May 31, 2011

And so it goes

I'm packing today. I leave at un ungodly time in the morning to drive to SAW, with Megan and Denny and Natalie.  The rest of the Canadian Contingent will meet us there, having had the good sense to get plane tickets.  Us, we'll road trip it, with a car full of yarn and silk and knitting... ending up in New Hampshire sometime around suppertime, ready to begin something that's always wonderful and magic and the best time ever. I'm looking forward to teaching, and speaking, and the Art Fair (free beer!) on the last night.  (All the classes and speaking stuff are booked up, but I'll be signing books and looking forward to meeting and greeting at the Lettuce Knit booth that evening. Come if you like, I'd love to see you. It's open to all, if you can get there.)

I mentioned last post that Andrea and I (she's part of the  Canadian Contingent, making her way there tomorrow) were in a bit of a dead heat to finish matching sweaters by Squam - and today she dropped off her sewing machine, hoping I'd drive it to NH (sewing machines are really hard to pack) and we came clean with each other. Both of us have been busting an epic move to get all these sweaters done, but because she has little kids and I have Sock Summit, both of us failed to compete at the Olympic level.   This morning over coffee we told all.

(Sweater photographed amongst the annuals that I have to plant before I leave tomorrow. I'm so screwed.)
Incredibly, we're at about the same spot.  We've knit the arms of Acer, both of us, and are now plowing through the body. Mostly through the fronts and back (knit as one piece) and almost ready to divide.  (Actually, she was a little farther than me this morning, but I knit while I had my hair cut at lunchtime, and I think I'm caught up.)

Andrea has the privilege of a flight tomorrow, where presumably someone else will be driving, and I have the car (where I will be driving) but both of us still have high hopes of new sweaters at SAW.

We know that's delusional, and I think we're both still bringing buttons.

Too be continued...


Posted by Stephanie at 4:44 PM

May 27, 2011

And she is knitting fast

Somewhere in Toronto, this woman is knitting a sweater - or at least I have my suspicions. We're not talking about it.

A while back, Andrea and I decided to have a little knit-along on a sweater.  We have been in perfect sync since then. We bought the same yarn (different colours.) We both hated our first choice and frogged it. We both agreed that Acer would be our next choice, we both started with the sleeves. We both put it down for other knitting. We both started again. We both abandoned it again, and now I think we're both knitting it again.  At least I know that I'm knitting it again, and I suspect she is too, because she texted me the other day that she dreamed I just had to sew the buttons on. 

I have more than that to go, and I don't know how much she has to go, but I have a feeling that something's going on.   I'm not saying that Andrea's competitive, but I am saying that if I had a dream that she was almost finished, I'd be knitting like the wind. I know that says more about my competitive nature than hers, but I still think that she's probably churning out the yardage pretty quick over there.

I believe now, rather secretly (until now, when I blogged it) that she's trying for a sneak attack, where we don't talk about the sweater, or the fact that she's knitting it all the time... and then whammo... she's wearing the thing to knit night and mine is still on the needles, so I'm knitting. 

I'm not telling her how much though. No need.
It's just a friendly little knit-a-long.

(PS.  Yesterday I gave everybody the wrong link for Lucy Neatby's DVDs.  It's been that sort of week.  The double knitting DVD - and her others, are all found at Lucy Neatby Designs- or maybe even at your local knit shop. Sorry Lucy!)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:30 PM

May 26, 2011

May Socks

Hello Gentle Knitters, and thanks for your patience while I was unexpectedly away from the blog. I got sick last week while I was in Port Ludlow and that combined with the travel whacked the snot out of my resources, and then there was a family thing that needed me more than you did. I yanked, spent the time with my family that they needed, and now I'm back - and as much as I miss the blog while I'm gone like that, there's never any contest between being a parent and being a blogger.  That said, let's get back to what we all really care about.

Socks.

These my friends, because the mojo of the last few months had to wear off sometime are the May socks.  See that? May socks. Note the date? That's right. Blogging these bad boys with 5 days to go on the calendar, and really it's even more impressive than you think because I finished them days ago while I wasn't blogging.  These zoomed.

