December 31, 2011

A sweater

On Christmas morning, I unwrapped a box, and it was some strange thing that I didn't understand.  On the front of the box it said the cables captured audio and visual from "sources" and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how that would be relevant to my life really, and I smiled at Ken, and hoped that like with most odd tech things he's given me  (like this blog) he would explain how I would love it, use it and need it,  and I would grow to wonder how I'd ever lived with any sort of happiness at all without capturing audio and visual from "sources."

A minute later, I remembered that I had told anyone who would listen that if they were looking for a wonderful present for me, they need look no farther than a large pile of VHS tapes upstairs. They're the home movies from when the girls were little, and if someone could move them from VHS to - whatever makes sense these days... if they could just, like... capture those images and sounds and... all of a sudden I understood.  The cables weren't the gift.  What Ken was going to do with them was, and I was a little bit overcome. He's been working on it for the last few days, and on the night of my Mum's family party I got a preview, and there they were.  My little babies, and I was captivated by them. Perhaps because they're all so big and so independent now... I mean, my youngest will be a legal adult in a few weeks... all of a sudden all I wanted was for them to be little again.  As I watched those images with my big beautiful girls beside me, it was all I could do to keep myself from trying to pull a 22 year old woman onto my lap,  but I did, and later when I said to Joe that it was such a wonderful time when they were little and he just looked at me like I had lost my mind, I thought maybe I had. 

What the hell does this have to do with a sweater?  I don't know.  I'm not sure, but I know that in those movies, lots of them, there are sweaters I knit. Amanda's stomping through the leaves in the park, two years old in a purple cabled sweater  I made her. Fast forward a few video's and there's a tiny Megan unwrapping a blue sweater with bunnies on it on Christmas morning ... fast forward again and there's Sam, my last little baby, snuggled down in that same sweater.  Five year old Amanda talking into the camera, her (new) purple sweater tossed on the chesterfield behind her... A pudgy little Meg toddles beside Amanda as she rides her first bike.. a white and fuchsia sweater buttoned over her. Those sweaters suddenly like a bright neon sign to me, a mark on those girls  telling everyone who will ever see it "This child is loved, this child is loved, this child is loved." There was something, something about seeing them wearing those sweaters, that made me very glad that I knit Megan a sweater this year - and that there's more on the way for her sisters. 

Owls, by Kate Davies, knit out of two skeins of eco-wool.  (I changed the gauge, and lengthened the sweater. I'll put details on Rav.)

They might be big, and they might not always (hardly ever) be with me where I can keep them safe -

and I might have to work on some acceptance around that, as they head off to school and jobs and life and their own apartments and deciding where they will put coffee mugs in their own cupboards (while I still try to accept that they drink coffee at all.)  And I might still have to find a way to figure out how to stop wondering if they're okay all the time when I can't see them... and I know I can't make them little again, and I guess I don't really want to (but I do) but I can keep them warm, and make them sweaters, and have them out in the world with that mark on them.  They can pull those sweaters over their heads, and they can know who loves them...

And that look, and these sweaters will be in the movies we make now, and it will mean the same thing as it did when it was that little blue sweater with the bunnies on it.

Happy New Year everyone.  All our best to you as you ride into a new year.
I'll catch you on the other side.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:22 PM

December 30, 2011

My Making

This year's making on my part, was restrained - or at least I thought it was restrained- but when the time came there was something knitted under the tree for everyone.  This spectacular event was made possible through the magic of The Long Range Planning Box, into which many an item made its way through the year- just to make Christmas glorious.  Ken's socks were finished in July,  Joe and my Mum's were knit in March... I knit all year long and into the box they went.  This absolutely sensible behaviour greatly reduced the chances that I wouldn't be crying at 3am on Christmas Eve trying to finish a pair of socks.  (For the record, it was December 23rd and it was a hat.  The best laid plans are still no match for the fickle mistress that is gauge, and the almost freakish way that I'm 43 years old and apparently still can't quite count.)  I know I was secretive while all of this came off the ground, so here's the stuff from the final push that I kept quiet. 

First up, Old Joe's annual Christmas socks.  Old Joe is the worlds foremost authority on handknit sock appreciation.  He takes good care of them, washes them tenderly and with experience, and shows them off to strangers.  This is behaviour that triggers further sock knitting in me.  We have an arrangement.

Yarn is Regia Strato Color in 5748 (discontinued, I think) needles were 2.25mm and the pattern was my good plain sock from Knitting Rules .  I'm pretty sure he liked them.

My sister Erin is a hat freak, and she never tires of getting them. 

Enter the Icing Swirl pattern and one skein of Peruvia Quick in Rosa (9186).

This pattern + yarn + hat in just under 2.5 hours, which was a thrilling development.

Amanda (I'm just going to say it) Amanda doesn't like hand knit socks, but like her Aunt Erin, loves hats.  Also like her Aunt Erin, she looks really cute in them.
Amanda got a Jenny Cloche, also out of Peruvia Quick, in Blue Nile (9147) - and this would have been super quick to knit, had I not desperately misjudged everything important, and had this had be the aforementioned 3am nightmare on the 23rd.   

Still, it's as cute as the vintage button I used on it, straight from my Grandmother's button bin.

Katie's baby got a Puerperium Cardigan a lot like the one I knit for Marlowe before she was born. 

I loved that little sweater enough to repeat it.  Black Cascade 220, and a skein of colourful Silk Garden that I ripped up and re-arranged to get what I wanted out of it. 

This baby is coming in February, and I swear it will be cozy. 

There's one more project to show you, but it's so pretty I'm going to give it a whole post of its own.  Check in tomorrow, and Happy 5th Day of Christmas.  Hang in there. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:04 PM

December 29, 2011


When the girls were little, we were broke, and by broke I mean that I really, really struggled with Christmas.  There were several years in a row where we often had about $5 to spend on each person in our extended family - and not much more for the people in the immediate herd.  We solved this by being extremely crafty.  We painted mugs, we baked, we canned, we knit and sewed, and we always had great presents.  It was nice actually (not the being broke part, that sucked monkey balls.  I know money can't buy happiness but if you're pretty happy already it can take the edge off of the festive season like not much else) we had to really think about our gifts, and consider them, and put time and effort into coming up with an idea instead of just tossing cash around inside the mall.  Anybody can buy you a shirt from the Gap, but tee-shirts painted with your children's own art?  Priceless.  (It is good to see, by the way, that the time honoured tradition of the handprint reindeer has not gone out of style.)  We painted frames to put family prints in.... we wrapped up cookies and home made marmalade - we even made chocolate spoons one year.  The interesting thing is that I didn't realize it then, but what I was really doing with my kids was training them for their own inevitable broke years.  What do young students/women with entry level jobs do for Christmas if they grew up crafty?
Well, for starters, Meg and Amanda bought some of those Pebeo porcelain paint markers, and a bunch of dollar store mugs, and they solved some problems.  Problems like that if you call your grandparents "Nana Carol" "Old Joe" and "Gramy"  you can never find mugs that say that.

They made me an yarny art one, and Joe one with the logo for his studio (beautifully hand drawn) on one side, and "The Boss" on the other.

They delivered little bags of handmade chocolate truffles and cookies. (They were delicious.  Amanda used my Pistachio Lemon biscotti recipe to great effect, much as I had done in the lean years.)

Sam though - Sam had access to some pretty handy people, and a woodshop, and she produced a few beautiful things.  First up, a chess set for her Grandfather. (Photo's produced by way of Grandmother's cell phone.  Thanks Nana Carol!) 

She built a box, with a hinged lid to keep all the pieces in, then painted the lid like a chess board. 

Thick dowels were cut into different lengths, and then stained two shades, and finally -

She painted the names of the pieces on top of them.  Tall ones that say "King" small ones that say "pawn". Very cool, and designed by our clever girl herself.   When she was done with the Chess set, she decided to break my little heart, and made me a few tools.

I am the proud recipient of a hand made, beautifully smooth niddy noddy, and very fine knitting needles, all with the date burned into them so I'll always know.

It's moments like this that make me grateful for all the time I spent with them making stuff when they were little.  I thought I was just occupying them, and being thrifty - but the girls got something out of it I wasn't expecting.  They really understand that if you don't have money, you have to replace it with skill and thoughtfulness.  I'm pretty proud of them.

Q&A- There were a ton of questions in the last round of comments, so here's some quick answers.

Is that your house? 
No.  I dream of that being my house. That's my Mum's.

Why are people wearing paper crowns? 
They're from the Christmas Crackers.   Crackers are pretty rolls of paper waiting for you on your dinner plate at Christmas, if you live in the UK or most of the Commonwealth.  Each one has a (tiny) exploding strip inside that runs the length of the cracker.  You hold one end of your cracker out to the person next to you, and each of you takes one end a pulls.  The strip breaks with a loud "CRACK!" the cracker is pulled apart, and your prize, your crown and your joke tumble out. The prize gets laughed at, the joke is told to your family, and the crown goes on your head for dinner.  (Best joke out of a cracker this year: What do you call a broken boom-a-rang?  A stick.) 

Why are people pointing at each other in that picture?
We are dancing and singing. We are that kind of family.  That would be during "Sweet Caroline" Which in part has the lyrics "reaching out... touching me....touching you..." which should explain everything, including the apparent groping.

What's that big fish with Hank?
Air Swimmer Remote Control Inflatable Flying Shark. Yes.  It's that cool. We all should have thrown our gifts in the bin once Ken gave him that.  No competing with it.

Who's the pregnant lady?
That's my sister in law Katie. I've got to start her blanket. 

Is that Amanda with tools?
Damn straight it is.  She's 22 and just moved into her own place. Seemed obvious.

Now, if you don't mind, today is the 4th day of Christmas, and our annual big  party at my Mum's, and I have a lot of cooking to do.  Wish me luck.  This level of merriment is hard to maintain.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:19 AM

December 27, 2011

Without a Hitch

I've started this post about eighty seven times, and am now ready to admit that I'm clearly too tired to string together any words... so instead of giving up on a post entirely,  I give you the holiday in pictures. 

Tomorrow I'd love to show you some of the beautiful hand made gifts that turned up at (and left) our house.  It turns out that something happened this year, and the gene that controls independent craftiness got turned on in our kids. 

