November 30, 2011

Giving Way

The rain here has given way to snow, and while that's the absolute death of autumn, I find it infinitely more cheerful.  Snow you can at least brush off, or shovel up, or look at. Snow doesn't leak into the basement.  Snow makes me think that Christmas is coming (it is) and puts me in a fine mood to organize and buy a tree and make lists and start figuring out who gets what, and maybe even bake cookies.  Snow makes me want to go for long walks in the evening so I can look at it sparkle.  Snow at its very least, is pretty.  

This snowy day is a good day to show you the finished Fernfrost, knit out of my precious laceweight cormo from Foxhill.  

Mercy, but I do love this scarf, it's long and gorgeous.  In the interest of full disclosure, that's the only change I made to the pattern.  Anne calls for 11 repeats, and I did 17, because the cormo is so soft that I wanted it to be able to wrap it. 

This wonderful thing was intended to be a Christmas gift, but I think I might have made a mistake.  I knew I was attached to that cormo yarn, I knew I've been looking forward to knitting it, I knew that I would love anything that I made out of it, but I'm really good at giving knitting away. You can't knit this much and not be good at giving knitting away... so I thought that somehow, I'd be able to let go of this.  The whole time I've been knitting it, I've been thinking that it was going to take some personal resolve to give it,  but I believed as long as I was making it for someone I really loved, who I thought would really adore the scarf, that everything would work out fine.  Now that it's done it's so absolutely delicious I find my generosity is failing me. This scarf makes me want to walk straight to The Bay where I'm sure I could get a very nice commercial scarf that would make the intended recipient very happy. It's not like they would ever even know that this was supposed to be for them.

Sure, maybe they're reading the blog right now, and they're looking at that scarf and they're wondering if it was for them, but they'll never know for sure, not even if they open a box with a store bought scarf in it at Christmas. They might suspect that they were supposed to get Fernfrost but it's not like anyone in my family is the sort of person who would ask.  (Actually, that's a lie.  There are totally people in our family who would ask, they're just not the sort of people who would expect an answer, or at least not a truthful one.) 

If I kept this  (and to do that, I would have to get it off Natalie first, which might be a little bit tricky) I would have to reconcile myself to the fact that every time I wear it,  someone in the family is going to look at me like I stole their Christmas present.

I might be okay with that. 

PS.  Every time I use Natalie as a model, someone asks me about her woollies.  I am finally thinking ahead enough to be able to tell you.  Natalie's mittens are her Oh Deer! pattern, and Yes.

They are antlers disguised as mittens.  Yes, that is ridiculously cute.  Yes.
Natalie is like that.

PPS. Speaking of Natalie, she's working on rounding out my teaching/speaking schedule for next year. If you were hoping I would be able to come and teach/speak at your shop or guild, now's the time to email her.  She can be reached at Natalie@yarnharlot.ca. 



Posted by Stephanie at 1:19 PM

November 29, 2011

Pretending to be cozy

Somewhere, as you read this, I am trudging through the rain and cold, on my way to a meeting I don't want to be at, or I have left the meeting, and am standing at a bus stop, as annoyed as you can imagine that it's raining on me.  I think that the friend who told me that I must have been a cat in a previous life was right, because I hate water falling on me. It makes me instantly crabby when there are spots of water on my glasses, and when the rain starts to soak your winter coat, because that garment is built for snow, not rain, and somewhere, I am bloody indignant that it's cold enough that I have to wear a winter coat, but still raining. Rain, I am thinking, as I stand wherever I am,  is miserable. 

Somewhere, as you read this, I am contemplating that while I hate all rain, I have a spectacular loathing for early winter rain, and how cold it is, and how today is dark and grumpy and miserable, exactly the sort of day that I like to spend in the house, with soup, writing, knitting and a cup of tea. Somewhere, as you read this, I'm pretending that the 40 minutes that I was home at noontime, in between things to do, is what my whole day was like.   I am pretending that instead of (insert miserable damp cold errand here)  I am at home, blocking my finished Fernfrost.

Fernfrost is shown unblocked, here in my cozy house, where rain is not falling. 

Somewhere, standing in the rain, feeling it soak through the pockets of my coat and through my wool hat, I am thinking about this soup, which I knocked together in 30 of the 40 minutes I was home, and then ate as fortification against the rain. 

Just in case you're wondering, and in case it's raining where you are, and because someone will ask, and because this soup is so good, and hearty, and fast, and cheap and good for you...and vegetarian (and vegan if you use all olive oil and leave out the butter) in short, everything you would want in a soup...

Emergency Soup

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2-3 leeks (the white parts only, sliced very thin)
2-3 potatoes, scrubbed, quartered and sliced thin.
2-3 carrots,  sliced in half lengthwise, then chopped pretty fine.
2 cloves garlic, minced.
4 cups vegetable stock (If I don't have any, I cheat and use water and 2 veggie bouillon cubes.)
1 can chick peas.  (Rinsed)
Parsley if you have it.

