June 29, 2012

Site Specific Art Installation

That's what someone called their yarnbombing this last week, when I gave them a compliment on how well it suited the environment, how it looked like it belonged, how that piece of knitting made total sense there... "That's because it's a site specific art installation" she said, and she's right.  This go 'round at Port Ludlow, the knitters outdid themselves.  It wasn't just bits of knitting left wherever (which I have to say, is not without it's own charms)  this was considered and deliberate.  It was art - and before you get on me, telling me that there's lots of places that consider this vandalism, know that Port Ludlow loves this.  Loves. It.  As a hotel they embrace knitters, thinks the things we make are beautiful, and leave them up for a long time after we've gone... and some favourites have been up for a year or more, and why would they take them down?  Why, whey they're so very charming.  From a bedecked little cork for the wine steward, to tiny socks turning up dangling from lamp pulls and warming the feet of occasional tables...

To checker cozies and then hats on the chess Queeens ( those bison bridles on the knights sprang up later.) 

To wee knitted birds that sprung up in the windows, one more each day.

In a perfect echo, a strand of garter stitch sawtooth edging sprang up in the most  perfect spot along the framed blade of a timber saw.

Carved ducks got scarves and their webbed feet got warmers... the heron statues outside sported scarves in no time, and an iron lady in the hall upstairs had an angora cowl and balls of yarn held in her skirts.

Finally, there was the completion of a set.  The Inn has these lamps with decorative balls on the bottoms of them - and quite some time ago, an unknown knitter covered the ones in the dining room with cozies. They were so perfect (and a little high up) that it took ages before the staff even found them, and after that - they were beguiled enough to leave them.  Shortly thereafter two more of these light bottoms got cozies - this time it was the ones in the breezeway, which are even harder to get at, but I think the staff figured that the knitter in question had got up on a chair or another knitters shoulders to get them there, and there that knitting stayed too.  This time, there was one light with an uncovered bottom - and it turns out that the knitter in question had a hankering to complete her set.  One evening, the prettiest cover yet had mystically appeared - and when I saw it, I lost my freaking mind.
I staggered a little, double checked that it really was a piece of knitting, and then scurried down the hall to fetch Tina, giggling helplessly the whole time.

"Come with me" I said to Tina, and she could see by the look on my face that I meant it.  She followed me down the hall, and I took her underneath the light, and pointed up.  Her gaze followed my finger, and then, as she understood what she was seeing, a low whistle escaped her.  I saw her do the calculation I had, and she looked at me shaking her head.  "That's not okay!" she said.  "That's not safe!" I mumbled my agreement, was totally glad that the knitter was an intelligent adult who had probably done it safely, and we both stood under that art piece, and tried to figure out how it had come to be.  See, that light?

It's about 25 feet off the ground.  At least, and I'm not good at feet.  It's hanging from the ceiling on the second floor, with the stairway wrapped around it.  There's no stairs under that light - just  a drop to the main floor.  We stood there, then walked up and down the stairs and tried to figure out exactly how this had come to pass.  Had they borrowed a ladder? Built a scaffold? Some sort of climbing equipment or even (dare we all hope) built a pyramid of knitters - with our artist teetering on the top, stitching that thing on while they all co-operated towards one magnificent goal like something out of Cirque du Soleil?

It turned out the answer was slightly more mundane, but not really much less intrepid or daring... and there was (much to our relief) a safety plan in place, which was an enormous comfort to us, as we'd already imagined how we would tell this knitters family about the unusual and unlikely nature of her demise. 

The set is perfect though. Absolutely perfect, and I bet that the knitter feels as we do, that it was totally and completely worth it, just to watch the inn staff stand under that, and wonder how it happened.  It turns out, that since most of them aren't knitters... it didn't occur to them that she could pre-knit it, and then put it in place.  A whole bunch of them had a vision of a knitter, somehow getting up there, and then knitting that thing on.  Needles a blazing, glancing down at the ground nervously, while her light cozy grew row by row.

Maybe it makes us bad people...
but we didn't correct them.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:45 PM

June 28, 2012

Wanting what you get

I'm writing this post from high up in the air, as my flight goes from Seattle to Vancouver - I'll hit post when we land.  I'm looking down on the San Juan Islands and mountains, and planning my knitting for the five hour flight that comes after this one.  Over all, I'm in a pretty happy place.  I'm totally out the other side of the Gourmet retreat, and do you know, I think that crazy idea worked?   For three great evenings,  knitters knit gourmet fibres, dyed gourmet yarns, and cooked and ate gourmet foods. 

I don't know what went on in Tina's class (because we always teach at the same time) but saw gorgeous yarns come out of there all day...  and in my class we worked on a little cowl that would become a sampler for all the delicious yarns we tried - it was like a wine tasting, only with yarn, and the flight was twelve exquisite specialties. 

Bison, silk, vicuna, guanaco, qivuit - really interesting and delicious stuff - and a lot of fun to talk about.  Most of these fibres are expensive, as they should be for a variety of reasons, so it was really fun to lay them all out.

Tina and I are just us though, and the real story was the cooking class.  For three days, knitters went to cooking classes, visited a working farm/cidery, cooked for each other, served each other and ate with each other, and from peeling the fava beans to searing chicken, they had it going on. 

Each dinners meal was paired with a wine flight, and James, the Wine Steward, walked us through all of them.  It was pretty fantastic for me, and I was working, so I hope it was even better for all the knitters.  We aim to please, and this felt like it really worked.