So far, our Christmas is wonderful.  How's yours going?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:47 PM

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Gifts for Knitters: Days 24 and 25
These are gifts, my darling non-knitters, that you can give to a knitter without any money, any time, or any planning, and I personally guarantee that they will be appreciated more than anything else you can do.  They are as follows:


I am sure you respect your knitter every day, but let me just take a minute to speak to you about knitting respect.  Knitting may look like stuff made out of yarn, but it isn't.  Knitting is actually a container, that your knitter has filled with time and love.  Time that they chose to give to another person, that they could have spent doing anything else in the world.  When you see a knitted object, don't see a hat, or a sweater, or a pair of socks.  See twenty, forty, a hundred hours of your knitters life that they have decided that you, or someone else is worth.  (How much time did you spend getting their present?) Understand that far from being a thrifty or lesser way of giving a gift, things that are handmade are the most expensive objects there are.  Conduct yourself accordingly as your knitter wraps that scarf for your mum.

Day 25

This gift leads straight out of the last one, and I know that if you give the gift of respect, that this next one will be a cinch for you to pull together.

The Proper Way to Receive a Knitted Gift.

1. Open the gift, and immediately say something positive.  (Suggestions are things like "Oh wow!" or "Oh my goodness!)

2. Hold up the item and smile broadly.

3. If you do not know what the item is, DO NOT SAY SO. 
We understand that knitting can produce some unusual items, and that the nature of handmade objects can further complicate things.  If, after admiring the item for some time you are still not sure what it is, say something like "This is beautiful. Oh my gosh.  Can you show me how I should wear it? I want to do it justice."

4.  After admiring and identifying the item, RUB IT ON YOUR FACE, or at the very least, cuddle it against your neck while saying something positive, like "Mmmmmm".  Knitters love this.  It's because we've been worried that you wouldn't like it, and knitting is a tactile thing.   Lots of non-knitters find some textiles scratchy or uncomfortable, and we're worried that will be you.  Making immediate physical contact with the item reassures us.

5. Pronounce the item  the best gift you have ever gotten.  Kiss or hug the knitter, and show the item off to at least one other person over the course of the day.

6. Place item in a place of honour, and continue to admire it at intervals, remarking (see gift re: Respect above) that you can't believe that a knitter thought you were worth that much time. 


-Comment that it doesn't fit.  This is not something you discuss today.  Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after. Or in a week.  Not today.  Your knitter has been busting a move for weeks or months for you.  They probably finished a hat at 2am and are a little fragile.  Save it.

-Similarly, do not say it is scratchy, or uncomfortable or not what you wanted.  Despite what some other non-knitters may have you think, knitting is a super expensive gift - and if someone gave you a Ferrari, you wouldn't pout and tell them you wanted it in blue. 

Now go forth and love your knitter.  They're amazing.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Peace out.  Be kind to each other.  Stay calm. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:07 PM

December 23, 2011

Focus of a Ninja

I don't know if this happens to you, but most years, I have a Christmas problem. I have a feeling that it's not uncommon among those who are the Makers of Christmas.  I work so hard at making it nice, at making all the traditions, at making all the food and the cookies and presents and then wrapping them, that by the time Christmas actually comes, I'm some weird, exhausted mess with tape in my hair,  right on the edge of  a nervous breakdown.  Even when things are underway, I often feel like the work I did only serves the rest of the family.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy to make a beautiful Christmas for them, but early this year I wondered if there wasn't another way.  A way that would mean that when the halls were decked and the candles lit and the family gathered, that I would be sitting there with them, instead of cloistered in a bedroom frantically wrapping, or in the kitchen cooking like a lunatic while they all play cards by the tree - eating gingerbread and sipping egg nog. 

I did what I usually do when I want something to go better.  I made a plan, and schedules, and spreadsheets and daily to-do lists.  I enlisted Joe - telling him that not only did I think this was going to be good for me, but good for him too. (The promise of the possibility that he wouldn't be married to someone furious about us having the wrong candles and RUINING CHRISTMAS was a powerful motivator to him.  We got organized,  (Well.  I got organized.  Mostly Joe got even more co-operative than he usually is, which is really saying something.) and today, at 10pm, if all goes well and the planet doesn't throw us any curve balls, We will be done. 

Done wrapping.  Done knitting, done shopping, done cleaning, done buying - stick a fork in us people, because we are ALMOST DONE, and do you know what that means?

Who won't be frantically wrapping presents at 2am and crying because it's all been too much?  Me.  Who won't be throwing in a load of laundry at 10pm on Christmas Eve because there aren't enough towels for the whole family in the morning?  Me. Who won't begin the journey to my mum's by screaming "WHAT DID YOU THINK "WE ARE OUT OF WRAPPING PAPER BUY MORE ON YOUR WAY HOME" MEANT JOE?  WHAT DID YOU THINK IT MEANT?" Me. Who isn't going to have a single present wrapped in something weird like tin foil or napkins this year?  Me.   Who isn't going to be staggering through an assortment of strange convenience stores on Christmas afternoon trying to find just one godforsaken little lemon for the carrots? Me! Who isn't giving a single, solitary, for the first time ever in the history of the world, giving a present on still on the needles so that she can be teased by her family? Me. 

I'd say it's a miracle, but it's not.  Joe and I have busted a serious move this year, and tomorrow, everything is going to be nice.  Really nice. We have been a Black Ops Christmas Lightning strike force.  We've had daily State of the Union meetings,  and missions and starting tomorrow, this family is having a beautiful three days together. 

I know that a clean house and finished presents can't make everything perfect, and my family will still be my family, and all the regular crap will still go down - but this year, when my daughters ask me if I want to be a fourth in euchre, I won't have to tell them that I don't have time.   This is the nicest change we've made in a long time. For today though, I'm going to need the focus of a Ninja.  The schedule calls, the sheets need washing, the second batch of peppermint bark needs finishing (I decline to comment on the exact location or condition of the first batch of peppermint bark.  Let's just say it's "missing") I've got one half hat to knit and the last round of wrapping has to be done.

Christmas Ninjas.  We are them. 

Gifts for Knitters, Day 23.

This is an easy one. Gift Certificates.  Your local Yarn Shop has them, and your knitter would like that.  Go now. They don't close for awhile.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:00 PM

December 22, 2011

The Light

Happy Solstice my friends.  I wrote what follows in 2006, and I've decided to re-post it here today because not only is it still valid, I don't think I can say it any better than I did then.  Today's Gift for Knitters is the gift of kindness, and generosity and help.  We've updated the Knitters Without Borders in the sidebar.  Today it stands at $1 102 556, up more than $40 000 from the last time, and I am so sure of the nature of knitters that I have moved the goal to $2 000 000, which is completely insane, but the best sort of optimism - well matched to the day that the light begins to return.  Please consider a donation.


These weeks are the darkest of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, each day we have a little less light. Each day things are a little colder, the sun rises later, sets sooner and darkness overwhelmingly outweighs light, while it gets harder and harder to take a good blog picture of yarn on the front porch. (Maybe that one is just me.) For many of us, our moods head in the same direction.

Luckily, Northern humanity has figured out a way to get through.

Christmas, Solstice, Yule, Hannukah, HumanLight, Kwanzaa, Saint Lucia Day, Diwali, Yalda. Dong Zhi.

All over the world, people gather their loved ones together, light candles, decorate their homes, put up trees, share a meal or exchange gifts with each other and all of their celebrations have one thing in common. They are celebrating (among other fine miracles and beliefs) the return of the light. All of these holidays happen on or around the time of the solstice. The magic day that follows the longest night, when the planet swings far enough over and whether you can feel it or not....the days get longer. Sun wins over moon. The earth begins to warm and another long dark winter is on it's way out. (You may have noticed, what with February being what it is in Canada that this process is fairly gradual.) The balance shifts.

Balance is what I've been thinking about this season. It seems to me that nothing at all is ever going to get any better in the world if we can't learn to share our wealth. (I know when you're trying to pay the gas bill it doesn't always feel like you are rich, but I'm comparing globally.) It should be impossible, in a world that is as decent as the people that I meet in it, that some of us should have three coats and are trying to drop a few (or more) pounds before we fête the season with more food and gifts, that others will starve or die of preventable illness and disease while we party on. I am convinced we can do better. I really am.

It simply can't be that we are this rich, so far in the sun, that many of us will die of our excess, while others, as worthy and hardworking as we are, will remain so very poor that they will die of it. In 2004 the tsunami killed an estimated 229,866 people and humanity rose to the occasion with unprecedented attention and worldwide fundraising. Now, this year more than four million people have quietly died of Malaria and HIV/AIDS - and we, as a planet, are somehow pretty quiet about that. We need to step up like we have done before. We need to step up every day. We need to learn to share, in a global sense.

Imagine that your family, however big or small it is, gets another member. A baby is born, someone marries, it happens all the time. Now, is the case when someone is added to a family, they are welcome at your winter festivities and they will be fed and receive a gift (or, in the case of many of our families, multiple gifts.) When a new family member is added, no-one declines to feed them because you can't afford it, no-one refuses to buy them a birthday or holiday gift because the family is big enough. You spend a little less on each other person, you spread your budget around, maybe if you're really broke you make them a card... but you make it work.

The challenge is to imagine this person has been added to the list of people you care for in some way, and to give their share to my favourite good guys, Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders.

In short, and to the best of your ability, I want you to include MSF/DWB and the people they help to your family.

Canadians can give here
Americans here
Knitters from other countries here

MSF / DWB provides medical care to those in desperate situations and is transparent and neutral, without religious or political affiliations. They have won the Nobel Peace Prize and you can read their charter here.

When you've done that, send me an email (kwbATyarnharlotDOTca ) and tell me how much you were able to give. (It is very helpful to me if you mention if that's in Canadian or US dollars) When you do, Natalie and I (and the family elves) will add you to my list of Knitters Without Borders or, if you're already on it, I'll up your total. I don't need to see a receipt or proof that you have given this gift, because I truly, truly believe nobody would lie about this. (If you are someone who has been giving a monthly donation since the first time we did this, let me know and I'll update your total.)

