I had a wonderful weekend at Yarnover and at StephenBe, if a little exhausting, but really, if that's how work is going to be? I can think of lots of exhausting jobs I could be doing that wouldn't be any fun - so I'll take it, and happily so. Something shocking happened though - I took no pictures. Wait, that's not true. As I look though my phone, I can see that apparently, I took three.
This one, of the very, very pretty Italian tubular cast-on that I did on the plane when I realized I'd left my waste yarn for the provisional tubular cast-on that my pattern suggested right smack on the middle of the coffee table at home:
This one, which is an absolutely horrific shot of Carson Demers, Nancy Bush and what appears to be Carson's glass of Chardonnay.
(I have no explanation for why this picture is on my phone. Some bizarre kinnearing accident. I don't know, but there they are.)
... and then there's this one:
A shot I took on Sunday night when I snuck behind Stephen Be right before I took the stage at the conclusion of Fiber Fest. I swear, I thought it would be better.
It's a huge shame that these are the shots that I got - because if my camera juju hadn't apparently left me at the border, I'd have pictures of things that were a lot more interesting - like the 100% mink yarn at the Grinning Gargoyle booth in the Yarnover marketplace - Like about 20 of the vendors that had amazing stuff, now that I think of it, including one amazing angora yarn that I meant to go back and buy, but ran out of time for. (It's inspired me to fetch the angora out of the upstairs stash and do a little blending and spinning, actually - does anyone remember the vendor?) Or - if I had my wits about me, I could show you the Habu trunk show that almost cost me a fortune (I remembered I had some at that last second. Very near miss.) Or - Steven West doing a cartwheel, or knitting teachers emerging from a van like it was a clown car full of the most beautiful knitwear. Or - I could have taken pictures of the scads of amazing knitted stuff that I saw on the students (sometimes I don't know why they are taking classes - they are already so clever) or the bizarre but artful arrangement of decaffeinated coffee packets housekeeping left in my hotel room on the second morning. (I think they were trying to tell me something.)
It was great - and I'm sorry I only took a picture of Carson's wine.
I'll try harder next time. Were you there? Were you somewhere else? Get any good pictures?
It's 1:30 in the afternoon, and I'm sitting in the airport lounge, boggling at that fact that four hours from now I'll be headed to the dinner that marks the beginning of Yarnover, and about five hours from now, I'll be up on a stage, talking about knitting the way that I do. A whole other country, a whole other place, a whole other job, four hours away. Fifteen minutes from now I'll have done my final edit on the speech (a different, whole new one) for Sunday night, and then I have the whole flight to cast on Afterlight, and enjoy a nice little knit. (By the way, I think this link for Sunday is better, if you're into it.)
Before I go off and do that though, I want to tell you about the conversation I had at the customs desk on the way into the airport. There was a long line (customs here is run by the US government, and is effected by the furlough/ sequestration thing) so when I finally got up to the harried US Customs Officer, he looked like he'd really had enough of his day. "Why are you going to Minneapolis?" he barked.
"I'm going to a knitting conference." I explain, smiling brightly. This is usually the point where they don't ask me any more questions. They don't want to talk about knitting. They don't want to hear about how interesting knitting is. I say I'm going to a knitting thing, then they shrug in this "it takes all kinds" sort of way, and wave me into the country. Not today.
"A knitting conference?" he glares at me.
"Yup." I say. Smiling even more brightly. He's armed. I want him to be having a good day, and to like me.
"That's over." He says this to me like this is absolutely true, and cannot be argued with. I wonder for a minute what he knows, or what he thinks he knows, and I take a stab.
"I don't think so, I think it's this weekend. In Minneapolis. I'm really sure it's not over.'
"No" he says, the hand holding the stamp over my passport just hovering there, like maybe he's not going to stamp it, and maybe I'm not going to go to the knitting conference he thinks doesn't exist. "It was last week, or maybe the week before, and definitely not in Minneapolis. A lady went through here. She was going. I think you missed it."
"Oh!" I say this fairly confidently. "You're totally right. There was a knitting conference a few weeks ago. Stitches - in Atlanta. That's what you're thinking of."
