February 26, 2010

Full Coverage at Eleven

 Hello Bob, and welcome to our Olympic Knitting Coverage.  Some wonderful stories out there about courageous knitters, overcoming odds and surprising even themselves with their outstanding performances.

That's so true Jim, absolutely.  We've seen some incredible things in the last 15 days, but today we're going to talk about a story out of Toronto, where Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is desperately trying to figure out how she's going to finish.  We're hearing from so pretty good sources, that doesn't look good, in fact, there's a rumour on the streets out there that her husband Joe is expecting an all-nighter really soon.

I know Bob, that's what we've been hearing too.  Near as we can tell, Stephanie is coming in behind the pace at every checkpoint. At the halfway point she wasn't halfway, then she should have checked in with finished sleeves, and really.. frankly, just didn't have the sleeves at all.

That's true Jim, and worst of all, this is an athlete that we all had really high hopes for, and it's just insult to injury that she's coming in so late without any real reason.  We've been all over this athlete, trying to figure out what the problem is with this year.  She's had no injuries, no equipment failures -

Hold on Bob, that's not strictly true. She did have to have a serious hunt for a set of 3.5mm needles that she turned out not to use at all, having seen the competition move to circulars far beyond that point... she lost some significant time there. That said,  if an athlete fails to prepare, that's not an equipment failure. It's not like her needles broke or she ran out of yarn.

I know Jim, I'm just trying to figure out what's going on.  We caught up with Stephanie this morning - she wasn't hard to find really, considering that she's trying to make up time by sitting around in her gnome jammies, drinking coffee and knitting her arse off throughout the first part of today's competition, and all she could offer us as an explanation was a series of pictures from yesterday.

Those pictures are here now Bob, and they're stunning.  I mean, it would appear that Stephanie is really busting a move. In the photos we can see that she's adapting well to changing conditions.

She really is.  Having suffered a setback early in competition when she had to combine chart knitting with travel and a a social engagement and failed to make any good time that evening, yesterday when she was presented with more travel and an appointment that she couldn't shift, Stephanie took a bold step and completely abandoned the first sleeve, since it was at the chart phase, and began the second sleeve for the afternoon.

She did, she really did.  Now, it's not often you'll see a knitter do that - she's really taking a chance here.  Beginning the first sleeve before you've finished the second one means that there's a possibility, we'll hope it's slim, that both sleeves can be screwed up the same way. 

I think this knitter can handle that though Jim, she's done it before, in fact more than once in training we've heard her say that if both sleeves match it can't be an error.... that in fact at that point it becomes a "design feature" and there are plenty of judges who agree.

True, absolutely.  We saw some real commitment from her yesterday, knitting while she was walking- despite some really cold temperatures. 

We know that all athletes knit more slowly while their fingers are frozen, but Stephanie pointed out that "slow knitting is better than no knitting" and it's that kind of attitude that might make this possible.

We saw her downtown too, navigating some traffic, snow and humanity obstacles..

the only trouble yesterday was that no matter how hard this knitter tries she always slows down a little over the "stout moguls".

It's true, it really is, but we know this knitters position on this.

We sure do Jim  We sure do- and as a matter of fact the entire Canadian team has backed her up on the beer thing.  Seems as though they all believe that the short term time loss involved in drinking a pint is totally worth the speed they pick up on the other side - and I don't think I can argue.  It's certainly cut this team's injury rate.

That's right, and by injury rate, we don't mean that we're preventing injuries in the athletes...

No, no.  By injury rate we mean the rate at which knitter's are injuring others. 


Well, I don't know where that leaves us with Stephanie.  There are two more days to go in this event, and really we're yet to see a finished sleeve from this knitter, the steeking lies ahead, and I can't imagine where she thinks she's getting the time for making up or executing a colourwork neckband. 

I don't either Bob, and she's starting to look really sullen and exhausted today, and she was overheard a little while ago saying "What about the way I'm knitting right now makes you think I care about lunch?" which is pretty snippy for this knitter.  I counted five cups of coffee before noon and she's got a-non knitting appointment this afternoon that just might be more of a penalty than she can handle...but this knitter has surprised us before. She's going to need the performance of a lifetime.  I hope she gets it.