Here's the fun part. I would like to stun the world with the power of knitters. I'd like them to see what I already know about you. I'd like you to achieve something incredible and legendary. I'd like to you aim high and make other people inspired.

I would like knitters to double the number in the sidebar. ( Currently about $1 102 556) We are now aiming for Two Million Dollars.

This will be a big job. It won't be easy, it might even pinch a little, but it can't hurt as much as doing nothing, or it can't hurt as much as being one of the people in the world who needs help for a loved one and is watching them die because they have the bad luck to live in a country where you can't call 911. For my family to manage our goal, we will need to spend a few dollars less on each gift, skip store-bought hot chocolate, ask Santa to put a tiny bit less in the stockings, and bake a few less cookies. (I'll have to knit from stash for a while, and that's not exactly punishing. ) I bet your family could find somewhere to trim a little so you could share too. Maybe there is even someone on your list who would like it if their whole gift was a donation, made in their name. Dig deep.

I believe that each of you are going to give the absolute biggest gifts that your personal finances will allow, whether that is one dollar -or a thousand, and I'm not going to judge that amount, or provide a list of names of those who have given, or ever reveal who gives what. I know that every family has their own strains, and their own ability to give, and that what you can manage is deeply personal.  I hope every single person who reads this blog manages to do their best. Share until it feels good - or wonderful, or fantastic. Share as much as you can. Imagine yourself explaining to your family or children about this, imagine explaining about global sharing, and then give, my lovely knitters, whatever this season means to you, and celebrate the amount of light coming into your life. I promise that it will seem a little brighter.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:20 AM

December 21, 2011

Dark Times

Today is very dark.  Not metaphorically dark - actually dark.  Of all days of the year in the Northern hemisphere, today is the one with the longest night and the least amount of sun, and I'm pretty sure that the weather here got wind of the theme, because it's so overcast that it seems to be twilight.  It is deeply dark, a total absence of sun, and far from being dismal or dreary, I am finding it appropriate and lovely.  I have candles lit

freshly baked bread just out of the oven,

the meringues (finally) in the oven and I am hunkering down and embracing this day for what it is. Cozy, quiet and dark, with only the light I put into it. 

It is peaceful and lovely, and the kettle is singing in the kitchen, ready for tea, and as I putter through the day, wrapping up loose ends (and literally wrapping) I'm reflecting on the fact that I appear to be not just caught up - but ahead. The baking is done, the house is tidy, and last night when I was on the streetcar, I just about finished the last pair of socks I had on the list. The wee sweater proceeds just fine, and near as I can tell, that means that all I have left to knit is a hat... and I can't believe it.  I actually can't believe it to the point that it must not be right.  This morning, instead of being all relaxed and thinking about how nice it must be to be almost finished,  I decided that this must mean I forgot something.  I've been over my spreadsheet about nine times (Yes.  I have a spreadsheet. I am that person.) and if I'm missing a knit, I have no idea what it is - but I find it hard to believe that it's not lurking out there.   I hope it's nothing big.  The moment is going to come when I figure this out, and when I do, I hope two things.  That it's not a whole pair of socks, and that it's not 10:30 on Christmas Eve.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 21

This is a really good one, and again, short - sweet and possibly online.  Your knitter, while knitting, can't always look at things (like a screen, which is frankly, why they don't want to go to the movies with you. It's not personal) but they can always listen.  Consider getting your knitter audiobooks.  I've got an Audible subscription, and love it to death, but you can also buy them at bookstores. Sitting and listening while someone reads me a story is one of the nicest things to do.  I bet your knitter would like it too.

PS: Because someone will ask, my current favourite audiobooks are The Hunger Games, The Song of Ice and Fire series, anything from the Amelia Peabody series (it's better in order) and the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  I'm sure there will be more good suggestions in the comments.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:54 PM

December 20, 2011


I was going to skip today, being as I'm pressed for time in the most ridiculous way, and then I remembered what today's Gift for Knitters is, and realized that it was the perfect day to make an effort. 

This afternoon I'm knitting my little heart out, labouring under the fabulous delusion that I can still finish it all.  This is mostly a made-up crazy-pants idea.  The thing is that I could be finished this present, if I wasn't unable to knit while I bake, or stagger around a mall, or try and figure out the perplexing sizing system for tights, or clean the kitchen or throw in a load of laundry, and that, my friends, that brings me to today's Gift for Knitters, and it is:


Non-knitters, my darlings, my sweets, take it from me, your knitter wants time. Knitting time.  There's no possible way that you can help with the actual  knitting, we all know that, but right now your knitter is wishing you could, and while you can't knit for them... you can do everything else.  Tonight, when your knitter says something subtle like "THIS IS A NIGHTMARE I'M NEVER GOING TO FINISH I CAN'T BELIEVE I HAVE TO DO LAUNDRY AND TRY AND FINISH THIS HAT" and then bursts into tears, you can help.  It's drastic, but you can do it.  You can turn to your knitter and say the following.

"I have a present for you.  I'm going to do the laundry so you can knit."

Pro-tip: You can substitute any other activity that your knitter mentions is a conflict with knitting.  Shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping - you can create knitting time in a million beautiful ways.  Going somewhere? Drive, so your knitter has knitting time. Ask for a grocery list, and leave the house and go get it all, and if you really, really want to be heroic... take the kids with you.

The magic doesn't have to stop there, oh no.  It goes farther than contributing to your families gift giving by supporting your knitter... after Christmas, your knitter is going to go right on liking knitting, and he or she is going to go right on wanting to have time to do it.  Think about making up little coupons.  Coupons that promise a whole afternoon where you'll take over the chores/kids/cleaning/whatever - and your knitter will have time that's designated just for them and their wool. 

Trust me.  Time.  Do it.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:37 PM

December 19, 2011

That's Rushing

I have no idea what to say today, because things are getting wild enough that I can really only do two things. 

1. Keep plowing away at the list of things to do.
2. Attempt to appear absolutely calm about the whole thing, because if I'm not absolutely calm for a moment, eight people tell me I'm "freaking out", and if there's one thing that's going to put me right off the almighty ledge of sanity it's people telling me to be calm, when I bloody well am.

I am unequivocally not freaking out, just rushing rather quickly, and if Joe some people can't tell the difference between rushing and freaking out, then maybe Joe some people should try a little rushing and see if they don't understand immediately the subtle but important difference. 

People who are freaking out are ineffective.  They don't host little parties at which ice lanterns that they've been freezing for days twinkle on the steps.

People who are freaking out also don't have a finished pair of chunky alpaca socks. *

People who are freaking out aren't able to smirk at the finished Christmas sweater, upstairs blocking on the bed, and people who are freaking out absolutely can't show you a detail of a very nice hat that they finished -

or tell you that most of the wrapping is done and there's only a few things left to buy and that the meringues will be made by the end of the day - God willing and the creek don't rise.  People who are freaking out can't tell you that they only have a small sweater, a sock, a hat and a pair of mittens left to knit by Saturday, and people who are freaking out don't have a plan for that. 

You know why they don't?  Because the difference between "freaking out" and "rushing" is one word, my friends - one word.  Efficiency.  Freaking out is an inefficient state with energy wasted on an emotional reaction to the circumstances in which one finds oneself.  Rushing, on the other hand, is simply moving quickly from task to task with no time to discuss it with the people who think it's freaking out - and a word to the wise? The best way to move someone from "rushing" to "freaking out" is to tell them that they're freaking out when they're actually rushing -especially (and this is key, should you really, really want to see them lose it) if you tell them that they're freaking out while they're changing the laundry, washing the floor, separating egg whites from yolks, knitting a hat, making a grocery list, watering the tree, fixing the lights and wrapping your mothers present, because I promise that we, the great and mighty makers of Christmas will take the time out of rushing to FREAK RIGHT OUT ON THAT SCENE.

Just saying.

* These slipper/boot socks are quick, soft and fabulous, and make a ladies medium.  In our family we call them Foot Ovens.

2 skeins of Misti Alpaca Chunky, each divided in half. 
5mm DPNs, or whatever gets you about 3.5-4 stitches to the inch (go with 3.5 if you want a bigger sock, 4 if you'd like it a little smaller
Start toe up with 8 stitches. (I use JMCO)
Increase every other round until you have 32 stitches. 
Change colours, and knit until your work is the desired length. Mine are 19cm from tip of the toe til I begin the heel.
Change colours and work a short row heel on half the stitches, leaving 4 unwrapped in the middle.
Change colours, knit until the yarn runs out, or they are as long as you want them.
Change colours and work 1x1 rib until you like how things are. Cast off very loosely (I use a sewn bind off.)   Repeat with the other half of the skeins. Revel in the speed in which you just made a pair of socks. 

Gifts for Knitters: Day 19

This one is short and sweet, and can be done online.  How about a subscription to a knitting magazine?  Here's all the ones I can think of. 

Interweave Knits
Vogue Knitting
Creative Knitting
Knit 'n Style
Simply Knitting
The Knitter
Knitting Today

Posted by Stephanie at 2:28 PM

December 18, 2011

Cookie Boy

I know, from the reaction to the pictures of Hank that I posted yesterday on Twitter, that many of you are as concerned about him as I am.  I don't want to get into the details, but you're all right.  There is a problem with Hank - namely that he is indeed 11 years old, and appears to be as tall as me and growing up quickly.  I have attempted to explain to him that his is the youngest child in the family, and that it would be best for all concerned if he would remain emotionally and physically stunted for many years to come, but he appears helpless in the grasp of growing. I took several steps yesterday to retain his loyalty in the face of impending teenagerness.  First, I bought him french fries, and onion rings, and an adult sized burger, even though I knew there was no way he could eat it.  (He didn't.)

Then we went shopping for a present for his mum for Christmas, which is something we've done for years.  While out, I purchased an olive grabber, and a bag of tiny, tiny little oranges.

These were immediately combined in the hoped for manner, and in public, a process which I not only condoned, but encouraged. 

I believe that these things together got me enough buy-in, and Hank enthusiastically spent the rest of the day making cookies.  This year he was old enough to work the cookie press - a machine that thrills all kids perpetually.

(I was shocked last night to discover that not everyone knows what a cookie press is. I have this one, but there are lots of them. It's like a caulking gun that makes cookies. They're so interesting that you can keep a teenager in the house for up to 45 minutes at a time if you have one.)