It's one of my favourite feelings, what happens when a space is occupied only by knitters, and for three days that's just what happened.  Every room in that Inn (plus a couple) had a knitter in it... every activity was knitter friendly,  yarn and needles sprouted on every surface, and the yarn bombing? I can't even talk about how good it was.  It's elevated to art now. That's for sure.

In short, it was perfect, and I'm really, really grateful to the knitters who made it possible.  I'm ever so lucky that you let me do this stuff. 

(PS. Yeah, I know. I'm posting five minutes before midnight.  What can I say. I was determined to post today, and had technical difficulties. Yeah, I'm looking at you laptop.  You know what you did.)

(PPS. Thanks to Tamara. I stole a couple of her great pictures of the cooking class. Regretfully, I was teaching when it went down.)

Posted by Stephanie at 11:55 PM

June 27, 2012

Catching Up

It is a terrible shame that most of the things in the world that are really, truly fabulous, you can't do for that long without inviting consequences that are a lot less fun than the thing itself.  Steamed vegetables? Oh, you can eat as many of those as you want and the planet feels no urge to exact much of a price - but pastry? There's payback.  Butter? Really good wine? Sloth? Payback, payback, payback.  So it goes with these knitting retreats.  They're spectacularly grand, and Tina and I have so much fun organizing them, and there's no way on earth that I could possibly complain that this last week, my job was to arrange introductions between knitters, exquisite fibres, wine and food and that it was so hard... so let me tell you the truth.  It was a  little hard and the hours are very long - but overall, this gig is a sweet ride.  Yesterday after we tore down the dye room and stored all the stuff and packed the staff off to where they were going and came back to the house to do the paperwork, and I was going to write a blog post (because I sort of screwed up the days of the week and I swear I thought yesterday was Monday) and a whole lot of other stuff... we sat down to do all that and a creeping fog of exhaustion came in of the sea and ended us. Payback.  The better part of the rest of that day was then lost to the consequences of that fun but hard work, and we barely registered it.  I'd knit a little, then go back under... I think Tina might have managed a few emails- I'm pretty sure we booked a meeting for this afternoon... (one of us should look into that, I think) but mostly,  we wept with joy that we're allowed to have this as part of our jobs, and then wept with fatigue- you know. Because we're allowed to have this as part of our jobs.  I have some great pictures and stuff, but that's for tomorrow.  Today, I have to show you my Lizette that's finally coming along, and do a quick draw for all the Bike Rally Karmic Balancing names that I should have done on Monday (which turned out to be Tuesday - so now I'm really late and so sorry.) 
First: Lizette. 

I'm loving this.  There's shaping, a little this, a little that, it's a fun knit that keeps it going on, but the best part is the yarn I think.  Now that there's quite a bit on the needle, I'm loving the weight and the drape of it.  The yarn's Hempathy (40% hemp 40% cotton and 20% modal) and it seems a little stringlike now, but that hemp is going to soften and fill out and be amazing I think.  (If I were only the sort of knitter who had made a swatch I would be able to show you this. Sadly, I am still me.)

I'm quite a bit of the way up the back, and thrilled to be there. I've got a long flight tomorrow and if I stay awake for most of it, I could have a front too.

This weeks draw:

The members of our little family Bike Rally team have all drawn their names (me, Ken, Erin, Amanda, Samantha, Pato and Katie) from everyone who has donated to us so far,  and here's our lucky knitters for this weeks Karmic Balancing gifts.

Lou H will be receiving a beautiful sheepy bag from the very generous Catherine at  ZigZagStitches Shop.

Staying with the sheep bag theme (because who doesn't love a sheepy bag!) Michele at Three Bags Full has donated a knitting sheep bag, and it's going to be loved and used by Julie N-R.

Dixie at Nuelle Yarns has five, count 'em FIVE beautiful skeins of sock yarn, and one each will be heading off to live with Becca F, Ann H, Sally M, Monya S and Heather S.

Vickie at the Hedgehog Stitchery did a little stash diving, and came up with two beautiful presents for knitters.  First, two skeins of Cadenza, and a copy of The Enchanted Sole are going out to Dana H.

She went in again and came up with this. 

two skeins of beautiful Ella Rae Lace Merino, that she's generously sharing with Sarah F. 

I love this one, because we all adore handmade things. Anna at Little Green Pixie is donating two $25 gift certificates to her shop. 

and Joan L and Crystal S will be working with her to choose something they love.

Hunter has wonderfully donated three copies of her new book The Knitters Curiosity Cabinet

She'll be sending those along to Elisabeth P, Nancy G and Meredyth W.

Last, but certainly not least, Signature Needle Arts has graciously donated two pairs of Signature straights, and one set each will be going home to live with Kathleen S and Leslie C.

They will be in touch with the winners to sort out size, cap and point preferences.

Thanks to everyone who's donated to the rally and the gift pile this week.  We're very grateful. There will be another draw next week.  See you tomorrow.  I have some cool stuff to show you. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:09 PM

June 21, 2012

Now that you ask

Yesterday, right out of the blue, my inbox filled up and there were many tweets and things got really, really crazy, really really fast. It turns out that the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) has asked Ravelry to take down infringing patterns and stuff, and to change the name of the Ravelympics, because the US Congress has granted them the  exclusive commercial right to the trademarks.  I guess that might have gone over okay, but in the letter it said that they the USOC believes that  "a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that right then - that's when the knitters went - to use a technical term, bash*t insane.

