July 30, 2010

Two for the Road

Joe and I don't take vacations.  We're both self employed, and somehow we've ended up with bosses that don't think two weeks off in the summer is a reasonable thing- so we haven't had a vacation in a while.  We took the girls home to Newfoundland a few summers ago, and Joe and  I had a canoe weekend two years ago, but really, we simply don't vacation.   We have businesses that only run when we work on them, so a day off means everything comes to a grinding halt. We try to avoid that.  All that said, running your own self means that you can also bust a move really hard and earn time off for good behaviour, and that's what Joe and I did this week.

Megan, Ken and Pato roll into Montreal today at 4:00 and Joe and I are already in Kingston, 1/4 of the way there.  We stayed with my Auntie Yvonne last night (best hostess in the world, hands down) and today we'll leap back in the car and drive to Montreal, welcome Team Knit as the arrive, and then - GET THIS.

Instead of driving straight back home like we did last year, we're going to have dinner in Montreal, then stay in a hotel, and then get up and have a glorious half-day in la Belle Ville.  We'll buy some bagels, we'll walk to to Jardins des Floralies, perhaps go to Notre Dame... then head for home. It's like 24 hours of vacation, and I'm so excited. 

I've got a sock.  I'll report back in.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:55 AM

July 28, 2010

In Need of the Heimlich Manoeuvre

First of all, and lets get this right out of the way and be crystal clear.  My pitch was terrible.  Not bad, not pretty good, not "hey man, nice try"- it was terrible. There.  I've said it.  It was a freakish out of body experience and absolutely terrifying and there was a guy and bird and when they.... wait.  Let me back up.

If you know me (and by now, I bet you suspect you do) then you'll know that I'm a planner.  I'm not just a planner, I'm a planner who thinks plans are essential and should be followed to the letter.  I also think that plans are a great way to manage anxiety, and so I plan things to death to try and get a grip when things are worrying me.  This pitch worried me - so I made a plan.  I got a ball. (Thanks Ian.) I got someone to teach me how to throw a ball. (Thanks Kim.) I practiced until my arm hurt.  (Thanks RachelH. Thanks Joe.)  I made a plan to go with all of that.  I planned what to wear, how to throw, what to say.  I had it all down.  Amy (Thanks Amy) said that when she threw out the first pitch she threw to the mascot (a rather large furry blue jay.) I also had it on very good authority that the first pitch isn't a true pitch...it's only half the regular distance, which is 9m.  These things (and more - for which I had less evidence) all contributed to my plan.

I would wear a skirt and blouse. I would take my knitting with me. (Comfort measures, you understand.) I would throw the ball to the mascot.  I would throw it 9 metres. There would be no actual baseball people involved. This was the plan.

When I arrived I was taken deep into the bowels of the Skydome.

I got a pass to go onto the field (!!!) and walked all the way through till I was standing on the side.  I could see family/friend shaped blobs up in the stands.  I waved.  They waved.  It all seemed to be going so well.  The super kind lady explained to me that at 6:53, the mascot (the aforementioned big furry blue jay) would come over and walk me to my spot.  Then I would throw the ball to him, and then I would walk back. "So far, so good" said my inner planner. I stood there, running my checklist. 

-Hold the ball tight. Not too loose. A loose grip makes it wail off to the right. -Pick a spot on the receiving glove.  A tiny spot.  It might not hit the spot, but it's more likely to hit the glove. 
-Take two steps, winding up as I go.
-Release the ball as I come forward on the second step. Let my momentum carry the ball forward.
- Don't make a total circle with my arm.  That throws it into the ground. Cut across the top of the circle.
-Release the ball when my fingers are pointing at the tiny spot on the glove.
-Follow though. But not too much. That's what Mariah Carey did wrong.

I stood there practicing in my mind.  (I hear that visualization is an important part of sport.  It's an important part of knitting too - so I did it.)  At some point in the seven years that I stood there, the really nice lady gave me my ball.  Not a ball.  My Ball.

It looked a lot like the ball my brother gave me, only clean. That was reassuring. I tossed the ball in my hand and waited for 6:53 to come.  It did, sort of predictably after 6:52, and that's when it all started to go wrong.  The big crazy Blue Jay came and got me, and we walked to the mound.  Just in front of the mound actually, since nobody is allowed on the mound if they're not a pitcher.  This was problem number one. I wasn't prepared to throw the ball the whole distance.  9m was what I had been told, 9m is what I practiced and I was pretty sure that I didn't have whatever it took to do anything more than 9m, never mind about 16m to the plate. 

I can tell you truthfully, that this is when I lost my hearing.  Actually - no.  I didn't lose my hearing, it was just that I couldn't hear anything except for the roaring of my own blood in my ears.  It was deafening.  I didn't say anything or do anything, because I thought the big furry Blue Jay was going to fix it.  I thought he was going to say "Hey, don't worry, I'm not going to go stand at the plate.  I'm only going to stand 9m away from you because I know that's the plan" but that's not what he said.  He didn't say anything.. because as he left me there and started to walk to the catching place, an actual Blue Jay (Brian Tallet who is, just so you understand me an actual PITCHER) climbed out of the dugout, and started to walk towards the plate. 

The actual pitcher (who is a behemoth) smiled at me, waved off the big furry bird,  and strode to the place where catchers catch, and pointed in his glove.  