(Ps. Me and a whack of other Toronto knitters will be on CBC radio's GO! tomorrow morning, give a listen if you like.)

PPS. The closing ceremony celebration is being planned for Sunday evening at around 7:30 at the Old York (Niagara and Wellington) in Toronto.  If you'd like to come, let me know in an email (stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) just so that they can prep for the right number of knitters. I'll be there, celebrating the last day of these wonderful Canadian Olympics, whether I've got a new sweater or not.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:07 PM

February 23, 2010

Does anyone else hear a whistle

There is light at the end of the tunnel, as right this minute, as of about 10 minutes ago, I finally finished the body of my Olympic sweater. 

Finally.  It took two more days of fingerbending knitting than I thought, but it is done. It totally slowed me down that the front and back are different.  (It also might be longer than I wanted, but I always think sweaters are going to be too long until you have to put them on over breasts.) This leaves five days to knit the sleeves, and I have never been happier to have stumpy little arms than I am right now. I'm proud to have managed it so quickly, and doubly proud that I am right now not telling you that I always intended for it to be a vest.    I'm relieved that it's done, and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I might really have bitten off more than I can chew though, and part of me thinks that maybe that light is an oncoming train.  Another part of me wonders if it's delusional that I haven't given up.  Sleeves are fast.. right?

How's yours going? 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:04 PM

February 19, 2010

Halfway you say

Yesterday equaled another setback, not one caused by a dumb mistake (thank goodness-  I do have a shred of self esteem to protect)  but by life, and I didn't get near enough done last night to feel okay about my progress. 

I'm at the colourwork part, and as always, the set up rows are the hardest.  This sweater has a mirrored pattern, rather than a repeating one, and that means that the colour rounds aren't simple and straightforward, like they would be in Fair Isle.  There's no "5 black, 1 white, 5 black, 1 white, 5 black, 1 white..." where you could memorize and carry on around.  Instead it's more like 5 black, 1 white, 7 black, 1 red, 3 black, 1 white, 9 black, 1 white... so all of a sudden I'm rather slavishly attached to the chart, and can't carry on conversation or knit on the bus.  Realizing this last night while taking the bus and then trying to carry on conversation made it painfully clear. I am only glad that I gave up, rather than knit poorly. Moral and time wise, it's easier to be behind than to be arsed up and have to pull back.  I quit while I was ahead, but that means that in today's assessment, I've got a problem.  I wanted to be halfway by the halfway point, and that means that the body should be done by tomorrow, and I should be starting the sleeves.  (I've allowed half the time for the body, half for the sleeves and a spare day for steeking, sewing up and finishing.)  For that to happen now, I need at least one of the following to occur. (Maybe two. Trying to be flexible.)

- The orbit of the earth could be shifted to allow for a 28 hour day.  I realize this could be both difficult and inconvenient for the other denizens of the planet, not to mention it's effect on clock radios worldwide.  Not caring much.  It's a temporary request.

- Human physiology (or just mine, actually) could be altered to allow high functioning on less than 4 hours sleep.

- Red wine needs to become a performance enhancing drug. (Also, free.)

- My family needs to have no requirements of me for the next several days. This includes (but is not limited to) no cooking, cleaning or - frankly - interacting. 

- At a bare minimum, the phrase "I'm counting" needs to come to be understood clearly. It means "I need to focus right now, my little poppets and IS NOT a trigger to shout random numbers to try and screw me up, no matter how funny that is in your head. I don't have time for your shenanigans. Get off it.

- Proper interpretation and use of the word "crisis".  The fact that your sister touched your new mascara after you told her not to is not really my problem or a crisis.   Go upstairs and work it out.  Don't come back down here unless someone is bleeding or on fire.

- I need to rise above the human need for food and drink.  In this context, eating is a  time suck. 

If you possess the personal or supernatural powers to influence any of these matters, please notify me immediately.  Just not while I'm counting.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:54 PM

February 18, 2010

Get Smart

Premise: Knitting a fancy-pants sweater in 17 days is only possible if I observe certain rules of knitting.

Rule 1:  Be smart. This is no time for mistakes, especially preventable errors that can be entirely fended off if I use simple strategies that I should know really well.