Pattern: Everyone Outta the Pool.  Yarn: antique Koigu KPPPM that I don't know anything about, except that it's been in the stash forever,  and Cherry tree hill Supersock Solids for contrast.

I love this pattern.  Love. It.  It's fast, it's simple, it's fun, it has just enough cool techniques to keep you hopping, and I love what it does to a variegated yarn.  That line along the side of the foot where the patterning stops and the stripyness starts?  I am charmed by it. Charmed, I tell you. Charmed to the point that I briefly discussed it with a stranger. (They were not charmed. I always remember one second too late that non-knitters have low interest in slipped stitches and what they do to yarn variegation. Even if you explain it really well, with samples.)

These were toe-up, which isn't my favourite, but was my choice this time because I wanted to use all the Koigu, and it was in two little skeins. I cast on with contrast, knit the toe, changed to the Koigu, did the heel in the contrast, then knit the leg until the Koigu ran out - then did the little hem at the top in the contrast again.

Speaking of the hem (and because I can't stress to you enough how much the stranger didn't care- but I know you will) it is so clever that it almost makes me angry.  Angry because it's brilliant and simple and perfect and I totally should have thought of it.  It's double knit.

When you get to the hem, you double your stitches, then work in double-knitting for a bit, then graft that top edge shut. It's perfect. The inside and outside are both perfect stockinette created at the same time. The whole thing just organically grows up from the toe to the edge like a little sock poem for your feet. (Also, I know someone is now going to ask me about double knitting - go here. Lucy Neatby is the best person to teach you this. Look at her other DVD's while you're there.  They're pretty awesome.)

Once again, thanks go to my Meg for being the sock model.  Today while we were taking these, I said "You're such a good sock model Megan." and she said "RIGHT eh!" and then I took a few more snaps.  A minute later while admiring what I thought was the socks,  she mused - "It's because I have such lovely feet."  I thought about that for a sec, and then said "You know what Meg?  It's a shame about your cripplingly low self-esteem". 

Posted by Stephanie at 11:10 AM

May 18, 2011

Jacob Damask

When the Jabob Damask was finished, I unceremoniously stuffed it in my suitcase and went to bed. I had an early flight and I just didn't want to be that crazy lady who shows up for work all exhausted and weird because she stayed up blocking lace.  (Not that Tina and the other Sock Summit team members wouldn't get it, but it's still a good policy.)  I remembered on the way to the airport that I'd forgotten my blocking pins, and sent Tina and email that said "bring pins".  I landed, we drove, we got settled, and the next day I woke up chock full of blocking plans.  The shawl went into the sink for a warm bath, and a few hours later I rinsed it,  trotted it over to the bed, and asked Tina for the pins.   She foraged in her stuff for a bit, then gave me about twenty pins.

That wasn't going to cut it, and there's no way that you do this much work for a shawl and then half-ass the blocking, so we managed to convince ourselves that a drive to Port Hadlock wasn't just something that would distract us from our work, but a mission that was noble and necessary.  We would go quickly.  We drove off, and 15 minutes later were walking into Dinah's Yarn Shop declaring a blocking emergency.  (They're charming in that shop, let me tell you.)  We were in and out with the pins in less than 5 minutes, and blocking the minute we were back. 

I'm so very happy with how it turned out.  A completely satisfying project. 
I started with a Jacob fleece - acquired when I told Beth at the Spinning Loft that I was in the market for one, and she promptly pulled this lilac one out of her garage.  (I am now convinced that Beth's garage holds no end of wonders.)

I separated all the locks into individual colours... then washed, carded and spun them all separately.

(For those of you who care, I spun the singles long draw, then plied it to get a 2-ply.  It's slightly underspun and overplied for bounce, and boy does it have it.)

Then I chose what I think was the perfect pattern - Damask, by Kitman Figueroa, who has nothing wrong with her brain at all.  Great pattern.

The finished shawl is exactly as I dreamed it. Exactly.

It's wingspan is about 140cm (that's about 56 inches), and the line down the centre back is 63cm - or 25", which is just about what I was hoping for. 

It is soft, and delicate, and sturdy all at once.

I can't stop looking at it, or holding it, or squeezing it in my hand, and feeling the bounce and cushiness of the yarn.