All of a sudden I was getting a lot of mail, and seeing a lot of tweets, and a lot of them were telling me that I was going to have to DO SOMETHING, and asking me what I thought.  Knitter feelings were hurt, and knitters don't like that, and they don't want to change the name, and the Ravelympics are exactly the same as the real Olympics and they've dedicated their lives to knitting, just like athletes and.... Well.  They hated it, and they want me to act, or write, or blog... and because I really try so hard to be balanced and fair most of the time, all I could think was "Oh, man.  You don't want to hear what I have to say here" and with that, I had a glass of wine and hoped that it would be gone in the morning.
It's not, and it might even be worse - and now there's mad talk of boycotts and more mail, and desperate messages to me, and I don't feel like I'm going to be allowed to ignore it,  and so here I am, thinking long and hard about this and trying to figure out what I'm going to say and why, and I hope you'll all bear with me, and try to understand.  I'm going to hit some of the highlights from my mailbox. Please - if you're not yet ready to have an open mind, if you're still too mad - go knit something for a little while until you're calmer and ready to consider some other perspectives, eh? 

They're trying to stop the Ravelympics! They can't do that!

Deep breaths my knitters.  Deep breaths. As my friend Denny would say, inhale pink, exhale blue.  Nobody said anything about canceling it, or changing it, or anything.  As a matter of fact it was very carefully stated that the worst case scenario - the very worst, terrible, horrible, very bad thing that can happen is that Ravelry would change the name.  I know that's really upsetting to some people, but really, they can't stop you from doing any sort of knitting thing - and they aren't trying to. They just have a legal right to the name- and get to say how it's used. Nobody's stopping anything or trying to stop anything. Whatever plans you had? It's the same.

We're just having fun! Knitters are cool! We're not hurting anybody! Why can't we use the trademark! Don't they have anything better to do than go after knitters?

This one is harder, but keep breathing. Here's the thing. A while ago (I'm going to change details here so that I don't single anyone out) Tina and I had the experience of discovering that some really nice knitters had decided to pay homage to the Sock Summit by having one of their own.  It was not a big event, it didn't hurt us in the slightest that they wanted that to exist.  It was a super fun idea, and we would have loved for them to go forward with it - because it didn't compete with the real Sock Summit in any meaningful way, and they were different enough that any thinking knitter would never have been confused. You could have knocked us over with a feather when our lawyer told us that we had no choice but to ask these nice knitters to use another name for their event. It turns out that under the law, if you don't defend your trademark every time, you lose the right to defend it at all.  So if we'd let those nice knitters use the name, we would have sort of legally said "we don't mind" and that would have worked against us if (and I'm just conjecturing here) a big company, like Vogue or Interweave decided to host a huge Sock Summit of their own, we would have no way to keep them from doing that. Crazy, right? That you can't just decide based on what's really significant or harmful?  It probably doesn't hurt the USOC to have Ravelry using the name, and knitters are just having fun, and it is a really good time, and it does seem silly - but it's also legally necessary, otherwise Apple can put out an Olympic branded Ipad, make a gajillion dollars off of their trademark and it would be hard to stop them. It's not that the USOC are being dicks.  It's that the law is stupidly inflexible- and that's the way the world works. The USOC isn't "beating up on Ravelry".  It's defending it's legal trademark.

(I've had a bunch of emails from people asking why the USOC didn't beat up on me when I did the Knitting Olympics all those years ago... and I have a couple of things.  First, I'm Canadian. It wouldn't be the USOC that came for me. It would be the COC - and they didn't.  I was as careful about the rules as I could possibly be. It turns out that because mine was tiny (a few thousand compared to a few million on Ravelry, and because mine wasn't hosted on a business site- especially way back then. (My enterprise cost money, not made it, and I have no advertisers, then or now.) I was extraordinarily careful about their logo (no merchandise or tee shirts or pins  - and had no events. Just people watching and knitting.  It's important to note that they have the exclusive commercial rights. I wasn't commercial enough for them.)

Oh SURE. The USOC can use the Olympic stuff to make money and that's cool, but Ravelry can't even use it for fun! I'm so sick of these corporations that are all about profit!  Don't they have something more important to do?

This one is even harder.  The USOC has the exclusive commercial right to use some particular trademarked words and images. That means that they are the only ones allowed to make money with those words and images. If they let other people use them to make money without charging them money, then they make less  money.  Yup, I know what you're about to say.  Ravelry isn't using them to make money. 

You sure?  I mean, I know Jess and Casey, and they're pretty smart cookies, and I think that they would be the first ones to explain to you that Ravelry is a for profit business that employs four people.  It exists to be fun and useful for us, and to make money for them. This is a good, smart thing.  Jobs and entrepreneurship are great and noble.  Employing people is noble.  Ravelry is not a charity. (Just keep breathing.)  Ravelry primarily makes its money from advertising dollars and pattern sales.  The more people visit Ravelry, the more patterns they sell, and the more their advertising is worth.  Therefore, Ravelry hosting a big fun thing that attracts lots of knitters is a commercial use.

As for the USOC - do you guys know what they do? I mean, other than ruin things for knitters furthering the ideal of the Olympics within the US?  They make it possible for American Athletes to go to the Olympics and maybe win your country some gold medals.

From their website: "The USOC also supports U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes on and off the field of play through programming such as direct athlete funding, health insurance, tuition grants, media and marketing opportunities, career services and performance-based monetary rewards. In addition, the Olympic Training Center facilities provide athletes with performance services, including sports medicine; strength and conditioning; psychology, physiology and nutrition assistance; and performance technology."

