April 25, 2012

That thing

You know that thing where you rip some piece of knitting back, and you wrap the yarn you have to re-use around the ball -

and then you start re-knitting, and keep knitting, and keep knitting and you're waiting for that moment.  That moment when you're all done knitting the old yarn that you knit before, because pulling fresh yarn from the middle of ball and knitting virgin yarn means that you've recovered from whatever knitting error set you back in the first place.   You know that thing?

I love it.

(PS. I'm re-knitting the Color Affection//Affliction/Infection with a yarn over between the first and second stitches, dropping it on the way back to give it a little ease along the edge.  It's working great.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:35 PM

April 24, 2012


A wonderful time was had here at camp, although an unexpected virus ripped through a very great number of campers.  Tentatively called WWJK - or "What Would Josie Knit" it appears to have been touched off by this camper:

and her two gorgeous Color Affection Shawls. So beautiful was her example, and so infectious was her enthusiasm, that knitters began to fall almost immediately.  Symptoms include putting all the yarn in groups of three,  discussing the nature of the shawl's construction ad nauseam, and being unable to manage an evening without saying "I just want to nail a few more stripes before bed."

Even the staff is not entirely well.

This one is mine. 

By the end of camp all of us were calling it the "Colour Infection" shawl - since it seemed more appropriate. Only a few campers remained well enough to resist,

The rest of us are hoping Josie doesn't decide to knit an afghan next year.

(PS.  I ripped mine out and tried again. The edge was too tight.)
(PPS. Have you ever noticed how well people pick the colours that are right for them?)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:45 PM

April 19, 2012


Sure as rain, last night I finished those socks I was working on all day.  There's nothing like a whole day of travel to rack up the knitting time.

Yarn: Berroco Sox, colour 1440, 2.25mm needles Pattern: my standard Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules - worked over 64 stitches.

My thanks to Tina for modelling them this morning.  It takes a special dedication to the humble hand knit sock to stand on a bench at 6:30am- taking direction about the placement of your feet. 

We've got a day that moves at breakneck pace today as Sock Camp begins - every room at the Port Ludlow Inn will have a knitter in it by nightfall.  We have rooms to set up, bags to organize and a game or two to pull together. (We have reluctantly decided against a sock yarn version of dodgeball, although it was really, really funny to imagine.)  We have class notes and supplies to place,  teachers to welcome (Hi Lucy! Welcome Carson!) and a few surprises to arrange.  It's going to be busy, and wonderful, and a world with just knitters and knitter support people in it for four whole days.  I'm excited.
And I need more yarn.  Those socks were supposed to take three days.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:38 AM

April 18, 2012

Time Lapse

Toronto to Vancouver, five hours, and I know how to amuse myself.

I knit in the cab to the airport.

I knit while I watched a movie.  (Mission Impossible nineteen, or whatever.)

I knit while I watched a show on my ipad. (Primeval .)

I knit while I read a book (The Golden Compass )
I'm only in Vancouver, so maybe there will be a whole sock today.

Instead of writing here,  today I blogged at Cari's place,  as part of her Writer: with kids series.  Be sure and read the other authors too.  It really is wonderful.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:28 PM

April 17, 2012


I'm just poking my head in here, since to say I'm swamped would be an understatement.  I got up this morning, wrote my to-do list, and then had a little bit of a hysterical giggle and about 8 cups of coffee.  That might be a start.

I leave in the morning for Sock Camp, which is going to be a very good time, but it means that I'm fresh out of anything resembling a minute here.  I have meetings, phone calls, writing, work - as well as the pervasive belief that I'd be well served by taking at least a few clean articles of clothing with me on this trip - and I need to plan my knitting for the trip, and find everything I need to teach, and think over and gather up about a thousand things I have to remember to bring... oh crap. I need darning needles.  Suffice it to say, I'm slightly deranged. 

None of that stopped me from doing a completely sensible thing last night, and warping my wee loom with several shades of yarn, and trying to weave a scarf today.  (Please forgive the crappy iphone pic, it was late.)

