January 29, 2010

Plans. Best. Laid. All that

A little while ago, I put together my own sock club.  I still belong to a sock club, but I wanted to make a point of burning through some of the stash and finally getting to a few patterns I've been thinking about for a while.  Thing is, stuff slips off the radar.  I get the yarn or the patterns and I think I'm going to get to it soon, but really knitting is sort of slow, and by the time I'm free to start something again, whatever that cool pattern and yarn were has sort of slipped through the cracks, down past the canopy of the stash and the next thing you know I've forgotten I'd ever wanted to knit and and been seduced by whatever came along in the meantime.  This year I took my own advice and I made kits.

I got 12 big ziplocks, and in each one I put everything I need to make those socks.  If the pattern was in a book I photocopied it, if it was a download I printed it, if if was a pattern I had to buy, I bought it. Then I went through the stash and figured out what should go with what - then I sealed up all 12 and put them away on a shelf in my office cupboard, promising myself that I would knit one pair a month, drawn at random.  Some men's socks, some ladies, some lace, some cable... at the end of the year I'd have 12 pairs of socks (at least) and have made a serious dent in my sock needs.  

A couple of days ago I realized that I was in serious danger of blowing the system the very first month out, and so I went into the cupboard and pulled a bag at random. (The astute among you will notice that post furnace installation I got a new cupboard in my office.  It was the tradeoff for the space I lost because I gained a heating duct in that room.  Heat is nice and all, but mama's got a lot of yarn. That's my sock club on the top shelf. Nice, huh?)  I snagged one from the middle without looking.  I got a skein of Handkraft "The sock who loved me" in  Mangrove, which was paired with the pattern for the Sleepy Hollow socks.

No problem, I thought those will be quick to finish by the end of the month.  Now, me being me and the universe being what it is, I totally should have seen it coming the minute I thought that, but I still haven't gotten used to the way that my knitting ability can come and go at a moments notice.

I started down the leg, all seemed well.  Then I got to the gusset increases and the next thing I knew I was knitting like a rookie, and by a rookie, I mean that I wasn't knitting badly, I was knitting like someone who hadn't learned some stuff about knitting the hard way about a thousand times.  See - a rookie doesn't know that it's really hard to go purl to purl on dpns without  having a wicked ladder (at least if you're me.) A rookie wouldn't know to slide that bad boy over to the other needle to avoid that crap.  A rookie might think "hey man, I know what a m1p is.  I don't need to look at the stitch legend."

Then a rookie would be wrong - a rookie would look at that gusset and learn his lesson, and then the rookie would knit better next time.  Me?  Not a rookie. Knew all this- knit badly anyway, and it was totally preventable.  After 36 years of knitting I'm going to go public and tell you what I think is the #1 cause of knitted crap.

Failure to read.

Seriously.  The instructions were right there, they are correct, they are clear, there is nothing wrong with them and the only thing that gave me that totally crappy gusset is that I did not read. It is my fault, and I have no-one to blame because I didn't read.  I had a little pout and a beer, then I took my lumps, ripped it back and started again from the top of the gussets/heel and carried on. This went reasonably well until I tried it on.  Bad news.  Should have read the sizing information- that's there too. Ripped the entire sock back, tried again.   I thought I had this beast going on until I finished the whole gusset and heel and thought that was pretty funny lookin' too.  Didn't look like the picture.  I carried on a bit, starting to decrease the stitches and realized I didn't have the right number of stitches, and as I re-checked the pattern, I realized that I'd read the first line of the heel turn, recognized the techniques, assumed I knew what I was doing and carried on.
Not so much.  The heel actually departs from what I was expecting about halfway through.  Thus - the heel is wrong.  Again. Failure to read. Again. It's going to be a stretch to finish these socks by the end of the month (considering that there is only 2 days left in the month.) I'm going to have to do one of three  things.  Knit faster,  get smarter or READ.  (That third option seems easiest.)

(PS.  Thought I'd let you know,  Sock Camp opens to the general public today, now that the club members have signed up.  Also - an aside to Tina.  What are you doing? Hoarding bad pictures of me? )

Posted by Stephanie at 2:46 PM

January 26, 2010

Vivid Imagination

This post really isn't the way I wanted it to be.  I think it's the byproduct of a vivid imagination, but it really bugs me.  I imagine the way something will be, or the way a conversation will go - sometimes I even mentally write the script for other people. (Note: This never works. They never say what I have imagined they will.  This may be because I am more or less hoping their part will be "I'm so sorry and I am invested enough in your happiness that I will never do that again"  or "Oh wow, Mum.  I had no idea that you felt that way about my room being dirty, but now that you have explained it to me so eloquently I am going up there to tidy and organize it directly"  or  "Honey,  you're right.  I don't do my fair share of the housework and the global work division between the genders is really discriminatory. The only way to correct that is for me to go scrub the snot out of the bathroom without being asked and then keep it up for the rest of my life." ...but I digress.) 

The point is, I imagine the way something will happen, look or be... and then I imagine it so completely that when it doesn't go that way I'm totally shocked and can't believe it.  (This curse is a related subgroup of the curse that lives off optimists and most sane people, where a completely mad arsehole shafts you over and over and over again and every single time they do, you say "I can't believe it. Why is this happening? Why are they being so mean?" and all of your friends look at you like you've just grown a crop of tiny ears all over your chin and shake their heads sadly because this person is a completely mad arsehole who has shafted you over and over.   Sorry. Another digression.) 

