October 28, 2010

That's why they call it Mean time

So far, so good.  This year's road trip is going swimmingly.  We dodged a crazy storm that looked like a wall coming at us...

Literally seven drops of rain fell on the car while we skirted the edge of this monstrosity, and while severe wind made it a little scary to drive, we did fine.  We crossed the border like it wasn't even there- there was an odd flinch from the border guard at the words "spinning retreat" but he waved us on without anything more.  We bopped along to a fantastic soundtrack (courtesy of both our ipods and the fact that we were both 16 at about the same time) and when it got dark Rachel took the wheel and I knit.

Gripping, I know.  Just a little plain sock start, something I don't need to be able to see to knit.  (Someone will ask, so the yarn is a STR rare gem, one of a kind colour.)  We blew along, guided by Daniel the GPS, until we quit driving last night in the bustling metropolis of Paw Paw Michigan.  We ate dinner in the only place we could find that wasn't a fast food place, had something really disappointing called a "Bosco stick" that sounded good but turned out to be deep fried- then screened three hotel/motels, chose the least bates-esque" and went to sleep.

This entry is brought to you by the fact that last night, lying in the hotel room in Paw Paw Michigan, thinking about when to set our alarms, Rachel H and did some mediocre thinking.  If we get up at 7:30, we thought, and boogie out the door by 8:30 we can be in the fine city of Chicago by 10:30.  That would give us time to visit some yarn some nice people, have lunch and then, with almost no effort at all, we could strike out from the city about 12ish, and still be at SOAR by 3:00 like we're supposed to.  Perfect, we thought, and the plan was struck.  We were both pretty crazy tired, and it was a little late,  and both of us wished that there was another hour or two of sleep in there, but what can you do. Time is what it is.  We set the alarm for 7:30.

The night passed (in our insanely overheated hotel room with the window screen that is actually a magical forcefield that won't let cool fresh air in) and when we woke up at 7:30 it hit both of us simultaneously.

We're crossing a time zone line.  We start driving here in Eastern time, and pretty quick, before Chicago for sure, whammo.  Central time hits you like a large wet fish and it's an hour earlier.   We could totally have slept another hour.

That's the sort of thing a GPS should tell you. 

Posted by Stephanie at 7:57 AM

October 27, 2010


I'm not packed, I'm not ready, but somewhere in the ramped up kerfluffle of yesterday I just thought "Screw it."   I've decided to just leave, and I think that will go well.  I have a passport, a spinning wheel and when I get off the computer just now I'm going to take some clothes, toss a few of them on my body and the rest in a suitcase and walk out the door.  I'm stopping at the bank on my way, and I feel like anything else can be solved somehow. Family disaster meant that I missed last SOAR and this one is supposed to be fun- and sort of a break and  the intention when we decided I should go, was for me to enjoy it.  It's been a hard year and I think I'm a little out of practice, but I'm going to try and stick with that. 

I did finish the October socks last night (that whole giving up on being ready freed up a lot of time) Please meet my nice friends, a pair of Cloning Anemone Rib socks,  in Tidepooling. (STR-lightweight.)

This colourway is one I thought I disliked and ended up loving.  I got it because besides my self imposed sock club, I'm still a member of the Rockin' Sock Club. I love the element of surprise in a fibre club.  If I don't like it, someone will, and because I knit for other people it's always going to work out. 

If it doesn't suit my taste it's perfect for Sam, Amanda, Meg or a friend- and frankly that's where I thought this skein was headed.  (It was the purple, I'm only fond of a few very specific purples and this isn't one of them.) 

As I started knitting, the charms of the colourway started to amuse me- and it didn't take long before I was knitting my size.  The pattern was quick and fun, easy to memorize and does make a charming little anemone-like pattern. 

I'm still thoroughly enchanted by my self-imposed sock club, especially since I'm getting closer to the end of the year and closer to 12 whole pairs of socks. Some have been for me, some for my long range planning box, but they've all been tucked away so that at the end of the year I can look at them all together when I'm done.  Two pairs left!

The next pair won't be started till  Monday, so now I find myself in a conundrum. What to knit until then? Do I need anything other than the shawl, if I'll be at SOAR?   I think I'll mostly be spinning, but the shawl isn't really   social knitting  (It demands a little focus) and I can't remember the last time that I went anywhere without social knitting... but on the other hand, I am leaving very, very shortly and I'm nowhere near clad or ready - and going into the stash now seems like a fools game -as does setting up the ball winder.

Leave without? Grab and go? Stop and consider?