It was at this point in the story that I took leave of my actual senses.  Too many things had changed.  I wasn't throwing 9m, I wasn't throwing to the mascot, I couldn't hear myself think because of the sound that panic makes in your head, and I... well.  I don't know what happened next.  There's a gap in my recollection.  I know what didn't happen.  I didn't run the checklist.  I didn't hold the ball tightly, I didn't make a circle with the top cut off.  I may have taken two steps, I may have taken twelve.  I don't know. I definitely didn't release with my fingers pointing at him.  I didn't do any of it.  The world went black, everything I thought I knew checked out, and all I saw was 15 000 people and one pitcher and huge blue furry bird and I thought something along the lines of "this was a big mistake" and then... then.  Oh then.

Then I choked completely and hurled the ball at him (way more than 9m) and the thing shot off.  It left my hand and I knew that instant that it wasn't good.  I could feel it. It rolled off of my ring finger and that meant a bad thing.  It was bad too. 

In all of my practice sessions, I had never thrown a ball that bad.  It streaked through space (only really slowly, so I had lots of time to be appalled) and I watched it go.  It headed towards him not at all.  In slow motion, the pitcher dove for it, throwing his entire 6'6" frame off to the right, but it couldn't be saved. The ball whizzed by him at least 3m off his side, and he missed and had to chase it.  My humiliation was complete.  So complete in fact, that as the horror of what I had done swept over me my instincts took over and I tried to do the only reasonable thing.

I watched it go.  I thought "bugger this, it's bloody over" and I TRIED TO LEAVE.  I turned and made every attempt to flee the scene.  I fixed my eyes on the door I'd come through to get onto that field, and I made for it.  Before the pitcher could have the ball in his hand, I had turned on my little birkenstocks and begun nothing short of a tilt towards the exit at a reasonably desperate pace.  It was all going pretty well too.. the fleeing, when an enormous furry blue wall sprang up in front of me, and the mascot Blue Jay had me trapped in his wings.

"No, no!" he said "dont' go yet!" and he herded me over to the pitcher (who'd finished his trek to collect my ball) and the gentleman stood in front of me, took a pen out of nowhere,  and signed the ball before he handed it to me. He was so tall that if I had stuck out my tongue it would have been in his navel. 
"Sorry" I said
"It wasn't that bad" he said (which, in my experience, means it was appalling.)
"You're very tall" I replied. 

With that, it was over, and the big bird took me away.

In conclusion, let me tell you this.  Whomever is the actual guy in the big furry Blue Jay suit is a very, very kind man.  When I was done, and my ball was signed by the behemoth pitcher and I was ready to just go lie down - he didn't just walk me back. I said "That was awful." and whoever is in there, stopped. He put his furry wing around me, and he walked me in a circle.  "Wave" he said. So I waved. 
"Look where you are." said the dude in the suit.  "Just look.  Almost nobody gets to throw a first pitch."  We walked, waving and he looked that furry blue jay suit at me, and he said "It wasn't awful.  It was really cool."

He's right.  Thanks Blue Jay guy.  I threw a really awful pitch at a Blue Jays game.   It was cool.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:35 PM

July 27, 2010

Pulling A McCoy

Tonight, I'm going to trot myself down to the Skydome (yeah, I know. Technically they renamed it to "The Rogers Centre" but it's always going to be the Skydome to me) and someone is going to hand me a baseball, and I'm going to pitch it at someone.  I've been imagining this person is the catcher, but last night Amy (who threw out the first pitch last year) said that I might throw it to the mascot.  (I'm going to have to prepare for that.)

I've been to the Stitch 'n Pitch before. It's fun.  Really fun.  I love that for safety reasons (because our attention isn't entirely on the game) we're seated where a knitter is unlikely to take a foul or home run to the head.  (I love it because it makes me wonder how they think knitters manage?  I knit all the time and it's not like I'm the victim of a constant parade of bizarre accidents as a result. It just cracks me up. I'm probably getting a ball to the head tonight just for saying it.  In any case, it's very thoughtful of them.)  

I'm a little worried about this. It's not like I really think that throwing out a bad first pitch could possibly impact the rest of my life  (except for the mocking- and really, YouTube would probably take the video down after 10 years... or at least that's what the ticket guy for the Blue Jays told me) so even the humiliation wouldn't be forever... it's that I'm not sporty, I've never been sporty, and as I get older the sportyness only eludes me further.   I'm totally fit - I'm happy to run, swim, bike - anything you like.  It's the actual sports, like basketball, lacrosse, hockey and baseball that have never, ever been a part of my life, and I'm pretty sure the first time I pitched a baseball was on Sunday, at 42 years of age.

My buddy Kim, who's a big baseball guy - he watches and plays, took me out to a field and told me how. We worked on all kinds of things.  Things I'm supposed to remember.  I hold the ball just so, I remember to hold it tightly or it goes all over the place when I release.  I step forward with a certain foot... I look where I want the ball to go... Kim walked me though the whole thing, and 20 minutes later- when the balls I was throwing were at least near his glove some of the time... Kim told me I was better than 80% of the celebrity first pitches he'd seen, told me I was going to be fine and dropped me off at Joe's work again.

I felt not too bad then.  Really, not too bad at all- so I dragged Joe outside to show him how good I was at throwing a ball.  That's when all four I threw to him went in unpredictable places- and that's when I realized that this whole thing might be a bit of a crap shoot.  I mean, I can practice, but muscle memory and skill take time, and really this isn't enough time.  I tossed a ball around again with Rachel H yesterday, and she said that 80% of them were pitches a catcher would catch, and not to worry too much.  She also said that standards would be low, and that I'm good at other things, and that I shouldn't stress on it.