"No." he replies, becoming quite terse. "It was NOT in ATLANTA, and it is absolutely over by now."
"Okay" I say, wondering if I'm going to be allowed to go to the US if I can't figure this out. "There was another one. Vogue Knitting, in Seattle? That was in early April?" He looks at me like I am starting to make sense. My hopes soar.
"YES." He exclaims, and as punctuation, he stamps my passport. "It WAS SEATTLE!" We are both relieved to have worked this out. I can tell. He continues "Any way you slice it, I'm pretty sure you missed it."
"It's okay" I say, trying to sound reassuring. "There's another one. In Minneapolis."
"Three in a month?" he says, making it clear that this is not possible, and then he realizes that we're talking about knitting.
"Just go." He says, and with that, he gave me a look that said that he hoped I had fun at the knitting conference that was over and I was totally not going to, and turned to the next person in line.
I can't tell you how much I hope they're going to Unwind.
I don't know if my brain is like this because I am a knitter, or if I am a knitter because my brain is like this, but I have always been the sort of person who finds it easier to work things out when they are live and in person, right in my hands. This makes working on the computer my least favourite way to try and sort out something that needs to be seen holistically - as a whole thing. If I'm working on a fussy knitted thing that has multiple charts, the first thing I do is print them all out and put them down - taping them in the order they will appear as a knitted item. I might end up working from the charts in the book or the pattern, but I have the sort of mind that's just going to make fewer mistakes if I can grasp the big picture before launching.
It might maybe speak to my love of spreadsheets and lists and schedules, and it certainly speaks to the way I edit. Behold. I give you the system for editing the new talk for Sunday night at Stephen Be. (And it's pretty good, I must say. You should come.)
Scissors, tape, a black marker, a pen. I print what I've got, then start working through it, reading out loud, crossing things out.. adding things, making notes. When I find something that should be cut - I literally cut it out. When I find a bit that belongs somewhere else, I cut it out and put it where it should be. It lets me see the whole thing at once - and it lets me gauge the length, literally in metres. When I'm done, I make virtual changes in the document, then print it out and start again. (What you see here is a second pass. The third will be way less brutal.) When I think it's done - I stand up, in my proper shoes and read it aloud, just as I'll perform it for all of you. I time it too... to make sure it's not so long people will run out of knitting or won't need a second mortgage to pay the babysitter.
It works for me, though I wondered how unique this system was. Earlier today - thinking just that, I sent the picture to a some friends. I wondered if anyone else needed scissors and a fixative to get through editing? Our Lady Rams of the Comments (who is a real person, who exists outside of the comments as well) responded with the most clever answer ever.
"Sit down. Drink your coffee while I explain that "cut and paste" is a word processing metaphor."
I laughed for an hour. Yeah. I guess I'm not the only one using the system.
Speaking of a system, see the green yarn on the table?
It's IndigoDragonfly Ultra MCN in regeneration - and knitting it into Afterlight is going to be my reward. You know. When I get this all taped together.
Whew, here's a week moving at breakneck pace, although I had a wonderful reprieve this morning. I woke up thinking it was Thursday, and just about wept considering how great it would be to have another day, just to make things tidy and beautiful. When I sat at my desk with my coffee and checked my calendar it was like receiving the most amazing gift to realize it was only Wednesday. It being Wednesday does also explain why there isn't a little more done on my current socks.
I'm enchanted by this combination. Sam and I have been watching Angel - I think maybe I saw part of it years ago, but it all seems new to me now. Sam asked for a pair of socks , ones I could knit whil we were watching and so it seemed only natural to keep with the theme. (Sam can have all the socks she wants, because she actually wears them. Handknit socks are her go-to, far more keen than her sisters, so she can reap the rewards of her enthusiasm. I still dream of the day she might knit her own, but so far the odds of that seem to be about the same as the chances she'll announce a longing to clean the house for fun.)