I'd take better pictures of it today, but the finished project is a surprise, and I don't want to give it away with details.) It's bonkers. Totally bonkers, and a complete leap of faith to even think that I could have it done before I leave tomorrow morning, and I know it's probably not possible, but there I was last night, warping a loom and feeling pretty positive about my odds. 

Today? Today I can see I'm crazy, and I'm trying to fit a loom in a suitcase.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:15 PM

April 11, 2012

My Inner Knitter

I have an inner knitter.  I'm sure you do to. It's the part of every knitter that has a pure and unreasonable love for knitting and yarn, but, unlike the rest of you,  lacks any sort of maturity when it comes to getting what it wants. My outer knitter is what shows after personality traits like patience, self-control and reason slap down the inner knitter's impulsive wants and desires, although I only try to control her when I need to.

If my inner knitter wants to cast on another pair of socks and there are already four pairs on needles? I don't stop her. What does it matter? It's only knitting. It's supposed to be fun, and I can cast on as many pairs as we want.  This assumes of course that I'm not on a knitting deadline - in which case I'm probably going to end up talking with my inner knitter about commitment and responsibility.  If my inner knitter wants to buy a skein of yarn, and there's room in the stash and her plan is good, we buy it.  If my inner knitter wants me to bail on cleaning the bathroom and knit instead, we might do that.  I only have to wrestle her to the ground and hold her there by the metaphoric throat when she wants to buy eight skeins of cashmere or take a week off work or tells me to screw off when I suggest we might want to get off the couch and get a little exercise.  (My inner knitter likes knitting, TV and chips.  We discuss this often.)

This brings me to something interesting I've noticed about my inner knitter.  We've had a few weeks of relative silence. This is totally normal for us.  It's not like she doesn't want me to knit, she's just laid back about what. It's  probably because my inner knitter is about 14, and like many teenagers, has her periods of intensity punctuated by periods of complete apathy. I'm walking around saying "What would you like to knit?" and she's lying on her bed wearing black clothes and too much eyeliner and listening to Fall Out Boy really loud, and whenever I check in with her she just says "Whatever. Why are you always talking to me? Close the door... Wait, do I get the stash when you die?"

At that point I just wander off, acknowledge that while we still love and must knit, my inner knitter doesn't have an agenda right now.  I actually like these phases.  They let me finish up projects that have been languishing, clean out the stash (you can't do that except while your inner knitter is checked out.  They don't like getting rid of stuff) and catch up on spinning or weaving.  It's never permanent.  When she's done pouting because I made her clean her room and get off of Ravelry, she's see something or want something or be on fire for a vest.  No way to know.  Usually, I just wait her out.  

Today though I figured something out.  Inner knitters want you unemployed. That must be what's going on, because after about a week of lying on her bed wishing her bangs were longer and she had more black nail polish, my inner knitter has suddenly perked up.  I have three writing deadlines that I'm thrilled and happy to be working on, and bingo.  There's our girl.  She wants to surf patterns.  She wants to rip up the stash. She thinks everything we're knitting right now is crap and wants nothing but new stuff. Out of new yarn.  I've explained that I have a lot of work to do, and it's not working.  The more interested I am in writing, the more interested she is in knitting.  This morning, when I told her that there was no reasonable way that we were getting up from the desk before I had met my word count and written a blog entry, she screamed "I AM SO SICK OF YOUR STUPID JOB, YOU NEVER CARE WHAT I WANT."

I took a deep breath and reminded her that without a job, I can't buy yarn, and I like buying yarn and that we are actually on the same side, and then I realized that I was arguing with the part of my brain that's a teenager, and I quit. 
Now I'm just sitting at my desk, trying to write, and my inner knitter is totally carrying on in a way that makes it really hard to work, but I'm pretending that I can't hear her. 

I'm a woman of some fortitude and I'm proud of what little self control I have, but dudes. 