The USOC doesn't have federal funding, and if you don't want to fund them with your taxes, but you still want American athletes to excel and be among the best in the world, then this committee needs a way to make cash.  Licensing their trademark is how they do it.

Help me spread the word Steph! We should all boycott the USOC, and the Olympics because I don't want them to profit from their crappy litigious behaviour.  I won't be watching now! Just wait until the athletes find out about this!

Really?  Now I need to take a deep breath.  Let's let go of the trademark thing.  They had to do it, and you still get to do exactly what you wanted, just somebody else got the name first. . This is like trying to sign up for Ravelry as YarnMama and discovering that you'll have to be YarnMama23 or YarnMamma.  You'll still have exactly the same experience, once you get over the shock.   Now, the boycott.  Keeping in mind what the USOC does with its money, are you sure that the athletes would be enraged? Considering that the only thing the USOC can sell is its trademarks, and that the USOC makes it possible for a lot of American athletes to go to the Olympics, are you sure they would be on your side with this one?  Besides, boycotting the Olympics because knitters aren't getting to call their event what they want to?  If I was an Olympian, and I'd put in the work and effort that it took to get there, and that was the reason that my fellow citizens had decided not to give any kind of a crap about my effort... maybe I'm alone in this, but I think I'd be pissed - and not at the USOC.

They're saying that Knitting denigrates the Olympics! They're harshing on Knitting, and I'm a knitter and that means they're denigrating me! They're saying that my Olympic effort isn't the same as an athlete's Olympic effort and that's not fair because they don't get how much I care about knitting and how hard it is, and how much skill it takes and .... NOBODY GETS TO PUT KNITTING IN THE CORNER.

This is the really hard one, isn't it? This one is hard for me too. The translation for that  stream of consciousness is "My feelings are hurt" and I admit to the sting.  That language might have been careless,  (and they've apologized)  and it's a shame that it wasn't as polite or absolutely sensitive as it could have been.    I'd like you to remember that letter wasn't addressed to you,  but was one  enterprise writing to another, and usually there's not a lot of crying about feelings in business stuff, so maybe they weren't thinking a lot about knitter reaction when they wrote it.   I had to really slow down and read carefully to get over it, and I had to get real about what knitting actually is, and that was hard, because knitting isn't just important to me, it defines a lot of my life, and that makes it feel Olympian. 

What the USOC actually said, was absolutely not that Knitting denigrates the Olympics - or that knitting ruining the Olympics, or that they hate and disrespect us. They said (and I know it's a little stodgy) that using the same word - the word they own,  for "a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others" and for a competition where things are very, very different, denigrates the latter.  What they mean is that your contest isn't Olympic.  Our is, because this is what Olympic means, and we own the word.

That's hard to hear, but you know what? If someone came along and wanted to say that something I thought was way less work than knitting was the same as knitting, I'd feel a little denigrated too.  Like, what if you knew someone who ate kleenex - but they'd worked their whole life at getting good at it and they felt a commitment to it in their life.  Wouldn't you be a little pissed if they suggested that they had a skill that was the same as knitting? Wouldn't you be a little annoyed if they wanted to be a textile artist too? I mean, kleenex is a textile, and they are transforming it... right?

Being a knitter is very, very wonderful, and I happen to think that it's important, and really transformational in a lot of people's lives, and that a lot of people (myself included) have made a really significant commitment to it's importance in their life - a commitment that might feel a lot like being an elite athlete, but we're not.  Let me say that again really carefully. 
We are not like elite athletes.  We are really great, but we are not the same as they are. 
They are athletes.  We are artists.  We take materials and transform them into beautiful, useful items, and the world would be nowhere without that contribution from textile artists, and I mean that literally.  Some of us are making the goal of our lives the highest possible expression of this art form. (Not many though.  A lot of us are just really expertly executing ideas other people had, and are more concerned with doing that right and well.  We're still very clever though.)
We are not, however, spending our whole lives trying to be not just someone who can run 100 metres, but trying to be someone who can run 100 meters better than every single other person on earth - trying to put more sweat and training and work into that than anyone else ever has in the whole world, while knowing the whole time that you've only got a limited time to do that before you're too old (and too old is anywhere from 16 to 40, in the Olympics) and where are you getting the funding from anyway and man - I really hope that you don't get hurt this week, because your next chance to meet your goal is in FOUR YEARS.

Us?  We're artists. We have our whole lives to get good at it, and we can be the best at it anytime, not just once every four years and sure, we get repetitive strain injuries sometimes (some of us) but all Olympic athletes suffer, and damn, have you seen them? Have you seen what they can do? There are millions of knitters.  Millions and millions and you know what? Just about all of us will learn to knit really, really well.  Millions of us.  Them? There's just a few people on earth who can do what they do.  Just a few, and I'm not one of them, and I can't tell you how inspiring that is, and even though the Ravelympics are all in fun, and I sort of feel bad that the USOC might have used the wrong words to explain it...

We're not like them.  Knitting something - no matter how amazing the something,  isn't the same as competing in the Olympics - and while they were clumsy with that point?  I understand.