Put the olive oil, butter and leeks into a heavy bottomed pot, stir until the butter melts, put the flame on medium low, and put a lid on it.
Go wash and slice the carrots and potatoes. 
Stir the leeks after 5 minutes. 
At the 10 minute mark, add the potatoes and carrots, and maybe turn the heat up a little.  Stir, cooking until they're almost tender, then whack in the garlic, and stir for about 2 more minutes. 
Add the chick peas, and cook, stirring for a minute or two.
Add the stock and parsley (if you're using it) and bring the soup to a simmer.
Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are fully soft (this will be less than 15 minutes) then either eat it the way it is, or - for a really creamy soup (that has no cream) puree one cup of the soup and add it back.  (I always puree, but I have an immersion blender that makes it a snap.)

I serve it with warm bread and pretend it isn't raining pouring.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:03 PM

November 28, 2011

Random Monday

1.  I didn't meet Prince, but it was a fabulous concert, and my sister Erin can vouch for the fact that he did smile at me.  I smiled back.  It might be that our relationship doesn't really blossom into anything more than that.

2.  I did bring home a handful of the purple confetti that fell during Purple Rain.

3. No.  I don't think that's dorky. 

4. I have no mittens.  I've been wearing these beautiful Latvian ones for years and one of them is finally no more.  I could make myself a beautiful pair to replace the ones that are gone, or I could knock off a quick and dirty pair, turn my attention to the Christmas knitting and come back to the mitten dilemma after the 25th.  I can't decide.

5. Yesterday I cleaned the whole house, almost top to bottom.  (I still have my office to do.) When I say I cleaned it, I don't mean that I dusted and vacuumed.  I mean that I pulled furniture out from the walls, scrubbed floors and baseboards, flipped mattresses, pulled out 4 garbage bags of old clothes and toys and sent them to Goodwill - put the dress-up clothes safely away in the basement... washed duvets... pulled books I don't love anymore off the shelves and send them to the shop on the corner...
I did a deep, fulfilling sort of cleaning.  I mean to do this every year at the beginning of the winter season, since it's such a crazy and busy time, and everyone is going to be trapped in this house until May- but I never get to it. 
This year I did, and I can already tell that it was worth it. (Joe got home from California last night and didn't really notice.  I'm working on forgiving him.)

6. Today I think I'm going to finish Fernfrost. 

I've thought I was done every day for 4 days, but then every day I decided not to skimp and add another repeat.  Today is looking good though.

7. If I can bring myself to do it, today I'm going to start the Christmas shopping.  I have this crazy idea where if I actually do a little at a time, maybe it won't be so painful.  Still, starting now seems rash.  It's like admitting that it's really happening, which it is, so maybe that's best.  I don't know.  This time of year really throws me off.

8. Maybe I'll just make mittens.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:47 PM

November 25, 2011

Potential

Joe has been out of town this week, and I keep trying to think of all the really great things that I should be doing, since I'm unencumbered by marital responsibility, and I swear that despite my best efforts, I can't come up with anything that I really want to do that I can't usually do because he's here.

The best I've done is that I've eaten two things he doesn't care for (it probably isn't worth mentioning that I don't really care for them either, I was just making a point) watched a movie that had no explosions in it, and have slept diagonally in our bed just because I can. These activities have been less fulfilling than expected.

Tonight though, oh, tonight.  Tonight is a night of potential.  Tonight, my sister and I are going to see Prince.  Me and Prince, in case you don't know, have a really long history together.  It started in 1984 when I was sixteen, and we've been close ever since.  (If by close you understand that by close, I mean spiritually close - or as close as you can be when one of you is completely devoted to the other, and the that other has no idea who their soul-mate is.  Like that - though I'm not saying who's who in that scenario.)

In my secret heart, I believe that the only thing standing between Prince,  me and a lifetime of happiness together is that we've never physically met - in the real world.  (My secret heart also believes several other things, like that we could totally overcome our religious differences, and that the fact that I'm 5'1" and he's 5'2" has always been the strongest indicator of this truth.) Seven years ago, the last time that Prince and I were together, I realized a bunch of stuff about our relationship, not the least of which was that while both he and I realize that our life paths are taking us in different directions,  I had the shocking discovery that despite being a loyal wife to a wonderful man, and despite being the slightly dumpy mother of three near adult women... I would still totally sleep with Prince if he asked me. 

This morning my sister and I were discussing just that, and I said that I knew that it was a little ethically disappointing to discover that was still true. That no matter how freaky the king of funk gets, I just keep on wanting him.  That if I had the chance (and were that chance  now not biologically past me) that I would bear him as many tiny little babies as he wanted.  (There has never been any doubt in my mind that the products of our union would be vertically challenged.  Neither Prince nor I am bringing much to the table there.)  Erin sighed, and asked me what I was planning on wearing.  (She has a really great outfit planned, which makes me wonder about the sense of bringing your better looking, well dressed younger sister to your rendezvous with your soul-mate) and I said that I was just going to wear jeans and a tee shirt, because if Prince cares what I'm wearing, he's not the man I thought he was.  (Ditto for the unshaved armpits.  I don't care if he man-scapes his. Our love is perfect and oblivious.)  I'm going to be me, and he's going to be him and all will be as the universe has ordained. 

When I got off the phone with Erin I decided that maybe I would at least where a clean tee-shirt.  I bet Prince would  appreciate that effort, and that's when the phone rang, and it was Joe, calling home.  He asked what I was doing, and I said that I was getting ready for Prince, and he chuckled, and told me to have a great time, and I said "You do know Joe, that I am going to sleep with him if I get the chance?" and Joe said "I know baby,  I know you would."  and we laughed for a few minutes and discussed the free pass Joe would have, would Parker Posey only knock on our front door looking for him, and we hung up. 