This time, what I imagined while I was knitting Joe's tremendously large pair of Christmas socks, was how good they would look photographed sort of casual-like in the living room.  My chesterfield is brown, the walls are red, the carpet and wood floors are neutrals.  I thought about his feet, resting elegantly (or as elegantly as feet that big do things) swathed in thousands of stitches that are so nice that you can practically see the love in them, and the sun would shine in and show you the cables and it would just be the coziest sock picture ever. It would look like hot chocolate after sledding tastes.  I had the whole thing planned, and when I finished Joe's socks three days ago - I couldn't wait to make it beautiful. So excited.  It was going to look like the freakin' cover of a Martha Stewart magazine.  I was so ramped up that I actually forgot that I have several barriers to this plan. 

1. Joe is not as interested in sock pictures as I am.  (This is something we're working on in our marriage, but we're not there yet.)

2. Joe is really only available for sock pictures about three minutes a day. Combined with the low priority he feels for sock pictures (see #1) this further reduces the window for artistic sock expression.

3. It is late January in Canada.  I have no idea where I was getting the idea of sun streaming in a window.  Whatever science says that the darkest days are in December is cracked.  It has to be now. The sun is starting to be something that we talk about in the past tense.

I have been three days trying to take this picture that I imagine, and nothing is working.  Can't pin Joe down, or I do pin Joe down but it's too dark for a proper sock picture, or Joe won't put his feet the way that he does on the Martha Stewart magazine cover in my head... (That - by the way? That makes me want to scream "you did it once you can do it again" which is - I know, completely insane.  I don't scream it.  I say nice things like "Maybe you could put your feet closer together honey.  Thanks!")  We've given the sock photo shoot (shut up. You know you have them at your house) tons of energy and it's just not working- and it's making me nuts.  Yesterday the sun almost came out for about three minutes and I tried to get Joe out of the bath fast enough for a sock picture and we missed it.  (I don't think he tried very hard.  See #1)

In the interest of my sanity (and possibly Joe's, because I really did try to haul a big naked wet guy out of a bath yesterday and ram socks on him in the living room) I'm giving up. It's only making me hate Martha Stewart for setting the bar too high anyway.  Screw it. Hey everybody, look!  I finished a pair of socks for Joe.  I used a vintage sock book that I have, but the pattern has been republished in a Patons book - "Classics in Kroy"#922, if you can find it.

and STR lightweight in Joe's colour "Meet Brown, Joe".

1.5 skeins, very big.  Long time to knit. Nice cables.

Better pictures forthcoming in June, when my husband won't be any more co-operative, but at least there's a chance that that big burning ball of fire in the sky will be around.  

Posted by Stephanie at 11:48 AM

January 23, 2010

six

Today marks my sixth blogiversary.  (Note: that may not be a word. Don't use it in an essay or anything.)  I wrote in this space and sent it out into the world for the very first time on January 23rd, 2004 - and I still remember the thoughts I had, and it's still what I think every time I hit post.   Is there anybody out there? What happens next? 

Ken gave me this blog as a present, setting it up almost immediately after I emailed  him several pictures of a sweater in progress, and a lengthy explanation of why I felt about it the way I did about it, with enquiries about buttonholes.  (I believe I demanded to know his position on the position I was thinking about knitting them in, but it was a long time ago.)  He came back to me a while later, not with comments about my knitting, but this blog.  I've often thought that Ken got the blog set up so that I wouldn't send him more knitting stuff - a  desperate self-protecting move in the department of diversion.  Ken claims that it just seemed like I "had a lot to say about knitting" which it turns out that I sort of do.  From that those first thoughts - wondering who would be on the other end of this thing, and how they would feel about it, six years later I find myself here - still thinking the same things, and still curious enough about the answer to keep doing it.

Is anybody out there?  Yes.  A blog is a really weird form of communication.  It's not like a conversation.. since there's not that same back and forth,  instead it's like holding a party in your living room where only one person is allowed to talk at a time.  First the writer takes a position, or tells a story, and they get that down - their whole part... and then the reader becomes the writer and vice versa, and the new writer posts their insight into the topic - also without interruption.  It's a complex way to communicate, and when I read the comments (and I read every comment on the blog) I'm frequently surprised at what resonates -and what doesn't.  In a whole great big post about a sweater, steeks, wool, seams and pattern error... I'll make one reference to chocolate cake and the entire of the comments will go that way... and I'll sit there stunned. Cake?  You really want to talk about cake?    It's a queer risk really, sort of a writers book camp.  What will happen next? The blog knows, but I don't - and trying to figure out what direction the blog-sled will go in after I give it a push down a hill is like trying to figure out why most food-shunning two year olds will eat frozen peas.  Intriguing, but hopeless.  (If you have a toddler try the pea thing.  I swear it's true.) 

I have thought more than once since I wrote my last blogiversary post that I am not sure anymore about the role of the blog in my world.  When I started, knitting blogs were everywhere, and the community of the blog was an  incredible way for knitters to get to know each other and talk about knit-community concerns and trends.  Much of that has shifted I think, mostly to Ravelry and other forums like twitter, and every dog has it's day and all that.  I like that stuff and I'm glad we have it and I enjoy it - but as other ways to communicate in the knit world have sprung up, I often wonder if blogging is what it was, and if I care?   There have been times too - if I'm going to be honest,  over the last year that blogging has been intensely painful, and has brought frightening, scary, damaging things or people into my life, and as much as I'd like to look the other way, the truth is that another bizarre thing about blogging is that you don't pick your audience.  Anyone can read, anyone can comment, and while I've always thought that was one of the best parts, this year marks the first time that I have ever banned someone from the blog, and only the second time I have deleted comments from someone.   (I exclude here the comments that are a sales pitch to increase my penis size, and I only delete those because I have no penis. I think that's fair.)