I've been stressing on it.  I tossed a few to Joe last night and he said they were good too.. and I wondered why I still feel so nervous.  This morning I had a crazy total moment of clarity.   Attendance tonight will likely be about 15 000 people- and I thought about that. It turns out that it might not be the idea of 15 000 people watching me throw a ball that stresses me out.  Frankly, it's the idea of that many people watching me do ANYTHING that's uncool.  I was smart to focus on the ball part, because it turns out that if I take the ball throwing out of it, and just imagine walking out there and standing there for a minute, I still want to puke. All I can think today is that I want to knit. 

Pattern: Leyburn,  Yarn: BMFA lightweight in Blue Brick Wall.  July's commitment to the self-imposed sock club.

I'm going to try and relax about this. I'm going to show up (there's a meet and greet/sign your books thing  at 5:30, if you're interested) and then I'm going to go down there, someone will hand me a ball, and I will walk out there, and I'll toss the thing, and whatever happens. Happens.  Maybe I'll trip and fall down in front of 15 000 people.  Maybe I'll throw a bad pitch.  Maybe it will all go great. There's just no way to know.  I've practiced, I've tried to learn a new thing, and when it's all said and done, I'll go back up to my seat, snag a beer and knit, and I'll work on letting myself off the hook for whatever happens because it's supposed to be fun, and no puppies will die if I don't get it right. I'm not supposed to know how to pitch.  I'm not supposed to be comfortable in front of that many people. I've got other talents, and tonight "not having a heart attack on the field" is just going to have to be one of them.  I've got a plan, and the way I'm getting myself there is by pulling a Mental McCoy.
Whatever happens tonight, when you see me out there,  here's what I'll be thinking. 

Dammit Jim.  I'm a knitter, not a baseball player.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:49 AM

July 26, 2010

My Old Enemy

I spent the weekend spinning away, mentally adding up with I had, doing the math and hoping -most of the time, against hope, that I would come up with 1400g of spun and plied fibre.  The whole last week my real life kept interfering with my wished for life, and not nearly enough time was spent at the wheel. (Despite serious and committed attempts and arrangements, somehow my real life still isn't knitting and spinning.  I don't know what's up with that, but I'm still working on it.)  I spun and spun, and come yesterday morning I had two things. A huge row of singles to be plied, and a sore arm. (That's unrelated.  I'm trying to learn to throw a ball with some sort of accuracy for Tuesday night's stitch 'n pitch.  As it stands so far I have about a 50% accuracy rate.  Half of the balls land squarely and neatly at the hands of the catcher, and the other  50% are apparently what baseball people call "a wild pitch".  Not good.) 

So there I am, yesterday morning with a big pile of plying to do, and as I lined them all up for a picture, I was thinking that if I really hustled and plied fast and dedicated myself, then I could weigh it all and if it wasn't enough I could spin more and maybe still make my goal... and then I realized that I was done. Totally done.  I did my best, and either I had my goal or I didn't - but that I wasn't going to go busting a move that wasn't part of the plan. 

I decided right then that I would ply it and then leave it all to weigh today.

Plied up yesterday was a gorgeous pinky goldy wool that I've lost the tags for,

but is prettier than I can say.

I managed to preserve the colour structure in the roving enough to get one skein that moves from gold to pink across the whole length.   (That was mostly luck.)

This one was a good move on my part.  I'm a  member of Fondle This fibre club, and this months shipment was this beautiful red fibre. 

Each month she ships out some fibre, the spinning directions and a pattern that goes with, and this month the directions were to spin it to a bulky two-ply for a hat, and what better timing could there have been.  It went fast, and is soft and lovely.

Also from the spinning club (but a few months ago) was this a BFL/silk roving that spun itself one evening.

The resulting yarn is heavy, drapey, warm and reminds me of the blueberry patch the colourway was named for.

The pretty tweedy singles from last post spun up into a very pretty yarn indeed.

Exactly what I was hoping for, that one. 

The last effort to pass the wheel was more of the Gold Dust Woman batts that I love so much. 

This yarn is destined for sparkly mittens - a little ray of sunshine in the dead of winter.

When all was said and done last night, I piled the yarn up, called it quits and went to dinner.  Resigned to know my fate this morning.  Up and fortified with coffee today, I fetched up my scale and gave myself a little talking to.  To my way of thinking and performing mathematics,  I hadn't made my goal.  No way.   I'd be about 100g short I figured, but I was ready to let go.  1300g of fibre over the course of the Tour de Fleece was pretty much made of win (I told myself) and the fact that I liked and was proud of all of it? That was worth more than meeting my goal.  That was an accomplishment.  Besides, the goal was to stashbust, and I did. That's a lot of fibre to have leaving this den, and I'm not going to beat myself up. 

I started skeining and weighing.

Red/orange Spinners Hill roving 361g.
BMFA merino/yak: 295g.
Seldom Scene Farm alpaca/silk/angora : 114g
BMFA BFL: 206g
Dyeing for Colour bamboo rayon/merino: 115g
Three Bags full Wool/silk/silk noil : 111g
Fondle This! Club Falklands wool: 130g
Fondle This! Club Merino/silk: 100g
Pink/yellow prettiness (tag gone): 105g
Gold Dust Woman batts from the Enchanted Knoll: 107g

I added that up.  I added it up again. I added it up a third time, because dudes! Math and I have an old rivalry- but anyway I add that up (and I even tried in another order...) that is a stunning amount.

1644 grams spun.

 I went over! I spun too much! I was so worried about not getting it done (and  my craptastic math skills) so worried that I would arse it up, that I actually managed to demoralize myself while simultaneously overachieving.  (Story of my life, actually.)
1644g in 23 days. 

I didn't think I had it in me.