She's loud.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:03 PM

April 10, 2012


I've been at this fibre arts gig long enough to tell you a few people I don't argue with anymore. If Judith MacKenzie tells me something about how my wheel works , I don't argue.  If Lisa Kobeck tells me something about how to put a loom together, I've got nothing to say, and if Deb Menz says something to me about colour in spinning , I just do it. What ever she says.  The woman's brilliant.  So it came to be a few years ago, that I was sitting in Deb's class on using wool combs to blend coloured top, trying to do something to improve my skills so that I could both use wool combs and let my tetanus shot lapse, and the class was great, and when I was leaving, Deb said to take a bunch of the top. A little of each colour. A really little bit of each colour.  I asked why - and she said  "It will come in handy some day." So, because it was Deb Menz, I did as she said, and brought home this big zip lock full of tiny little virtually unusable bits of top.  It's sat there in the stash for a couple of years, bugging me.  I could think of lots of reasons why Deb Menz would want that zip lock, but not very many reasons that I would, and I've only barely resisted the urge to give it to a spinner like Denny about a thousand times, but still, Deb said it was a good idea, so there it was.

Last week, I fished this batt from Hanks in the Hood out of the stash.

I spun it, and got pretty, pretty yarn that was just what I was hoping it would be..

I warped the little loom with it. (In response to many questions, my loom is a simple little rigid heddle loom.  A Cricket.  Quick, easy, fun. I have two reeds for it, an 8 dent and a 12 dent.  For this project I used the 8.)

As soon as I got the loom warped, I knew I had a problem.  I picked up what was left of the ball of yarn, and I got that feeling.  You know the one.  Where you've got a half a sleeve to go and you pick up the ball and get the heebies, because that ball of yarn isn't the right weight to go the distance? I knew right away that it wasn't enough, but I'm an inexperienced weaver, and so I hoped that I was wrong.  Lisa (one of my many weaving mentors) told me that a good thing to remember is that the weft (the yarn that goes side to side) will probably take about 60% what the warp did.  (The yarn that goes front to back.)  I probably could have used that rule if I'd weighed the yarn before starting, or if I hadn't starting weaving while I was thinking I didn't have enough - but I didn't, and I did, so I just was sitting there with this sinking feeling.  Another few shots with the shuttle, and I realized I had to face it.  Not enough yarn.  The batt I spun it from was gone, and Oregon's a bit of a ways to go to get another one, and even if they would mail it to me this project had a deadline, and so - I decided to stretch the yarn, sort of the way that you stretch a stew when two extra people arrive for dinner.  I started to think about what I could use as potatoes.

I considered looking for a yarn that matched or contrasted prettily, one that would look good as stripes. If I put in a 2cm stripe every 10 centimetres, that would probably give me the length I needed.  I looked through the stash with that in mind and discovered that I had no yarn that was appropriate.  Now, I have enough yarn that there's no way on earth that there isn't something good for this in there, so that meant that I really didn't want stripes.  I accepted that, and wondered what my other choice was? I only wanted the scarf out of that multi-coloured batt, but I didn't have more of the multi-coloured batt and didn't have time to order it... I was thinking that I was doing that thing I do again.  I bet you do it too.  That thing where you don't want to change anything that you're doing - but you also want a different result?  (My favourite is "I don't want to stop buying yarn, but I wish the stash would stop growing.")  I was just wondering if this was one of those times, when my eyes settled on that bag of bits of top from Deb Menz.  I got an idea.  I could make a little bit of the rainbow batt.  I could fake it. If I could could create a yarn that looked a lot like what the one I was using looked like, then I might be able to phase it in and out of the weaving, like I would do if I had two yarns of different dye lots.  They wouldn't be exactly the same, but I started to wonder if I could magic a yarn that was close enough.  I grabbed the little bag of bits and my hand cards and went downstairs to the loom.

I started looking really closely at the yarn I had made, and picking those colours out of the bits, and putting them on my cards in what I thought was the right proportions.

Then I carded them together until they seemed blended enough, ran to the wheel, spun, plied, wound it off the wheel onto a shuttle, and came back with my several metres of potato yarn.

Whoa.  Way too purple.  The batt clearly had that purple in it, but that was way, way too much.  I tried again, and this time when I had the bits carded together, I felt like it was going to be spot on.