Those hurt feelings are real.  It's hard not to confuse that with actual injury, but at what point when we're all complaining, emailing, tweeting, blogging, phoning, posting... at what point do we start to look like we're saying "We don't want to play by the rules.  We're knitters, and there's enough of us that if we don't get our way, or if you hurt our feelings or don't talk to us the way we like it - we might get ugly."   It makes me wonder about stuff.  No matter what this ends up being called, or no matter how it goes down, in the end you're still cool and smart, and non-knitters still don't totally get why, and in my heart I know you're an artist, not an athlete, and I know this one really stung, but let's maybe think about putting down the pitchforks, stop sending nasty mail, stop the name calling and showing them what we're really made of.

Peace out Knitters. Stay Classy.

Please be civil in the comments. I know you've got it in you.  

Posted by Stephanie at 4:55 PM

June 19, 2012

After All These Years

On Friday night I got to reflecting that I really love my Flow. It's that Norah Gaughan tank I knit from Berroco Seduce that I made a few years ago.  At the time I wasn't surprised that I was in love with the pattern.  I love Norah Gaughan's patterns with a deep and powerful love that is unabated by time.  It is one of the greatest tragedies of my knitting life that I am not brave enough or cute enough or shaped right enough to wear some of the things she designs that I love the most. When I'm knitting I try to be sensitive to my body type.  Knitting is too slow to knit things that are doomed to be unflattering - and while I am petite (5'1") I have broad square shoulders, virtually no neck and an ample awning over the front porch - if you catch my meaning.  There's also an almost criminal shortage of a waist. (I've tried to file charges, but can't figure out who to blame.)  Mostly I know what this means.  It means that in a boat neck or square neck I look like I have missed my calling as the worlds littlest linebacker.  It means that anything that hangs from the bust makes me look like all of me is as big as my bust (which I'm not - or at least not quite.)  

It's taken me years to learn that I need my knitted stuff to have a hint of a waist to compensate for my lack of one, and that I look best in vee necks (even though I like them less) or fairly deep scoops (even though I like them less) and that really, if I can get some knitted stuff with an empire waist, I should do that straightaway, because it makes it seem as though I'm remarkably thinner than I am, which is always a bonus. 

Flow had a pretty deep scoop, and the right kind of shoulders, and clings in a little where I should have a waist in a way that's flattering. It's also green, so it fits in nicely with my whole fashion strategy, which is that I like to dress like a tree.  (Brown on bottom, green, orange or red on top.)   I wear it enough that in the summer it's practically a uniform, and on Friday it occurred to me that I could use another one (in another colour, maybe orangey red)  and resolved to make one to wear at the retreat this weekend.  (I leave Thursday.)  I got online to refresh my memory about how much yarn it takes, and then it happened.

I decided to not just check that, but also to have a search around Ravelry for a summer knitted thing that met all my criteria.  Vee neck, empire waist, a little shaping... I was online for about three minutes before I had an encounter with Lizette that was like being hit by a mac truck - no, wait, it was like being hit by a mac truck full of yarn - in that it hurt, but I liked it.  Lizette  has everything I want, except that it's a little longer than I need it to be (what with me being short and all) but that just means less knitting, and with that, I resolved to go to the yarn shop the next day and see what could be done.

At this point, it is important to note a few things. 

1. I did not abandon my plan to knit Flow.  I was still going to knit flow by Thursday before I got on the plane.

2. I added a whole other garment, and resolved to knit that by Thursday too.

3. Even though I'm still knitting Omelet.

4. Even though I'm stealth knitting something else.

5. These decisions, followed through on when I bought a metric ton of yarn at the shop Saturday, didn't just seem totally and completely reasonable... they seemed INSPIRED.

6. Last night when I realized I'd bought thirteen balls of yarn and not yet knit up one whole ball, I was SHOCKED.

7. That means that after 41 years knitting,  I'm still totally out of it. 

(PS, because someone will ask, that's Hempathy in Hazel for the Lizette, and Samea (in the colour enchantingly named 806-0015) for the Flow. They were sadly out of Seduce, and I have trouble delaying gratification. Apparently.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:20 PM

June 18, 2012

A wild weekend

1. After the bike rally meeting on my birthday, the whole family went out to dinner together.  The restaurant wouldn't let us bring the cake that Ken baked in, so we walked to where his car was parked and had cake there.

2. This turned out to be more fun than having cake in a restaurant, which probably says a whole lot of things about relaxing and letting go and making the most of situations, which I will try to remember. Again.

3. I love this picture.

4. In case you didn't notice, Ken and I put our ages (now that we are older) onto cakes in binary.  Yes, we do think this is cool.

5. Yeah, we know it probably is actually dorky.

6. It was a very happy birthday. 

7. Saturday Sam and I went to a Romni Wools, where I had a big of an incident (more on that tomorrow) which is not at all surprising.

8. What was totally surprising was that while we were there, Sam asked me to buy her yarn.  Sam knows how to knit, but seldom expresses and urge to do so. I bought the yarn she wanted and successfully resisted the urge to kiss her or even make it sound like a good idea.  As a matter of fact, I have been a mother long enough to have managed to look annoyed.  (Sam's only 18.  Parental disapproval still makes a few things look delicious.)

9. Lest ye think that Samantha has taken all leave of her senses and experienced a radical personality shift - after we bought yarn she tried to get me to buy "matching tattoos".

10.  On Sunday I rode my bike 110k. (About 68 miles, for my American friends.) That's the longest ride I've ever taken in my life.  The training rides are all that long now, as we come into the last 6 weeks of preparation for the big ride.  