PS.  If you're coming to the Stich 'n Pitch tomorrow in Toronto, I'll be there early, when gates open (5:30) to do things I'm actually good at (signing my name in books, talking to knitters) before I do something I'm bad at (throwing a ball.) If you're coming down I'd love to meet you.

PPS. I threw a ball for a while at Rachel H today.  Most landed in her glove.  Hope dawns.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:31 PM

July 22, 2010

Crude but Right

The realization yesterday that my 60g a day challenge for the Tour de Fleece had unwittingly turned into a 100g a day challenge hit me like a ton of bricks.  I really had been pretty pleased with myself up until the moment that I weighed it all and added it up, and all day yesterday no matter what I did, the knowledge that 100g had to be spun in the little time available to me made me crazy. 

Just the idea that I could spin that much and still not hit my target was a pretty big surprise. I mean, I really haven't been slacking.  That's a pretty epic amount of yarn that I've come up with... and if my best effort every day hadn't gotten me there, then I couldn't see what was going to change in the next few days to get different results. 

Then it hit me.  I'd been spinning as much as I could on the days that I could.  There were whole honking days in there, especially during the retreat, that I really didn't do much more than a metre or two.. just enough to say I had spun that day. Then there were two whole days lost to travel... I started adding it up and realizing that it was actually super impressive that I was where I was.  I mean, once you subtract the days I couldn't spin, I've actually been doing about 100g a day - and that gave me renewed hope.  To finish my challenge I don't actually need to bust a move harder than I have been, I just need to keep it up. 

Redoubling my efforts seemed like madness, but carrying on without quitting? I'm a mother! I can carry on without quitting.. that's like... all that mothers do.  Dinner again? Carry on without quitting.  Baby up for the 17th time that night? Carry on without quitting.  Teenager asking again for something you've explained a thousand times that they can't have no matter how much they tell you that you have no idea what you're doing all that you're a maniac compared to all the other mothers in the world? Carry on without quitting.  Not a problem. 
I went back to the stash pile I pulled out for the challenge and grabbed the next fibre in the queue.  It's a nifty bump of roving from Three Bags Full called "Sage Brush Hill" and it's all full of little nepps and chunks and bits. 

The flyer with it says it's Romeldale cross wool, with dyed tussah silk and silk noil (that's the neppy part) carded in.  I'm not usually a fan of lumpy bumpy roving, because it's pretty inevitable that it will become a lumpy bumpy yarn, but this is so pretty that I've managed to convince myself that it will just be "tweedy".

I forged ahead and spun it all up, and although it took me until this morning to finish, technically that's another 115g since I realized that I need 100g a day - which would put me ahead, except it needs plying.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the next thing in the queue is going to be spun to a 2ply bulky, and that's going to go a lot faster.  Might even get me ahead.

I was explaining all of this to a friend.  Explaining that I've really thought about it, really examined it, gotten into the math a bit, and that despite the setbacks,  that I think now it's going to go okay, and that I might even finish, and wasn't that good news? The friend listened and then said something very wise. The perfect thing to say while I was stressing on it.  They asked me if I knew what the really good news was? The best news of all? 
I said I didn't know.

She said (and I quote) "Absolutely jack-sh*t is going to change in your life if you fail. It's like knitting.  Don't be a freak."

Oh.  Right.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:16 PM

July 21, 2010

A Little Tour Update

I've been spinning like a madwoman to finish my Tour de Fleece goal, which was 1400g spun and plied over the course of the tour.  I always make my goal a stashbusting one, the idea being to tackle the mountain of fibre that threatens to overwhelm the storage I've got worked out for it - turn it into yarn and then get that resulting yarn out of here too.  I give it all away as gifts for my knitter friends, and well, then it's their problem, which I care way less about. It's a perfect solution, because while some of my buddies have the willpower to refuse a gift of yarn, nobody can refuse handspun.  They are my helpless minions in this one way.  I like to think this is extremely satisfying for all of us, though it's probably just me, and I'm fine with that. 
Here, on Day 19, is where I'm at.

I plied up the singles of the 300g of some reddish/yellow/orange gorgeousness (tag long gone) from Spinners Hill, and ended up with  4 skeins of a yummy 2ply.  (About 230m.)

110g Seldom Scene Farm 80% baby alpaca, 10% silk, 10% angora, in a beautiful colourway called "Spring in the Bluegrass".

Spun up into a two ply that I mostly like, but a friend will love, yielded about 126m.

The fibre was exceptional, and any failings I had with this were really more about my uneasy relationship with alpaca.

It's underplied for sure, but I don't know else is wrong with it or what it wants yet, in terms of spinning. More twist? Less?  This attempt is the best run at alpaca so far, so maybe I'll get it yet.

BMFA 50/50 yak (yum) and merino, in "brick".  I loved spinning this. It's 200g, ended up being about 280m and I know just who it's for.  She'll be helpless.

BMFA Blue Faced Leicester in Jabberwocky. 

(What's in that shop changes... It looks like what's there now is the BFL mix, which isn't what this is, though I bet it looks different and is about the same to spin, but I'm just guessing.)

I love this yarn. If I didn't have a sworn policy of giving away all the Tour De Fleece stuff, this yarn would be mine.  It ended up being 108g, and about 280m.

Dyeing for Colour  50% bamboo (rayon) and 50% superwash merino in "Harvest Moon".

I'm thrilled with this yarn, to be honest.  It was fun to spin, and by the time I had my singles I could tell I was going to have a yarn I thought was just the bomb.

I was right.  I even managed to somehow overcome my problem of chronic underplying to get a yarn I love a lot.

It's 115g and yielded a scrumptious 2ply at  224m.