I sat here last night and today, and I thought about what to write to mark this occasion, and I thought about the role of the blog in my life, which seems wise, since I'm not in charge of the role of my blog in your life.  I thought about what it has been like to have it bring me hurt, and what it has been like to have it bring me tremendous happiness and healing.   It turns out that even when I'm a little scared of it or when it feels like a risk, what doing this for six years has brought into my life is pretty remarkable.  I have a record of my family life for that time, and posts about the children from six years ago are now an important part of our family story.  In this age of digital rather than paper pictures, it also has been a great place to put images of our story, and the girls really love going through the archives, admiring the younger versions of themselves and recalling grand adventures.   (Joe and I too.  I love the post where we confessed that we'd finally  gotten married.)  Beyond that, the connections that I've made through this blog are just about priceless. 

I have a wide net of friends that I wouldn't have ever met without this, and even outside of the blog they have come to be relationships that have changed my life and the course of my path.  Professionally too - the blog has been a good thing, and I hope I've earned the things that it's brought me in that way.  I like to think that the writing and the stories have been a good trade.  I remember too that the times that heartbreak or grief has come into our family like it does all families - that the blog (that's you) has left comments of support that were so kind and helpful that they made a difference.  A few weeks ago in fact, a woman I have never met, heard from, or spoken with sent me an email that was so impossibly perfect and had such impeccably good timing that it was like being thrown a liferaft on a very, very rough sea.  There will never be a way to thank her, or any of you for all that you've done for me.

So I was sitting here, typing all that mushy stuff, and trying to find words to tell you one simple thing and not being able to really get there, when Rachel H sent me her latest version of the spreadsheet where we're adding up the tally for MSF/DWB and I started adding some too.. and then I stopped and checked the total.   I stared at it.  It's something I didn't think was possible when we started, I really didn't, and I'm not deluded enough (yet- though I still have some kids at home) to believe that I'm responsible for this - because I'm not.  Most of you would have given whether I tallied or not, whether Rachel H and Natalie tallied or not.  Most of you would have given, so it's not that I see it as my accomplishment.  I see it somehow, my lovelies, as OUR accomplishment.  As a profound expression of kindness, compassion, caring and concern for your fellow humans, even though some of them are probably not knitters - and I'm just - so... Proud.  So proud. 

$ 1 000 110

Knitters who read here, who make up this community, have donated more than one million dollars (and we aren't finished tallying) to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders since we began the effort in 2004.  That matters.  Kindness, humour, decency, yarn, passion, interest, participation in the world around us... it matters, even when it sucks sometimes, and suddenly I knew what I'd been trying to tell you I thought about all this on my 6th Blogiversary.

This blog matters to me.  Thank you for making it.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:01 PM

January 21, 2010

Randomly on Thursday

1. After the furnace guys installed the new ducts, the carpenters came and boxed them in, and today the painter has come to sand, prime and paint the whole downstairs, since the whole downstairs got messed up by the furnace. (I like pretending that the downstairs was FINE before the furnace came.)

2. The downstairs is being painted the exact same colours again.  I told everybody it was so that it would cost less money and time (one coat!)  but really- I might have a small problem with change.

3. I have gone to the pub to work for the afternoon because our housepainter is a friend of ours and I know if I stay, I'll over-supervise him to the point of damaging our relationship. 

4. A bunch of my neighbours that I thought had jobs are actually in the pub.

5. When I pointed that out to the guy next door, he pointed out that I'm at the pub and I  have a job.   (Touché.)

6. This led to a really interesting conversation about the fact that my neighbourhood has a really high number of artists (painters/writers/actors) living in it - and how everybody (including me, apparently) thinks that creative jobs aren't real jobs.  I pointed out that what may be confusing them is the lack of real paycheques and the fact that we are in the pub.   (He said touché to that one.)

7. Current knitter donations to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders is in the right sidebar -->
As of now, the total is $913 711, and we have a ways to go in the inbox.  You guys are so incredible that I want to tell strangers on the street about you.

8. Rachel H spent all day yesterday entering donations to the tally. She's awesome too. 

9.  I'm almost done Joe's Christmas socks, and after that I only have two more things to finish, and then I'm all done and caught up, which means that I actually might  be done my Christmas knitting before the end of January, which is really exciting.

10. Pattern from Classics in Kroy, an old Patons book- #922 though I don't know if it's still available.  Yarn, the colour Tina made for Joe called "Meet Brown, Joe" in STR Lightweight.

11. These socks are HUGE.  Joe's always complaining that they aren't long enough, so these ones are stupid long.  I'm hoping that this will go further in proving my love than bitching at him about the state of the bathroom did yesterday.  (Sigh.) These socks are going to take at least 1.5 skeins.

12. Turns out that even if you're in a pub in the afternoon with a bunch of creative people, not many of them understand why you've jammed a half knit sock on your arm, taken its picture and posted that to the internet. 

13.  I'm so misunderstood as an artist.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:39 PM

January 20, 2010

True Story

About 7 weeks ago I hit my absolute limit for how long I could go without hating my hair so much that I felt like I couldn't go out in public.  Right then my life exploded, I cancelled the hair appointment and since then have withdrawn from social engagements to compensate.  "Dinner? No - sorry. Can't come.  Hair's gotten  too weird, can't leave the house.  I'm sure you understand."  (They don't.) 
The other night when Rachel H was over I said something to her like "There's no way I can go to the school concert like this." and Rachel said something like "Don't worry, people know you've been having a hard time" or something like that... but what she really said was totally irrelevant, because as soon it came out of her mouth I realized what she hadn't said, which was "No, no. You look great.  It's all in your head." so the next day I made a hair appointment, which was today. 