It is perfect, and it is exactly the reason I learned to spin.  That shawl started in my head as an idea - and now it exists precisely the way I wanted it to -

and I made it myself. 
I feel really, really clever and happy. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:10 PM

May 17, 2011

For want of a little

On Saturday night I had big plans.  I was going to pack to fly to Port Ludlow on Sunday, and with my wool as my witness I was going to finish the Jacob Damask before I went.  This was my Saturday night plan because I am a party animal.  A friend actually said something like "Now that you're middle aged, do you ever look at your plans for a Saturday night and think that your 17 year old self would be ashamed of you?" - and all I could think was that my 17 year old self was likely to think that finishing a shawl was a pretty awesome Saturday night, but I decided not to tell her lest the shame and dorkiness of my youth be revealed fully.  (Truthfully, I think she'd get over the knitting. It's the AD&D I don't want her to know about.)  I sat down to knit in the afternoon, and after a few rows, I started to get a feeling.  A bad one. One you've maybe had before. A feeling of slightly impending doom. 

I was looking at my yarn, and looking at how much knitting was left, and it didn't seem good. It seemed like just a little bit of yarn... but, I reasoned, there were only a few rows left, and they were getting shorter with each right side row and maybe...

A few rows later I didn't feel any better. I tried knitting slowly (haste makes waste) to try and stretch it out... I tried knitting quickly so that I could outrun the yarn and maybe finish before it ran out... because that, my friends, that was the end of the handspun - and running out would mean going back to the raw fleece, which couldn't mean finishing that day, which would throw off my whole plan.  (I hate that.)

It was all for naught.  I ran out with eleven ever diminishing rows to go, and that my friends - I estimated to be a handspun shortage of.... and you have to brace yourselves, 

About 3 metres.**

Do you hear me? Three metres.  I lost my mind. I thought about biting the shawl.  I used unladylike language.  I phoned people.  I said something roughly like  THREE METRES DO YOU HEAR ME I WOULD BE DONE WITH THIS SHAWL EXCEPT I AM NOW SHORT THREE METRES OF HANDSPUN.  HOW COULD I HAVE UNDERESTIMATED BY THREE METRES, SON OF A BITCH I WOULD BE LESS ANGRY IF I NEEDED FIFTY METRES. DARN IT ALL TO H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS.   To which my non-knitting friend said "Can't you buy more?" and my knitting friend said "Do you need me to come over?"

I set about trying to fix my situation.  I pulled the Jacob fleece out of where I'd put it away, I dumped it out on the kitchen floor and I started sorting through the multicoloured fleece for locks I thought would match best. 

Then I washed them, then I tried to figure out what I could do to dry a dozen locks of wool in no time. There was zero chance that I had time to let it dry by themselves because I still had the spinning and knitting to do and was still determined to finish by bedtime. This proved to be the trickiest part - once I had the locks dry it only took a little more time to spin it, and a little longer to ply it, and then only about 20 minutes to knit it because it really was only eleven rows.  The drying though, that took me a while to figure out. The furnace wasn't on, so I couldn't put it on the heating vent.  (I did consider jacking up the heat even if it did turn the house into a sauna - but even I thought that was a bit far to go for a few locks of wool.)  I tried the hair dryer- because wool is just hair, right?  Turns out that works a bit better when the hair is attached to something.  It wasn't a great solution.  I could have put them in the sun, but it was cold and rainy and getting dark, and I could see that this shawl wasn't going to happen that day... when it  hit me. 

8 minutes at 250.  Worked like a charm.

**It turned out to be a rage inducing mere 2.6 metres.
Shawl is done.  Pictures tomorrow.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:28 AM

May 13, 2011

Not Quite

The Jacob Damask project is almost done and going so fast.  I'm so close that last night I sort of thought that today's blog post might be a finished shawl, gloriously posed amongst the fallen cherry blossoms in High Park.

Clearly,  I'm more delusional than ever, because it means that somehow I believed that I would have finished it, washed it, blocked it, let it dry and transported it to the park and back in 16 hours,  which would have been pushing it if there wasn't a few hours of knitting left to do, which there is.

