October 28, 2011

And So Seattle

I was in Seattle last night, at Third Place Books, which is starting to feel like an old friend of a sort.  I've gotten to go there with every tour, and it never disappoints.  It's a big glorious bookstore, and we filled it up with knitters.

This never ceases to amaze me.  Not that there's a lot of knitters, I know there's a lot of knitters, and not that those knitters like to gather in groups - I am a knitter.  I get that too... It's the reaction of ordinary people staggering by, asking what the book is and why there's a crowd and then being simply gobsmacked as the reality of a couple hundred knitters (all knitting) in one place sort of washes over them.
Never mind when they start lining up to show you first socks, which they did. First up was Whitney, who brought her first socks, her second sweater, and her first baby Declyn and her husband (covered in knitwear, and clearly a supporter) Bryan.

Also working the first baby/first sock combo were Lauren and Lila.

and Ellen, Andi and baby Liam

They had to work a combo.  Ellen has the first baby, and Andi has the socks.  (And no.  She didn't knit her sweater, I already asked for you.) Then there was Lucy,

Then Karen (who want's you to know that she's not an overachiever, she just didn't know what she was getting into.)

and Kate:

then Rebekah (if you could see those socks, you would see they sort of accidentally have really different toes)

Kimi brought her first sock- which used to be part of a pair but isn't anymore, which doesn't really bother her because they didn't fit anyway.  (It's like looking in a mirror, that one.)

and Erica:

and then Sandra, who was representing for her mum - Amy Rose, who knit these socks.  ( I might have that backwards.  That might be Amy Rose who's holding up her mum Sandra's socks.  I can't remember.  My mind is shot at this point.  Sorry guys!)

Brightwind brought several first socks, because they're all sort of in the middle of being done and none are a completed pair, so she was sort of unclear about which ones to designate as "first."  (I am too.  We agreed she should hold them all.)

Maybe someday she'll have a pair.  Maybe not.  I'm not sure she's the type.
Cassie couldn't stand to bring her first socks, so she brought her most impressive ones. 

They were very impressive.  While I was on my way to this event, ST-2 Lisa texted me to tell me that there were some very good babies waiting for me.  Besides the ones above, we had Jessie and Clark

Leila, Annika and Marion.

Kate and Zoe. 

Margaret didn't bring her son Simon because he's two and she knew it would be a set-up for unhappiness for him (good call.  Two year olds aren't usually that into book readings unless there are funny voices and lots of pictures) but she did bring the Hallowe'en costume she's knitting him.

He's going to be Ernie.  (Best costume ever.)
Walt showed up for his daughter Jesse,

He was bedecked in all that she's knit for him.  (He's very, very proud.)
It was Andrea's birthday !

(She was also wearing her first socks, but you can't see them.)
Rachel knits dragons.  (I believe that speaks for itself. She's specializing)

And our new friend Kim suffered a cruel lesson at the hands of Mother Gauge.

Same pattern, same knitter, same needles, same yarn - two mittens of completely unrelated size for NO REASON.
Carmel brought a fabulous worsted weight cashmere shawl

(Yes.  She should have insurance on that. If only to protect it from the likes of me.)  - And speaking of cashmere, guess why all these knitters are touching Kate?

Yup.  Cashmere, but with a little angora in there to really make her huggable.
Elisabeth brought an incredible wedding ring shawl.

Took her four years to knit it (on and off) and you wouldn't believe how great it is.
Lisa wanted to say hi to her knitter buddy Tucker:

Abby and Sherri were back:

the last time we saw them they looked like this:

Abby's growing up into a very nice knitter.
Sally and John came.

Apparently she knits and he reads this blog.  Together, I pointed out, they are one fan.
Alex works in a yarn shop, and wanted to show this off as proof that he can knit:

Apparently there is doubt in the heart of the occasional customer.
Almost finally, it wouldn't be Seattle if we didn't see McKenna, our Lady of The Stash Weasels.

I love me a good stash weasel.  (She's onto Dr. Who themed ones now.  Be still my beating heart.)
Finally, last but certainly not least,  I give you Scott.

What's that?  What's his tattoo say?

Damn Straight. 

Thanks for everything Seattle.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:53 PM

October 27, 2011

City of Knitters

Last night's event was just outside of Los Angeles, and boy, was it a doozy. Just being in LA always freaks me out a little.  The palm trees, the cars - the outdoor swimming pools open even through it's almost November... it's a lot for a Canadian to absorb.  I walked to the event, and even that was weird because I swear to you, without a word of a lie, me and a homeless guy were the only ones on the sidewalk.  I got the feeling that walking places isn't really a Pasadena thing.  I arrived and went upstairs and could see that things were already going to be a little out of control in the way that freaks non-knitter bookstore people out - and I was right.  They were dong a good job, but you could tell by the looks on their faces that the realization that this many knitters walk among them was a big of a leap.  Behold.  The knitters of LA.

I did my thing, and then I got a surprise when the signing line formed.  Turns out that knitters are sneaky, and the reason that the store seemed more worried than I was had to do with all the knitters I couldn't see.  Knitters behind the stacks, on the stairs... knitters lurking all places.  It was a horde, for sure, but a horde that I like.  

First off, I met Jean and her lovely baby Daphne.

Daphne was (except for the odd man who burst in mid-reading worrying about some problem with the police) the only person not smiling, I think.  (I respect her seriousness.  Clearly Daphne is doing some big thinking. Probably about fine motor control and when she can learn to knit.)
Then came the parade of first sock knitters.  Cindy, Aty and Christine had beautiful first socks.

So did Pat and Teressa.

...and with that, the veneer began to crack. Next up were Debra and Sandy, and their first socks -

as well as what Sandy said was her "last sock" which made me think she was giving it up, but I think what she meant was that it was her most recent.
Then came Catherine, who (FINALLY) represented for those of us who have trouble getting things together sometimes, and brought me:

A truly crappy, misshapen first sock.  Sing it sister!  She was followed by Linda:

Who brought her "third first sock".  I reminded her that we call third first socks "third socks" but she told me that this is her third attempt without getting anything that looks like a sock, which is my kind of knitter.
Finally in the first sock department we have Mary Ellen.   Mary Ellen walked up to me and said "I don't have a first sock, so I knit a tiny chicken"

Alright then.  You know, I couldn't make this stuff up.
For the record, it was a fantastic tiny chicken.

Karin brought me a little Canadian stocking for my Christmas tree,

Rowan and Jason showed up to show off her first pattern - Chromatography.

Mary brought a picture of her friend Angie, who was supposed to come, but got stuck at work,

Even though she dressed up in her best knitter stuff.
Allison fixed a spot on her sweater by snipping and grafting - she's another Black Ops knitter.

Loren did something really sweet.  She started a scarf at the signing, then passed it all around while I was talking, and the whole lot of them put in a few rows for me. 

I love it, and isn't she nice?
Christine brought her picture of her getting Allan Tudyk (from Firefly!) to hold a sock.

And finally, there was Danielle, who's son works at the bookstore, and is an avid crocheter.  Her son called her from the store and told her there was "a big yarn thing"

So she ran over, like we all would.

Next stop, Seattle!

Posted by Stephanie at 8:00 PM

October 26, 2011

A Little On the Side

Today is my the second half of my wild and glorious rest day, which means that since I landed in Los Angeles yesterday, I've been in the same hotel room and haven't gotten on a plane, and I didn't have to do an event last night, and I had a wicked good sleep and I'm thinking about napping before tonight's event and that makes me delirious with joy.  Delirious. I'm absolutely looking forward to going to the event tomorrow, and have started thinking about tomorrow's plane ride to Seattle not as a test of my fortitude, but as an opportunity to knit - which reminded me that I haven't really told you much about my knitting on this trip, and there's been a ton. 