The lady who cuts my hair is awesome and I love her.  It's taken us about two years to get where we are now, which is her totally accepting that I'm never going to take an interest in my hair in any way - other than showing up to have it wrangled.  I'm not going to straighten it or buy $80 worth of product.. I'm not going to discuss it or talk about it's colour.  I'm not going to do any of the things she talks about, and I do not own a diffuser now, nor do I plan on getting one.  I don't have a style - I have a cut, and I don't want to talk about maybe getting a style.  I'm going to show up, say something about how I would like to be able to participate more fully in society and not be held back by my hair, and she fixes it, we chat nicely and I leave.  It works great.

So today I show up there and tell her that I told a friend that I thought my hair was bad and she didn't disagree, and I pull of my hat and she says something like "Holy. S**t. No wonder you've been staying in the house" and sat me down in the chair.  I pulled out my knitting - like I always do, and the lady asked what I was making - like she always does.  I told her that they were socks for Joe, still not finished from Christmas, and then we chatted a bit more.  

So she's cutting and I look at my sock, and I see that I'm done the leg and ready to start the heel, and because it's socks with cables, I need to move the stitches around to get the heel in the right spot.  I set about it, slipping more stitches to one needle for the heel, moving front stitches so they're evenly distributed between two needles.  Slipping them all around to get it right,  and while I'm doing this,  the stylist leans over my shoulder and watches for a minute - and then she says this. 

"Wow.  You're such a fast knitter that it doesn't even look like you're knitting.  It looks like you're just moving stitches.  I can't believe you're that fast!"

Now, maybe it was the fact that I had so little else going for me in that moment, what with the hair and all, or maybe it was because everybody is occasionally tempted when the mark is just too easy but I sat there, really just slipping stitches and not knitting them at all...and I looked up at her with every intention of telling her the truth,  that I have really bad hair and my knitting's really not that special, and then I opened my mouth and inexplicably said:  

"Thank you. I've been knitting for a long time."

I'm waiting for my hair to dry to see if it's funny lookin'.  She's a good hairdresser, but that has to have cost me something.  Smart money's on the haircut.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:32 PM

January 19, 2010

Lorne's Hat

This is about Lorne.  He's one of Joe's best friends, friends since childhood really, and he's a good Newfoundlander lad. Reliable, steady, funny like you wouldn't believe and (I love this about him) if you hand him a guitar he's a human jukebox - or a well loaded ipod set on shuffle, to update the metaphor.   In any case dude can play for days without repeating a song - a feat that he proved on a canoe trip to Algonquin last year.  He's unstoppable, and whether that's a product of 20 years of pickin' up cash playing in cover bands all over the rock, or whether that's just his particular brain - I don't know, but I do like it.   Lorne came to Toronto ten years ago, and he had a bit of a hard adjustment.  He loves it now, but the shift from a wee place in Newfoundland to Canada's largest city was a bit of a brain wreck, and at the time I realized that until he got his legs under him, he was going to be one of those people that the city makes more lonely.  I don't feel it myself, but for some people, being in a city makes it worse. The fact that they don't know all 5.5 million people in the GTA just makes them feel like they don't know anybody.  In any case, that first winter I just felt so sorry for him, so I did what knitters do.  I knit him a hat.   It was a good navy cap, traditional and plain, warm and comfortable and knit long enough that it could be folded double over his ears to keep the wind out.  Lorne liked that hat, and it  became his standard winter hat, and he took proper and good care of it. 

Just before Christmas we celebrated Lorne's birthday, and buddy confessed that after 10 years, he'd lost the hat.  He was so regretful and wracked with guilt that I immediately cast on for another.  10 years is a really good lifespan for a Canadian winter hat with a busy agenda- and anybody who's faithful to a hat for that long deserves another. (Also, I have no idea why Lorne looks so sad in these pictures. He's a really happy guy.  Joe took them in a pub, so I wonder if it was a Hockey thing.  Canadian men looking inexplicably sad is usually a hockey thing.)

(See there? I think he's looking at Hockey.)
I've scribbled the pattern I cobbled together here for you as a little thank you for the number in the sidebar for MSF.  (I think that number will be a million shortly.  It's a terrible way to get there, but there we'll be.)   Joe, Lorne and my brother all agree that this is a good manly hat that has a 0% risk of emasculating any one in any way. (Even women.)

Lorne's Hat

Yarn: St. Denis Nordique. Navy - #5810.  2 balls. (I loved this yarn, by the way.)
Needles: I used a 40cm 3.5mm circular.

Gauge: 22 stitches to 10cm in rib, slightly stretched.

Team must still be losing. Likely the Leafs.

Cast on 120 stitches join (being careful not to twist, of course. We all know it but I still feel like I have to say it.) Mark the beginning of the round.

Work in 2x2 rib for 30 cm.  (This will look ridiculously long. Roll with it.)

Begin decreases. 
Round 1: *k2, p2tog, k2, p2.   Repeat from * all the way around. (Do this with every round.)
Round 2: * k2, p1, k2, p2.   
Round 3: as round 2
Round 4: as round 2
Round 5: *k2, p1, k2, p2tog. 
Round 6: *k2, p1, k2, p1.  
Round 7:  as round 6.
Round 8: *k2, p1, k2tog, p1. 
Round 9. *k2, p1,k1, p1. 
Round 10: *k2tog, p1, k1, p1.
Round 11. * k1,p1,k1,p1
Round 12. *k2tog.
Round 13: *k2tog.
Round 14: Gather remaining stitches securely, running the yarn through them twice.  (I have never liked having the destiny or destruction of a whole hat hinge on a single close.) Fasten off securely. 
Present to deserving recipient.

