January 30, 2012

Going Stealth

I have about twenty rows to go before I'm done the centre part of the blanket. I don't know how that can possibly be true, because at the beginning of the weekend I had about eighty to go, and I know for a fact that I've knit at least 398 rows since then.  I feel like once again one of those invisible knitting black holes has formed near my work, and is sucking the rows into deep space as quickly as I knit them.  I've taken to tying a piece of yarn to every tenth row, just so I can hold a little faith.

When I'm done the centre, I'll pick up stitches all the way around and begin the border.  I wanted that border to have motifs and a pattern that represent this baby's heritage and the families it comes from, and to be wonderfully unique, so this weekend I finished charting it, and knit a swatch to make sure it works.  (I'm making this blanket up as I go along, and since I have no time for mistakes, I've taken to desperate measures like swatching and that "planning" that I hear so many good things about.)

I'm also going to warn you, that when I start knitting the border, I'm going to stop giving you photos of the blanket -  or at least I'm going to stop giving you photos that show anything discernable. This isn't because I don't want you to see it, it's because I want it to be a surprise for the family, and even if I could get the parents not to look, I happen to know that I have a mole. (That's right Kelly, I'm looking at you.)  The only way I can keep security tight and avoid leaks is to go dark.

Maybe I'll think of a way to make blurry blanket photos interesting.  Perhaps it's all in the lighting.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:38 PM

January 27, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, there was a knitter living in a house in Toronto, and she had a few problems. Mostly these problems were related to things like the three pounds of feline rage that lived with her, the way her husband couldn't tell time but hadn't been able to admit it over decades, and what it is like for you if your daughters are young women and all of your best parenting ideas are illegal. (This knitter had put forth solid, reasonable arguments for microchipping them, building a cage in the basement at the onset of adolescence or simply putting the entire family in a medically induced coma until their daughter's brains were finished developing - and had been shot down on all fronts, thus leaving her with the only parenting option left to her, which was to try respect, reason, patience and intelligence.  It was going well, but was exhausting.)  This knitter had some other problems too, like that she drank too much coffee and had a hard time putting an outfit together, but mostly, things were pretty good... except for one thing.  The knitter had periodic, unpredictable episodes of idiocy, where for no reason at all, her usually reliable wits would leave her.  As a general rule, this hadn't effected her relationships or parenting much, because almost everyone has episodes like that, but from time to time it had really bitten her hard on the hind parts in the knitting department.

Such was the case yesterday morning when the knitter in question decided that she couldn't live with "the line" in her knitting.  She ruled out the possibility that she had reversed right and wrong side rows (there would have been an absent or extra row of knitting, were that true) and she checked to make sure that the yarn didn't look different because she'd blocked it (that wasn't it either) and was then left with the absolutely firm and clear knowledge that there was absolutely a difference between the two sections of knitting, that this was absolutely a difference that she could not live with, and that she was absolutely going to have to do something about it.  Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of blanket induced stress (which can be quite difficult to bear, depending on the deadline and nature of the blanket) it was at this exact moment that the knitter experienced one of the aforementioned periods of idiocy,  and as she looked at that blanket, knowing something was going to have to be done,  her throat tightened, her hands clenched and just like a row of startled birds, her wits departed her, and she decided that the only reasonable thing there was to do in the world (because it was the first ball of yarn that was the wrong one, you see) was to rip out the entire blanket, right back to the first stitch and start again.  This (rather reasonably, in your writers opinion) made the knitter want to find out what other people see in Tequila.

Now it just so happens that this knitter has a relationship with "The Blog". The Blog is a bizarre creature made up of a multitude of consciousnesses, that lived in strange parallel land only reachable by something called Wi-Fi.  The knitter had a small box of all knowing, and that small box had Wi-Fi and the knitter could use it to call upon The Blog.  She wrote a letter to The Blog, and told it that she was feeling terrible about having to rip back, and The Blog replied the way it does, with a sea of voices all providing answers at once. Now, having hundreds of opinions at once sounds overwhelming, like some sort of bad episode of Star Trek, but the knitter had the knack of it, and knew that she had to largely search for themes.  She knew that while the voices of The Mighty Blog would be many, they would be more or less divided into several camps, and they were.

When The blog replied, there were those who said that the problem didn't matter.  That nobody would notice, that the baby wouldn't care, and that the knitter must choose (should she value her sanity and liver) to let go of problems such as this, and roll right on.  The knitter almost always disagrees with this camp, mostly because she can be a little bit picky, but also because she has high standards for her own handmade things.  If, say the knitter had done her very level best to get rid of The Line, and the blanket still had a line? She might let go and move on, but to give up without trying isn't in this knitters nature, and it isn't as much the line that would bother her, as the idea that she couldn't be bothered to spend the energy to fix it when she knew she could.  Also, during this process, this faction of The Blog helped her to realize something important.  The baby wouldn't care -  and that's when she realized that the blanket wasn't really a present for the baby, but a present for the parents and family, and while they probably still wouldn't care, at least that made more sense.  Even though the knitter doesn't agree with this camp, over the years she's come to appreciate it, because it's a necessary and equalizing source of balance that keeps her from getting too much validation from the next group, which would likely turn her into an even pickier and more obsessive nerd than she is now. 