Posted by Stephanie at 10:56 AM

October 26, 2010

Flap and Tizzy

The sense of calm I had yesterday about my ability to get all my work done, the house ready and my materials gathered up before I leave for SOAR has evaporated entirely- which really, now that I think about it, is far more sane.  I have no idea why I wasn't worried.  None.

I lay in bed this morning, calm and sorted, and began to make my little mental list of all that I need to do today, and at first it was okay.

1. Write my wordcount for today.  I have a book deadline looming.  I'm slightly wound up about it.  There's nothing to worry about yet, but I have to meet my wordcount every day or the world will explode.  Simple. That will take a few hours, but I can handle it, it's my job.

2. Blog. That's not so hard, only takes an hour or two. Look.  It's getting done right now.

3. Go onto the SOAR website and find out what materials I need for the classes, then pack them up, hoping the whole time that the fact that this place is practically a shrine to the fibre arts means that I have everything I need.

4. Spend a few hours working on Sock Summit, reviewing text, making decisions with Tina, reading email.

5. Eat breakfast.

It was number five that pushed the first panicky thoughts foremost in my brain.  The minute I realized that at best, at my most efficient, caffeinated and moving like a seasoned knitter at a yarn sale, I was still looking at seven hours of work before breakfast - that's when I started being able to hear the blood rushing in my ears.  I modified breakfast to lunch and kept going.

6. Leave for meeting that I can't change at 12:50.  Do the meeting from 1:30-2:30, leave for home, taking the car with me.

(Note- I am ignoring that in order to leave at 12:50 with items 1-5 accomplished I would have had to start executing the list at 6am, and that I was making this list while lying in bed at 7:30am.  Sometimes if you're going to get through a tricky day it really helps to gloss over the details that stand in the way of suspending reality and the passage of time.)

7. Shop for groceries so that the family doesn't starve while I'm gone.

8. Wonder if I shouldn't really expect a full grown man and a 19 year old girl to be able to pick up groceries so they don't starve by themselves. 

9. Scratch #7 off the list, and realize that it's misplaced maternal guilt because I feel badly that I'm going away for the weekend.  Feel like crap about it anyway, and contemplate just getting "some" groceries.

10. Remember that the last time Joe went away, he didn't grocery shop for me before he left.

11. Fill with feminist rage, wonder when equality is really going to show up anywhere in the world, briefly reflect on the statistic that women in developed countries work (on average) 70 hours a week, compared to 51 hours (on average) for men, once you include things like going to the grocery store. 

12.  Consider the argument that I am perpetrating the inequalities in domestic labour division by going to the grocery store, and that this may be less than faithful and decent to the concept of equality I am ultimately hoping will prevail in my lifetime.

13. Decide to skip the grocery store, only because it is the right thing to do.

14. Run several errands and book several appointments that have to be done before I leave or bad things will happen.  

15. At some point before I go to bed,  speak with my children and express concern, love and interest in their lives for at least 5 minutes each.

16. Go to the post office and mail some important papers that I have inexplicably procrastinated on until the moment when they would cause me the most stress possible. 

17. Do laundry so that I don't go to SOAR in clothes that are a) dirty b) out of season or c) mismatched. 

18. Scratch c) off the list.  I don't care if I'm mismatched and neither does anyone at SOAR.  Screw it.  I'm just going to aim for having enough clothing on that I'm not cold, that there are no bizarre questions to answer at the border, and that Rachel H is willing to be seen in public with me.  (She accessorizes.  I feel like her standards are super high.)

19. Pack.

20. Print directions, hotel info, SOAR confirmation stuff, find my passport and make sure that I find Daniel the GPS and all his cables and put him in the car. (I'm pretty paralyzed without Daniel.  Of all the modern conveniences I own, my coffee maker and Daniel are the two best. It's like a talking map.  Bloody genius, that's what it is.

21. Wonder if getting this all done before tomorrow is really possible, or if I'm deeply deluded again and I should just give up now.

22.  Spend 25 minutes I'll never get back trying to figure out what is on that list that actually doesn't need to be done in a futile attempt to earn back a free hour to watch Glee tonight.

23.  Resist the urge to defend watching Glee.  I like it.  I don't know why.  I know there are some feminist/ability/disability/racial issues around it and I think about them a lot, but I end up sucked in every time anyway.  It's like my love for Prince and Richard Chamberlain. (I blame the Thorn Birds) It is completely unfettered by any reality about them that may surface.  I'm not proud.

24. Hem my pants, because grown-ups don't staple or tape clothes.  (much)

25.  Look longingly at my knitting, and reflect that one of the wonderful things about it is that even when your life is mayhem, it is still possible to see forward movement in that work.  Sure, I only got 4 rows done last night, and I'm not likely to see much better today, but that's 4 rows closer to finished and nobody can take that away from me, even if my pants are stapled together and my inbox isn't cleared before I leave.  Knitting is the only work I can think of where getting a little bit done is totally good enough.