So here I am, sitting with about 833g of fibre spun on day 19 of the Tour, which means that I'm spinning about 43 g a day, instead of the 62g a day that I need to make my goal, which is sort of shocking, since it means I'm way behind, when I really, really felt far ahead.  Maths are not my strong suit, so my instincts are no help here, and I really was surprised when I added it up.  It looked like so much more.

To complete my 1400g goal, I now need to spin about 113g a day to make it, and I'm pretty much regretting the decision to make the yarns as light as they are.  A bulky spin would have eaten the weight up faster, but I would have liked them less, and to my way of thinking (and I admit, my way of thinking has gotten me into this mess - so who knows)  there's little point in rushing to finish and ending up with yarns I don't like.  So we'll see. I'm not sure I can finish at this rate... I do have a life and other commitments, though I've made a personal decision to forego doing any housework and laundry for a few days.  It's a sacrifice, but I'm willing to make it.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:18 AM

July 20, 2010

Some Things

 A short list of things that I am good at, and things that I am not good at.

Good at: Making knitters.

This is Pato, knitting for the 2nd time, which is apparently all it took to create a monster. (Technically Megan taught him to knit, but I figure that since I made Megan a knitter Pato's a score for me too.) I told him he had to learn to knit to earn my pledge for their ride, and he took it to heart.  Last night Meg was trying to get him to leave to go to dinner and he told her to let him finish his row first.  Meg told me later that he was at it all night. Serious boy, that.

Not good at
: Cleaning, apparently. We have two cordless phones in the house. One has been missing for a week.  I've really looked for it too, so that leaves the only reasonable possibility.  It's been eaten by the roaming dust bison.

Good at: Knitting, which I suspected. 

I finished Harumi, which is a lovely knit and took just about two skeins of Luscious, a 100% silk, in the colour "Copperline."

It's a heavier yarn than the pattern calls for, so I went up to a 4.5mm needle and got a larger shawl. 

It's heavy and shiny and delicate and delicious and I'm entirely smitten with it.  Easy pattern too- as far as lace shawls go.  I suspect I will only be more fond of it when the heat breaks.

Not Good At: Throwing a baseball, which has been entirely irrelevant in my life until now.

I'm throwing out the first pitch at the Toronto Stitch n' Pitch on the 27th of July, which gives me absolute fits.  I only agreed to do it because I thought it would impress my nephew Hank, and I guess I didn't think it though, because getting out there and throwing like a total loser really isn't going to impress him.  I had a dream the other night that I went to throw it and it rolled off the back of my hand as I tossed and landed at my feet.  In the dream I brushed this off, picked it up and then threw it straight into the ground three feet away like Mariah Carey did. (Big thanks to Amy for sending me that link so that my nightmare could fully form in glorious colour.)  I was telling my sister last night about it and she said "You have to practice Steph.  You really can't throw badly.  You have to practice or it's going to be humiliating.  People will tease you about it forever."
"I know." I said.  "I think they would."
"I know they would." she replied. "It's a fact. It's going to be me Steph. If you screw this up I'm going to tease you forever. I won't be able to help it."

It's true too.  She wouldn't be able to resist. I wouldn't either, so I don't fault her. Hell, I've been mocking Mariah Carey for days since I saw that and there's no evidence that I can throw any better than her.  It's just too stupid. I mean, I wouldn't mock someone who couldn't avoid a situation, but it's not like I'm getting forced to do it.  I'm the one who agreed.  I was fully aware that there was ball throwing in being asked to throw the first pitch, and I was fully aware that I can't throw a ball, and I said yes.  I deserve everything that happens next, like when I get out there, step up to the mark and then fumble the whole thing so badly that in a bizarre freak moment I manage to bungle the scene so spectacularly that I throw the ball at my own face with sufficient force to give  myself a nosebleed that's displayed on the Jumbotron and youtube forever and leaves people talking, for years and years about how they remember that harlot knitting woman and didn't even know that was possible and man, didn't it look like it hurt?

Good At: Persistence, so I'm going to go practice.     

I feel like having the ball is a good start.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:56 PM

July 16, 2010

A Long Way Home

How far is it from the Washington Coast to Toronto?

I started a Leyburn sock (my July self-imposed sock club draw) in the morning at breakfast in Port Ludlow.   (That's BMFA lightweight in Blue Brick Wall.)

By the time we were out of Port Ludlow and across the Hood Canal Bridge I had this much.

It's a ways to the Seattle/Tacoma airport...

I had a little while before my flight boarded.

A little while longer while I changed planes in Vancouver.

I was this far when it was sunset, and the plane was over Manitoba.

Just after midnight we landed in Toronto.

Almost ready to start the ribbing and finish the sock - even though I fell asleep for a while.  It's a long way home. Measured in knitting, it might be a whole sock.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:10 PM

July 15, 2010


This comes to you from the Vancouver airport, waiting for my flight to Toronto.  On the way here I sat beside a gentleman who was impeccably turned out in business attire and flying with three other gentlemen.

As we were flying (very short flight - 30 minutes) he closed the portfolio he was reading, and turned to me and my knitting, and he said "Don't you have any concerns about that?", gesturing to my sock in progress.

Now, I really wasn't sure what he meant.  I pondered the possibilities.

1. He thinks I should be concerned about my gauge.  Frankly, sock gauge is deeply personal and he disagrees with how tightly I was knitting and would like me to consider a 2.5mm needle.

2. He's a conservative type, and he sees that I'm wearing a plain shirt and jeans myself, and that makes him concerned that the colourway is a bit bright for my personal taste and I won't be happy with it in the end.

