Rest

I have been taking a few days off. Well, I’ve been sort of taking a few days off – I think they only feel like days off because I’m not riding really far, and putting up a tent and taking it back down again and trying to manage email and doing nine jobs all at once. Instead I’ve been riding my bike a little, to get around town, and to the beach, and to the marina to sail with Joe. The house is a still a disaster, the mountain of neglected work on my desk needs my attention now, but it has felt good to snuggle a baby, come up with a plan of attack, and enjoy the summer a bit. Also – knit. Not little bits of knitting found here and there, not just a plain sock because it’s all I can muster, but real, proper knitting – done in nice chunks, with a fancy pattern and beads and concentration and without worrying that the needles will puncture an air mattress.

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I’m tackling Snow Angel (a little ironic for a summer knit, I know) and it’s lovely. I had about ten million balls of Findley left over after Elliott’s blanket, and it’s such a pleasure to knit with that I’m using it again. (It’s got 730m per ball. I can’t explain the yarn insecurity that led me to buy so much. I’m rather glad I like it, because I’ll be knitting with it for the rest of my life.)

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I’ve still got a pair of socks running in the background, because beaded lace isn’t exactly the sort of knitting that goes well with taking the subway or walking or going to meetings, and also I’m me, so I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself without a pair of socks in my bag, but I’m mostly knitting on this, and hoping to get it bashed out pretty quickly. The first section went by so fast that I got optimistic about it only taking a few days, but as with all things top-down, that initial thrill’s worn off as the rows get longer.

I’ve got just a little time to knit on it today before I head out for a meeting (and I have to do something about the kitchen. It’s sort of sticky. All of it. I don’t know how cupboards get sticky, but they are.) Maybe I’ll finish the first big chart – but I’m already dreaming of what I’ll make next. Shall I finish the paper/linen Habu thing? Maybe a pair of fancy socks? Perhaps a sweater for one of the littles, or a hat for the Christmas box, or… What are you making?

I promised I’d wrap up the Karmic Balancing gifts when I got back – so here’s a start. (It’s going to take a bit. You’re a generous bunch – I’ll do as many as I can each day.

Mary S found a wonderful way to give this year, she went for a nice long stash dive and came up with five (yup, five) beautiful presents for her fellow knitters. (Doesn’t she seem like a lovely person? Good taste in yarn, too.)

2 balls Suri Merino Luxury Indiecita, 55% suri alpaca, 45% extra fine merino (deliciously soft) for Lori N.
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3 balls Woodland yarn, 65% wool, 35% nettles for Sarah M.
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4 skeins Plymouth Earth Alpaca “Ranch” she’ll be mailing to Ariela G.
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10 balls Libella Ballet, 74% viscose; 26% cotton for Cindy M.
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1 hank Berroco Hip-Hop, 100% Wool for Flannery C who I hope makes a hat. (It would be gorgeous.)
maryhiphop 2017-08-14

Sheltered

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am pretty much a coward. I spend a lot of time worrying, and a lot of time being afraid, though I am afraid of regular things, I think. I am afraid of getting hurt physically- when I ski I worry about falling, about hurting myself (mostly I am afraid of breaking an arm. If I broke a leg I could still knit, so I think it would be ok.) I am afraid of not fitting in. I am afraid of love or respect extended and not returned. I am afraid of spiders. (This one I don’t worry about. I think that if you’re not afraid of spiders you just haven’t thought enough about it. They can walk on the ceiling. That’s not right.) I am afraid of not measuring up, of doing my best and still falling short of the mark. (There’s a joke in there about how I’m only 5’1″, but let’s leave it.) I am afraid of disappointing people, I am afraid of letting them down. I am afraid that trust will be given to me, and my best self won’t be good enough, and I that I won’t be able to rise above petty thoughts or small mindedness, or that in a wild effort to live a really decent life, I’ll miss things, or grow old with regrets that all this fear held me back from amazing events, and that I’ll be some old lady with a pile of things left undone, because my cowardice kept me home. I worry that when handed a microphone I will say something stupid, or that I will hurt someone with my words, and I am always afraid that I won’t understand someone else well enough to spare them pain, or find enough understanding for them to ease the fear I feel they must have – because I have it. I worry that we are all afraid, and I don’t want us to act out of that fear, personally, socially, or politically.

