May 30, 2013

Amanda

Today is my eldest child's birthday. Amanda turns twenty-four today, and to commemorate, I give you this picture of us, twenty-four years ago, less a day.

Amanda was born in the evening (two weeks late, but whatever, I'm over it) at the first legal birth centre in Ontario, into the hands of a midwife in the "pilot program".
We came home ten hours after she was born, on a brand new early release system that was the groundwork laid for the way that Ontario mums and babies can now come home when they like.  We walked in the door, and I tried to figure out how I could possibly be a parent,  and we took that picture. She was delicious and scary to me, and the last twenty-four years have been the same.

Thank you for making me a mother, Amanda.  I love you.

(PS. You were a horrible baby. You cried all the time. Thanks for getting it all out of your system. You're super nice now.) 

Posted by Stephanie at 4:03 PM

May 29, 2013

So cute they are dangerous*

Oh, look.


Can you stand it? I mean, can you even for a little tiny minute, just stand how completely cute these are? Oh, wait, did you feel that little pain? That tiny cramp some of you felt in your side? That was ovulation, because my friends, that is just how cute these are. They cause spontaneous ovulation. (If you're a male knitter, steady on, and be careful. I have no idea what this level of darling little wee-ness might do to you.)

I think it's safe to say that I found my perfect yarn for this project.  I think it's fuzzy enough to be cozy, but not so fuzzy that it will make a baby look like they are dressed up like an angora rabbit. (Although I almost just fainted thinking of how cute that would be.  Sorry. I'm okay now. It was a moment. The urge to dress human infants as fibre bearing animals has almost evaporated... leaving only the tiniest urge to knit sheep shaped booties in its wake. I'll be all right.)  Not only am I perfectly and happily in love with this yarn and these booties, this morning when I chose little buttons to sew on, I actually thought ahead five minutes and chose buttons that I had several of. That way, when I go ahead and make more of this yarn, and knit the little sweater that goes along with this (I can see it in my head, heavens to merino it is perfect, bloody perfect) I will be able to put matching buttons on that and have a SET.


Oh man.  Maybe I will make a bonnet too.  Damn. That's cute.

Several of you guessed yesterday that these booties are from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, and no.. they aren't, but couldn't they be? I looked up the pattern after seeing the comments, and they're so close as to not matter. It's a classic little shoe shape. You can also find it in 50 Baby Bootees to Knit, and in Easy Knits and The Baby Knits Book and... you get the idea. I don't know how it got into my head, but there it was.  Charming little pattern, and knits up in a snap, so be careful there too, it's easy to get stuck in a bootie loop where you end up knitting a truckload of the things.



* Maternal or paternal feelings inspired by extreme cuteness and tiny soft clothing is normal. It is important to remember however,  that babies are only cute for a little while, and that these booties will only fit them for about fifteen minutes, and then that soft and sweet little darling thing will spend the next twenty years making you wonder what you were thinking.  It's like the way kittens are so really, really cute, but then they grow up, claw the sh*t out of your chesterfield and pee on your coat because it fell of the hook.  Don't fall for it.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:33 AM

May 28, 2013

Living on the Edge

I agreed with Jen last night that this morning we would get up early and hit the bikes. Now, Jen and I both work full time and manage families - Jen gets extra points here because there are still two people in her house not old enough to make a sandwich or put their own pants on, but still - we're both busy, busy women. That means that if we agree to ride on a weekday, it's early. Super early. Early like, set your alarm for 5:30 and weep soft, warm tears into your coffee sort of early.  Still, we made a commitment to the rally, so there we were, two knitters who like wine, knitting and staying up late, opting for herbal tea, not knitting and an early bedtime.  You could smell the virtue a mile off. 

Fast forward (not that far forward) to this morning, when I got up, made coffee, pulled on my bike shorts and awaited the text from Jen that would tell me she was close enough for me to jump on my bike and go meet her.  Just after 6am, I got a text, but it was just a screenshot of the weather forecast.  It was at that moment (because I am a genius) that I decided to look outside. Pouring. Just pouring and none too warm either, and Jen and I might be committed to this cause, but we don't need to be committed, so we called it off. 