When I left, I had three projects planned.  Gwendolyn had not yet manifested her destiny to become our Lady of Perpetual Knitting, and so I didn't count her.  The way she's gone on to become a  sweater of destiny means that I'm a little behind on my big trip project, but since I finally kicked her firmly in the arse this morning...

I'm moving on.  That's right, Gwen's done.  Finished.  Fixed everyway that she's needed to be fixed and sewn up, and blocked (and I fixed the mistake some of you pointed out yesterday, after briefly thinking about burying it outside) and this morning I procured a sewing kit from the front desk of my hotel, and while I drank my coffee, she took her final steps to becoming a garment and got buttons. She fits too - and I love it, which is excellent, because if I didn't get something I adored or wasn't flattering after all that, I couldn't possibly have been held accountable for my actions. I'll give this trial by fire cardigan a proper photoshoot later when I have time/energy/help/my hair doesn't look like this.

When Gwen hasn't been sucking the lifeblood out of me, I've followed my usual plan for trip knitting. Something small and fussy for the plane, something small and simple for cabs, dinners and dark places, and something bigger and fussy for downtime in the hotel. 

The only thing wrong with that plan was that there hasn't really turned out to be all this imagined downtime in the hotel, and what there has been was promptly sucked up by the black hole of Gwen, so the project I thought I could finish in two weeks is still a wee start - though here's hoping that changes with the albatross Gwen getting out of the queue. 

I started Fernfrost, a beautiful Anne Hanson pattern using Foxhill Farm laceweight cormo that I've been hoarding for a few years, and I love how it's coming out. Cormo is bouncy, cushy and soft, and I love how much texture it's holding.  I love it.  At present, it is only an 8cm scarf, but I have big plans. 

While the quiet knitting time in hotels hasn't really turned up the way I thought, the plane knitting has been exactly as predicted and so my October socks are almost done- or at least in my head they're almost done, probably because I know how many plane hours are left.  I've got a whole first sock done, and the toe of the second one.

Pattern: Netherfield.  Yarn: Serendipitous Ewe fingering weight, in Silver Shadows. 

If you decide to knit these, note that I changed the toe, because as written, the original one reminded me too much of a nipple. 

I know it would have looked fine on a foot, but I couldn't do it. I ripped it, and replaced it with a regular toe up toe starting on 16 stitches.

My cab/dinner/dark knitting is moving along just fine too, and producing a pair of socks I deeply regret making in another person's size. 

Pattern: none. Just a regular sock. Yarn: String Theory's Continuum, Colourway is on the ball band at home, so you're guess is a good as mine, but who cares? It's a self striping yarn with big stripes! Who wouldn't want that in any colourway?  I love self striping yarns.  Love them, always have, always will, don't care who knows it.  Those socks are so much fun that I've actually been rationing them so they aren't over too fast.

This knitting on the side of the book tour means that I'll likely go home with two new pairs of socks (one for me, one for Christmas) and a scarf, and a sweater, which isn't bad at all considering how much else has been going on - coughTHANKSALOTGWENcough.

What have you been knitting?

Posted by Stephanie at 6:42 PM

October 25, 2011

On Leaving Texas

Last night brought me to a really great event at A Real Bookstore.  (Teri and the staff there made it really, really nice for me.) It was just one of those days where everything comes together, especially once I got there successfully.  (There was a moment where I realized that the desk clerk was calling me a cab to the wrong place when I was leaving the hotel, because I said I needed to go to "a real bookstore" and she was just going to hook me up with her favourite local. It took me a minute to convince her I needed a specific Real Bookstore.)   I was well rested, the knitters were supremely nice in that wonderful way that people in Texas are.  (Or maybe it's just the way that knitters in Texas are.  I actually haven't met many Texans who aren't knitters.  I travel in tight circles.)  It's like they've got all the charm and hospitality of the south, but wacky. You'd like it. In any case, I got there and did my thing - and these are the knitters who came. 

A special thanks to the lady in the blue tee shirt in the front row. She beamed so warmly at me the whole time that I felt so welcome and at ease - she single-handedly made me less nervous. There's something special about every stop I make... each one has it's own unique flavour- the theme in Dallas was knitters running in a pack.  Check these knitters out.  They're the McKinney in Stitches group combined (see, even one pack isn't enough for these knitters) with the Stich-N-Lit group out of the bookstore. 

They brought me that present sitting there, which had Texas wine (and a safe way to pack it for home so that Joe can enjoy it too...) and Texas chocolate, and Texas yarn... they were a ton of fun, and so kind too. 

We had our standard issue first sock knitters, only they weren't so standard, really.  Kristina brought her first socks, which seems standard..

except that they're her 2nd project ever. That's right.  She made a scarf, like everyone does, and then bam.  Socks.  Straight out of the gate. That's not normal, but she seemed nice enough.   Heather brought her first socks,

and her mentor, Anna - who brought her 2nd pair of socks, which seems about right for a mentor.  Anela brought her first socks...

(which are perfect.  Another overachiever who doesn't know first socks are supposed to suck) and Erin has a similar problem. 

Perhaps Pasadena will have some appropriately crappy first socks tomorrow.  I can only hope.  In the meantime, we have Lynn, who was so proud of her first sock...

That she framed it.  That's my kind of knitter, right there.

We had Emily and Thomas -

and I think that Emily was just as proud of the sweater that kid is wearing as she was the kid (I bet the sweater was just as hard to make. It's beautiful) and then we had a parade of young knitters. 

Meet Ronan.  He's four (almost 5) and he's knitting a sweater for his Green Guy. (That's his mum Cindy behind him.)

That's the neckhole in the middle (it's self designed) and I have been advised that it will have sleeves.  Later.

Then Sarah brought (and we're back to the pack theme again) a whole brood she's taught to knit.

That's Mark (12) Josh (10) and Emma (8) all competent and skilled knitters.
Josh is holding my sock because he forgot his knitting and we agreed he should have a loaner. 

Finally, let me show you two knitters I love.  This is Tiny Tyrant -

I see her on every tour, though usually not in Texas.  In fact, her presence in Texas threw me off for  a minute and made me wonder if I was in Texas at all, but it turned out that she moved.  She was thoughtful enough to bring me supper.  A simple little bag of bread, great cheeses and a good stout, and I was really grateful.  That area can be tricky for a vegetarian (as I learned when the only thing on the hotel menu I could eat was an iceberg wedge salad with no dressing and no bacon - which is sort of like a dinner of water...) and Tiny came through.  I see her every time I'm on tour, and it's so nice.

Last - but never least, is Andrea.

Andrea's been raising money for Doctors without Borders with her kids (she's a teacher) for years and years now, and reporting those donations to KWB.  (With the earthquake in Turkey - now's not a bad time to remind you guys about that either.)  I'm sure Natalie will be delighted to put a face with her cheerful emails in our KWB inbox... and with that.... I'm caught up. 

I started this post in the Dallas airport, and finished it up in the air on my way to Los Angeles.  (I'm looking out the plane window at some crazy desert action down there right now.)  It won't be long until we land, and I make my way to Pasadena for tomorrow's event, and yes - that's right.  I typed tomorrow.  Today is a "rest day" on the tour, which means that I only have to travel, not travel and do an event, and even though I'll spend six or seven hours doing that travelling, the fact that once I'm in my hotel room I can have a rest has me just about delirious with joy. (That's when I'll push send on this blog post too. I've got no internet up here.)  It's just the break I needed to make me absolutely gung-ho and happy about the final days of the tour.  I'm chipper now when I think about Pasadena, Seattle and Portland.  Chipper I tell you, and the fact that I may have finally kicked the deserving arse of my Gwendolyn sweater may actually put me over the top. 