Lorne phoned a few days ago to say that his hat's working out really well.  Apparently it's properly warm and "the wind doesn't go through it like the ones from the store".  
High praise indeed. 

Enjoy the pattern, keep watching the sidebar for updates if you're into it. I really can't thank you enough, and I'm still just gobsmacked at what knitters can do without even really breaking a sweat.  Rachel H and I are both entering stuff into the tally as fast as we can - and we expect to have it pretty much wrapped up in the next few days, at which point I'll give away some karmic balancing gifts.  Just want to get most names on the list first so that it's as fair as possible.  I'm confidant that we're going to meet our goal of $1 000 000 for MSF,  but bummed that this is how we get there.. you know? I was trying to figure out how we could acknowledge something like that when it happens.  Ideas?

(PS. That pattern hasn't been test knit.  Not sure how far wrong you could go, but still.  Fair warning.)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:21 AM

January 15, 2010

The view from here

I want you to know that whatever it is that challenges you today, or whatever ugliness you see or hear in the world around you, that whatever sadness threatens to overwhelm you and tries to convince you that the world is not a good place or that people are not at their centres just about mostly kind and decent.....  I want you to know that my inbox is so full of emails projecting decency, kindness, empathy,  affection, warmth, gentleness, concern,  selflessness, altruism, compassion, sympathy and understanding that it would just about break your heart. 

Gratuitous Wild Apples picture because it's lovely too

With the help of Natalie (who's such a good girl to help me) I've processed about 450 emails... and there are thousands more.  The total has already moved  upwards by about $50 000, and I'll keep working on it- updating it through the weekend.  The Karmic Balancing gifts are coming too - and as soon as I've got enough of you added that it's fair, I'll start drawing for them.  A few quick answers to questions:

Yes.  If you put your donation in the comments the other day, I'll add them to the tally, but from now on it's easier if you make your donation to MSF/DWB and then let me know at  kwbATyarnharlotDOTca. (Change the AT and DOT to what's obvious there.)

No. If you've already sent it to the comments or my regular mail PLEASE don't re-send.  It's too hard to keep it all straight.

No. It doesn't work if you let me know on twitter.  Dudes, twitter moves way too fast for that.

No, if I haven't acknowledged your email with a quick "thanks" back, then you're not in the tally yet. You know you're counted when me, Natalie or someone else helping writes you back.

Yes. It is a lot of work, but dudes, it's the best sort and I love it a lot. It's pretty good for the soul.

Yes, MSF still needs you. It's going to be a long road, and even if there was enough money sent for Haiti (which isn't possible, just yet) after this there will sadly be another need, and donating to the general emergency fund means that when another bad thing happens, they'll be ready from the word go.  (Also - let's not forget that there are about a thousand other places in need that just aren't getting air time.  While we're all worrying about Haiti, there are still floods, famines, wars  and malaria happening in other parts of the world, and MSF is serving those folks too.)

Yes. Doing this does cut into the knitting time, but not as much as being stuck in a natural disaster would, so I'm totally fine with it.

Yes. You're all the best.  Knitters are seriously overachievers in this department. No doubt about it.

Yes. You can reattach a letter "M" to your MacBookPro keyboard using only  a 2.25mm knitting needle and a tutorial on youtube. (Nobody asked that, but I thought you would want to know - though after the experience I really recommend not taking off your letter "M" even if it is working funny because there is a piece of cookie under it.) That will be all.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:28 PM

January 13, 2010

The Knit-Signal

A few years ago, Bookishgirl Wendy wrote here about throwing up the Knit-signal when you needed the knitting community. She said that she thought it was like Commissioner Gordon throwing up the Bat Signal when Gotham needed Batman.  She imagined that if we had a Knit-signal, we could use it when we needed to call our knit-posse, and she created this.   It was a good idea then, and it's useful today.


As I'm sure most of you know by now, yesterday, while we knit, ate, drank and slept - a massive earthquake struck Haiti, largely effecting the city of Port au Prince.  Haiti itself is a very poor country with other problems - and that means two things.  (Well. It means a lot of things actually, but lets only dwell on two of them at the moment.)  First, it means that they entirely lack the ability to respond to this emergency without a lot of help, and secondly, it means that when the quake struck, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières was already there.

While you and I knit and we (or at least me) considered problems that now seem rather trivial, there are suddenly dead people, hurt people, trapped people, lost people and  hundreds of thousands of homeless - all struggling to figure out what comes next.  I spoke briefly on the phone this morning with the MSF office here in Toronto, and they confirmed several things.

Things are bad.

The MSF Hospital has sustained damage that means it isn't functioning as a hospital right now. Staff have moved to the courtyard and set up tents and what materials they could retrieve from the building and are doing their best to help people as they can. Doctors who were providing maternity care are now running a trauma centre.

They, and their sister offices in other countries spent all night figuring out who could go and how to get them there, and staff is packing as we read this to get there as fast as they can.  They'll be taking inflatable surgery suites with them so they can use that instead of their damaged buildings.

They believe that some of their staff are among the casualties.

They recognize the power of Knitters Without Borders and the force that we can marshal in a pinch,  and they are grateful that you've been able to help them in the past,  and  they would very much like your help now, and right away.