All this was on my mind on Sunday, when Jen picked me up, and we gathered the few essentials we hadn’t put in the trucks the day before, and we drank coffee quietly in the backyard, reflecting on the challenge ahead of us. Let me be absolutely clear about this next one… riding more than 600km doesn’t get easier with time. As a matter of fact, I’d say it gets harder. The experience you have from the times before is enough to give you the screaming willies, and the two of us sat there knowing exactly what was ahead. “It’s going to be okay,” Jen said. “We’ve done it before. We can do it again.” Then we strapped our bikes to her car, gave a nod to the fear we both felt,  and drove to the departure point at Allan Gardens.

The minute I arrived, I remembered everything. I was nervous, and scared, and my back hurt already, and I started to be afraid of all the things I always am. (In the short term, I worry that upon departure, as a whack of riders all leave together, I will do something stupid, mostly I worry that I will fall off my bike and become a human speedbump. This has never happened – to me or to anyone, but I still think it’s a real risk, and if anyone is ever going to do it, it’s me.) Meg, Alex, Amanda and Elliot turned up to say goodbye, and we took a group shot, and I darted out for a whole rally selfie, covering (as I so often do) my nerves with humour. Then we left, and almost immediately, it started to change.

Wholerally 2017-08-08

My friends were with me. Not just the ones that I have every day, like Ken and Jen and Cameron and Pato (and when did he grow up enough to be my friend?) but the magic of the Rally that over the course of six days, makes everyone present your friend.

For six days, you are a small travelling town. A group of people committed to one thing, all living the same life, and all held by one goal, one experience. From the fastest rider to the slowest, we’re the same. We’re all trying to ride our bikes to Montreal – we’re all in debt to our donors, to the people who put faith in us to make this happen (that’s you) all of us trying to fulfill a contract.  I’ll do this hard thing, if you’ll help me by contributing. There’s nobody on the Rally who doesn’t feel the honour or the pressure of being the midpoint of those donations – and nobody who isn’t in it for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation as the end. There were moments when the gratitude I felt to all of you is overwhelming, and moments when only the deal I’d made with you kept me going, and I know I’m not the only one.

I know I’ve written about this before. I’ve told you that every year is different. One year it’s about perseverance. (Or rain.) One year it’s about the people I know who are HIV positive, and and making a personal commitment to making their journey better –  one year it was even about loneliness, about finding strength within myself to do it by myself, a fear I freely cop to. This year, the theme was apparent from the word go. It was friendship.

Jen gave me a ride that morning so I didn’t have to ride an extra 14km. Cameron changed my tire on Day two. He knows I can do it, but he can do it faster, and it was a gift of friendship to do it for me. Jen knows I was struggling with my back, and was generous and sweet with her patience and words – cheerful to the end, that one. (You should all be so lucky to have a friend as deliberate with her love as Jen.)

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Both of them rode sweetly behind me on Day two, when my back really hurt, and I pulled ahead for a bit to have what I was hoping was a secret weep, and though both of them could easily have caught me, they lagged behind, knowing I was crying, knowing I’m afraid of that weakness, and letting me have that time to pull myself together. Darling friends.

Ken, faster than the rest of us, came into camp early each day, and together with the faster riders, collected our bins, and set up our tents, making sure that by the time Jen and I staggered into camp, things were as beautiful and welcoming as they can be if they are also covered in spiders.

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For the first time too – a special little treat, knitting was normal on the rally, even desired – two more riders asked to be taught as we travelled along, without anyone making fun of it, or suggesting it was an old lady thing, or anything other than a way of making and being and doing. (Note to self, pack more yarn and needles next year. Best to be equipped if the plan to take over the world is finally taking hold.)

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It was more than this though, it was watching everyone do the same thing – over and over and over, fear and struggle and concern were met with kindness and a gentle word, and respect and a soft touch. Struggling riders were encouraged, crew was thanked, flat tires mended, patience given, smiles offered at the port-a-loo lines, coffee fetched, complements freely given, and so quickly, kindergarten rules took hold. Take turns, be gentle, use your words, big ones take care of the little ones… anyone who strayed from the path of this softness was taken for how they were in that moment. Tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, wet, hot, afraid… and their problem, rather than their behaviour – was addressed with compassion, and do you know, it worked the way with grownups that it does with little kids when you hold who they are, rather than how they are behaving in your mind.