After I fixed the mis-crossed cables - I got a comment from Tamar (longtime friend of the show, as Colbert would say) and she congratulated me for fixing the front, and (ahem) encouraged me to fix the back.  After I contemplated all manner of unreasonable things, all of them involving public drunkenness, I bit the bullet, decided that after all this I should fix those too... and did so. 

Now I've sewn it all together, done the neckband and one buttonband, and I intend to put that bad boy to bed tonight.  
It's a good day - and if you see something else wrong with the sweater, for the love of all that's woolly, don't tell me. 
I'm fragile.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:58 PM

October 24, 2011

While I was in Austin

This post comes to you from the Austin Airport   Sorry.  I ran out of time there.
This post comes to you from the sky above Texas.  Nope.  That didn't work out either.
A cab driving towards the hotel now that I've landed in Dallas?

Yes. This is working. I feel like various modes of transportation are my main location these days - and it's just starting to wear a little.  Don't get me wrong,  I love the tour.  I do - and I mean that.  I love meeting knitters, and I love reading from the book - I believe totally that this is the best book I've ever written, and I'm proud to be out here supporting it, and huge chunks of it are even fun, and really, there are authors out there who would kill for this chance, and I know that. So believe me when I say that the last thing I want to seem like is ungrateful... but dudes,  I am tired.

I realized it this morning when despite having a lovely day, a fine evening and eight solid hours of sleep, my only response to waking was a gentle sort of urge to weep softly and drink nineteen cups of coffee. 

Luckily for me (or I'd really be bummed), I know that this feeling is just a reponse to this phase of the tour. It's simply too many days without the food I'm used to eating, the bed I'm used to sleeping in, and then husband I'm used to bothering.  It's best not to think about it, since it can't be helped. so instead of dwelling on it this morning, I got up, drank a cup of coffee (just one, since I know disaster looming when I see it) and I did 30 minutes of yoga and I turned that frown (literally) upside down, and now I'm on my way to the event tonight in Dallas (Fairview, actually)  and I'm feeling  genuinely happy about it. I think it was a wave of homesickness, and just because you love home doesn't mean you can't love where you're at now too.. right?   Right. 

So. Yesterday in Austin.  Austin is one of my favourite cities in the US.  Any city with an unofficial mandate to "Keep it weird" is going to be high on my list, and the great thing about Austin is that I think nobody needs to try and make it weird.  It just is. The cabbie I got proved the whole thing by unbuttoning his shirt  as soon as we pulled away from the airport, (how come it's never the guys you wnat to unbutton thier shirts that are just compelled for public displays?) and then proceeded to tell me a series of remarkably off colour jokes while blasting "Werewolves of London" as we hurtled through the city.  (For the record, only one of the jokes is worth repeating, and I have repeated it several times. I left my shirt on.)

I arrived at the hotel, changed really fast and left again, after being assured by Brent at the desk, that Book People was only a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel.  Well - Brent is either a filthy liar, or he's never walked ten steps in his life, because 40 minutes later - 40 minutes under the blasting Texas sun, I arrived at the bookstore a shadow of my former self.  Enough of a shadow that I drank cold tea when they offered it to me, and I liked it.

Good thing I made it, because this is what was waiting for me. Wave at the charming Austin knitters!

I read, I talked, I cursed Brent publicly, and afterwards, this is who I met. 
The first sock brigade,  this time Laurel,


and Erica.

Then our babies for the day, Claire and Dorothy,

Leigh Anne and Dooley  (Leigh Anne is sneaking her first sock in there too.)

Aimee and Luke,

Jen and Evan and their darling Clementine...

Austin apparently specializes in clever young knitters, so I present to you the fine knitter known as Gus. 

Gus is eight.  (He just turned eight.  That's significant.) He's knitting some beads into his fine knitting.  I asked him what he was making, and got sort of a blank look.  I asked him then if it was an objet (as in an objet d'art) and after a brief explanation of what that was, we agreed.  It is an objet.

Please meet the similarly talented Abby (she's seven, and she knit the scarf she's holding) and Emily who is nine and three quarters -  (The three quarters is, as you may have surmised, significant.) Emily is wearing a vest she knit her whole own self.

They're with their clever knitting teacher Mum Carey.

It was Rachael's birthday:

And check out Anastasia. 

She showed me her wedding veil (which is in her hands) and I asked as politely as I could, when she was getting married.  Turns out it's two years.  Everything is okay. For several horrible minutes I thought she was going to say "Oh, two weeks".   I was going to suggest a wedding scarf.

I got to see Tonie again, along with her Mum Janice.  Tonie was 10 years old the last time I met her -

and look at her now! 

I've clearly been at this book thing for a while.  I don't know if that's encouraging or frightening.  In any case, she's a lovely young knitter.

In the Awwww. .. department for today, I give you Justin

Non-knitter, trying to be nice to his mum.   She asked him to come and he did, and there's nothing more charming than faithfully obeying your mum, even though you're a grown-up.  Not that I'm directing that at any of my children or anything, I'm just saying that Justin seems like a very good person.

Finally, last but not least,  I want to show you Stacie, Claire and Stephanie.

These three ran in at the last minute, out of breath and hot, and it turned out that they had run out on Ysolda's class at The Knitting Nest to have their books signed.  Something I made sure to mention to Ysolda later that evening when we were together at the aforementioned shop.  Why? Because I'm three years old. That's why. (A special thanks to The Knitting Nest for shooting me a tee-shirt to replace the one that my pen blew up on in my suitcase.  Extremely helpful.)

I'm off again, with only minutes to spare before I need to be at A Real Bookstore,  but I forgot to mention in my St. Louis post,  I signed some extra books when I was at Left Bank Books, because they do mail order.  So if you're one of the people who wrote and asked how you could get a signed book if I'm not coming to a town near you?  Left Bank Books.   

Posted by Stephanie at 1:36 PM

October 23, 2011

In the pews in St. Louis

It's Sunday morning, and I'm writing this post from heaven knows how high in the air, winging my way from St. Louis to Dallas, then from Dallas to Austin.  (I'm trying not to think about how the next day I go from Austin back to Dallas. It's too much to accept intellectually.  The only way through it is to live it.)  I'll try to hit send on it when I'm on the ground changing planes.  My timelines are so tight today... I think I'll go straight from the airport to the Austin signing.  I bet I'll look amazing.  Let's go back to yesterday - shall we, when I met the St. Louis knitters and had a really lovely time.  I spoke in a church (I think the irony that a harlot was speaking in that locale was fun for all of us) - and knitters filled the pews.

(For those of you who have ever been asked not to knit in church, this moment may have a certain feeling of vindication in it.)  Afterwards, I signed books and chatted, and look who I met.

This is Jackie and Marie, and they're firsts for me.  They had me sign their e-readers.  (I'd been wondering what authors were going to do as more and more books become digital, and I guess it might be like this.)

There was Stephanie and Alice,

and this is Reina and Skye...

and this is Kate, Joanna and Hamza, who was absolutely quiet during the whole talk, though he did make his mama dance at the back to make that happen.

Meet Vicky, who was rooting for the Cardinals like nobody's business.  (I don't know if you all know this, but the world series is on and St. Louis is in it.  I had no idea - and in my defense, remember that it's not actually the WORLD series, so it's not always top of the news in other countries. I figured it out fast.) 

Vicky even dressed up her dog Daisy - but just for the Cardinals home opener.  It's not like she does it all the time. 

Emma and Abby were there with their first socks.

Kate, oh - let me tell you about Kate.

At 4:30pm the day before I came, Kate decided that she wanted to represent her friend Rachel's yarn at the signing, and so she knit a Traveling Woman in 12 hours.  Just like that.  That one.  That's she's wearing. She even claims that she slept and ate - and still had a small shawl in 12 hours of knitting.  I have a feeling that she doesn't knit so fast that I couldn't do it too, so I'll be doing a little test soon. 