Hank elaborately decorated all the gingerbread, and started to learn how to bake.  (New skills - leveling off a cup of flour with a knife, knowing the vital difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.)

It was a great day, made even greater by knowing that any minute now, there are going to be a thousand things Hank would rather do than spend a day with Auntie Stephie. For now though,

He's still my cookie boy.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 17

All right my non-knitterly friends, I'm having company tonight so we're going to rip through these two days.  It's all perfectly simple anyway.  You know what you're knitter likes?  (Pro tip: We've been over this.)  YARN.   You know what they would like a lot?  If yarn that they didn't pay for came to the house at regular intervals thoughout the year.  Although this is going to sound strange to you, there are clubs that knitters can join that will mail them yarn throughout the year. There are a lot of them - and don't look at the screen like that. In a world where you can get an Olive Oil of the Month Club,  Bonsai of the Month Club, Beef Jerky of the Month Club or a Necktie of the Month club, you really though that there wouldn't be yarn? C'mon.    Here's a couple I found for you.  Look through them and see what your knitter might like.

Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber arts, looks to be a fun one this upcoming year. One skein of yarn comes with two patterns, one for socks, one for an accessory.
Sweet Georgia has several clubs, and her stuff is lovely, and Canadian, if that's on your list.
Cookie A's got one (that one comes with sock patterns, yarn and cookie recipes)
Anne Hanson has two (The Bare Naked one looks cool) and I like the look of the Tanis Year in colour (another Canadian company.) Twisted has a shawlette club - I could go on and on, and I bet that the knitters in the comments would be thrilled to list some of their favourites.  Check there for more ideas.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 18.

You know your knitter really well, so you'll know if this is right for him or her, but can I suggest a manicure?  A gift certificate for a manicure or paraffin wax treatment, hand massage... or some other total pampering thing for your knitters hands.  Our hands are very hardworking this time of year - and they're the most valuable tool we have.  It would be nice to give them a treat. 
If that doesn't sound like your knitter, how about some lovely cream/lotion for their hands?  My current favourites are Lo-lo To-Go from Bar Maids and the Everything balm from Goodies Unlimited (actually, anything from Goodies Unlimited.)  Good hunting. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:41 PM

December 16, 2011

Starting to look a lot like moose cookies

Today finds me midway through the 48 hour push that I agreed I'd do before I freaked the frak out about the Christmas knitting, and so far it seems like a good decision.  Last night I finished a mitten, made a whole Icing Swirl hat, and got the Christmas sweater body and arms joined together, and I'm just beginning the yoke, which means that if I don't have any sort of knitting emergency, tomorrow might dawn bright and full of festive hope.

I went to the grocery store, I bought the makings for the gingerbread, and now there's just mixing, rolling and baking - and midway through that, my favourite job of all...

deciding which shapes out of my cookie cutter collection I'll use for Christmas this year.  Some are perennial, I've no choice but to use angels, trees, gingerbread "persons", snowflakes and stars, but since I'm baking by myself this year, I feel that I have total freedom beyond that.   Gingerbread moose?

Reindeer? Sheep?

Porcupines? (I happen to know a little girl who would think that gingerbread porcupines were spectacularly fabulous - and I'm not speaking here of my inner child, although she's pretty keen too.) Hank's coming to decorate tomorrow.  Would he like apples? Chickens? Foxes? (Perhaps chickens and foxes!) Squirrels? Moons? Santas? Rabbits? Boots? Butterflies?

The mind reels at the possibilities. What shapes do you make at your house?

Gifts for Knitters, Day 16

To balance out yesterday's gift, which I freely admit was a pricey one, today's idea is one that you should be able to pull together for a few dollars and a trip to a nearby store.  If you live with a knitter, you'll know what I'm about to tell you is true, and if you don't live with a knitter, then you'll just have to take my word for it - but knitters have a lot of paper.  Magazines, leaflets, patterns they printed out - and a great gift would be a way to organize some of that stuff.  Magazine holders are a great thing for knitters.  You can get fancy ones that match the decor, or if you're not the sort of family that has decor you can just get them out of your way.  If you're feeling particularly broke or crafty, you can even make some.  To hold your knitters leaflets and assorted single patterns, go to the store and get a regular 3 ring binder, and a whole bunch of page protectors.  Put a little note on it so that they know what it's for, and if you really want to score points?  Add a coupon promising that you'll do the organizing. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:33 PM

December 15, 2011


For days I've been staring at the pile of yarn on the dining room table - yarn that should be presents, and murmuring little reassuring things to myself.  Things like "It's okay, there's lots of time" and "You can do it" and "Just stay on track."

Last night, after purchasing the last of the yarn that I needed at Knit Night, and then having a long walk home in the rain during which I had a good long think, I realized that I might have the wrong attitude. After carefully examining the amount of time remaining before C-day, and the amount of work left to accomplish, it would seem that these simple little reassuring messages I'm giving myself as I'm moseying through holiday prep are a collective pile of do-do.  The message I should be giving myself is actually PANIC.  FREAK OUT.  YOU ARE OUT OF TIME and YOU SHOULD BE HYSTERICAL.

Still, this seems drastic and not particularly festive, so I have decided on another course of action.  I'm going to hunker down hard on the knitting front for the next 48 hours.  (This won't be easy, considering that I have made a similar decision to hunker down on the cookie front, but I believe that Hank's help is forthcoming there, so even though it's a conflict, I have decided to ignore it entirely.) I'm going to spend 48 hours doing my level best to knit as much of that pile as I can, and then I'm going to re-assess and decide whether or not I should PANIC or FREAK OUT.   I wouldn't want to waste time on unnecessary feelings.  In my experience, a proper Christmas freak out takes at least twenty minutes - since it must contain certain key phrases (YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THIS HAT IS) allegations of poor behaviour by supporting family members (MAYBE IF YOU EVER DID LAUNDRY I WOULD BE DONE BY NOW) along with various pessimistic views of the inevitable crappy holiday everyone is going to have if things don't change, which of course... they can not.  (WHY DON'T YOU CARE THAT CHRISTMAS IS RUINED.)
Long story short,  I don't want to go there unless I really have to, so I'm going to make a huge pot of tea and re-double my efforts.  (After I get back from the next round of errands and grocery shopping. Whatever. You know what I mean.)

Gifts for Knitters Day 15

Dear Non-knitter who loves a Knitter,

I've been trying to be pretty good about suggesting lots of different gifts at lots of different price points, and I'm even keeping in mind that as of now, the mail-order deadline has pretty much past.  (You'll see a shift in the next few days towards things you can buy in local stores, or make yourself.) Since I've been so diligent, I'm just going to come right out and say that this next gift is pricey.

It's an ipad.  I'm not even going to link to that because if you don't know what an ipad is then it's really the wrong gift for you to be buying.  (Also, see your doctor.  You might be dead.)  I also don't think you should buy an ipad just as a knitting tool, though if your knitter has ever expressed an interest in one, you should know that they are an amazing knitting tool. Not only does an ipad surf knitting blogs, Ravelry, etc, there's also a lot of really great apps for knitters - not the least of which is my favourite, Goodreader.  Goodreader turns an ipad into a powerful pattern manager.  Not only can you connect to Ravelry and export your entire pdf library to the ipad (yeah, that's right)  once you open a pattern you can create a copy that you can mark up.  You can circle things, highlight things (like your size) or leave yourself little notes (like that you did an extra decrease.)  You can create a line, then slide that line up a chart as you complete each row - like a post it, only it never falls off.  I used to be a hard core paper pattern gal, but now - my whole pdf pattern library with me all the time?  C'mon.  Your knitter would love that.   An ipad can also function as an ipod, so your knitter can listen to tunes or an audiobook too, and it's also an e-reader, so all his e-format knitting books can be with him too.  It's also a camera to take pictures of their knitting, and a great way to use social media to ask questions about knitting.  I've got an app that functions as a needle gauge, another that's a very fancy row counter, and if I were the type (which I'm not) I'd be hunting up an app that tells you how much yarn you need for what.  There's even a Ravelry group for knitters with ipads.  

Now, I know that right now, some of you are thinking that knitting is the exact opposite of an ipad.  That knitting is cozy and that knitters are grannies and that people who understand wool really well might not be that technologically inclined.  I don't have time to explain it really well, but let me just tell you this. 

Knitting is binary (knit/purl.) Knitting is technology, engineering, and construction, and your knitter has a knack for it. Your knitter is a probably a geek.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:09 PM

December 14, 2011


I'm finding it super  tricky to blog about my knitting right now, since most of it is super-sneaky stealth knitting for people who peruse the blog. I've asked some of the recipients not to look, and they said they wouldn't, but they're lying, so pardon me while we go a little light on the pictures for a bit.  I missed blogging yesterday because I forgot who I was for a minute, and went to the mall thinking that I could wrap up the rest of the Christmas shopping.  I was there for two hours and bought only seven pairs of underpants and a bar of soap, and would have left sooner except that I couldn't find the door that I came in so I could go back out.  The mall always does it to me.  There's so much choice that after 15 minutes of exposure I can't think of anything I want, suffer some sort of breakdown, enter a vague fugue state where I can't think of anything in the world I need, eat something strange and leave.   It was catastrophic, and just left me sitting in the parking lot when it was all over clutching the bag of panties and wanting those hours of my life back.  I'm recovering today.  The only saving grace is that Joe has the fortitude for mall shopping, but not panty buying - so at least I nailed that part of our daughters stockings, and can turn the rest over to someone with the strength for it.  I have no idea how people stand it. I'm going back to the things I can manage today.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 13

Yesterday's gift for knitters is a scale.  I know, my gentle non-knitters, that you're wondering what use a knitter has for a scale, but let me tell you - they're fabulous.  Beyond the obvious (being able to accurately divide a ball of yarn in half for a pair of socks) they're also fabulous for estimating how many metres of yarn is left in a ball (if the skein was 100g and 210 metres, and now you have 50g, you have 105 metres left) you can also use it to weigh something you've made and see if you have enough yarn to make a second one. (This can bring a someone who has a second sleeve to knit and isn't sure if he's going to make it a great deal of personal peace.)  Just about any scale can work, but it should be small enough to store decently, measure in both grams and ounces, and be able to weigh very small amounts accurately.  The ones they sell in corner stores for purveyors of illicit substances  work very well for knitter purposes - and can be snagged at the last minute if you're desperate. I had a little one like this but now I've got one a bit bigger, and I use it pretty constantly.