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Quickly, over the course of the six days, this world took hold. They don’t call it the Friends For Life Bike Rally for nothin’ I remembered – and the power of friendship moved all of us, so much so, that by the last day, when the heavens opened and unleashed a torrential downpour upon us, the whole Rally pulled into a the shelter of a gas station and stood there, wet, cold, our final approach spoiled, the moment of glory delayed, the lot of us drowned rats by at the side of the road, it would have been easy to feel sad, or disappointed, or afraid, or something negative, but friendship had owned us all by then, and there was singing, and laughing, and smiling faces, and arms round cold riders and a grand explosion of joy as applause and bike bells rang out. Together was enough. Friendship was enough. Doing the right thing for PWA and the clients who need us was more than enough.

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Eventually the rain stopped, and we rode on, those few kilometres to the end, and were welcomed in in grand style, and there was Kim – from Indigodragonfly, who’s own sense of friendship and commitment had led her not just to donate the profits from her Rally themed yarn, not just to sponsor our tee-shirts, but to actually turn up to hug and welcome all of us. She’s a grand friend, and a good person.

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All week long, I felt it. Moments of fear supplanted by camaraderie and friendship. We are all cowards in some way. Me, I’m a dumpy middle-aged grandmother who has almost no business cycling 600km. Jen’s a mother of two walking away from her family for a week to model fierceness for her young daughters. Pato’s a young man trying to shape a world that he wants to live in, Ken is still recovering from the shoulder surgery that put him back together after his accident and showing up anyway. Cameron packed his work laptop and somehow carved out the time to do his job and the Rally – and everyone else riding met their own personal challenges. Again and again, why we were doing it came up. At dinner, at breaks, at our celebration in Kingston… and the thing we talked about was this: People are living longer with HIV/AIDS. It isn’t the death sentence that was when the Rally started. There are good drugs, help, and a sense of hope, and most of us realize that presents a challenge. In a way, supporting people with HIV/AIDS used to be sadder, but cheaper, not to put too fine a point on it. People didn’t live long enough to need years of support. The crisis was clearer, it had people’s attention. Now it must seem to so many people as though that time has passed, and it has – only to be replaced by a different need. Now grownups and children with HIV/AIDS may need a lifetime of support. They need years and years of medication, years and years of help living with the stigma that it brings, years and years of our help and belonging. It is still important.

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We all shared this fear. That even though there are still a very great many people who need help, that they will be forgotten, and that sense of fellowship further strengthened our resolve, and made us braver. For me and Jen, we reflected often on the ride that so often, given the way the world works, women lack the personal power to make choices in this way, and that riding for them felt like something a woman in a strong, privileged position could do to help lift other women up too. It felt… feminist to us. It felt like the right thing to do, despite our own fears.

It was, despite the rain, the work, the fear, the pain, and the difficulty… a wonderful ride, and I spent much of it reflecting on if I’d done the right thing. Not just in riding, or in fundraising, or in doing my best to be kind all week, but in thinking of a decision I’ve made that will shape a part of the next two years of my life.

I’ve been accepted as a Co-Chair for the Rally. I’m putting my time where my heart is. I am pretty young, and pretty strong, and pretty privileged, and I have time and energy to put towards being the change I want to see in the world. It was a big decision, but I’m doing it, despite fear, despite being a great big chicken, and despite the fact that inevitably someone is going to hand me a microphone and I’ll say something stupid.  I’ll have to count on my friends when that happens.

I do this because the rally is the world as it should be, for six small, wild and wonderful days. It’s why despite the difficulty, so many of us suffer the “Bike Rally Blues” when it’s over. The Rally is challenging, scary, disarming, powerful, heartwarming, supportive… so many ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, all powered by nothing but friendship to moderate your cowardice, and that is a strong thing indeed. Blog, my dear ones, thank you for being my friends on this side. Thank you for the donations, the comments, the emails… All the kindness in the world is meaningless in this without you, riding is meaningless without you, no change happens without you. You’re the magic that makes this work.

You are amazing.

(PS. Obviously I signed up for next year.)

(PPS. I am going to knit the snot out of the rest of this month.)

(PPPS. When I came home, tired, bedraggled and with all our camping stuff in disarray, Joe had cleaned the house, filled the fridge with my favourite food and wine, and bought me flowers. It takes a big man to support ideas this wild. He’s wonderful, and my friend too.)

Save

What the heck I had the shorts

It’s 6am on Sunday, the day of the Bike Rally departure, and I’m sitting at my desk, drinking coffee, and wearing my cycling clothes, because I have decided to give it a shot. My back isn’t great, but neither is AIDS, so I guess the decision was simple, in the end.