In the category of nice people - we have Liz, who isn't even a knitter, but discovered that the answer to the question "How much do you love your mother?" was in fact...

"Enough to go to a talk and a booksigning for you, mum.  Of course."

Finally, meet Cameron, who was there for his brother Joseph, who sort of made him come. 

It's true, Cameron is a knitter, that's his second and third knitting projects in his hands, but he wasn't there for himself. His big brother made him go.  Made him email verification that he understood his mission, then text confirmation that he had arrived, and then send a photo proving that he was in the right spot with a book.   I told Cameron that I'd post this picture to prove to Joseph that he did it right.  Joseph, he did it all.  Listened, showed me his projects, and got a book signed for you.  I wrote something special in there for you. You're brother is very nice.

Finally, a sweater update.  Friday was just a travel day - a flight and a car ride but no event, and in book tour land, that's a "rest" day.   I was super excited, and tackled Gwendolyn.  I know a lessor knitter would probably have given up by now, and it really does look like that sweater sort of has bad Juju, but I'm positive that I can come out on top, and there's no way I'm letting a piece of knitting get away with resisting its destiny like this.  This yarn will be this sweater whether it wants to or not. Mark my words. 
Instead of ripping the front back to the mis-scrossed cable and re-knitting, I tried a bolder approach.  I figured that if it didn't work, I could still rip back and reknit.
I identified the mis-crossed cables, and since they're both on one row, I found the single strand of yarn that was that row of knitting.  The exact row where I went wrong.

Then I snipped it.

Then I gently teased that strand of yarn out...

Then I started to graft back together the stitches, this time crossing the cables the way that I should have in the first place.

It was tedious, and a little fiddley, but took so much less time than re-knitting would have.  I blocked it last night and  with any luck, I'll be doing the making up and button bands tomorrow.  Just in time for Dallas, where - in the final proof that the sweater is a pain in the arse that likes sticking it to me, I absolutely won't need a sweater.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:45 PM

October 21, 2011

When in Chicago

So last night I was in Chicago - or Skokie rather, which I have been helped to understand is NOT Chicago.  (I suspect that this is rather like the way Brooklyn is NOT New York, and Brampton is NOT Toronto, but I'm still working out the details.) It was lovely, thanks for asking.  It was pretty cold and rainy, and exactly the sort of weather that one would want a sweater for, but the sweater from hell that I thought was finished isn't, although I thought it would be yesterday, until a bunch of you pointed out a miscrossed cable... so.  The saga continues.  Let's not talk about it.   Let's look at interesting knitters, shall we?

We only had one baby last night, and though she made her Mama Christine dance all night, Nora's behaviour was perfect.

Similarly perfect, the simply charming future knitter Jamie, and his delightful mother Meg.

Next up, Brent wants to show me who he got to hold a sock.  (Let me tell you, this sock holding thing has caught on in a way I'd never dared hope for.)

Jane Lynch! (Apparently she didn't even ask why she was holding a sock, which is amazing.)

How about first sock knitters?  first up Kelli, who's first socks are doing just fine.

Then Emily, similarly blessed (and young!)

Then Yas (who's first socks are twisted stitch cabled fancy things.  Another freakin' overachiever.)

Next is Jenny, who restored my faith in normal first sock knitters by showing up with two socks of  very different sizes...

And then Abby, who's first sock adventure was singular. 

No worries though... she uses it as a trivet.

Nathalie came with her first socks,

though really, she specializes in those teensy weensie crochet mice cat toys. (Millie will love them.)

It was Judit's birthday, she came with her daughter Magda.

And Denise brought me the most incredible video of her six year old son Zachary, knitting his little heart out.

Anna came in her first sweater. 

..and yes.  It's normal to want to leave her for dead in an alley for knitting a first sweater like that.  (Seriously.  Doesn't she know it should suck?)
Finally, meet Katie.  Katie had a baby hat to knit night before last, and she thought it would be really super cute to put the baby's name on it. So she whipped up a little chart, knit it in right quick and then...

Yeah.  Forgot to flip the chart.  A knitter after my own heart, that sweetie.
Proof that experienced knitters don't make fewer mistakes.  They make larger ones faster.

And with that, I'm off.  I'm getting on a plane in two minutes, and when I arrive at my hotel I am going to attempt a surgical repair of the miscrossed cable.

Keep me in your thoughts.  I don't know how much more I have in me.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:32 PM

October 20, 2011

In which Baltimore Brings It

I'm going to try to explain to you the amazing that was Baltimore, but I'm going to try and do it really fast because I'm in the airport getting ready to leave for Chicago, and I really don't want to be late.  (I'm having a beer.  I hear it's super windy today in Chicago, and I'm an experienced enough flier to know that means turbulence, and I hate turbulence.  It makes it hard to knit, and convinces me that we are seconds from being plunged into the earth. It's better for everyone if I aim for relaxation.) Essentially, what happened in Baltimore was that they heard that Boston was amazing, and so they tried to one-up them.  (This may or may not have been a formal plan.)   Filled up the room in Boston? Baltimore had overflow.

(That chair shortage thing may have happened again. Sorry guys.)

Baltimore had cute babies:

This is Jody and Amelia representing, but there was also Margot and Marseille and Gillian

(Gillian is the little one in the phone) and Margot made the baby and Marseille made the sweater and that kid looks so happy.

Baltimore didn't just have beer and sweaters. 

They had Amanda knitting a BEER SWEATER. (Yes.  That's what you think.  Not a sweater with beer on it,  it's a sweater for a beer to put on. It's genius.)

Boston had people with first socks, but Baltimore had these two. 

That's K and her first socks (freakin' overachievers. They make us all look bad) and this is Melinda, and she didn't just bring her first socks.

She brought her first socks, her first little sweater and her first born Sarah.  Shazam!

Molly brought her wedding veil, and seriously, I don't think I need to tell you it was amazing:

Boston had people with charming boyfriends,  Baltimore had Kelly, and she is knitting a sock for her boyfriend, and people.  IT FITS.

I told her that it's just as easy to love a small man as a large one, but apparently she's in too deep.

Let it here also be noted that Baltimore should be called the city of brotherly love, because check out these brothers.  Meet Chris. 

When his sisters Katie and Becky had their car break down about an hour away, they called Chris, and he "cleared his schedule" and came straight over to listen for them, and get their books.  I said "you're a good brother" and he said "well,  I have good sisters."  (All together now... Awww.)
This is Estin and Grace.  A brother and sister who came together.

Estin is, Grace tells me, the only person who had the presence of mind to giver her yarn for her baby shower.  Says Estin "She made a blanket.  It was good"
(Again... awww)

Finally,  Boston had nuns?  Baltimore had NUNZILLA. 

Thanks to Doris and Janet for that treat.  (She winds up and walks and sparks come out of her mouth. She is nothing like the nuns in Boston, but she is funny.)

And last- for those of you who are all "holy cow, like I care about knitters in other places - what about your knitting" let me tell you this.  First, you should totally care about the other knitters they're really gripping, and second. 
I have two re-made sweater fronts, and none of them is, or has been on fire...

and they are even the same length as the back.

It's almost a sweater.

PS to Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  They sort of ran out of my books last night and so someone asked me to sign one of yours. Meet Joellyn and Jeffrey, who were not leaving without a signed book, and they didn't care who's it was, as long as it was a good one.  They picked yours.

I put a note in saying that I wasn't you and shouldn't be signing it, but also noted  (in the book) that I would let you know there's been an unauthorized signing of your book.  So I am.  Feel free to sign one of mine as revenge.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:04 PM

October 19, 2011

Boston Knitters

Well Boston (Brookline) is behind me and Baltimore beckons, and the Booksmith was great.  There's a lot to love about Boston, and I've been before, but the thing that's always the best about it, is the knitters.  Boston knitters know how to represent, yo.