Gifts For Knitters: Day 14

How about knitter related Christmas ornaments?  There's some great ones here from Kyle Designs, but this glass sheep would do fine, and I've seen some amazing ones in the local knit shops.  If however, you're a kid, or you know a kid who loves a knitter, you can make some pretty cool stuff without too much trouble.  Craftster has instructions here, and when Megan was little, she made me some wonderful ornaments by just balling up a little bit of yarn, sticking round toothpicks through them to be the needles, and gluing beads onto the ends of the toothpicks. They were charming, and I loved that she made them for me. (If there's a grownup willing to source a few ingredients, these pom-pom sheep would be perfect too.)    If you think your knitter is the right type, there's also a bunch of ornament kits that you could buy for them.  Knit Purl has cute tiny mitten kits, Mary Maxim has Angels, Blackberry Ridge does hats and mitts, and Noble Knits does a beaded ball. If you knit yourself, then 55 Christmas Balls to Knit looks fun, and a whole lot more festive than the mall.  Just saying.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:40 PM

December 12, 2011

We all know where this leads

While I am doing my level best not to be smug about it, but I think I might have turned the corner on this Christmas.  I know, I've lived this dream enough times to know that as soon as I say something like that, the washing machine explodes, but I really do think it's going well. The thing is that I have it in my head that this is an "important" Christmas - that this one is somehow significant or more meaningful than the holiday usually is.  There's been a few like this over the years - the first year with a new baby in the family, the first year in a new house, the last year I'll have the total buy-in of a little child - something that makes me think that it's especially important to get it right and make new memories, and that they be exactly the right sort of memories.  Happy, sane, proper family memories. Memories where, when I bake a hundred gingerbread cookies and announce that we're going to decorate them all together, just like we always have,  the girls will say things like "Oh Mummy, it's so wonderful to be home and be with the family I love so much, the time you take with our traditions warms my heart" instead of "For s**t's sake Mum.  NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE COOKIES I'M ON THE PHONE." 

The lesson I've learned about a thousand times is that perfecting things doesn't perfect people.  There's actually not a huge correlation between them.  If I make perfect cookies, the children will not behave perfectly.  If I get so-and-so the perfect gift, and wrap it perfectly and give it to them perfectly,  there is still no guarantee that they won't say something breathtakingly bitchy, thus spoiling someone else's fun who then has a hissy fit in the kitchen because they're tragically misunderstood by someone who always misunderstands everyone and thank all things woolly that we only have to negotiate our relationship with them a few days a year.  Making things perfect (while profoundly tempting for me- especially when I'm feeling pressure to make an "important" Christmas perfect and memorable) actually does almost nothing to help.  I've spent the last week being really super careful to keep my expectations in check, to remember the humans I share the Christmas with are imperfect, and that I am too. To remember that when I think of all the stuff I like about Christmas, there's actually not a lot of stuff, and that not once, ever, in all the years that I've been worrying about it, not once has any person ever told me Christmas was ruined for them because I didn't get the right wrapping paper, or because I used the regular napkins instead of the ones with holly on them.  NOT ONCE, and frankly, there's been the same amount of regular family crap no matter what napkins I get out. I've even ironed them, and there was still some trouble some years.

I think I've turned the corner on this Christmas because I've worked it out.

Perfecting things doesn't perfect people.  Even if you have the perfect napkin rings, a really beautiful gift,  eighty-seven candles and a fabulous side dish.  Give up now.  I promise it doesn't change squat about people's happiness or ability to get along.  Either your Uncle Frank is gong to be a dick like last year, or he's not, but I swear to my stash that I've tried getting the perfect pinecones for the centerpiece to make sure he isn't a jerk to your best friend....  and it doesn't work. Go knit instead.  You'll be happier.


Gifts for knitters: Day 12. 

Non-knitter, I'm keeping this short and sweet.  Your knitter has a problem, because they are a knitter there is an excellent chance that they are small-tool repellant.  This means that they likely have trouble putting their hands on tape measures, darning needles and the like, despite having purchased hundreds of same during their lifetime.  That means that going to the yarn shop and buying ANYTHING SMALL is a good idea.  Stitch markers, tape measures, little scissors, darning needles... anything small.   If you want to be posh, get a Knit-kit.  (Super cool.  I wish I had one.) or one of these neat tool tins from The Sexy Knitter.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:55 AM

December 11, 2011

Gifts for Knitters Days 10 and 11

Day 10:

Today's gift for knitters is and easy one.  It's knit related pottery. I've done all the hunting for you.

First up, all the knitters know who I'm going to say.  Jennie the Potter. Her etsy shop is here, and stuff goes fast, but everything she makes is beautiful.  I'm a huge fan. I love the mugs, the bowls - everything. Anything.  If you sign up for updates (on the right hand side of her site) you can get updates about when her stuff is going up. 

If you can't get that, how about a great knit/button mug from Caractacus Pots?
This tall ceramic mug that looks like knitted fabric - from ReShape Studio (That would be a great decorative knitting needle holder) Here's a great mug from Knit Purl, made by Leigh Radford. It's a mug cast in a handknit mold. Very cool.

Don't forget yarn bowls too - although their purpose maybe arcane to you non-knitters, to us they look like a really great way to keep a yarn ball from roaming around while you knit.  There's these, from Knit-Witch,  There's beautiful yarn bowls (and bells- I love the bells) from The Blue Brick - carried at The Purple Purl here in Toronto.  Darrielles Clay Art looks to have some beautiful ones...and so does The Mud Place but here's a link to follow for a million of them.

Day 11

This is a simple one, and requires only a little detective work or investigation on your part.  One of the best things to give a knitter is stuff that gets used up, and after yarn, the number one thing on that list is some sort of nice wash to clean our (and yours, now that I think of it) woollies in.  There's several good varieties out there, and all you need do is hunt around the house, see which brand your knitter already has, and go get more of it.  They have it at the local yarn shop.  If you can't tell which sort your knitter has, then just go ahead and buy one of these that appeals to you.  They're all good.  (PS. If you put this in their stocking, they would think you were super dialed in this year.)

These are some that I've used and think are quite good.  (These are also the ones that are in my house right now.) There are others- if they sell it at the yarn shop, it's probably just fine.

Soak: Soak is a no rinse wash that comes in several different smells.  If you don't know what scent your non-knitter would like, go check the laundry detergent that they have now - it might give you a hint.  If it's unscented, then get the scentless soak.  (This is totally unrelated, but Soak also makes temporary tattoos for knitters, which could be a big hit, depending on your knitter.)

Eucalan: Ahh, Eucalan, you charming old standby. Eucalan is another no-rinse wool wash, and I love the lavender one.  They're all scented with essential oils (except the unscented one. Duh.) and the eucalyptus (a nice manly smell) and lavender both claim to be moth repellent, which isn't something any knitter can be opposed to.

Finally,  if you do decide to get your knitter some wool wash, remember this:

Nothing is a better gift than learning how to wash your own (and your knitters) woolies with care and respect. There's a tutorial here at Exercise Before Knitting, and of course, you can always count on Clara.  Go learn - then dare to impress.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:10 PM

December 9, 2011

Expletive Deleted

That Christmas sweater? Yeah. I gave it a few hours last night and this morning I had 16cm, which is behind schedule, but still a good haul.


Rip-o-rama.  This isn't going well at all.


Gifts for Knitters, Day 9

Dear Non-Knitter who loves a Knitter,

Today's gift is the gift of organization.  I bet, if you share your home with a knitter, that you have noticed that they have a lot of needles, darning needles, gauges, all manner of bits and bobs.  I bet too that at least once, as you noticed the proliferation of said items, that you wondered if your knitter really needs that many needles.  The answer is yes, and the reasons are way, way to complex to explain to someone who's never decided to knit a sweater on 4mm needles only to discover that their other three pairs are already in projects. (I know, now you're wondering why a knitter would have three other projects in progress, but trust me. It's just the nature of the beast.)  The point is that it is normal and important for your knitter to have a lot of stuff that goes along with knitting, and if they do have a lot of unmanaged stuff, you can bet that a gift of containment would please them.  To figure out if your knitter would like to contain tools,  look for these signs.

1. Does your knitter have a drawer/box/area  needles that resembles a nest of spikes?  Do they ever use language unbecoming a knitter whilst navigating this pile?

2.  Does your knitter ever seem upset while sorting through a pile of pointy things and scream about something called a "needle gauge?"

3. Has your tearful knitter ever told you that you don't understand their pain, and that they really, really need a darning needle?

4. Has your knitter ever suggested to you that you should leave a social engagement or location because they don't have the particular needle/object that they need to continue a project, and are therefore "screwed"?

5. Has anyone in your family ever attempted to extricate something (even an knitting needle) from a container of knitting needles while thinking that there has to be a better way?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, your knitter might enjoy having a needle/tool/organizing case.  There's lots of them.  Della Q makes a beautiful cloth case that holds DPNs (the short sticks with points on both ends) and circulars (two spikes connected by a cord.) It holds a lot of them too, and the pockets are numbered, which means less (not none) screaming about gauges.  This is a great answer for a messy drawer of needles. They've also got a great hanging case for if your knitter mostly has circular needles, and I've got this one by The Circular Solution, and that's made sense of a bad scene.

I own several needle rolls, and if you haven't seen one of these in your house, it might be a great thing. Lantern Moon has a funky one for straight needles, and another for circulars or DPNs and straightsDig all these gorgeous ones on Etsy. (Personally, I don't own, but am digging most everything from Lena Brown.)   (Pro tip: if you're a sewer who loves a knitter, you could make one.)