The second camp are the voices of the collective Blog who agree with the knitter, and offered support for her obsessive nature,  her perfectionist tendencies, and her direction. "Yes" this group of voices mutter.  "Yes, you must rip it back and you are not crazy.  Do it.  Do it and cry, but do it."
The knitter likes these voices, because who doesn't like voices that agree with them - but has learned to be careful.  People who are like you and think like you often make the same mistakes you do.

Then there is the group that believes errors are inevitable, and a mark of a handmade object and that and that nobody is perfect, and cites The Amish, Muslims, The Navajo and various other cultural groups (depending on the voice)  that embrace imperfection (intentional or unintentional) as a mark of humanity.  The knitter appreciates these voices, but has never trucked much with the idea - only because she is going to make enough mistakes that can't be fixed to qualify as human, and thus feels compelled to fix what she can.

Next up, the knitter considers the voices of The Blog that are creative problem solvers of the highest order.  These voices support the very intelligent and positive design principle that says that subtle differences in construction or colour (like The Line) are problematic, and that one very good way to solve them is to make the subtle difference obvious, and thus more congruous.  This facet of the hive mind suggested things like embroidering over the line, running a ribbon through the line or other such embellishments as to make The Line appear intentional.  The knitter read these with great interest, but ultimately rejected them, since they would change her idea of what the blanket should be in the end.  (She did, however, give a nod to their brilliance.)

Finally, as the knitter assessed the voices of the blog, she read something that stopped her dead in her tracks, and made it perfectly clear that her wits had departed her (which, as so often happens when your wits are gone) she hadn't really known.   These voices said something that could work.  These voices extended hope.  These voices had come up with a solution that could keep the knitter from starting over, and preserve her sense of dignity and hope.  These voices said (collectively, and with variation) If the bottom part is the problem, and the top part is both bigger, and okay, why not take off the bottom, and knit more onto the top?

The knitter stared at this, and then the blanket, then resisted the urge to beat herself senseless with the nearest solid object, and realized that it was perfect.  She had begun the blanket with a provisional cast on so that she could rip it out and have live stitches to pick up at that end...

so what was the problem with snipping a thread and picking up the stitches as that thread was unpicked across the row...

and therefore removing the bad part, leaving her with stitches held for later, just like she had meant to do anyway?

Nothing. Nothing at all. It would mean that she had an extra chunk to knit onto the top, but that was a heck of a lot better than having the whole thing to re-knit.   As the knitter worked this voodoo, she contemplated the fact that without The Blog, she would certainly have (considering that she was clearly without her wits) have ripped back the whole thing, started over, and then (when her wits returned today) would have realized that she had trashed the entire blanket for no sensible reason and would had no choice but to investigate that Tequila, and possibly give up knitting, and definitely have to give up acting like she knew what she was doing in any way at all when it came to knitting...  and the knitter was again grateful to The Blog, and all its voices...  Even the tiny part of The Blog that is actually her Mother, and left a comment essentially telling the knitter to get a grip on herself, which turned out to have been really great advice, which the knitter regrets resenting at the time.

The End

Posted by Stephanie at 12:32 PM

January 26, 2012

Backwards or Forwards

I noticed it about two weeks ago.  There is a line on the baby blanket.  Not really a line, more of a point of change.  The first chunk, maybe 15 or 20 centimetres, doesn't look the same as what I've knit since then.  I've been telling myself (every time I stop knitting and see that line)  that this was the result of the light steam blocking I did when I finished the first ball of yarn. I've been telling myself this, because I know it's not a mistake.  I wondered if I'd skipped a row, somehow screwed up the lace, but no.  All rows and yarn-overs are present and accounted for, and there isn't an extra row either. There is simply a change in the knitting at the exact point that I changed to a new ball of yarn.  The two balls I've knit since then are the same, that first one is the outsider. I went back and checked all my ball bands. Same colour, same lot number - so I know it's not the yarn - it's like it's a tiny bit thicker - or fluffier.  I told myself that this was subtle, that this was something that nobody would notice in it after it was blocked and a blanket, but on Sunday when I was teaching, I held  up the blanket, and someone said something.  They could see it.

That night I spread it out and looked at that line of demarcation. Don't worry, I told myself.  You steam-blocked that first bit, you haven't blocked the work since then, that's all it is.  Chill out, and just keep knitting. Your perfectionist tendencies aren't helping you. I chilled out, I kept knitting.  Today I decided that I couldn't ignore it anymore.  I'm 12 rows from done, I've charted the border, the baby is due in a few weeks... and there's that line.  I decided to set my mind at ease, and spread the work out on a towel, and hit it with a little steam.  To my way of thinking, since that's what I'd decided was the difference, this should even it out, and then I could stop thinking about it and worrying about it.

It's still there.  Exactly at the point where I changed to a new ball of yarn, there it is.  A line.  It's subtle - but it's there, and I'm pretty sure it's always going to be there. 

The  question now, is can I live with it?  The greater question is if I can't live with it, do I really have time to rip back, do something about the line and move forward quickly enough to finish the blanket before the baby?  (The other question is "What sort of a knitter with 38 years experience at this doesn't trust her instincts and keeps knitting even though there's clearly something not right" but we can discuss that particular failing of mine another day.  I think it's related to being basically optimistic.  It's a curse.)  I feel a little angry at myself.  (I knew that yarn was different.) Mostly I just feel anxious.  Rip back? Don't? Live with it? Don't? 