I would have gone back to bed for an hour, but I'd already made coffee and the house was quiet and it hit me that I had just been given the gift of three hours of time. I did what any sane woman would. I knit booties. Or I sort of knit booties.  Let me explain.
I'm still on my search for the perfect angora/wool yarn. You'll recall that those last booties, they were nice, but they weren't what I was looking for.  I have a few lines in the water about some other choices but last night I decided to try an approach suggested to me on twitter - another way to get a 50/50 mix that hadn't really occurred to me, although I don't know why not, it's dead simple.  Spin a single of angora, then one of wool, then ply.  The idea had merit. Last night I spun up a little, being careful not to make too much.  The last kick at the bootie can I had almost half of my yarn left over, and I wasn't going to make that mistake again.  I washed it and left it to dry overnight, but this morning it wasn't quite dry - so I put it in the dryer with the clothes I had on the go.  

I know, I know. I put yarn in the dryer! It's shocking, and a risk,  but it was just a little bit, and I was anxious for it, and it was almost dry and I was totally prepared for it to be ruined, but it's 50% angora, and so to my way of thinking, there was an excellent chance the tumble in the dryer would improve it, encourage the halo and help with that fuzz I'm hunting for. If it was a trainwreck, then I could always make more, and exercise a little more patience. In it went, and ten minutes later it was dry, fluffy and looking awfully lovely.

After taking its picture outside (under the patio umbrella) I plunked myself down and whipped off a bootie. 

Ok. It's not quite a bootie, but it will be. That's the sole on top, and the top part folds over and gets sewn down. Trust me. It's a bootie.  It also has quite a bit of halo, and is charmingly marled in a way that I like a lot.  I won't know until I sew them up and give them a bit of a swish, but I think I might have a winner yarn. 

Of course, nothing can be totally perfect. That bootie might have potential, but it's singular. After taking great pains not to make too much yarn..

I don't have enough. The bootie weighs 6g, and the leftovers, only 2.  I'll spin more today, and have the verdict on the booties tomorrow, when they're knit, washed and dried.  Tomorrow? Yeah. That fast, because I have been emboldened by the dryer success. I'm putting the next skein of yarn in, and the booties too.
I like to live on the edge. 

Posted by Stephanie at 12:45 PM

May 27, 2013

Karmic Balancing, The First

Hi Guys, happy Monday.  I'm trapped here on sleeve island with my Afterlight.
One sleeve down, one sleeve to go, and being sleeves, they're as indeterminable as ever. I'm going to distract you with the first giveaway of Karmic Balancing gifts.  You guys gave to the Rally, and now gifts get given to you.

The first group comes to you by way of Dorothea, who was the recipient of one of my first spinning efforts for this cause, and she's paying it forward in a big way.
First, this beautiful ball of Handmaiden Silk Rumple -

will be making it's way to live with Shannon S.

This combo of Kidsilk Haze and Trendsetter Dune (enough to make a curlicue scarf)

will be going onto the needles of Laura B.

Six balls of Trendsetter Tonalita (enough for a summer sweater)

Goes to Anne B.

This ball of Handmaiden Sea Silk (enough for a Seas Silk Wrap- pattern included)  is travelling to Christina D.

and three balls of Noro Chirimen (Yum) is headed for its destiny with Cori.


Next up, thanks to the remarkable Cat Bordhi, Nina N. is the lucky recipient of just about her entire collection of digital ebooks. That's a copy each of Socks Soar on Two Circular needles, Cat's Sweet Tomato Heel Socks, A Treasury of Magical Knitting, and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting.  Enjoy, Nina! I own and love them all.

Stephanie, at Dirty Water Dyeworks (love them) is graciously donating a Brooklet Scarf Kit, in the colour combination of Colleen H's choice.


