March 29, 2012

This Old House

A while ago the City of Toronto came to our house to install a water meter.   The guy went down into the basement, took one look at what we thought was an old but serviceable water pipe and he said nothing.  Nothing. After a minute or so, this low whistle sort of escaped him, and a little wild eyed, he looked up at us and said  "YOU HAVE TO GET THIS REPLACED."  Joe and I kind of exchanged looks, because we're used to this reaction.   Our house was built a hundred and thirty years ago by what we feel must have been a team of drunken monkeys.  They would have to be drunk monkeys, because we're pretty sure that sober monkeys could have done a better job. Every time we have ever gone to do anything that other people do without incident, we discover some queer new oddity.  Wanna hang a picture?  Guess what - our studs are at random intervals. Wanna put in a new electrical outlet? Good luck - our house was  wired by Escher.  Replacing the porch? We discover there's nothing supporting our front bay.  (As an aside, when we asked the carpenter what was holding up the bay if there was nothing supporting it, he shrugged and said "Force of habit?")  There's a strange little room upstairs not big enough for anything - not even a twin bed, but it has a great window and a fancy plaster job. The concrete  floor in the basement doesn't run all the way to the walls. Nobody knows why - and in the dining room we discovered that the cold air return vent - it's not a vent.  It's a hole.  A dirt hole.  I could dig to the outside right through it if I had a spoon and enough time. 

What I'm trying to say is that most of the time now, when tradespeople come into the house to try and fix whatever we've found wrong now, they whistle and shake their heads and try to tell us that they've never seen anything like it.  (That - by the way, is a lie. The team of drunken monkeys that built this house built a lot of other ones just like it here in Toronto. They were a roving band, and Joe and I are far from alone.)  Joe and I usually laugh it off, and then the carpenter/electrician/plumber/whomever comes up with a creative (and always expensive) solution and we all have a good laugh about old houses.  This awestruck concern is only their first reaction, so when the water guy said that we had a big problem, we just sort of stood there and waited for him to get over his shock.  He didn't.  As a matter of fact, he refused to touch our water line, and suggested we not touch it either - and that maybe we didn't want to let the cat down there either, lest she bump into it and rupture the thing. 

"Really?" we said, sort of surprised at his cowardice, and the dude then explains that we have original water pipes.  "Lead?" I asked (thinking that a lead pipe or ten would explain some of the things my children have done over the years) and he said it wasn't lead, that "lead would have been the upgrade" to what's in our basement. We have the galvanized pipe that the City of Toronto ran to our house when it was decided that running water was a good idea. The pipe (and what was passing for a shut off) were old and fragile in the extreme, and the guy said we had to get a new pipe before we could do anything as fancy as getting a meter. He left, saying "I'd have trouble sleeping at night if that was in my house. It could blow anytime."

Fast forward a   chunk of time, where Joe and I did indeed have trouble sleeping at night, worried the thing would blow and fill the basement with a lot of unstoppable water, and today we had a team of guys show up and dig a very large hole (in my garden. I'm trying not to be bitter) and take out the old pipe, and run a new one in through the old strange basement wall. 

(you can't really tell in that picture, but that hole is  7' deep.)
They used a torpedo thing that shot the new copper pipe into the basement, and now we have a fancy new water thingie - bringing us squarely into this century. 

(You can see the scary old pipe behind the new one. It's a miracle it lasted this long.  Just a miracle.)

The most incredible thing though, was the pipe that they took out.  This  pipe was what was bringing us clean, amazing fresh water for the last 15 years that we've lived here. The water that I've been cooking with, drinking, bathing my kids in... making a thousand million pots of coffee with...

It's disgusting.  The inside is all rusted out - since it's just old galvanized pipe. That middle part is where all that water flowed through, and it's nothing but rust. Suddenly, I feel like I know why nobody in this family has ever been anemic.  Clearly there's no iron shortage in our diets. 

Now I have new, fancy copper pipes, and the water is flowing through something very tidy indeed - or it will be.  Eventually - maybe tomorrow.  Turns out that Escher and the team of drunken monkeys might have laid the city's chunk of pipe too.   There's a little problem out front involving nine emergency  city workers, heavy machinery and a lot of digging. Oddly, the city guys seem surprised.

Joe and I are not.  We're thinking about showing them the wiring.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:33 PM

March 27, 2012

Edges and Turns

Upstairs in the stash room I had this roving.

It was a long piece of BFL-mix roving from Blue Moon (the colourway is ST-1) and because of how it was dyed, it had repeats. I pulled it apart into those repeats, and got four matching pieces of roving.   I marked the beginning of the repeat on each of them, and then spun them all onto their own bobbins, all in the same direction.

Then I plied them into two big hanks of two ply -

and now I have self striping, long repeat yarn that I am so wild about that this morning I made Joe hold it for a while.  (I can't help but feel that he wasn't as thrilled about it as I was, but we've been together long enough that he knows to feign yarn enthusiasm.)  This yarn is quite possibly the most exciting thing that's happened in a while around here, and that's saying something, because that scarf I made on Sunday is a little bit sparkly.

I thought about it all evening.  What would I make? What would be a good use of it? I love the colours, I love the long stripes it will make, and I love the idea of something scarfy or wrappy, or shawly. I only have about 350m of this stuff, and it's worsted weight, so I'll have to be thoughtful of the size - but I really, really, really wanted something that shows off how this yarn's colours go, and I ended up searching for the perfect pattern the way a 17 year old girl looks for a missing cell phone.  I was a creature possessed. 
For a while I thought the answer was Lintilla.  It isn't. It's the wrong gauge, and even if it was the right gauge (because I know I can rig that) ruffles are yarn pigs, and I don't have a huge amount. 

Then I thought maybe the answer was Hitchhiker, but it wasn't.  It's charming - but I started thinking maybe I could get my self striping yarn to do something really, really interesting.  Maybe I could play up the stripes? Find something that would vary the width of the thing? Maybe change direction a few times? Turn a few corners?  Knit on the bias? That got me thinking about Stephen West, since he's got some funky shaped scarfy things.  I looked at Thendara. That wasn't quite right.  Too pointy. Same problem with Flagstone, plus I think those play up colour, but not the kind of colour I wanted.  

I considered the classic multidirectional scarf, but I've been there and done that. I thought about Stacked Wedges, which is rather fetching but too... wiggly.  I looked at Heartbreak (too big, not enough corners.)  I found Windward, and thought that was it for a while - it was more organic than the others, had lots of edges and turns... it had that post-apocalyptic shabby chic that I think I like, but that wasn't right either.  I think it's too big, and really is suited to a lighter weight yarn than I have.  (I think you really need fabric to drape to capture the "I'm so cool my clothes are rags" look.  My yarn wasn't going to do that.) 

The search wasn't going well at all, nothing was quite right.  They were all too wiggly or too long or too wide or two stripy or not stripy enough - or they didn't suit my yarn, or I didn't have enough yarn, and I think that unless one of you knows the exact right thing, then I'm going to go rogue.  Cast on, start - and see what happens.  Maybe I can figure out something long, pointy, partly knit on the bias, with edges, curves, turns and corners that isn't too big, wobbly, wiggly, or geometric.  Did I mention that the shape needs to be both geometric and organic? At the moment I have a whole page of a sketchbook filled with impossible to knit things that I'm going to try and knit anyway. I've snipped up a paper scarf into bits and put it back together, I've swatched a very crooked thing, and I have a feeling that this way lies madness, because my idea of the scarf I want to knit is more of a feeling than a plan...

but I'm casting on anyway.  What can go wrong?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:57 PM

March 26, 2012

Obsessed Briefly

I tell you, one thing about weaving that I love (there are many, but today this is at the top of the list) mercy me, it is fast.  Ridiculously fast.  You can get really obsessed with an idea for a weekend, and not have another half finished thing kicking around the house.  Check this out:
Thursday: I got a batt out of the stash, thought it was pretty, admired it and put it by the wheel.