There are directed donation sites set up for Haiti on all of their websites, but I'd like to take a moment to ask you to please make your donation "undirected".   Money given to a specific fund can only be used for that area and making sure your donation is undirected helps them a lot.  It lets them keep serving other crises that continue to happen while the world watches Haiti, and more importantly, it allows them to be first responders.

On their websites (Canada here, USA here, Other countries can find their site here) when you give there is a drop-down menu that you'll see called "I would like my gift to be directed to..."  and you'll see a lot of choices.  Please consider selecting "Greatest Needs" or "Emergency Relief" so that they can have the flexibility that they need to do their best work.

I'm going right now to give my share, and I know from my inbox that many of you have already done the same.   Really, it's pretty hard to sit here with a Bohus, a pot of coffee, a laptop and this much sock yarn and do otherwise.  I hope you feel the same way.  They need you knitters,  I hope you can help, even if it's only a few dollars of your yarn money. 

I'm going to go and keep the Knitters without borders tally running, since it's a tangible way to see how donations, even little ones,  add up like stitches on a sweater, and people are already offering karmic balancing gifts for any draw I might do... though I know that really, nobody cares about that right now.  If you're like me, you're too busy being grateful that you're not a mother in Port au Prince right now.

Boldly go, Knitters.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:01 PM

January 12, 2010

Conversation in a Toronto Cab

I am in a cab, heading over to my Mum's last night. My cab driver and I are having a chat  and since we are Canadian this means that we are culturally bound to discuss the weather, which is cold and snowy- as one expects in January.

Cabbie: Do you know I came to Canada from Southern India 22 years ago. I've worked 22 years to bring my mother here to live with me.
Me: Wow. That's a long time. Is she here now?
Cabbie: No Miss, she came, but she went back home. It was my fault.
Me: Oh dude.  Don't tell me.
Cabbie:  I brought her in January.
Me: Oh, buddy.  
Cabbie: I know. It was -20 Celsius.  She stayed for only 36 hours.  She will never come back.
Me: That is a mistake.
Cabbie: It is.  I should have brought her in summer.
Me: Totally.

Cabbie: I still can't believe I did that  - after all, I had 22 years to work on my plan.

I laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:57 PM

January 11, 2010

Q&A

Catching up with Questions and Answers.  (Also, a little Q&A is a nice way to cover for a slow moving sweater.)

Several people enquired: (And I'm paraphrasing and combining here) What happened with all those French Press Slippers? Did you finish them all? How many pairs?

Umm.. Lots.

In the end, before the madness died down and I felt like I could stop (almost) I made six pairs.  You can now identify women in my gene pool because they're wearing one of the pairs above.  The only thing I was sad about when I was done all of those (besides the felting injury) was that I didn't have a pair for myself- and then Christmas morning I opened a box and there was a pair that Ken made for me.  Now we are Borg. All feet the same. Resistance is futile.

Frances asked: Forgive my ignorance if this seems like a silly question, but could you please explain the use of the white strand of yarn on your sweater? Does it mark the beginning of a round? Does it mark where you plan on steeking?  Is it a lifeline?

There are no silly questions in Knitville.  In Knitville not asking questions leads to big problems and things like sweaters with the darts from the  bust short rows on the shoulderblades.  That white yarn serves two purposes.  I lay the yarn in between the first and last stitches of the round - so it marks the beginning or a round, but also I flip the yarn from front to back (or back to front) every 5 rounds (or at some other significant point, maybe on increase rows) so that I can count them easily.  If I've been back to front 5 times, I know without really counting that I've accomplished 25 rounds, or that it's been X number of rounds since an increase and it's time to go again.   With a gauge this small I needed a short cut so I don't get squinty and mean while I'm knitting it.

All Things Knitterly said:
I did the Blue Shimmer way back when the book came out. I did the cardigan and the instructions did not mention casting on for the steek. I figured this out at the completion of the sweater. Hope they amended this.


Though I'm not using it for this sweater, I'm going to answer that with a leap where I assume that you're talking about Poems of Color, the wonderful book by Wendy Keele?  My copy has the instructions for the Blue Shimmer Cardigan worked back and forth, not in the round, which makes sense to me, since steeks (cutting a sweater open after knitting) is not part of the Bohus tradition. So either my copy has been amended to remove the steeks or maybe you were expecting them to be constructed like a fair isle - which they aren't.  (I think- like you, that steeks would make sense here, but Bohus sweaters were designed to be designer fancy-pants, couture knits, so good sense and efficiency doesn't always enter into the planning.)     

Susan asked: It seems like there are two major kits: Solvieg's Bohus and people who use Poems of Color and Kimmet Croft Bohus Kits.  What's the difference and which one are you using?

I'm using Solveig's Kit, mostly because I'm hung up on authenticity.

Gratuitous Bohus picture because it's just so pretty that I can't stand it.

Poems of Colour is a beautiful book full of tons of useful history and information, and beautiful patterns too- but they aren't true Bohus... technically. Original Bohus had  34 stitches to 10cm, while in Poems of color they've been modified to be 28 stitches to 10cm - and the yarn is different as well.   Kimmet Croft's Fairy Hare is 40% angora and 60% merino  - sport weight, while Solveig's is 50% angora and 50% merino, and a light fingering weight.  I've never knit with the Fairy Hare so I can't be sure of much else, but I've heard that there's more variation in their skeins than there is in Solveigs, some of them are sort of "nearly solids".  It really comes down to a matter of personal taste.  Poems of Color certainly preserved the spirit of a Bohus, and the gauge might seem a little more approachable for some knitters, but Solviegs patterns and kits are more technically accurate.  Knitters choice.  