The thing is, that when I got off the phone, I realized that I'm really only sort of kidding, and right now, I'm sitting here drinking coffee, and realizing that there's only one redeeming thing about the very real truth that I would sleep with Prince if he asked me. 

He does have to ask.  I'm not a hussy.


Posted by Stephanie at 1:14 PM

November 23, 2011

I was cold

 A little while ago, the weather here made that mysterious leap from autumn to early winter, and all of a sudden I can't get warm.  The house can't get warm, it's like the heat won't sink in to it and nothing is cozy. I feel like the light of autumn is golden and warm, and then there's this shift, and the trees are bare, and the light (what little of it there is) seems thin and blue.   This phase passes.  It's a temporary thing, like everyone walking around right now when it's -1 and saying "It's so cold out".  Come January you're dreaming of -1, and by March you think that temp is a sign of spring.  What seems like the cruelty of early winter will give way soon to deep winter, with snow, darkness and storms outside, and candles, sparkles and coziness in the house.  You just have to get over the soul crushing hump of accepting another winter, let your inner thermostat remember how to deal with it.

For the moment, I am in phase one.  Huddled under comforters, complaining about the cold, taking long hot baths to try and warm my cold hands and feet,  making soup,  lighting candles for the meagre glow... and knitting extra warm wool socks.

These socks are perfect.  Whenever I'm cold I always think I should knit something. It's a knitter affliction.  Instead of thinking "I should get a sweater" our first response is casting one on, as though that would help fast enough.  Usually the sweater I cast on to cope with January is finished in June, and that hardly seems helpful, but these bad boys?  Cast on 48 hours ago, and warming my feel last night.  Instant socks.

The yarn is from Solitude Wool, and it's a kit they call the Dorset Boot Socks. (Solitude makes beautiful breed specific yarns.)  I bought it at Vogue Knitting last January, but it's been hanging out until the other night when my cold feet and the desperation of early winter prompted me to cast on.

They worked up fast on 3.25mm needles, and I had the first one what seemed like minutes after I thought that I would knit them.  In reality, it was more like a couple of hours, but that's it. As close to instant socks as I'm going to get. The yarn is yummy and robust, with nice crimp and bounce, and not really what you would call soft, but not scratchy in any way either.  Just warm, real wool, thick and proper - like a bowl of oatmeal.  These socks are so satisfying that it makes me want to order a bunch of those kits and lay them away like fortification against anything winter brings.

I'm still a little cold. Maybe I should make a hat.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:29 PM

November 22, 2011

They sort of Sneak Up on You

There is a baby coming in our family.  It's been a while since we had one, so excitement is running high. Hank's getting really big, and all other grand-children are old enough to vote in the next election, so this baby is going to be a very over-cherished wee thing.  Joe's sister Katie (and I suppose her Carlos contributed a single cell, so should be mentioned) is going to give us a baby sometime in February (or early March, I don't want to rush her at all) and I am getting ready.  Katie is very, very nice, and I'm assuming the baby will be too, which means that the two of them together (and Carlos, he's nice too) are entitled to all the best knits that can fly off these needles between now and then. 

The thing is that I am pretty well acquainted with how long it takes to make a baby.  I also know that as a knitter, I shouldn't even be a little concerned about that baby until after the Christmas knitting is done.  (Yeah, I said it.  It's time for the Christmas knitting.  Live with it.  We all knew it was coming.) I flirted with the idea of the baby knitting, but really I had it in my head that I had just buckets of time before I had to worry about it, and then it happened.  A baby shower invitation arrived in the mail, and faster than you could say "holy booties Batman, I thought I had three months" I needed a baby gift. 

Naturally, this prompted a deep dive into the pattern stash, and I came out with Baby Knits from Dale of Norway: Soft Treasures for Little Ones, which was floating sort of close to the top of the pile.  (Yes, by the way, that book is out of print and yes, that means it's expensive.  I promise it wasn't when I bought it. I bet you can get it from the library if you really need to see it.)  I love just about everything in that book, and since I was leaving for Port Ludlow, and couldn't really get into it, I just tossed that book and four balls of Baby Ull into my suitcase.  I figured I could work the rest out later. 

I did. The day after the Colour Retreat, I cast on Perlemor, and away I went.  For the most part, the thing proceeded without any sort of upset or difficulty until I entered some sort of fugue state on Friday night when I realized that the baby shower was SUNDAY, and had a freakout the size of Chicago, which is not at all insignificant.  Still, I held it together until Saturday night, when the sweater was done and blocking, and I only had the bonnet to go, and I realized that the bonnet had a turned back brim that was going to add an extra six centimetres of length to that mission, and promptly cast on, knit seven rows and then went to be completely demoralized. 

I am nothing, however, if not delusional determined, and so Sunday morning I got it into my head that I could totally nail it.  After all (I argued with myself) the shower isn't until 2:00.  Who can't knit a bonnet in five hours? I made coffee, and applied myself to the mission, and at 1:45 I was steam blocking the wee thing, wrapping it, and heading out the door.