How's that going? Well. Considering that the first thing I did with this sweater was perform, to absolute perfection, the "Not-Long-Enough-Tail Cast On" I don't think I can lay claim to having worked that out very well. 

Solution: Er.. get smarter? (Must work on alternate solution.)

Rule 2: Pay attention.  There is no time for mistakes here, and a knitter hoping to do something that can barely be done in 17 days really can't have to do things over and hope to take gold. Check, check and triple check.

How's that going?  Well. See for yourself.  Turns out that after I'd had recovered from the minor blow of casting on wrong, I devastated myself by doing the following.

That there would be a picture I took of my proudly completed first chart of the sweater, which would all be ducky if I hadn't knit it with bronze instead of white.  Realizing that (after I took the picture) actually made me do a dance of rage in my hotel room- since my fury was so complete that it needed physical release, not just the standard verbal obscenities thrown at yarn.

Solution: Oh, I don't %^&*%$#ing know.  Probably the same as "get smarter" and just as bloody likely.

Rule 3: Knit everywhere. There's almost no chance this is possible without taking advantage of every minute free to me. This is a secret of productive knitters- even snatched minutes here and there add up.

How's that going? Well. It was going pretty well. I was knitting in the Seattle airport, chugging along, having put enough yarn for the trip home into my carry on. 

I knit on the short flight from Seattle to Vancouver, coming to the end of my ball of black yarn while I was there. I went into my bag for another one, and immediately discovered (although I rifled the bag for a long time before I could believe it was true, my heart pounding the whole time) that I had only packed the secondary colours.  Extra white, red and bronze - no black.  I was absolutely dizzy until I remembered that I'd have a chance to redeem myself.  When you pass from the US to Canada at Vancouver, you have to collect your bags after Canada customs, and recheck them to carry on. This gave me an awesome (if misunderstood) opportunity to open my luggage in the baggage area, snag some black yarn (all of it, since I was risking nothing) and repack my bags.  As I said,  if the stares of onlookers were any indication, this was misunderstood as a luggage activity, but what the hell.  It's the Olympics.  Things have to be done.

Solution: Er, see rule 1 again.

Since then, I've had no further setbacks.  (I know that you don't expect many setbacks when all you have to do is knit 30cm of black stockinette in the round, but I'm still pleased.  I knit on the plane on the way home.

I knit on the bus running errands,

I knit on the subway,

I knit in the car, both day:

and night.

This morning. I'm ready to start the fancy charts,

Gonna keep working on that Rule #1.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:03 PM

February 17, 2010

Samantha, Sweet Sixteen

 The year Samantha was 15, it looked like this.

I can't wait to see sixteen.  I love you Sam. Happy Birthday.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:48 PM

February 12, 2010

Waiting for the Torch

The Olympic motto is (I bet you all know) Citius, Altius Fortius - which translates into Faster, Higher, Stronger, and it's all I can think today, while I sit here with my suitcase full of yarn and a big plan, waiting for the Olympics to begin so I can cast on, and I know that at least 2000 of you (because that's how many knitters  have signed up in the last 48 hours)  are waiting too.. and I bet that like me, you're having trouble explaining this urge.  It isn't that I like crazy knitting stuff (ok. It isn't that I just like crazy knitting stuff) and it isn't (just) that I like a big plan (which I do.)

It's that  really love the idea of an epic, once every four years.  A chance to find out what you're made of. A chance to find out what can be done in a few short days.  A chance to find out that you're a way, way better knitter than you thought you were, and a chance to find out that you're pretty amazing, actually - all while you watch other humans do their best too.  It's not like I really equate being an alpine skier at the Olympics to knitting a sweater in 17 days, but truth be told, it does make me feel just a little kinship.  The next 17 days will be the culmination of a lot of practicing, hopes and work for a lot of athletes from all over the world, and there I'll be, making the most of my skills right alongside of them, challenging myself, just like them - and as crazy as it seems, it makes me feel sort of supportive and a part of things.   What follows is a reposting of the original Knitting Olympics pledge. 


Today, thousands of knitters stand sit poised to knit their way to greatness. For most of us, this is a close as we are going to come to they Olympics...Welcome to knitting as a personal sport.