It looks like a wonderful knit. Laura at Knitifacts is giving away not one, not two but THREE gifts.  Each of Helen R,  Barbara S and Diana Z will receive a package of Knitfacts ringlets, (in the colour of their choice)

and two patterns from Laura's shop, their choice.  I like Coral Bells:

but they'll choose what they like.

Whew! If you think you're the knitter mentioned above, check your email.  Back to sleeve island for me. See you tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who's donated, and thanks to everyone who's paying forward a great gift.  If you're wondering how to get a chance, anyone who donates to anyone on our little team of knitters:

Me
Ken
Pato
Jen

in any amount (we know everyone gives what they are able. We don't judge, we are just grateful) gets a shot.  There's lots more to come.  (If you donated and didn't get an email (or you think you didn't) have a look in your spam folder. The email comes from a strange Bike Rally email address.  If you still think you didn't get it, just let me know. I'll fix it. )

Posted by Stephanie at 12:48 PM

May 24, 2013

Widdle Feetsies

There is something about the way that I am put together. something hidden on my genome somewhere, some experience or virus or something, some little mysterious part that takes who I am, and everything I believe and how I want to be seen by others, and smashes it into a million pieces whenever I see baby booties. 

Let's be clear. I am not a baby-talker.  I don't use baby words or cutesie stuff, even with the tiniest of humans. Babies do not have "itty-bittie-nosies" or "bummie wummies".  I'm not judging baby talk, and you can do if if you want to, but I've got me a whole boatload of witnesses who can verify that I speak to babies straight up, telling them the way things are.  I have been known, frequently, to pick up a crying baby and simply ask them to stop.  I rock, sway, bounce and comfort them all the while saying things like "Hey, hey. All this yelling is not nice.  I'm right here, and I'm listening. There's no need to get rude."  It works for me. (Actually, it doesn't just work for me. I have a great track record on the baby communication scale. They dig me.)

The point is that there's no explanation for what happens to me when I get around booties.  They're like kryptonite to me. I see them and I literally have to bite my tongue not to say "teensie weensie widdle shoosies! To go on widdle ba ba feetsies!"
Sometimes I even have the urge to stick my fingers into them and walk them around. (Sometimes, I am not able to overcome this urge.)

It's not a good look man. Not a good look.  It's like having an out of body experience. I hear myself doing it.  I am disgusted by myself, and I am helpless to stop.  These booties were particularly bad.  First, they are very little. They are newborn sized, and to make matters worse, they are fuzzy.  They are not as fuzzy as I wanted, which is probably the only thing that kept me from stroking out from the colossal level of cute they're packing.  I used my Cutest Bootie pattern, modified for fewer stitches, on account of my thicker handspun.  I love them to death, but I am going to try for a do-over.  I want them fuzzier. I'm going to keep treating these bootees like swatches for the sweater I'm thinking of.  When I get a pair that  I'm happy with, I'll make more of that yarn and finish the set.  I am going to do this mostly alone, so that there are no witnesses for the spasm of helpless baby-talking they seem to bring on. 
I am sad to report however, that it would appear that this flaw is genetic.  As Sam arrived home from school, she espied the booties on the table, grabbed them up with two hands, got an expression of delight on her face that I know oh, oh too well, and then proclaimed "Oh! They are so WIDDLE!"  Then I saw the shock come over her as she realized what she had said.  I looked away. The worst part is knowing that there's no way to help her.  This appears to be a lifetime condition, with no hope for recovery.

-------------------------

PS: I wanted to tell everybody about this great event in Conifer, Colorado, at the Knit Knook. I'll be there June 22-23. First for a talk that has lots of room, and then for a silk class (my favourite one to teach, it's so much fun) and then for a sock class in the afternoon.  I hope I see you there.  I don't get out that way often, so I'm pretty excited.

