August 28, 2012


Let me tell you this. Mostly, there is not a lot wrong with earning part of your income teaching knitting.  Knitters are really, really interesting, and really, knitters are the only people in the world who seem to be interested in talking about knitting as much as I want to, which is a fair bit, and that keeps me from bothering regular people with knitting talk (often), which has been pretty good for my non-knitting relationships.  (I believe Joe is particularly grateful that he doesn't have to talk about gussets that much anymore.)

It's pretty cool to get to go to a lot of the festivals and conferences - although having been to them as both a teacher and a student, I can tell you that the student experience is way cooler - but considering I'm at  work? It's a lot more fun that most people get to have at their jobs.  That's pretty good.    I've gotten to meet some really great people, and I get to say things out loud like "When I was talking with Barbara Walker..." or "When Nancy Bush and I discussed it..." which is a pretty spectacularly cool thing if you happen to have a tremendous amount of respect for and interest in people like that, which I do, and if you're always trying to learn more about knitting, which I am.

I love going new places, and seeing new things, and I get to spend a lot of time in yarn shops, and well, frankly... I love yarn shops.  I've even built up my resistance to them, so that my exposure on a professional level isn't some bizarre zero sum game where the proprietor doesn't pay me in money,  just lets me drive away with a trunkful of yarn.   (I'm rather proud of that.)

There's only a couple of things that I don't like about teaching knitting.  First, that it means being away from home, and missing family stuff, and driving, and sleeping in strange beds and eating strange food and sometimes it's a little lonely, and it's always totally exhausting... but mostly - the only thing that I freakin' hate about teaching knitting?

You can't knit while you do it.  That's the little birthday dress, and the first sock of a pair, and as of today I've been away from home for five days, and that there knitting is pretty much the same. 

That's the only thing I hate. 
I think that's fair. I hated way more stuff when I worked at McDonalds.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:38 PM

August 27, 2012


Dear Blog,

It is when things move quickly that I have the hardest time telling you what things are like- and the last few days? Whoa. I'm specializing in moving fast.   I went from hanging at Jen's cottage with her and the kids - canoeing, swimming, walking, knitting,  gathering lichen for dye (I'm sure you'll hear more about that as we go forward) and not doing anything more complicated than answering the question "Auntie Stephie? Are you available to hunt for frogs?"

To hopping in the car and driving seven hours for Saint-Andre-Avellin for the Twist Festival, to leaping back in the car and going (very briefly) to visit family, then on to Perth where I taught the first of three days in a well appointed boardroom, and am now ensconced in a lovely bed and breakfast. 

I have to tell you, this whole setup is whiplash.  I went from (mostly) speaking english to (badly) trying to manage french (really badly- though I think it's only fair to blame joual for part of it) and from sleeping in a cabin the woods to sleeping in an auberge de jeunesse (youth hostel) to a B&B with a bed so posh it has steps up to it.

I have no idea what I'm doing anymore - so I'm just going to show you what the Festival was like.

For the record? The marketplace was amazing. It was my most favourite combination of interesting things to see and interesting things to buy, and since I have a soft spot for Canadian companies, and for excellent yarn in general,  the combination was deadly,  and the only reason I stopped hemorrhaging money was because I left. Shout outs to Roving Winds Cashmere, Riverside Studios and Turtlepurl  who all cost me money. Nice yarn dudes.  Nice yarn.  I'm off to sleep, because I have my money on tomorrow being as fast moving as today, but I leave you with this.

I had dinner tonight at this pub... and it was an old stone building, and beautiful, and I loved it, but here's the best part... It was an old felt mill.  I don't even rightly know what a felt mill is, but I felt properly at home.
It has to have something to do with wool.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:58 PM

August 24, 2012


1. I got back from the cottage last night - unpacked my cottage stuff, and started straight away putting all my teaching stuff in.  This morning I'll drive from here to Saint-André-Avellin in Quebec for the Twist Festival de la Fibre - teach for two days, then boogie over to Perth and Janie h knits for a few days, then make my way back home.

2. That's almost a week away, with lots of long car trips.

3. That makes me think there will be a lot of time to knit.

4. I keep forgetting I'm driving.

5. That probably means that taking the birthday dress and the current socks in progress is enough.

6. Except that's all stockinette all the time, and that scene can wear on a knitter. (If by "wear on a knitter" you understand I mean "cause her to buy a bunch more yarn she doesn't need to relieve the tedium.")

7. Last night when I was thinking about all that stockinette I almost lost my cool and started something fancy.  I couldn't find the right yarn in the stash though.  I think that's the only thing that stopped me.

8.  If I have an extra 10 minutes this morning, I might not be able to resist.

9.  I am not going to have an extra 10 minutes.  That's lunatic.

10. I really wish I could drive and knit at the same time.  At least on the highway. It would be so great. I can't believe you can get a car that parks itself, but you still have to hold the wheel and look where you're going the whole rest of the time.