Friday, I started to spin - and I finished the singles on Saturday.

Sunday, I plied.

I liked the yarn I got, and felt briefly confused, because I knew it wasn't a yarn I wanted to knit, but also knew it wanted to be a scarf.  It was my second cup of coffee before I remembered how yarn can become a scarf without being knit. 


I wove for a little, went for a bike ride, wove a little, did some work, wove a little, and by dinner time I was taking a scarf off the loom, knotting the fringe and giving it a wash in the bathroom sink.

The yarn relaxed and bloomed in the bath, filling in the surface and leaving me with a beautiful fabric, that looks like it was born all together. 

From carded batt to handspun yarn, to finished scarf - three days - and it used every inch of that beautiful stuff. 

I love weaving.  It's a simple yarn trick. If you love yarn, you might like this too.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:38 PM

March 23, 2012


Yesterday I had to pretend I was spinning, but today has a little more time in it, so there's a start on my wheel. 

Pretty, pretty stuff, this batt.  It's from Hanks in the Hood, and it's a barely mixed combo of Merino, bamboo and sparkles.  It's my favourite sort of batt to look at, and my least favourite to spin - when several different elements are barely mixed like that, it means that you hit a chunk of merino, then a chunk of bamboo, then merino, then sparkle, and the resulting yarn is very, very pretty indeed, but very tricky to spin - at least for me.  I get my groove on with the merino, and then wham. I'll hit a different chunk of stuff and need a whole other set of techniques. It's not the sort of thing where you check out and just zoom.  It takes attention, and I think the experience makes me a better spinner.  It's a healthy degree of challenge. 

Mostly I spin my "default" yarn.  All spinners have one, I think.  There's just the yarn your hands like making.  You treadle at a certain speed, draft the way you like, and the next thing you know, you're making the same yarn. Every. Time. Even if I think I'm going to make a different yarn, if I zone out for a second, I'm making that default yarn, but this batt won't let me do that. If I do the same thing for the merino pieces that I was for the bamboo, the yarn's think and thin, clumpy and bumpy.  To get something I want,  I can't default. The two materials are too different.  It's a brilliant way to train, if a little trying.

Also challenging? Knowing I need to let go of perfection if I'm ever going to get better at this.  To my way of thinking, being a good spinner isn't just being able to make all fluff into my default yarn.  It's being able to make fluff of all kinds into all kinds of yarn - and in a perfect yarn, I would be able to decide what that yarn was ahead of time - rather than getting a surprise. 

This is all a way of saying that I'm not sure this yarn is going to be good - but I think the next batch will better.  I think I'm learning - and I think this batt is a good teacher. I'm learning more about my hands and wheel from these rapid fire changes than I have from any book.

What's the thing that taught you the most about spinning?

(PS.  Stash toss not complete, but has not yet revealed any damage or the stuff of nightmares. Vigilance has paid off again.  I think.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:38 PM

March 22, 2012

In Which I am Pretending

Today I am not spinning this, which is what would be next on my wheel, were I not otherwise occupied.

Merino/bamboo/sparkle batt from Hanks in the Hood.

Today I am cleaning and working, and cleaning. It's time for the bi-annual tossing of the stash.  Last year when I said that I was "tossing" the stash, a bunch of knitters wrote and said that they would like it if I tossed it their way, and I realized that the term might have multiple meanings.  I don't mean that I'm tossing things as in throwing them away - I mean that I'm tossing the stash, like you would a salad.  I go through the whole thing, in all its bags, boxes and shelves, and I have a look.  I vacuum out the shelves, put things back in a (more or less) orderly fashion, and check carefully for vermin.  I look for evidence of mice moving into a cozy skein of merino,  carpet beetles looking for a skein that's up against a baseboard or wall, and yeah.  I look for moths.

At this point in my knitting experience, I believe that Toronto is Moth Central.   I also believe that if a Toronto knitter tells you they've never seen a moth in their stash, they might need to add the word "yet" to the end of it - and part of me wonders if they're lying.  I think moths are like the knitterly version of herpes.  Lots of people have it, but nobody talks about it, and we all pretend that we're don't have them if we do - but we do, and I have.

I don't have a lot - certainly nothing you would call an infestation, but I live in a house built in 1880, and at least part of my home is insulated with horsehair and old newspapers.  Whatever people had kicking around that they could fill the chinks with to defend themselves against a Canadian winter is stuffed in my walls.  (I don't know if it's true of my house, but some of my neighbours have found wool (clean fleeces) as insulation during renovations too.)  Our houses are literally built of moth food, and then if you're a knitter, and you go and stuff more wool into the place, you're literally laying out a buffet, and it's only natural that moths would come where the food is. All a house built in 1880 needs to have a nagging little moth problem is one owner over the last hundred and thirty years who didn't beat them into submission, which is pretty hard to expect, considering wool rugs, wool curtains, wool clothes and wool blankets.  At least once a year I used to see one of the foul winged beasts flutter through the living room and it would send me into a terrible panic.  Where are they? What are the eating? DO THEY HAVE THE CASHMERE?

Now I accept them as a natural part of my ecosystem - like mosquitoes, or mice. They live here, so do I , and I do what I can to minimize them, but really, I accept that they're pretty inevitable. Even if this house were totally moth free, I can't believe it would stay that way. I engage in a lot of high risk behaviour.  I bring yarn, fleece and roving in all year round, and all I would need to do to touch off something bad was bring in something from a shop that had moths. (This is another secret we don't talk about. Some shops have moths.  All they have in them is moth food. How can they not? It's not dirty or bad, it just makes sense.)  The age of my home, the climate of where I live and the fact that I consort with lots of other knitters means that I need to be very, very, very careful not to let a single moth get the upper hand around here.

Thus, I am vigilant, bordering on neurotic. I keep everything in ziplocks. (Moths can eat through plastic, but it's harder for them, and I'm all for anything that could slow them down.)  Twice a year, spring and fall (when moths, carpet beetles and mice are most active) I toss the stash.  I put my eyes on every skein of yarn.  They all get an inspection and a shake out.  Maybe an afternoon in the sun, if there is any.  Every container is vacuumed and washed - if it's washable, and the yarn is rotated top to bottom and back to front. I don't keep things in baskets.  (If you've ever lived the dream, then you know that basket + wool + moth + time = your worst nightmare.)  Our boxes of woollies (because moths like nothing better than dirty sweaters, socks and hats) are washed regularly, and go for a lay out in the sun. 

This system has served me well. On the rare occasion that I've found evidence of an incursion, it's been small, and I was able to totally eradicate it. If I suspect vermin (moth or carpet beetle) that skein leaves.  I don't try to wash it, keep it, or make it better.  I kick it to the curb instantly, without regret or a second look, and if I'm tempted to feel bad about losing the skein, I remember that this is the price of doing business.  If you're going to have this much moth food in one place - if you're going to essentially invite them, hire a bartender, put up twinkle lights, lay out a smashing spread, and then walk away - then you can neither be surprised or upset when they come.  (I sometimes have to remind myself of that to feel better.)