There’s always some way that the Rally gives me the willies every year – either it’s the distance or the time away or the fundraising or, something, but there’s always a new way to scare me, and somehow, I feel like this year it decided I should be worried on every level. I am stepping from here into the arms of my Bike Rally family, and Team Knit, and I know that there won’t be a kinder place for me if I struggle, and I have a lot of yarn in my bag.

Despite a thing for Shetland Lace, I’m not really into pain, so I’ve got heaps of drugs with me, and the repeated assurance from my doctor that I can do myself no permanent harm, nor cripple myself for months to come, and so not trying feels like cowardice, which is a fault of mine, but one I try to resist.

I am so grateful to each and every one of you for your support, and your help, and your kind words and for being the people that I have to tell things to. In a lot of ways, if I am ever able to be brave, it is because I don’t want to tell you I wasn’t.  Thank you for everything, I know that PWA is as grateful to knitters as I am, and so are their clients. You guys are great, you are changing the world, and literally lives are being saved with your yarn money, and it remains one of the greatest things of my life to tell  people that it’s knitters who are doing it.

I’m going to put our links here one more time, in case you’re moved over the next week, as we make our way across Ontario.

Me

Ken

Cam

Jen

Pato

I’ll try to post here, but it usually doesn’t work from my phone – for sure you can watch us all go at my instagram (@yarnharlot) or by tracking the hashtag #f4lbr.

I’m going to go ride my bike now, and try to be brave.

(PS there are a million Karmic Balancing gifts left, I promise to do them when I come back.)

Diversion

I might have spoken too soon when I said I was feeling better, so let’s just do Karmic Balancing gifts and try not to think about it. I’m taking today and knitting a sock, and working on catching up on paperwork, and trying to put my business to bed for the week that I’ll (hopefully) be away, and I’m trying not to whine. Thanks for the donations my petals, you guys are so amazing that I’ve now met my public goal – I’m looking now to blow it out of the water. Last year you guys took me way, way over my private and public goals, and I know that there’s no force out there like knitters. None. Every ding on my phone makes me feel a little better, and makes me more hopeful that this is going to be okay. Let’s hope that Karma works, and that trying to put something good out there does something good for how I feel. A miracle cure by tomorrow would be nice.

Anne at The Twisted Fleece has two beautiful gifts the first one is for Grace T:

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100 g of handdyed Shetland roving. Dyed by Anne, and the fleece came from her friends’ flock. Comes with a handcrafted (again, made by Anne) orifice hook, of sterling silver, embellished with a handcrafted lampwork bead.

Anne also has 3 skeins of 100% merino worsted weight yarn. Dyed using food safe dyes. 120 yards/skein, 1.75 oz, 50 grams, and she’ll be mailing those to Kay W..

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Belinda went for a stash dive, and came up with these two beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Lace. Turns out they’re for Helen H. Enjoy!

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The Oswego NY Coffee Connection knitters would like to donate two skeins of Berroco Weekend in colors 5947 (salmon swimming upstream) and 5966 (blue sky in summer). They’ll be mailing it out to Peg L, and I hope she loves it.

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Helle has two beautiful skeins, going out into the world to make a little magic. Heritage Yarns 100% tencel, colour is Sunrise Serenade 8 ounces; 1680 yards for Donna G.

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and Knitted Wit Worsted, 100% Super wash Merino, Colour: She Persisted (how appropriate) 4 ounces, 200 yards for  Lisa B.  Thank you Helle!

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Our good friend Kathleen Sperling has three lovely gifts of e-book pattern collections. First, her blanket trilogy, consisting of Cervelli, Around the Block, and The Celtic Knotwork Baby Blanket. That’s for Donna B.

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Then an Accessories Quartet, that’s Dambrod, Balthazar’s Jumper Socks, Jianzhi cowl, and the Addis Abeba shawl. Those are going to Jessica R.

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Last, but not least, she’ll be sending her Darling Layette eBook to Maggie B.

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Tim has a set of four 3 X 4 1/2″ wonder wallets, each with five pockets. They are great for extra credit cards or cash or for giving gift cards. Those are going to Pippi S.

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Next, a copy of a great new book from Tracy Purtscher, Dimensional Tuck Knitting.

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It’s not out until September, so there will be a tiny delay in getting it, but when Tracy H does, I hope she loves it.