Cat M asked me: I REALLY want to try this...So, did you order yours and, if so, would you please explain how did you go about it?

Well, given the differences (as I understand them)  I wanted a historically accurate pattern, and as far as I know, there's only one place to get them, and that's from Solveig Gustafsson.  (To see her Bohus collection on that site click on "Bohus Stickning".)  Her email address is on that page too, and although she's in Sweden, her english is perfect and you can just drop her a line and tell her what you'd like.  In my experience her service is fast and lovely.  Solvieg has been working with the Bohuslans Museum for years, and the kits she sells are authentic replicas of the originals, painstakingly hand-dyed to match, and accurate down to the last stitch. The quality is pretty outstanding, and the patterns come with translations in english (for those of us with spotty Swedish) from Susanna Hansson.

Lots of people said things like:
Yes, it's okay to give the Olympics to Ravelry...
I'd let Ravelry do all the work...
I'd let Ravelry have it...

I think I wasn't really clear the other day.  It isn't that I am trying to decide whether or not I should do my version Knitting Olympics here, or to "let" or "give" them to Ravelry.  Ravelry is already doing them. Ship. Sailed.  The Ravelympics (click to visit) are in place, there are already more than 230 teams and more than 4000 participants, it's a done deal.  It isn't "Should I do it or should Ravelry?"   All I can decide now is if I can repeat what I did four years ago like I've been planning, or if (because they don't do a bad job at all)  it is really stupid to try and compete with Ravelry? 

I know that I can bet you a dollar, that if I go ahead with any version of the original plan, that someone - multiple people actually, are going to email me and  accuse me of trying to steal Ravelry's idea or thunder, and that's not because they'll be difficult people, it's because the view is different everywhere you stand.   In any case, I'm still tossing it around, truthfully, it's sounding to me like there might be room for both.

Many people suggested: How about having Team Harlot in the Ravelympics, or being the Captain of Team Canada?

I don't think so- for starters,  there's already a wicked looking Team Canada group, but also,  I did the Knitting Olympics the first time because I had a really specific idea about how I'd like it to feel, and for all the advantages of Rav (forums, pictures,  points, and rules) it really is a different vibe than what I did,   and the Ravelympics are really not mine - and that's part of what makes me fine with it.  If I thought that my baby had packed up and moved away without telling me I would be sad.  I think of the Ravelympics as a cousin who live in another city.  Similar reason for why I wouldn't "open" the Ravelypics.  Not mine, and accepting that would make me feel like I was being offered a consolation prize, as in "well, we've moved your event, but hey - you can still come play with us!" The Ravelympics are very different. They aren't just my event moved- but are their whole own thing- and pretending otherwise would be laying claim to something that I've got no right to.  

I'm still deciding what to do next,  still excited, because at the very least I'm picking my sweater.  No way are the Olympics in Canada and this Canadian doesn't get behind that- even if it's only with a little wool.

Some of you asked: What sweater?

Not telling.  Not yet.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:52 PM

January 7, 2010

Still hearing David Bowie

Still swamped, my little flowers of joy, and so you will have to content yourselves with this bizarre drive-by-blogging that's the best I can muster.

I've been working away on Wild Apples, all the while remembering what a pleasure these kits are.  The yarn is so beautiful, the colours so lovely, and  really (this is the moment when a lot of you sit there, re-reading the sentence I'm about to type and shaking your heads sadly, thinking that I've finally snapped and that you can no longer relate to this sort of bonkers talk) I really love knitting whole sweaters on 2.5mm needles. It's satisfying the way that real oatmeal or baking bread from scratch is.  It's not like it's hard to do it.. it just takes longer and you have to content yourself with slower progress - assuming that you care, and if you're knitting a bohus, I suggest you not care and try and get all Yoda-knitter on it.  "This is not the sweater you seek.  The process is the sweater. The sweater is progress alone without becoming a sweater."  (It helps.)

Along with those pleasures, I've been re-visiting the joy of arsing up a row of colourwork and tinking back 325 fuzzy little stitches to fix it.  (I tried to get Yoda Knitter on that one, but I couldn't.  It sucked.)  It's fixed now, but for the record, it takes up pretty much an entire episode of Law and Order (or a whole glass of Shiraz- depending on how you like to measure these things) to get it done.  Bad-ass.  That's what that was- but the truth now is the same as it was in grade 11 when I learned it from watching a girl named Tracy.

If you're really good looking, you might be easier to forgive.

I wanted to run a question by you all, since it's coming up more and more often.  I had planned on repeating the Knitting Olympics this year, like I did four years ago, but I think maybe things have changed too much.  I always intended for the Knitting Olympics to happen in conjunction with the Winter Games (what can I say.  Something about the Winter Games says knitting to me) and two years ago when the Summer Olympics came along, I didn't run them- Mostly because I thought that it would be less special if it happened every two years, and because I really did think of it like it was an Olympic sport.  If you're an   runner, how often do you compete?  Every four years.  If you're a skier, how often do you compete? Every four years.  That was my thinking anyway - I remember suggesting at that time that if you wanted to compete in both the summer and winter Olympics, then maybe you needed another sport.  Maybe you would have to be bi-craftual?  Like... the winter games are the knitting ones, and the summer ones were for a crochet challenge?  

