February 28, 2013

Dear Luis

Happy Birthday!

I know this is late, you're one year and eleven days old now.  I'm sorry you got your birthday sweater a little late, but I figure you're too little to know really, so I took a liberty. 

Yarn: my own handspun merino. Pattern: Antler.

I know that you're too little to read this, but it's been almost a year since one of your knitted things came with a letter, so it's time. 

I would like to thank you for the last year.  I know that's silly, that all you did was get born, but what you have done in this family is nothing short of miraculous.  Your time here so far has brought a new depth of love and closeness to all of us that no other person could have created. 

Thank you for the gift of your mother. You've taken someone we already adored, and created a mum that we are all proud of. Her tenacity, her respect for you, her dedication to your happiness is a thing of wonder to behold, and because of you we've been able to see this in her. She's not just Katie to us any more (not that that wasn't ever enough) she's a brilliant mum, fierce and kind and we've all been privileged to see her skill and mothering revealed to us as you grow. You're a good teacher.

Thank you too, for what you've done for your dad.  I admit I didn't know him as well as I should have when you were born. He was in my family - but he wasn't yet my family, if you know what I mean.  Over the last year my little family's relationship with him has deepened and grown into something more meaningful and committed.  I don't think I've ever seen a man smile as much as your father does when he's with you, and having his nature revealed to us through you has been a great gift.

Thank you also, from the bottom of my heart, for what you've given my Joe. I know you can't possibly know this, because you've only known him for a year, but he was a little anti-baby when you came along. Don't get me wrong, he liked babies okay, but he was afraid of them and worried about him being so big and them being so small, and he sort of thought it best to get involved with wee people when they were older, and sturdier, and could play and talk.  The joy he takes in you has been breathtaking for me. To see him eager to hold you, to rock you and cuddle with you...

He thought babies didn't like him. The clear delight you take in everything Joe has changed his perspective entirely.  I've never seen the like.

I could go on. I could thank you for the energy you've brought the whole lot of us... it was time for a baby, with all the other kids grown up. It's beyond wonderful to see the softness in your Grampa, and as much as we tease her, the 3898736 pictures of you on the "nana-cam" and the way your Nana shows them to every person she meets is an absolute expression of the joy and happiness you've brought her.  I could thank you for the gift of Carlos' family, I wouldn't  know them and my fifty words of Spanish without you. I could thank you for the gifts you've given your cousins. All five young women clearly adore you, and you're helping them learn what they might try to be like as mothers. (Later. Not yet.) I could thank you for all the times you've been the reason that the family gathered for dinner, we see more of each other now.  You have enslaved us all with your charm.

Mostly though, I want to thank you for liking me.  For letting me rock you to sleep sometimes, for giving me the gift of a warm, soft little body melting into my arms again.  I have missed it.  I want to thank you for laughing at all my jokes, for crawling towards me when I come into a room, for never getting tired of peek-a-boo and pretending that you love it as much as I do. Thank you for loving us all back. We adore you beyond all reason.  You've improved the lot of us, and I hope that for your whole life our gratitude washes over you as love, and as sweaters.   Like your blanket, your birthday sweater is not just a knitted thing.  It is a hand-spun, hand-knit expression of all I feel for you, and all that I want for you. 

Thank you for coming.  We love having you here.

Be warm, Happy Birthday,

Auntie Stephie

(PS, thanks too for making your parents such awesome sweater photographers. They took most of these shots.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:22 PM

February 26, 2013


As I was leaving for Cabarete earlier this month, I had a sudden crisis of faith in my yarn.  I'd packed a pair of socks and the yarn for anther swing at the Color Affection but at the very last minute I wasn't feeling it or something.  I started to think that I didn't have enough yarn with me - what if I run out?  I get those same feelings anytime that I'm going to be somewhere with limited access to yarn (like the bathroom) and usually I can talk myself down. Remind myself that I'm not going to knit faster than I ever have before, that I can almost always get yarn where I'm going if I do knit faster than I ever heard before.... but Cabarete, I felt, was a yarn wasteland. (This turned out to be true. Not only did I not see a yarn shop, the Domincans are mostly shocked by knitting as an activity. You can see why - I mean, it's the Caribbean and a third world country. There are priorities, and keeping warm isn't one of them.)