This afternoon the beautiful thing still isn't done, and while being not quite to the finish line usually makes me antsy, this time I'm fine with it.  It's the first time  in a long time that I've had the thought "This project is going so fast" immediately followed by "Bummer."

It's so beautiful and it's going so well, I might not want it to end. 
Maybe tomorrow.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:55 PM

May 12, 2011

Juggling

This morning I woke up and lay in bed making mental to-do list of the things I have to do today, and then fought back the urge to laugh hysterically. That's sort of the norm for self-employed people I think, so I didn't think too much of it.  I just wished Joe a good morning (noticing he had a similar look on his face) got up, made coffee and then went back upstairs to put on yesterday's clothes (I'm a little behind on the laundry) and then put on my shoes and jogged two blocks to the grocery store to buy toilet paper.  (I didn't jog for health. We were totally out of toilet paper in an emergency sort of way.) On the way back home I did that cheerful sort of "you can do it, there's not that much" self-talk, then came in, presented the desperate family with the aforementioned paper (I did put myself at the front of the queue. I figured it was the least I deserved after taking the bullet and going to get it.) and then dealt with the mail, unloaded and reloaded the diswasher,  kicked a path to my office, answered some email, emptied my voicemail, went back to the kitchen, got more coffee, gave one sticky corner of the  kitchen floor enough of a wipe that I could stop worrying our wee cat would get stuck down to it, let Natalie in for my once-a-week round of inbox help - realized I was going to do pretty well in the face of the mighty to-do list, and then the doorbell rang.

It was the courier dropping of the final pages of my latest book, and as thrilling as it is to see it in almost book form, I realized I was going to have to proof those pages and with that, my head almost exploded.   I staggered back into my office, and because really, the only way out of a pile of work like this is through it, I opened up the next email. 

It was a really, really nice letter from a really, really nice reader who told me (get this) that I was an inspiration to her, and that she wished she could balance her workload and family as well as I do, and could I give her some advice on how I got all this work and the writing and the knitting and the blog and the housework and the family all juggled so well because she just doesn't know how I do it all - and with that. I lost it.  Totally lost it. If my desk had been clear enough for me to put my head down on it I would have.  When I regained some sort of self-control, I realized that this is what I want to tell her- or anyone else who says "I don't know how you do it all."

I DON'T.

I can't express that enough.  I don't think I could do it all. The only reason that I'm able to make any of this work is because I've got priorities and low standards and no expectation of doing it all. There are a million things I don't do.

This morning when Natalie showed up I had to warn her not to let the dust buffalo get the best of her, and I say dust buffalo intentionally, because my friends, that is how far we are past dust bunnies.  There is enough cat hair roaming the floors of this house that I could construct a whole other weird life size voodoo cat out of it, and that's not the end.  Go ahead.  Ask me where my bra is, or if we're out of milk because the answer to those two things is "I don't know." and furthermore "I don't care much."  I sort of feel like my sole responsibility to make sure that milk was on hand for everyone at all times ended the day I stopped nursing my youngest, and that there are lots of other people here who could care about that, not just me.  I'm not out of milk, we are - and that makes it equally Joe's responsibility, or in the case of the 19 year old who polished it off, maybe hers. (For the record, that's who went shopping for the milk this morning.)

I just don't see any way that anybody could ever really do it all- especially if it's all their problem. We're all going to prioritize stuff differently, and maybe knitting appears lower on your list and the condition of the kitchen way higher, in which case my darlings... you should let go of what suits you.   I could have a clean house and finished laundry and toilet paper and matching towels all the time, but I think that to do that, I'd have to give up some knitting, or writing or being with my family the way I want to, and there's no way that you're ever going to tell me that I am ever, ever going to look back on this time and think that the time I spent talking with my kids, knitting beautiful things, writing books or earning a living was wasted, and that I could have been way, way more fulfilled by a shiny sink, a more intimate relationship with my vacuum,  or knowing where my damn bra is. There are only so many hours in a day, there are only so many things one woman can be responsible for, and I have to make choices, just like everyone else, and I don't know how I would juggle it all and I don't know how all this looks through the lens of the blog, but really,  no...

I don't do it all.

Peace out.  