My fear, that I would have a foothold situation where the moths ever got the best of me and somehow managed to invade the bulk of the stash, that idea is more than enough to keep me vacuuming, tidying- organizing, inspecting and washing on a pretty spring day when I would rather be spinning.  So I'm pretending I'm spinning, and admitting that I worry about moths, and that I've seen the interlopers before, and they are ugly, and they want my yarn and yours, and they will stop at nothing to get it,  and I wish knitters talked more about this, so that we could band together and form a mighty wave of prevention and treatment. 

Honk if you've seen a moth in your stash.  They are nothing to be ashamed of.
Now go vacuum.  You'll feel better.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:26 PM

March 21, 2012

Catching up

This past weekend, I flew to Shreveport, Louisiana to hang out at a great yarn shop, celebrate that shop's anniversary, and give a talk. I had flight delays and troubles on the way home from there Sunday, and somehow staggered through the door just after midnight, collapsed in a heap, and didn't really get up until yesterday morning. (I took Monday off. Nothing bad happened - and as a matter of fact, the cold I had when I woke up Monday morning is mostly gone. Who knew that resting when you don't feel good works for mums too.  Shocking.) Yesterday I tried hard to get my life together, but everything was ridiculously jumbled.  I spent the whole day wondering why the house was so trashed, why there was no food, why the mail was spread out all over the dining room table, why my inbox was full - why there were no clean clothes... It took me until this morning to figure it out.  Partly it's that I left Joe unsupervised for a few days, but mostly it's that I use the weekends to get organized and if I skip doing that by going away, then the house is trashed, there's no food, and Joe has started an empty coffee cup collection on his dresser that is spreading faster than a disease.   (Not that I clean up his cups, but I do spend the weekends pointing out that empty coffee cup art installations on top of dressers isn't really the way that most people decorate.  I point this out until he moves them.)  Yesterday I did all the things that I would usually do on a Saturday/Sunday which means I didn't blog.  Now I find that I have the events of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to tell you about.  I think a day by day is the best way to catch up.

I fly to Houston, where I spend an unreasonable amount of time waiting to change planes to fly to Shreveport.  The flight was delayed because they were waiting for the pilot.  The pilot showed up after about an hour, and when I asked the airline why he had been late, they laughed.  I wasn't kidding.  Was he lost? Disorganized? Forgot he had to fly a plane?  I think I care about all that.  I think that's relevant pilot information.  I don't know if I want to fly to Shreveport with  a guy who forgot he had to fly a plane. The best thing about the flights is that I finish a pair of socks that have been trucking around in my purse since at least January.

A little detective work, and I can tell you this is Trekking XXL colour 107. They're snazzy, especially with Natalie's little red shoes.

The cat even likes them.

1. The ladies of Knitting Under the Influence of Nancy turn out to be very nice and very welcoming and hospitable.  Ridiculously nice in fact.  Nice like it's a superpower or something. If I had been  thinking about it,  I would have expected it to be only logical result of combining Southern with Knitter. 

2. They are funny too.

3. It takes me very little time to work out that there is a weird team tee-shirt thing going on in the South.  Not only are the core group of Nancy's friends all wearing matching red tee shirts, but this group showed up in some -

and this group showed up in some -

and thank goodness they brought me one at that point, because I was starting to feel like I had no idea what the dress code was, but that I was pretty sure I was left out of whatever it was.  (I remained poorly accessorized.  Especially by Southern standards.)

4. I got to see Mary and Meg.  They've been following me around (in a mostly non-creepy way) for a few years as a mother/daughter act.

I love them.  See Meg's sweater?  Handspun, handknit, by her - in two weeks, and she's 15. 
Fear her.

5. Two of the amazing ladies at the shop had made sheepy cake pops. 

I ate a lot of them.


1. I am at brunch with the ladies before going to the airport when it occurs to me that I have been offered more things (food/drink/food/pen/food/chair/food/help/food/coffee/food) more times in the last 36 hours of my life, than if you added up the last 43 years.  Southern hospitality is real, and it is stunning to behold.

2. When I get to the airport and my flight is delayed by 2 hours, I miss my connection in Houston, and therefore they tell me I will not be able to go home that night - so I pulled a Canadian Special at the Houston airport to get them to find me a seat on the plane.  I apologized to them until they gave up.  It took twenty minutes of apologizing to go all the way from "there's nothing we can do" to "your seat is 5C".  "I'm so sorry you think you have no seats. I feel terrible about this.  Oh my goodness, I just feel so bad that you have to find one. I'm sorry I have to go to Toronto,  I apologize for needing to really go tonight.  Thanks so much for the help, I know you'll find me something, I apologize for being such a pain. No, no - I'm so sorry I can't go sit down. Please, accept my apology for this difficulty.  I feel terrible that you have to do this for me."   Please note, this technique does not work if you are not A) completely sincere B) not leaving the customer service desk,  at all.

I lie around completely slothful, knitting and spinning until I am done being tired, and this mean's that I finish the Manx Loaghton, which turns out to be everything I had dreamed it might be and more.

It's springy, bouncy, a little fuzzy and soft. Not merino soft, but durable soft.  I like it a lot.  A whole lot.
(PS.  Yes! Crocuses in my garden.) 

Monday I also grabbed a big chunk of dyed polwarth from the stash and spun it into singles, which I didn't take a picture of.

Tuesday I plied the polwarth singles from Monday into yarn, yarn that should be for a friend, but I'm sort of having trouble imagining the part where I put it into her hands and leave it there.

Also Tuesday, I wove the ends in on my thrummed mittens.

They're officially finished

just in time for spring. 

Now today, today I'm having a sock problem, but let's talk about that tomorrow.
We're almost caught up.  What did you do this weekend?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:39 PM

March 16, 2012

I'll give you a topic

I'm in the airport, with only a few minutes to write to you.  Since I'm travelling to Shreveport this today, and since that will take hours and hours, and it's hard to spin on a plane (somewhere Denny's hand just shot up and she said "No, no it's not!" because Denny uses her drop spindle on planes all the time, which I don't, so just let it go Denny.  Just let it go.)  Because of all of that, I'm leaving my wheel sadly behind, and have picked up Ken's Francie socks, and another pair of socks - and I really think I can come home with at least one finished pair, which would be a nice change from all this spinning.  Not that I'm tired of the spinning, because I'm really, really not. 

I'm leaving behind two full bobbins of this lovely stuff, which is Manx Loaghtan.

It's a  rare breed that was a real treat to spin.  I bought mine from Spirit Trail from whence so many wonderful woolly and unusual things come.  it's an interesting primitive, and crimpy, a little dual coated, and delicious to say the least. 

So, a little question.  Rare breeds. As a spinner or a knitter, do you try to use them? Do you think that helps sustain the breed? Is that something that interests you, or that you think about why you buy wool?

Posted by Stephanie at 2:08 PM

March 15, 2012

A Yarn Story

It's a little late in the day to post, but my very pretty yarn is finally dry, and I love it too much not to share.  A while back, I made these batts on my friend Judith's electric drum carders.

I made a darkish-brick one, and after I'd made it I stood there a little stunned, thinking "what next?"  My friend Lisa suggested making a lighter one, to ply with the darker one, so I did. 

I spun those, over the last few days - and got beautiful singles.

Then, as Lisa suggested, I plied them together.

I love it.

I adore it.

