September 27, 2012

Like Teeth on a Hen

I only have a few moments before I go and start the day with knitters and a yarn shop and tonight I give a talk and...well. That part is pretty normal, but let me tell you what happened last night.  At exactly 10:32, I cast off  the socks I was knitting, and then something happened that hasn't occurred in years and years. Maybe decades. 

I had no knitting. 

None.  Not on my person, not in my bag, not somewhere else in my stuff.  No knitting.  I think I was actually dizzy for a moment. I'm surprised you couldn't feel the shock wave over at your house.  This couldn't happen to me at home of course, where I have projects tucked away all over the place, but you'd think it would be a pretty easy situation to stumble into at some point with all the travel I do, but I'm super obsessed with knitting careful.  Usually I have several projects with me, and that provides a protective layer of overlap. Usually as I finish one, I start another, and that's further insurance against finding myself knitless, but there I was last night, with just that happening. I cast off my socks - and there was nothing but a void.

I did the right thing though, I mean, even though I don't really remember being in that position before. I didn't panic.  I went to my suitcase and got out some yarn, and I wound it into balls by hand, and I got my spare needles out of my changepurse, where I keep them, and then it was sort of late, so I went to sleep with them by the bedside table.  When I woke up this morning I got ready to teach, and wrote you this, and that means that I have been knitless for about ten hours.  Granted, I was asleep for a chunk of that, and I did technically have it all right there so that I could do it whenever I wanted too,  but I guess it's still somehow good to know that I'm not so dependent on knitting that I can't go a single night without somehow winding up in the kind of trouble that has me sleeping in an orange jumpsuit with a new best friend named Beulah on the top bunk.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's this really strange twitch over my right eye for absolutely no reason, and I think I want to start some socks.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:49 AM

September 26, 2012

A change is as good as a rest

I woke up this morning with some kind of mid-trip malaise. A bit of a runny nose, a few sneezes... probably more to do with all the planes and hotels than any actual illness, but I started mainlining Emergen-C just the same.  I have no idea if it works, but at least if I take that stuff it feels like I tried to fight back- I wasn't just haplessly victimized by a stupid virus.  (I'm convinced that I get sick when I travel so much because it's just too much exposure to the rest of humanity.  The planes, everybody all crammed in together.  I'm a religious handwasher, but it never seems to be enough. If you're going to come in contact with hundreds of people a day, then you know one of them is going to give you something.) Today's a good day to rest, fight back, and pull it together.  Today I'm making my way from Fort Worth, Texas  to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and writing this to you as I wait for my first flight.  I don't have to teach until tomorrow, so today I can just stagger through airports, knit and go to bed early. It's exactly what I need, and I can tell it will work like a charm.  I finished my Suki, and it's crammed in a corner of my suitcase, waiting to have the ends woven in and be blocked - so on this flight I'll be knitting the pair of socks I had kicking around.  They're pretty close to done, so before I left I grabbed  a skein of yarn that I bought at MadTosh last night (don't pretend to be surprised.  I walked out of there with only six skeins of yarn.  I consider it a personal victory.  I stuffed them in my shoes, then in the suitcase.  Good tip.)

The skein in my purse isn't wound or anything. Just stuffed in the bottom of my bag as a little insurance policy.  It's two pretty short flights today- Fort Worth to Chicago, and Chicago to Minneapolis, but you never know, and I can think of little else more dangerous than me trapped at O'Hare waiting for a connection that never comes, and then running out of yarn.  Best to protect against it, for the sake of all concerned. 

That skein - I'd take a picture of it if I thought it wouldn't suck in this light, is the loveliest thing - and lovely is the best way to describe last night at MadTosh Crafts.  The minute I walked through the door I wished I'd taken the big camera with me, my little iphone camera doesn't do it justice. The whole place was set up by colour and yarn type, with tidy little cubbies full of miracle yarns - and the entirety of it made me want to go organize my stash.

There was fabric, and ribbons and no end of interesting stuff everywhere. 

I love the premise for the shop- it is, of course, owned by the lovely Amy herself, just like Madeleine Tosh yarns is, but it's another business entirely.
It's sort of a crazy thing, a yarn company owner opening a shop that sells other people's yarns - but as Amy explained, there was a need for a local community shop, and that's what they've tried to open.  No online shopping, no shipping... just a shop for Fort Worth, full of great yarns that they love, an alternative to a shop like Joann's for people looking for a different sort of materials.  It's a really nice idea, and the staff was so nice, and the knitters were so nice (you had to know that was coming) and let me tell you,

The whole thing came together beautifully, and I was so happy, and so proud of myself for overcoming the urge to buy a whole whack of yarn that... well.  I bought a whole whack of yarn, but it was for a nephew sweater, so it doesn't matter... right?  Right.  Thanks for your support. 