Back to the wheel - then back to the loom.  (For all you spinner/knitters out there, you should know that unlike yarn for knitting,  if you're using your handspun for weaving, you don't wash it/set the twist until after it's woven, so it was okay to do this. Don't freak out.)

That's my new yarn on the shuttle, and the old yarn on the loom. Looks pretty good, right?  I worked back and forth, a little of the potatoes, a little of the original, switching here and there to phase it in and out.  Luckily for me, the original yarn is stripy and changes colours often, so I didn't have to be too careful. 

By the time I'd done it for a while, even I couldn't tell where I'd used the potatoes yarn.  The original batt had merino, bamboo and sparkle - and the potatoes yarn was just merino, so I never used it alone for too long, thinking that the texture would look too different, but of course, the warp was the original yarn, so there's always some bamboo/sparkle around.  I saved a chunk of the original yarn to do at the end, so that both the start and the finish of the scarf would match, and whammo.

Done like dinner. I gave it a wash, and now even I can't tell where I put in the fake yarn.

I think it totally worked, and I can't believe that Deb Menz gave me that top, and that I kept if for this long, just because she said it would come in handy. I mean, she was right, absolutely right, and maybe 2g of each of a million colours of top is just the sort of thing that all right minded spinners keep in their emergency drawer, but right now it feels like Deb Menz knew this day was coming, and she pressed that bag into my hands so that I would be prepared when it came.   It could be that I read way, way too much fantasy and sci-fi, or maybe watching all those reruns of Sliders on Netflix was a bad idea, but right now I have to tell you the truth.

I think Deb Menz is not just a textile artist.  I'm pretty sure she's a time traveller, or at least folding time a little bit on weekends.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:15 PM

April 9, 2012

Bright Day

The sun is shining brightly today, it's Easter Monday, and everyone has the day off.  Joe's reading the paper on the couch, all three girls are bumming around, joking, cooking, dancing and singing to Meatloaf and Jack Johnson. (It's a game of musical whiplash.)

Our egg hunt was this morning, and the ladies found all of them, except for one chocolate egg that I'll undoubtedly find on a Thursday in July.  Megan (Canada's top sock model) agreed to do a little bit for me, and so I have rainbow bright socks for you.  

Details: String Theory Colorworks, Continuum in Trifolium. (Merino, Cashmere, Nylon.)  Plain toe-up socks, short row heel. (Home made recipe.)

These socks aren't for Meg, and ever since she found out that there's no money in sock modelling (even if you are at the top of your field) she has started charging me in knitting.  This session cost me another pair of rainbow socks.
I'm going to have to get better at taking pictures of my own feet.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:31 PM

April 6, 2012

Second verse same as the first

Definitely a little bit louder.  We'll see if it's worse. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:52 PM

April 5, 2012

Why are there so many yarns about rainbows

I finished the Baby Venus sweater yesterday, and it did indeed turn out that if you follow the instructions (that's a ProTip. My gift to you) it's a remarkably quick, fun sweater.

The grafting is fun, the tubular cast-on is a treat, and in reality, when properly executed, the back inset looks nothing like a hump or a dorsal fin, and actually does improve the fit of the sweater. 

Cute as a button - which you will note, it now lacks three of.  I raided my button stash last night and came up with nothing, and looked for something right at Lettuce Knit when I went to knit night, but it was hard to find what I want. Probably because I have no idea what I'm looking for.  Something colourful, big, chunky without being too heavy for the sweater, nothing with corners to poke a baby... I don't know. Maybe I'll do ties. Ties could be good.  Or not. I'm torn. I knit on the rainbow socks while I thought about it.

(Note, for everyone who visited String Theory Colorworks and complained that they're not selling this colourway (it's trifolium) right now... I refer you to the little note on the front page that says "We are open to special orders!  Send us a message through the "Contact us" button to let us know what you'd like!"
You're welcome.

Now I need something else to work on, and I'm wracked with indecision.  I went through the whole stash, and couldn't pick a colour.  So I got out this batt. (It's another one from Hanks in the Hood. Merino, bamboo, sparkle.)