I was sure there was an Angel themed pair of socks out there, and it looks like I was wrong, but there was a pair called Staked, named for the parent series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer . Sam thought this was perfect. (I am less clear on the connection, but I'm faking it. I can admit that Angel seems to be a very nice Vampire, and he does whine marginally less that I remember Buffy doing.) I'm using Bertha, and I like it a lot, though really, what's not to like about any combo of Merino, cashmere and nylon for socks. Soft, strong and pretty.
I haven't decided yet if they're my plane knitting for this weekend when I hit the road again - the combination of charts and twisted stitches and keeping track of things doesn't make them the best travel knitting, but I might give it a shot.
Saturday sees me at Yarnover for a class and a talk, and the thrill of going there is almost enough to take the sting out of missing the Knitter's Frolic here in Toronto. (I'm mostly sad I'm missing the Marketplace. Shop for me, will ya?)
Sunday and Monday I'll be back at Stephen Be for their big FiberFest 2013. (I think there's still room in some classes. You could call if you're in the neighbourhood.)
A special mention of Sunday night, I'm doing a talk for FiberFest, and it's a new one - I think it's going to be great, but right now the thought of it is giving me cramps.
I'm going to pour that anxiety into practicing.
Also, it's totally possible I had a little falling down in the yarn department - and it's totally possible that it's arriving this afternoon, and it's totally possible that it will be hard to resist. It's really possible that I might not even try to resist, because deciding to give in is so much easier than accepting failure. I wonder how long I'll be a knitter when I truly develop yarn resistance?
It all happened so fast.
There are a lot of things I love about knitting. The list is long and complicated and you all know most of them, or you wouldn't knit the way you do- which I'm assuming is rather a lot. I suppose I hope it's rather a lot, so I'm not so odd. I've been making a list of ways that I love knitting, ways that it keeps my life straight and gives me gifts that I'm grateful for.
Today I can tell you that my life is full of unfinished things. My latest book? Unfinished. The laundry? Unfinished. My kids? Unfinished. (Can you finish that one? Does it ever happen?) The house? Unfinished. There's a piece of quarter-round missing at the bottom of the stairs. It's been five years. I don't see it getting finished any time soon. The painting? I ran out of paint part way through the dining room. It's unfinished. (I'm trying to convince myself I like it that way.)
The housework, my fundraising goals, my fitness level, eating only whole foods... Unfinished. I'm working on all of it, but there's no way I'll ever be a finished person, or have a life that needs no work.
Waving Lace socks from Favorite Socks . Yarn: lost the label a long time ago.
That said, these socks? FINISHED. Completely DONE. They are something I started and ended and they are whole, and they don't need anything more from me. That's one thing I love about knitting.You can be finished. Socks, anyway.
What do you love about it?
It would appear that my nephew is so sneaky that he grew while I was knitting, which makes me very glad that I noted the number of stitches and the method of concocting down here - because this one? It's cute and all, but it fits him the way that 15 year old girls like their jeans to fit, which is to say that it's too small for my taste.
This little sweater is clearly not going to last him any time at all - his Aunt Kelly took these pictures the other day while they were playing in the park (isn't she a good photographer?) and I can see the whole thing is skimpy. The only place it looks like it fits is through the torso. Look at his little arms poking out of those short sleeves. (Those sleeves, by the way - I was absolutely confident that they were going to be rolled up. Way too long. Kindly deduct the required points from my knitter card.)
I suppose I'll be figuring the math for the next size up, and having a scrounge through the stash for two skeins of something that would be just right. (I think I might skip the stripe matching thing this time. That was killer.)
I'd be upset, but there's another baby on the way in this family, and I know Katie will share Luis' little things, and besides, Lou doesn't look like the sort of kid who's going to be an only child. The sweater will get used.
I do wish he'd stop growing quite so fast though - for more reasons than I can tell you.
I spent the better part of the day at the hospital with Sam (all's well - the cast is off, she doesn't need surgery, and she's ready to start physio and try to get her arm back) and it's thrown me dreadfully behind. All you get from me today is finished pictures of
Yarn: SMC Baby Wool - almost exactly six balls. Needles: 2.25mm.
I think I'm pretty happy with it, although I'm not sure that it's as neutral as I thought it would be. I mean, I think it's neutral, and I think the parents will be happy to put it on either a boy or a girl, but several people have implied that it's a smidge emasculating for a little guy. I disagree.