I have to say though, that I'm grooving pretty hard on the brand spanking new Jordana Paige Tool Case.  Like their bags, it's classy, and for knitters who knit a lot away from home, I think it's a good idea.  I do knit a lot away from home (which is probably why the nice lady there thought to send me one, very kind of her) and I can see this solving a bunch of problems.  It's pretty big - but not so big that I can't see it fitting in my knitting bag, it's made of vegan leather (not that I'm opposed to leather, but your knitter might be) and that means that needles won't poke through it. It's got a bunch of pockets that would hold circular needles, and has little windows to put a label in, so that you can see which one is which, and that reduces a lot of problems for me.  (I don't know about your knitter, but on a bunch of my needles, the size marking wore off.) It's got several other zippered pockets and spots to keep other tools (along with a wee one to put stitch markers and darning needles in) and slots for DPNs or scissors.   I think I could easily pack a whole book tour's knitting tool needs in there, and I can only see two drawbacks to it.  First, that it won't hold straight needles, so for a big fan like me, it means I'll still be trucking a needle roll, and second, that the promo stuff claims that if you get one, you can "carry your entire needle collection with you" and for knitters like me, that's not true....Nobody's made the case yet that will hold what I've collected.

Think all these options over - because almost all knitters struggle with containment issues and remember, if you're on a tight gift budget, a box of large ziplocks, or container like this storage box, or this one, or even an inexpensive tackle box or tool box could help make sense of your knitters stuff. Take a couple of needles from their collection to the hardware store and see what you can do, and if all else fails, I bet some knitters will tell you what they like and I missed in the comments. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:56 PM

December 8, 2011

Point Form

-Computer ate really long post.
-Stupid computer re-starts itself at random intervals.
-Probably not personal.
- Feels personal.
-Am doing point form to save time after post consigned to abyss.  

-Lettuce Knit Anniversary/Christmas party last night fun.
- Adult sweater started, to finish by Christmas.
-Have convinced self that sweater is fast since it is "chunky"
-Knit 10cm of sweater last night without swatching.
-Thought about math.
-Actually did math rather than just thinking about it when sweater looked very, very tiny.
-Math proved sweater quite wrong. Quite wrong like the way me being a dentist would be wrong.
- Sweater ripped back.

- at midpoint of rip, only ribbing remained, and Megan tried to stop me from ripping by saying that everything was okay, because "The neck looks big enough"
-Hope destroyed when I told her that sweater was not top down.
-Ribbing is  hips.  Not neck.
-Hips (sadly for knitter, happily for recipient) much larger than neck.
-Rest of sweater ripped with peer support.

Gifts for Knitters- Day 8

Yarn. I know - you have some issues around that.  We've already talked about how having a lot of  yarn means that you like it and would like more, so let's talk about the real issue.  You're afraid to buy yarn.  I get it - it's scary.  There's a lot of kinds and colours and thicknesses and cotton and wool and so we're going to see if maybe there's some way you can get some help.  Watch for the following.

1. If, somehow, someway, your knitter just happened to leave a knitting magazine open to a certain sweater with a post it on it that happened to note their size, then you could do the following. 
-take the magazine to a yarn shop, show them the magazine,  tell them your knitters colour preference (that might be written on the post it too - you should check) and then stand back and let the yarn shop do their thing.  Be sure to replace the magazine where you found it.

2.If your knitter is the sort of knitter who has a relationship with a certain yarn shop, then you could do the following:
-Walk into the yarn shop.  Say "I am InsertYourName. I would like to buy yarn for InsertKnittersName.  I have InsertAmountOfCash.  What has she/he been thinking about buying?"  Then buy what they tell you to.

3. Keep an eye on the family computer.  There is a website called "Ravelry." If you walk by any computer in the house, you might see this website.  There is a page your knitter has been keeping, called "Queue."  It's a list of stuff they'd like to make, and what they would like to make it out of.   If you saw this page open, you could feel very confident that if you wrote down what yarn your knitter had already chosen for that project, that you could then get online or on the phone and order that amount of that yarn in that colour and know that your knitter would be thrilled.  They'd also think you were a big of a sneak, and most knitters would like that.

PS. Pro tip:  Other knitters can see your knitters Ravelry queue.  If your knitter hasn't left it open, but you know other knitters, they can go look for you.  This would get extra sneakiness points.

PPS. If you have to make a colour decision, watch your knitter for 24 hours, and know the following.  They do not hate the colour of the hand knit scarf they made to go with their coat. They do not hate the colour they are knitting right now (unless it's a gift for a child.) They do not hate the colour of any garment in their closet that they bought in the last year and paid more than $40 for. They do not hate the colour of that sweater they made that they wear all the time- you know.  The one that's getting sort of ratty. That one.

PPPS. A skein of cashmere has seldom done a relationship damage.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:08 PM

December 7, 2011

Random Wednesday

1.  I can't believe it's Wednesday. I swear I thought today was Tuesday, which is sort of odd, because I knew yesterday was Tuesday, and I know there aren't typically two in a week, especially back to back. Still, I got up this morning and swear that I've misplaced Tuesday and been unjustly dealt a Wednesday.

2. This could be because I am behind on the Christmas knitting and feel like a second Tuesday would help.

3. Yesterday was intensely busy, and all I got done (besides making this SLAMMING veggie Shepherds Pie for company) was that I finished a first sock.

4. This would be better if it was a second sock and four mittens.

5. I had big plans to spin yesterday, and I'm not sure how that went wrong, except for see #5. 

6. That means that I should go spin now, except for that won't work because I have to sit at this desk until I'm done this work. 

7. Just to clear up one thing from the wildly interesting and thoughtful comments yesterday - Doctors in Canada are not unpaid.  We go to the doctor, the doctor and I decide what care I should have, and then the bill goes to the government who pays it.  It's called "single payer healthcare" and we pay for it with our taxes. Health care is then "free at the point of service." 

8.  I bet that makes more sense than when some of you thought that I was saying that test knitters should get paid, but not Doctors.

9. I don't have a tree yet. I'm really falling off the curve here.

10.  I'm working on a pattern for the mittens. I'm just hiring a (you guessed it) test knitter/tech editor.

11. If I could churn out 7 knitted items in the next 24 hours, that would be amazing.

12. That is probably impossible.


Gifts for knitters, Days 6 and 7.

Dear Non-knitter,  I skipped yesterday, so because I said we'd do one gift idea per day, today I owe you two.

Gift idea #1: Blocking wires.  I know, you have no idea what those are, and therefore have no idea if you should get them.  Here's some idea of how to tell if your knitter would like blocking wires. 
a) Do you hear the word "lace" a lot?
b) Has your knitter ever tried to explain about shawls to you?  (It doesn't matter if you didn't understand why shawls are cool... just that you've had the conversation.)
c) Are knitted things frequently pinned to your bed or carpet? (The key here is pins. Are there a lot of them?)
d) Have you heard the word "blocking" in conjunction with a complaint or filthy but expressive language?

If you've answered "Yes" to two or more of these questions, then your knitter might like a set of blocking wires.  I've got two sets, and they're ridiculously handy. I can vouch for the awesomeness of the Handworks set, and it looks like the Inspinknity set is amazing too.  There are other sets, so as you hunt around, I think the priority should be that they don't rust, that the set comes with wires of several lengths (that helps a lot) that some of the wires are flexible, to help your knitter manage curves.

Gift idea #2?

Knitting bags.  I know, I know. Your knitter has a knitting bag, you've seen it.  Trust me.  I'm pretty sure they want another one.  Hell, I've got about seven, and I STILL want more.  I co-ordinate them to my outfit (sort of. It's my own system), I choose them according to the kind of project that I've got going on, I love knitting bags, and I bet your knitter does too, and good news.  No matter what your knitter's personal style is? There's a knitting bag that they're waiting to get.  There are far, far too many for me to show you them all, so I'm going to hit a couple of my favourites, tell you why I like them, and you can click around on these websites until you see something that screams your knitters name. Most knitters use a knitting bag as their bag, so keep in mind they might want a pretty big one.

1. The Tom Bihn Swift knitting bag.  I've got a big one (or two) a little one, and (be still my heart) one in cork.  (The cork one is so beautiful that strangers comment on it all the time.)

2. Jordana Paige. These bags are super classy, and pass as a purse while having knitter friendly features.  I've got the L.J.Kaelms, and's is a fab go-anywhere do anything bag (with two sections, so I can put knitters stuff in one side, and my regular stuff in the other) but they've also got a guy friendly Knitters Messenger bag, which is cool. I reach for my Jordana Paige when I need a "dress" knitting purse.

3. Namaste Bags are slightly more casual to my way of thinking, but also deeply beautiful and functional, and while I'm saving up for the Monroe in Lime, there's several there that are unisex.

4. Della Q.  The only thing I can tell you about these bags is that I used mine (one like the Agnes) so much that it wore out and I had to get another one.  They're beautiful, functional, and hold a big laptop too.  Perfect for travel.

5. Any bag you think your knitter would like that doesn't have velcro.  Trust me.  Velcro is a knitter's natural enemy.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:03 PM

December 6, 2011

Unexpectedly Controversial

I believe that I have finally reached an age and station where I largely see stuff coming.  Most of the time, I say something, and if a few people go bananas, I'm pretty much not surprised. We all know what topics can be guaranteed to set some people off, and we even usually know who those people will be.  There's hot button issues for those people.  We all know what they are - Religion, politics, human rights being equal for all humans - the biggies.

That means that if I say something like "I believe health care should be free and equal at the point of service for all people" I can expect to hear something about that.  Probably I'm going to hear from people with strong political views, and they'll say that reduces choice, and that if you have money you deserve better/faster care, or that they don't want other people in charge of them.  I'm going to hear from people who's personal system of ethics dictates that a human's independence is more important than their health, and finally, I'm going to hear from a few people who are going to tell me that I don't understand anything about how the world works, and that my point of view is impossible, and where the hell did I get a crazy idea like that anyway?

The point is, I know if I say that, that I'll hear about it.  You can expect some topics to be controversial, and as I said, mostly I know what those are.  I still get a shocker every once in a while though, mostly when it's something that seems really, really clear to me and I can't imagine there's any debate. (That happened last week when I said that I thought it was entirely unethical for a medical professional to give a happily breastfeeding mum formula "just in case." and someone violently disagreed. Shocked the snot out of me - but that's a conversation for another day.)  My point (and I do have one) is that it's pretty rare for me to get taken by surprise, but that's exactly what happened this morning.