Posted by Stephanie at 9:55 AM

August 21, 2012

Lake Bound

I think I actually pulled it off.   I really do.  My teaching stuff is organized, my clothes for the trip Friday are packed, my handouts are printed, the house is reasonably tidy (as long as you use my personal definition of reasonable) and I've flung a pair of shorts, some yarn and a bathing suit into a laundry basket, downloaded a new audiobook, and if I'm lucky, five minutes from now I'll plunk that in the car, hit a grocery store for supplies, and be on the road to the cottage pretty close to my goal time of 11am.   I'm not sure how I pulled off everything last night, but I'm pretty sure I folded time at least twice, and this morning has demanded a rather uncommon amount of caffeine.  Still, it's done, and showing you this scarf is the last thing on my list before I'm out the door.  Remember this yarn?

I spun it last month with the goal of it becoming a scarf, and this weekend, that's exactly what it became.  I warped my Cricket loom (I used my 8 dent reed)

and decided I would try something a little different. 

I experimented with Soumak (that's the funky lines that look like knitting)

and with leno (that's the screwed up bunches of yarn that were supposed to come out really differently, but are still sort of interesting.)

The goal was to try and do something other than a plain weave - I'm a little sick of it - and I don't think it's the loom that's limiting me... it's my skills. I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the results though, I think I need a lot more practice.  Maybe I'll put the loom in the car too.

Before I go, a few gifts?

Kirsten at Be Bold My Love has a great gift.

A $50 gift certificate for fibre or yarn in her shop. I'd have a hard time choosing. Let's hope that Lora H has an easier time.

Not to be outdone, Tara at Dragonfly Dyewerx has a beautiful skein to send off to  Jeani.

It's her sparkle sock in Emerald Lake.   I hope Jeani loves it.

Christian  of Radioactive Rabbit has a heck of a gift.  She donated before, but this time she said that if you guys made my second goal a reality she'd donate a $100 gift certificate to her shop. 

That makes her just about my favourite person today, and I know that Tami is going to agree.  Enjoy!   (Also, I'd appreciate it if you all took a look at what she's up to.  It's a race to benefit project Open Hand, and she's making a great commitment.  Maybe it's something you want to help her with? )

Alison Hyde specializes in generous, and so it's no surprise that she's got a signed copy of her book to mail off to Diane G.

By now you've all figured out that I have a bit of a thing for handmade soaps, so I like this one a lot.  Tara over at On a Branch Soaps

will be sending Sara B two soaps of her choice.  (I would be taking the Green Tea and the Rosemary Mint.)

Voila! Now. If you don't mind? I have a date with a lake.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:11 AM

August 20, 2012

In Which I am Auntie Steph

Last week Jen called and invited me to her cottage.  Now, I'm a big cottage fan, and this summer has been light in the vacation department (unless you call riding your bike to Montreal a vacation, and personally, I have trouble sliding it into that department) so when she invited me, I set aside the feeling that it was ridiculous to take off when I had so much to do, and I did it anyway.   I left Thursday at noon, and a few hours later, I had myself in a lake - where I stayed as much as it was reasonable to do so.

Jen's cottage has a lot of perks.  There's the lake, and the woods, and a big rock to swim to, and climb up on, and a boat and a canoe, and her charming mum and dad, but mostly what it has going for it is Jen and the kids.  The whole thing is perfect, because for 48 hours, I got to rock and walk the baby to sleep, play Auntie Steph with Fenner, read and knit -

and all that makes me ridiculously happy and grateful to Jen, which seems to have turned out to be delightfully ironic, since rocking the baby and playing with Fenner appear to make Jen grateful to me.  It's a wonderfully symbiotic relationship - and one that I totally didn't have figured out until "See you next time" turned into "Can't you stay another day" and "Why don't you come back Tuesday?"

Turns out that a cottage guest who likes to cook, tidy up, amuse children and is a strong swimmer who brings beer is a cottage guest who gets invited back.  (Note to self. Bring more beer.)

All of that is a nice way of saying that if I can finish a whole weeks worth of work today, tomorrow I'll get in the car and go back, and hunt for toads and swim and look for wildflowers and read stories and canoe until Thursday, when I'll load myself back to Toronto, then wash, pack and leave for the Twist Festival de la Fibre in Saint-André-Avellin, Quebec bright and early Friday morning.  It's more time in the car than I can honestly say I'm keen on, but my love of lake swimming and damp, sun warmed children might be worth it. 

As a knitter, I should mention that my motives weren't entirely lake based.  I could try Marlowe's Birthday dress on here as I knit, and I can happily report that the little bodice fits...

and the skirt is underway.