11.  I sort of wanted to die. 

12. But I didn't.

13. As thanks for everyone who's donated to anyone on our little family team, today marks the first Karmic Balancing draw.  If you donated to us you should have gotten an email explaining how to enter.  If you didn't, or it got chewed up by your spam filter or something,  just send me an email and I'll explain how - and you can enter for next week (and the week after, and the week after - every Monday until the rally, and one Monday after.)  I've sent everyone who got lucky an email.

For this week - Susan S and Chery H will each be receiving $100 of their choice of knitting needles and hooks from the generous souls at Lantern Moon.  (Isn't that nice?)

From Jeni at Fyberspates, a wonderful gift.  One of her pattern books, and the yarn to make one of the sweaters in it. (Knitters choice!)

Those will be going out to Erika P and Gail G - with many thanks.

The kind and remarkable Carrie at Irish Girlie Knits is donating three packages of three downloadable patterns each (and she has some beauties) and the random number generator says that those will go to Jennifer L, Leslie B and Linda F.

Lovely Amanda, at Crabapple Yarns has lovely yarn, and lovely gifts.
These beautiful skeins (Pizzazz yarn) are her colourways "Kent" and "D'arcy Spice" 

and they'll be going to live with Renee P.

These two beauties (also Pizzazz) are "Champlain" and "Cameo" and will be going to live with Susiannah B.

Thanks so much for playing along everybody, and I'll do another draw next week.  If you were still considering donating, the links for our little family team are here:


Thanks to everyone who donated.  We're very grateful.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:43 PM

June 14, 2012


Note from Steph: It's become an almost always tradition over the years that I don't work on my Birthday, and sometimes, someone else writes this blog while I take the day off. Ken's done itMy Mum did it.  My daughters did it. (I like that one a lot.) Then we hit a long dry patch, and then whammo, out of the blue my sister Erin offered to take a turn. Here's her post. 

Dear Stephie,

Happy 44th Birthday! Sadly, we are celebrating your birthday by going to a Bike Rally meeting, but I'm sure it's still going to be really special.

A few weeks ago you wrote a really beautiful birthday blog for Amanda. You talked a lot about all the firsts she's had, and honestly, it made me cry. As your little sister, almost all of my firsts were counseled, guided or sometimes just patiently explained to me by you. (Remember when I thought men had three testicles?) You're my big sister, so you have done almost everything at least once before I have. 

I can think of a lot of the big ones. Like when my first boyfriend was a psycho freak who treated me like crap, you explained how many more boyfriends I would have, and how they would just keep getting better. You were right. I've had TONS of boyfriends, and they do keep getting better. Or when I started my business. You had already run a few small businesses. I was tired and broke all the time, and you said it would just take time and hard work. You were right, 14 years later I still have my business, and it was just time and hard work. Or, here's the biggie, when I was pregnant with Hank. You had already had 3 children, and you knew everything.  From breastfeeding, to diaper rash, to chicken pox, you had done it all.  Just by birth order, you got to do everything first, and then explain it to me. You make the mistakes, and then save me from them.  Mostly, it's been a gift,  but sometimes though,  I wish I could teach you something, help clear your path, or just give a little sisterly advice on something, but it's hard, because you do everything first.
Until now. Until the Bike Rally.

I have done the Bike Rally!! I have ridden my bike to Montreal! Once! Before you did! And now, you're riding your bike to Montreal, and you're scared out of your mind! This is great for me!

So here goes my try at giving you some advice on something you are so completely and utterly frightened of. (Rightfully so, by the way)

Here's the thing. Montreal is really far, and the Bike Rally is really hard. You and I don't even like long car trips, and now we're riding our bikes there. It's going to be hot. It might even rain on us. We'll probably fall at least once, and I anticipate some tears on Day 2. That's the longest day. That day alone you are going to ride 126 km -but this is what I know.

I know you are super strong and super stubborn. These are great things when embarking on a 660 km journey. I know you have been training. Squeezing in big and little rides whenever you can, before work, after work, riding stationary bikes in hotel gyms.  I know your dedication to PWA, you were fundraising for them long before you agreed to ride.  I know how proud of us you were last year, and I know how scared you are this year.

This year, I am proud of you.  I'm proud of your dedication to training and fundraising. Your ability to fall off your bike - like 100 times, you look like someone attacked you with a hammer -  and then get back up again. You can laugh at yourself in spandex. (That makes sense. We look ridiculous.) This year, I'm going to be riding beside you,  I'll dust you off when you fall, I'll encourage you, and I'll freak out with you when we finally get there. I'm not doing all that with a smile on my face though, that's asking too much.

I know you can do it.
How do I know?
Because I did it first.

Happy Birthday, please don't fall off your bike.



PS from Steph:  Erin would never ask, but I will. If you'd like to spread a little birthday cheer, you can sponsor Erin for the rally by clicking her name.  (The rest of our brave little team is here: Me, Ken, Amanda, Samantha, Amanda's friend Katie, and our family friend Pato.  We're going to start giving out Karmic Balancing gifts on Monday, and anyone who donates to anyone on that list is eligible.  Today, I'm partial to me and Erin.)

Posted by Stephanie at 9:27 AM

June 13, 2012

A Photoshoot

Me: Hey, Natalie? I finished Amiga.  Will you take some pictures?
Nat: Sure. Backyard?
Me: Great.

(scene change: Natalie and I are in the backyard, and I am standing awkwardly under a tree looking dumpy in a great sweater.)