26. I love that, especially considering that it's 12:40 and almost nothing on that list is done.  I hope it all matters less than I think.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:40 PM

October 25, 2010

Erratic at Best

I tried to smack the random off this Monday with several large cups of coffee, but the random remains and will therefore be embraced.

1.  There are only a few days left until I leave for SOAR.  I am not ready. Rachel H and I will be road tripping it - and I know I shall see my beloved Rams when I arrive, but other than that I've done nothing.  No map, no fibre packed, no budget settled on, no wheel  or tools sorted out.  I haven't even checked the website to see what materials I need to bring with me.

2. Despite this complete lack of planning, I'm not even a little worried. 

3. This is the upside of having your life be like trying to nail jello to a tree.  After a while you really learn to go with the flow a little. 

4. Turns out that I didn't just knit one sock a medium and one sock a small.  In attempting to duplicate the first sock, it turns out that I knit a medium leg and a small foot on the first sock, and now that I realize how badly I screwed up, it's easier to duplicate.

5. The irony that I advocate circling the directions for the size you're knitting to all of my students to make sure that this never happens is not at all lost on me.

6.  Even though it was a mistake, it actually fits great. I'm going to avoid saying anything like "I should easily finish by the end of the month" since I'm pretty sure that's what sewered me before.

7. Four things conspired against me while I was at Tina's last week, and when the haze cleared, I had accidentally started Laminaria.

8. Thing the first was that having to rip back a sock that far really, really pissed me off.  I know it's only knitting and all that, but from time to time I get supremely angry that being an experienced knitter doesn't protect you from being a dumbass. If I'd have been paying more attention instead of just zooming along I would have seen it way sooner. I've said it before, I'll say it again.  Experienced knitters don't make fewer mistakes than new knitters.  They make bigger ones faster.

9.  My point is that the sock filled me with rage and so I put it in time out, and that meant I had nothing to knit. 

10. The second thing is that the Laminaria shawl has been haunting me something unmerciful ever since I saw the one that Natalie knit. I just love that pattern. I plan to knit it about six times a month. It was really only a matter of time.

11. The third thing that messed me up was that Tina is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Tina, and if you're in her house than there's a lot of yarn.  Yarn is everywhere.  All kinds of it. In all kinds of colours. Some of it is even wound up, and if the house wasn't overwhelming, then there's the dye barn out back and it's got the motherlode in there.

12. The fourth thing is that once you get her to unlock the door, Tina has really low security.  There's yarn in her bedroom, and she let me sleep in there.   

13. She knows how I am with yarn.  Putting me in that house was like asking a frat house to keep an eye on your keg.

14. This is mine now.  Silk Thread II in pondscum.  I'm not sorry either.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:26 PM

October 21, 2010

Faster than a speeding frog

No sooner had I written yesterdays blog post, effortlessly exclaiming that I would "easily" finish my sock before the end of the month, than I noticed that the second sock was really different from the first.  The first sock was pooling prettily on the leg (I usually have issues, but this colourway is "tidepooling" so it only seems fair) and the second sock was striping.  That was weird.

Sock the first.

Sock the second.
There's really only three reasons the same yarn could do two different things. Either I had a different stitch pattern, (Nope. Would have noticed that, I should think) or I had a different gauge (I would say not for this as well.  Same yarn, needles, stress and alcohol levels) or I had a different number of stitches. 

Bingo.  A quick count revealed that I had knit the first sock as a medium and the second as a small.  I nipped out and lay in the road for a bit, then came in and ripped the thing into oblivion.  Considering that today looks like this:

(This is what Sock Summit prep looks like.  Fear us. We are the reason that Post-it notes are in business.  Our entire conference is built on them. Other people have software, we have sticky-ware)  I fear for it's completion by the end of the month, poor wee blighter - especially since I accidentally slipped and fell last night, and when I came up I had started a shawl. 


I fly home early tomorrow, but have a long layover in Vancouver.  I'll tell you all about it then.  It's a nice shawl.  I think you'll like it.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:27 PM

October 20, 2010

Flash of sock

My poor little October self-imposed-sock-of-the-month club sock has been neglected,  not in the knitting, but in the reporting. Allow me then, to take just a moment to introduce you. 