Five minutes away from leaving, I ran upstairs, grabbed two skeins of something pretty and ran to the ball winder. Joe was loading my luggage while I wound the yarn and jammed a few circulars into my bag. 

When I got there, I tried to get behind the Color Affection My colourway this time was supposed to be these pretty skeins from The Plucky Knitter, but it wouldn't take hold.

Something about the autumn colours seemed out of place in Cabarete, and I went back to the suitcase and fetched out the emergency yarn. Two skeins of Tosh Merino light, in Bluebonnet. 

It was perfect. It was the colours I was seeing all around me, and a spent a happy morning cruising through patterns, trying to choose what I would make.

I looked at lace, at cabled things - all sorts of things really, and that afternoon as the wind came up and the kiters came out, it hit me. What better pattern for a Cabarete beach vacation, than the missing part? I had the colours... the only thing missing was the wind. 

Enter Windward, a very clever pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier.

A scarf that heads off in all directions while still going in one direction, really, something that reminded her of the maneouvers you needed to sail into the wind, and that reminded me of what the kiters were doing on the sea in front of me. 

I've puttered through it over the last few weeks, as I stomp through the snow and fly to places that are not warm at all, a happy reminder of the time in Cabarete.  It's a pretty cool pattern, simple enough to be fun, but clever enough to be entertaining. 

Until I washed it last night, it smelled a little like the beach, and left the tiniest  heartbreaking drift of sand in the bottom of the basin. 

We took it down to the waters edge today, trying to get it's photoshoot  done ahead of the big snowstorm that's headed our way, and this time Windward was all about a different sort of wind and water. (Three cheers for Sam. Mercy it was cold. We quit taking pictures when I couldn't feel my hands anymore. Sam wants you to know she's not sad in this picture. She's freezing.)

Windward. All the best things about Cabarete. Pretty, and warm - and now resigned to having a very Canadian life.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:46 PM

February 25, 2013


Ever want your knitting just to be something cozy, and nice, and straightforward? Not the business of churning out socks, nor the challenge of lace, nor the complexity of cables and charts. 

Ever just want it to be the plain, simple oatmeal of knitting? Decent, reliable knitting in a soft, pretty yarn that isn't flashy? Ever find that knitting, and settle in with it for the long haul?  Picking it up at the moments when you need soft and sensible, cushy and cozy, and then, ever... while you are reflecting on how knitting fulfills the desire to be warm and sensible  that settles upon you in late winter... ever realize, as you relax into it, appreciative of the simple charms it possesses..

Ever realize you suddenly can't knit your way out of a #$%$!ing bag? 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:56 PM

February 22, 2013


Just a quickie from me as my plan to cram four days into two might have been a little bit much (if by a bit much, you understand that I mean that it's completely crackers.)  My little Antler sweater is all done, just needs a little bath and a wee nephew to put it on.

I got tiny little bike buttons, found and bought in a couple of colours from Jennie the Potter. A hand-spun, hand-knit sweater seemed to need hand-made buttons to be just right, and it's never too soon to start shaping the soul of a cyclist. 

I have a veritable mountain of yarn left over.  After carefully spinning as much as the pattern asked for, I had way too much - an instinct I should have heeded in the first place, although at least it's a yarn error in the preferred direction. The sweater weighs 172 grams, and the leftovers - 165.  I could just about make a whole other sweater!

Actually, now that I think about it....

Posted by Stephanie at 2:23 PM

February 21, 2013


Welcome to Monday, or what what's standing in for Monday as I appear to have misplaced mine this week.  I was travelling on the actual Monday assigned to me and since whatever forces determine what sort of trip you will have were obviously annoyed with me, that day was sort of a loss.  A whole missed chunk. I had a wonderful Madrona, loved every single minute of it, like I always do, but came home thinking that I needed a good solid Monday. You know the kind. Clear off the desk, catch up on emails, tidy the house, pull together the laundry, wonder vaguely how Sam and Joe got on with no clean towels and why we now keep the measuring cups with the glasses.