Posted by Stephanie at 4:28 PM

May 10, 2011

April into May

 Finally finished, my poor little April socks. 

Pattern: Edwardian Boating Socks Yarn: Yarn: STR Lightweight in Valenscummy.

First they had a true false start, in which I managed to knit a sock all the way to the ankle before I finally admitted to the universe and myself that I hated the pooling and flashing it was doing in that incarnation.   Then they endured several other mini-starts as I searched for the right pattern for the yarn... and then, once I had the right pattern, the poor little beasts had to compete for my unbelievably limited knitting time pre-registration, and had to compete for that little bit of time against the spinning and knitting for a project that I am completely besotted with.   I mean really.  They didn't stand a chance. 

Over the last few days, as we creep further and further into May and the April socks still weren't done, I started to feel really guilty.  It's not the socks fault that the Jacob Damask shawl is way more interesting. It's not their fault that I'm working long hours. It's really not their fault that I got annoyed with them early on for having the audacity of being a do-over. 

I picked them up and and recommitted to them. They're good socks. They really are.  The linen stitch panels alternating with the really cool slipped stitch action? Totally working magic on the yarn. It's fun to work - and I only altered the pattern a little. 

I thought the heel in the pattern was, just like my first boyfriend - pretty, but dense, and so I opted for a standard eye of partridge I prefer, and I may have changed the toe for my standard as well.  (I actually didn't check to see what toe Emma wanted me to use, I just did my thing.  It's possible she and I are of one mind about it.) 

Despite their rather rocky start, I ended up loving these socks, and it's a crying shame that in a moment of generosity (while I didn't love them) I knit them in a size for giving away, rather than keeping.  Maybe I'll be more selfish with the May socks... which I'd better start, or this whole cycle will start again.  20 days left!

Posted by Stephanie at 2:03 PM

May 9, 2011

Sprung

This morning I made a mistake.  After a really challenging week that included a transcontinental flight, leaving the family, launching registration, getting through an absolutely wild number of emails about registration, another transcontinental flight and then putting the family back together... this morning I had an appointment that didn't go my way and I briefly felt crappy.  It was very brief, because seconds later I realized that I was riding my bike home in the sunshine and not wearing a stinking winter coat and the thrill that is spring just came over me. When I got to spot where I should have turned for home, I turned the other way and rode into High Park, where the cherry trees are in bloom.. 

It is beautiful. 

There are crazy crowds, even on a Monday morning.  Yesterday when Ken went, he said that the crowds initially bugged him, then he realized that there really should be a million people in the park, because the trees deserve the attention for the effort.

If you live in the city, leave wherever you are now and go to the park.  Tell your boss you're sick. Tell your kids to get on their bikes or on the subway and go. 

Go now, because this will only last another day or two, and the pictures here don't even begin to do it justice. Not even a little bit. 

When you're there, you can smell it, and it knocks all the bitterness off of a crazy long, cold winter.  It's made even more beautiful by the fact that the other trees aren't really out yet - so the cherry trees are the sole stars of the show.

I got off my bike and walked a big loop of the park, stopping only to take a picture of the Jacob Damask shawl in progress...

It's going very well, thanks for asking.

Then I rode home- filled with one perfect thought. 

There's no way it's going to snow again... Maybe ever.
Happy Spring.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:48 PM

May 4, 2011

Deadline

Today's the day. Today's the day that we open registration for Sock Summit 2011.  Last night when we were sure we were done getting ready, and Stephen had gone to bed, and the world started closing in a bit and we started to feel nervous.  We went outside because the best antidote to feeling like the world is really small is to go look at a great big sky, and we stood there and looked at the stars and Tina looked at me and said, "Why are we doing this to ourselves again?"

Last time registration was so hard. I don't want to talk about how or why because the juju is so good on this one that I don't want to invoke ghosts, so let's just say it was hard. We've made a million changes to the system, spent a ton of money making sure this one won't be hard, and now it all comes down to this, and here's the crazy part.  Last night, when we were listing off everything that could go wrong today, what it really came down to, what were really afraid of surprised us. 