This is the second of a pair - I think I'll easily finish by the end of the month. Yarn: STR lightweight in Tidepooling, and the pattern is "Cloning anemone". I'm rather fetched with them, as well as the patch of fallen horse chestnuts I found to photograph them in.  (Hint: don't try to rearrange those things.  They're pokey.) The pattern is way cooler than it looks here, but my ability to arrange the sock to show the pattern up amongst spikes in a parking lot was limited.  I'll show them off better tomorrow when they're in a less tricky location.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:19 PM

October 19, 2010

Monday if I say it is

This all comes to you at a very wee hour, though I'm starting it at home before I leave, it will likely be finished at the airport.   Here are things I'm thinking this Monday morning- and before you start correcting me, stop right there.  It's Monday if I say it is.  The real day following Sunday was a complete piece of complicated arse that I absolutely could have done better,  and I would have skipped it, were it legal.  I'm calling a do-over.

Reasons why, and yup.  It's a little random.

1. Sam got a fantastic opportunity to do something perfect for her, and she'll be going to school away for a little while.  It is something we never though she would qualify for, and as good as it is for her, it's hard for me to pretend that I love it, but this weekend when we dropped her off I was really brilliant at pretending that it's okay with me for my kids to pursue stuff that takes them far from me, even if they are ready and need it.  Details withheld because I have a creepy stalker and there's no bloody way that I'd tell the whole world where Sam is without her mama. It's like camp with school and bears and timber wolves and there will be snow and I think she will like it a lot, and really the other girls have gone places and Sam did go away on a ship this summer which was really dangerous and I ...

2. The fact that Sam is far, far north of here has me in such a tizzy that all I can do is knit for her over and over.  The last week has produced a hat and mittens, and now a scarf, since I'm worried she'll be cold without her mum.

I know that almost 17, kids really aren't cold without their mums, but I can pretend and dream. 

This scarf is just a simple feather and fan, and is the leftovers from the mittens I made her the other day. 

It's LSS in Eggplanted, and wonderful soft.  Mostly knit in a car, and blocked in a hotel room.

3.  I am fighting the urge to knit her everything. Like maybe pants or a snowsuit, but realizing that this is like the urge I had to microchip Amanda before she went to Europe. 

4. She has actually asked me not to be weird with the knitting.

5. I don't know if I can't be not weird about the knitting thing.

6. I'm flying to Portland today to work on Sock Summit. 

7. We came back from up north last night sort of late, and I had to unpack my stuff, wash my stuff, and repack my stuff and get to the airport by 5:30 and that's a totally crazy time of day and I really, really think that I have to do something about how crazy I am if I think that I can do this trip on 4 hours of sleep, but here I am again.

8. I am in the airport now, and I am knitting socks and blogging to stay awake.

9.  I would sleep because I'm really not that hung up on being awake at this time, but I'm actually very worried I'll miss my flight if I nod off.

10.  I think I may need to examine the level of self loathing that let's a woman get herself out the door this early just to save money, because that's what it was.  I'm here this early because the later flight cost way more, and I can't bring myself to pay $100 an hour for sleep, and despite being a staggering zombie in the airport right now, I don't see that changing about me anytime soon. 

11. Even if I could afford it, I think I would rather spend $100 on yarn than sleep.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:05 AM

October 15, 2010

Random Friday

1. I am sort of cold. It's in the single digits outside- the furnace wars are in full swing.

2. I think it's really only Erin and I this year, because mum has a tenant in the downstairs apartment, so the law says that she has to provide him with heat, even though it's Ken and he would totally go along with the furnace wars.  (Ian is a tenant in his own apartment this year, and so he's been provided with heat against his will. He's a little bitter, since normally he is a serious contender.)

3. Erin called yesterday and asked if the heat was on yet.  She sounded hopeful.  I crushed her.  She crushed me back.  We re-affirmed the rules,  if it's November 1st, the heat goes on, or if it snows, the heat goes on - with no winner or loser.
(There is also sort of a rule that if a baby visits you or your children really cry about it  then we might fold too.. but that's negotiable.)

4. Joe washed the furnace filter two days ago.  I am watching him daily for other signs of weakness.  (Last night he said "It's really cold in here" but I think that was more of an honest observation than anything else.)

5. It is really cold in here, but I love starting the winter this way.  I think it acclimatizes everyone and as a knitter, I love how valuable it makes everything I've knit.  People LOVE their sweaters if you don't turn on the heat until it's truly cold.  Love and wear them.

6. On that note...

Mittens for Sam.  It's just my basic in my head mitten pattern, but I tried a new top this time because Sam likes things swirly.  The yarn is LSS in eggplanted, and there's a matching scarf in the works that needs to be finished on Monday- and I'll tell you why another time.

7. I spent too much time last night choosing a pattern, and now I'm already behind on the scarf. 

8. The irony is that this is the same pattern (Feather and fan) that I cast on in the first place, before ripping it out and trying nine others and eventually returning to the one that I liked in the first place.   I have got to learn to trust my knitting instincts.