The next few days are all about stalking Prince visiting Minneapolis, and hanging out at StevenBe.  If you're in the neighbourhood, they have a great idea for the talk on Thursday night.  All proceeds to their Creative Community Foundation and the fiber arts programs at the Waldorf School, and everyone agrees that this is a super fun shop and community.   Very cool. 

Posted by Stephanie at 9:37 AM

September 25, 2012


Yesterday, I left San Francisco and made my way to Fort Worth, Texas.

(View from the top of Twin Peaks, courtesy of an early morning jaunt with Stephen)

This trip is mostly knitterly, with a quick trip to visit my friend Stephen thrown in, and that means that I'm carrying my teaching stuff, my teaching supplies, student supplies, handouts, a computer projector, examples of knitted stuff,  you have no idea.  Then there's my personal stuff, and although I tried to keep it reigned in hard... It's chilly in San Francisco, and hot in Texas and cool in Minneapolis and that made me think I needed more clothes than usual, and then I needed boots for hiking and sandals for the heat and so they're in there, along with a raincoat because... well. Clearly I came a little unglued.  All of that fits in two bags, and then there's my carry on.  In that I have all my computer stuff, and the ridiculous number of cords and plugs,  and a big camera, and all my knitting (two kinds, in case I finish one) and also my wallet and really, that bag is so heavy that carrying it is making me shorter. 

All of this is unwieldy and heavy and I feel like I have way more than usual (because I do) and yesterday morning I carried it all down three flights of stairs, somehow got it onto the street in San Francisco, and kept it from rolling down a hill, and then lifted it all between parked cars, and then I got it into the taxi, swearing on my stash that I would never, ever have this much luggage again - all the while thinking that it's insane that my bags are this full, when I didn't even bring a swift and ball winder- which is a huge measure of restraint.  I keep going over those bags and trying to figure out why they're so full, why I have so much - why I've had to unzip that expansion thing on the side of the suitcase just to keep it from exploding, and seriously, there really hasn't been an upside to having this much... until today - see, I was already knitting with Verb For Keeping Warm yarn when I landed there... and that really did take the edge off of my collecting habit.  I only got one skein- which is a miracle of remarkable proportions. I have a bit of a thing for their yarn. 

Today, today I have no strategy.  Today I'm going to be at MadTosh.  I'm giving a talk at 6pm, and it's right in the store, and I really, really don't see how it's going to be possible to avoid the yarn.  To make things worse, I'm still trolling for nephew sweater yarn, and that makes me feel like I need to buy some...

and I'm about 20 minutes away from finishing my Suki. 

The only thing that's going to help me? (And I swear in the name of everything holy that if one of you makes shipping it home sound reasonable and sane instead of expensive and crazy I'm done with you)

I can't buy much.  It won't fit.

PS.  I just realized that I'm already in trouble.  I meant to type "I can't buy anything" and just noticed I've already rationalized my way to "much"  I might need to take a buddy.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:13 PM

September 21, 2012

In which my plan is solid

After several days of careful reflection, I realized several things.

1. The last time I went to A Verb for Keeping Warm, I bought some of this Kush yarn because it was so nice I couldn't stand it. Those colours are Transnational Fury and Jade.)   You know how it goes.  It was a standard knitter scenario.  Cashmere/silk yarn, hand dyed in nature dyes... hanging right there at eye level...  I'm not even going to try to explain.  I'm sure you know.  Anyway, it was gorgeous, but I choked at the last second and only bought two.

2. Fast forward a little while and here I am with these two skeins thinking that I want to make Suki out of them, and realizing that I probably (definitely) don't have enough. 

3. Realizing that really, I'm having this conversation with myself about how there isn't enough as I'm deciding what my plane knitting should be, because I'm flying to A Verb for Keeping Warm in the morning, and if it turns out that I don't have enough, I can just get more when I get there- and if I do have enough, knitting with Kush while I am in the presence of Kush could probably take the edge off. A perfect plan. 

Yesterday, I cast on in the cab on my way to the airport. 

By the time I got there things weren't going well.  I decided to rip back and not slip the first stitch of each row.  It was too tight.

I started again after I had a bagel.

Then I got my seat on the plane...

flew 5 hours while watching a terrible, terrible movie...

grabbed my luggage...