Also, I wove a scarf, but let's talk about that tomorrow, before I go. With beer.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:48 PM

August 16, 2012


My little friend Marlowe will be a year old soon, and me being me and her being her, and us being friends like we are, I wanted to make her something knitted for a present. 

I started thinking about a sweater - but I've made her lots, and heaven knows she already has a blanket, and I was looking and thinking and rooting through the stash, when I found a few skeins of Luscious - and an idea took hold.

Now, to be fair, this was less of an idea, and more of a vision, and the more I thought about it, the more unreasonably gripped by the idea I got.
I swatched. I sketched, and then (once I was sure it would work) I called her mother and asked if it was a good idea.  To put it simply, Jen lost her freaking mind, and within minutes, we were making the idea even better - both consumed with the thing.  Jen and I are both educated, literate reasonable women, and within seconds we were both giggling and practically clapping our hands in delight.

Here's my idea -  a Party dress. A pink and white, ruffled, full skirt, got-roses-on-it little dress to wear on her first birthday.  Knit from pure silk, with a big ribbon that ties in the back and little buttons so it's simple to drop it over her head.  Little angel wing sleeves, the skirt will fall past her fat little knee... it's going to be gorgeous, and soft and beautiful, and Jen's already out buying acid free tissue paper to wrap it up in afterwards. (You know, once we wash the cake out if it, which will be easy, because it's silk!) It's a perfect plan!

I've swatched a little, and drawn wee pictures, and charted out the tiny little bodice (oh, the fun of a person with a 19" chest!) and I think I've got it right.  I'm so excited.  Jen's excited.  In fact - we're so excited that yesterday we thought up the only way to make this better, and that might be a matching dress for Marlowe's sister.  She's four, and a pink and white flowy, flowery, spinner of a dress  (that isn't scratchy) is going to be right up her alley.

I'm out of my mind with how fun I think this is going to be.

PS. I think I might sew tulle underskirts.
PPS. I'm going to go over and put this on the baby to see if it fits.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:11 AM

August 15, 2012

Does this yarn make my bust look big

I finished Lizette last night, and took her upstairs to try on.  I pulled her over my head and pulled down on the hem,  then turned to look in the mirror.  I stared for a minute, then took a deep breath. Then stared, and started a little internal conversation.  "Is this too tight? Do I look like a hussy? Are my breasts in the wrong part of my body for this sweater?"  I stood there, sort of pulling it down and out and around, and I thought about what we always tell the girls, which is that if you're wondering if something is too revealing, that means it is... and I wondered if I was supposed to apply that to myself. 

You'd think that I would - I mean- if anything I feel like I should show less skin than my beautiful, perfect daughters, but there's a confounding variable, which is that when it comes to clothes, I have two priorities.  it should be loose enough to be comfortable, and it should be modest enough that most of the people I meet in the course of a day will not look at my breasts or arse, because they will not be able to find them.  (Yes, I know what you're thinking, and you're right, the spandex for the Bike Rally was a personal challenge, but at least there everyone looks stupid.)
I know this about myself.  I know that I'm always buying clothes that are too big,  and that this is a source of constant pain to my smartly dressed mother.   Skinny jeans she suggests?  No thank you.  I'll be over here picking out a pair of boot cut, wide leg pants with a waist three inches bigger than my own so nothing is "pinchy."   I do it over, and over, and over again.  A few years ago I went shopping for a dress for a wedding, and I took Sam with me.  I must have looked at a hundred before Sam snapped and said that she wouldn't keep shopping with me unless I started trying things on - and then I still hated everything.  I looked too short, too heavy, too broad shouldered - this one was too tight, that one showed too much bust, this one? That one is way too short.   Sam finally chose a dress, assured me that this was the one, and forced me to buy it.  I came home with a dress that was too tight, too short, showed too much bust and ... and I got a ton of compliments and comments about how nice  I looked.
Clearly, I can't be trusted, and that's what I was thinking as I went down the hall to Sam's room. 

I knocked, then went in and asked her what she thought. 

She didn't really look up, and just said "Yeah, great knitting" or something like that - so I pressed.  I told her I was really worried that I looked like a hussy.  I asked her if it was a hussy shirt.  She said it wasn't.  I wondered if really, she didn't understand my concerns, so I showed her how low the neck went, and how tight the bust was, and how the torso part only had like... 10cm of ease... and reminded her that I hate looking like a hussy.   She stopped and looked and took careful stock of all I was saying, and even asked me to show her the back.

I'm pretty sure she was just making sure that it really looked like she cared so that she wouldn't have to discuss if for long.  She said I should wear it with a camisole, because of the lace (not because the neck was too low) and then said she thought it was really good.   I patted it all over, and then suggested again that maybe it was too tight? Too short? Too low?

(Pattern: Lizette. Yarn: Hempathy in Hazel, colour 050. Needles, 3.75mm.)