A sport is defined as a physically and mentally challenging activity carried out with a recreational purpose for competition, for self-enjoyment, to attain excellence, for the development of a skill or for some combination of these traits.

Today -when the opening ceremonies begin,  or while you watch the Olympic flame being lit in Vancouver (I'm starting as the torch is lit)  these thousands of sporting knitters will all lift their needles and begin a personal epic, an odyssey of excellence, and a phenomenal period of seventeen whole days in which they will strive to improve themselves as knitters, however they personally define it. These knitters, having created their own challenges, pay tribute to the real athletes who (inexplicably) find their greatness in ways other than those of wool.

It is my greatest pleasure to imagine a wave of energy released at that time, streaming through the world, rushing poignantly from the needles of women and men of excellence paying homage to the old and mighty idea of challenge elevating the human spirit.

It is not whether you fail or knit. It is not whether you get a sweater or you simply learn what wonder you can achieve when you think about knitting for seventeen days. It is the magic of the combined effort of thousands of knitters all making the smallest of movements with their hands, adding up to the greatest epic of craftspeople all knitting for one goal, at one time, ever known.
(Cue the music...)

The Knitting Olympics Athletes Pledge

I, a knitter of able hands and quick wits, to hereby swear that over the course of these Olympics I will uphold the highest standard of knitterly excellence.

I will be deft of hand and sure of pattern, I will overcome troubles of yarn overs and misplaced decreases. I will use the gifts of intelligence and persistence (as well as caffeine and chocolate) and I will execute my art to the highest form, carrying with me the hope for excellence known to every knitter.

I strive to win. To do my best, and to approach the needles with my own best effort in mind, without comparing myself to my fellow knitters, for they have challenges unique to them.

While I engage in this pursuit of excellence and my own personal, individual best, I also swear that I will continue to engage with my family in conversation, care for my pets, speak kindly with those who would ask me to do something other than knit, and above all, above every stitch thrown or picked, above every cable, every heel stitch, every change of colour, I swear this:

That I will remember that this is not the real Olympics, that I'm supposed to be having fun and that my happiness and self-worth ride not on my success....
but on my trying.

Let the games begin!

Posted by Stephanie at 3:28 PM

February 10, 2010

The 2010 Knitting Olympics

Eligibility: Any knitter who, embracing the "Citius, Alitius Fortius" ideal, would like to challenge themselves while embracing the Olympic spirit, and is just whacked enough to play along with me.

Concept: You must cast on a project during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, Friday, February 12, 2010 and finish before the Olympic flame goes out Sunday, February 28. That's 17 days.

1. The project must be a challenge for you to complete in 17 days.
2. There are no rules about what a challenge would be. Like the real Olympics, there are many areas to compete in. If you are a new knitter, then a garter stitch baby sweater might do...If you are experienced, use your own conscience.
3. While this is intended to be somewhat difficult (like the Olympics) it is not intended to ruin your life. Don't set yourself up for failure. (Olympic athletes may cry, but they do not whine pitifully, sob and threaten members of their family with pointed sticks because they haven't slept in five days. ) This is intended to (like the Olympics) require some measure of sacrifice, and be difficult, but it should be possible to attain.
4. No casting on before the flame is lit. (The opening ceremonies run from 6-8 pst. If you can't watch, then I'd pick a time in there.)
5. Finish before the flame goes out.
6. You may swatch before the games. (I consider this "training.")

The Knitting Olympics has only a gold medal. (There is only do- or do not.) Finishers get a gold medal button for their blog, their name entered into a draw for a chance at a prize from me, and the joy of knowing that they are an Olympic level knitter, no matter how experienced they are. You are only competing against yourself. (Well. And the Olympic schedule.)

Who's in?
If you're just crazy enough itching to be part of the Knitting Olympics, fill in this form, and your name and link will show up on the list of athletes here. (Many thanks to the clever and competent David, who made that page go and offered to host it.) Consider carefully. Done right, this will suck up 17 days of your life and be an epic work.

(Crappy button made by yours truly. Really good button for finishers will be made by Franklin. Feel free to swipe and save to your own server.)

What am I knitting?
Whistler. I figure that if I'm going to propose that you all take this on, that I set a fine example of being so completely out of my mind it's almost scary embracing the ideal.