We’ve got a few from an amazing person who would like to be an anonymous Balancer, one 8oz bag of Elsie’s Discount Roving & Dyes “Amethyst”, and one in purple. The secret Santa will be mailing those to Rhea K.

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Our mystery person also has approximately 20 batts, each weighing about 40 grams, of a creamy white Finn-cross roving. Hand processed by Anonymous Balancer, those are for Robyn R.

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She’s also parting with one 40 oz. bundle of Plum Crazy Ranch Fiber Art Mulberry Silk Sliver, and one 1oz bundle of blue-green, hand-dyed Firestar, and mailing it to Linda L.

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Last but not least, she’s somehow parting with THREE braids of Upstream Alpaca “Hand Painted Combed Top 100% Baby Alpaca” in “Pinot Noir” – 4 oz each braid. Those will be winging their way to Kelly M.

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Emily has an amazing gift. 8 balls of gorgeous blue angora, in its original box. Emily says “It is old, though I don’t know by how; I received it from a fiber artist friend who is retiring and downsizing. Her only condition of giving it to me was that I “make something awesome”, and since you are doing that with PWA and the Rally, it only seems fitting.” I hope Holly W makes something awesome!

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Karen Fletcher’s got a good one, TEN free copies of her pattern The Texture Block Cowl.  It’s a good one, takes a single skein of worsted weight yarn, and looks like a charming defense against the elements. (And a good Christmas present, if you’re in the mood.)  She’ll be sending those along to Kathleen R, Cherilyn P, Sarah R, Barbara J, Tara W, Jaime P, Beth W, Maggie H, Alicia R, and Belinda H.

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Finally, a gorgeous “Rainbow is the new black” project bag from Jan Smiley. (Peek at her shop, it’s all lovely.) This bag is for Janis M, and I hope she loves it.

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Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go lie down and wait for my miracle. I’m sure it’s on its way. Cross your needles, everybody.

Gift

Hello Petals, and greetings from the other side of yesterday’s long, dark teatime of the soul. I don’t know if it’s the rest, ice, baths, massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, drugs, whiskey, homeopathy or donations that helped, but today I feel hopeful and optimistic, and my arse and I have resumed speaking terms. It still doesn’t feel great, but it feels better, that much is sure, and last night I slept the whole night through. It took a lot of pillows, but when I woke up I felt like maybe things are improving for sure. (I will not be getting on my bike until Sunday to be sure, and I’m going to keep doing all the things I’m doing. One of them is working.) I also had a rather fantastic snuggle with Elliot this morning, and the healing impact of his glorious cheeks cannot possibly be understated.  He is the most delicious chunk. Fat and happy, and slept the whole hour his mother was in the dentist, while I walked him up to the drugstore and back, and then, wonder of wonders,  resisted the urge to scream in the car. (This is his favourite trick. He resents the carseat and all that it is, and generally acts like he’s experiencing death by a thousand cuts all the way wherever he’s going, then brightens right up the minute he’s free of it – though a minute before you would have sworn he was starving or had mere minutes to live. It’s really not hard to tell he comes from a cycling family.)

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Also, a minor fibre miracle.  The other day, tidying a basket I keep spinning things in, one tucked way back in the cupboard, I found two bobbins of camel/silk singles.

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I pulled them out and for a minute, couldn’t even remember spinning them, but then it came back to me. They’re spindle spun, wound onto the bobbins to empty the spindle each time it filled, and I spun them at least ten years ago. Ten years! (Let us gloss over entirely what it means to my housekeeping skills that I can lose things for ten years in a tiny house.) My wheel was still right there, oiled and clean, and so I popped them onto my Kate (I refuse to call it a lazy kate. I has a sexist ring to it. Why is it always a lazy woman? Lazy Susan, Lazy Kate… how come nothing is called a Lazy Gary?) A little while later I had the most delicious tiny skein of laceweight camel/silk. Just a weensie 210m, but still, it’s delicious, and when I told Joe what I’d found and done, I realized that his conversion to Fiber-support-spouse is complete. “Wow honey” he said, “That’s like finding $50 in your winter coat pocket when you put it on in the Fall.”

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That’s it exactly.

Karmic Balancing gifts? Let’s do them until I run out of time. Tonight is our last Steering Committee meeting for the Rally, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to say that. It turns out that my dedication does know bounds, and it’s meetings. Only because I can knit at them is this all  possible.