9. Today, like yesterday, is a day of a thousand errands.  I'm taking the scarf with me, and hoping for the best.  There's got to be a way to pound it out by Monday.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:18 AM

October 13, 2010


If you were  here, you would absolutely feel winter looming around at you while you were out and about. There are sure signs that the deep, dark cold is almost here. In the morning now I always put on a sweater, and the afghans in the living room are forever heaped on the chesterfield.  Fetching the paper this morning I could see my breath, and after having been fantastical all summer, the morning glories are gasping along in the desperate last days before the frost gets them.  Leaves crunch under my feet when I'm out, and pumpkins and squashes overflow at market stalls.   I have thought seriously about turning on the furnace at least twice, though it's often in the back of my mind now.  (I'm waiting though.  I don't want to be the first to fold-  it was only 3 degrees out this morning though, if it hits zero or snows I'm out of the game.)  It's dark by suppertime, soup is all I want to make, and the surest sign is right here on the blog. Mittens, hats, scarves.... all I want to knit is quick little winter insurance policies that my family will be warm.

After Meg got her hat, Samantha bellied up to the bar.  We spent a good long time looking at hats.  Cabled hats, cute berets, hats with colourwork, hats with lace, hats with brims- and after all of that, Samantha said that really, she just wanted a plain good hat, with ribbing and a part that folds up to be cozy over her ears.  The only catch?  Blue.  It should be blue and soft, and maybe sparkly, but not too sparkly. She's sixteen.  The degree of sparkle is pretty sharply defined.

I poked through the stash and didn't find the right yarn, but did spot perfect fibre.
I had two batts of "natural turquoise" from Enchanted Knoll Farm (I love her batts.  It's a disease.  They're full of all sorts of wool/silk/recycled sari silk/sparkles  and you wouldn't think that I would love them, but I do.  It might be the sari silk. Every time I come across a little bit of it I'm thrilled, watching those threads incorporate into the yarn is really, really exciting.  (That makes me sound like I'm also interested in watching paint dry, but I swear it's cool.)  I should  play around with it and try to get it out of my system. Darn Good Yarn (fair trade, neat project, have a look)  donated some yarn to the silk retreat the last go around, and  Judith MacKenzie showed me how to unspin then respin it to get more choices and it's very, very, very cool. I'd never thought of the balls of yarn not just as yarn, but a fibre source, but it works. See? Obsessed.) I found these batts, sat down to spin, and in no time flat had a perfect two-ply hat yarn that passed Sam's strict quality/coolness control standards. 

From there it was a simple thing.  Two by two rib, knit long enough to cover her ears double, using up every scrap of wool.  The hat got a little wash, and was neatly placed on the head of the nearest hatless pretty girl who was starting to look a little cold.

It reminds me of frost, and the deepest, coldest winter, when the sky is so blue and the snow is so sparkly....
I better make some mittens.  Apparently those should be purple.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:10 PM

October 12, 2010

One Fine Hat

Megan's beautiful new hat, the Sweet Honey Beret from Interweave Winter 2008.

Tosh Dk in Mourning Dove, and Schulana Kid-Seta held together.

Meg hasn't taken it off, and really? Why would you.  That's one fine hat.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:24 PM

October 11, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving everyone,  or at least, everyone Canadian. Our's looks like this.
  I hope you have as much to be thankful for as we do.  

Posted by Stephanie at 3:59 PM

October 8, 2010

The Room Itself

There have been several times in the last few days, the days since the stashroom got finished, that I've wondered if it's really finished.  I wish I had a little table and chair to go in front of the window, I wish all the shelving units were the same size, I wish I had more pretty boxes and bins. I wish that I could have pulled up the linoleum that some nutjob put over the old pine floors.  I wish - in short, that the budget for this overhaul had been unlimited, or even bigger, but despite all these things, and despite the fact that this is sure to be the most disappointing reveal of all time, I love this little room.

I love the colour of it, this celery green that goes with the rest of the house so beautifully.  It was a can of paint we had in the basement from a paint store error last year, and I kept it, thinking it would come in handy someday.  It did, and I love how updated and fresh it looks, while still not seeming at all out of place in this little old house.  

I had one big old Ikea storage thing.  Tall, white, the ones that have storage squares in them, and that was the start of the whole storage plan.  I didn't want to have to get rid of something good (and it reminds me of a yarn shop) so that went into the room and I tried to match everything else to it.  That didn't go very well, since that piece is sadly discontinued at Ikea, but I got one very much like it for a song, and so that went in next.  