I want to hug it and squeeze it and kiss it and call it George.  (I bet that's not funny unless you remember Loony Toons.)

The odd thing is, that as much as I adore this yarn - I'm pretty darn sure it belongs to Lisa.  Weird, eh?

Posted by Stephanie at 6:23 PM

March 14, 2012

Once more

I'm still the boring spinning factory over here, so once again I'm pillaging the comments for interesting questions to which I can give vaguely interesting answers.  Before I do that though, I have to show you my plan. 
I'm going to ply this these two of the Judith batts together...

and I think it will be amazing.  We'll find out tomorrow.

How's the post Christmas vest you were making for your daughter coming


See? This is a very well known down side of having a blog.  Nobody lets you give anything up for a moment.  There's something interesting going on with that vest.  First up, I absolutely didn't have enough yarn. I thought I would, but I didn't.  I knit the back, and thought (quite cleverly) that since there were two fronts left, each of them would take 1/2 the yarn.  When I was only part way through the first front I could see that I was in trouble - so I asked for more yarn, but when it came it was the wrong colour, and now I think I need to show Tina the colour so that I can get the right one. Until then, it's stalled and driving me CRAZY. It was working out beautifully, and it's the exact right time of year for Sam to be wearing it. It's going to be done as soon as I get the yarn.

How's the weaving going? (Or what's really going through my head: How can you be resisting this utterly addicting playing-with-yarn activity?)

I'm not resisting very well. You'll see. There is a game afoot.

What about the Catkin?
-Judy in Indiana

You people have long memories.  My beautiful Catkin is upstairs, awaiting buttons, until it gets them I don't really consider it done.  Unfortunately, I seem incapable of remembering it needs buttons while I'm somewhere that I could do something about that.  I'll re-apply myself.  It's very pretty, and it should be finished.

Yes, my (perpetual) question is, where is the picture of you modelling Gwendolyn?

Arrgggh.  That's only not done because  I have to persuade someone to take pictures, and persuade myself to be in them.  I love that sweater and wear it all the time.  I'll get it done.  I promise.  (Natalie is here this morning, maybe she'd help me.) 

Did I miss the part where that wool/stainless steel Habu jacket got finished?

No.  Neither did you miss the part where it got started.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:26 PM

March 13, 2012

Go Spring

I've been afraid to mention it, perhaps worried that the incredibly mild winter we've had this year is really just a red herring waiting to whack us around - but it would appear that this really was the winter that wasn't, and that what's happening outside might really, truly be spring.  There's birds, snowdrops... and more than that, my urge to tidy the stash over the last few days this morning blossomed into an overwhelming urge to wash the windows and walk in the park.  (Those two things are obviously can't be done at the same time.  You can guess which one won out.)

The urge to tidy things here is overwhelming too, so lets to a quick Q&A from blog comments and mail over the last bit, shall we? (By the way, if I post a question from my mailbox instead of the comments, I never use the persons name,  because they didn't ask it publicly, unless I asked their permission.  If the question is asked by a few people then I paraphrase, and tell you so.)

What are your thoughts on getting rid of "excess" children's toys to make room for stash? I'm asking for a friend (me).

- Annika

You know, there's a lot of evidence to support the idea that children do a little better with a little less.     For the purposes of you getting more room for stash, I have decided not to extend this argument logically to adults and their toys.
You're welcome.

What about Joe's Gansey?
- paraphrased, but mostly perpetually by Presbytera

Joe knows why I am not working on his Gansey, and someday I'll finish it, when the time is right and all cosmic conditions have been fulfilled.  It's all up to Joe, although the constant pressure means that at least the minute it's time, I'll get it done. (PS to Joe: this has only a little to do with the knob on the stove.)

Has anyone really thought about this all jibber jabber about tidiness? Why do people feel they must limit their stuff if it is stuff they enjoy? Why are we conditioned to feel guilty when we have a lot of stuff? Is the Tidy Bully standing over our heads with a whip? So many rules! So many shoulds! As long as it is neatly kept, why can't we just keep stuff until we need to use it and let it go when we don't need it anymore?
- Bonnie

I couldn't agree more with Bonnie.  This is my stuff, I'll have exactly as much as I want to (provided that's been reasonably negotiated with the other people who live here...) and I don't feel very guilty about it at all, and I don't think anyone else should either, as long as you're not running out on making the mortgage payment because the alpaca habit reared its ugly head.  I do feel compelled to point out that Bonnie makes another excellent point though.  "As long as it is neatly kept..." and we've all got a different definition of neat.  My stash needs to stay under my threshold.  Yours too, I bet.

Did you see one of the recent Hoarders where the woman refused to let them take her 10 Large moving boxes of packed yarn? I was dying to know what kid of yarn she had in those boxes.

-Cindy H

I didn't see that one, though my heart might have bled a little for her, depending on what else was going on in her home.  Like anything, there is such a thing as too much yarn (I can't believe I just typed that) and I guess it's possible for it to hit pathological levels.  If you've filled the bathroom with merino and are now showering with the garden hose year round, you might be there... or like I said above, if your stash is now taking up unreasonable space that belongs to someone else... well.  That might be fair too.  Mostly though, I think that while yarn collections are poorly understood by .... frankly, everyone, if you're on Hoarders, you might have too much - but yeah.  I still want to know what was in those boxes. 

What the heck is Sock Camp, and why should I care?

Well, whether or not you care is totally up to you, and it's really hard to describe what Sock Camp is.  Mostly, it's a dyeing/ knitting retreat. Mostly knitting.  Technically it's four days at the Resort at Port Ludlow, with two classes of knitting instruction (one with me and one with Lucy Neatby, who's practically a legend) and one class of dyeing with Tina, where we turn a whole sunlit room on the water into a dye studio, and you splash dye around (with some help) and make deeply personal yarn - and this year the fourth class is one I love.  It's with Carson Demers, and he's a knitter and a physical therapist, and he has a special interest and focus on how knitters can knit in a way that will keep them knitting, injury free - for a lifetime.  He's bloody brilliant.  You take a focused class in the morning, then in the afternoon there's either a bonus thing (this year we're going out whale watching)  or a workshop.  (This year one of the workshops is a clinic with Carson, where he'll critique and work with each knitter to help them in a personal way - in addition to the general class.) There's also amazing food, every room has a whirlpool bath and a fireplace, and in the evenings we do some pretty amazing stuff.  There's the talent show, and homework presentation, and you should ask around about the slide show.  It's amazing. 

Mostly though, it's hard to explain.  It's four days in an intimate setting with other like minded people, in a luxury resort, talking about knitting with other people who really, really care about it the way you do. People make friends there they keep for years, and Tina and I love meeting them in an small setting like that.  There's the sea, and otters doing disgusting things (I can't hardly talk about that) and knitting on the veranda with a glass of wine, if that's your thing.  I love Sock Camp.

What's with the theme? Do I have to dress like a pirate or wear a hat? I hate hats.
- paraphrased.

Yeah, me too.  I won't be dressing up either, though I can't speak for the other tutors. It's a deeply personal choice. I suppose the theme is mostly for  "guidelines" (to quote  Captain Jack Sparrow) and it does add a layer of fun.  (Like the pirate theme was the spark for going whale watching.) Really though, it's just a knitting retreat.  Nobody wants you to talk like a pirate or dress funny - unless that really makes you happy.  Then go ahead.  Remember that when Tina wears her hat. I don't think I can stop her.