Every time I think about ravelling this huge body of work, I feel a little sick, but every time I think about looking at that blanket for years to come, I feel sick too.  The idea was to make an heirloom.  Something beautiful, and personal and something that was a good footing to begin a family on - something that  few generations of babies might get wrapped in.  Suddenly I imagine myself 90 years old, holding a grand-niece or nephew, and JUST SEEING THAT LINE.

I know what I have to do.  I just feel terrible about it.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:36 AM

January 25, 2012


The weekend in London (Ontario) teaching and speaking at Cotton-by-Post was absolutely a pleasure.  Suzanne and Garnet, the charming proprietors turned out to be just that, and the arrangements they made were terrific.  My students were bright, interesting and rather charming their own selves, and I had the pleasure of seeing some old friends on Friday,  a wonderful surprise.  I had trouble with my projector at the last minute, but then a simple solution presented itself nicely, and I got a picture of a pregnant lady using my knitting belt which amuses me to no end. 

(Thanks for playing along Debbie.  I actually think your bump was super helpful as well as good looking.) 

The photo above is remarkable, in that it is the ONLY photo I took in the whole three days.  I have absolutely no explanation for this, except that maybe in my head I knew Joe had taken my regular camera to LA, and that this meant that I had no camera, except that I did.  Clearly.   In any case, the weekend was so awesome that I now believe it sucked up all the awesome that was allotted to me for the rest of the week, because said awesome has been in short supply since.

Don't get me wrong, nothing significantly big has gone wrong, just absolutely everything small.  We're out of milk for tea, and cat food, and there's only enough laundry detergent for one load, and the store was out of it, so we're going to have to decide what we want clean the most.  The lights are burned out in the kitchen and changing the bulb didn't help so it must be the wiring, and I clean on Sundays and I've been away two Sundays in a row so everything is a little sticky.  The file sharing stuff that I use to share stuff decided it doesn't share files anymore and simply denied us "permission".  I opened my photo software and it seized up like me after an aerobics class, and after a debilitating 24 hours of the spinning rainbow beachball of doom, we're admitting defeat and Joe's taking my pretty much brand new computer in to get ram or rammed, or something, which can't quite be right, but since I've been thinking about ramming it with a freakin' sledgehammer for a while I guess it makes sense.

Yesterday was spinning day, and I worked really hard at it all day, and at the end of the day there was like... maybe 20 metres spun, which is abysmal, but then I realized I didn't sit have time to at the wheel a lot, which is probably part of the problem, but I was busy doing the lame computer stuff and missing busses.  (Two.)  Also, something smells funny at the top of the stairs and I can't figure out what it is, but apparently nobody else can even smell it. 
Also, I am about 8 repeats behind on the blanket, and I'm freaking out a little.

In short, Joe's leaving here with my computer in about 10 seconds, and about 30 minutes later I'll be alone in the house, and I think it would be best if I just had a little quiet time.  Maybe a little knitting. Maybe a little spinning.  Maybe wash the kitchen floor - something that feels like forward movement, so that I stop wanting things rammed. 
Or something.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:23 PM

January 23, 2012

Dear Blog

On this day in 2004, I wrote the first entry here.  My darling friend Ken made it for me, and it goes without saying that it was one of the most incredible gifts I've ever received.  Today marks my 8th Blogiversary - eight years of having this in my life, and eight years of our family considering all of you, collectively "The Blog".  We've never talked like The Blog is the part I write.  We talk about it like its you.  We say things like "What does The Blog think?" or "The Blog isn't going to like this" or "I can't wait to tell The Blog".  The Blog is you,  and I wanted to take a minute to tell you that this experience has changed my life, taught me things and changed me in ways that I would never have predicted. I have some things I'd like to thank you for, my dear little blog.

For making me a better writer.  I know not all writers agree, but for me, the nature of my relationship with The Blog has been a pretty big pile of awesome.  I feel like eight years of immediate feedback has changed the way I think and helped me learn to write what I mean to say.  Eight years of seeing immediately when I'm being understood by The Blog and when I've failed miserably has (I think) helped me to land where I want to be more of the time.  Thank you.

For supporting my career. Very early on, when I had my first book deal and was just starting this blog - but no book had been published, I was agonizing about what might happen if I wrote a book and it had abysmal sales.  I lay awake at night thinking about how terrible it would be, how embarrassing, how humiliating it would be to fail at this. What if, I mused to someone, what if I wrote a book and NOBODY bought it?  They said to me that at least they would buy it, and my other friends too.  "Your friends are pretty likely to buy your book" she said.   I sat there hoping I had enough friends.  Turns out I had no idea. I was about to have The Blog.  Thank you.

For teaching me a lot about technology.  When I started doing this, I had no idea what I was doing. With anything.  I'm not saying that I'm a total computer whiz now, but I can write basic HTML, solve minor tech issues, have a minimum understanding of what a server does, can use a digital camera pretty well, can use a whole lot of different software, and stay pretty current with all of it out of necessity.  A few days ago I taught someone how to export a jpeg in a way that helped them serve their Blog, and I don't think I would have ever thought of myself as someone who had anything like that to offer. Thank you.