First up, Gauge Dye Works has two beautiful skeins for Virgina Y. One skein of classic sock, one shawl. (Man, Catherine who runs that place is so clever. That’s the yarn my most recent pair of socks were knit from.)

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Tia has three skeins of Shibui Knits sock weight yarn in 50’s Kitchen (I love that, it’s the colours of my kitchen!) that she’ll be sending to Susan G.

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The lovely Suzanne Visch is donating the pattern of their choice to five lucky knitters. (Lucky is right, what gorgeous things!)  Congratulations to Nichole B, Heather K, Mary Jo M, Anisa S, Jennifer W, and Susan D.

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By the way, yesterday’s yarn went happily to the highest bidder, who asked only two things. That I not mention their name, and that the yarn not go to her, but to someone new to knitting who would adore it, and be inspired by it. I love that idea, and I know just the knitter. Thanks to everyone who bid, it was charming, flattering and made the world a better place for people who need help. You guys are amazing.

More tomorrow – It’s a desk day.  Thank you all for everything, you’re my favourite.

 

Pollyanna

I have been accused, more than a few times in my life, of being overly optimistic. You wouldn’t think that such a thing could be a negative, but it works against me from time to time, as I persist (usually in the face of terrible odds) in thinking that most things will work out just fine if I apply myself to the problem.  If something is properly doomed, this can occasionally spell heartbreak, and that’s what I’m thinking about as I sit here writing to you with an icepack on my left arse, chock full of pain meds, and pondering my week.  The Rally begins on Sunday morning,  and while I’m sure I’ll be able to ride, I’m not sure I won’t be able to do it without some suffering, and I’m reaching for my optimism a bit.

I’ve done everything I can think of for the last few weeks to try and clear this up. Apparently it’s my SI joint (didn’t even know I had one, but there you go) and I’ve had a bike fit, seen a sports medicine doctor (I know! I laughed all the way there. Me! At a sports clinic. I kept thinking they’d look at me like a sloth that had wandered into the gazelle pen at the zoo, but it turns out that when I told them how much I was riding, they wrote down that I was a “serious cyclist.” I almost had to bite myself to keep from laughing out loud.)  The doctor prescribed physiotherapy, and I’ve been doing that, and all my exercises, and I felt like maybe things were getting better, but Sundays’ ride has left me whinging and limping around – and it’s hard for even me to be optimistic under these circumstances. Today after the gym I thought about having a bit of a weep.

I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to prepare for this for months and months, and then get a small but miserable injury right at the end. The whole reason I train is to prevent suffering. This week I’ve been prescribed rest, ice, baths, sleep, massage, anti-inflammatory stuff and… no bike. We’re going for maximum healing before Sunday, when everyone agrees that the worst thing that can happen is pain. I won’t do any permanent harm, and the great thing about going to a sports medicine clinic is that nobody has suggested I don’t do my sport, which is pretty reassuring.  (I believe them too, the dude who has the appointment before mine is an Olympian. They must know what they’re doing if he’s there.) I’m going to pack, eat well, do as I’m told, reach for that optimism, and hope for the very best. I’m also going to keep my eyes on the prize, and that’s fundraising. Me on my bike doesn’t help PWA- it’s the donations that give it power, and they’re behind in the money department this year. I’ll heal, but a lot of the people that look to the agency for important help won’t have a the same chance, so – I’m going to focus on why I do this, and not let the circumstances get me down.  I want to thank you all for your support and donations over the last while. It makes a huge difference, and I’m so grateful.

Enough of that, want to see some spinning? Sure you do. It’s way more interesting than my arse.  Remember this?

braid 2017-07-25

It’s that gorgeous braid of Fiber Optic Yarns merino/silk.  I sat down at the wheel with it when I had that devastatingly tiny cut on my finger, and worked at it a few hours a day.  I wanted to preserve the gradient, and I tossed around the idea of spinning it all into one long single, and then chain plying it, but I was really hoping to get decent yardage, and a laceweight.  I decided I’d split the whole braid down the middle, lengthwise, and then spin each half as it was, and ply them together afterwards.  This sometimes works, and sometimes not so much, but I was (see above) optimistic. I launched.

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When I was done, I had two bobbins full that I hoped were more of less equal, and then started to ply.