Checked into my hotel, and realized I absolutely was not going to have enough of the red, and congratulated myself on my clever plan.

Went out to A Verb for Keeping Warm and told Kristine my plan and then watched her get the this nervous look on her face, and that's when I realized that my whole plan hinged on there being a skein of that yarn in the store- and that I hadn't really thought that through. 

But there was. 

The end.  I love it when things work out. (Now I can start worrying about how fast this project is going.  I might need more yarn.)

(PS. I'll be at Verb all day, and I think the three classes are full but you could check if you wanted to be all spur of the moment, and from here I go to Texas on Tuesday to give a talk at MadTosh that evening and then it's on to StevenBe in Minneapolis for teaching and a talk on Thursday, and teaching on Friday.  If you ever want to know what I've got coming up, it's always in the sidebar if you click on "Where's the Harlot")

Posted by Stephanie at 11:49 AM

September 19, 2012

Don't Start With Me

Yeah, that's right.  I totally said I was going to knit nephew sweaters and this isn't a nephew sweater at all.

(Pattern: Guernsey Garden Cowl. I couldn't find it online - it was a gift in our retreat goody bags last time.) 

Wanna make something out of it?  It's my knitting, and I can do what I want and besides it was just a tiny lace cowl and what's your issue? It took like - two days and it's just a little lace and you know what? I'm only human.   I know that I've been hanging around with yarn for a long time and you'd think that would give me some immunity - but for crying out loud, it was Eos, dyed in a Gradiance colourway. There's nobody that can resist that. Four little skeins dyed in a row?  It was interesting, and what's wrong with doing something interesting anyway - it's good for your brain. Helps prevent dementia, and you don't want me to get dementia, do you?

Yeah, that's it.  It was the responsible thing to do - it wasn't was an investment in my health, but you know what? What if I did accidentally have a little fun while I was investing in my well being.  What's wrong with that? Eh? You got a problem with fun?  You some kind of buzz-kill out to make sure knitters only make nephew sweaters?  Is that your scene? Is it?  I bet you're one of those knitters who only has one project at a time and always finishes birthday presents before the birthday, and never slips on a little lace pattern totally by accident while trying to take care of their brain and then asks me where the yarn came from (The Unique Sheep) like you're totally not going to order it yourself and not knit any nephew sweaters at all either. 

I know your kind. 

Posted by Stephanie at 9:33 AM

September 18, 2012

Princess Prettypants

Thanks for waiting patiently to see Marlowe's birthday dress... nicknamed Princess Prettypants by Jen and I during its inception. Marlowe's seen here at her birthday party - sadly with a fever and a little bit of a cranky-face, she wasn't really into the photoshoot.  I don't believe in pressing unhappy babies to smile or play when they don't want to... so this is a largely serious series of pictures.  I can tell she likes it anyway. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, there is nothing in my life that I enjoy more than having an idea, working on that idea diligently, and then having it not only come to fruition, but arrive whole and right and exactly, precisely the way that it existed in my imagination. 

This little dress turned out exactly as I'd hoped.

Not almost,  not close -  exactly. 

It was generated out of three skeins of Luscious silk.  One in white, and two in China Rose, and I dyed a little bit of the white to give me the green I wanted.  There's some white left, but I used just about every inch of the pink.

It fits a little big, which is terrific, frankly, because Marlowe is growing like a weed, and I after that amount of work, I wouldn't want her to outgrow it quickly.  The armholes are deep too, and I'm hoping that means she can wear it over a long sleeved onesie in the wintertime, and that it's super easy to put on and take off, which would be at the top of my list if I had to rely on other people to dress me.

I knit the little bodice, then picked up and knit the skirt down, increasing as I went so it would be full and pretty... I like skirts for little ones to be "spinners" so that they fly out wide when the kid in question twirls. 

(I know.  It is not lost on me that I have knit a twirly skirt for a kid that can't twirl yet.  It's the spirit of the thing, besides she'll learn.)

I knit cabbage roses and tiny leaves, and sewed them on round the neck - after having worked a very trying round of single crochet around all my edges.  (Between you and I, I had to do it about nine times to get it right.) Crochet and I still have the worlds most difficult relationship.  I don't know why it hates me.  Still, I have trouble not rising above that, and end up hating it back.  It's still the right thing to do sometimes.)

Then I worked a little buttonband on the back, and added two wee buttons, fished out of my Grandmothers button bin.  I think they're perfect...

Just like Marlowe.  Happy Birthday sweetness.  You know Auntie Stephie loves you.  Thanks for coming along so I can knit you stuff.