This time Sam rolled her eyes and said that it was none of those things, and would I please maybe leave her alone? That she'd said it was good, and it was, and what else could she say?  I reminded her that it was important not to look like a hussy, especially if you're 44, and the stuff you're revealing if you wear revealing stuff isn't that great to start with... and she looked at me and took a deep breath and then said this:

"Mum.  It looks great. It is not too short.  It is not too tight.  It does not go too low in the front, it is not 'strange' in the back.  It is good.  It fits.  STOP TRYING TO DRESS LIKE YOU'RE AMISH."

Okay then. 

(PS. I still think it might be a little tight.)

(PPS. Thanks to Natalie and Sam for taking the pictures.)

(PPPS. Happy 21st Birthday to my Megan!  I'll see you later honey.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:21 PM

August 14, 2012

Rain Rain Thanks for Your Help

Another rainy day.  I'd complain, but they're so productive for me.  When the sun shines I can think of a thousand things to do, riding, walking, shopping, gardening, knitting in the backyard with a cold beer...  I hate being out in the rain, so a rainy day is an inside day and once I'm here, I notice all that needs doing and it's easy to stick with getting it all done.  

Today my office has been tidied, the kitchen is clean, I've got my eye on the living room - and pretty big plans to sort my teaching supplies into some clear storage bins I bought, so that I can stop building Stuff-I-Need-But-Not-Now Mountain in the stash room.  I worked for a few hours at my desk, answered a ton of email and put canning jars on the shopping list, because I think I'm going to make red pepper jelly and marmalade soon, and I am so close to completing today's wordcount that I can see the whites of its eyes.  I believe in positive reinforcement, so I'll be rewarding myself properly with knitting time.

That there is all the bits of Lizette, which I'm telling you now, is a pretty interesting knit.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have knit it like someone experiencing a fair degree of body dysmorphia (I mean really.. where do I think I'm going to put my breasts in this?) but it's not that demoralizing, because at least it was a treat to knit - and if it doesn't fit me, it might look great on Meg. (See that? I almost didn't sound bitter.)

Yesterday I united the two parts of the front with an attached i-cord - it's like a three needle bindoff with real class, and was an extremely neat way to work the ties in.  I-cord is one of those things where my appreciation of it and my willingness to do it aren't always the same, which is a long way of saying that I didn't mean to swear like that, but it was worth it - and now all that's left is the side seams, and the shoulder seams, and the cable extension seams around the neck, and the sleeve seams, and to set the sleeves in - which sounds like rather a lot now that I list it all, but it's going to be fine.
It's raining- and there's a lot you can get done on a rainy day.

PS. Someone might have possibly left Flow in the rain, totally because it stinking deserved it by accident.  You shouldn't judge that person.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:29 PM

August 13, 2012

Take the Hint

This weekend was indeed full of knitting - or as full of knitting as you can make it while still meeting minimum standards of cleanliness and providing a reasonable amount of food for the masses - emphasis being on the minimum.  I decided that before I turned myself loose onto the stuff I really want to be knitting I'd finish up what was on the needles - sort of.  I didn't go deep into the UFO (UnFinished Object) pile, just took a stab at clearing up the few things that were haunting the knitting basket. 

The trouble is that I think I hate it all, and I think it's starting to hate me back.  If I were a less experienced knitter I would be inclined to think that everything I am knitting is a stinking slag-heap of fibre, but I am an experienced knitter, and I know about the crap that knitting likes to run on you, and I'm well aware of what's going on here. It isn't that all the knitting I'm doing now is bad, it's that thinking it is - that's an early symptom of Startitis.  I'm not falling for it. I'm finishing this stuff and that's a promise - or at least, that's what I said.

Apparently my knitting didn't like that sense of determination, and so it's teamed up with the universe to make it hard.  Take the new Flow. I read the comments carefully, cracking up at what you guys had to say. Often, there's an overwhelming sense of the right thing to do in the comments.  I'll say "Hey dudes, I have this knitting problem" and 95% of you will agree.  Not so much this time. There was about a 50/50 split in there - with the lot of you completely divided on which direction cotton yarn is going to screw me in. Half of you agreed with Taraincolorado:

It is cotton. It will grow as you wear it. Don't let it fool you into adding extra length.

and the other half went with JudiP53, who was sure about this:

Cotton is going to shrink lengthwise and grow widthwise. It may measure the same as the Seduce version now, but it won't after a couple of soaks.

This, by the way, only confirmed my belief that cotton is a beast to work with, and tells all sorts of lies to all kinds of knitters. I was starting to think it was just a matter of experience (and I am inexperienced with cotton) and then look at that.  A whole bunch of people who knit cotton all the time, and there's still no agreement at all on how it behaves.  (I bet that if we investigated further, we'd find out some interesting things about how those two camps treat cotton in the gauge department, but there's no way to know how I compare to them, so I suppose it's not helpful right this minute.)  I decided to trust my instincts, based solely on the fact that every time I've ever been really shafted by a knitted thing, I've felt it was coming and ignored the hint.  I ripped back both pieces, added another inch to them, blocked them, and sewed them up - happily thinking that now all they need is the neck and arm bands knitted on, and that's only a little work, and then this project will be done. 