We can start with a knitter who wasn't even there, but still managed to influence events.  It turned out that Evan, the events guy- his wife is a knitter, and she had heard what he was up to that evening, and told him, point blank, that he simply couldn't introduce me or host the event without knitting something.  Evan complied, and when he showed the crowd his first little bit of knitting that he had completed only the night before,  they were his. 

When he offered the pattern, he brought the house down.  I got through the reading, and then the Q&A, and then went upstairs to sign books, and the parade of interesting Boston knitters started.  Meet Mary and the very competent preemie hat that she's knitting. 

Mary is seven years old - sort of.  It's really more important that you know she's almost eight.  She's serious about that.  And knitting. 
Next up? 

Carrie and twelve day old (almost thirteen) Sam.  Sam's one half of a set of twins.  His sister Ella is still in hospital.  Let it be noted that I didn't touch or ask to hold Sam.  He's too new for my random germs, especially when I'm meeting so many people a day, but he was lovely to look at.

This here is Lissa and her first pair of socks.  Nothing remarkable, right?  Wrong.  Lissa knit the first one in 2003, and the second in 2006. 

Not that- as she said, not that she has a problem with second sock syndrome or anything.   Below please find a picture of Kate,

and she's holding a blanket that her daughter Veronica designed, which means we are all very old, because the last time I saw Kate, Veronica looked like this.

This is Mira and Jesse -

and really that pictures only there because Jesse is so ridiculously cute and good natured.

All hail Deborah and Kathy! 

Deborah is the free range Canadian who brought me really delicious home made butter tarts,

and Kathy, who brought me home brewed beer. 

Together, they were my dinner, and I was very, very grateful.  (What? There was no room service.  It was necessary I tell you. There was no other way out.)
Now this - this picture is partly for you, but mostly for Rachel H and Natalie.

Hey Guys! It's our nuns! (I don't know why they're a little blurry.  Sorry about that Sisters.)  Meet the Sisters of the Holy Nativity Convent.  I've been writing back and forth with them for a while now, and while they always sign the letters "Mother Seraphima and Sisters" it turns out that Mother Seraphima was away during my trip there, which was very sad for me, and I hope for her.

Anyway, the Sisters are buckets of fun and ripping good knitters - the lot of them.  I've seen pictures of their craft room.  They have it going on. 
(Hey Natalie, remember how a few weeks ago, I asked you to send that stuff to the sisters, and after you mailed it you sent me that text that said "The package has gone to the nuns."  and then the next one said "I love how that is not a euphemism for anything."  Remember that?  I told them about it.  They loved it.  Rachel H, I told them you had enjoyed sort of stealing for them.  They appreciated it.)

Finally,  meet Betsy and a little picture of her nephew Patrick James. 

Patrick's recovering from brain cancer, and she's got something going on for sick kids. Check it out over at Nutmeg Knitter. 

See that?  I told you Boston was interesting.  (We'll see if Baltimore has nuns.) 
See you tonight Baltimore Knitters.  My plane leaves in a minute.  I'm on my way.

PS.  That cute baby from the other day? The one in the Amazing Monster Pants?  The one I told you was Theo?  It's Leo.  LEO. 
My apologies to the gentleman. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:36 PM

October 18, 2011

The coming Zombie Apocalypse

This post comes to you from La Guardia Airport in New York, as I leave Brooklyn behind and head for Boston.  I'm sitting here pulling myself together after a taxi ride that reminded me that you don't actually die in NYC cabs, you just think you will... and drinking a cup of "coffee" that is one of the biggest lies ever told to me.  (I don't know what is in this cup, but it is not coffee.  I have no idea why I'm drinking it anyway.  Makes me wonder about my self preservation instincts.)   I had a lovely time in Brooklyn, though really brief. I got to walk to and from the bookstore, and walk around the area a little, and wondered why I always head for Manhattan. It turns out that Park Slope is charming and there is very good coffee, amazing vegetarian sandwiches (recommend the tempeh ruben) good company and pretty views.

I don't know why I didn't think of Brooklyn as pretty, but it really is, and I have a fondness for fire escapes that means that if you slap a bunch on your city, I'll love it there. 

The event was little, as it always is in Brooklyn - but as always, there was the best and the brightest - or strangest - or well.  Meet  Kitsa, and her subway project.  

Apparently Kitsa had "a little trouble" with this skein, the way I had "a little trouble with a sweater, so now she's untangling a full skein on the subway.  Apparently the incident was something involving a wicker chair.  I was too shocked to absorb the full lesson.  Anyway, she's a better person than I am.  I'd have abandoned it.
Next up is Terri, who has a fantastic picture on her cell phone.

I don't know if you can tell, but that's Neil Gaiman holding her sock, which is a score of epic proportions in the sock holding game.  Completely cool.
This is Ikumi and Anna, who came all the way from DC (which I didn't know was near Baltimore, but I've got it now.)

And finally, Sally and David. 

I can't remember what prompted me to say so, but I happened to mention that after the coming Zombie apocalypse, when all the stores are closed, then knitters are going to be very valuable and popular people indeed. Just as soon as you can't buy a pair of socks, we're going to all have a million new best friends.  David took that and ran with it, and the next thing I knew he was explaining that Zombies had actually been misheard all this time.  They're not saying "Brains" but "Skeins."

It would seem that in David's particular Zombie apocalypse, there's a lot of competition for yarn.  Arm yourselves accordingly.

See (some of you) tonight in Boston. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:23 PM

October 17, 2011

In which there is a little trouble

This post comes to you from a hotel room in Brooklyn, where I'm quietly recovering from Rhinebeck and the travels so far- drinking coffee and getting ready for the reading and signing tonight in Park Slope. (Who's coming?) I had, as always, a wonderful time at Rhinebeck, and signed lot of books and met tons of knitters, and saw old friends and made new ones.  The signing was as entertaining as it always is.  I know that you'd think that it would be a little monotonous, sitting for a couple of hours, writing your name in books, but I have the good fortune to be doing this with Knitters, which means something interesting always happens.  Meet Claudia - the first knitter in line.

Claudia had a real commitment to being first in line, and cracked me up with her enthusiasm for the process.  I think you can see from her lovely face that she's as much fun as is possible - and she had everyone in her vicinity smiling- including me.  I'm smiling now thinking about her, she's totally a gift that keeps on giving.
There were babies. (You know how I love the smallest of people.)

That's Amanda and the charming Theo.  (Amanda was charming too.  She's the tall one. Theo's the one in the amazing monster pants.) 
Finally there was Bobbie from Maine - who brought her own paparazzi, and showed of her hand dyed, hand spun and hand knit socks.  She's one of those overachievers.

I saw some wonderful things too.  The fleece sale,  a goat who wouldn't go...

The new Rav babies (I love how baby Carson looks like he's saying "For crying out loud, I'm not even a knitter. Why am I here? I'm so totally bored")

Mary-Heather's breasts (she was actually showing the inside of her sweater, but it was a better moment my way)

Anne Hanson and Amy Herzog sharing a clear love of green,

Sheep, alpacas,  a lamb with the best spot...and so much more.