3. He, as I, thinks a lot about flap vs short row heels and struggles with the choices that surround them.  Secretly, he feels that flap heels are superior and he knows that I lean that way too, and he's worried that if I continue on the short row path that in the end I'll be dissatisfied, and he just wants to get ahead of that because  that's what happened the last time he knit socks, and it was really painful.

4. He's concerned that the slipped stitch pattern I'm using isn't a pattern but a series of mistakes, and he'd like to open the door to teaching me how to fix it, but he doesn't want to hurt my feelings if I'm not struggling or I like it this way.

5. Some bizarre security thing where once again another traveller is surprised that the TSA, one of the most vigilant and paranoid agencies on earth, has made a bad safety call that they themselves should question on a flight because they would know way, way better than the people who spend billion of dollars a year on airline security and are experts trained to reduce our risk to as low a level as they possibly can without having us fly naked....

Actually... nix that last one.  That can't be it.  Too far fetched.  In any case, no matter what way I considered his statement, I couldn't think of a way I was concerned - so I told him, ever so sweetly and with a smile,  No.  I have no concerns about "this".  He looked appalled, opened and closed his mouth once and went back to his papers. 
I knit.

I can never stop flying.  It's too entertaining.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:38 PM

July 14, 2010


The last few days, abbreviated.

1. My class found a way to block swatches in a manner becoming a retreat.

2. Knitting with very fine silk requires concentration.

3.  Much of the serving staff was converted. (That's Allison. Lisa had her up in knitting in minutes, and as of yesterday she could knit, purl, work garter, stockinette, ribbing, k2tog, yarn over and explain the difference while reading her work. Some people are taught the fibre arts.  Others are called to them.)

4. Everyone learned how to make silk hankies (mawata) right from the cocoons. It was very gross, but fun. (Tina took the bugs out of the middles for the woosie-pants.)

5. We reeled silk.  (You will note that I have rigged a high-tech approach.  Books, wire hangars and duct tape.  Worked great.)

6. Can you see how many cocoons are reeling off at once? It still made a very, very fine thread.

7.  Now I'm spinning. Hopelessly behind on the Tour de Fleece, especially considering that I've got a long day of travel tomorrow- and unlike my buddy Denny, I haven't yet figured a way to spin on a plane.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:46 PM

July 11, 2010

A little exploded around the edges

Whenever we run these camps/retreats, things tend to come a little off the rails.  Not the retreat you understand,  that keeps on going rather nicely, but the things around the edges, like sleep - knitting, spinning.  Those are all getting done haphazardly.  My spinning looks exactly the same as it did a few days ago, (that puts me rather dangerously behind on the tour de fleece) and yesterday I didn't even complete a full row on my knitting. 

Must do better today, was hoping to finish it tomorrow. (Haruni in Luscious, colour "copperline".)
In the meantime, we've been having all manner of fun.  I soaked the seracin off of silk cocoons and made silk hankies,  we all painted silk scarves at sunset, and we dipped silk into an indigo bath. We've been having classes in spinning, knitting and dyeing silk.. and I think everyone is having a wonderful time. 

More about it tomorrow.  I think I'm supposed to be somewhere now.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:33 AM

July 8, 2010

Tour de Fleece

On a whim, last week I decided I'd play along with the Tour de Fleece.  I had fun doing it a few years ago and stashbusted a big chunk of my spinning fibre. Sadly, nature (or me) abhors a vacuum, and the stash is right back where it was.  The idea of the Tour is that you spin along with the cyclists in the Tour de France, beginning the spinning when they do (July 3rd) and finish when they do (July 25th).  Everybody has a different spinning challenge, and mine this time is (just like last time) a certain weight - 1400g to be precise.  (I think that's around three pounds.)

By my calculations I thought that meant that I had to spin about 62g a day, and that seemed doable.  I was feeling pretty good about it, since before I left for Port Ludlow and the silk retreat on Tuesday I had already spun about 300g of some gorgeous Spinners Hill stuff from the depths of the stash.

(Don't ask for details, the tag's long gone.)
I was feeling really properly proud of myself, I mean, that's a pretty good head start, and I know that over the three weeks of the challenge I've got a retreat to teach/manage and two travel days and lots of other stuff going on, but really... that was like... 75g a day and that put me huge ahead.  Huge.

I actually managed to feel smug before I remembered one thing.

Plying.  Whoops.  That's going to throw off the daily count.  Pictures of the red yarn when it's plied, and when I'm back home.

For now I'm making good time on some 226g of BFL. I have tons to do for the  retreat, and I'm a little behind, since time is really at a premium when you've got a crockpot of cocoons on the boil (the smell is really something) but it's hard to complain that you only have a little time to spin when the view is so nice.

400 grams down... only 1000 to go, and just over two weeks to do it in.  Anybody else got a challenge?

Posted by Stephanie at 8:30 PM

July 6, 2010


On my flight from Toronto to Vancouver this morning, I was knitting along having a lovely time.  (Sort of.  The guy next to me needed a discussion about personal space and what exactly constituted his "dance space" but someone else will have to improve him as a person.  It was too much for me.)   I had a couple of conversations with the two flight attendants.  Mostly regular knitty stuff like "What are you making?" or "That's pretty."  Point is that knitting was discussed with both attendants at several points during the hours and hours. (I sort of like that one of them noticed it was "actually bigger!")