Turns out that nature really does abhor a vacuum, and there were enough knitters who wanted it to happen anyway, that when I didn't do it, it really sprang up on Ravelry where knitters were gathering, and the Ravelympics were born and executed.  This year while I've been getting ready to decide how to handle my plan,  I've gotten a bunch of emails from people asking questions. They've asked if I'm joining the Ravelympics, what Ravelympics team I'd like to be on, if I'd like to start a Canadian Ravelympics team... Even a few people who wonder if I know about the Ravelympics because it's a cool idea (it is!)  People have been asking me too if I'm planning on doing my Knitting Olympics... It makes me wonder if doing something his year (which isn't an insignificant amount of work, really) would be sort of stupid?  If maybe the idea that was born here hasn't moved on to its proper home on Ravelry?  That maybe some of the qualities Ravelry has makes it a natural place for the Knitting Olympics to go- I mean, every team can have it's own group - there's forums, it's easy to put up pictures... it's not at all that the Knitting Olympics isn't a great fit over there- it is. It might even work way better...  I can see that. 

The sense of it all (and the way that really, it's all set up already) makes me think that maybe I don't have a decision to make at all... that the move has really  already happened. Things change, ideas shift, grow and move, or they wouldn't be ideas, they'd be statues. (That's a really dumb sentence.) The idea was to have some knitterly fun, not to necessarily have it here.. and it's not like it won't still have a way to be fun for me.. or you or anyone.  Heaps of fun, actually.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments on how clever I am to notice now that the barn door's been open for a while and how I might want to stop looking for a horse in there?  Input and suggestions welcome.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:01 PM

January 5, 2010

W is for Wild Apples

 
Wild Apples needs winding.

Wild Apples is wound.

Winter Winding Wild Apples. 
Wonderful.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:21 PM

January 4, 2010

Friends who make things

I was going to ask you today if you have any friends who make things, and then I remembered that you're (mostly) all knitters and mostly you all have a knitter friend, so yeah.  I guess you have friends who make things.  More specifically, I was going to ask if you have friends who make things and give them to you... which is a whole other kettle of fish and one you would consider yourself lucky to be in. 

I have friends who make things and give them to me.  I have a cowl Denny knit, a scarf Rachel H made,  Abby sent me her book Respect the Spindle , when she finished,  and so did Yarn-a-go-go Rachel  (Both are really wonderful, which is a relief, because especially with Rachel's book - a romance, I had terrible worries.  I know she's a good writer, but I also know I don't care for romance, and I was so worried that I would hate How to Knit a Love Song and then I would have to spend the rest of my life avoiding her so I didn't have to say it. Turns out it's one of those books that you read in one day. Great book.)   I have a skein of yarn that Rams spun for me that I can't even bring myself to knit- I love it that much... and really... It's the yarn that's the hardest.

I have sort of a yarn "thing".  I have a hard time knitting it. I love and respect yarn for what it is, and that can make it hard to use it up, because as much as I love knitting and knitted stuff, I feel like yarn is this massive ark of potential.  It sits there, and it could be anything.  There's a whole story embedded in it and there's no way to know what it is, and I just love that.  Once you knit it, that story is told... and you don't have yarn anymore.  Sure, you have something else (or Rachel H does, if it's another sweater I've knit that looks better on her than it does on me) and that's great too, but it isn't lost on me that yarn stops being yarn when you knit it, and if someone gave me yarn, then I really often have a hard time knitting it up, because yarn is forever baby... but socks get holes.

This yarn "thing" creates a huge problem if one of your friends makes you yarn- like my friend Tina does. Back when I was buying her yarn all the time it was bad enough, but now that the occasional skein arrives here that she dyed just for me... well.  Those skeins don't hardly ever get knit. Tina sends me skeins of yarn the way that other people send letters or postcards.  It's like communication for her.  Other people might tell you that they're thinking about a trip to the sea, Tina just mails a skein of ocean coloured yarn.  Other friends might tell you that they loved making gingerbread as a child, Tina sends you a skein of gingerbread inspired yarn. It's like a bizarre sort of fibre-based post-it notes or something.  I love it.  I love it so much that I signed up, years ago - before we were friends, for the Rockin' Sock Club, sensing, I think - that dyeing yarn was more than just dyeing yarn to her... that it was extra nifty.  I've been a member for years, and as we've come to have a friendship as well, the sock club has become more than that to me.  I even designed for it a few times, and that added another layer of fun to it.   The one thing I noticed though, is that my yarn "thing" really comes into it.  Tina sends the packages, and I open them, and look at the yarn and read the dyers notes and see what they designers have cooked up to go with her yarn and then... then the little yarn fetish kicks in, and even though there's always more to be had, I can't knit it.  I hoard it. I have a whole bagful, and I keep the patterns all organizer in a binder and I look at them all the time, but there they sit.

So then this year (the year of our new plumbing, furnace and appliances)  I thought that maybe this is the year that I give it a rest.  I thought that if I'm not going to knit the stuff that comes (or at least, not knit it much) why not skip the club this year- and then it hit me. (Let's not complicate it with the fact that the club is really cool this year, and I'd be a fool to quit the year that she has Meg Swansen)   I can't skip it.  It's stuff my friend makes, it's a little postcard from her every two months, and really...

I just like seeing how she thinks. It's her making stuff.  It would be like telling Denny I didn't want a cowl, or Rachel that I didn't want a scarf, or telling Abby or Yarn-a-go-go Rachel that I don't want to see their books.  It's Tina's stuff, it's one of a kind, it's the little piece of her that she's putting out in the world and dudes, I love it.  Wouldn't miss it for the world.  Signing up.  Again. We've all got our reasons for being in yarn clubs... those are mine.

Send the yarn.

Ps. sorry for the lack of pictures.  I can't find the stupid camera cable. Here's a picture of Hank and Megan's gingerbread house for this year to make up for it.

They had snowman shaped sprinkles.  It was a masterpiece. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:26 PM