick one of two of the little weenies and have a go that way.  No, no...this is one integrated whack up of pain.  There's no way out, no way to finish the scarf, except to get 11.4 metres of yarn that I can't have, even though I ordered it when I saw this shaft coming.

Well played, knitting fates.  Well played.

(Seriously, what I am going to do is unwind all of those balls of replacement yarn, comparing it to the scarf as I go until I manage to cobble together 11.4m of yarn that is close enough. I have 800 metres.  11.4 of them have to match.)


In 2004 (Wow.  That was a while ago) I did something I thought was really fun and this year I'm going to do it again.  Every year around the holidays the non-knitters who love us are faced with a conundrum.  They would like to get us something we like, but they can't figure out what we like.  They know we like knitting stuff, but they figure that we have enough of it, and so they haul off and get you a toaster or a book about snails.  (Not that both those things aren't lovely and I didn't like them - but you know what I mean.)  This little gift guide is meant as a series of suggestions.  Cool things that I think knitters would like, that non-knitters can buy for the holidays so that we can all avoid those terrible moments where you pretend that you really do like the mega-pack of fimo clay  as much as knitting stuff because you're right - they are both crafts!
Non-knitters: here is some stuff your knitter might like. (There's three days worth here because today is the third.  22 days til Christmas.  Don't let it freak you out.)

Day One:
Does your knitter make shawls? Wear shawls? Wait. Let's back up. A shawl is like a really big scarf. They can be squares, triangles, rectangles or circles. They are big pieces of knitting with no sleeves or anything, and your knitter would have them on over other clothes.  ("Not if you're lucky" according to my husband, but that's our date night. Yours may vary.)  If you think you've seen something like that, I bet your knitter would like a shawl pin.  There's beautiful ones here at Schoolhouse Press.

Day Two: Scroll down on that page from Schoolhouse Press.  There's a sterling silver ball of yarn pendant.  That's nice.  Classy too.  (I know. You don't think that knitting related jewelry can be classy, but I bet you don't think that "regular people" decorate with yarn year round either, do ya?  Well, they do. Click on the link.)

Day Three: I think most knitters would like these beautiful knit-themed cards from Tilly Flop.  My favourite is "Keep calm and Cast on" but there's a lot there to love.  "K2tog" for a wedding card? That would be charming, wouldn't it?  "inc1" to be the card at the baby shower of another knitter?   If I was your knitter I would think those were pretty slick.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:32 PM