What's the difference between Sock Camp and the Knot Hysteria Retreats? Which one should I come to?  I think I'd rather come to a retreat because I don't care about socks that much.
- Jenny, by way of email. (Permission granted to share.)

What's the difference? Minimal really.  The Knot Hysteria Retreats usually have spinning, this doesn't, and the Knot Hysteria retreats are free-standing and just the way Tina and I want them to be.  Sock Camp is run by Knot Hysteria (The company Tina and I own that runs Retreats and Sock Summit) but technically, that company is hired by Blue Moon Fiber Arts (Tina's company) to run it.  That means that it's way more Tina flavoured than usual.  (If you love her as I do, that's a good, but wacky thing. Definitely wacky.)  All the other stuff is the same. As for not caring about socks, I get that, though two points.  First, like we said about Sock Summit, socks aren't really socks - they're tiny canvasses to practice general knitting skills on - so we think they're really interesting. Second, for this Sock Camp, there's only one truly sock specific class. (That would be mine, but you know how I feel about socks.) Lucy, Tina and Carson's classes translate really, really well to general knitting. They are simply presented by way of sock.

I don't know anyone.
- anonymous (and my subconscious)

I can honestly say that I've never known anyone to be lonely at camp - unless they wanted to be.  You'd be surprised how fast you'll make friends.  Even if it's only me.

Finally (and I got this one A LOT.)

Sock Camp is too expensive.
- paraphrased.

I know it's expensive. for a lot of us, it's too expensive. (The irony is that if Tina and I didn't run the things, we wouldn't be able to go either.  We get it.)  It's a knitting retreat/vacation at a resort.  There's a chef, and lovely staff, and knitting teachers that we're committed to paying a fair wage to.  That makes it expensive.
I think there's no point in denying that it costs a lot, so I think about it like diamonds, or cashmere, or owning a really posh car.  It's a treat - and not everyone can afford to treat themselves like that.  I wish it was less expensive, but just like cashmere, it isn't.  If I could make it less expensive, I would, but it's just not how luxury retreats work.  There's other retreats, ones where you stay in a cabin, or whatever, and some of those will be closer to the reach of more people, but the truth is that it's like going anywhere really, really special. If you can afford it, and you love it, and it's important to you (and it really needs to be all three) then you do it. Or (like me and Paris...) you think about it all the time and save, and hope someday it could change, or that I win the lottery and invite you all for free, which I totally would. 

Is there still room at Camp?
-You, know that I've told you all this.

A little, not a lot.  Go here. Hit Register.

How's the spinning going?
-me, pretending you asked. 

Really well.  The reddish batt from yesterday is beautiful yarn now...

and I'm onto the batts I made with Judith, which I can only hope I do justice to.

Any more questions?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:39 PM

March 12, 2012


I hate tidying up, and I am no real fan of cleaning.  This has proved to be a minor source of drama in my life, because I like things tidy and clean.  I feel like if you don't mind cleaning, you sort of do it as you go along, and if you're me, and you want to live in a shining and organized home but really hate getting there, then you sort of do it in bursts, breaking out the vacuum and the dust rags, or tipping out a closet when you can't stand it a minute longer. Something happens, it crosses my personal threshold and I have to clean it.  In my experience, this tip over the edge is usually accompanied by some feelings of resentment and anger towards the other people who live with you who don't seem to have a personal threshold for dirt or mess and would simply wallow in their own filth forever, like a barnyard animal who doesn't even have a closet to put things into.  (How many feelings of rage you have while cleaning is, and should be, related to how many young, strong, beautiful human beings who are depending on your for support are lying on the couch asking you how much longer you're running the vacuum for because they can't really hear the stereo. By the time they were grown my girls used to leap to their feet when they saw a dustrag in my hand.)  Now that only one of my kids really still messes up the house, I've learned a few things, like that a lot more of the mess belongs to Joe than he would have had me believe, and while I knew he was paying the children to clean so he wouldn't have to, didn't quite believe he had managed to cover for him completely - which he apparently did. 

The upshot is that I like things tidy, and while I hear legends whispered of people who find fulfillment and happiness in cleaning, not a single one of them lives here, and so I have to have strategies to keep the house in something close to a state I can live with, without cleaning all the time.  The answer to this has been to try and have very little stuff.  The more stuff we have, the more cluttered things are, the harder it is to manage our stuff.  Dusting is easy if there's nothing on the table.  Washing the floor is easier if you don't have stuff thrown all over it - and for this family, the only way to keep things off the table and the floor is to not own a lot.  People can't throw eight weeks of laundry on their bedroom floor if they don't have eight weeks of clothes.  This has worked really, really well for us over the years.  Every time I feel like the house is out of control, I know what's wrong - we have too much stuff, and some has to go.   I watch three or four episodes of Hoarders to get myself in the mood, and off I go.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "Big talk from the lady with yarn everywhere.  What're you doing about that, Queen-tidy-pants?" and to you I say that the stash is mostly under control.  I have rules, and I check in with them every so often so that the stash doesn't turn into something that gets me on TV.  Rule #1 is that if I don't love it, it can't stay.  That rule means that if a skein of yarn accidentally shows up in my house because someone gave me a bag of stuff that used to be their mums, or I realize that something I bought three years ago really isn't anything I love anymore - or even if I try a yarn and don't like it - it and all its mates hit the donate pile. I don't keep yarn I don't love.  I don't try and figure out how to make it useful, I don't keep it because some day it might come in handy... I give it away to someone who will find it useful and does love it so that it might brightly flower into its glorious destiny - rather than rot away in the back of my closet. 

Rule #2 is absolute. If it can't fit, it can't stay.  Over the years I have created several stash containments zones.  I have the stash room upstairs, I have the built in closet in my office, and a few other spots like baskets and bins.  This is where stash must go.  Stash cannot go other places, or soon you're like that lady in Hoarders who was just going to put a few extra canned goods under her son's bed and now the kid's sleeping in the bathtub clutching a mangy towel and crying at night.  (I like to think of that show as what's keeping me scared straight. One episode and I'm upstairs getting rid of all the old toothbrushes screaming "THIS IS WHERE IT STARTS.")  My point is that I've got ample space for stash. Lots. The textile arts are important to me, I earn part of my living at it, and it's only reasonable that I have a space dedicated to managing the accoutrements of my craft.  If I was a carpenter, you would expect me to have a big workshop all full of the stuff that I used. You wouldn't expect me to have boards and saws all over the house, and that's the rule here.  Stash stays in the stash zone, and if stash is leaking out of the stash zone, then something must be done.

People. Stash is leaking out of the stash zone.  In specific, the spinning stash has gotten out of containment area 1, and after having made incursions into the temporary holding zones, it has now seeped further into common living space.  I told myself that the 4 batts I made with Judith were too beautiful to put away, and that's why I was keeping them on the bookshelf outside the bathroom, but that's not what happened.  There was no room for them in the spinning bins, and the spinning bins already had bags stacked on them, which is a violation of containment rules. (Holding areas outside of containment zones can only be temporary, like when you buy something that will fit, but you didn't put it away yet. Like that.) Then Tina bought me four big batts at Madrona - I wasn't going to buy anything because I knew I was in trouble, but Tina saw them (I wasn't looking, that's what saved me) and the next thing I knew she'd bought them as a present, which was so sweet, but really- it was about 400g (almost a pound) more fibre coming into the house.  Then, just to prove that there's something wrong with me, as I was standing there looking at those batts thinking "I love them, but where will I put them" when Judith offered me fleece and I was like "HIT ME."