This was totally my intention on Tuesday, when something came over me. I absolutely couldn't get moving. I drank coffee and knit, then drank coffee and knit a little more, and then I sat at my desk, but all I could bring myself to do there was drink coffee and knit.

I couldn't seem to pull together a good Monday-esque sort of momentum.  Then it hit me. Mondays are supposed to follow weekends, and I worked on the weekend. I refocused my goals then, and managed a pretty stellar day off.

Yesterday had a ton of momentum, but still had more of the feel of a productive Sunday. I wrote, touched in with friends, talked with my family, arranged a few important things... I did the people part.  Today I've determined, needs to be a Monday.  Today my desk and I don't just need to spend time together, we need to be welded for at least 9 hours- and then we'll be all caught up, or as caught up as possible, or at least the caught up place will be within sight. There's also the teeny tiny problem of me (mostly) not being insane, which means that I know that today isn't Monday, but Thursday and that means that I should probably do Monday and Tuesday today, and Wednesday and Thursday tomorrow, and then Friday and Saturday on Saturday which means Sunday can just be Sunday and then things will be back on track, but Thursday's always been my favourite day of the week and I don't want to wreck it too much.  There's also that Monday was Family Day here, a holiday for everyone, so maybe today should be Tuesday-  but that means I'd have to find time to spin.... Forget it. The important thing is that today has to be awesome, and this has me burning with the fires of a thousand things that need to be done before Sunday (the real one) comes - and not the least of them are knitty.

I finished my Kusha Kusha and felted it, and I think I love it. It's hard to tell until I put on the outfit that I think it goes with and check to see if it makes me elegant and tall.  I have my hopes high. It does indeed look post-apocolyptic, but today so does my hair, and the pictures will have to wait. 

While I was at Madrona I found the most perfect little buttons for Lou's Birthday sweater - I'll see the freshly minted one year old on the weekend, so I need to finish the button bands, if you understand that here I am using the word "finish" to mean "begin and finish".  I was so worried about having enough handspun that now I have too much, so I did have delusions about a hat, but...

Sam's birthday (19!) was also last week, and there's a little project I want to finish for her before we celebrate on the weekend too.   I shouldn't call it a little project. It will be a miracle if I can finish it by Sunday. 

Thank goodness it's only Monday or I'd be freaked.

PS. I'll be updating my events page tomorrow (after the aforementioned welding to my desk)  but since this one's really soon I thought I would put it here. I'll be in Boston next weekend, doing some great stuff with the Metro West Knitters.  There's classes (I'm not sure if there's room left, but I will check for you) and a lecture.  I'll be doing  "This Is Your Brain On Knitting" on Friday evening, March 1, 7:30, at Hibernian Hall, 151 Watertown Street, Watertown (Rte 16 next to the Stop ‘n’ Shop, apparently.)

Cost is $20, payable at the door. After costs are covered, a donation will be made to MSF - a lovely move on the Guild's part. They'd like to know if you're coming, so please pre-register here.  Bring your knitting. I promise to be as fun as I can.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:13 AM

February 18, 2013

This thing

I have been knitting the Kusha Kusha scarf for (please pause, while I check my archives...) three days shy of two years.  Obviously, this scarf doesn't take two years to knit, but I feel like I can now admit the truth about it.

I hate knitting it.  The yarn is stainless steel, and other than the fun way you can make shapes out of it  while you're knitting - I don't find it fun to knit at all.  It's super fine, hard to see and manage, inelastic... It charms me not at all, and I keep wandering off and leaving it behind. I find myself in the rather unusual position though, of coming back over and over and over again, because frankly, as much as I hate knitting this scarf? I really, really want this scarf. 