Natalie: You look odd.
Me: Odd?
Natalie: Yeah, like...un-natural.
Me: This is unnatural.
Natalie: Maybe if you were doing something.  Pose.
Me: A pose?
Natalie: Yeah. Like, do something.

Natalie: That's not good. Pretend to be doing something. 
Me: Like I see something? Like in the Sears Catalogue?

Nat: No. That's bad too. 
Me: Like if I was pruning a plant?

Or a tree?

Natalie.  No. It's still bad. I actually think you're getting worse. There's glare on your glasses.
Me: Sorry.  Bettter?

Natalie: Now you look unnaturally chipper.
Me: How about this?

Natalie: God you're a dork.
Me.  I know.

(Pattern: Amiga. Yarn: Americo Cotton Flamme. 1.5 skeins. Mods: None. Just knit the longer version, and left off the buttonholes. I don't button stuff anyway.)

Posted by Stephanie at 5:25 PM

June 12, 2012


I meant to send you several postcards from Squam. Blogging, tweeting... I was going to show you what it was like while I was there, but the combination of teaching and being busy and having spotty wi-fi meant that I didn't. (Also, there was an afternoon where I had to choose between a swim in the lake and a blog entry, and you lost. I'm not sorry either.) Sadly for you, that means there were no postcards. Happily for you, I'm now at home, and you get all of them at once.

#1. Squam is pretty. 

#2. So pretty. (That was our dock. Every cabin has one, and we made the most of ours.)

#3. Somebody yarnbombed the snot out of the place. Everywhere you went, the woods, the classrooms, doorknobs... Yarn-o-rama.  Makes a knitter feel at home, let me tell you, though I can't stop wondering who's job it was to keep track of where they all were and remove them after.

#4. There were pom-poms hanging everywhere. You'd be walking through the woods and there one would be.  A little yarnish note.

#5. If you ever have to go on a road trip with anyone, go with us. Not only were my carmates kind, funny and easy-going (and yes, that car is full of yarn)... we did a car lunch that you would have died for. 

#6. Like fresh lemonade.

#7. Like little individual pasta salads in wee mason jars, and camping cutlery with real cloth napkins, tied up with a little hand-dyed silk.

#8. Like a cheese tray and home made crackers. (Sheep's milk cheese, naturally.)

#9. Denny even made lavender wands for us to hang from the suit hooks of the van. (Heaven knows we have no suits.)

#10. The baby we took with us (Marlowe) was a constant source of entertainment and joy. (That smile? That was on her face for all 5 days, including the 11 hour car ride each way.)

#11. She even liked going to classes.

#12. Except when she looked like this.

#13. That means that mostly, her mum looked like this.

#14. We shared a cabin with Amanda (aka Soulemama, though I like first names, don't you?) and it turns out I like her as much as her blog.  Despite our different lives (she has a farm, I have a city) we share many values, especially around families, the very young, and trying to live in a way that treads lightly on the earth and those that we meet.  I haven't told her yet, but we're going to be pen pals.

#15. It turns out that one thing that Amanda and I have in common is a complete and total lack of direction. We were separately lost in the woods in exactly the same way a few times, and arrived at the cabin relieved that we weren't going to have to live out among the trees, wandering hopelessly and eating bark and lichen. It was eventually decided that we must never set out together, alone. We were grateful.

#16. We taught, we talked, we ate, we laughed, and that means that my friends looked like this.

I love them. I love Squam. Today, there is laundry, and no groceries, and an exploding inbox, and a dirty bathroom - but before this, there was a lake, and clever students, and a beautiful space and ... I love Squam.  I wish you'd been there.

PS. #17. On the first day there, the Torontonians learned about ticks and were repulsed and afraid. Ticks are far more common in the US than they are in Ontario, and we were absolutely flabbergasted by the laissez faire attitude our American friends showed towards a bloodsucking arachnid that stuck its head in your body and was hard to remove. We spend four days fearing them and looking for them and feeling them crawl on our bodies, even though they weren't there.   On the last night, we breathed a sigh of relief that we'd avoided the disgusting things entirely.  That was moments before a half dressed Denny burst out of the bathroom screaming "TIIIIIICCCCCCKKKK!!!"  and there one was, stuck to her leg.  She closed her eyes, we all smothered her in love, and Megan removed it from her with tweezers while we all said helpful things like "Be sure and get the head!" (We heard that from someone.  Seemed central.) The tick was removed (as well as the head) Denny took a shower and was rewarded with a big glass of cider.  Peace reigned for 10 minutes until I felt a little lump on my leg under my pants.  I pulled up my pant leg and saw it.
TICK.  The hysterical scene repeated itself.  Megan screamed "I'LL GET THE TWEEZERS" and Jen yelled "I'LL GET THE CAMERA."

Denny and I have 96 combined years on the planet and we each got our first tick in 15 minutes.  We feel lucky to have escaped with our lives. 

PPS - Because someone will worry. Not a deer tick. No risk of Lyme Disease. Disgusting, but not dangerous.  Thanks for caring. 

Posted by Stephanie at 4:09 PM

June 6, 2012

This time it could happen

I'm leaving in about 20 minutes, so I'm lining up the knits for the next week of Squam.  There's a 10 hour drive that Jen's tackling (if baby Marlowe agrees - Marlowe may want me to drive) and then all the lovely evenings by the fire, and that makes me think I need a lot of knitting. 
I have Omelet to finish - but there's just one more chart to go, and I have Amiga, the sweater I was going to wear to Squam - and I guess I still could... 10 hours is  a long time in the car, and then I have a sock, just for emergencies.