For bringing some of the best people I've ever met into my everyday life. Every so often The Blog has given birth to someone who has gone on to have a life outside The Blog and in my kitchen, inbox, or on the other end of the phone. Thank you.

For teaching me that not all knitters are nice, and that The Blog is diverse.  Just like there is a certain percentage of every population that is mentally ill in a way that is dangerous to themselves and others, the same can be true of The Blog. Just like there are some people who would hurt me in my real world, there are people in our virtual world who would do the same - and virtual people are real people capable of manifesting in real ways.  I know - that seems like a bizarre thing to be grateful for, but I don't think I really understood.  I've learned to be careful and thoughtful, but not afraid... and I am safer now, and so is my family. Thank you.

For giving me a social safety net almost everywhere I go. The Blog has given me directions, food, beer, help, company and advice when I've been on the road, and that has made a difference so many times.  I'm so grateful for what it has meant to have all of you with me virtually, and sometimes literally. Once The Blog turned out to be a doctor once helped me when I was sick and far from home.  Once The Blog was a pharmacist, another time, a lawyer. Once The Blog showed up with a car and rescued me from a situation that was possibly dangerous and definitely scary, and The Blog once scooped me out of the wrong airport in an antiquated Honda, and got me to the right airport after I got my states mixed up and wasn't going to make it home in time for something important. Once The Blog knew without being told, that I was having one of the worst days of my life, and mystically knew to send me an email that said exactly the right thing.  Once The Blog sent me thousands of messages of comfort when my friend died.  The Blog wished us well after our wedding day. The Blog is powerful, and real and I cannot tell you how many times you have helped me in a thousand big and little ways. From knowing the best vegetarian restaurant in Austin to having a phone number for a knitter/dentist in Australia,  having The Blog everywhere is amazing.  Thank you.

Finally, for giving me a world much bigger and wider than my own could ever  be without you, and your multitude of perspectives and thoughts.  Dear Blog, you mean the world to me.

Thank you for the last eight years. I love you.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:03 PM

January 20, 2012

Now I can say it

In a rare turn of events, yesterday Joe and I were both packing.  Actually, now that I think about it, it wasn't that unusual for both of us to be packing. What was unusual was that we were packing and going different places.  There was a brief tussle over our limited luggage options which I won using a powerful combination of wit, logic, charm, quick thinking and the time honoured technique of taking off my shirt.  In the end, Joe took one large suitcase, and I took the wee rollerboard for my clothes, and an assortment of other bags and stuff so that I could separate out the supplies for each of the classes this weekend, which I think is very tidy and efficient. 

Standing by the door now is all that I will need for this weekend.  There's a large bag with all my samples for the class on Sunday, and another large bag with the books that I want to show my students and have them use as reference. I have another bag with notions, post-its and dental floss (one of the classes is a lace class. Dental floss is unexpectedly handy) and my outlines.  I have another bag with about 20 skeins of sample yarn, my knitting belt, my needles and the needles I bring in case a student needs them.  I have a bag with my computer projector and cables so I can show slides, a bag of markers and one of those big conference pads so I can draw pictures. I have my laptop, for the aforementioned slide show, and a copy of my talk tonight printed out and put in a bag with all the handouts. 

Beside that mountain of knitting related stuff, there is the tiny suitcase, which contains my toiletries, three shirts, a sweater, backup pants, socks, underpants and jammies, and I have my purse, which is really my personal knitting bag and has my wallet, a sock in progress, and the baby blanket.

When assessed with a critical eye (and by that I mean "were one to glance in its general direction with one's eyes open for two seconds") it would be clear that my personal stuff, what I need to with me to function for three days,  is teensy.  It's absolutely the fact that I'm doing knitter stuff this weekend that has the cargo load catapulted into the stratosphere.  Every knitter I know has a knitting related luggage requirement, and every knitting teacher I know has an insane knitting related luggage requirement.  (We won't even get into the spinners.  It gets nuts.)
What is piled by the door is just the textile artist equivalent of what a carpenter would need if they were going to have a shelf building workshop.  Wouldn't there be a pile of wood, three saws, a few books, tools?  The amount of stuff that is going with me (considering that were I not a knitting teacher, my personal needs would fit in one tiny bag) is clearly, absolutely, the product of my profession. 

This, this is what I was trying to say when a male acquaintance stopped by, looked at the mountain of needles, yarn, books, handouts and computer stuff and said  "Wow, It's really true about women and their packing."

Then suddenly I was trying to say "Dude, it's not a woman thing.  It's a working knitter thing, and If I was a male knitting teacher,  this pile would be the same.  You should see what Franklin travels with, and Carson has bags of yarn and a human spine when he leaves to teach. This has nothing at all to do with being a woman.  I don't have these bags full of makeup and ballgowns... it's work stuff. See that little bag? That's my not working stuff. It's three pairs of panties and some shampoo. There is not a single pair of shoes.  Deciding that I have a lot of stuff because I'm a woman is like saying that you have a lot of free time because you're a guy, instead of noting that your partner does all the childcare and housework."  I was trying to say all that, but as usual, I couldn't figure out what to say  in the moment.  I never figure out any response until either 3am or shortly after the offender has left.  I was standing there, mumbling something about "knitting" and "work" and then he said "Well, have fun at your knitting girls weekend" and left, and I couldn't say anything because my head was exploding.