Thing is, as I was sewing, I noticed something strange.  (Well, first I noticed that I hadn't made them the same length and had to rip back one of the pieces again and fix that, but I'm not going to go on about that.) I noticed a little spot on the knitting that looked bleached.  

Then I noticed another, and another.  Some on the right side of the work and some on the back, but there they were.  These pictures don't really show how obvious the spots are. They glow with a neon orange that can't be accurately captured.  

I don't use bleach anywhere in the house, so I'm not sure how it happened... but it was unmistakable.  Joe wondered if it wasn't one of Sam's cosmetics, and I did wash it in the bathroom sink, so perhaps, but it is obvious, and there's no way I can wear it like that.  I duplicate stitched over two of the spots to see if I could hide it, and washed it again to see if I've fixed it, or if the stitching will spoil the whole thing.

It's drying in the backyard right now, and truthfully, I have no issues with taking this whole tank and pitching it in the bin and calling it done that way. That's also being fueled by the way that the bottom edge keeps curling.  My first Flow didn't do that.)  The yarn wasn't cheap, and I'd resent it bitterly, but maybe all this trouble is an actual hint that I'm not supposed to finish it.  Maybe I do hate it.  Maybe it does hate me.  Maybe it's not a symptom of Startitis after all, because if it just so happened to burst into flames right there in the backyard right now,  I don't think I'd feel anything but relief, and I don't care if the tank knows I said that.  The thing has no spirit of co-operation, and I guess it doesn't know what I learned from my grade 11 boyfriend, which is that being good looking doesn't excuse you from being a total turd. That tank needs to get its scene together, or there could be a small, completely accidental fire.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:36 PM

August 10, 2012

A reasonable knitter

It took a few days, but the knit-a-palooza has started, and I don't know about you, but I think there's nothing more stupid than a brilliant tank top finished in January, so first up is getting all the summer knitting off the needles before the summer ends.

I'd finished the back of Flow (or the front, they're both the same) a few weeks ago when I was in Oakland, and all that was left was to pound out the other piece, sew two seams, put a couple of little bands on it, and there you go.  It would me be in another fetching top.  I'm sure I've mentioned it about a hundred times, but I love the other Flow I knit.  It's comfortable, wearable, matches just about everything I own, is a little dressy but not too much... it's perfect, and it's not just me who thinks so.  I wore it to dinner in Montreal the other nice and got four compliments on it.  It's a great top, and a lot of it has to do with the yarn.  Seduce was the suggested yarn, and perfect for it.  It's a little slinky, heavy, drapey... so when I decided to make another, I went looking for more Seduce.  None of my local shops had it in stock, and it turned out not to matter because I didn't really like any of the other colours it comes in, and all of that added up and because I'm not the sort of person who apparently delays gratification well, I ended up buying a substitute that I'm not as wild about.  Samea.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think this is a bad yarn at all.  As a matter of fact, I think most of the time this would be a yarn that I chose over Seduce.  It's got less shine, less drape... and usually those are things that this less flashy knitter prefers - but for this top, I think I might not have made the most awesome choice. For starters, Seduce is primarily rayon, and Samea is primarily cotton, and I don't know if it  was desperation or fumes, but while I was in the yarn store, neither that nor the fact that I don't much care for cotton seemed to matter and I bought it and left, and now I think it's catching up with me.

See, I'm having trouble telling if I'm being reasonable or not.  As I mentioned, I love my previous Flow.  The idea was to make another one exactly the same, but in another colour.  So, I did a swatch, made sure it matched, started knitting the same size.. the whole shebang.  There's a series of decreases in the body of this top to make it that swingy  A-line shape, and then when you get to the right number, it says to knit until it's a certain number of inches.  Well,  since I want this top to be the same as the last one, I ignored that number of inches, and I took out the old Flow, and used that as my measurement.  I made them match to the underarm, then proceeded boldly with the rest of the directions, because my gauge is right. (I'm standing by that statement.)   When I was done,  that front looked too short.  Now, I'm a reasonable knitter with good instincts, so I listened to that little voice, and I did several things that reasonable knitters do. 

1. I re-measured.  I checked the old top and the new top to see if they are the same.  They are.

2. I lay the new front on top of the old front to see if they are really the same.  They are.

3. I thought about gravity, and then held up the old top and the new top at the same time to see if they are functionally, actually the same. They are.

I decided at that point that I was just getting jerked around by knitting again because knitting is like that, and I started the back, but this whole time the idea that the front is too short has been bugging me.  I can't stop looking at it and thinking that something isn't right.  Now, once again, I'm a reasonable knitter with good instincts, so I double checked.  I did the following.