(The wrapping part sounds insignificant there, but wasn't.  I've unfortunately inherited a rare genetic trait from my mother in which I never have any tape.  I can buy as much as I want, stash it in various locations around the house, and it makes no difference. Every gift giving event leaves me swearing and thrashing and eventually going to the store on the corner for tape minutes before I leave.  You'd think that would mean I'd have tape for the next time, but no.  It's promptly sucked into the void, leaving me to be destined to repeat the same thing. Christmas is a nightmare.)

In any case, Katie is a smart mama, who knows darn well she's having a winter baby in Canada, and is embracing and understanding the wave of wool shaped love headed her way...

and I think she likes it.

I can't wait for this baby.

PS.  I have already explained this to Katie and Carlos, but the fact that I have knit a blue and white baby sweater is no way a statement or endorsement of the idea of them having a boy.  I understand there's just about a 50% chance that there's a wonderful little nephew in there (who I will adore completely and wholly, as I do Hank) but my preference for girl babies is well known.  That's what I want.  I just happen to think that babies of all varieties look nice in blue and think dressing them according to what's under the diaper is silly.  That's it. 

PPS. We also gave Katie our favourite baby gift.  Feel free to steal this idea, it's one of the best we've ever had. I went to the bookstore and bought the first book each of us can remember.  For Joe it's Curious George , for me, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb , for Amanda it's Green Eggs and Ham , Megan remembers Very Hungry Caterpillar and Sam fondly recalls Murmel, Murmel, Murmel .  Winners all.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:29 PM

November 21, 2011

Done but behind

Thursday night was pretty great, and I meant to write about it first thing on Friday morning, but I think that I procrastinated on some of my exhaustion, and so I woke up, realized the book events were good and over, and was promptly overcome with the urge to lie down. When that passed I found I was really in the weeds on a baby shower deadline, and had to do a serious who-do on the space time continuum to get it done in time for yesterday. I'll show you that tomorrow.  I know I'm not blogging enough when the unblogged knits start piling up- and they are.  There's socks and a sweater and I spun some yarn and they all deserve a blog post, so this week I'm going to try and be really good and catch up. For starters though, I'm going to pretend that today is Friday, and then tomorrow can be today, and the day after that I'll try to make it a two in one.  Or something. In any case: I showed up for the Toronto event ready and raring to go- if by raring to go, you understand that I'd checked real estate listings for where else I could live, then headed downtown.  I always worry about the local events.  My reasoning is that I don't really need to worry about screwing up in other cities.  If I screw up in Baltimore and do a whole event with my fly open (for example) I can simply - should I find the humiliation a little too much, never go back to Baltimore. If I screw up here, I have to move, as well as endure a retelling of whatever I did to humiliate myself every holiday from then on, since my whole family will have witnessed it.  If you're me, that's enough to make you supremely nervous, and I was.   I checked my fly about a million times, then stepped up to get it done. Hello Toronto!



The bookstore had about 35 chairs, and we had considerably more knitters than that, but I think the Toronto knitters actually enjoy smashing bookstore expectations, so all seemed well.  I read, rather nervously, since every time I looked up I saw my family.  When it was over, the real fun started. I got to see a a baby - this is Megan and the charming Miles.

There were first sock knitters, like Rayna and Ellen.


And then there were first sock knitters not like Rayna and Ellen - Like Juli, who explained that these socks are her first started pair of socks, and her first finished pair of socks.

...Or like Ann, who just stepped up and held up her socks, and I said "Oh wow! First socks?" and she said "Nope".

The honesty of it cracked me right up.  There was my Mum and my Sister and My daughter and Hank.

I don't know why Mum, Erin and Amanda look so bored there.  I swear they looked enthusiastic two seconds before.  Probably an immediate knee-jerk response to me taking out my camera and saying something about the blog.
This is Becky, and this Dr. Who scarf is the first thing she's ever knit...

which considering that it's an authentic length, says something good about her stick-to-it-iveness.

This is Heather, who was out celebrating two years since her bone marrow transplant - and considering that she's alive, that says something about her stick-to-it-iveness as well.

Meet Emily, who's a brand new knitter, and obviously destined for greatness.

I don't know if it's the glasses or the knitting, but she reminded me of me at that age.  Lovely girl.  This is Stephanie and her first scarf - which is Entrelac of course.

I shrieked "KEENER" at her in the most affectionate way possible. I think she understood.  Also in that category was Jen, who showed off her first and second pair of mittens.

Her first pair of mittens is so perfect that she felt compelled to tell me that they don't fit "If that helps."  It did.  (We were all on fire for the sweater she was wearing too. Gorgeous. We had to do a search to figure out what it was - and since a bunch of you will ask... it's Metro.  We've all added it to our queues.)
Emily and Morgan did their knitterly part for Movember.

(Pattern here. I know you'll want to know.)
Just to round it out - Look! 

That's Martha and Glenna, in the same place at the same time.  They're knitting twins, and for the longest time Glenna used to come to knit night.  I knew her, liked her, we're sort of friends, and then Glenna moved and stopped coming, but this person who looks, sounds and knits exactly like her started showing up. For the longest time I didn't know who Martha was, just that she was not quite Glenna, and after that for a long time, I sort of that that Glenna was just screwing with me. That she didn't really have a twin sister, she just liked to pretend she didn't know me some weeks, and to pull that off she called herself "Martha".  Turns out they really are two people.  Who knew?

We rounded the evening out by heading over to a pub (two really, but that's another story) and while we were there, Joe held baby Marlowe.