Seldom am I a product knitter. I like the stuff I make, but I knit because I like knitting, and generally speaking, if the knitting stops being fun, I'm out.  Not this time. This time I can see the finished thing too clearly, and I know what it will look like, and what I'll look like when I'm wearing it.  I will have on a long black skirt, a beautiful thin black top that drapes and has no closures, and a pair of black tights and black shoes.  The Kusha Kusha scarf will be tied around my neck in a subtle rumpled way - a way that says both "my clothes are sexy post apocalyptic rags - I make the Matrix look unchic" and "I look this good without effort."  (Note to self: In this vision I am also 5'9".  Look into this discrepancy.)

I am so totally smitten with this scarf, that I am determined to finish it, even though it's making me crazy - I was determined to finish it when I took it to Cabarete, I was determined to finish it when I took it to Madrona, and now It's my travel knitting today.  It is the only knitting I have with me,* and it's a long trip. With my wool as my witness. I will own this scarf tomorrow.

*this is a lie. I have another thing with me in case because I worry about what would happen if I had a delay, or knit faster than ever before... a backup thing is always good.  I am, however, ignoring the other knitting. It's not really here.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:56 AM

February 15, 2013


I was just typing this big thing about how I know I hardly ever post on Saturdays, but this week I'm doing it because I can't really tell what day of the week it is, when I realized that it's actually Friday, and proved my point entirely. I think I might be a little stunned.

I arrived in Seattle for Madrona Wednesday pretty late, and yesterday all I had to do was prep for my classes and pull together the Teacher Talent Night for Charity - which I would say went off without a hitch last night, but there's always hitches, and it's a great deal of its charm.  I'd tell you all about it, but there is a strict media ban in place, and that means that what happens at Madrona, stays at Madrona, and you shouldn't be hearing anything about what the teachers did last night, other than that they were fabulous, brave and lovely.  It's a really fun fundraiser, and I'm as honoured as always that Suzanne lets me have my way with it. 

Since I can't tell you anything about that (and oh, how I wish I could. You should really come next year) I had the time yesterday to go on a little walk through the marketplace.  This is sort of a rare treat for me, ususally I can't find the time to really poke around, and I'd forgotten both how much I like it, and how much it costs me.  I snapped a few shots as I wandered through, there's a ton to see, but here's a few things I noticed as I went.

(Tracy, making new weavers out of thin air.)

A bison puppet, charming vintage look patterns from Blue Sky Alpacas, and Andrea's absolutely incredible recycled cashmere all found at the Fiber Gallery.)

(Dyed silk cocoons from Chameleon Colorworks. I might have bought these I don't even know for what, just yet.)

An ocean of Kid Silk Haze at Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. Traditionally, this yarn has been a weekness for me, but my resistance was good here, although the weekend is young.)

(Glass Flower top knitting needles from Ernst Finely Crafted Glass. My picture doesn't do these justice.)

The amazing colours at Opulent Fibers. I think I'm going back for the hemp.

Jennie the Potter.  Sigh. Go look at the buttons.

Spindlewood Spindles.  All lovely, every one.

Amazing marketplace.  For today, big plans.  I have a date with a great wheel, I'm teaching a class this afternoon, and if you'd like a visit and you're in the area, I'll be part of a great lineup of teachers doing a book signing from 5 to 6 (or until nobody comes and we all get hungry.) Come and say hi if you like. I'm going to try and sit next to Clara . She's fun.  Have a great weekend, and let me know if you need anything from the market. I've got a route planned.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:19 PM

February 13, 2013


Today's word is easy. Not "easy" as in "this is going to be a snap" but easy as one would use it with a skittish horse who looks like they might break free of their holds and make a break for the barn door.  That kind of easy.  Every time my mind tries to trample me out of optimism today, I'm just sort of smiling at it and saying "Whoa there. Easy now."

I made my way home yesterday, after one long last walk in on the beach, and one last swim in the ocean, and this morning it was straight back to business.  I had a few hours of rest planned today, before I head to Madrona this afternoon, but while I was in Cabarete, I had a tooth break-  (on nothing- a chunk just fell out while I was flossing. How wrong is that?)  and so this morning was spent dealing with that. 