1. I washed and blocked the finished front to see if it was hiding something and wasn't really the same but was actually a dirty lying sneak of a yarnthing.  Then I repeated the steps above to see if they were still the same. 

They are.  They are the same. They are the same width, length... gauge... They are absolutely the same....  So tell me, why do I have this feeling that there's some chicanery going on around here?  I'm up to the armpit on the back, and I feel like I should add a few centimetres, then rip back the front and do the same.  There's no reason on earth to think that these aren't the same, and now I'm wondering if I'm just being uppity because the yarn isn't the same, but maybe the fact that it's not the same is what's bugging me.   I keep measuring it to see if it's the same length, and telling myself "All right. Look at that - it's the same" and then some other part of me screeches "Same? Does that look the same to you? Are you kidding me?  Seduce doesn't even have cotton in it, you moron!" and then I measure it for seven more hours, and it keeps being the same, and now I'm stuck. 
I'm a reasonable knitter, and I've done what reasonable knitters do, but I still think this top is too short, even though there's zero evidence to support it.  I'd yank back and add a bit, but I bet then it will be too long - because dudes, it is the same length.  I swear it is. 

As a general rule, I trust concrete evidence over my own feelings... but..this is yarn, and yarn doesn't play by all the rules of the material plane.
What would you do?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:00 PM

August 8, 2012

Yet More Balance

There's still a ton of gifts to give away in the Karmic Balancing department, please have patience as I wade through, I'll do some today and some in the next little bit until it's all wrapped up tidy-like.  I've been thinking about balance these last few days - because dig this:

(Yarn is, because I know you'll want to know, Gypsy Girl Creations Transitions in "Mountain Home".  Needles are the Blackthorn carbon fibre ones - given to me by them in my favourite size 2.25mm at SS11.  I figured they'd be the least likely to break on the rally.)

That, my friends, is as much knitting as I believe it might be possible to do on the Rally and in the recovery period right after.  I know, it's shocking.  Nobody was more aghast than I, but several things worked against me. 

1. You cannot knit and ride a road bike at the same time - or at least not if you value your life in any meaningful way or have not yet learned how to ride no-handsies.  (For the record, trying to ride without hanging onto the thing is one of the only things I haven't contemplated in the hours and hours I was riding.) Even in the non-riding time the rally is still pretty busy. I'd get up at 5:30am, pack my stuff, take down my tent, eat, get my bike ready and then ride all day - then land at camp, set up my tent, wash/swim in the lake/river, eat dinner, do the evening activity, and fall into bed exhausted. There was so little time when I had time.  (It makes me laugh now to think that I thought I would be knitting on "breaks." Breaks consist of eating, drinking and getting to the loo before tearing off again.  My concept was a little more relaxed than the reality.)

2. Riding that far hurts. It hurts your arse, legs, back and neck (and none of those was a surprise) but what was shocking was how hard it was on my hands and wrists. By the third day, I was having trouble shifting, never mind knitting.  I would still do a few rounds, just to take the edge off, but that was hardly enough. Even though I wore really great gloves and was careful about my hand/wrist posture, it's taken until today for my hands to feel like my hands again.

3. I was so tired, and there were priorities.  I never thought that I'd have anything that was more than a priority than knitting, but it turns out that if you somehow get me to ride my bike all day in scorching heat -  and at the end of that day I feel like I can only lift my arms twenty more times? I'm lifting food and beer to my mouth before I see what energy is left for yarn.
(That food ranked over knitting was a bit of a shock, but for a woman my size, cycling six hours uses about 3300 calories above my regular needs.  That means I spent a lot of time eating ALL THE THINGS.)

Add all that together, and what you have is a pretty pathetic amount of knitting - but here comes the balance part.  I am not tired now. I am not bathing in a lake.  My hands feel pretty good.  I am not (mostly) carving out a ton of time for eating, and I think I might almost have caught up on my sleep. Aside from the trainwreck in my office that is the dark and malevolent lovechild of self-employment and a week away, and that means that it is knitting time.  Oh yes, and weaving too, and spinning and... you have no idea about my plans.  My plans are so exciting that they aren't even possible.  For starters, I think that I'm knitting the whole back of Flow today- which I'm totally not, but I can't tell you how exciting it is to even pretend that's going to happen. I am going to knit the daylights out of August. It's the only way to balance out the bike thing, and I am on it. Just watch. 

Now.  A few Karmic Balancing gifts? Let's go.


This one is the loveliest.  It made me want to donate to myself (I guess I kinda did) so that I could rig it and have it be mine.  Kimber (the big brain behind Fiber Optic Yarns) started with this beautiful Gradients roving.