What then you ask, what was the trouble?  Glad you asked.
Shortly after Kellee picked me up at the airport and we went to WEBS (because we are not stupid.  Who goes within striking distance of WEBS and doesn't go?)
And then in the parking lot we the bad luck of a dead car battery:

and the good luck of a rescue from Debbi and Marcy, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

I know.  They both look unbelievably happy about a dead car battery in the rain. What can I say. We were at WEBS.  It's the happiest place on earth.
Right after that we went to a restaurant for lunch, and over lunch I was showing her and Amy my sweater (parts) and saying how I just had to sew it up now, so everything was going to be fine,  right after that...I was spreading the sweater out on the table when I noticed something funny about the cast-on edge of the right front.  It was a little dark, and slightly frayed.   Perplexed, I flipped it over to look, because it looked absolutely fine from the front, and immediately the world went a little dark around the edges.  The night before, when the sweater parts had been in the oven drying, I had smelled burning hair for a minute.  I ran to the oven, saw nothing wrong except for a tail of the yarn that was touching the bottom of the stove... assumed that was it, and carried on.  I suppose I should have taken a better look, because somehow, though the rest of the parts are perfect,  there is one small area of scorch on the sweater front.  

I took several deep breaths, hoping it was cosmetic, but as I handled the sweater, that portion essentially disintegrated into a little pile of Shelter ash.  I couldn't believe it.  I've dried  A MILLION things in the oven, and never has this happened and clearly this time something went horribly wrong and I'll (probably) never do it again... but all of that was irrelevant in that moment.  I took a deep swig of my beer, tried not to cry in front of Amy and Kellee, and formulated a plan.  I would do what I could to stabilize that part - essentially with a patch and some duplicate stitch, and when Rhinebeck was over, I would cut off the ribbing of the sweater on the front - pick up the stitches, and knit down.  This idea got me through until that evening, when having made the repairs as best I could, and hanging out with my buddies, 

(It's not pretty, but it would keep it from unravelling more...)  I sewed in the first very pretty sleeve,

and then started to match up the front and back along the side seam.  They wouldn't match.  I started easing it along, wondering if my blocking was imperfect, and tried again... this time being more careful about pinning them together.  Still not right.  It just wouldn't go together.  Now, I'd had a glass of wine and a long day, and if you get up at 5am and travel and then discover you've immolated a sweater front, you're bound to be off your game, so I tried again... then again, then in frustration, lay the pieces down to try AGAIN.  That's when I saw it.

Both fronts (because I measured them off of each other) are 10 centimeters (that's four inches) shorter than the back. 

I lost it.  I disguised the heartbroken sobs as laughter (which came out as very, very crazy laughter - I could tell by the looks on my friends faces) they tried to come up with solutions, probably so that I would stop laughing like that.  There was "That sh*t will block right out" (which ALWAYS means that sh*t will NEVER block out) there was the option of shortening the back (which sadly would have left me with a Rhinebeck belly sweater) the idea of somehow pulling out the ribbing and knitting down four inches on both pieces, which was attractive because I already had to sort of do that to deal with the part I'd tried to light fire too... but that would mean that the cables on the front and back weren't the same anymore.... and the suggestion that perhaps I could "ease that right in" while seaming.  (We all knew that wouldn't work the second we heard it, but you have to at least consider it for a moment.)

After a sad 10 minutes exploring options, I realized two things.  I'm an idiot- and that I was going to have to pull back and re-knit half of one front, adding the extra four inches before the armhole, and reknit the entire other front, because once a piece is four inches too short AND has a disintegrating portion of the ribbing because you accidentally burned it in the oven because you can't plan ahead properly... it probably deserves a second chance at life entirely, and so that's what I'm doing.   I've already re-knit the front that wasn't burned and it's drying (on the air-conditioner here in the hotel.  I'm not taking any chances) and I'll tackle the other front this evening.  I could still have a sweater in a few days, assuming I don't run out of yarn.  

So that, my friends, is the answer to the question that a hundred knitters asked me on Saturday when I wasn't wearing a Rhinebeck sweater. 
I had a little trouble.  

Posted by Stephanie at 12:35 PM

October 14, 2011

On my way

It is first thing in the morning, and this blog comes to you from me as I sit in YYZ at my gate, waiting to leave. I'm just taking a minute before I get on the plane to tell you a few things.

1. I forgot a lot of stuff.  I was agonizing over the decision for days, and then  what I should take with me was perfectly clear as soon as I got here to the airport.

2. I didn't finish the sweater front yesterday.  It's here with me in the airport.

3. I still think I can do it, because I'll just dry it in some other oven somewhere. I'm actually so sure that I'll finish, that I didn't bring any other sweater. 

4. Yes.  That does feel a little crazy.

5. Tomorrow I'm signing books at Rhinebeck at the Author tent from 10-12.  See you there - if you're coming.  If you're not, I hope you have a great weekend.  I'll take pictures for you.

6. Dammit.  I forgot the buttons for the sweater.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:29 AM

October 13, 2011

Preparedness and Not

My Rhinebeck Gwendolyn has fallen behind schedule.  Two sleeves, a back and one front are upstairs in the bathtub, having a swish round before I block them, but the left front is still on needles - which means that it won't be blocking for at least an hour or three, which means it can't possibly be dry by morning.  That would worry me more, except for that the other parts won't be dry either, so the whole thing is a little silly. I'm carrying on because I believe three things.

1. If the parts are "mostly" dry - I can dry them the rest of the way in the oven. I have a whole system for this. I preheat the oven, then turn the heat off, pop the woollies in, and close the door.  Low heat is essential - as is remembering that you have sweater parts in the oven hours later when you heat the oven to 450 for a pizza.  I recommend a post it note on the door.  They've got to be mostly dry though, because I'll have to fold them to get them in, and so they need to be blocked before.

2. If I get all those parts dry, I can sew up the whole thing tonight (now I'm really dreaming) then take a circular needle and a ball of yarn on the plane in the morning, and do the collar and button bands while I travel, which only leaves the question of buttons, which seems like a manageable problem to fix by Saturday morning when I head to the fairgrounds. 

3. If I don't finish, do you know what will happen? 

I'm behind because last night I went to dinner and Knit Night and I cuddled a baby instead of knitting, and I'm not sorry either. 

I can always knit, but the chance to snuggle a wee one, wrapped up in so much yarn there's no mistaking that knitters love her?  That doesn't go by often. 

Besides finishing the sweater, packing the rest of my things in a suitcase and bracing myself for the 2 weeks ahead of me - I get a fun job.  The only thing not arranged - is my knitting. 

Two weeks away from home, with only my wool for company on planes, trains and automobiles is a lot of knitting time.  A ton, really, and I intend to be prepared.  I'm going to choose a few sensible things.  Chunky, fast knits are a fools game on a book tour, because they take up too much space and get used up too fast- so what I need is small, fine gauge things.  Something tiny I can tuck in my carry-on for whenever I'm on the move. (I think that will be fancy socks)  Then something super plain and small that I can do without looking or thinking when I'm tired and it's dark. (I think that will be socks too.) Then the big banana. Something that I can work on in the hotel room, when I'm all by my lonesome. Something that's interesting enough to keep me company, but small enough that it won't take up much room in the suitcase, and will only take one ball of yarn but will still use up two weeks.  Lace maybe?  I have to decide- and I'm overwhelmed with the choices.  I'm thinking about a few, but I know you guys will have good ideas. If you were looking for a lace thing to fit the bill... what would you take?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:28 PM

October 12, 2011


This afternoon I start the real work of packing for two weeks away from home.  This is usually something that I don't find that hard - but it's complicated on a book tour, because you have to get seen by people every day- and lots of them take your picture, and at some point I can just tell that there will be a Ravelry thread called "One shirt wonder?" In which knitters who have been at events post pictures of me wearing the same thing over and over and have lengthy discussions about why I thought nobody would notice.   (This makes me think that book tours were probably a lot easier before camera phones, but I digress.)

I've come up with a couple of strategies (beyond the obvious, like clothes that match and stuff) that I will be happy to share with you now, in case you ever take a two week trip where people will be looking at you a lot and you have to take a plane every day.