So now here I am, with a spinning stash problem of a fairly decent size, and I only have a few options.  I can go through the spinning stash and get rid of some things, which frankly isn't going to happen because I love it all, or I can use some of it up, turn it into yarn and give it away so that the stash fits again. You can bet which one I'm running with.  I'm going to go on a sprint and move all the fibre I can through this house until it fits.  That BFL the other day was a nice start, but the four batts I made and the four Tina bought me and the fleece from Judith still don't fit, so off I go.  The first thing down the chute: The batts Tina bought me at Madrona.  I don't know where she got them (I'm not sure she knows where she got them. Blasted wool fumes, maybe someone will recognize them.) The first one was a beautiful yellowish wool batt, with locks of mohair thrown in for interest, and what looks to me like little shots of silk here and there.

This kind of batt can't make a really smooth yarn, so I'm absolved from trying.  The singles were beautiful,

and I love the 2-ply I ended up with. It's got Denny's name on it I think.  I love the colours - but the texture's sort of whacky, and I feel like it is calling Denny's name into the air.

I turned to the other two batts in the bag then, and I think these sister skeins might be Denny's too. 

These batts were mostly brown/burgundy/red, and had the same little chunks of mohair locks throughout.  Very fetching.  

I'll ply later, those singles need to rest.  Next up, at least two of the batts outside the bathroom door.  Then a few more goodies from deeper layers of the stash. Then maybe a few spinning things I've been hiding in the yarn stash can go where they're supposed to, which might actually mean that all the yarn would fit, which might free up shelf space for the books that are spilling into the kitchen, and then the whole stash will be under my total control.
I bet that's exactly what's going to happen.  I'll spin four things and the house will be clean.  Also, my tiny yarn elves will clear up the mess that the magazines are in, and their trusty wee unicorn steeds will clear up the bags of yarn we're pretending aren't in the office, right before the fairies make a rainbow bridge to the button box, and clear all the buttons out of my office, complete all my paperwork, and leave only happiness and sparkles in their wake. 

You bet.


More housekeeping:

I'm speaking in Shreveport this Saturday.  (Shreveport, I was very excited to learn, is in Louisiana, which I very much enjoyed the last time I was there.)  I told twitter I was talking on Friday, which was a total lie.  The correct info is here

The Sock Camp tee-shirt contest ends today. You can go here to vote if you would like to, and please only vote once per knitter. At  the end of today we'll turn off comments, address the job of counting the votes and on the 14th we'll announce the winner.  It's turned out (like everything Sock Camp related) to be way better than I dreamed it.  You'll love the designs.

I've been asked a bunch of questions about Sock Camp (apparently there's some confusion about what it might be, which is weird, I mean Sock Camp is such a NORMAL idea that you'd think it would take no explanation.)  So I'm working on a quick Q&A.  I hope it answers your questions, and those of your extended family who heard about it and now think knitters are weirder than ever, which we're totally not.  We've been this weird all along.

Also, I totally finished the thrummed mittens, and now I just have to pressure Sam into modeling them for me.  I'm sure that won't be at all tricky.

I gotta go spin now.  Wouldn't want to let the elves down by not doing my part.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:07 PM

March 9, 2012


Today's a quiet day here, and in between work and writing I sat down and plied up the BFL I've been spinning for ages. 

When I'd started this, I'd taken the two big bumps of roving, and using my handy dandy scale, divided it into three equal piles.  Each of those was spun up into singles, with the hopes of ending up with a beautifully bouncy 3-ply.

It remains to be seen if it's beautifully bouncy, but it is a three ply, and if my measurements are okay, it should be about 270 metres - which is enough for... well.  I don't know what it's enough for.  I actually have no idea at all what I might use it for. 

This happens all the time to me.  When I started spinning, I thought that I would mostly use handspun - which has clearly not turned out to be true, even though I produce more than enough.  I thought I would buy fleece or fibre, imagine what it would be, spin it, then knit it - all with a specific "thing" in mind, but it's turned out to be nothing like that.  It happens, sure.  That time that I got the Jacob fleece I knew exactly what I was going to make.  I got the fleece knowing I would make a graduated shawl, and that went from start to finish just the way I always expected.  (More or less.  I'm not a good enough spinner that what's in my head is always what my hands can pull off.  Bit of a crapshoot some days.)
Those times seem to be a little rare though, and mostly I find myself spinning the way I knit... for the experience of the thing.

I don't always even want the yarn that I make - I've given away pounds of handspun over the years, and the knitters I give it to always seem shocked that I'd let something so dear go - but the truth is that by the time it's spun, it's done its thing.  The fibre's gone from one state to another, from fleece to yarn, or roving to yarn, and I've sucked all the satisfaction out of it that I need to.  Sure, if I knit with my own handspun there's another layer of satisfaction - there's almost nothing that feels as good as starting with a sheep and ending with a hat, having only your own two hands to thank for it - but for me that must be like some kind of bonus round, since I regularly buy and spin fibre that can't possibly become yarn I like. 

This yarn, I really do love.  It's plain and traditional and those two skeins are totally something I would use, and as I took them off the heater where they were drying, I realized I have no plan for them.  None. Zip.  I don't think I'll give them away - but I realized that as I lifted them up and hugged them (they are pretty bouncy) that what I was thinking was "Good. Finished" instead of what I always thought I would think - which is "Good, next step?"

This yarn doesn't seem to want to be anything, except for yarn, and I need inspiration.  You know the way there's product knitters (knitters who knit to get the stuff) and process knitters (knitters who knit because they like knitting)?  I think I might be a process spinner, and now I need help figuring out what the product part should be.
It's about 270m of what looks to be a light worsted. 
Can you tell what it wants to be?

(PS.  A few words about the wonderful comments on yesterday's post.  I know there are a few exceptions, but by far and away the debate was civil, respectful and reassured me about people's ability to treat each other decently, even when they disagree fundamentally.  Thank you for making it possible to have these conversations.) 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:17 PM

March 8, 2012

For Women

This morning I marked International Women's Day in what is for me, a fairly traditional manner.  I got on the phone with my friend Jen, and we talked about the state of women's rights.  It will surprise no-one who reads here regularly to learn that I am a political person - and by political, I simply mean that I care deeply about the politics happening in the world around me. I read, I think, I debate and discuss what I hear, and I vote.  

Whether it's my own country, or my neighbours country, or a country halfway around the world, I am interested in who citizens elect to represent their views, and what laws those people then make - because it represents who they are as people, and how they think things should be done.  At least here in Canada, I don't think of the Government as some overlord,  I think of it as a group of Canadians selected by other Canadians to represent our views, and I like to know how they're doing that, especially when an election doesn't go the way I would like, and the majority of Canadians choose something I wouldn't.  I watch even closer then.  The rules and laws these Canadians make are things that will effect my life, or the lives of people I know - or the planet I live on, or the lives of people I don't know far away, and I've never bought that it's none of my business what's happening in the politics of places where I'm not a citizen.  That's how genocides happen. 

So this morning, Jen and I were talking about the politics of lots of places, and how the politics and politicians of those places had an impact on women.  We talked about how only 1 in 5 land owners worldwide is a woman.  How even though this is the 101st International Women's Day, which has to mean that we've cared about this problem for at least that long, despite that - only 12 of the worlds top 500 businesses are led by women. Despite that,  this week the Prime Minister of Afghanistan endorsed a statement that "Men are fundamental, and women are secondary." In Saudi Arabia,  a country that is considered a friend to Canada, the US and the EU, doesn't even let women drive cars.  Half their population just doesn't have that right.  Hell, after 101 years of worldwide political attention drawn to the problem, the Secretary General of the United Nations says that domestic violence worldwide is increasing, not decreasing, and that despite everybody agreeing it's absolutely horrible, 2 million girls between the age of 5 and 15 are sold as prostitutes each year.  