Then she sat down at her wheel and spun this:

Amazing, right?  Kimber will be mailing her wonderful handspun off to live with Amy D.  I hope she loves it as much as I would if it was mine.

Judith has a wonderful gift to offer:

Ten skeins of Mirsol Tupa (50% merino and 50% silk) that Sandra M will really enjoy making into something brilliant.  (By the way, Judith is doing a great thing.  She's doing a walk that raises funds for suicide prevention.  Pop by her blog if you have a minute.)

Cherril's stash offers a lovely goodie of another kind. Laceweight mohair for Melissa M.

It's totally Andi's lucky day, because Merin went stash diving and came up with all this....

All of which is going out to Andi!

Here's a lovely thing.  Mandy at The Cloistered Lamb has a very, very nice skein of sock yarn... Pretty in Pink...

and here's hoping that it's Anne M's favourite colour.

Manuèle has a generous offer. Five lucky knitters will get two each of her pretty patterns - Glaciers Are Melting, and Rainbow Mobius.

Manuèle will be sending those along to Mary H, Amy H, Stacey W, Kathleen F and Jack R.

Kathleen (who's local to me and adorable) has three copies of her Addis Abeba pattern to share.

We wish happy knitting to Carla F, ReNae G and Linda H.

A great big thanks to the nice folks over at Entangled Magazine...

They wanted to thank someone with a free one year subscription, and Abigal F is the lucky knitter.

Lorna's Laces has a good gift!

That's a skein of Shepherd Sock in the fetching colour "Bow Tie" and they'll be sending it off to Mary F.

Stephanie at Space Cadet Creations has two skeins to give away.  The first is the same one that I knit Omelet from (I loved this yarn, just so you know) which is Pyxis laceweight in Honey that she'll be sending to Carolyn F.  (Knit an Omelet! You know you want to!)

and this little bit of something, which is a yarn called Estelle, in Pride.

I hope that Judi K comes up with something amazing to make out of it.

Whew! There will be more as I finish tidying up from the rally, but for today - I've got to go look at knitting and make some decisions. 
I'm going to have a pretty rippin' yarn party.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:07 PM

August 7, 2012

A very long bike ride

I've written the start of this blog post about five six times. When I left on the Rally, I really thought that I was going to come back and be so filled up by the experience that it would be all I want to talk about. That it would colour every conversation or moment I had for weeks,  the way that big things do.  You know how that goes? Like - someone would tell me that they like bananas and I would be all "Did I tell you how many bananas we ate on the Bike Rally?" and then watch the other person flinch and realize that not only have I told them about the bananas on the rally, I've probably told them about the bananas a thousand times and really, the bananas weren't that interesting in the first place.  Instead,  I have almost nothing to say about it - it's not that there's nothing to tell or nothing to say - and it certainly isn't like nothing happened... it's just that so much happened that I'm at a loss to come up with any of it.  Ever have a time like that?  It reminds me of when the girls were tiny babies, and every day seemed so long- but together they flew by in a blur.  That's what the rally was like.  It seemed like forever, and no time, and all the time, and like it would never end and like it was happening so fast.  It was a crazy, crazy experience, and to try and tell you the story of the whole thing would be impossible and ridiculous and never work anyway, so how about I tell you what didn't happen on the bike ride.

I didn't fall of my bike.  Mostly this didn't shock me. I was pretty sure that I'd completed the learning curve on clipping in and what you can and can't do on a road bike (tip #1. It's way different than the bike I ride every day) but I still had visions of falling either right at the beginning, or right at the end.  You know, sometime when falling down wouldn't just mean that I fell, but that I could knock down a bazillion riders coming behind me and turn into a human speedbump that was loathed by all.  That didn't happen, although my terror that it would explains why I look like I'm being marched to my doom in the departure photos. I was so afraid that morning.  So afraid of being a speedbump, so afraid that I couldn't do it, so afraid I would be last, so, so afraid that I was going to let my girls down, or my sister down... so afraid that I was going to find out that I couldn't do it and it would be so disappointing.  

I wasn't last. This amazed me.  Starting out there were a few things I knew.  I knew that the minimum speed for the rally was 20km per hour. I knew that when I started training I wasn't riding that fast, and when I was done training I was - and I knew about The Sweeps. The Sweeps are team leads who take turns riding as slowly as the slowest riders. They ride at the very end of the 300 cyclists, to make sure nobody gets left behind. Getting caught by The Sweeps means that you were having a challenging time - for whatever reason, and I was determined  to avoid being swept. This seemed totally reasonable until I realized that the 20km minimum is total crap.  The rally is moving faster than that by a good chunk, and I had to haul arse pretty hard.  Turns out though that abject terror is a good motivator, and I don't suck. Erin and I shot out on our own one afternoon and we were flying.  Not flying like the big boys on the team, but flying.

(Photo by the rather amazing Brian, who I hope doesn't mind me lifting it.)