That's lots of knitting.  That's a ton of knitting, but there's something about a road trip that makes me feel like there's not enough yarn in the world.  Like today, miraculously, I'll knit faster than I ever have before, and be wearing Amiga and casting off Omelet by lunch today, and then I'll have nothing, nothing I tell you.  (Never mind the fact that I know there's lots of yarn at Squam. You could no sooner run out there than you could dehydrate in a pool.)
So here I am, rushing around like a lunatic when I should be drinking coffee, trying to put half the stash in my purse, because today I have 10 hours to knit, and that seems like so much - that even though I know exactly what I can get done in 10 hours and it's way less than this... because today feels like magic, and I'm going to need a lot of yarn.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:16 AM

June 5, 2012

Validated Again

I did procrastinate yesterday, and I didn't do everything that I should have, and it did totally rain and get me out of the ride I didn't want to do, and I was totally prepared for today to be a nightmare, but let me tell you?

It's been great. I got up, had a little coffee and packed my bag.  Then mixed up bread and set it to rise, and ran an errand.  Back, changed laundry, topped up bag, did another errand, got in the car,  picked up Natalie's luggage so it could go straight into the rental, drove downtown, rented the van with Jen,  transferred luggage, did another errand and drove home.  Now I've got seven hours before I go to bed, one wee knitting bag/purse to pack, my knitting for the trip is almost organized, and all I have to do is bake bread for our travel picnic tomorrow, wind one skein of yarn and go for a bike ride - and on top of all that?
It's gorgeous out.  If I hadn't procrastinated I would have been riding yesterday in the rain, instead of today in the stunning sunshine.



Procrastination totally worked out for me.

Posts will probably be light for the rest of the week, although I'll try- but there is limited time and internet at Squam.  At 6am, the Toronto contingent (me, Jen Natalie, Megan and Denny) will all load in, and start the 10 hour drive to New Hampshire and Squam.  We're excited, and I, for one - am all ready.

PS. Don't even bother telling me that I shouldn't be so smug because something could still go wrong.  It can't.  I've got this bad boy licked.

PPS. Maybe I should rethink that bike ride.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:49 PM

June 4, 2012


I woke up this morning and realized that my nemesis is back.  It's procrastination, and I struggle with it occasionally, usually when there's a lot to do and I'm worried about getting it all done.  I start to feel nervous about how it will happen, then I put things off, especially if I don't want to do them, because I know myself well enough to know that if I don't want to do something, coming up against the deadline is really the only way to get me moving.  (Also, I work well under pressure, and procrastination effectively creates that pressure.) Today I have a long list of things I have to do. They're really important things too, and so far all I have managed to successfully do is drink a vat of coffee and write 1500 words for a new book, and although writing is all very well and good, my schedule only called for 700 words today, and I didn't stop myself and go do the things that also need doing, like riding my bike 40k and packing for Squam.

Now I have an afternoon meeting looming, and I'm pretending that I'll do that bike ride when I get back, which I totally won't because it will be too late and probably raining, and I know it's calling for rain later and the answer is totally to GET UP NOW AND GO DO IT, but I've managed to convince myself that the most important thing I can do is write a blog post, and that it would be irresponsible to go ride at this time. (I'm really pretty good at this once I get going.)

Also I fell off my bike again this weekend, and although I really, really believe that I've got the hang of it now and there will be no more falling,  procrastination has a clever voice it uses, telling me that if I don't ride, then I can't fall.  (It is very hard to argue with that voice. I can talk down the one that doesn't want to ride because it is lazy, but I have a harder time with the voice that is really only saying reasonable things.)

I should pack for Squam, but that means organizing my teaching things for Squam, and doing laundry, and I really freaking hate the laundry, and there's that voice again. That voice that says "You can do it tomorrow, why not knit instead?" I've knit about six rows on a shawl while I try to talk myself into not knitting on a shawl, and the whole time I know it's not knitting time, it's laundry and then riding time, and just now I realized that I can't possibly go for a ride because there isn't time before I have to go to the afternoon meeting, WHICH THERE IS,  but don't tell the voice of procrastination that, because it's trying to tell me that I have to do laundry and pack and then go for a ride and that will never work, which is true, but I could ride and then go to the meeting and then pack and do the laundry... but the voice of procrastination is an all or nothing beast, and if it can't have perfection and completion, it doesn't want anything.

It's just one of those days.  Once of those days where the voice of procrastination wants to screw tomorrow up, and I've tried telling it that it isn't going to be what it thinks. That doing 10 hours of work in 7 hours isn't fun, or an accomplishment, it's just going to be a bad, bad day, but procrastination doesn't give a crap about that.  Procrastination thinks winning is getting me to pour another cup of coffee, and so far, it's winning.  It's a willpower game, and I am losing, and I know it.  I'll get it all done, I know I will, but I'll never understand why every once in a while, I like to make it so hard for myself. Most of the time I get up and kick arse and take names and get it all done, but today...  I know this is a bad plan. I can feel it's a bad plan, and yet, here I sit.

You've got to wonder what triggers procrastination, and why it's so powerful.  Do you procrastinate? Why? What sets you off? How do you end it?

(PS. The astute among you will notice straight off what it took me 20 minutes to clue in to. I am now procrastinating by talking about procrastinating and trying to engage in a conversation about procrastination. I hate myself.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:40 PM