Here I am, leaving for a speaking engagement and two days of teaching, and all my preparations just got drilled down to the following.

a) Women pack a lot of stuff when they go anywhere
b) Knitting isn't a job for those who teach it - it's a girls weekend!

Clearly, my friends, we have much work left to do, but it wasn't done by me today.  I find it hard to manage misogyny before coffee.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:47 AM

January 18, 2012

At longest last

As I agreed with myself yesterday when we had that little talk, I am temporarily closing the mitten factory.  This jag lasted a good long time, and resulted in ten mittens, but only two pairs. 

I couldn't stop putting them together, working them with little stained glass windows...

and without. 

I had everyone in the family picking their favourite combinations, and the other morning, when Sam designed three colour combinations in five minutes and then asked me if this yarn came in any other colours... I was reassured that it wasn't just me that found it fun.  (The white one with lime green, fuchsia and turquoise is hers.)

I posed them all over, I took a million pictures of them - and I wrote up the pattern. I've called these mittens Cloisoneé, after that decorative metalwork art that puts coloured enamel or gems into little compartments, because that's what these have looked like to me from the beginning. 

I think they are very good little mittens. They come in three sizes, and the pattern is written for both versions (with little windows, and without.) They take only about 100m of worsted weight for the main colour, and each section of the cuff (there are five) takes less than 8m for the pair.  (I used Cascade 220, but any worsted that makes a fabric you like at 21 stitches to 10cm would work.)

The whole fancy looking cuff is done with one colour at a time, and there's a photo tutorial for how to do the knit below stitch that get's you those cool little scallops.

There's more details here on Ravelry, and you can buy the pattern if you like.  I hope you love them as much as I do, but please be warned.  They're a little addictive, and it is very hard to make pairs.

PS.  I'm about to say something that accidentally got some people in England very excited  last time I did it, so this time I'm heading it off at the pass.  I'm about to mention London, and the London I'm talking about is in Ontario, Canada.  Not England. 

This weekend I'll be in London ONTARIO to teach and speak.  While the classes are full, there's still room in the Friday night talk if you'd like to come.  You can ask after it at Cotton-by-Post if you like. It's a very good talk about knitting and your brain, and also explains some interesting other things you've wondered about.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:54 PM

January 17, 2012

Radio Silence

Apologies for the down time there, I meant to write yesterday, but it turned out that I spent the day miserable with a cold, and I couldn't have given less of a crap that I had a blog. (Try not to take that personally. I didn't care about much.)  I felt truly craptastic all day, and so I rested and drank buckets of tea (may have slipped a little rum into the last one) and when I did anything at all, I knit on the current baby blanket. 

When I began this project, I charted out a simple garter stitch lace for the centre of the blanket, and set myself a one-repeat-per-day minimum. This, I thought, was a noble and mighty goal that would get this done well before the baby was anywhere near thinking about arriving. When I had breezed through the centre, I would whip off the border, and dash of the edging. Simple.

I was wrong.  One repeat per day is a paltry little dent in the blanket.  One repeat laughs in the face of ever finishing. One repeat matters to this blanket the way that casually mentioning to a teenager that their room is a mess matters, which is to say not very much at all.

I realized as I lay there yesterday gazing hopelessly at the blanket,  that I am going to have to do at least two repeats per day, maybe three, and I guess I have the cold to thank for giving me the time to sit quietly and have that heartless truth revealed to me.  I'm sadly closing the mitten factory, and focusing on the blanket. (I think the mitten pattern will be ready tomorrow, by the way. I'm just agonizing over details.) It's going to kill me to tidy up the pile of bright yarns and mittens, but I'm determined to be big about it - and I really am happy with the blankie.

I'll try and get my two (three) repeats of blanket done tonight, but any time I find today is already reserved.  Today is Tuesday, and that means it's for spinning.  I've got some beautiful BFL roving from Red Oak Farm calling me.

(Sorry, no link for that. I got it at Rhinebeck a few years ago, and a quick google didn't reveal a url that made sense.)  I have no idea yet what I'll spin it into.  I'm going to sit at the wheel and let it reveal its destiny. 
Surely it knows what it wants.
Hey! Maybe it wants to be mittens!


Posted by Stephanie at 3:08 PM

January 13, 2012

The way a knitter does it

Yesterday slipped by me, almost entirely. I had coffee, I worked in the morning, I went to yoga, but with those notable exceptions, I slacked off with remarkable aplomb. (As a matter of fact, the only reason I went to yoga at the end of the day was so that I didn't have to deal with the total guilt of my slothful afternoon.) I've been accused by many people over the years, of not really being very good at relaxing.  When we were first together, Joe used to tell me to relax.  We'd sit down in the evening, and he'd stretch out with a movie or a book and just lie there.  Now, that might sound relaxing, but just the thought of it gave me the screaming heebie-jeebies.  I'd pull out my knitting, or my spinning wheel - and put that together with the movie or the book, and Joe would look at me with my work and say "Baby, why can't you just relax?" and I'd say I was, and he maintained that I had no idea what relaxing was, and that maybe I just didn't know how to do it. 

This difference means that while I relaxed yesterday afternoon, I had my wheel, I had my knitting, and during what I think of as an afternoon off, an afternoon of complete sloth, I left a broad swath of fibre in my wake.  

Those beautiful singles from the other day got plied, and I'm thrilled and delighted with how it turned out. The singles matched up almost perfectly.