This morning I was pondering hiring a test knitter, and wondering if what I pay is in keeping with what other people pay, and I Tweeted asking if anyone knew if there was an industry standard pay scale.  Imagine my shock, when not only did I discover that there isn't, but was immediately inundated with offers to test knit for me... FOR FREE.  Very kind, I thought, but not the way jobs work.
I expect someone to do a job.  I consider proper test knitting a skilled job, and it's part of producing a product.  Every product anyone would like to sell needs to be tested, and that's part of the cost of doing business.  I declined the kind offers, and tweeted:

"Thanks for the offers all, but I don't need free test knitters. I think it's a job, and should be paid."

That was fine.  Nobody got up my grill, but there were quite a few people saying "Gosh - why?  Knitting is fun and we're all nice" (I'm paraphrasing)  so I took to twitter again, and said:

How can we expect people to take the knitting industry (and those in it) seriously, if we don't? #professionalismFTW

That, my friends, is when it all got really unexpected.  The private emails and tweets started pouring in, and while I don't have their permission to post names or content here, I can tell you that I got some answers and attitudes to that tweet that were more surprising to me than the urge I got last week to iron, and that's saying something.  I've already taken up the answers with the people who wrote, and they know I was going to post about it, because it's been my experience that there's seldom one person with the same questions or attitudes.  Usually the comments/tweets/emails I get are rather representative... so here's some of the questions and comments, and my answers.  (Again, I've paraphrased.)

Comment: Hey lady, you're nuts.  Knitting isn't an industry that needs to be taken seriously. Knitting is fun, and nice and so are knitters, darn it. There's no need to be dragging that nasty talk about money into it.  Be nice.

I am nice, and so are most knitters, and knitting is really, really fun. I'm not sure why paying people for their work would be not nice.  I think most of you like to be paid for your work, besides, people do better work when they're paid.  The exchange of money for time and effort is a good way to make sure that people have the time and attention to do a good job, and you know what makes knitting more fun? Patterns with fewer errors because a proper test knitter did a good job.  As for the seriousness of the knitting industry, I don't really see how you can imagine that there aren't a lot of people taking it seriously.  I bet your local yarn shop owner takes it super seriously, right around the time he/she has to pay the rent.  I bet yarn companies (big and small) take it seriously too.  You know who else? Designers, test knitters, tech editors... all those people take it really seriously.  For you it might be a hobby, but for a lot of people trying to support their families in this industry it would be amazing if most of us could at least agree that there could be and should be an idea of what jobs are worth what money. 

Comment: Test knitting is fun! We don't need to be paid!

That's super generous, and yes.  Test knitting is sort of fun, but here's what most designers need in a test knitter is the ability to   A) Work on a deadline and keep that deadline.  B) Provide valuable feedback to the designer that they can use to improve the pattern.  If you're going to have expectations of someone, then you should pay them.  It's not just respectful and a statement of the value of their work - it's a commitment.  Let's say you don't pay the test knitter, and they do a crappy job.  They miss a bunch of things, fix a few things without making note that they had to correct it to make it work... and then give it in late.  If it's all just a friendly arrangement, then you get a crappy pattern, the designer can have their business damaged....  the exchange of money keeps people accountable to each other.  It is not fair to have respect for someone's work and abilities, and to have an expectation that they will do what's best for your business without giving them something in return.    

Comment: Well, I like test knitting enough to do it for free. I'm not professional, and I'm just helping.  It doesn't hurt anyone.

Well, it is very true that nobody can tell you what you want to do for free, and if you're not a professional, and you're not test knitting for professionals, then I think you've got a heck of a point.  If, however, you are test knitting for professionals for free, can I have a counter point?  Let's say that Bob has spent a lot of time learning how to fix plumbing leaks.  He's good at it.  He opens a little business and starts fixing plumbing leaks for a living. Then this guy, lets call him Marco, decides that he loves fixing plumbing leaks. He starts fixing leaks all over town, for free.  Pretty soon, everybody knows this, and Bob can't get a job, because who would pay someone to do it when someone else will do it for free? Pretty soon, this is a town where nobody thinks you should ever pay to have leaks fixed, and those jobs disappear, along with Bob's business.  By the way, the other thing that disappears is excellence in the field of leak fixing - because you can't demand excellence from a free leak fixer. They're just doing you a favour. 

Comment: Designers can't afford it.

Most can, actually - although it would help if knitters didn't balk at paying for patterns.  I've seen knitters buy an ungodly amount of yarn, then complain about the pattern not being free.  There's some designers who are amateurs, or are just sticking a free pattern out there for sport, and I'm not talking about them.  I'm talking about the Pros. People who are trying to earn a living selling patterns to you.  Those designers? What they can't afford is a reputation for having patterns with errors.  A good pattern makes them money. They can (and do) pay test knitters.

Comment: Well, I get paid in yarn.

Cool.  The barter system is an excellent way to go, as long as it's an alternative, not an industry standard.  If two professionals want to enter a professional agreement where money is represented by yarn (or something else) that's civil, but the amount that you're compensating (however you do it) should be agreed upon, and more or less standard in the industry.

Comment: Are you saying anyone who doesn't pay their test knitters is unprofessional? Or that you're not a professional test knitter if you don't get paid?

Let's look at the definition of Professional. According to Wikipedia (I know) the first line is "A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee."   I'd say that if you're asking someone to perform a task a specific way, it is then unprofessional not to pay.  If you're asking a friend to help you out,  that's not the same.  You and your buddy can work it out, we all help our friends, but that's not professional.  If you're doing something and not getting paid (somehow, with something of value) then you're not a professional.  Helpful, yes.  Providing a service, yes.  A professional? Maybe not.  I feel like if the person asking you to provide the service is going to provide a better product and make more money because you do that task? Yup. It's unprofessional not to pay.

Comment: Knitting isn't like that.

Yeah, I know - but take it from me, there's a lot of shop owners, yarn companies, dyers, designers, tech editors and test knitters who wish it was a little more like that.  Contracts, standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger, not weaker.

Comment: You're a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.

Maybe, and maybe I'm wrong - but don't you think it would be a good conversation to have? 

Gifts for Knitters resumes tomorrow. I'm thinking.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:10 PM

December 5, 2011

Resisting only makes it take longer

The idea that I had, the one that I was going to give 48 hours, and see how it panned out?  That single decision turned my living room into a mitten factory. 

I had it in my head that that funky stitch could be fabulous mitten cuffs, and truthfully, I've been feeling a mitten thing coming on for a while, but when it couldn't be decided by any reasonable vote whether they were better with black or not with black (although thanks to the hundreds of you who had an opinion) I decided to do both, and that only made it worse.  There were suddenly hundreds of combinations and permutations made possible by that wave of indecision, and knitting four single mittens (there is not yet a pair) has done almost nothing to take the edge off.

The beauty of it is that these mittens are worked using only one colour at a time.  No stranding, no intarsia, no fooling around, and that makes them fast and addictive. 

I'm trying to stop now, and at least turn them into pairs, but it would seem that I've contracted yet another case of OCMD. (Obsessive Compulsive Mitten Disorder.)  Trying to stop has only filled me with anxiety and an overwhelming sense of loss, as I ponder all the possibilities that won't get knit if I quit now.
There's really no way to tell what's going to happen next. I am a woman of considerable self control, but dudes? Do you see these mittens?
I am helpless. It is grey and cold outside, but inside? My mitten factory is a thing of beauty.


Gifts for Knitters, Day Five

Dear Non-knitter who loves a knitter, 

Remember how yesterday I was saying that sometimes, not only does a knitter need tools, but he might need many of that tool?  Today is like that. Today's gift is project bags.  Knitters very frequently have many things that they are knitting at once.  A few pairs of socks, a hat, a couple of mittens, three sweaters...   This is NORMAL.  Not every project is appropriate for every day or occasion.  Knitters need choices.  This means that nifty bags for them to store them in are really handy.  So handy that you can be pretty sure that you're knitter would enjoy a project bag.  Even if your knitter is the kind that only knits one project at a time, you can bet that they don't plan one project at a time, and these little bags can come in really handy for queuing up stuff and keeping it tidy and clean.

A classic favourite project bag are the ones from Tom Bihn.  I've got a bunch of these.  I like them a lot - especially the ones with the clear bottom.  I store them bottom up, and I can see which project is which.  Very handy.  I grab whichever one I like and take off.   There's the fab drawstring ones, that come from lots of different sources (I love Stitchy McYarnpants, but who doesn't?) There's ones where the handles overlap. (I like the app screen on that one.)
There's ones in the shape of pyramids - (love this one) Costumedeeva makes a bunch, although she thinks they're toiletry bags. 
Then there's the fancier ones,  like (I am in love with these) the box bags from Splityarn, I get a little flutter in my heart when I think of the biggie boxes. (They hold a whole sweater.)

Finally, if you're so inclined,  it's not that hard to make a simple project bag, and knitters do appreciate handmade. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:54 PM

December 4, 2011

Days three and four a little more

I was going to take the weekend off, but decided this morning that I really didn't want to do three days worth of Gifts for Knitters tomorrow, so fueled by coffee - Off we go.

Day Three, and Day Four

Dear Non-Knitter.
Knitting is like woodworking - it's a skill that can be accomplished with the simplest of tools, but is made easier and infinitely more pleasant with nice ones. The same way that you wouldn't be surprised if a woodworker had several saws or chisels, each for a specific task, you shouldn't be surprised that a knitter needs lots of tools, and sometimes several similar ones.  If you don't see the tools I'm about to describe here in your knitters home, they would be a good gift. 

A swift.  A swift is a yarn holding device. Some yarn comes in skeins, or hanks, and need to be wound into a ball before they can be used.  A swift sits on or clamps to a table (or something) and twirls as the yarn unwinds onto (usually) a ball winder.  (More on ball winders later.)