(PS. Yeah, I'm working on the pattern - just in case anyone else is crazy enough to sew together all those roses.)

Posted by Stephanie at 12:46 PM

September 17, 2012

November Retreat

Knot Hysteria’s Colour Retreat

It's that time of the year again,  when the leaves start to change and people start bracing themselves for months and months of drab, colourless, freezing weather that tests human mettle and will to live.  (Oh, wait. That might just be the Canadians.)  As is becoming our tradition, we here at Knot Hysteria like to kick off that winter season with something that's the opposite.  A whole weekend of cameraderie, fun, knitting, dyeing and spinning, along with great food and more colour than you could imagine. 
That's right, it's almost time for our November Retreat, and our theme this time is Colour.  This year, we'll gather from November 9th to 12th (although most people like to arrive the night before, and leave the morning after)  at the most knitter friendly place in the world... The Resort at Port Ludlow. 

It’s been such a pleasure to have master spinner, author and all-round-genius Judith MacKenzie with us for the retreats, that we’d be mad not to have her back for this one. Judith is brilliant with colour, and in the spinning room she’s got a lot planned. Judith will show you how to spin a painted top, and how to combine a rainbow of gorgeous solids - at the carder, and at the wheel. The only bad thing about this all day intensive is that it’s not nine days.

(Judith's teaching room seen here last year - before the chaos!)

In the knitting room with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (that's me) there’s an all day exploration of knitting with colour. Last year the part of the day we spent on the science and art of putting colours together was a big hit, so this year you can look forward to lots of colour theory and exercises, and learning how to throw around a colour wheel like a pro. We'll knit too, working on several different colour techniques, how to chart them, and how to make them look great when you knit them.  We provide all the yarn, you bring the knitting needles and inspiration.

In the dye room with Tina Newton, we'll explore the colours that make us happy, the ones that don't, and why. We’ll take a mood, memory, moment... and translate it into colour. We'll bring your favorite hue to life and explore it's compliments and contrasts, then we'll play with shading and tinting by making a gradient. Be prepared though, it's not all sweetness and light in the dye room. We're also going to push our colour boundaries by making friends with those hues that we tend to shy away from. There are no bad colours, only misunderstood ones. We're going to open up those lines of communication so we can see them for what they are and learn how to work with them. Incorporated throughout all of this hue brewing fun will be dye basics, especially as applied to painting, plus a smidge of colour theory and psychology. Bring an apron or clothes you don't mind having stained with colour and a mind that feels the same.

The weekend begins when you check in on Friday night, and we all have an opportunity to talk, hang out (maybe have a drink) get to know each other, chat with the teachers, and you’re assigned to one of three small groups.

Saturday,  the retreat proper starts, and group one goes with Tina, to a big bright room with a floor covered in plastic and loaded with dye and fiber goodies.
Meanwhile, group two goes with Stephanie to knit.
Over in the pretty room overlooking the water, group three sets up their spinning wheels (or spindles) to spend a day with Judith.

That evening, we gather to play with carders, learn how to make batts, and play with all sorts of colourful fibre.

Sunday, the groups rotate places for the day classes, and then after dinner  - it's electric carder time again!  Batt making was such a hit last year, that this year we're doing it two evenings in a row - so you can make even more great personalized batts for spinning.  

Monday we rotate for classes again, and Monday night we have a wonderful social gathering for Q&A and talking about all we’ve learned, and then we'll have our traditional Show and Tell.  This often turns out to be the most amazing thing, as you all bring your greatest Colour stuff.  It doesn't have to be made by you, it doesn't even have to be knitting... just some amazing human-made colour thing that you want to show and tell about.  When we're done, we somehow bid you farewell, and the retreat ends that evening.

The price includes all three full day classes, evening fun, all materials, including roving, yarn and all the stuff to make batts  (except wheels, spindles and needles), and breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The food is fabulous, and we promise that there will be very good vegetarian options. Our lovely Chef Dan is very excited about having colour as the retreat theme, and we’re expecting even more beautiful food from him than usual - and that’s saying something.

Accommodations are separate and you will arrange those on your own. We have negotiated special prices with Port Ludlow, and there are some shared accommodations (condos and town-homes) if you’d like to come with your friends - and Port Ludlow has improved their room-sharing capacity in recent months.

Once you're confirmed with us, you'll simply call Port Ludlow and tell them that you’re with Knot Hysteria and the knitters, and they will help you get sorted with the special knitter price. They are lovely and helpful people.