My kids don't suck.
As a matter of fact, they're made of iron. The rally isn't easy- it's hours and hours and hours of riding, and getting up at 5:30am (they don't put that little gem in the riders handbook) and by day three you feel pretty tired and hurt and sore and I lay in my tent wondering how the hell I was going to do another day, and there my girls were. Smiling, laughing, talking about how they were tired and sore and they got on their bikes anyway, and were generous with other people anyway and really, I knew they were young and strong and that would help with the physical stuff... but I was so impressed with their outlooks and hard work.  Riding that far is as much a mental trick as a physical one, and as a mother, it's breathtaking to watch someone who used to cry if their socks were too tight woman up and get on that bike.  I can't believe they did it.

I wasn't alone. On the first day I got separated from my little pack as the 300 cyclists spread out over kilometres. Some were ahead, and some behind, but I didn't know that, and I thought I was last.  It was a thousand degrees, I was riding as fast as I could, and I truly believed that The Sweeps were right behind me.  I couldn't see them, in fact, I couldn't see anyone, and I started to get worried.  I'm super, super good at being worried, so I was able to make it to anxious in no time, and desperate shortly after that.  It was hot, I was tired, I was alone and I was last.  Five minutes later I had managed to convince myself that on top of all of that I was lost, and I was riding like thunder, about to burst into tears on my bike because I'd screwed the whole thing up, when road safety drove by and gave me a thumbs up, and written on the back of the van was "Follow me".   The whole ride was like that. Road Safety was a bunch of amazing people in vans and on motorcycles that mark turns, yell encouragement, re-supply you with water and food and generally make you feel safe the whole time.  I was desperately fond of them all by the end.

It wasn't just road safety either. All the riders were so kind to each other, and our team? Our team was amazing - not just our little family team, but the larger team we were on as a group, The Derailleurs.

By the end of the ride, these men and women all felt like friends and family. Erin and Ken made hard-core efforts to pull us all together before the ride, and by the time the first night's camping came - it was really a team. The fastest riders collected our bins and staked out space for all of us (special shout outs to Pato, Geoff and Steve, who were magnificently kind and helpful.) We ate together, camped together - dressed in matching red dresses (and helmet facinators - we were nothing if not fashionable) and the support, love and good humour through every moment was amazing.

Beyond that, there were the knitters.  At least six times on the ride some of you were waiting on the sidelines, and I can't tell you how amazing it was to see friendly faces as I rode.  I even came away from one stop with a wicked finger-knit bracelet from a charming young man named Sam, and there was a really great banner at the finish line - more than that, the tweets, comments and emails (when I was able to read them) were unbelievably supportive and kind.  I'll never be able to thank all of you properly.

I didn't quit.  I know quitting was never an option, but let me tell you - there were moments. Riding 660km is HARD.  My arse still hurts, and there were a few nights where the aching in my legs kept me up.  My hands hurt from gripping the bars (that's not a good scene for the knitting, let me tell you) and a blister or two on my toes from the shoes.  Day three, which was supposed to be the "easy" day, was marked by a cramp that took up residence in my left calf just 5km in - and only got more painful as the day went on.  I'm not a weepy person, and I try not to cry in public, but that day just about had me sobbing on my bike.  Seconds after the ride ended I went straight in to see the RMT and got it fixed. Amazing relief, but it was so hard while it was happening.  I felt really proud of me and everyone, because dudes, I was not the only one hurting - and my problems were small compared to some of the challenges other riders were meeting.

(Yeah, that's two beers in the back of my jersey.  There was a beer store right before camp one night, and you wouldn't believe how much people got in those pockets to carry in. Tip of the hat to Jesse, who miraculously got a six-pack to camp, much to the delight of the whole team.)

I didn't forget to have some fun.  Fun was, some days- a little hard to find.  Towards the end of the ride I was just so tired - and until I rolled right up to the finish line in Montreal I didn't really believe that I was going to make it for sure, but there I was, and I turned to the rider next to me (Hi Brandon!) and said "I RODE MY BIKE TO MONTREAL" and promptly burst into tears.  It wasn't until that moment that I realized that really could do it, I'd been a skeptic until that second, and I was so completely overwhelmed. 

It was amazing, and part of what made it amazing was you guys, and how much money you raised, and how much meaning and value that gave my effort, and I stood there just gobsmacked that a dumpy writer/knitter had ridden her bike that far, because until that very moment, I didn't really, totally, absolutely know that I could do it... but I did. 

I thought a lot about something that someone said to me at a Rally meeting early on.  They were talking about the rally, and what it is, and what it does, and what it takes, and why to do it... and they said this:

I didn't say it would be easy. 
I said it would be worth it.

They were right.  Now if you don't mind, I'm thinking about lying down again. I'm a little tired.  Thanks for everything.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:17 PM