I think I've mentioned this before, but I have a thing about the dentist.  I wouldn't call it a phobia, because I can do it if I have to, but there's a ton of anxiety and crazy made up stuff.  (For example, I am afraid that the anesthetic that he injects might go to my brain and kill me. Never mind that this is absolutely physiologically impossible - I'm worried anyway.) When the tooth broke in Cabarete it hurt, and so I went to a clinic to get a temporary filling.

I do not think the man I met at the clinic was a dentist. Let's just leave it there. I was going to give you a big long thing about what happened,  but let's not talk about what happened there, or what sort of hygiene may or may have been practiced- or the fact that there was no anesthetic, which turned out to be fine with me once I started worrying about sterilization, and if this guy had heard of it.  Lets just say that this morning, and for the first time in my life, I flew eagerly into the chair of our family dentist.
He fixed everything, and I'm leaving for Madrona shortly, where I will be able to chew and everything.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:22 AM

February 12, 2013

Not home yet

On my way home.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:52 PM

February 7, 2013

The Other Side

We've had a quiet few days here. Erin's not feeling well, so we've stayed close to the apartment, swimming, reading (and knitting, though that's just me. I did take Hank to town yesterday, and brought him home on a motoconcho - a guy on a motorbike, just for a bit of a thrill.) I took the camera down to the beach in the afternoon so that I could show you the transformation. Every day, the wind is down in the morning, and the beach belongs to walkers and swimmers, but just after noon the wind comes up, and the beach is transformed - the name "Kitebeach" makes total sense.   (Very infrequently, there is no wind - or not enough, although it always seems windy to me, and on those days the beach is full of kiteboarders lying around dejectedly - staring to the East and watching the flags.  It's sad for them, but those days the beach is ours from morning til night.)

Kiteboarding has boards like snowboards, with straps for your feet on them. You put on a big corset that attaches to the kite, and then control the direction of the kite by pulling on a bar that has lots of strings going to the kite above.

The kites are huge, and they can lift a person way, way up in the air, especially if they get boosted by a wave.  I can tell kiteboarding isn't for me, because this is one of the worst things I can think of.  I keep thinking I'd be in Haiti before I got down. 

They go back and forth along the waves, ripping out to sea, then turning (somehow... I think you do it the way you would tacking on a sailboat, but I'm unsure. See previous concern about ending up in Haiti.)

They do a mysterious something with the kite, launch into the air, change direction mid-air, and rip back again, repeating the maneouver.

All day the beach is full of instructors and students, newbies and experts, and if you really want to see something, look for the young Dominican guys who were practically born on boards. 

I assume I'd be killed in about 4 minutes, having apparently lingered in the fine motor control line far longer than the one that would give you the skills to do this,  but man... is it amazing to watch.
It's like a poem. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:43 PM

February 5, 2013

La Playa

So far, I am the first one up every morning.  I've taken to drinking some coffee on the balcony, and then heading out for a long walk along the beach before the sun gets too scorching. (This is really only good for avoiding sunburn, it's plenty hot.)  I walk all the way down to the point and all the way back up, the sea splashing my feet, and me marvelling at the waves.

We are on Kitebeach in Cabarete, so named because the wind and surf are consistent and strong - perfect for kiteboarders.  Dozens and dozens fill the beach in the afternoon, but in the morning, before the wind comes up, the surfers sleep and I walk the beach just about alone.

There is a reef here, a little ways out, and it protects the beach. The waves are still fierce and strong, but it makes it possible to swim - provided you're a strong swimmer. We see no little kids anywhere near the water here.  There's an undertow, and getting out is a little tricky - but once you're past the point where the waves break, you can swim for hours.  (Then you have to come back in - past that point where the waves break again. Yesterday one caught me from behind, knocked me face first into the beach,  folded my legs over my head then rolled me along the sand like I was a shell. The trick, I am here to tell you, is to see that as an emergency. You have to rush to stand up, once it lets go of you, or the next one will really have it's way with you. If two get you, the third one is sure to, and then you'll still be spitting up sand and examining your sandblasted knees at midnight.)