Price for the three day/three class intensive with meals:
$745. (Credit card or paypal are fine) All Materials (except knitting needles and spinning wheels) included.
Gift bags, presents and surprises forthcoming.

(If you’re a vendor and you’d like to talk to us about putting a little something in the gift bags, just drop us a line. We’d love it.)

If you’d like to come and are thinking about your skills, keep in mind that you don’t have to be an expert spinner, but you do need a basic working knowledge of a spinning wheel, spinning basics and should be able to spin a continuous thread. We’re not saying that you need to do this well. An advanced beginner would be very comfortable. As a knitter, you’ll need to be able to cast on and off, knit, purl, increase and decrease easily and be comfortable with most knitting instructions. You don’t need to be experienced with colourwork. The point is to learn.

To register, simply send an email to with “Colour Retreat” in the subject line, and include your name, address and phone numbers, and the best time to call you.

We can't wait to see you.  It's a really nice knitter treat. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:46 PM

September 14, 2012

Start or Not

Step 1.  Decide to knit your baby nephew a sweater because he only has one.

Step 2. Realize your other nephew has no sweaters, and decide to knit him a sweater too.

Step 3. Decide that you should consult the nephew who can speak about what he would like.  Ask him several questions about sweaters, like what colour, pullover or cardigan and his preferences for anything else.  Find out that he wants a purple sweater. Dark purple.  Also, maybe a zipper sweater, or a pullover, but definitely not buttons, and maybe a hood, or no hood, and maybe pockets, or no pockets, but definitely not too warm. 

Step 4. Decide that sounds like a pretty simple hoodie.

Step 5.  Start ripping up the stash looking for any yarn that is "purple, dark purple".  Try to figure out how it's possible that you don't have a sweaters worth of dark purple yarn.  Contemplate the light purple yarn with 40% angora and realize that no matter how desperate the times are, the nephew in question is twelve, and that is really probably too old for a fluffy purple sweater, even if you really nail the hood.

Step 6. Realize that although Hank wouldn't like that yarn, Sam would, and spend 45 minutes looking at pattern possibilities for a hoodie for her.

Step 7. Remember that you're knitting Hank a sweater. Go back to looking in the stash.  Find green yarn. Reflect that green yarn is pretty nice.  Remind yourself that green yarn is not purple yarn and is therefore no good for purple hoodie.  Admire green yarn, and think about other nephew.  Other nephew is too small to pick colours, and would look sweet in green. Consider starting little nephews sweater. Spend an unreasonable amount of time looking for sweater pattern for wrong nephew.

Step 8. Realize that there is enough of the green yarn to make an adult sweater, and that means that after you make a little nephew sweater, there won't be enough for an adult sweater, and so it's stupid to use it up on this. Decide this means that you should make yourself a sweater, and spend time looking at patterns that would be good.

Step 9. Remember that you're knitting nephew's sweaters. Give up on purple, and look for something for Lou. Find cashmere laceweight. Start looking at patterns for lace scarf.

Step 10. Remember that you're knitting nephew's sweaters. Put cashmere back, but find orange roving as you do so, and consider how good you look in orange.  Take roving downstairs to wheel.

Step 11. Remember that you're knitting nephew's sweaters. Take roving back upstairs and put on shelf next to magazines. Vogue Knitting fall 2010 is on top.

Step 12.  Look through magazine, see great sweater for Megan.  Pull apart stash looking for enough red yarn to make sweater on page 27.  Find blue yarn. 

Step 13. Remember you're knitting sweater's for nephews. Put magazine back, but take out blue yarn and check yardage.  Get on Ravelry to see if that's enough for Hank's sweater.  Discover it is not, but see really cute vest that might fit Jen's daughter Fenner.   Take yarn downstairs to ball winder.

Step 14. Start winding yarn, but see red and green fingering weight you bought at Verb for Keeping warm and remember good idea for scarf.  Take blue off wider.  Wind red. 

Step 15. Remember you're knitting sweaters for nephews. Wonder what word for sweater is in Spanish because Lou is going to be bilingual.  Look it up on internet.  See a link to a Spanish sweater.  Follow link - find pattern a lot like something you saw on Knitty.  Search Knitty, and don't find sweater but see really great hat.

Step 16.  Check gauge for hat and wonder if blue yarn already wound would be good hat.  It's not, but that stitch pattern would make good socks.

Step 17. Realize that yarn is bad for socks.  Go looking for blue sock yarn in stash that would work for new stitch pattern and the socks you're going to make.  While in stash, see dark purple sock yarn.

Step 18.  Remember you're making sweaters for nephews - and wonder if there's such a thing as Knitter Attention Deficit Disorder. 