On the way into and out of the main stretches of colour, there's a little beautiful mingling, and I'm quite taken with the whole thing. The roving was 60% merino, 20% yak, and 20% silk, and each of those lends a different quality to the skein.   The silk gives it a subtle shine and beautiful drape, the yak contributes a little halo and wonderful softness, and the merino brings its characteristic smooshy bounce.  I believed I was spinning this as a gift, but last night I thought of knitting it lengthwise into a scarf, making the most of those stripes. (I've not yet decided to keep it.  I'm toying with giving it away but insisting it be knit into a lengthwise scarf, but I'm wondering if that might not be a tiny bit pushy.)

When that was plied and washed and drying, I did my mandatory daily repeat on the baby blanket (details forthcoming) and then had another mitten spasm. 

I'm still a little obsessed with thinking up ways to knit these, they're so fast and so fun and...

and now that our snow has finally arrived - I see no reason to really stop.  My mitten basket will be properly full when I'm done.  Warm hands for everyone. (Yes, by the way, there will be a pattern, and soon, and thank you for asking for it.)

I've almost finished a sock, and I nailed a few rows on the vest and... I think I'm starting to understand why what I think of as a relaxing afternoon doing nothing might be confusing to some. While it has taken me a long time to puzzle it out,  I think now that for a lot of people "relax" means "do nothing" and for me, it means "do what you like." The end result is that people are forever telling me to relax, and I'm forever saying that I already am, and then they're forever sighing and shaking their heads a little sadly, because I just "don't know how to relax" and am clearly destined to a lifetime of relentless, exhausting activity.

I've been reflecting a lot on this, and I believe now that this is another knitter/maker thing, that people who are makers  have an active relaxation that doesn't look relaxing to non-knitters - but I suppose it could really be that I only think I'm relaxed but I'm not, so I'm asking around.  Have you been told that you don't know how to relax?  Has someone told you that you should relax, when you already are relaxing? Do the non-knitter/makers in your life think that relaxing means doing nothing?  Have you heard - while you were already relaxing, that you should work on learning how to do it better?  Do you think you really don't know how - or do you think they just don't recognize it the way you do it, because it has no resonance for them? 

I'll just relax here while you think about it.  I'm doing another mitten.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:34 PM

January 11, 2012

Can't talk right now


Technically, those singles are done, and have rested overnight, and now I'm plying a delicious yarn - but it's still spinning, and I'm so enchanted with it that I've given myself a nasty case of Spinner's Limp from all the treadling, but I still don't want to stop.

I tore the roving in half lengthwise, and spun each of those in the same direction, so if all goes well (like it sort of hasn't before) they should match up as I ply, and  I should have a self-striping merino/yak/silk heavy laceweight when I'm done. So far, so good, but usually what happens is that the singles start out matching up, and gradually come unmatched as I move through the bobbins, but hope springs eternal over here, and the suspense is killing me.

Will it work? Will it not?  Only more treadling will tell. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:43 PM

January 10, 2012


This morning I sat quietly in the living room with my cup of coffee (my second, if you must know) I looked around at the damage done to my house by this latest round of startitis, and tried to figure out how to put it all back together. Startitis is an insidious disease, because it doesn't just wreak havoc on your mind and time, but on your surroundings as well.  Out of nowhere came a storm last week, a wave that I saw coming.  The same way that a wave comes at you in the ocean, that's how this one came, and just like in the ocean, trying to stand there in defiance of it failed miserably.  It was just bigger and stronger than I was, and it knocked me down, dragged me along the bottom of the sea, holding me under with the sound it makes - a scream that sounds like KNIT IT ALL.  I resisted, and that only made things worse.  It would have been over sooner if I'd given up and body surfed that thing into shore. If I'd have given up and just knit, it might not have gotten ugly.  I might have avoided the secondary infection I contracted that said YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH YARN MAKE SOME NOW.  I ended up with six new things cast on, and one lot of spinning on the wheel - but that's not the mess of it.  The mess is the yarn pulled out of storage, examined, swatched and abandoned, along with whatever innocent bystanders I knocked to the floor in my haste. 

The stash room looks like someone sent a troupe of berserk monkeys with wool issues into it - and don't get me started on what might, or might not have happened to the stash cupboard in my office when some lunatic decided to get out the carder, unpacked it and then abandoned the whole enterprise to root through the sock yarn bags like a boar after truffles.

There is a fleece in the kitchen that I dragged up here to start washing, sometime after midnight on Friday.  (Luckily, I succumbed to fatigue before I got started on that. I was able to see the folly of it after a good night's sleep.)  I can't even begin to tell you about the knitting books spilling over the living room floor, and on the dining room table... oh, and I'm stepping over a little mountain of them I piled by my desk. 

There are post-it's with cryptic knitting plans written on them - one says "g5/1 co92, not stretch anti bobble."  I think that means that the gauge should be 5 stitches to the inch, you would cast on 92, and that I shouldn't ... Hell.  I don't know.  I just hope that "not stretch anti bobble" doesn't turn out to be a really important instruction that is totally obvious in two weeks.