One of the things I hated about this room before (other than the fact that it was a pit) was that I found it really hard to store spinning fibres.  I keep all my yarn and fibres in ziplocks (partly for to keep them dust free and partly as protection against incursion) and that means attempts to store them on shelves resulted in a lot of fibre avalanches.  All storage attempts were hopelessly tenuous. (This did, however, create the charming effect of yarns or fibres periodically leaping off the shelf at you when you were in there, as though they were volunteering for service.)  I got around that by buying some pretty green boxes, and some neat white nylon storage bins that fold flat when you're not using them.  (I expect I shall never fold them flat again, but they would if I wanted them too.

Magazine holders were bought, though I had some before, so things are a little mismatched, but the budget was tight and I couldn't justify pitching them because they had the audacity to be plain cardboard instead of tidy white, so they stayed.  The important thing is that they now contain magazines, more or less in order.  Step two is to label the boxes and further organize, but that's a mission for another day.  

I bought three white bookcases with adjustable shelves for all the books, and that was my main expense.  ($69 each.) I love books and objects mixed together on shelves, and making little pictures of what goes together pleases me to no end - fabric next to a jar full of ribbon next to my sewing books...

Jars of roving standing prettily next to the yarn books, just for inspiration, all my lace books on one shelf, all the sock books standing together.. a wee tin that holds a few buttons sitting between the books...

and a whole basket just for knitting beads and pins and nonsuch.

It's enough to make a knitter think that she could find what she was looking for in a pinch.  The tall case got the upstairs yarn - including a whole bin just of mitten yarns, and the second case holds spinning fibre, with big bins atop the whole thing for fleeces.

It is not perfect, but I love it- and it makes everyone (especially me) feel calm and happy to see the fresh little room full of yarn and books.  Even the new white curtains (replacing spectacularly horrific old navy ones) make the room seem brighter, cleaner and ... well.  Saner, which is a top priority if you're putting that much knitting related stuff in a room, since it tends to be poorly understood in general.

I especially enjoy how this room look at night.  Until now there's been no light in that room - making yarn re-con a strictly daylight manoeuvre, unless you went in with a flashlight, which I am not at all ashamed to say I've done.  Now there's a little light atop one of the bookcases, and when I come up over the stairs and go down the hall, the wee cozy room with most of my favourite things in it glows at me, inviting me in to have a visit.

Costs of my glorified closet? Paint - free. Labour - sweat. Storage $340 (including the bins) Sense of calm and the ability to find yarn and a Vogue winter 2007 in five minutes flat without needing a shovel and to notify the RCMP that you're going in? 


Posted by Stephanie at 2:30 PM

October 7, 2010

The Pause That Refreshes

Yesterday, after that rather traumatic run-in with the sweater (it is headed for the frog pond, I feel sure of it) I was bundling off to Knit Night and was scrambling for something to take with me.  I do have an October Self-Imposed-Sock club sock underway, but wanted something else. Something that was the knitting equivilent of oatmeal.  It's been cold, rainy and nasty here, and I've been watching Megan begin to dig through and wear her hats, and all of a sudden, that seemed right.  A hat.  A nice, simple hat.  Maybe something that would look good with her jean jacket for fall, but be warm enough for winter.  I grabbed a pattern I've been thinking about, some yarn I've been thinking about, and my set of WEB's interchangeable circulars  and jumped on my bike. (I know one of you will ask, so yes.  I like the WEBS set a lot.  I find them a smidge on the blunt side for my personal taste, but I still use them, so they can't be all that blunt. I love the case they come in, and that's a big enough plus to make up for them being not the sharpest needles in the drawer.  Joins are good, price is right.  I like them.)

When I got to the shop, Rachel H poured me a glass of wine (I love the way that lady does things) and opened the magazine to the pattern.  I was very quickly convinced - and they were all only telling me what I already knew, that the yarn I'd brought wasn't enough for the hat I'd picked.  That left me with a burning desire to knit the hat, and no yarn to do it with.  I perused the shop and came up with this. 

Yummy.  Tosh Dk in Mourning Dove, and Schulana Kid-Seta held together.  It is every bit as soft as it looks - and it is comforting and reassuring, and nothing short of gloriously glowing and cushy in the brioche stitch variation of the Sweet Honey Beret.  (That's the Interweave link.. there's a Ravelry one here.)  Thanks to my neatly organized stash room, I was able to find my copy of the magazine pretty quickly.  (I'll show you the stash room soon. Keep forgetting to take pictures, and while I love it, it's not really all that impressive.)