I know that might not seem amazing to you, but to me it was staggering.  He wouldn't stand up (he was afraid of dropping her) and he wouldn't let her mama Jen get more than an inch away (in case the baby needed her) but he did hold her.  I took about a thousand pictures. I couldn't believe that he had willingly taken charge of a baby, but it turns out that Jen just sort of handed him the thing, and he had no way out.  He conceded that he had turned Marlowe so she was facing away from him so she couldn't see him and cry.  He thinks he's too big for babies and makes them nervous.  He couldn't be more wrong, but I think it's sweet.  It was a lovely bit of icing on my evening's cake. 

Thanks Toronto knitters, I love you guys, and I'm so glad I don't have to move.
This time.




Posted by Stephanie at 2:15 PM

November 16, 2011

Launching

I've been thinking a lot about the event for tomorrow night here in Toronto, and the way that the last few weeks feel desperately out of order.



It says "Launch" and while that's technically correct, having just been signing and touring this book for a month, it seems weird to be launching it after it seems... well.  Launched.   I was talking about it with Joe and he pointed out that it wasn't ever really launched here in Canada, and it is the first Canadian event, and that the book's already been on the New York Times Bestseller list - and he'd like to celebrate that, and that frankly, even if it hadn't been on the list, he would still be pretty freaking proud that I wrote another book, and that he appreciates the night to feel good about that accomplishment, and he wishes I would too.

It's not that I don't feel proud either - I feel nervous and worried.  The hometown crowd always freaks me out.  Canadians are a proud and restrained people and the enthusiasm we hold for our own, while fierce, is sort of quiet, and we don't like to tell our artists too much that they're awesome, and we certainly don't want them to tell us.  It is important to us that they're still regular Canadians, and we'll like... maybe see them at the pub or something. It's hard to explain, but when you contrast American and Canadian public enthusiasm, it makes total sense which culture invented cheerleading, and why most Canadians have a certain ennui for publicity stunts or gigs.  (This does not apply to hockey or The Hip.)  This is a strange thing if you're expected to promote a book in Canada - because publicity is inherently the opposite of what we think is in good taste, unless you're going on Q - which I'm not.

This leaves me worried that an event in Toronto might be... rude? Inconvenient? Over-reaching?  In the past I've made up for this by making sure that there was value added.  You know, it wasn't just me - I didn't expect anyone to turn up for me, so I did scavenger hunts and had the musical opening acts and essentially, tried to make sure that it was worth it for people to come, because really, I'm not worth it by myself, which sounds like I have really low self-esteem, but it's not that, it's that publicity is just so damned AWKWARD.

This time, I didn't know what to do, so let's just do it the way we do it.  I'll talk and read you some stories, while you guys freak out a whole downtown bookstore by knitting en masse, then we'll go for a pint.  To make sure that we're still us, Natalie and Rachel H will be ready to accept donations for MSF (the Toronto office was sweet enough to send me a card congratulating me on the NYT bestseller list) see one of them, and we'll see what we can do to spread the knitter goodness around.

Chapters,  John and Richmond.
November 17th, 2011
7:00

If you want to hang out and knit and drink after with a NY Times bestselling author who's pretty thrilled about it and really would like to celebrate (that's me, by the way)

The Old York Bar and Grill
167 Niagara St. (Niagara and Wellington, a block south of King between Bathurst and Strachan)

Donations accepted at both spots. Dress casual.
Knitting not required, but makes a lot of sense.

PS.  The Old York is my sister's pub.
PPS.  I'd love to know if you're coming.
PPPS.  I finished some socks.





Posted by Stephanie at 11:13 AM

November 14, 2011

Unusual and Lucky

At the end of a retreat, I always feel lucky. It's not hard to - while the hours are long and it's absolutely a lot of work, it's amazing work, in an amazing spot with a chef.  There's no way you can pretend that you're hard done by if this is your job.  There's only one thing I ever wish, and I know other teachers/organizers feel the same pang - we're in this industry because we love the fibre arts, but there's not a lot of time to play and share between us.  We always think that we'd like to take each others classes, but it doesn't happen.  There's never time or money or all that. This trip though, this trip Tina, Judith and I had an idea, and once that idea was in the hands of ST-2 Lisa (one of the worlds most effective and efficient women) it actually became a plan.  We talked a little about things we'd like to know - and do, and voila.  After leaving Port Ludlow Friday, we stopped at a grocery store, picked up all that we needed to sustain life for a few days, and then went to Tina's - where a few hours later, Lisa and Judith arrived, with a car full of fun.

A loom.  A big floor loom.  A loom with intentions my friends, and over the course of the next day, we put together that jigsaw of a beast, and got it warped and ready to weave, and if the world is the way it should be today, then yesterday after I left, Tina and Judith and Lisa were getting Tina started on rug weaving.

It was amazing.  It came in through the door in about 30 pieces, and then it was up to us (Okay,  Judith and Lisa - Tina and I have all the experience of fleas, compared to those two) to figure out what parts went together how. 

It was this crazy scene.  We'd line up some parts that looked like they would go together, and then Judith would say something like "This is wrong. In all my years I've never seen that brake go there" and we'd take it all apart and put it together another way, until someone would say "Ahh... yes.  Look - that's how it goes" and assembled a whole loom that way, with no idea what sort of loom it was, or anything.  It was a complete reliance on the knowledge of how it had to work, if it was going to work - and piecing it together from there.