1. Always pack one brown shirt and one brown pair of pants/skirt. Wear this outfit for travel and on the planes.  If you only have two pairs of pants for a whole trip, you can't risk staining anything, and that means you can't drink coffee on planes (planes have coffee spilling turbulence) and you're going to need to be able to do that. The coffee coloured outfit is your insurance and your permission to drink coffee with impunity.  (Pro-tip. Beer/red wine don't really show up on brown pants either.)   NEVER wear a white shirt on a plane if it is central to your two week wardrobe plan, unless you are making a commitment to drink only clear, colourless fluids for the duration of the journey.  The stress and risk aren't worth it.

2. Pack two or three large zip-lock bags.  That way, you can wash out underpants/socks/shirts-you-wore-on-planes-that-weren't-brown in the hotel room, even though the next morning you're taking another flight and you totally thought that they would have time to dry before morning, but they didn't. Never put damp stuff in your suitcase without the zip-lock. It makes everything in the suitcase into a damp wrinkled mess, which would be fine, except for I promise there will not be an iron in your next hotel room.   If stuff is still damp in the morning, toss them in the zip-locks, then in the suitcase, then resume drying hours later when you reach your next hotel.  Pro-tip: Never forget you have a pair of damp underpants in a zip-lock for a week.

3. The best thing to do about underpants is to abandon them and buy more as you go.  Pro-tip: Tell this plan to your publicist, so that if it's crazy to think you'll have three minutes to buy underpants because she's booked you on a ridiculously tight schedule, she can giggle nervously and tip you off - like mine did this morning. 

4. Shawls.  Bring one.  Shawls can be used for:
- a Pillow on a flight
- to cover the stain on your shirt because you forgot rule #1
- a blanket in the hotel because you can't figure out how to turn off the arctic blast of the air-conditioner
- something to cover your face with so you can try and block out the sun and sleep in a car.
- something to carry things in if your bag rips and your stuff is falling out
- an actual accessory to change how an outfit looks (That one is untested)
- something to hold in front of you if you discover that your pants zipper is broken while you're at a book signing in Seattle.

5. Consider designating one top as an "eating shirt" so that all stains and spills are consolidated and your critical wardrobe stays pristine.  Dark colours work best for this, as long as you're spiritually ready to forgo most cream based sauces.   Practice explaining the principal of the eating shirt  so that it comes out right,  as in "I'd love to go to dinner, just let me change" VS "I cain't have spaghetti, I ain't wearin' my eatin' shirt."  I'm sure you see the difference.

That's all I've got, though if I figure out more I'll tell you.  If you've got tips, fire them at me in the comments.  I'm packing.

PS: I now have both sleeves, the back, one front and 8cm of the second front done on Gwendolyn.  If I can get the other front done today, and the whole thing blocking by bedtime... I might make it.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:34 PM

October 11, 2011

Really Real

I've been slogging away on the Gwendolyn sweater, having just the loveliest time, while dwelling full-time and whole-heartedly in the lap of denial.

I've got both sleeves, the back and half a front done now, and that should mean that it was all going rather well, were this Monday instead of Tuesday, but Tuesday it is, and I'm not sure what that means to my fantasy of taking a finished sweater with me on Friday. Probably that I'm deeply delusional, but the thing is that I'm not failing epically - and that's misleading, it makes me think it's all possible.

Sunday night after Thanksgiving dinner, Ken and I teamed up against Samantha and my Aunt Yvonne, and we played Euchre.  Other than one glorious hand (in which I ordered my partner up and went alone for a spectacular four points) Ken and I lost.  We did not, however, get trounced.  We managed to keep one trick from every hand, meaning our opponents got one point, rather than two - the whole way through.  We'd get our arses handed to us for the first chunk, losing trick after trick, then miraculously, one of us would find ourselves holding just the right card to steal the last round, and there we'd have it.  Me being me, I declared us "The Stoppers" because we were "stopping" them from getting two points in each hand.  I may have even been a tad smug about it, before Ken pointed out that as fun as it was to deprive them of their full points, we actually weren't "stopping" them from doing anything.  We weren't winning squat - we were just losing really, really slowly.  (Ken, heaven love him, can be a bit of a kill-joy.  Accurate, but a kill-joy.)

That's a little bit like what this sweater feels like.  I'm getting all smug because it's all going so well, and I'm finishing great swathes of knitting, but really, all  I'm doing is losing really slowly.  If I only had one sleeve or something, if the sweater was getting full points, I'd have given up by now, but because I'm managing a win here and there, it makes me all smug and hopeful. 

I have a front and a half to go, and the button bands, and to block it and sew it up and come up with buttons, and it is Tuesday afternoon.  Thursday night is when it needs doing by - if it's going with me on the Book Tour - and then I sort of wonder if maybe I'm really just trying to distract myself from the book tour itself.  If I just keep talking about the Rhinebeck sweater and going to Rhinebeck and don't really discuss the fact that Rhinebeck marks the beginning of two really thrilling, exciting, lucky and incredibly difficult weeks, then maybe I can just keep sitting here, knitting away madly, losing really slowly, when I should really be thinking about what the hell you take to wear on a two week book tour when you're not really the sort of woman who owns that many pairs of underpants.  Or tops.  Or pants.  I don't have to worry about how anxious that much travel makes me, how I'm perpetually in a state of cramps because I worry about delayed/missing planes,  how I worry nobody will like the book, how the reviews will start coming at the same time as I put my bum on a plane, allegedly in that sweater, all while worrying about whether or not there will be media, and knowing that the publisher hopes there will be, and I do too-because I do like doing this for a living, but at the same time, I wonder what on earth I'll say to the media if any of them did show up. I could be worrying about leaving my family, about the exhaustion that travelling every day breeds, how by the end of the first week I'm almost always a wild animal that would fight to the death for a cup of coffee in some random airport, and how not sleeping in the same bed for even two nights in a row makes it really, really hard to remember where you are and where the bathroom is when you wake up in the middle of the night.  I could be worrying about how I hope none of that shows at the events, because I really do like that part, and especially love meeting all of you and finding out who's out there, and seeing people who're coming back for the another visit, and seeing all the stuff everyone has knit and really, really hoping that the fact that I will be really stupidly tired at some point will somehow translate into some sort of gratitude and grace, because that's what I really want to show all of you, despite having airport pretzels on my pants.

I could worry about all of that.  Or I could knit, because I really do want to have a Rhinebeck sweater, and after all - it might be possible yet.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:30 PM

October 7, 2011


I only have a moment my dear ones, since this:

is not yet a pie, and this:

is not yet a sweater. 

Rest assured all is well here, if a little harried, as I gather all my girls under one roof for the holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends (whether you're Canadian or not, how can a little extra Thanksgiving hurt you?) and know that if there was just one thing I would ask for, it would be that somehow this weekend translates into a lot more knitting time than it likely will.  The Rhinebeck sweater is, after all - still only sleeves. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:18 PM

October 5, 2011

Cottage Craft

Shortly after arriving in St. Andrews,  Cat Bordhi, Veronik Avery and I (having failed to find both a cheese sandwich and Lucy Neatby - though over the next three days, finding Lucy proved to be far easier than the elusive cheese sandwich) went for a walk by the sea. 

The town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea sits right where the name promises - on the edge of the sea on Passamaquoddy Bay, which is an inlet of the intriguing Bay of Fundy.  (If you don't know about it, you should read about it. It's a crazy place. The highest tides in the world, reversing falls, tidal bores, whirlpools... The ocean really shows off its best tricks in the Bay of Fundy.) It's an old town, founded in 1783, and it has all the charm that implies.  We wandered along, looking and investigating, until we happened upon Charlotte County Cottage Craft Woollens.