Today is for sorting all this out, putting it all back where it should be, and trying to figure out how I might prioritize all of these new projects.  Out of the cowl, mittens, two pairs of socks, vest and baby blanket, what next?  Luckily, today is Tuesday, and with the new year came a renewed commitment to Tuesdays Are For Spinning, so instead of kicking a path through the wool to the wheel, I think I'll tidy my way there. 

(PS On the wheel is BMFA Merino/Yak/Silk in Oaks Bottom. I'd link, but I think both the fibre and the colourway are out of rotation.)

(PPS.  I think I'll work on the baby blanket after that, so don't bother nagging.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:55 PM

January 6, 2012


The rampant case of Startitis is beginning to abate, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it is being refined.  One of the two cowls I started didn't make the cut, a hat was recognized this morning to be a poor idea,  a few swatches are drying, waiting to see if their destiny will manifest.  (One will for sure.  The other has emotional problems I might not want to spend time working through.) My favourite sweater developed a nasty hole over Christmas (I repaired it) and now has another, making me wonder if it isn't just past its prime, and that triggered an effort to replace it that is now going back into the yarn closet to get a grip on itself.  (I'm resistant to change so it took a few hours for me to remember I could wear another sweater instead of knitting another sweater.) The urge to cast on countless pairs of socks hasn't quit though, and this morning I went looking for my favourite needles, and couldn't find them for ages.  Eventually I realized that they were still in a pair of socks from the book tour, back in October.  I hadn't thought to look for them there because in my head I had finished them.  All that remained was the cast off at the cuff of one sock, and so minutes later, surfacing in a sea of just started things, was a finished thing.

Pattern: Netherfield.  Yarn: Serendipitous Ewe fingering weight, in Silver Shadows.  They're comfy, and cozy and have an interesting instep - and it's always those little things that win me over. 

I knit the pattern mostly as written, with the exception of swapping out the toe, because as written, I felt that it resembled a nipple.  (Those of you who know me will know that I am actually quite pro-nipple, so I have no idea why that bothered me so much, but there you have it.)  I looked at a bunch of finished pairs, and nobody's socks look like they have a nipple-toe once they're on - so maybe I should have hung in there, but I didn't. 

I'm wearing them now, and having a little celebration.  It's a nice way to end Christmas.  I took down the tree, finished a pair of socks,  got back my favourite needles, and now I can take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of a finished knitted thing -

Which is a pretty good idea, because if I keep feeling the way I'm feeling, it's going to be a while before I experience it again.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:11 PM

January 5, 2012

Annually Apparently

It started to hit me a few days ago.  As the fervor that is Christmas started to die down, and we started to get a little quieter around here, nature filled that vacuum with a crazy feeling.  It began as an urge to poke around the stash a little, a vague sense that I had some really good stuff I might want to look at and cast on.  (I did.)  
The next day it presented itself as a compulsion to wind up about 10 balls of yarn and surf the internet looking at patterns for a while (and cast a few things on, again) - and last night, as I started thinking about heading to knit night, it finally blossomed, full blown, into a crazed case of Startitis, as I started putting three projects (for one evening) into my bag, and then - realizing that didn't even start to scratch the itch - considered that I was taking a serious risk going to a yarn shop. I tucked another project in, just to look at, thinking that might help, and went.  I managed to (just) buy magazines - and wait until I got back home to cast on. (Again.)  This morning I started something else. (Again.)

I was going to write more about that, but it all started feeling pretty familiar, and then I remembered .  I think this might be a time of year thing.
January of 2011.

I'm at 10 projects and counting.  What is it about January?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:55 PM

January 4, 2012

Can You See Me Now

Just before Christmas, my trusty but very beat-up five year old macbookpro decided it wasn't really a macbookpro anymore.  It wasn't even really a macbookamateur, which is the direction that I would go if I were retiring as a macbook, but I guess the thing made its own choices.  It had been dying by degrees for a while.  First the CD drive didn't work, and that was okay with me once I got used to it.  (I was more concerned that it had  Lucy Neatby DVD in it when it quit and wouldn't give it back, but Joe got it out.) Then it forgot it had a camera, and that wasn't a really big deal either, because I only used if for doing video chat/meetings, and really, I didn't like that. I feel like people being able to see me while I'm on the phone is something my world just isn't ready for yet. It would mean my hair has to look okay a lot more of the time, and that's just pressure I'm not built for.

So like I said, the camera was broken and the CD drive was broken, but it was still mostly a good computer, except that it didn't really close, because the week after the first Sock Summit, Tina had accidentally thrown it on the floor.  (I've never blamed her. She threw her own on the floor accidentally a few weeks later, probably out of guilt.)  In any case, the drive, camera and closing thingie were broken, and then something went wrong with the video card (I don't know what that does, but it was a problem with seeing stuff) and we got that fixed, but then it broke again. About the same time as that, the computer started moving about as fast as glaciers do, and I decided to overlook that too.  Yay verily, I was a fountain of laptop quirk tolerance, until it started with the do-overs. 

I'd be writing along, working on something, and whammo. The computer - without any warning whatsoever, would restart.  I'd look up at the screen, for two seconds the spinning-rainbow-beachball-of-doom would appear, be almost immediately replaced by the blue-screen-of-death, then all would go quiet, and I'd hear the macbook "I'm starting up now" chime-of-cheerfulness, and there I'd be.  All my programs shut down, all my work gone (except if I'd been saving regularly, which towards the end was starting to be about 80% of my typing time) and there would be my desktop, sitting there looking exactly like it hadn't just totally shafted me,  ready to allegedly do what I wanted (as long as it wasn't anything it had already quit doing, and as long as I didn't want it done with any degree of speed.)