We did other stuff too - I taught Judith some knitting stuff,  Lisa showed me how to do the tie-ups on a loom in a way that finally made sense to me, we fired up the electric carder and I made some beautiful batts that I'll show you tomorrow, but it was a fine time.  A really fine time, and it left me thinking three things.  First, that I really think it's an amazing and unusual thing for fibre artists to have time together.  Second, that I'm very lucky to have befriended the fibre artists that I have, and third.... (get ready Denny...)

I think I need a floor loom - a smaller one.  I'm ready.  Maybe a used Baby wolf. I'm going to start looking.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:22 PM

November 11, 2011

Moving

This is my last morning at Port Ludlow. Today Tina and I move from here to her house, where we'll do a bit of work, then enjoy a quick weaving lesson. (Mostly the weaving lesson is for her. I'll be without a loom, but will listen carefully.)  On Sunday I fly home, to a busy week (I have an event in Toronto on Thursday that should be a good time, you're all invited)  but one at home, and I'm really looking forward to it. My bed, my home, my husband, my girls. Can't wait.  I feel like I've been away for a month.  (Oh wait.  I have been.) Still, as much as I love home, there's no reason not to enjoy where I am now, and so this morning I got up, took my coffee out the the deck and sat quietly, watching a very red sunrise and trying to remember that rhyme. I think it's "Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning, sailors take warning"- and I wondered what that meant for the weather today.  It was so still, and so perfect, and a little cold, so I gave a sympathetic nod to a few ducks who didn't care, and came back inside. 

Now as I sit here, writing to you and knitting with my second cup of coffee, I see that this is one of those days when the planet tries to answer questions directly.  Does a red sky in the morning mean foul weather is coming? Yes, at least today.  The wind has come up, the clouds are racing, the temperature dropping, and mysteriously, the ducks have found a place to disappear to.  The wind is howling outside, making the house tremble a little, and the trees bang on the windows and I'm happy for the fire, a cup of coffee and the little sweater I'm making that's coming along so well.

It's Perlemor - from one of my favourite books, Soft Treasures for Little Ones . (It's true.  I love almost everything in that one, although I think it's out of print, so your best bet might be the library if you're interested.) Knit out of soft and beautiful Dale of Norway Baby Ull.  Such a nice yarn. Such a nice pattern. 

It's just about perfect here right this minute, all alone - with the fire and my knitting cozy inside, and the wind raging and flinging leaves around outside.  I can hear it howling, and I know today the sailors should have taken warning, and if I had my way? 

I wouldn't be moving today at all.  I'd stay right here. Cozy, defended, by the fire and knitting. Getting ready to quietly observe my two moments of silence for Remembrance Day at the 11th hour, and missing being at home where this day is an important one for our family.  (If you live in Canada, don't forget.  If you live anywhere else, a moment to contemplate past sacrifices and hold the ideal of peace couldn't hurt you either.)

We have got to get busy on that teleporter.  



Posted by Stephanie at 11:46 AM

November 10, 2011

Like I am Fourteen Again

Dear blog,  I feel like I owe you an apology for how long it's been between posts, and I didn't even realize how long it had been until I got an email from my mother this morning.  (Truth be told I didn't even know what day of the week it was, never mind how many posts there should have been.)  My mum emailed and pointed out that she was watching the blog to see what I was up to, but that I wasn't posting.  She stopped just short of saying I'd be grounded if I didn't get it done, but I could feel the vibe.  I can't really explain what happened to the last several posts, except to say that I think that maybe a 72 hour turnaround between a book tour and hosting a retreat might have been easier on paper.

As an aside, it's like there's three phrases that I say that should be a tip-off that something is about to be to be a ridiculous challenge for me.

1. No - I think I can do that.  I know it looks bad, but I can handle it. 
(Lesson: this will test the limits of human endurance and caffeine consumption.)
2.  I've done that before.  It was okay.
(Lesson: by "okay" I mean that I escaped with my life, not that it was a good plan.)
3. It shouldn't take that long.
(Lesson: it is going to take way, way longer than I imagine, plus some. Forget sleep.)

All of those things were true over the last week, but then the other thing happened, the thing that keeps making me do it... and that's that it was all worth it.  Totally worth it.  The retreat was amazing, I've been very busy and I took a few pictures for you.

We had the dye room set up the way we always do - it was a colour retreat, but Tina's always about colour. 

Judith MacKenzie had a beautiful spinning room, with more colours of top and roving than I could imagine

and arranged them all in the colour wheel...

And in my classroom, there was a riot of colour everywhere.

The hotel got in on the scene by trying to make even our meals colourful,

Our staff was - as always.  Colourful.

and knitters filled the inn to overflowing, and spilled out of every nook and cranny.  They gathered in the bar, in the lounge, you couldn't swing a skein of yarn without hitting someone knitting or spinning, which is just how I like to construct my little universes.  
On Tuesday the knitters went home, and we cleaned up, and then Tina, Judith and I went for a walk.  We had the loveliest time.  Judith tried to convince me everything was edible. She thought these were:

She though these weren't....

The best part about any walk with Judith though, is that you find out what plants are spinnable.  Fireweed, for example?