It's not just the Middle East and Africa either.  All over the world the politics of countries make laws and rules that tell women that they aren't allowed to make their own choices.  Here in Canada,  The Prime Minister has been widely criticized as been no friend of women.  He's closed 12 of the 16 Status of Women Offices, eliminated funding of legal voices for women, cut funding for women's advocacy by 43%, and denied financial support to groups who support access to abortion, which makes it look a whole lot like he's making it hard for women to speak up.  Thing is, he did a lot of that before he was re-elected and while he had a minority government. That means it's no just him who holds these views, that means a lot of other Canadians agree with him.  In the US, all of the GOP candidates - not some, but ALL of them agree that a life should begin at conception - which would not just make abortion illegal, but it could effectively ban most contraceptives, which would mean that the only way for a woman to guarantee that she wouldn't ever have more children than she could support, would be to only ever have sex when she was willing to have a baby. For me? That would have been three times.  (I don't know how that's an appealing idea to those men, but there you have it.)  98% of American women have used contraception at some point - and lots of them are GOP supporters.  It's not like being a Republican (or a Conservative, if you're Canadian) is wrong or horrible.  It's a legal political position to hold, as valid as being a Democrat or a member of the NDP - it doesn't surprise me that people could vote that way.  It does surprise me that if 98% of women use contraception, and 35-40% of them have had an abortion,  that so many of them are okay with voting for someone who's going to make laws that won't let them do that.

After we talked about all of that, I think that it's safe to say that Jen and I were both a little hot.  There was lots of talk about how this is 2012, and how can women let these things happen, and that while worldwide, only 19% of politicians are women - but you know, women have the right to vote in Saudi Arabia - and they're half of the population.  I get that in a country like Afghanistan, where there's state sanctioned abuse of women - and men are regularly permitted to do things like light their wife on fire because she  got uppity, that women, even if they have the vote,  can't create real change yet,  and that's why their rights are underrepresented in politics, but here? In Canada? In the US?  Women have the right to vote.  Women do vote.  We're mostly literate, with at least the minimum amount of education to be able to make our own decisions, and the amazing thing to me is that given the gift of choice, we would make a choice to vote to restrict women's future choices. 

Then Jen and I got quiet.  Then we thought a bit.  Then Jen said something about how it's like knitting something for someone.  You make it, you give it to them and then you're done.  You don't get to decide how someone treats or uses what you've given them.  That's not the spirit of it.  If you knit your Aunt Mary a scarf and she balls it up in the bottom of the hall dresser and never, ever wears it because it's itchy, there's zip all you can do about it, because you gave it to her, and now it's hers, and that's how choice works.  You can then make another choice to never, ever knit her another one as long as you live - but it won't change what she does with it.   I agreed with her, and I realized that this women's day, as I wonder if things are really getting better for women (or if it's just happening to slowly for my taste) and wonder at women's support of policies that don't seem to be good for them, I have got to stick with the real spirit of empowerment, and that's respecting a woman's right to choose what's best for her, and the hardest part?

If you really believe in a woman's right to make decisions about herself, her body and her politics, if you truly think that women can and must choose for themselves, then when women make choices you wouldn't, you can't call them stupid or regret giving them that choice.

Women have to have the right to choose.  Even if you don't like their choices.

Happy Women's Day. 

(PS.  I edited a typo at 16:56pm that was possibly creating confusion. I said the legislation "would not make abortion illegal, but it could effectively ban most
contraceptives" Of course it would make abortion illegal.  My apologies. )

Posted by Stephanie at 3:12 PM

March 7, 2012

Random Wednesday

1.  I am seriously excited about knitting things that are not a baby blanket. 

2. Not that knitting the baby blanket wasn't fun,  it was super fun.  It just wore on a little towards the end.  I blame the edging. The first few peaks were fun, but there's 80 on that blanket. Towards the end it took a certain fortitude of spirit that I usually reserve for cleaning out closets.

3. Just about the minute I finished that blanket, I looked around for something to knit that was totally and completely different and not at all like a baby blanket.

4. That was easy.

Thrummed mittens.  Mine are a kit from Liberty Fibers, bought at the Squam Art Fair last year.  I'm a little helpless in the face of thrummed things. Natalie was here this morning and we were looking at the mitten and she was asking me why I was knitting thrummed mittens in March (when winter is almost over) who they were for.... and I had no answers for her.  None.  I have no intentions for these at all.  I'm just knitting these because they're fun, fast - and because they're not a white baby blanket.

I also knit them because even though I've been knitting thrummed stuff forever, turning them inside out to reveal their Muppetesque innards always cracks me up.

5.  I'm also knitting socks, but you probably guessed that.  Ken's birthday was a few days ago, and he always gets Birthday Socks.  This year I was a little bogged down with the Great White, and so he didn't get them.  As compensation, he got to pick any yarn from the stash, and any pattern he could find. 

6.  The yarn part was pretty easy for him. He picked Dream in Color Everlasting in Congo.  I love that sock yarn.  I think it's fabulous. Strong, bouncy - super cushy. 

7. Ken choose Francie as his pattern, which I've knit for him before, but I made them out of Alpaca Sox, and as beautiful as they were, they got felted. (I got them back. My feet are smaller than his.) He said he misses them.

8.  Yesterday was Tuesday, and I spun.  I'm still trying to finish the cream  BFL (there's a lot of it) and I admit that I'm feeling a loss of momentum on it.  Maybe  having finished a big white thing I can't face another big white thing, but this morning found me with a big chunk of CVM that I got from Judith MacKenzie at Madrona - all spread out on the living room floor like a buffet.

9.  I'm trying to get it into my head that if I just finish the BFL, then I can have the CVM.

10.  I'm also trying to convince myself that washing up that fleece so that I'm ready when I finish the BFL doesn't count.  I think I'm buying it.

11.  BFL is Blue Faced Leicester.  CVM is California Variegated Mutant.  They are kinds of sheep. 

12. I love the mutant part.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:15 PM

March 5, 2012

Dear Luis

Dear Luis,

I know you're too little to know it, but you're sort of a big deal around here.  Not only are you one of the worlds most wanted and celebrated babies, you're also going to go down in history as the only baby I've ever loved who got born before their blanket was finished.

Yesterday when I finally brought it to your mum and dad and they put it around you, I felt a profound sense of relief.  Your mum looked so pretty, and like she was finally feeling better, and she said that she hoped that the circus the two of you have been through for the last few weeks was over, and I said that I thought it was.  I told her that I thought she'd run out of trouble.  That there was just nothing else left for her to navigate,  and that I really believed now everything would be smooth sailing.

My small friend, the truth is that in my heart, I had started to believe that nothing could go right for the two of you until I'd handed over that talisman, and that on some level, the blanket was more essential than I had thought.  Those are probably the crazy thoughts of a superstitious auntie, but I just got it into my head that maybe the hours of love in these blankets are somehow protective. A shield of sorts.  A symbol of how loved and wanted and unique you are in our world, and how grateful we are to your parents for bringing you here, and how everyone in this family is here for you, and intends to stand between you and trouble for every day of the rest of your life... as much as we are able.