Step 19. Repeat from step 5.

Step 20.  Wonder what the hell happened to your day. 


PS. Here's a little heads up that our November Knot Hysteria retreat will be live for registration on Monday. We'll be in Port Ludlow, Washington, and the retreat will begin the evening of the 9th of November, and continue until Monday night. (that's the 12th.) The theme will be Colour (because, that was a really good time last time) and once again, its a Dye, Spin, Knit retreat. Details to come on Monday, but I'm knitting, Tina Newton is in the dyeroom, and Judith MacKenzie will be in the pretty room over the water, teaching spinning. For the first time ever though, we'd like to give alumni (at retreat we call them repeat offenders) a chance to register first. They've been great customers, so if you've been to a retreat before, and you'd like to come to this one, please email us, and we'll try to get you in. No promises, because we're leaving a certain number of spots for the new kids, but you can try to beat the rush. The price is about the same as the last time, $745.

If you're a business, and you'd like to contribute something to our goody bags, you can email us at that same address. We'd love to hear from you.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:27 PM

September 13, 2012

Little Things

The dress is done, my little flowers of delight, and I won't be showing you any more of it until I have a little chou-fleur to put it on. Technically speaking, Marlowe's first birthday is today, but her party isn't til the weekend. This time last year I was headed home in a cab, high on life (and severely messed up on sleep deprivation, oh man, the sleep deprivation had me wild) and I sat in the cab beaming that this little person had come into the world.  It was such a wonderful day.  Such a beautiful birth.  I sat in the cab smiling pure sunshine and wondering why the cabbie wasn't catching the vibe.  He kept looking at me like I might be a little bit dangerous.   (When I got home and looked in the mirror I realized that I looked like I'd been to a bit of a murder.  Note to self. Wash before leaving births, no matter how tired you are.)   I can't believe how Marlowe's grown since then, and how fond I remain of her, and how we've been special friends since that day.  I've loved watching this:

become this

in only a year.

In any case, while you wait to see the dress modelled (and oh man. You want to see this dress.) I started thinking that maybe Lou needs a bit of a thing.  A little Auntie sweater of his own.  As of May he had no sweaters, and I fixed that, but he's still only got one, and there's a chill in the air, and he's growing like a disease.  (Actually, let me correct that.  I'm sure he has lots of sweaters. It's not like his mum is going to let him freeze. I just mean he has no handknit sweaters, and in my book, that's the same as having no sweaters.) Now that I think about it, I think Hank is fresh out of sweaters too. 

I'm going to spend the afternoon happily rooting through the stash, looking for something just right for both nephews.  I'll consult Hank on his preferences - I mean, he's twelve, and that's old enough to have some personal taste, and really, old enough to refuse to wear something because it's not what he'd like, and I'm not a rookie knitter.  I'm not wasting time making something a kid's going to resentfully wear once, and then toss on the floor of his room.

Lou will be easy. 

(Photo courtesy of his Papa and Yaya)

He's obviously still completely helpless to stop us from doing anything we want.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:44 PM

September 12, 2012

Dear Tiny Dress

Dear Tiny Dress,

If there were laws against being darling, you would be in the slammer for life.  You're killing me with your cuteness. You're so cute you make kittens jealous.  You make puppies cry at night, overwhelmed with thier wish that they were you.  You make baby bunnies sleeping in a basket of pansies look homely.  You make lambs frolicking amongst fields of forget-me-nots seem crass. 

Love Forever,


(PS. I really mean it when I say I love you.  I know I said the cute thing about those bootees, but you're different than the other projects.  You're way cuter.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:30 PM

September 11, 2012

A little green

Marlowe's birthday is fast approaching, and her party dress is coming along nicely.  I'm done the skirt, just turning a little picot hem at the bottom - because you know. The idea wasn't quite frilly enough. 

I have all the cabbage roses knit for around the neck, and I placed them around the other day and thought it was good, but not great - something wasn't quite right, and the other day I realized what it needs.  Leaves - I immediately imagined pale green leaves under the pink roses on the white bodice, and scoured the stash.  An hour later I'd trashed the stash room and come up with several things that were totally unacceptable, although I did spend another two hours pretending they were acceptable before I finally admitted that this little dress was way too perfect to start compromising now.  I spent another hour cruising the internet looking for the perfect green to order, before I realized it wouldn't get here in time anyway, and that I didn't really want a whole skein.  I was stumped.