Judith showed us how to spin the fluff (that's almost an inch of fireweed two ply)

and the bast fibers from the stalks. 

In the end, I decided that Judith would be a pretty good person to have on a desert island with you, and the whole thing is sending me back to the woods today with a baggie for the fluff, because all of a sudden a fireweed/cashmere combo seems awesome, and I don't think there's fireweed in Toronto.  (Is there?)
Yesterday, I reflected on my good fortune, slept, and then woke up and knit most of a baby sweater.

Now you're caught up.  How was your week? 

(PS.  Sorry Mum.  I'll do better.)

Posted by Stephanie at 5:55 PM

November 3, 2011

Well Look at That

After arriving here yesterday (I'm in Port Ludlow, where we're merrily setting up to be invaded by knitters for the latest retreat) I finished the latest socks, which sounds like I got something done, but I didn't really, since I actually finished these on the tour - mostly. 

I can't remember where I was exactly when these were almost finished, but I do remember that I was on a plane, went into my change purse for a darning needle, and came up empty handed.

I figure it was because I had an episode in the Baltimore airport days prior, when while standing in line for something I'd accidentally flipped the change holding part of my wallet over - except it was open, and a shower of change (and my darning needle, apparently) hit the ground.  I would have left it all but for two things.  1) If you are Canadian your change can be a lot of money, because we have one and two dollar coins.  2) I guess it's a sort of littering, and I wouldn't want to be that person, so I scrabbled round on the floor of the airport, taking great care to pick it all up and somehow missing the darning needle. 

Miraculously I had the presence of mind to grab another one yesterday before I left, and today it was just a quick matter of grafting the toes, and so there you have it.  A finished pair of socks.   They're basic socks, no pattern really, just round and round and a short row heel on half the stitches, then round and round a bit more - but it makes me so incredibly happy that it randomly worked out that one chunk of colour made half the heel, and the next chunk made the other - absolutely perfectly.  How does that happen? It's like a miracle that my particular gauge over that particular number of stitches (60, if you're going to ask and I know you are) gave me heels that perfect. 

Amazing.  The yarn was String Theory Continuum, and I love it. Partly it's the base yarn (merino, cashmere, nylon) and partly, it's just the stripes.  I love the wide, simple stripes.  There's gonna be fierce competition when I get these home, and actually, I think I might keep them well hidden through the retreat too.
Knitters can be sneaky.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:10 PM

November 2, 2011

Randomly From the Airport

 1. I can't believe these two guys in the airport lounge.  They're the biggest weenie-heads I've seen in a long time.  They're getting loaded on Bailey's Irish Cream and having a wide ranging conversation that is absolutely remarkable in its ability to be so consistently offensive.  Thus far one of them has said that he would sleep with his co-worker if she was just a little smarter... because he's worried she would accidentally reveal the affair to his wife, and now they're onto how poor people aren't really as bad off as everyone thinks they are because poor people have lower standards and don't need much. They aren't used to it, and they wouldn't know what to do.  Like, they just need some sort of shelter and electricity - they guess. Especially if they live in a warm place where they can "forage" for food.  They also seem to feel that your race or citizenship is related to how much you need or can realistically expect in the world.  Not everyone can expect to have a life like they do. There isn't enough.  The best people are going to get the best stuff. It's survival of the fittest.

2. I totally want this guy's wife to sneak a wire into his coat so she could know he's an unfaithful jerk - or at least that he's trying to be.

3. Maybe she knows he's like this.  I bet they've been to some parties that got seriously awkward.

4. Now they're talking about vegetarians. The guy on the left, his boss is a vegetarian.   Apparently vegetarians are stupid and weak. Not eating animals "says something about a person."  Oh, wait.  They think there's a lot more vegetarians in Canada.   (We are in Canada at present.) 

5. Guy on the right (the one who wishes his co-worker was smart enough to have an affair with him - which totally seems like it would work the other way with this dude) feels that there is a connection between "What Canadians are like" and the fact that he's decided that now we're mostly vegetarians. 

6. I can't hear what Canadians are like because they're getting more Baileys. 

7. I really hope they're not on my flight.

8. You gotta wonder what on earth goes through someone's head that they would talk this way in public. For all they know there's a blogger sitting right behind them, with a camera in her purse and the overwhelming urge to write down everything they're saying (because I'm leaving out tons because I don't use language like that) and put their picture right on that blog post.

9.  I'm not that blogger, because I just don't have it in me to do it, but really, I could be some other blogger with way less self control.

10.  The whole thing makes me wish I was the sort of person who would say something to them, but I can't imagine what that would be.  I'm old enough to know that pointing out to them that they're racist, sexist, dishonest and unkind, and so far away from representing the best that humanity has to offer that I really wish they'd just at least lower their voices, especially during the parts where they're saying things so bad that it makes us look uncool to the aliens watching us and deciding if we're worth warning about the big comet coming our way....I know that won't work.  People who are jerks from a distance are usually just bigger jerks if you speak right to them, and really, they're not going have a change of heart if a vegetarian Canadian says something.  It's pointless.

11.  I just wish there was something to do about it. 

12. I'm knitting now. Probably the best way to deal with my disappointment that me and these guys are part of the same species. 