I like it a lot - and besides, you all know where I stand on the crisis of little boys being taken for little girls and the opposite. I don't think it matters a bit.
I don't want to say anything about my little sulk for spring working or not, just in case I hex it, but I can tell you this. On Friday afternoon I made a cup of tea, gathered my yarn and needles and started a little sweater in spring colours.
I knit and knit - faking a sweater - just letting one happen. I cast on about 86 stitches for the neck, divided them up as seemed reasonable for a little raglan (1/3 for the back, 1/3 for the front, and 1/6th for each sleeve, plus one on each end for the selvedges) and worked back and forth, making my increases, two at each raglan point, every other row. When I got about 8cm in, I overlapped the first and last two stitches, and joined to work in the round. When the armholes were the very scientific "Deep enough" I put the sleeve stitches on holders and kept on trucking for the body, knitting until they measured what Luis does from armhole to hip. (I actually made it a little longer. Dude is growing so fast you can practically watch it happen in front of you.)
I went down a needle size, worked a few centimetres of ribbing, and cast off loosely, then returned my attention to the sleeves. I put all the stitches back on the needles, picked up two stitches in the armhole, and started working in the round - cruising down the sleeves, decreasing two stitches every 10 rounds three times, continuing again, until it measured what Luis does from armpit to wrist - plus a little. A few centimetres of ribbing, and cast off.
I went back to my little neck part and picked up and knit some stitches for a little placket on the bottom - just a few rows of ribbing... then picked up and knit the same number for the top overlap, and worked that for about 3cm, with two buttonholes smacked right in.
Voila! A little sweater, made from two balls of Liberty Wool Light (colour 6606) done in less than a weekend. I wove in all my ends* gave it a little bath, sewed on two vintage buttons from the bin, and today Joe dropped it off for little Lou on his way to work. Easy peasy, quick and springlike - and today it's 10 degrees out. Perfect (almost) spring weather for wearing it. So much fun, I almost made another one.
*There were a lot of ends. A whole lot, because while the plan for the sleeves sounds simple and sensible, I'm still me - and I can't stand it when sleeves don't match each other, or the body. Since this yarn is self-striping, the width of the stripes is determined by the circumference of the knitting - and that means that the stripes would be skinny on the body, and then wider on the sleeves, and the thought of that gave me a wicked case of the heebie jeebies. Instead, I knit on one sleeve until the stripe matched the stripe on the body, then broke the yarn and did the matching thing on the other sleeve - then discarded the rest of the yarn to get to the next colour, and repeated. I think it worked pretty well, but yeah. The sleeves had a LOT of ends to weave in. I know there's lots of you who wouldn't bother - and I salute you. Rock on.
It's raining. It's raining on the snow that fell last night, and on the ice pellets from yesterday, and as much as I try to understand that I live in Toronto, the doggedness of this winter is starting to put me right over the freakin' edge. We're at a solid six months of this crap now, and I don't know anyone around here who hasn't spent the last 24 hours trying to figure out what they're going to do to keep themselves from finally bursting into bitter tears and starting to scream expletives in public all the time. (I admit that I'm already swearing several hours a day, but so far have managed to keep it mostly in my head, or at a reasonable volume.)
I'm going to knit. I'm going to hunker down with that cup of tea and that yarn right there and I'm going to knit a sweater. That's two balls of Liberty Wool Light (unbelievably, they're the same colourway) and it should be enough for a little pullover for a little person. It will be simple, and it will keep me from losing my mind, and by the time it's done, maybe spring will be here.
Last night, while I was visiting Luis, his mum Katie produced one of his sweaters and asked if I could replace a broken button. I'm sure I can (you saw the button bin yesterday, the odds are excellent I can find another, or replace all four) and I packed it along home to do it. It's the cormo sweater I knit for him months ago
and he's still wearing it, wearing it enough that Katie really would like it to have the button fixed, which is a good sign. This morning I pulled it out of my bag and had a good look. The sweater looks very, very different now.