This little building, sitting right by the sea, is the home of Canada's oldest cottage industry, and was founded by Grace Helen Mowat in 1915, when she realized that the skills of the women around town were a "cash crop".  She created unique colours of yarn that reflected the countryside that surrounded her - which was a brilliant idea really - because it made the yarn tourist yarn.  You know how when you travel to a place you look for the perfect souvenir yarn? Yarn made in the place you're at - something to remember it by?  Miss Mowat had your number in 1915, and not only did she provide this yarn, in her own signature colours, she had them woven up into unique tweedy yard goods. 

Fast forward a little bit, and what this lady has is a thriving business making all kinds of woolly stuff.  Cool bags, each one a piece of art -

Intriguing little dolls...

Any manner of wonderful stuff, but her best idea ever, was this:

Enough of the handwoven yarn goods (in a multitude of possible tweeds) to make a skirt, paired with heathered solid colour yarn to make a sweater that matched perfectly. With a pattern tucked in,  it was the New Brunswick answer to the twin set, and they were hugely popular.

Things have changed since Grace's day,  but you can still make your own set - they still sell the beautiful handwoven yard goods, still in the original colours, and they still sell the yarn that matches.  A thinking person could put together their own co-ordinating set - but it wouldn't have the charm of that boxed set.  (Cat, Veronik and I tried to convince the owners, Michelle and Evan, that such a set was still a good idea. Especially if they could re-create the original packaging - and include the vintage pattern.)

The shop also sells a ton of pre-knit stuff... sweaters, hats, mittens... little jackets and bags, and a ton of fashion forward capes and jackets made from the handwoven fabric.  

The whole time we were there some sort of party, complete with fiddle music and wine - raged in the backroom, with laughter and dancing, and the waves of the ocean out the window...

It was wonderful.  Michelle showed us the old swatch books - originally put together by Miss Mowat when she was deciding what fabrics and yarns to make- and we got to dig around in her old trunk, full of clippings and swatches and little wee things of interest - things that really belong in a museum rather than a shop by the sea - but really.. don't they seem more at home there?

There was a lot that was great about Knit East, enough that if I'm asked back, I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I have to say that the little history lesson I got by the sea was something I truly loved.

The only down side is that I might have convinced myself that I need a whole bunch of souvenir yarn, which I don't feel bad about, not really.  After all Miss Mowat has been rigging the set-up since 1915.  I was doomed.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:43 PM

October 4, 2011


This post should be about all the fun I had in New Brunswick at Knit East (which was fabulous) and about a really cool shop in Saint Andrews By-the-Sea (pro tip from Deb Barnhill - the "by-the-sea" part is silent) but sadly, I've misplaced my camera cable (again) so all you get today is words.  It's a quick story about nice people.

On Friday morning, I gathered myself and went to the airport, met up with Cat Bordhi, and got on a plane. We arrived, unpacked - and I set about teaching and working for the weekend.  Monday morning, back I went to the airport in Saint John, where I knit until it was time for my flight.  I went through security, and then plunked myself down to wait.  While I was sitting, I rummaged through my purse for my passport.  I couldn't find it. I panicked. Totally panicked.  Sure, I was flying within Canada, so I could get by with my drivers license for that flight, but in about 10 days I get on a plane to the US, and 10 days isn't really enough time to replace a passport.  Renew - sure, replace? Not so much.

I dug around in my bag with increasing nausea, and then decided to empty it out entirely- in case I just couldn't see the passport.  I took everything out, checked everything that could possibly have my passport tucked inside it - then checked the stuff that was really too small to have my passport tucked inside it - like my wallet.   (Why I did that, I can't explain.  I guess I was hoping that my passport had shrunk or something. That it wasn't gone... just suddenly... tiny.)  It wasn't there.  It truly wasn't there, and with my heart sinking, they called my flight. 

Once on board, I searched again.  I am not the sort of person who loses important things.  I have had the same set of keys since I was 15 years old. I have never had to replace my ID.  I've lost ten thousand tape measures, and I apparently have an aura that repels darning needles in a way that means that one can't be in my possession for more than sixteen seconds, and it's fairly obvious that I have no regard for the location of a camera cable... but important things? Never. I sat there trying to figure out where it could be, what I had done and how I was going to tell my publisher that I wasn't going to be going anywhere because I am an idiot.  Did I leave it in the hotel room? No, there was no way I'd done that.  I make a careful sweep of all hotel rooms as I leave them - and my passport is in a green leather folder that's obvious.  I would have seen it. I checked under the bed - everywhere, and besides I wouldn't ever have even taken it out of my bag.  Did I drop it somewhere? Did I leave it behind? In my mind I retraced every step I'd taken with the passport, and suddenly it hit me.

I'd left it on the plane on Friday. With certainty- and in that moment, I knew exactly how it had happened.  I got on the plane with Cat Bordhi and we sat down.  I put my passport in the seat pocket in front of me.  I always do this. I put the passport with my boarding pass and a pen in it right there, and then when the flight attendant hands out the customs cards, I have it all in one handy place.   When the card comes, I take out the passport, boarding pass and pen, fill out the card and tuck it all together into my bag, ready for when I land.
(This is not, as Debbi would say, my first rodeo.)

So what went wrong?  I was flying from one Canadian city to the next, so the  customs card that's my passport cue never came, and at the moment when I usually check to see if I have all my stuff, I was chatting with Cat about how people like me and her screw up other peoples patterns all the time because we think we know what they mean and so we don't really read them... and off I got, and there it stayed.

I must have looked visibly upset because the flight attendant asked me if I was okay. (I suppose the way I was ransacking my belongings over and over might have been a clue) I told her what I'd done, and she assured me not to worry. If Air Canada finds a passport on a plane, they turn it in to Passport Canada straightaway, and I could apply to get it back.  It wouldn't take too long.  A few weeks, she thought.  You can imagine that this didn't do a lot to make me feel better.  "I only have ten days." I told her.
"Oh. " She said, and offered me the drink cart. 

I spent the rest of the flight coming up with a plan.  I would call Passport Canada as soon as I landed.  I would get the papers together that afternoon and go down there, and I would make it happen. I would find a way to make the massive machine that is Passport Canada move at breakneck speed, and it would be okay.  I would convince them.
This didn't do a lot to make me feel better either.

By the time I landed, I'd given up. It would be what it was, and I was the fool who'd screwed it up, and there was nobody to blame but myself.  (I briefly tried to blame Cat for being interesting, but that's not her fault. She just is interesting.)
I gathered my stuff (really, really carefully) and got off the plane.  As my foot touched the ground, an incredibly beautiful woman wearing a yellow Air Canada raincoat asked me if I was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  I was.

She said "I have your passport" and handed it to me. 

Resisting the urge to kiss her on the mouth (with tongue) I asked what had happened. Apparently the plane hadn't been checked in Saint John on Friday, and so my passport had been found when the plane returned to Toronto.  Right before they were going to turn it over to Passport Canada, one of them decided to run my name through the computer and see if there was any chance I was coming back soon.  They saw my flight for Monday morning, decided there wasn't a lot of difference in handing it over Friday afternoon or Monday morning, and called me at home to leave a message saying they had it,  and I could pick it up at the desk in Toronto. (I didn't check my messages.)

If that wasn't nice enough, then they thought that there was a chance I wouldn't check my messages over the weekend, and decided to keep track of me and the passport, watch my flight schedule, leave notes for each other over the weekend so that everyone knew what was going on with the passport and could keep it safe, then went out into the rain on a Monday morning so they could hand it right to me, so nothing could go wrong. 

I can't tell you how impressed I am that a great big company like that went to so much trouble for me - all to make sure I didn't go without my passport.  I can't imagine how many people fly through YYZ on Air Canada over a weekend, or how many staff members had to co-operate to make sure it worked, but I'm really impressed - and going on a book tour - which is amazing.

Thanks Air Canada.  I'm sorry for what I said about the pretzels.  You're nice.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:46 PM