PPS: I know that I said I was probably giving away Karmic Balancing gifts today, but I can also see from my inbox that some of you haven't responded to the email that explained how to enter.  I don't want anyone left out, so go check your mail! I've rescheduled for Monday, just to give you a little more time.  If you're still thinking about donating, you're a peach. I'll send the thank you/how to enter email tomorrow night, and Sunday night, to cover anyone who feels the urge to donate over the weekend.  Thanks so much knitters.  You're amazing. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:53 PM

May 23, 2013

LeapFrog

The blasted elves still haven't shown up here.  Not a single sign of them,  but with my wool as my witness, progress was made here yesterday, and the humans in my immediate vicinity (the ones who count on me to knit and spin in order not to have to live with a vengeful lunatic who can't relax) are grateful for it.  I did enough carding yesterday to have myself twelve pretty little rolags of angora/cvm (actually, that's technically wrong, it's more CVM than angora) and I made time last night to spin it up.

I washed the soft and pretty yarn last night and hung it up to dry, and this morning I put it out in the backyard to finish drying in the sunshine while Jen and I went for our training ride.  

Arriving home, it was dry and pretty, but not nearly as fuzzy as I was hoping the angora would make it.  I want it to look like a little cloud, like a fog settled on the yarn, with a beautiful halo standing out from it.

It's not there yet. It's a lovely yarn, and so soft you would mistake it for the soft brand new cheek of a baby, but it's not the cloud I imagined - not just yet. Still, it's a lovely, lovely thing, and sometimes yarns with angora "bloom" after you knit and wash them, especially if you're a little rough with the washing, so I decided to give into the urge and make them into a pair of Cutest Bootees

Aren't they sweet? Aren't they going to be soft and lovely, and perfect for... oh, wait, something the size of a horse. THEY'RE HUGE. That pattern is written for fingering weight, and this yarn is a little thicker than that, and that makes these big enough for a walking baby, and walking plus angora bootees = DEATHTRAP. Anybody walking in these would be skating in no time, and so they are no more.  I've ripped them back, started with bigger needles (they were a little dense, like me) and way fewer stitches.

Tomorrow, there will be smaller sweetness. Two steps forward, one back.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:03 PM

May 22, 2013

A Whole lot of Nothing and Something

I went to blog yesterday, and thought something along the lines of "Holy sheep, I have nothing knitty to show you" and then realized that this is life, and no - I'm not making enormous progress on the fibre front, and that if the emails and comments I've gotten from you guys over the years where you wonder how I pound out as much knitting as I do are any guide, you will be relieved to hear this:

I am sucking large in the yarn department. 

You know how I was going to be done a sweater by now?


Nope. Front is done, back is done, a sleeve is decently started, but that's not a sweater, and the hotter it gets in Toronto the more ridiculous a warm sweater seems anyway. (This is a blessed and miraculous effect of the Canadian summer. They are so glorious and amazing (and short, but let's not discuss) that in the beginning of one you are so filled with the joy of it all that winter seems like it has been banished forever. Winter? What winter?  Leap high, oh hearts- for I will NEVER BE COLD AGAIN.) I'm still plugging along though.  The pattern (Afterlight) and the yarn (Ultra MCN Sock from indigodragonfly) is too nice to not keep near me, even if I only have a few minutes here and there.

My big plan for the angora/cvm blend is... well, it's still a big plan, even though there's very little done.  The fleece is (mostly) washed, and a little experiment with the handcards has yielded a very pretty little puff of fibre.

I can see now that it's going to work - assuming that elves show up tonight and card it all together, and maybe make a bit of a dent in the spinning too.  (Those elves are slackers. I've left the fibre and hand cards out four evenings in a row. Every morning is disappointing.)

I'd be crushed at my own lack of progress, but lots of other nice things are happening, not the least of which is that I'm coaching my Mother-in-law though a little sweater, I feel a bootie rampage coming on (the symptoms are unmistakable) my tiny garden is (mostly) in, and you guys totally blew my mind with your generosity to my Bike Rally ride.  To try and deserve your support, most of my knitting time went to training this last weekend.  Jen and I rode 40km on Friday, 72km on Saturday, and I rode 86km  on Victoria Day. (That was Monday, for those of you outside Canada.) Tip of the hat to Jen, who rode to meet up with me, putting her total for that day over 100km. That's a lot of riding, and as yet, we can't knit while we ride.  I think both of us might be feeling the pain of missing knitting time more than the pain in our arses. (This is not a minor statement. Without being undignified, lets just say there are unavoidable consequences to hours and hours in the saddle. Riders, don't say chamois butter. We are awash in it.) 