By where our little apartment is, the beach is just sand, but farther down as I walk I find rocks, and cliffs of stone for the waves to crash on, and it's all been carved into wild shapes by thousands of years of waves.

I could watch it all day, and it's just water.  I'm amazed.

That's today's Spanish word.  La playa.  The beach. 

Posted by Stephanie at 10:14 AM

February 4, 2013

I know what I saw

Yesterday morning I woke up early.  It was sort of ridiculously early, and I lay there listening to the waves, and decided that being awake early in the Caribbean couldn't possibly be a bad thing, and I went and made myself a cup of coffee, and took my laptop to the big balcony that's on the front of the apartment that we're staying in.  Hold on, I'm there now. I'll show you what it looks like. 

Whoops, sorry.  I forgot what you're mostly going to care about:

(Not sure what I'm making yet, but its Tosh Merino Light, in Bluebonnet. I have two. They are sitting there at the ready.)

We're right on the ocean, a garden of tropical plants the only thing between me and the crashing sea, and it is beyond beautiful.  Roses, hibiscus, birds of paradise... a stretch of pretty flowers and palms is the only thing that we look over to survey the sea and waves. Every so often a bunch of Dominican guys ride by on horses at a full gallop. They take tourists rides at a slow trot, but morning and evening they give them their heads, and charge along the beach, laughing and racing the horses right along the edge of the surf - waves splashing high around them.  It's a fabulous view.  So yesterday morning I got up and came out here to write, and I drank coffee and watched the sun come up over the sea, and then I checked my email. A lady named Annabella had written me an letter, saying that she had been here just a few days ago, not quite in Cabarete, but in a tiny town a few kilometres away, and she told me to keep an eye out for Humpback whales. Apparently they swim right by here, 3-5 thousand of them migrating to Samana from the arctic to have their babies and mate.  I thought this was pretty cool, but that my odds were slim. Still, all day I kept an eye to an ocean.

Right before we walked down the beach to dinner, about the time of sunset, I saw something. I told my mum I saw something, and she assured me that it was not a whale. She actually assured me that there are no whales here, that we've been here before, and there were no whales, and that nobody talks about whales, and that if you want to see whales, you have to go to Samana. She reminded me that we are in Cabarete, not Samana, and told me that I had whales on the brain because of the email from Annabella.  I told her Annabella (whom I have never met) didn't strike me as a the sort of person who would just make up some crazy whale story.  My mother laughed.

We took a few more steps, me with my eyes to the sea, and there! A splash! I turned so quickly to say "Look! There!" that I sort of bashed her with my arm a little. This proved fatal to her chance to see it, since she was instantly my mother - reminding me to apologize before anything else could happen, which I did, but... she missed it. Still, I made her and Erin and Hank stand there for ages... standing on the beach, staring at the ocean. After about five minutes, they decided that I was nuts.  They posited that I had seen a piece of the reef, a wave cresting, a bird... They wanted to stop looking. I made them stand there. I insisted. After a few more minutes, my mother pronounced my whale imaginary, told me that I've always had a vivid imagination that was easily influenced by suggestion (and she is not wrong, I guess) and we all walked on. 

I walked sort of sideways, so I could watch for the imaginary whale.

We got to the restaurant, and Hank went inside to look at the menu. (He is on a constant search for familiar food.) We stood on the steps, and l noticed a a few guys sitting on the steps in front of us, and one of them was pointing out at the sea.  I told my mum, that guy sees the whale. My mother told me that she was pretty much done with my whale obsession.
Still, we were standing on the steps waiting, and there's nothing to look at, except for the ocean, and the three of us were doing just that, when right in front of us, a humpback whale leapt out of the ocean, twisted gracefully in the air and sunshine, and landed with an enormous splash. 

It was right there. That's the spot where it was.  (I took that picture afterwards because even though the whale isn't in that picture, I was just so stunned that had been there that it seemed reasonable to document it.) It did it like... nine times, and we all stood there in awe and were completely enthralled, and yeah.
I was a little smug.  Imaginary whale my arse.
Thanks Annabella.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:37 AM