17 days, many knitters, one dream. The Knitting Olympics.

Good luck.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:54 PM

Three Things

1. I finished the yoke on the Wild Apple and am now on to the miles and miles of mindless stockinette.  It's a nice change, but I miss the colours already.

At least I have the yoke to pet and admire as I go.

2. I keep forgetting to tell you that I'm signing at Madrona in Tacoma this Friday from 5-6 in the Pavillion Rotunda at the Hotel Murano (thats where the conference is).  There's an awesome marketplace that's open to the public too, so if you're in the neighbourhood, please stop by and say hello. I'm not sure who's selling my books in the marketplace, so I think it's BYOB. (Bring your own books.)

3. David, who is as clever as he is handsome, is getting together a sign-up sheet for the Knitting Olympics that we'll put up later.  I'm grateful for his help, and this is almost enough to have me forgive him for the thong he knit me a few years ago. (Long story.)  When we put it up this evening, you'll be able to add your name, project and link and be on the official knitting athletes list.  David's just putting the last little polish on it, it shall arrive here shortly, please do visit back to add yourself. The rules (such as they are) and the button (such as it is) will go up the too.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:21 PM

February 8, 2010

Pictures of a rest

Yesterday though, two rare things happened.  First, I took a day off. A whole day off.  Not that self-employed kind of day off where you just work less than you usually do and call it a day off, but a real, honest to goodness day off.  Madrona happens this coming weekend, and as is my habit, I took a few extra days to work with Tina here on the west coast before we go. Saturday I flew in, she picked me up and we settled in one of our favourite places to be.  We've both been under a lot of stress these last few months, and decided that we could use "a day off".  (Actually, a lot of people told us we could each use a day off, so maybe we were getting weird.) In any case, we thought we would try it.  One whole day, without work, without feeling bizarre or guilty about it.  I'm out of practice with the whole day off thing, but in the end, we both managed.  We spent the entire day knitting.  We watched Stargate SG-U and Castle , drank beer and knit.  It was grand I tell you,  just grand.  The second thing that happened is that Tina, who loves photography and has quite a knack, got rather obsessed with taking pictures of the Wild Apple Bohus while I was knitting it.  The resulting pictures are too pretty not to share.  (Yes.  I'm wearing pink gnome jammies and a "knit.calm" tee-shirt.  It's high fashion around here.  Try to over look it. Focus on the bohus.)   I love these pictures.  There's something neat about how my knitting looks from the outside, rather than I how I perceive it from the inside.

Three rounds of the yoke to go. 

Posted by Stephanie at 5:34 PM

February 5, 2010


This here, would be the knitting-packing that I'm doing for leaving tomorrow.  \

The bag on the left would be the Bohus, which seems to me like it's perfect travel project... once I'm settled. 

(I have a sock for the plane, because juggling 14 little balls of yarn and a chart seems like a bit much.)  On the right though, is a pretty awesome bag full of fun, or I hope it will be.  I've decided to take Rachel H's comment to heart.  When I was pondering whether or not the Knitting Olympics were something I wanted to do/host this year, she said this:

So here's what I'm thinking. I enjoy Ravelry a great deal and think highly of the nice people who run it. And sure it's a great venue for large group participation. No question. I know of groups using the Ravelympics as an opportunity to set up teams for spinning challenges, crochet challenges, all sorts of challenges.

But. The Knitting Olympics is The Knitting Olympics. An event that you conceived that takes place every for years in conjunction with the Winter Olympics. My first opportunity to call you up regularly to wonder what the hell you'd gotten me into. I have a whole whack of special memories associated with the first one. I got my first cardigan, a cardigan I love out of the first one, albeit not by the time the torch was extinguished.

It seems I've developed a taste for (and a lot of practice with) asking you what the hell you've gotten me into, so when the Olympic torch is lit in Vancouver I shall cast on as a Knitting Olympian. I'm gonna come here and let you now how I'm doing with my Olympic project (whatever it is) a whole lot. And I'm really hoping that whether you decide to make it official and track it for anyone else or not (because I am the last person who wants to add to your workload), you re-post January 14, 2006 (except for the choice of sweater, no matter how appealing it is to set a challenge knit with the word 'danger' in the pattern name) set and lead an Olympic challenge and invite others to join in the madness here.