I called a friend and bemoaned the lack of a perfect pale green, and she said something like "It's too bad you couldn't dye the white silk yourself... " and a little bell went off.  Why couldn't I? Silk is easy to dye, and so I decided to give it a shot.   I got a pot, and some food dye and vinegar and my big pyrex measuring cup, and then I thought about what I know about dyeing (which isn't much, I'll tell you that right now) and I skeined up a little of the white silk - just enough to do the leaves.  I have lots left - so if it didn't work, I thought I could give it a few tries. 

First, I mixed up the dye.  The green was a little too green on its own, so in went a little yellow. 

Then I remembered that you're supposed to soak the yarn.  I don't know why you soak the yarn exactly, I think it's got something to do with the dye going on evenly... so I was sure to do it. I usually don't break a rule until I know why it exists.  (Usually. There have been some spectacular exceptions.)

Next, very carefully and strategically, I violently backhanded the entire pyrex container of dye into the backsplash, counter, floor and cutting board, while reaching for my coffee, and spent 25 minutes cleaning it up. Then I mixed up the dyes again. 

I feel sure you can skip that step.

I put about half of my colouring and some more water and a glug of vinegar into a pot on the stove.  I know you're not supposed to use any pots or utensils for dyeing that you will use for food, but since this was food dye I felt pretty good about skipping that rule.  I brought it up to heat, squeezed the water out of my mini-skein, and plunked it in.  I gave it a little stir, then left it there - with the water just below a simmer, until the dye was exhausted and the water was clear.  (For the record, I think that's the first time I've exhausted a dyebath.  I'm usually exhausted before it is.)

At that point I thought it was dark enough (if it had been too light I would have dumped in the rest of the dye) took out the  yarn, and hung it to dry.

Perfect. Just exactly the green I was hoping for, and my favourite way to solve a problem. Quickly, with found objects, and for free.  It's like getting a Scrabble triple word score, only with yarn. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:08 PM

September 10, 2012

In Which All is Revealed

This weekend was jam packed with interesting things, but I've been dying to tell you about something for weeks and weeks, and now that it's over, I can reveal it all, which is a relief, because carrying this secret inside of me since August 10th, when I hauled off and sent a crazy email, has been killing me. 

Katie and Carlos got married on Friday.

From the moment they announced their wedding, I knew I wanted us to give them an unconventional gift.  They've been together a while, and they have a house and a baby - and somehow I didn't feel right about giving them housewares or something.  Once, a couple of years ago, Katie had told me that this certain song was "their song." Now, that stuff changes, and maybe it wasn't still their song now,  no way to really know...but I did at least know that she liked it, and thought it was romantic. 

Add that piece of knowledge together with the fact that this is a very musical family, and my idea seemed totally doable.  I sent an email to everybody in the family - and a plan was hatched.  Since then, there's been people practicing all over, people helping Nana Carol keep a secret (she's our loose cannon) and other people bugging other people to get on board.  (That would have been me. The idea could only work if I had total buy in from everybody.)

We were going to do a Wedding Flashmob.  Like all big ideas, this one had the potential to be absolutely fabulous, or nothing short of a trainwreck.  We practiced, sent around a million secret emails, rehearsed desperately Thursday night,

(I'm pretty sure Sam looks that shocked because Kamilah has just suggested she add a harmony part. She did.  You can see them get it in this video.)

and then Friday came. We arrived at the venue for the wedding, practicing all the way, with instruments stashed in all the cars. 

In my purse were lyrics for everyone at the wedding with instructions in both Spanish and English (Carlos' family is all from Spain) and sheet music for everyone playing an instrument.  The plan was huge.

Katie and Carlos had a lovely ceremony, really, really beautiful -

and then all the guests went downstairs to the garden for cocktails... everyone except for our little crack team.  They ran to the cars, collected all the instruments (two ukuleles, four guitars, a tenor guitar, a violin and seven shakers and maracas) and ran them into the reception hall, and stashed them under the appropriate tables.  (There was also a brief rehearsal by the side of Queen street.) 

The guests came back up from cocktails, and my daughter Amanda,  Sisters-in-law Robyn and Kelly,  Katie's best friend Lexa and I ran all over the place pretending to be chatting with guests all the while secretly distributing shakers, maracas and lyric sheets.

Dinner started, and there was a lovely speech by Kelly and Carlos' brother Jorge, and then a really nice one by Nana Carol and Old Joe, and then what seemed to be a very well received speech by Carlos' parents (it was in Spanish so I'm not sure what they said, but they seemed charming.)  Kate and Carlos cut the cake, and all the while, the family sat with instruments clenched between their knees, waiting impatiently for the right moment - desperate to get it done. 