It's clean, but has stains from when Lou scooched along, hiking himself forward on his forearms over floors and carpets like a little commando going under the fence. It's a little pilled, from many, many washes, and the bib of the front is quite felted, from the wet of teething and the months of sliding himself along on his belly. This sweater looks very, very used, and Katie said that the button broke while he was sliding through the big yellow tube at the park, and that means he was wearing it at the park.
It's quite the worse for wear. Every time I see Lou he's wearing a handknit, and the way this sweater looks means that Katie isn't just sliding him into one when she hears me come up over her front steps, like the way you get out the tablecloth your aunt gave you when she comes to visit.
This sweater could only have gotten to look like this one way. Hard use. This sweater has obviously been played in, slept in, eaten in - and I'm so completely thrilled. I would rather see a handknit I made a kid that looks like this than something tucked away and never used because it's too precious. This is the exactly the role I want handknits to play in my family. Exactly this. A comfy, soft, ratty sweater.
I totally put a new button on. I hope he wears it to rags, and Katie, who helped this little sweater get like this? She can count on an endless supply.
The embroidery is done. I'm so excited about the possibilities of what I might knit next that I can scarcely breathe. It could be anything! ANYTHING.
It has always struck me as sort of odd that knitting ends up lumped with "needlework". I know we use needles, so maybe in a grand way it ends up making sense, but really, I can't tell you how many ways that embroidery is different than knitting - and I say that not just as a knitter struggling with the *&^%!ing chain stitch on this baby sweater, but as a semi-retired cross-stitcher. (It's been a long time since I did any, so I was going to type retired, but I did have some sort of spasm and buy a kit a few years ago, and it's still sitting here, and I suppose I plan on doing it or I would have recognised it as a momentary impulse and given it away. I guess that technically, that makes me semi-retired, or maybe just weak.)
Last night I diligently applied myself to embroidering round each of those stars on my little grey to turn them into what the pattern says is a snowflake. (The pattern is wrong. They are clearly flowers. It may have been a long winter, but I still know one when I see one.)
It seems to me like these flowers are taking forever - and that's because they are. Last night I worked on them for hours - about two and a half hours all in, and I got four done. That means that each one is taking a rather ridiculous 40 minutes each. I tested the theory this morning, and yup - even fresh as a daisy in bright light with a good attitude, it was 40 minutes for one little flower snowflake. I know that skill with a knitting needle and yarn doesn't translate to skill with an embroidery needle and yarn, and I know that you're going to tell me now that they look great. Really great, and I think they do too. I think they look like someone who knew what they were doing embroidered them.
That's not what's happening. What's happening is that I suck at this lack so much experience, that I'm having to swap in time for a skill. I know someone else could be doing a better job, I've actually unpicked two of them because they looked like I gave a three year old who didn't give a crap a needle and yarn.
It was last night, when I was unpicking one of them - and perhaps pouring myself a largish glass of wine and using unlady-like language (for the record, I think both were appropriate, considering my situation) that Joe asked me what the problem was.
I told him it was too picky. Too tiny. That the stitches had to go in just the right places and the tension had to be just right and it is taking a really long time and...
"Sounds like knitting" he said. He's right, and it hit me that this is a good experience for me. Makes sure I don't get cocky. It's good for me to be humbled. I've always got something to learn - and knitting and needlework are definitely not the same. Being good with yarn apparently isn't a cross-platform sort of thing, both are picky, both take skill and dudes, I need to get some experience.
In other, sad news, Peter Workman has gone to the big bookstore in the sky, and the book business has lost a giant, and a knitter friendly one at that. I was lucky enough to have met Peter several times, since the first publisher who ever took a chance on me (Storey Publishing) was an imprint of Workman Publishing. I remember the thrill of realizing how incredibly intelligent and sensitive he was - especially around books. I liked him, and he scared the heck out of me. I wanted so much for him to think I was a good writer, and as far as I know, he did. He trusted my instincts and was always willing to hold a sock. I remember that several times at BEA, he would make the time to walk with me, and choose books he thought I would love.
He was always right.
I barely knew him, but will miss him. My sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues. He was a strange and wonderful man.