This means that I have two goals for tonight. Knit, card and spin enough that I no longer feel like I'm five minutes away from being a danger to society, and start getting ready to give out Karmic Balancing gifts for those of you who were so moved as to give to anyone on our little team.   (Me, Jen, Ken or Pato. We're in it together.) We'll be sending out little thank you emails (please watch for them) with directions on how to toss your name into our virtual (hand-knit) hat.  Thanks too, for the amazing gifts being offered up by the community. (If you were wondering how to contribute, please send an email to me and we can talk about it. stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca.)  I'm going to aim for the first group give-away on Friday - assuming that I'm not deep in a bootie knitting thing. 

(I did mention I feel that sort of coming on, didn't I?)

Wish me luck. I'm going into the knitting cave, and I'm not coming out until there's progress.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:31 PM

May 17, 2013

Make it, don't fake it

I've been waiting all week to feel happier. To feel reconciled to recent events, to create a fragile peace and you know what? I suck at it.  I'm as good at this as cacti are at cuddling and somewhere in the gentle "let's just wait and see, I am a rock in the river, events just flow over me" phase, I'm rabid. 

I've spent a whole week of my little life waiting for things to get nicer and darn it, they're not, so I'm going to make them nicer.  If some things have to be a crap heap, well... I've always said that the universe seeks balance, and by wool, I'm going to start balancing it.  I don't expect that much can equal this dose of hurt, but I'm taking a swing at it. I can think, right now, of three things that can make me feel better.

1. Someone in my family is coming to the end of their life - but you know what? There's a new baby coming, and as much as I'll miss the one, I'll welcome the other, and it would not be right to let sadness sweep all my joy.  Joe's brother Chris and his bride Robyn  are expecting a baby, and in the name of all my knitting needles, it shall be clad.  The wee grey sweater is already in the hope chest, and I think it's time to order wool for a blanket. Or a sweater. Or five sweaters.
And a hat.

2. There is a fleece in my kitchen.  A beautiful little CVM that a friend gave me a while ago, and I have been washing it lock by lock.  I do a load of dishes, wash a lock. Mop the counter, wash a lock. It's only been a few days, but I'm making my way though it, and it's a wonderful reminder of the incremental nature of all things, and how not all trouble needs to be made right in this minute.   Anything that seems too big or hard?  I can just do it a little at a time.

I'm totally going to have it washed by Monday.  Maybe it will be a sweater. See #1.

3. I know I haven't mentioned it much, mostly because Sam broke her arm and I was so bummed not to have my buddy with me, but it's almost Bike Rally time.  It was super hard to decide to do it again. You'd think that after managing something like that once, it would be easy to decide to take it on again.  I did it once - I can do it again... right? 

Instead I find myself properly afraid, in the way that only someone who has done it once before can be.  Last year I approached the 660 km that is the Bike Rally with ignorance.  I trained, I was afraid.  I fell down TWELVE times,  but I made it happen, and the whole thing was only possible through the magic of having no bloody idea what I was in for.  Now that I know, sometimes I'm a little weepy.  There's knowing what it is, and that I'm up against that, and I know too that while Ken and Pato will be on the ride this year, the girls can't be there, and that would make me even more concerned except for this:

My friend Jen.  Jen is doing the rally with me.  We are knitters. There's a few other knitters on the ride (Hi Ken. Hi Pato.)  but really, Jen and I are exceptional on the ride for a reason that I'm just going to come out straight out and own.

We are dumpy, middle-aged straight mums.  You have no idea how not cool this makes us.  This makes us so not cool that sometimes, when we realize that 90% of the Rally is male and Jen and I are still the ones who have the most body hair? We need about 8 more cups of coffee to get through it. 