I love this hat. I love everything about it.  (Okay. I didn't love the first four rounds of the brioche thing while I was figuring it out, but I got there. I take the swearing back.) It makes me feel like winter coming isn't really the death of hope, and I can't wait for it to be finished, which might be tonight, given the rate it moves at.  When it's done I might make another one for Sam.  Or Amanda.  Or my nieces, or all of them, just because it's fun and because, my friends...  it's not that sweater. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:50 PM

October 6, 2010

I know a temper tantrum when I see one

I've been plodding away on the blue sweater, and I'm not sure what's happening between us, but I can tell you that it's not magic.  It's awkward and weird and I keep making mistakes.  In short, it's like grade 9 all over again.

I plugged away the other night, and trudged haplessly through the back of the thing, making mistake after mistake.  I find this stitch pattern difficult, mostly because it's worked on both the right and wrong sides of the work, and the wrong side keeps going all wrong.  I'd finish a wrong side row, turn it around and then see the mistakes - where the slipped stitches were slipping in the wrong direction, and I'd have to tink back a row, correct it and carry on.  I eventually realized that I just didn't have my head in the game hard enough, and I summoned the focus of a laser and started to work on it with a fever.  I counted stitches, I put the chart right in front of me, I turned up the lights and I abandoned my glass of wine for tea.  (Desperate times, desperate measures- all that.)  I stuck to that diamond shaped repeat like glue, and after several hours of knitting like I really meant it, the back was finished. 

Hope renewed, I cast on for the left front and stuck to that.  It was all going pretty well until I got to the decreases, which I attempted, only to arse them within an inch of their lives.  The seam side increases, and the front edge decreases and both of those happen at different rates and a different number of times and the instructions are written in that way that sends me screaming into the woods. It says -

"Inc 1 st at side seam edge of next and 4 foll 8th rows and at same time dec 1 sts at slope edge of next and 5th foll 4th rows, then on every foll 6th row."

See what I mean? I executed that once and realized I'd gone too far and had too few stitches, then ripped back  partways to where I thought I was right and took another run at it, only to end up with an even rather than odd number of stitches, which meant I'd done something off again, and then realized that I'd decreased on one row where I should have increased on that row and that row was way, way back and at that point I called it a night, but not before doing a few reassuring rounds on a sock so that I could feel like a knitter.

The next night I gave both myself and the sweater a talking to, and took another run. This time I assembled a row counter, post it notes and made myself a little chart of the increases and decreases. I did the whole shebang again - this time entirely ending up with the right number of stitches, only to find this instruction:

Left front now matches back to beg of armhole shaping.

It did not.  This, I interpreted as some sort of vicious knitting joke - or at least that's what I told myself I as I ripped the shaping part back into oblivion.  The next run ended me up at the same place (with some rows tinked back for slipped stitch errors) and I decided then just to knit another stinking 6 cm to get it to where it had to be.  I know that's a copout, but the other choice was setting fire to the whole thing while dancing over it in a fit of rage, which Joe frowns on in the living room, and it was raining too hard to make a bonfire work outside.

That done, I spread it on my knee and admired it, somewhat unhappily. It was at this moment that I remembered that after six repeats of slipped stitch diamonds, I was supposed to switch to slipped stitch zig zags, and a quick count revealed that I'd gone too far. I had seven repeats, one too many.   I successfully resisted the urge to gnaw the cast on edge of it as an expression of frustration, but instead I very maturely ripped back a diamond, and began the zig-zag part.

Doing that part of the chart felt really fresh, really new, really interesting, and for a little while I felt better about it, until I realized that it shouldn't feel fresh and new, because it's the same pattern on the back.  Six diamonds and then a zig-zag- and if I'd already done this, then why was it charming? 

I reached for the back, already knowing the truth. Sure enough, I'd been so focused on get the diamonds right that I'd gotten them right all the way up.  Not a zig-zag in sight.  That means, gentle readers, that I've got to rip the back all the way back to the top of the sixth diamond and try actually following the chart. 
Bugger it all. 

Awash in hopelessness for this sweater, I went and got a glass of wine (abstaining sure as s**t wasn't helping) and returned to the front.  I'd do that right, then at least have a finished part before I had to do the demoralizing work of ripping up the back.  Right there, after the sixth completed diamond, I started the zig-zags, all the while reminding myself that knitting is relaxing and I like it.

As I churned out the zig-zags, I was struck by a thought.  Maybe future trouble with this sweater could be prevented if I spent a little time studying the pattern and looking for trouble spots.  I went and got a hi-lighter, and started to mark up the pattern.  I marked all the spots I tell my students to mark.  Words like "at the same time" and "also" and noting the number of repeats of things and the correct stitch counts that the sweater should have at certain points to give me landmarks.