I've got a deadline kicking my arse, so I'll be random. It's easier than stringing it together. This weekend I:
1. Drove to Springfield (Ontario, not Illinois) and taught for Wildflower Wool. It was amazing, what a great group of students.
2. Drove home, walked in the door, put down my stuff, and Sam and I hopped on our bikes to go out, rode to the bottom of the driveway and:
Broken arm, or broken elbow, to be precise. (Sam wants you to know that the reason she looks rough is because it was, and also because I did her hair.) The rest of the weekend passed in a blur of the emergency room, fracture specialists, sock knitting, x-rays, casts and passing things to Sam. (She's right handed, and that's her right arm It's a serious bummer, but she's being a trooper - or maybe that's just the percocet talking.)
3. Let Luis play the ukulele. He really likes it...
or, was that licks it?
It's all the same to him.
4. Read all the comments on the previous post and felt grateful that you're all so totally made of awesome. It must be all the yarn that does it to you.
5. Finished the knitting part on the little grey sweater.
It's all done but for the rest of the embroidery. I've done the sleeves, but those six motifs took hours, and there's ten on the body. I hope the fetus it's intended for isn't in school before I finish. It's ridiculously fiddly - and yeah. I get the irony of that coming from a knitter.
6. Wondered what you were doing this weekend. Did you have a good time? What are you knitting?
I've started typing this a hundred times. I thought I was just having trouble finding the right words, but it turns out that there aren't really the right words to say something that you don't want to say.
I'm convinced that the best thing to do here is just rip off the band-aid and tell you straight. Yesterday I signed some papers and left Knot Hysteria, the company Tina Newton and I owned together. We had begun the process of dissolving the company, agreeing that its time was come, but in the end, this is how it wound up.
This means that there won't be another Sock Summit. Tina and I agreed that we made that possible together, and without that togetherness, the thing can't exist. I want to thank all of you a very great deal, because in the end it was the knitters who believed in Sock Summit that made the thing real, and fabulous, and work that I will always be proud of. I wish everything that amazing could last forever - and I wish things could be different, but they aren't, and life happens, and things change.
I'm sure you have questions, but to be completely honest I'm also pretty sure that there isn't much more I think it's appropriate to say. Our reasons for coming to this place are private, and it's important to me that this is graceful.
It might be the end of this thing, but I'm going to pour myself a cup of coffee, knit, look at my daffodils and dream of spring, and remember that a good thing about endings, is that it leaves room for beginnings. I'm looking forward.
I try not to worry about knitting instructions. I know, I know - that's a grand and great statement, but the truth is that at this point in my knitting career, it's been a good long time since an instruction knocked me down and left me bleeding in an alley while it partied with its skanky friends. (I admit it hasn't been that long since one slapped me around a little, but that's normal.) Part of this is experience, and part of it is that I have lots of resources, but most of it that I am frankly so stubborn that I make the mules the other mules hate for being obdurate look weak-willed.
This means that if I want to knit something, I don't usually worry about it being too hard. I'll figure that out later. If there's something I don't know how to do? I'll look it up. If there's something tricky - I'll get the hang. Most of the time, I look at a piece of knitting, compare it mentally with what I imagine the study of statistical thermodynamics is like, and then sort of think "How hard can it be?"
Obviously, the answer to that varies. (See reference above to getting slapped around a little by yarn and it's friends.) Knitting, I feel like I can handle. Knitting and me, we're square. It's with this in mind that I tell you the following. The little sweater is not done. This is because the last instruction on this knitting pattern is a hard one.
It says "Embroider." The first time I saw it it took a couple of minutes to hit me that it wasn't knitting at all. It's totally embroidery, which (while I admit to a brief but intense period of cross-stitch) is not exactly something I know a ton about - so we'll see how it goes. If you need me, I'll be the one cursing in the corner with McCall's Needlework Treasury open to "chain stich."
I know they're famous last words, but really...how hard can it be?
(PS. I knew I was saving a needlework book from 1964 for a reason. I am now officially vindicated in my decision to also save " Creative Hands" from 1966, which contains this lesson:
Some day being able to tell the difference between those two could be critical. I'm glad to have pictures.)