Because if you can't pick a colour, pick them all.

(...and yeah.  I see the rainbow theme too.  I'm chalking it up to spring fever. I feel sure it's almost past.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:08 PM

April 4, 2012

You will obey

So here's a thing.  I love rules.  I adore them.  I find a special and deep comfort in being the person making the rules and plans for those around me, but I also mostly don't mind being someone who has to abide by rules.  I think it makes the world a more orderly place if everyone knows that everyone is all going to do the same things at the same time.  I like it.  I like it so much that it is hard for me to break rules.  Now, I know not everyone is like this.  My friend Jen, for instance - she's very structured but pretty lawless, and my husband Joe... Joe is practically a one man anarchy squad.  He's forever doing whatever the hell he wants, while I stand behind him all sweaty and wringing my hands, and saying things like "I think if we were supposed to go in there the door would be open" or "I don't think this is a parking spot" or "They said to come at 7:00 and now it's 7:15 and people are going to be upset." or "You can't just put things in the dishwasher. There's a system for doing it and that cup can't be where the knives go because now I'm going to have to put the knives where I usually put the glasses, and do you see how now the plates have to go on this side and the ENTIRE SYSTEM IS RUINED BECAUSE YOU CAN'T FOLLOW A SIMPLE RULE ABOUT CUPS?   Joe always says the same thing.  "Baby, relax. Nobody cares."

Relax? Nobody cares? For the record, I care, and I'm not nobody, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person out there with a respect for decent conduct and social order. Joe's taking apart the fabric of civilization and I should relax? Doesn't he know that without rules we'd all be rude and chaotic? A sense of order and a structure for doing things is what separates us from running wild like  wolves.  (OH WAIT JOE. Wolves have rules and order. They don't just put the mugs in the cupboard any way they want to like it doesn't matter. Like they live alone.. like... never mind.) The point is that I like rules.  They give me a profound sense of comfort, and breaking them gives me hives - with one exception. If I think I understand a reason for a rule, and can then see that there's no good reason why I should do as I'm told... then I'm fine. I can skip it and follow my own logic and personal rules.

Let's say I'm in a mall with a kid in a stroller, and I have to go upstairs. There's a sign on the escalator that says no strollers.  I'm the sort of person who can see that they're worried that some idiot is going to take a stroller on there and get someone hurt because they're stupid.  Me, I'm not stupid.  I know how to take a stroller on the escalator, so I don't have to listen to that rule.  Up I go.  (I know. Some of you are going to feel compelled now to tell me in the comments how dangerous that is, and that you know someone who wasn't stupid who had an escalator accident and how it really, really is dangerous and I shouldn't be so flip. I know. Just get it out of your system. You'll feel better. My kids are big now. At least I'm no longer a danger to others.)  I also break rules that I think are not right - like the rules about how often I should vacuum, or what constitutes "too much knitting".

Now, I think this means that I'm not a total lunatic.  Sure, I might be a little more "structured" than your average person, but it means that I obey almost all life rules ("I don't know why they have that fenced off, so I'll stay out") and almost no knitting rules.  Most of the time I figure that there's not much about knitting I can't figure for myself, and besides - how bad could the consequences be anyway?  It's only knitting.  This means that night before last, when I read briefly skimmed Lucy's instructions about how to take off the waste yarn on the sweater, and open up the front, back and neck - I didn't really get it, but I didn't really worry about it. I closed the pattern - and resolved to deal with the mystery she was presenting in the morning. 

The next morning, while we drank coffee and Joe read the paper, I thought about how Lucy's finished Baby Venus looked, and I picked up all the stitches that I thought Lucy wanted me to (because my own rule about always reading a pattern didn't apply here - I knew what I was doing) and I removed the waste yarn. 

I did this the way Lucy wanted me to - or, to be more precise, the way that I felt sure Lucy was asking me to in the pattern that I had not read. 