It was while I was doing this, that I happened to notice something.  Seven.  Seven was the number of diamonds before the zig-zags.  SEVEN.  Not six, not none - SEVEN.  That means that the back is entirely wrong, and that the front was right until I ripped it back and re-knit it so it could be wrong and it was at that exact moment that I put this entire sweater into an opaque bag, so that I don't even need to see it's smarmy little stitch pattern staring at me and mocking me through the night. I can feel it smirking and enjoying all the attention and reknits, and well ...   It can suck it.  It can just take it's little balls of yarn and sit in time out for a while, and maybe forever because really, even though I might not be smart enough to knit this - and that's pretty much a bummer, because it's not that hard boys and girls, it's just not.  All you have to do to knit this sweater is read the instructions and do what they say, and I'm not blaming the sweater for my failure to do that.

I just don't think it needs to enjoy beating me so much, and there's other wool in the world, and for that matter, a lot of that wool is in this house. This sweater  can bite me hard on the hind-parts, because this is supposed to be what I do for fun.  I'm a forty two year old woman with working class breasts, short legs and bad hair.  I don't need my self-esteem any lower and I'm certainly not lowering it myself.  I have bathing suit shopping to do that for me, and I don't need it from a hobby.

Somebody pass me my sock.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:17 PM

October 4, 2010


Silk and wool on the wheel from the weekend.

Stockpot on the stove for soup tonight.

Natalie on the stash room.

Have I mentioned this?  A little while ago I hired Natalie to be my assistant, one glorious morning a week.  It took me forever to do it, mostly because hiring help - even if I really need it, makes me feel lazy. In my heart I think I should do it all with no help from anyone, even if that means I'm crazy and exhausted and not actually doing it all.  I confided this to a friend with a small business a while ago, when she asked why I didn't hire help.  There was stunned silence on the other end, and then she asked me if I thought she was lazy because she had hired some part-time staff.  "Of course not" was my instant answer, and that stupid thing I do with myself hit me again.  It's reasonable for other people to have help or staff, but a failing if I need it.  I've been doing a variation on this one for years and years. It makes total sense for other people to have a babysitter, but I have to be with my kids. Busy working parents can take their clothes to a wash and fold, but I wouldn't be able to let myself off the hook.   It would be nuts for you to make your own yogurt and bread, but I have to make all of mine. (I got over that one.) I have high standards for myself, but I don't hold other people to them at all.   The Natalie experiment is an attempt to ... well.  Get over myself.  If I don't think that other people should work 70 hours a week, then maybe I shouldn't either. 

Natalie comes on Monday mornings.  She drinks tea and applies herself to all the stuff I think is really important that doesn't need to be done by me so that I can do the stuff that can only be done by me.  It's a little bit brilliant.  She answers emails in the Knitters Without Borders inbox,  she drops things at the post office, she files things and she manages the media and clippings I'm not sure what to do with... and it's a miracle.  It really is.  I wasn't sure  if four hours of help a week would change anything, but it has - which is great, because I really couldn't afford more.  Natalie's hours are directly converted to writing time for me, and that's pretty outstanding- but there's another advantage that I wasn't expecting, and it's that Natalie doing all this stuff that I always mean to do and never get time to do and bugs the snot out of me on a daily basis, means that I'm a lot less worried and stressed out.  Being less worried and stressed out means more writing, even when she's not here. 

It's a big step, and I know you're all probably thinking it's funny that I would have so much anxiety about four hours a week of part time work - but the decision was really crushing for some reason.  (Essentially, Natalie hired herself, which was a big help.)  Big step or not, completely neurotic wingnut or not, it all comes up to Natalie being up in the new stash room, sorting books by subject and height (she totally got where I was going with the plan) and I am starting to really like Mondays. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:38 PM

October 1, 2010


Dear Blue Yarn that will be Jolie, 

It is with my sincerest apologies that I write to you today, not to tell you that I am a senior civil servant in Nigeria who needs your confidential help transferring my dead father's millions out of my country, but to say that I'm really sorry I've been leading you on like I have.

I know I gave you every impression when we met that we were going to have a short, intense fling that quickly ended in a sweater together, and really I thought that was what was going to happen.  I know I cast you on really quickly and knit halfway up your back like it was a commitment and then wandered off like I don't care, but I do. 

The truth is that as romantic as our time together is in the evenings, you're a really dark yarn with a stitch pattern happening that I need to see to do, and - well.  No matter how hard I try I just can't see you in the evenings.  I'm sure you noticed that I've been hanging out with socks at night, and it's not that they're better than you or sexier, or younger or anything like that, it's just that they aren't very demanding -  I still think a sweater can still work between us, but you have to admit that you're pretty needy and  I need better lighting if I'm going to see you at all.   

Let's do lunch.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:50 AM