There's this kind, a metal and plastic one, that's sort of the entry level swift.  It's small, light and handles most average size skeins of yarn. Or you can get  a wooden one, that's a little prettier (to my way of thinking) sturdier and has (at least in my experience) held up well to constant use.  It is bigger though, and harder to store. You can get a sort that sits on the table - this kind is pretty common, but there's a whole lot of really amazing woodworkers out there making really, really beautiful handcrafted ones. Dig this from Hornshaw Woodworks.
Any way you slice it, a swift is a really cool tool for a knitter, and comes with a bonus for you - you'll never be asked to hold a skein for them again. 

Usually, a knitter uses a ball winder with a swift.  Like swifts, there's a couple of different kinds, and mostly they're about longevity and durability.  Almost everybody I know has a Royal ball winder.  I do.  They're great - although they do wear out with time (and when the gears start to go, they begin to make breast shaped balls. It's very entertaining) and the design of them means that you can't wind really huge skeins onto them.  They're going to meet about 90% of most knitters needs for a few years, then need replacing, but they are easy to find, and reasonably priced. If you're looking to start moving up the food chain - take a look at the Strauch Ball Winder.  It's an animal.  Gorgeous, long lasting, makes really big balls. (There's a joke in there, but I'm going to skip it.) It's a serious tool. (There's another chance at a joke.  It's hard to talk about ball management without running into them.) 
Pro-tip: If your knitter really, really likes managing wool by hand, consider a beautiful Nostepinne.  It's a way of winding balls by hand, and they might love it.

For day four, I want to talk about cases for knitting in progress.  You know your knitter might love these if they've always got holes in their bags, and someone in your family has been poked by a sock-in-progress from within that bag.  You can get inexpensive ones made out of cardboard or plastic - but I like the durability and style of  the Knitzi, There's several versions, they're all pretty cool. There's also several woodworkers making very elegant and gorgeous versions - all a little different.  I've got one called a Sock Safe, made by Karen Sandberg, and it's inlaid figured maple.  Keep your eyes out.

Finally, a note about choosing what sort of tool to buy your knitter.  Before you buy, remember to think about how much time your knitter spends at this craft, and how seriously that might mean they take it.  If you knew someone who spent several hours a day in a woodshop, would you think they probably wanted beginner tools? Helping your knitter invest in wonderful tools is a nice way to show them that respect their craft, and them. 

PS: This means that all mentions of Signature or DyakCraft needles should be met with enthusiasm on your part. 

PPS. If you are a woodworker who loves a knitter, I bet they would love it if you made some of this stuff for them

Posted by Stephanie at 12:27 PM

December 2, 2011

I am sure it will pass

A few weeks ago, at Port Ludlow, I had an idea.  It was an interesting and delicious idea, and one that I tucked away in the "someday I'll have time" pile.  The idea wasn't really happy with it's placement in the queue, and as the days have trickled by, it has sat in the back of my brain like Glenn Close in that creepy movie where she will not be ignored, and I have finally lost the battle.  I think my critical error was my belief that buying the yarn for this project would take the edge off, and instead it pushed me over. (There's really no excuse for thinking that would work.)  By yesterday I had it all wound up:

and by last night I had convinced myself that the idea had Christmas present merit, and could therefore be indulged.  I'm going to let the idea sprout and be swatched for 48 hours, and then retire it, unless it's paid off the way I think it might.  This is December.  There is no time for fruitless knitting. 

I 've started the swatching, and now I have two that I love, though I can't tell which one I love more.  With black, so the little windows remind me of stained glass,

or without the black, so little scallops of pure colour dance along?

I can't stop thinking about it.  What colours? In what order? To what end? (Secretly, I know the end, or I think I do.  Winter is coming.)  In any case, this idea has 36 hours left to get itself together, or it goes to the curb. Do you guys prefer the version with black, or without?


Gifts for knitters, Day Two.

Jewelry.  I know, right now you're thinking that you've bought jewelry before, and it wasn't really a knitter thing, but what we're talking about here is jewelry for knitters.  You've got three ways you can think about going, depending on your particular breed of knitter. 

1.  Actual knitting themed jewelry, made by someone else.  Like all this really cool stuff from Sassafras Creations.  They take knitting needles and chop them up and reform them into really beautiful things. (Personal favourite, and on my own shopping list - the Floating bubbles necklace.) Maybe a yarn pin from Pinderella?  A sterling silver ball of yarn from Schoolhouse Press? Knit/Purl earrings from Knitpurletc?

2. Knitting tools that look like jewelry, but are secretly useful, like the Knitting Abacus, which looks like a funky bracelet, but is a row counter.  (Trust me, non-knitter, counting is a big deal to your knitter.) Or how about a necklace that's going to look like a regular piece, but to your knitter and all of his or her friends, it's a needle gauge? There's a beautiful one in sterling silver from Knitpurletc, or a fun one that looks like a seashell from Debra's Garden. (Trust me again here, it's like the counting thing.  Knitters have to do a lot of measuring and gauging. It's far more technical than you might have guessed.)

3. You could set your knitter up to MAKE some jewelry, if you think that's the sort they are.  Dig these beaded kits from Laura Nelkin,  or these kits where your knitter can knit wire to make neat bracelets and necklaces.

I know that this seems like a tough category for the male knitter, not that any of those things wouldn't work, depending on the taste of your particular knitter, but as a special mention, check out these hilarious buttons for men who knit from Slipped Stitch Studios.  I love them all, but I think my favourite is "Real live knitter: no, you can't touch me." (The unisex buttons here are also hilarious.)

More tomorrow.  Hang in there non-knitters, and remember, when your knitter says that he's got a tight knitting deadline, that means you should make dinner. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:02 PM

December 1, 2011

For the Others

Dear  Non-knitters who love a Knitter,

Today is the first of December, and I think it's probably pretty inevitable that you've heard from someone by now that Christmas is coming. (Pro-tip: They have scheduled it on the same day as last year. I think it's pretty consistent.) While regular people are about to have a very busy month, Knitters are under a special and unique strain.  They have to do everything that regular people do, and in addition,  they are undoubtedly knitting one or more items as gifts for Christmas, maybe for you.   They are going to need special love and attention for the upcoming month, and we can talk about that more later, but for now, this is all you need to know. The knitting all-nighters, the frequent trips to the yarn store, the desperation and sobbing when the last darning needle is gone, the way that at least once in the next month they're going to yell "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND WHY WOULD I WANT TO GO TO A MOVIE WITH YOU I CAN'T CABLE IN THE DARK YOU ARE SO INSENSITIVE" is about to start for you and your knitter. (If you know or are related to more than one holiday gift knitter, you may want to connect with others in the comments so that you can form a support group.  Multiple knitter contact in December can be emotionally difficult.)

Some of you may believe that it's the knitters choice about whether or not he or she does this to themselves every year, but it isn't. For many knitters who suffer from this variant, there is no choice.  Sure as a nightingale has to sing, a gift knitter must knit - and the opportunity to knit a gift is - to your knitter, a chance to make the love that they feel in their hearts tangible, visible and warm.  No matter how it looks (and we admit, it is difficult to see the love when a hat knitter is using filthy language to describe Aunt Alice's head size at 3am) gift knitting is a powerful and meaningful expression of human affection.  Each stitch contains the most precious thing a knitter can give - time and talent, and every person who receives said gift of time and talent should be nothing short of stunned with joy and gratitude.  Think about it.  Other people are going to spend 20 minutes at the mall picking out a present for you.  Your knitter loves you so much that their gift to you took hours and hours and hours of time that nobody else deserved.

Now, if you're normal, right now, my dear Non-knitter who loves a knitter, you're feeling pressured.  You're thinking "Holy mittens, what the heck do you give someone for Christmas when they're going to give you something that amazing?" and dear non-knitter, I'm here for you.  I know you love your knitter, and I know you know your knitter loves knitting, and I know that in the past, you've thought about buying some knitter stuff for them for Christmas, but it was all too much and then you bought that sweater for them instead and you think they liked it, because it was wool - and knitters like wool, right?  You betcha, but let's move on.   Over the next 25 days, I'm going to try and make some suggestions about stuff that knitters like that would make good presents. 

Remember though, that knitters, while they have a lot in common, are also really unique.  Follow your gut, do the recommended detective work, and follow these rules:

1. If your knitter has a lot of something (bags, yarn, magazines) this is because THEY LIKE THEM A LOT.  I know that you would think that if someone has a lot of yarn that they wouldn't want more as a present, but you would be wrong.  Having a lot of something means that your knitter enjoys that thing. It is a good thing to buy.

2. About that sweater that you bought?  You were so close.  The only thing you need to know is that knitters like sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens... but they like them to come "some assembly required."  Pattern and yarn is a better idea than finished item. 

3. Most knitters stashes are arranged in chronological layers, like in archeology.  If you go into the stash to see what they like, remember that the newest stuff (the stuff that your knitter is into right now) will be on the top or "canopy" of the stash.  Things deeper down are less reliable, and if you go deep enough to find mint green chunky brushed mohair? Give up.  You've hit the 80's.

Let's begin. 

Gifts for knitters,  Day One:

Today's suggestion is knitting paper goods.  Note cards, tags... knitters usually like knitters specific stuff, and they usually know other knitters that they would like to share this stuff with. These are some of my very favourites, but if you don't like what I like, try googling "Knitting stationary" "knitting cards" or "Knitting notes." Etsy (a place where you can buy handmade stuff in a variety of online shops) is a really good place to look.  Knitters make handmade stuff, they appreciate the stuff other people make too. 

Is your knitter super classy? Does she send thank you notes?  Write letters?  She might love these beautiful embossed knitting notes from Papersheep press.

Tilly Flop  makes classic, wonderful knitting notes that I adore.  Right now my favourite is "Keep calm and cast on"

Finally, and this is a good one if your knitter is a bit of a smartarse,  Kniterella.
I have a special fondness for the notecards that say stuff like "If Knitting is wrong I don't want to be right", and I love the gift tags, that say things like "Just because it's handmade, doesn't mean it was cheap"

Good hunting, and if it seems to you like this isn't right for your knitter, don't panic.  I've got 24 more ideas coming your way.  Hang in there, and don't panic.

PS. In case you're wondering, nobody paid me to promote their products. This is just stuff I like.  

PPS. For the knitters: I may have had a small yarn accident last night.

I have a plan though.

PPPS: For the Non-knitters.  See that? I have yarn, but I still bought more.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:08 AM