At the very end of the flight, Flight Attendant A came by and told me that I would have to stow my knitting because it was "very dangerous" to have pointy things out during landing. I pointed out that really, it's no different than a pen, and Mr. Crowdy-McCrowdsme sitting next to me had one... but she said that there were NO flight attendants on ANY flights who would EVER  let ANY knitters knit during landing.  I sighed.  I don't agree, and I have knit about a gajillion times during landing on this airline,  but since it's not my plane and I don't make the rules,  I stowed the knitting.  (When knitters have private jets, things will be different.)

Two minutes later, with me sitting there looking at loose ends, Flight Attendant 2 comes by, stops, looks at me and says "Hey, how come you're not knitting?"

I don't mind the rules.  I really don't.  I just wish they'd make up their minds.
Waiting for my next flight now. 

Everyone agrees you can knit in the lounge.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:31 PM

July 2, 2010

Two Beautiful Things

This morning I rode over to the park and took a few shots of the Summer in Kansas Shawl so I could show it to you in all it's glory.

That is a lie.  I took 93 pictures. 

I couldn't stop. 

I was not even deterred when a small clutch of elderly gentlemen stopped what they were doing (playing chess) and came over to interrogate me in a language I don't speak.

I managed to convey, using a graceful series of gestures and the sock in progress that I had in my bag,  that I had knit the shawl.

They managed to convey - through words I didn't understand and kindly pats on my arm that they thought that was great. 

One of them stroked the shawl, and then tapped his forehead with a finger,  beaming at me in a stern sort of way, which I took to mean that he thought I was clever.

This was revoked when I laid the shawl down for those last two pictures. I don't speak Ukrainian (I think it was Ukrainian) but it was clear he thought I should get it up out of the dirt. (I was tsk-ed at.)

I wasn't able to explain to them why I was taking pictures of it, which was the part they seemed to find perplexing - but we had a pleasant, if mutually befuddling ten minutes. I'll tell you what I couldn't tell them.  Pattern: Summer in Kansas, Yarn- the rather classic Zephyr wool/silk in "Ice Blue".  4.5mm needles, which I wish had been 4mm, because I think this shawl could only be improved were it a little tighter. That's personal preference though, and I'm not really disappointed at all. The big needles also mean that it's a monster. About 2.2 metres along the top edge, and just over a metre down the centre line.

Beautiful thing the second?

These guys.  That's my daughter Megan, her buddy Pato and our hero Ken (Ken is the technical genius who makes this blog go).  The three of them have, as they did last year, signed up for the Friends for Life Bike Rally to raise funds for the People with Aids Foundation. The three of them will, with about 400 other riders, embark on an epic journey, riding the 660km from Toronto to Montreal over a week in July. 
Last year Meg and Pato were the two youngest riders (17 years old)  and as proud of them as I was at the end of it (and I was stupid, crazy, wildly proud) I wasn't sure they would do it again.  It was long, it was hard, and they're young.  Young people change in their priorities all the time.  (Also, I can't even talk about the way that Meg was chaffed, and where.  She'd kill me.  Trust me, it was ugly.)

This year, you could have knocked me over with a skein of cashmere when the three of them were among the first to sign up. Ken and Meg are kicking it up a notch, riding a tandem together. This makes them (as far as I know) the only KNITTING TEAM on the rally! (Pato doesn't knit- yet...  but he is wool friendly. I'm thinking about forcing him to learn to get a bigger pledge from me. Would that be wrong? Knitting's a life skill.  I'd be doing him a favour.)

Last year, your knitter support put these three squarely in the top fundraiser slots, and all three of them got the gold jersey for their efforts.  The organizers were stunned by two things.  First, the fact that the two youngest riders had raised so much, and second, by the statement from the three of them (That's Team Knit to you) that "you can do anything if the knitters are behind you. The Knitters are a force. You don't understand about knitters."

This astonished most of the other riders, and the organizers, and well... not me.

I am almost never surprised by what knitters can do - it is what my kid and friends can do that thunderstruck me.  A shawl is pretty rip roaringly easy compared to a 660km ride.  The three of them are training dutifully, getting ready for the big ride to change some lives, and I'm just so impressed that they are decent like this.  (Ken's been decent for a good long time now, it's the younger ones that seem to be really turning out.)  If you're moved to support them you can do so by clicking on the links below.  They will be ever so grateful.


Posted by Stephanie at 4:15 PM

July 1, 2010

The True North

Happy Canada Day! As has become my tradition I use Canada's Birthday for an opportunity to provide a little education on the nature of this place.  I feel lucky to be a Canadian and extraordinarily privileged to have been born in a country with such wicked wealth and extreme charm.  In past years I've done quotes about Canada, lists about Canada, random stuff about Canada - and this year - this year is about what Canadians are.

Canadians are living in a a very peaceful place.  We rank 14th in the world.  (New Zealand is #1.  Iraq is last. It's a really interesting map.)  I think most Canadians would agree both that they are very proud of being at peace, and that the number would be super different if we hadn't won a gold medal in women's and men's hockey at the Olympics this year.  Interestingly, Canada invented Peacekeeping (which is sort of like an international version of standing between two people who are having a fight and not letting them hurt each other.) You can read about it here.

Canadians are living in an extraordinarily developed country. The Human Development Index (from which we get the term "developing countries") ranks Canada as the 4th most developed place in the world, coming only after Norway, Australia and Iceland. (Frankly, I think it's the wool and knitting that's doing it.)

Canadians are the worlds largest consumers (per capita) of Kraft Dinner. (Same stuff as Kraft mac and cheese in the US.) We can't explain this at all, but there you have it.

Canadians live in a country where the universities don't award any entrance scholarships for athletics. 