To be frank, this is why we need you.  We've looked around. We've seen the writing on the wall. The rest of the rally (mostly) they're FABULOUS. They're immaculately groomed, they haven't had a fight with any teenager who can't see the future, and  hardly anyone ever pukes on them on a regular Tuesday.  They have beautiful, amazing, ultra-light carbon fiber bikes and (I really can't stress the impact of this enough) THEY LOOK GREAT IN SPANDEX.

Jen and I? Well.  Between us we have five kids, we have the best bikes you can afford if you're also trying to save up for a new dishwasher, and we have had more than one conversation about how to get cloth diapers really white.  (Sunshine and vinegar.) We think other riders shouldn't go so fast down the hills because they could really get hurt, and we are concerned that they might be hungry.  When we see ourselves in spandex, we have to make up comforting lies.  We, and I think this is totally safe to guarantee, we are the only ones bringing knitting on the Rally, just for comfort. We are your dork team, and we have been practicing.

For a few weeks now, Jen and I have been going on training rides. Jen lives in the East end, and me in the West, so she rides to my house and has a coffee, and then I ride to her house (and we have coffee) and then I ride home.  It's 40K each time for both of us, which has been enough up until now, but tomorrow marks the first time that we'll seriously bust a move, at our first 70k training ride.  We're both giving up a day of our long weekend and a big chunk of a summer to try and make a little more awesome in the world, and here's the thing.

If you were out riding with me and Jen, you would see that awesome is only the way you can describe our riding if you are speaking in a spiritual sense.   We're slow. We're really trying, but we're two mums who are not taller than 10' if you add us together, and those stumpy legs? Let's just say it makes you want to knock anyone taller than 5'10" off a bike out of sheer venom. Especially when they pass us and say encouraging things.  We're limited in our resources - we don't own fast bikes, there's only so much coffee we can drink, and we can't train hours and hours a week or we won't be earning a living or be in families that are not resentful and dirty.  Willpower is going to have to substitute for skill when it comes to us.  In fact,  I think we've both realized there's only one way that we could be awesome, and that's in the fundraising department.

Last year, when - thanks to you, our little family did so well in the fundraising area, someone said that it was wonderful that I cared so much about HIV/AIDS and the gay community.  I just about fell over. I know that most of this work is spearheaded by that community, and heaven knows I love them as much as I do any part of humanity, but really, that's not why I'm there.

This is:

And this is why Jen is:

Five perfect daughters between us, and globally, women comprise 50% of the people living with HIV. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in women in their reproductive years.

As mums, we just can't truck with that, so Jen and I are going to put our dorky, dumpy, knitting, middle-aged, haven't-been-dancing-in-years-but- are-pretty-good-at-stains and-earning-a-living selves on two pretty cheap bikes and fling ourselves from Toronto to Montreal.  We will not be fast. We might fall down. (So far this year I'm fine, but Jen took a tumble that cost her a helmet.) We will hopefully not be last, but the odds aren't good.

We hope you will help us be awesome. If you want.  No pressure. (Karmic balancing gifts and giveaways start next week, not that you would do it for that reason, but it's still nice. Right?)

If you would like to donate to me.
If you would like to donate to Jen.
If you would like to donate to Ken (who is less dorky, but still awesome.)
If you would like to donate to Pato (who is not at all dorky, but is young and smart.)

Thanks.  Now I feel better. Things might be hard, but there's still lots of ways for things to be okay.  I'm going to go knit something.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:59 PM

May 14, 2013

Some Sort of Silence

I sat down to blog this morning, and realized that I don't have anything to say.

Actually, that couldn't be a bigger lie. I have a ton to say.  I have a thousand words that I would love to pour out here, words about grief and loss and sad things and families and choices and there not being choices and... the upshot is that something sad and inevitable is happening to someone in our family, and we are all in a wild place. I'd love to share that. I think it would even feel good to share that, but the more I think about blogging and privacy and how much I would like to share, the more I realize that the person who is sick would not like that. They would like another sort of dignity and privacy and there is absolutely no way that I cannot honour that - or even say anything that might not totally err on the side of caution.