Posted by Stephanie at 5:02 PM

November 1, 2011

Better late than never

I swear that I had meant to post about the Portland event the day after I did it,  as I made my way home, but something happened the minute I did the last event... as the relief that the whole tour was done and the realization and that I was going to get to go home came over me, and I crashed.  I was a zombie in the airport, and I tried to do it on my layover, but all I could do was sit there, trying to stay awake.  It was like I suddenly had permission to be tired, and all I've done since then was sleep and rest, which has been amazing because (deep breath) I leave again in the morning to do the Colour Retreat up at Port Ludlow, which will be a heap of fun, but really turns coming home into a quick three day stop at home just to unpack from the tour, do laundry, and repack to be right back on a plane to the Pacific Northwest and yes - I do know that it would have been easier to just stay, but today is Joe's birthday, and I really wanted to be home for that. In any case, here I am, and here is the Portland report. 
(Apologies for anything I get wrong, by the way.  I've discovered today that one of the problems with doing the reports a few days later is that I have trouble deciphering my notes. I scrawled something about a flub, for example, and it was only a minute ago that I realized I meant flute.  The pictures help.  Flute you ask? Yup. You'll see it when it goes by.)
Behold! The knitters of Portland!


Look! It's Judy Becker, and she brought me a copy of her book , which is amazing.  You'll love it.

I didn't take her picture, but Laurel Coombs brought me her books too - booklets with socks Inspired by the Lord of the Rings. (Number one and two) Very geeky, and very nice.

I got to see some nice future knitters and their knitter mama's, like Katie and Ellie,

and Jane and Gus,

Rochelle and Christine

(There is nothing I like more than babies in woollies.)

and a whole family of knitters,  three generations of them.  This is Debbie, Bonnie, Shega, Christina and Renae - all knitters.

(I don't even want to think about what the competition for stash is like around their place.) 

Libby brought Gertie (9) and Ira (7)

Both fine knitters. This is Timothy, Laurie and thier family,

the lot of them showing up to show off all that Auntie Amanda has made for them.  (Say it with me.... Awww.)

Eileen, let me tell you about her.  This is her blanket, but really, this blanket is much bigger than it looks,

because  she had to knit a big chunk of it twice after a the first swing at it was stolen out of her car.  (I know.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who starts the same thing again after that.  I'd have been two demoralized by the loss. The only thing you can hope for is that it was stolen by some poor desperate knitter out of yarn.  That would be a comfort, but since they took everything else out of her car too I don't think that was it.)

This is Katie, and she played us "Mary had a little Lamb"

It was a perfect choice. (And she knits.)

It was close to Hallowe'en, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find the very crafty Margo masquerading as the very crafty Molly Weasley...

and yes, she did make her top, and also? She dyed her hair to make it perfect- which is it. 

Jae got a present for Roxanne. 

And Karen showed off her first pattern, The Bridges of Marion County.


Then there was the predictable parade of first socks, which also predictably, got unpredictable.   Fox showed off her pair - which are only sort of a pair in her mind, but she had a tiny cute sock, so who cares. 

Lisa brought her first socks, and Kevin showed off his first hat - which is also the only knitted thing he's ever produced.

Jen had first socks,

and so did Laura and Barry.

This is Marta's sock, which isn't her first sock. She was just showing off, which I think is wise, considering how nice that bad boy is.

and this is Caitlin, who didn't have her first socks, but brought these to be their spiritual stand in.

Denise knit these socks for her husband Marion - and heck yeah, that's a lot of knitting.

Laia, perhaps inspired by the tiny chicken the other day, had no first socks but brought a knitted Kiwi instead.  (I know. What can I say? There's a small knitted bird thing developing that I can't really explain.)

and Laurie brought her first sock, which is not at all the size that she wanted it to be...

and Karen brought a first sock that remarkably, came out exactly the size she wanted.  (I think she said it was a Christmas stocking.  Man, I hope that's what it is.)


and with that... it was done, except for one great moment that I loved. The knitters were clearing out, and Tina noticed a piece of paper on the floor. She dashed over and picked it up, and sure enough it was a chart and pattern.  Worried some knitter was going to be desperate when they discovered it gone, she asked around, and then went to the info desk and asked if they could make an announcement - because this knitter really was going to want this.  They agreed, and we all had a smashing moment, when over the store loudspeaker system we heard:

Would the knitter who was knitting gnomes, please report to the red info desk.  WE HAVE YOUR PATTERN.

Couldn't  have been a better way to end the tour.  Worth it just for the looks on the faces of the regular customers.  (The knitter did come back, by the way. It's a happy ending.)  

So that's it.  One book tour under my belt, many knitters met, many books signed and talks given, and I want to really thank everyone who came out, and every one who bought a book or showed me support in anyway at all.  The kindness of knitters made the whole thing a remarkable event in my life - and the coffee and chocolate some of you brought made it possible. I'm deeply in your debt.  Even if your contribution was reading the blog and hanging in with me, I thank you.  It made it less lonely in my hotel rooms to have you guys with me, in a virtual sort of way. 

Thank you.

(PS.  Thank you extra actually, because as of a few days ago, this book was on the New York Times bestseller list, and it's all because of the power of knitters.)

(PPS. My sister won the furnace wars this year.  Joe wimped out on account of "the cat looked cold" and I wasn't here to stand between him and the thermostat.  Victory belongs to Erin this year. Next year, game on. )

Posted by Stephanie at 3:53 PM