I started thinking, as I was rushing to finish, that maybe this whack of trouble was the result of that blanket not being in place.  That maybe once I had you wrapped in that thing, it would be a sign to the universe that you have an army of love around you, and that anything that wants to mess with you has to go through us first.  I hope that's how it works, because that's what that blanket means.

Like you, your blanket is one of a kind. 

There's Madeira Lace on the border, because your dad Carlos is Spanish.  There's snowflakes because your mum Katie is Canadian, and there's the old tree of life motif there too, because those two things have come together to start a whole new family. (You'll learn that I'm big on symbolism - it makes me killer help for high school English essays.  Remember that.)

The blanket is big, and I thought it was bigger than I wanted it to be, but now that I think about you and how you've arrived and the impact you've had - I don't think that it could be one centimeter smaller to do you justice.

Like you, this blanket looks delicate, but is strong.

I was thinking that maybe a ginormous swath of white lace wasn't really a baby boy thing, but I realized that it makes total sense, since somehow this blanket is as much for your mum as it is for you.  Your father loves you to distraction, and is entirely devoted to you - any fool can see that, but I think your dad would be the first person to stand up and say that what your mum has been through and done for your little family in that last few weeks was brave, and she's bloody fierce, and your arrival has only made her more strong and beautiful. 
It almost seems silly that all I'm giving the three of you is a blanket.

Welcome.  Be safe. Be warm.


Auntie Steph

(PS. When you're ready, I'll teach you to knit.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:23 PM

March 2, 2012

For Want of A Little

This blanket might be the death of me. Yesterday I was so full of hope, I even imagined (briefly) knitting other things.  Maybe a sweater, finish some socks.  I bought the latest knitting magazines and the world of possibility stretched before me.  I might knit something red I thought.  Or blue.  Or Green - anything except for the eternal white that's stretched out for so long.  I felt sure that it was all going to work out.  I'd have enough yarn, I'd apply myself, maybe stay up all night and just get it done.

I'm not done.  I knit the snot out of it and it's still not done, and I think I can say with confidence now that there's not going to be enough yarn.  I weighed the ball and it was 19g.  Then I worked one repeat, and weighed again.  16g - so that tells me that each repeat takes about 3 grams. Then I counted the repeats left - which was a rather heartbreaking 16.  If each repeat takes three grams, then I need 48 grams, not  16 - and that means it's back to the store for me. 
Just to be sure, I actually weighed my swatches, thinking maybe I could ravel them and get the extra yardage there. No dice.

Even if I use the swatches, I still need 19 grams, and as I realized I was going to be going to the store for so little, I was suddenly demoralized.  I can't go to the store today because I have to drive aways, and while I'm driving I won't be knitting or yarn shopping, and so that means that even though tonight is prime knitting time and I could finish this bad boy? I won't be able to. 

I was sitting here trying to fetch the yarn with the power of my mind when the phone rang.  It was the lovely and charming Rachel H, on her way to the yarn shop close to her work, and she asked me if I wanted her to score a ball, and maybe drop it in my mailbox so it would be there when I got home?

I almost fell over.  It was a miracle.  It was actually like I was sitting there just wishing the yarn would appear today, and there's Rachel H solving the whole problem.  I gratefully accepted, and made a mental note get her a little present, or kiss her full on the mouth or something.  Relieved, I started packing up to leave, thinking about how happy I am, and about how great it is that that little problem evaporated totally, and about how tomorrow I'll knit something that isn't white while the blanket blocks.  Rachel H is totally the kind of person who texts you pictures of yarn from the store, so a minute later when my phone went off, I expected a picture of the yarn and a very Rachel-esque text message like "VICTORY IS MINE" or "SHE SHOOTS, SHE SCORES!!" Instead?

"They don't have it."

This, clearly is a crushing defeat.  That store was my whole backup plan. That's where I was going to go in the morning, and now they don't have it and I'm going to have to start calling around, and I'm absolutely sure I'll find some,  for the love of wool, I'm sure one of you has 19 grams of it, but whatever I do now, it's going to take me a bit to get it, and that brings me to my next great idea.

We should be able to fax yarn. At least small quantities.  No reason humanity can't work that out.

(PS. Because you're all going to ask now, the yarn is Lanett superwash baby yarn, in colour 1001, lot number 713636, although I don't think lot matters much. If you see a ball of it somewhere near Toronto, let me know. I'll go get it until we have the fax thing worked out.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:59 PM

March 1, 2012


This blanket can be finished.   I believe that now.  I've been knitting like a demon on it, and after putting in some solid work, I think the end is in sight. The problem now is that the end of the yarn is in sight as well.  It's looming actually, the little half ball remaining to me sitting there and looking leaner with every repeat.  Last night at knit night someone looked at how much I had to go, and how much yarn I had left and gave me a worried glance.  "Do you have a plan for what you'll do if you run out?" they asked tactfully. 

"Do you have a plan for what you'll do if you run out" is knitterese for "You're never going to make it - you see that don't you?" and I've been friends with knitters for long enough to make the translation straight away.  I mumbled something about how I'd had two balls, and the first ball did half so the second ball should do the other half - but in the back of my mind, I wasn't really worried.  I was convinced that somewhere in this house there was another ball of that yarn. When I got more, I'd put the old lot of yarn into one bag, and the new in the other, and set aside three balls to do the edging, because I wanted to use all one lot for that. I've used one, I'm knitting the second, so upstairs should by my ball remaining.

I just trotted myself upstairs to dive into the little paper bag sitting in the stash room that held the insurance ball, and it's not there. Odd, I thought, but things have been a little hairy here, so I checked another couple of likely places.  Then I checked some unlikely places, and now I've been checking really super unlikely places and it's stopped being "checking" and is now right on the edge of  just ripping the house up - and that ball isn't here. It's nowhere. I thought maybe I left it in the Dominican - but I know I didn't.  I remember putting it really carefully in my suitcase, because the blanket was too important to screw up.  Same thing for when I was at Madrona, and besides it stands to reason that if I had it at Madrona, I couldn't have left it in the Dominican.  I know it was here, I know it was. I'm absolutely positive - and now it's just gone, which is making me a total crazy person.

It really isn't that big a deal.  If I run out tonight, I know where to get more, and it's not a big trip and it can be easily handled.  It won't even put off finishing the blanket by much, it's just that I feel like I need an explanation for where it has gone.  It can't have disappeared.  It has to be here somewhere. I know that I haven't had a lot of sleep since I got home, and I've been all over the place, but I'm just not the kind of person who misplaces something as important as this yarn - and that means it's somewhere, or something happened, and try as I might to just sit down and knit, I keep thinking of another place it could be - or another thing that might have happened.  I'm so disturbed by it that a few minutes ago I checked the fridge and a suitcase I haven't used in two years. I've spent more time looking for it than it would have taken to get on the streetcar and get more, and that means I have to let it go.

There's one explanation that makes sense, and for the sake of my sanity, I've decided to accept it.  This blanket is now so big, and has so much yarn in it, and it's been run in at such a great rate of speed over the last few days, that the blanket is now working like a yarn siphon, or a black hole.  It now has so much yarn mass squeezed into one spot that it has started generating its own gravity, and because like attracts like, out of all the balls of yarn in this house, the blanket has already reached out on a molecular level to the stash room, and sucked in the ball that I was going to feed it.

It's that or I lost it, but in all seriousness I think the black hole is more likely.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:03 PM