Canadians are all about the water.  We have the worlds longest coastline 243,977 kilometres (151,600 miles), 1/4 of the worlds fresh water,  and two million lakes. We've got the worlds largest lake within a lake, the worlds highest tides. It's no wonder that Canada is the birthplace of the kayak and the canoe. It has been said that this country was built from a canoe.  (For the record, National Canoe day is June 26th.)  All this water might explain how we feel about skating, hockey and our exceptional navy, which marks it's 100th anniversary this year.   The Canadian Coast guard is a really big deal and responsible for operating over ocean and inland waters of over 8 million square kilometers. (That's almost 5 million miles.)

Canadians are not weirded out very easily: Canada's longest serving Prime Minister (and actually, the longest serving leader of any English-speaking country) was William Lyon Mackenzie King. (He should not be confused with his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, who led revolts in the 1830's.) He was a brilliant leader, giving us the Old Age Pension, Family Allowance and Unemployment insurance.   This may be because he was a bright guy, but may be because he regularly communicated with former Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.  While having an advisor isn't at all odd, the fact that Laurier was dead at the time and Mackenzie King communicated with him though his pet dog is sort of out there.  Still, he really got the job done and even knowing he was odd as fish, we kept him around for a long time. (22 years.)  Further to that, Canadians are living in a country where the "civil war" (if you can even call it that) was essentially a barfight led by the definitely drunken and likely insane aforementioned William Lyon Mackenzie.  According to legend, it took about an hour.)

Canadians are unaware that  labelling "homo milk" (homogenized milk) is unique. (Tip for Canadians. If you're in the US, homo milk is called "whole milk". If you ask for homo milk they'll giggle.)

Canadians are: loving their health care.  90% of Canadians support universal health care. “There are very few, if any, pillars of Canadian public policy of which Canadians approve as strongly as the principle of universal health care, which has been with us since it was first adopted by the Pearson government in the 1960s.” - Nic Nanos.  Personally, I can tell you that after a year in this family marked by three members experiencing serious, life threatening accidents and illnesses that required extensive and prolonged expert care... I'm so grateful none of us had to pay a dime for it.

Canadians are: living a long time.  Canada's life expectancy is third in the world after Switzerland and Japan.

Canadians are: Not very worried about same sex marriage. We've had it for a good long while now.  Nothing bad has happened.

Canadians are: believing in aliens.  78% of us believe in the existence of life elsewhere, and almost one in ten of us have seen a UFO.  (I haven't.)

Canadians are: speaking our own language. We say washroom (not bathroom)   eat chocolate bars (not candy bars) someone who’s too eager is a “keener”, a small bottle of liquor is a mickey. A two-four is a case of beer, a double-double is a coffee and we all know what a hoser is, and it’s really hard to explain- but you know it when you see it. We sit on the chesterfield, Elvis is a skater and hydro is electricity.  Pissed means drunk (or angry, depending on the context only) we use loonies and toonies to pay for things. We wear touques, carry knapsacks and are delighted when a chinook blows.

Canadians are: Obsessed with mosquitoes, and for good reasons.  There's a town in Manitoba called Komarno (Ukrainian for mosquito) that boasts the worlds largest (and perhaps only) statue of the beast - It's sculpted out of steel and has a wingspan of about 4.5 metres.  (15 feet) Anyone who has been to Manitoba during mosquito season will tell you that is just about life-sized.  Canadians say that the best mosquito repellant is a shotgun, and we have no end of jokes about them, which is really just a way of trying to survive - and in parts of Canada, we're not even kidding.  Canadian researchers in the Arctic reported as many as 9000 bites per minute, which at that rate could drain half a full grown man's  blood in 2 hours. We have all manner of describing their size here, from "mosquitoes so big they have landing lights" to "mosquitoes so big they carry off babies" to my all time favourite.  "Au chalet de ma grand-mère, les maringouins sont tellement gros qu’ils doivent se mettre à genoux pour nous piquer dans le front!" (This translates roughly to "at my grandmothers cottage the mosquitoes are so big they have to get down on their knees to bite you on the forehead".)

Canadians are: Proud of the diversity of their country.  Canada is the most diverse country in the world, and a recent poll showed that 97% of us are proud of the way this country mixes cultures, ideas and faiths and lives peacefully together, and Canada leads the world with reported tolerance for ethnic minorities and immigrants. 

Canadians are:   really educated. Canada is second only to Finland in high school student performance among OECD data.   Unicef ranks education systems and says that Canadian 15 year olds score 4th among the worlds richest countries.  Interestingly, only 8% of Canadian students attend private school, and 62% of us go on to college or university.

Canadians are online: More of us own a personal computer than anywhere else in the world.

Canadians are living in a Constitutional Monarchy.  That means that there's a Queen of Canada. Mostly, we like that.

Canadians are the hosts of the oldest continuously-run  horserace on the Continent.  It's called the Queens Plate, and the Queen will attend it on Monday.

Canadians are funny. In fact, it is often said that our biggest export to the rest of the world is humour. Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, Samantha Bee, Tommy Chong, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Rich Little, Howie Mandel, Lorne Michaels, Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, Leslie Nielsen, Cathrine O’hara, Caroline Rhea, Seth Rogen, Martin Short - all Canadian. In fact, if we were to ever invade another Country (which we wouldn’t, we’re totally not like that) then an army of Comedians is what we would send to disarm them first. (You might want to note how many of those names live in the US now. I'm sure it's a coincidence.)

Canadians are not paying outrageous taxes. (No matter how it feels.) We like to complain, but among OECD countries, we're 20th.

Canadians are proud today.

Canadians are spending today drinking beer, knitting and reflecting on their great good fortune.   (The majority, I think. I have no stats.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:20 PM