When I had them all picked up, I thought about that little "v" shaped insert that Lucy has at the back neck, and realized how Lucy wanted me to knit that. (Again, please note that I came to this deep and profound understanding of Lucy's pattern instructions without knowing - except in my heart, what they were.)  I proceeded to knit back and forth, decreasing like you would to make a triangular shawl in the centre back, while working the band at the same time.  For a while, it seemed to be working. Then I realized that Lucy was wrong, and that it wasn't working.  I was knitting a prodigious hump into the back, and the bands were coming out too wide, and that this made the buttonhole placement all weird, and what the hell was that Lucy Neatby on about?  How did she think this would work?  Her instructions were crap! Total crap!

I ripped the whole thing out.  I tried again.  This time, instead of decreasing 3 stitches every other row in my triangle, I doubled it - doing the decreases every row.  When I was done I had more of a roundish dorsal fin than a great hump, but it still wasn't right - and by now I couldn't believe how much I was having to screw with Lucy's pattern to make it work.  I ripped it out again, and finally went to get the pattern so that I could see if maybe I had misunderstood her.

It was only as I read Lucy's extremely clear and precise instructions for how I was to knit the insert (by itself, and with 5 stitches diminished every row - THEN knit the bands)  that I realized that I had broken the few knitting rules I do have.
Read the pattern. I don't have to do what it says, but I should at least read it.
I am not a psychic.  I don't know what the designer is thinking.
Never, ever, ever deal with anything before my second cup of coffee.

and finally,

Lucy Neatby is smarter than I am. 

PS. Sorry about what I said about you yesterday Lucy.  I think it's great you'll never know what that was. See you at camp.

PPS. If you're a knitter making this sweater, don't pay any attention to my pictures.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:48 PM

April 2, 2012

Not mud

After a rather wild ride last week (that ended with an emergency city crew still here ripping up our street at 11pm Thursday night - I am sure we are absolutely beloved by our neighbours right now) we have water.  We still have a bit of a mess, but there's water in the pipes, and it's even stopped being rather dramatically mud coloured.  More than that, we suddenly have water pressure.  We've always had enough water, as long as you didn't want to do more than one water thing at a time - like fill the bathtub (20 minutes) and flush the toilet, or run the dishwasher and do laundry, or brush your teeth and wash a pot. 
(Those of you who have lived with teenaged girls may now silently nod your heads respectfully in our direction - because yeah. We raised three teenaged girls in a house with one bathroom, no shower and water rationing. I like to think it made them all great negotiators who can all get ready to go out in 2.5 minutes.) With our new pipes it seems that we can do an unlimited number of water things at once, and (other than constantly cleaning up mud) Joe and I have spent a really unreasonable amount of time this weekend rushing around watching the bathtub fill while the washer is on.  We are a simple people.

I've been scrubbing up mud all weekend - I've put what's left of my garden back in, and planted a few pansies to try and distract the neighbours from the smashed up sidewalk, swathes of mud and unpaved sections of the road.  (As Joe said, when I told him that was my plan "I hope they're GREAT pansies.")  On the knitting front,  I spent the weekend working on things that are not mud coloured.  Take this baby sweater.  It's the Baby Venus sweater from Lucy Neatby, and it's as odd as fish.  Knit seamlessly from side to side, with all manner of fancy tricks, like tubular cast-ons and short rows and waste yarn fanciness - it's another one of those patterns that's like the baby surprise sweater - or turning your first heel.

It all works if you can just suspend your disbelief and march on, doing exactly as you're told.  Lucy knit hers out of Kauni (tripled by way of chaining it as you go along to preserve the stripes) but mine's out of BMFA Twisted, held double. It was quick and interesting, although at one point I did have to remind myself that to the best of my knowledge, Lucy Neatby is just interesting, not insane, and that her instructions were unlikely to be wrong. (They weren't. So far it works perfectly - and very entertainingly.)

When that wasn't what I was doing, I churned away on a pretty pair of socks.

These bad boys ( String Theory Continuum - in Trifolium) are currently the darlings of the knitting basket, with all who see them (except for Joe, who's still Joe) asking for them. 
I'm starting to think about seeing what I can get for them.  Loads of laundry? The bathroom cleaned?  The mud scrubbed off the porch?

Maybe I should aim higher.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:31 PM