We're not afraid of losing money.  (Okay. We're really afraid of that, but there are worse things than losing a lot of money. We could find a way to make more money, and while it might wipe out all our savings- our families wouldn't starve.) We're not afraid of being embarrassed (much.) We've both been embarrassed before and we lived.  We're grown up women. We'll get through. We talked and talked - what were we afraid of.  What was so scary that two mature women would stand in the night staring at the sky? 

It came to us.  It's that what we really valued about the last Sock Summit was the community. It was being allowed to invest in the teachers careers, and show people a good time, and support the vendors and try to invest in this industry and community in a way that helped create that community and industry, because if we don't support it, it won't be there, and both Tina and I love it and have based lives on it... and with that. We knew why we were scared.

We don't want to let you all down.
We hope we don't.
We've tried not to. 
Wish us luck.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:23 PM

May 2, 2011

Overdone

The last two weeks have been really bizarre, and I mean that in the most neutral way possible.  Not bad, not good, just absolutely maniacally bizarre. I've been up against a crazy deadline or two (one is registration, the other book related) and Joe's been up against a deadline that makes my deadline look like a cozy little kitten. The two of us have been going to bed late, getting up early, declining invitations, ignoring texts from people (even the ones that say "why are you ignoring me?") eating strange leftovers and oddments, and all the while thinking that next week will be better and we just have to hold on and by the way Honey, did you know we have no toilet paper,  today is recycling pick up and we're out of clean clothes?

Last night I burst out laughing because we were both going to get about four hours of sleep (each, and not at the same time) and we both thought that was AWESOME. Still, we're lucky to have the work, especially since it's work that we love, and so we're trying not to complain, but we are living a strange  existence. The day before yesterday all I got to eat was three hard boiled eggs, a half bag of jelly beans, and a bowl of edamame I made at 11:30pm because I was starved and out of eggs and jelly beans. I feel like if it hadn't been the week after Easter, I might have starved.  Add to the whole shebang that today I'm flying to Sock Summit International World Headquarters for Registration launch on Wednesday, and I'm one weird lady. 

I sat at my desk yesterday from 7am until about 12:30 this morning, then ran around packing, tossing things in my bag and checking email and finding my camera and finally fell into my bed- then got up four hours later and tossed the last few things in my suitcase - and guzzled coffee, and then the cab came, and I zipped my bag up and wished I had more sleep or more coffee and opened the front door and realized....

I did not have any knitting.  None. That's how messed up I was people. No knitting.  Do you know what that's like?  It's like Cher going on stage without sequins.  It's like a teenager who says "You know what, you know more than I do. You decide" It's like a dog not getting on your furniture while you're out. It's like... It's like a thousand things that are not like me.  I ran back into the living room grabbed the two closest projects, rammed them in my purse and split. 
It was there nearest miss I've ever had.

Now I'm at the airport, I've drunk three cups of coffee to try and be more like myself, my flight's delayed and here's what I've got.

My April socks. 

That's probably good, because.. er.  It's May. Other than the fact that they're not done, these socks are totally working out.  It's the same yarn that was pooling so badly last time, and I changed the pattern to the Edwardian Boating Socks, and now it's playing nice.  I'm done the first, have a good start on the second and if I were a good little knitter, I would just work on these. However...

The other project I grabbed was the Jacob Damask- and I'm so in love with it.

I cast on with the darkest colour just like I planned, and I'm making my way though the colours. I'm only about 30 rows in, and I'm in love with it. The other colours are still in the skein though, so I don't know if I'll be working on it on the plane, because I'm not sure how easy ball winding would be, and I'm not quite far enough gone to ask a stranger to "hold my skein."   Or maybe I am. It might be worth it. 

Mostly I'm just so excited about the knitting time on the plane, and I've been excited about it for days.  I keep sitting at my desk thinking about how the plane is soon and I can knit on the plane. Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd have left with no knitting?

I can, and it involves seven phone calls, a security breach, an accomplice, ten expensive airport drinks and a merino handoff by a chain link fence. Nobody wants that scene.

Before I go, Happy Election Day Canada!  I voted in the advance polls so I wouldn't miss my chance while I was travelling, don't miss yours. Voting gives you the right to complain about politicians, and makes us look a little less stupid to countries where democracy is harder to come by.  

Posted by Stephanie at 7:32 AM