I'm telling you this by way of apology. I am used to sharing my life with you all here, and I like it - but this time I am going to be cagey, and I realize that is going to make this blog a little weird for a while - while things happen that I will not discuss. There will be comings and goings and I am going to do my best to be present, and share what I can, but right now it is important that I keep in my head that this is not a diary. It is a place where I share what I think and feel with very real limits, and concern for the feelings of others. I feel like I usually have great instincts about that, and I'm going to honour them.

So here is what I can tell you now. I was away. I am back. I may go away again. There is a lot of tea, and talking, and keeping things slow and close and considering the effect that my words may have on others all the time.
I am knitting, but sometimes, I just need to be still.

Blogging and privacy are tricky, and I've always been careful, and I'm going to be more careful now. The internet feels intimate, from this spot at my desk where I've always shared so much of my life with you... but it is not.
I know most of you will understand - because I bet most of you have some really strong feelings about the internet, and blogs and oversharing, and I know that sometimes I read things on blogs and think "Oh man. I wish you hadn't permanently committed that piece of information about another person to the wilds of the world" and I bet you do too. So I won't. 

Right?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:37 PM

May 9, 2013

A favour

Someone I love really loves reading - and they don't have a lot of time left to do it. If you knew someone who could only read a few more books, and you were going to the bookstore for them, what would you get?

Your best suggestions will be purchased on my way there. Thanks to all. I'll be back in this space soon. 

Posted by Stephanie at 4:02 PM

May 3, 2013

The Bunny Is Okay

This post comes to you from a chair in the airport in Chicago, where I'm waiting for "some weather" to clear.  I flew in this morning from Toronto,  and everything seemed just fine, so how long it's going to take to catch a flight out of here is beyond my knowing. This - things being beyond my knowing? It makes me crazy. Completely crazy. So crazy that everyone in this airport should be glad that I am a knitter, and am therefore able to put my feelings about not knowing when/if this plane will go into a really fierce knitting session - because frankly the alternative is me stomping up and down this place while (loudly) refusing to believe that we, as a species, can be considering manned flight to Mars, but are wholly unable to tell me when my flight to Little Rock might be leaving.  My knitting is letting me feign calm and peace as the airport does what it can to get all flights moving.  (Apparently they've cut incoming and outgoing flights by 50% - so at least it's nowhere near personal. I'm starting to get the feeling I wish I'd brought extra yarn and needles. There's a whole lot of my fellow travellers who could use a little help getting their mellow on. The lady across from me has 5% battery left on her phone, and the guy sitting by the only outlet doesn't care.  It's getting intense. )

Speaking of getting one's mellow on,  the angora experiment was a train wreck.  Nothing short of a big hot mess with a cherry on top.

I decided cormo would be a good thing to blend with angora, and fetched some roving from the upstairs. I weighed it, so I would have 80% cormo and 20% angora, and then I started gently running it through the carder.   It was an almost instant disaster. After the first pass I could see the cormo starting to get neppy. Neps are little knots of fibre that make bumps in the yarn when you spin it.  They aren't always a horseman of the apocolypse, but for this yarn they would be - they're also often a sign of over-processing. After the first pass, I assessed my situation. The angora and the wool were still pretty discrete, not mixed together at all, and I was pretty sure it was going to take three passes to get them mixed the way I wanted them. Three at least. If the cormo was already starting to look over-processed, I figured I wasn't going to get a lot of satisfaction out of it.  I ran it through twice more to be sure that I was right.
I was really, really right. The resulting roving was terrible.

I put out a few feelers to friends, I put on my thinking cap and I thought of a few ideas. First, I wondered if was too impatient and was running the carder too fast for the fussy little cormo.  I tried again - but it changed nothing, except that it took longer to get pissed off and disappointed.