So that, my friends is pretty much what I am going to do.  In that bag is my sweater.  I'm going to re-post the original challenge (found here) and on February 12th, I am going to start Whistler. 

A Dale of Norway Olympic sweater from a few years ago, because darn it, it has a big honking maple leaf on it, and they're going to be skiing at Whistler at these Olympics and I'm just so proud that it's my fantastic country that will be showing the world a good time, because dudes.  We. Know. Winter.

I can't figure out for the life of me how I could find the time to list all your names on a page like I did last time, but it has occurred to me that in this day and age there is an excellent chance that a knitter reading this is just geeky enough to help with some sort of auto-script thingie where y'all could enter your own stuff and get listed.  Cool?  I think so.  If you're my geek, speak up - I'd love the help.  I'm hoping some of the usual suspects will turn up, and one of the usual suspects already has.  I've spoken with the esteemed Mr. Franklin Habit, and he'll be providing us with a kick-arse medal, just like the last time. Feel free to drop by that link and thank or encourage him. (This is because he is pretty much made of seven sorts of awesome.  As is his book .  Just saying. For the record, he has not promised an awesome nekkid' guy like last the previous medal but we can all hope.)

So that's it.  Game on.  Who's in?

Posted by Stephanie at 4:48 PM

February 4, 2010

January Socks

 The first months combo of my self-imposed sock club. 

Yarn: Handkraft "The sock who loved me" in Mangrove (70% Merino, 30% silk. Yummy.)  Pattern: Sleepy Hollow.

Verdict:  I love these socks.  Love them. 

I love the stripes up the backs of the legs (probably a throwback to some bizarre stocking seam association I'm making) and I love - no, not love... I am deeply satisfied by the heel.

This sock is knit from the top down, and when you get to the time for the heel, you begin to work it in the traditional slipped stitch pattern, but you don't work it by itself, back and forth. 

Instead you keep working in lovely fulfilling rounds, increasing for the gussets as you go.  When the whole business is the right length and size, you work a short row turn, then work back and forth, uniting and consuming the gusset stitches into the heel and sole.  After a little, when you have the right number of stitches, you increase as you consume... so that stitch count stays constant. 

The result is a nice fitting heel, but as is so often the point in knitting... that's not it's charm.

The charm is, somehow - that the resulting heel is charmingly foot shaped, and almost seems fitted.  Narrow where heels are, wider where the foot is. I'm thrillingly enchanted.  It's like matching increases or a perfect bobble, or bang on symmetry in a paired decrease.  The attention to detail is just.  Well.  It's sexy. 

And no.  I don't mind that I've said that about a sock.  I bet you think it's hot too.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:51 PM

February 3, 2010


Just poking my head up to assure you all that I'm fine.  I sort of like the way that if the blog goes dark for a few days, the emails start coming to make sure I'm okay.  It makes me feel like if I'd ever fallen and couldn't get up that I wouldn't be eaten by my cat before my body was discovered.  (I know that realistically I would be found by my family long before that happened, but apparently I was really shaped by one bad episode of Law and Order. Note to self. Maybe not watch that show.)  All is well here, though I'm trying to power through family stuff to ready myself and them for some away/ teaching/ talking/ time

(Insert imaginary picture here, which would be a grand one were it possible to get it off my camera, which it isn't because the cable that I deliberately put on my desk to make sure this never happened again is missing, which I'm sure is not the fault of anyone who lives here except me, because nobody who lives here is the sort of person who would ever, ever, ever touch another persons stuff.  Except maybe a lipstick. Or a book. Or mascara, or a black tank top, or that skirt.  Or a bag.  Never.)

I did finish my socks.  I did start more.  I did forgive myself for not finishing my January socks until February 2nd. Breaking a self imposed knitting rule is still not a federal offense, so I'm letting go. Tomorrow when there's a photo assistant available I'll take some pictures for you, and until then all I have time to say is that the Sleepy Hollow socks have a dead sexy heel turn and gusset increase/decrease  combo that I hope thrills you the way it did me. 

(Note: if you're a non-knitter, don't even try to understand that last sentence.)

Posted by Stephanie at 5:52 PM