Finally I got up to make my speech, and I explained that it was a super musical family, and how Joe and I got songs at our wedding, and Chris and Robyn got songs at their wedding, and that I wished that I could give them a song, but I'm not a good singer.  Then I said I figured out how I could do it.    With that, Katie's brother Chris pulled his guitar out, and began the intro.  I said "All I need is a little help" and walked back to my table.
With that, Amanda, Megan, Samantha, Savannah and Kamilah (all the nieces) stood up, and Sam and Kamilah started to play the ukulele along with Chris's guitar, and they sang the first verse. 

At the beginning of the second verse,  my brother-in-law Ben got up with his guitar, and Joe stood up with the tenor guitar... and Katie's best friends and her sister Kelly and sister-in-law Robyn, started singing along.

At the next verse, Alex (a good friend of Carlos) pulled out his guitar, and Kosti (Savannah's boyfriend) rose with another one... and the whole Dunphy side of the family rose and added their voices. 

The next verse, all of the Fernandez family rose -  Amanda pulled out her violin and everybody with a shaker started shaking.  On the next verse, all the remaining guests came up, and the full scope of our cunning was revealed.  We all sang along, and I don't know if you've ever been part of something like that - but there's something powerful about collective effort that's just as fun for the people doing it as it is for the people they're doing it for. 

We have a video here of what it looked like as it was going down - it's a little dark, but I think you can totally see what we were up to. 

It was a great day - and I can't tell you how awesome this family is that they would get behind something this crazy... and I think Kate and Carlos loved it- and I'll just say it. 

It was way better than getting them towels.

Katie and Carlos, this family really loves you.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:59 PM

September 6, 2012

Down Day

I should have seen it coming.  In retrospect, I asked for it. There's just no way that you can walk around talking about how much you're going to get done, and how great it's going to be to get back to an amazing and solid schedule, and not get smacked around a little.  I don't know why destiny can't just have my to-do list burst into flames, or maybe make me itchy all over when I start to write it?  What, I ask you, would be wrong with just a simple swarm of termites welling up from nowhere and eating my list, leaving only tatters arranged in the shape of the words "nice try"?

My back has been a little sore for a few weeks.  I had that one terrible episode a few years ago - which was really my first experience with back pain, and I was really eager to not repeat it, so I've been stretching,'s been keeping it at bay, but with the wedding this week (Katie and Carlos are getting hitched tomorrow!) things have gotten a little out of hand, and maybe I overdid it or took down my guard, but day before yesterday it was really hurting, and then yesterday morning I was crippled. Completely crippled.  I thought it was the pain that woke me at 4:30am, but it turns out it was a UTI, and the day- frankly, only got worse.  By about 10am I was a treat to be around. 

By 6pm I was drugged, medicated and resting with a hot pad - and took advantage of my small attention span to knit small things.

A whole pile of tiny little cabbage roses that will go 'round the neckline of Marlowe's birthday dress.  I'm not done the skirt part yet, but the yarn is so gorgeous that I don't want to waste an inch, so I'm putting it on hold while I do the roses, then all that's left will be for the skirt, and I can just go on until there's not a bit left. 

Rather happily for me, and rather sadly for the mountain of cabbage roses- I feel much better today.  I won't be going anywhere fast, and I will be renewing my yoga pass first thing next week- and I'm not quite sure if I'll dance at the wedding, but at least the worst is over. 

Maybe I'll knit roses today anyway. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:59 PM

September 4, 2012


Today I woke up, came downstairs, made coffee (in the bodum, the coffeemaker is broken. I have no idea how we go through so many) and looked around the house with a feeling of satisfaction and expectancy.
Today is the day.  Unofficially, summer ended yesterday, and today we are all back to school, back to work - and for someone like me, happily back to a schedule, and a plan and a system.   Don't get me wrong -   There's nothing more that I love than swimming, and the beach, and the woods, and being out in a canoe, or rock hunting with the kids on Christian Island, or hunting for frogs with a four year old friend,  or watching the sunset with my mum. 

There's nothing I love more than all of those things- except cobbling together dinner out of fresh things, eating outside, cycling, gardening, kissing a schedule goodbye and staying up late. 

It was a great summer, an amazing summer.

Today there's a sense of the new year.  I know technically it's in January, but it never feels that way to me. For me, the new year starts now, as everyone settles down.  The leaves are already starting to turn.  Sam's back to school.  The kitchen is tidy, and nobody is covered in sand.
I'll miss summer, but I'm ready. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:58 PM