Then I wondered if my carder was too coarse for these fibres.  I can't change my carder, but I do have fine cotton hand cards. I tried those - and it was better, but still not awesome - and I'm aiming for awesome. It was suggested that I try combining them on combs, but since my combing skills are such that I couldn't comb my way out of a paper bag with a map and a guide,  that's my last choice.  

I wondered if I was using the wrong wool - and that's where things came to a screaming halt.  I think I'd like to try this with something else, something that isn't roving, but every attempt mangles a little more precious bunny, and that means washing some wool, and that means...

Well that means that I left this trainwreck on the table and left for Little Rock.  I sort of had it in my head  (because I'm nuts, obviously) that I'd throw this through the carder, then spin it up super-fast (but perfectly) and then ply it (exceptionally well) and then set the twist, ball it up and be knitting it on this trip.  All of that was insane, obviously, but it's not going to stop me from doing a little more experimenting when I get home.
I'll get it, but I need to do a little research first, so I don't run out of bunny before I get a clue. Any suggestions?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:32 PM

May 1, 2013

Torn

Many weeks back, Amy Herzog published a pattern called Afterlight, and I was instantly smitten. It's one of those sweaters I like so much, ones that are garments, things you'll wear by themselves as a top, rather than over another top. I know the distinction is likely silly to most of you, but there you have it.  I decided to make it, but it's an investment.  The sweater is finely knit, with fingering weight yarn on small needles, and the yarn, while not ridiculously expensive for what it is, was going to make a considerable dent in a few months of the yarn budget.  I decided that I would go ahead, but wait until Amy's book came out first.  If I was going to make this thing, I was going to make it perfect.  Knit to Flatter arrived in the mail, I read it (you should too, it's quite good) and then set about altering the pattern to make it smashing. One of the things I've learned from Amy, is that it makes no sense to make a sweater bigger all over if you're really only bigger in one area, something I've been guilty of over the years.  I'm not a big woman, not really. My chest measures 37 1/2 inches, and that's the size sweater I've been knitting for years - with some disappointing results.  It took Amy to teach me that the issue is that I'm big in the front.  I've been choosing sweater sizes like my chest is that of a woman who's almost 38" around, and I'm not. 

What I am is a woman who would be a size 34 if you saw me from the back, and a 38 if you saw me from the front, and thanks to Amy and her book, I've realized that I should think of myself as two sizes. Petite in the back, and er... not, in the front.  Yes, I need some extra fabric to get around my assets, but my breasts are located on the front of my body, and that is where the extra fabric to cover them should go... not all over.  Following her instructions, I'm making one size for the front, another for the back, altering the length to recognize the fact that I'm short all over, and dropping the vee in the front of the sweater a little deeper to try and balance my broad, square shoulders.  I'm really happy with my plan, and over the last few days I've been knitting away. (For the record, making those changes and combining the pattern pieces turns out to be easy.)

I'm almost at the armhole shaping of the back, and I love the sweater, love the yarn, and have high hopes for its eventual greatness.  I even swore a vow of monogamy to it - but then, oh then I went to Yarnover, and there was this booth (it was Angora Gardens - thanks for the detective work, my friends) and in the booth was this little baby sweater that I can't stop thinking of.  The sweater was just a little garter stitch bit of business, but it was knit out of a wool/angora combo that was almost perfect to me, but for two things.  First, the yarn had a little more angora in it than I would choose - which is not to say that it had too much angora - it just had more than is to my taste, precisely, and second, it wasn't free.  It was reasonably priced - but there's no reasonable price for yarn if you've just blown your budget on some snazzy Ultra MCN for a sweater.  I left without it, but I just can't stop thinking about it. 

I can't stop talking about it either, and so yesterday when I was waxing poetic about it to a knitting friend, she said it was too bad that I didn't have any angora - because if I did, I could fix both the proportion of wool to angora - and the cost by spinning my own. Lo, the heavens opened, a bit of angora rabbit has been fetched from the stash, I'm hunting up a bit of something good to blend it with, the drum carder is getting dusted off and...

I swear I'm going to finish the sweater too.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:36 PM