It was when these global electronic seizures were happening about eight times a day that I decided I needed a new strategy.  Joe and I went over the budget, and decided that a computer would be a business write-off, and a well timed one.  We went outside and looked at the roof to make sure that there wasn't a squirrel ripping a hole in it that was just about to cost the same as a macbook (that's what happened to the computer budget last year)  and then I bought one.   All of this is a long way of saying that my new computer is very nice, although we're still in the getting to know each other phase.  The new laptop munched up my photo library, and Joe worked some magic to get it back, and now I've had to learn eighty-seven new things to replace the things that I used to be able to do really simply.  It's that first part of an upgrade that feels like a downgrade.  You know everything will be better if you can just hang in there, but right now, in the name of all wool everywhere can't I just post a picture to the blog? Just one? Please?

It took me an hour, and some very unladylike language, and I believe Natalie may never recover from the fact that I wanted to fist-bump her when I figured it out, but I'm pretty sure that there's a picture right there. 
If there isn't, just pretend you see something. Just make it up. I can't handle the truth.

(PS.  I don't know what was so confusing about the yardage thing yesterday, but let's clarify.  The pattern calls for 5 balls of Rowan Pure wool.  Added up, that's 850m.  I am using a different yarn, and it has more metres per skein.  I have three balls of that, but together, they add up to 834m.  Everybody who thinks I'm trying to make three balls be five balls needs to chill out.  I am trying to make three be five, but my balls are bigger than those balls and so my fewer balls are really quite similar to the other balls, even though numerically speaking, three and five are quite different, in this case we are dealing in total wool mass, which is unrelated to individual unit size of said wool units.   Simple really.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:33 PM

January 3, 2012

Mark My Words

So, here's the thing.  Bolstered by my wild success with Megan's sweater, the fact that Samantha wanted a vest seemed like a walk in the park.  I should have known that something was up when we entered intense negotiations about the type, size and colour of the vest, but really, all that got sorted.  We had a three hour Ravelry marathon a while ago where we looked at a million vests, and narrowed it down to about eight patterns. Sam had comments about each of those patterns like "Like that one, but longer, and with pockets, and Mum, add those argyle cables, but remember it should be baggy, because the eighties are back and don't make a face like that - they're back in a good way" and then, right then when I thought there was no possible way I could make the kid happy without contacting the costume designer for Duran Duran videos - whammo - she found it. It's the Flourish vest. (It doesn't have pockets, which is a point of possible flaw, but I'm still figuring that out. I've decided to move forward as thought an almost eighteen year old wouldn't choose to lie to me when she said it didn't matter.)   Next point of negotiation was colour.  (She knew she wanted wool, so we got to skip that, heavens be praised.)  The colour question got solved when Sam said she wanted the colour to be "Blue, or grey, or Jeans colour... or black" and the next thing I knew, Tina had sent me three skeins of Gaea in a colourway that was exactly that. 

Pattern and yarn established, I swatched, got gauge, and started in, only to admit that I am, and have been from the moment I started this a few days ago,  completely and totally dogged by the certainty that there is no way on earth that I have enough yarn.

This, by the way, is crazy. The pattern calls for five balls of Rowan Pure Wool Aran, which is  850 metres of yarn, and I have three skeins of Gaea, which is  834 meters,  and I understand that 834 is 16 less than 850, which could be why I'm worried about not having enough, but here's the thing. When was the last time that you finished something, and it took all of the last ball?  It doesn't. There's always leftovers, maybe a few metres, but usually more.  I've had a couple of super close calls, but really, what are the odds that when the designer says that a pattern takes five balls of yarn, that she means that she used exactly all of five balls?  Plus - two of the sizes on the pattern take five balls, which means that there has to be some play in there, and every ounce of experience I have says that there is a better than excellent likelihood that this vest will use 16m less than it says it does.  I'm betting, based on years and years and years of knitting, that one of two things happened - that the designer had at least 16m of yarn leftover when she was finished knitting, or that the yarn amounts are padded on the pattern because it makes people crazy insane lunatics when they run out of yarn, so most of the time, the yarn amounts on a pattern are generous, and both these things mean that I am fine.  This is what my experience tells me.

That said, my intuition, my knitterly spider sense is tingling, and all it says is "You fool.  You don't have enough yarn and you know it.  Stop now, before your error is public" but I have kept knitting, because I believe in the power of mathematics and experience over "feelings" and later - when this turns out exactly the way we all know it's going to, and I get my arse kicked all the way up knitterdom and down the other side, you can all bloody well remind me that I shouldn't be surprised, shocked or hurt, because I thought from the start that there wasn't enough yarn, and there won't be, and I know that... and I'm knitting anyway. 

(PS.  This vest has a buttonband and armhole edging worked at the end that could be in another dye lot of this yarn if  things do get ugly.  This is probably making me bold)

(PPS.  It turns out that when Sam said "Argyle cables" she meant diamond-ish shaped ones. It's not a real knitting term, so don't worry if you haven't heard it, and for the love of all things woolly, don't repeat it at the yarn shop.)

Posted by Stephanie at 10:32 AM