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This is where the whole thing can go sideways.  If I hadn’t split the roving equally, I’d have more of one of the other, and it wouldn’t match up as I went along. That happened a little bit, but as I plied, if it started to not match up, I’d break the single from the offending bobbin, pull out a metre or two until they matched again, and then rejoin and keep plying.  (I had to do that three times, which is pretty good, considering that I’m human. One bobbin was about 10 metres longer than the other.) When I was done, voila.

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It’s about 450 metres (492 yards) of a really lovely laceweight. Well, it’s a little heavy for laceweight, but it’s quite light for fingering, so I’m going with the former.  It’s the tiniest bit wonky, like all handspun, but I’m totally in love with it. It is soft, and strong and pretty, and it’s going to make a beautiful… something.

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I don’t know what it will be though – because I’m not going to knit it.  You can, if you want. If it calls to your heart, let me know, and let me know what it would be worth to you. The knitter who makes the best offer of a donation gets it. Email me at stephanie@yarnharlot.ca (subject line “that yarn” please) and tell me what you’d be willing to donate to my fundraising, and the highest bid gets it mailed to their house.  (I’ll choose tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got to babysit in the morning.)

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Happy Tuesday everyone. See you tomorrow, and I’m sure everything is going to be just fine.

They don’t really talk to me anymore

Joe left this morning for a business trip, leaving me all to my own devices for the weekend (so far I have really cut loose and vacuumed the bedroom) and as soon as he was gone, I remembered that I’d forgotten to get him to help me with sock pictures.

Undaunted, I decided to engage in another episode of a game I call “weird textile things I’ve done on my front steps that make my neighbours nervous.”  (Previous entries have included direct warping a little loom because the neighbours fence was the right distance away, hanging skeins of yarn from the cherry tree for photographic purposes, and nestling various works in progress amongst the greenery to document their progress.)*

Today I decided that I’m a reasonably flexible person and there’s a timer on my camera, so I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to do it myself. I have tried this before and taking pictures of your own feet that don’t look weird and show off all the parts of a sock is really hard.  This time though I thought that I had it figured out. I set the timer, ran over and stood in front of the camera and…

socksnogood 2017-07-20

No good. (Don’t my coral bells look beautiful though? All that rain.) I looked at the picture, decided that I was standing in the wrong spot and just needed to move over, marked that spot with my mind, and then realized I’d screwed up by picking up the camera without noticing where it had been, and swore a little. I took a few other test shots, and finally worked out that what I had to do was stand in the right spot, then lean forward, sort of downward dog style, push the button for the timer, and then stand back up again without moving my feet.  This is quite difficult, and means you’ve got to stick your arse way up in the air, and from the time that I push the button, I’ve got ten seconds to execute the manoeuvre, quickly walking my hands back and standing upright.  My neighbour down the street walked by at this point, and said it looked like a good stretch. I think she thought it was the worlds most awkward attempt at yoga. On the stairs. In socks. Anyway, things improved then.

gaugesocks2 2017-07-20

(Yarn: Gauge Dye Works, a club yarn I got a few months ago.  Pattern: my own Sock Recipe. Needles: 2.25mm.)

After that I got bold and attempted a bending-over-arm-extended-like-I-am-another-person shot.  Less good.

socksnogood2 2017-07-20

But I improved.

gaugesocks1 2017-07-20

Sort of.

*I have been doing this kinda thing on the porch, warping looms, photographing yarn, projects, hanging hats on trees, arranging hats on posts, draping blankets over fences, taking pictures of various family members and myself wearing knitted stuff year round for about 15 years now. I live in the city, and those steps are about 1m from the sidewalk. Tons of people walk by every day, and never, not once, ever (and I mean it) has any human being ever asked me why the %$^&*$ I have mittens in a tree.

I think they’re afraid.

It started with a boo boo

A few days ago, before I rode my bike 120km in the pouring rain (I am not even kidding. I’ve never had to ride in conditions like that. At one point I was going up a hill with Jen and Ken, and it was raining so hard that the water was coursing down it, and we all looked down and burst out laughing – none of us had ever ridden “upriver” before. It was nothing short of epic. My riding shoes are still wet, a whole day later.) I hurt my finger. I was making dinner, and moving fast, and a tiny mistake with a knife put a tiny cut in my thumb. I cursed, cleaned it, whacked a little band-aid on it and thought no more about it until I sat down to knit about and hour later.

Every stitch I made hurt the cut and stuck to the band-aid, and I sat there, trying and trying, but the cut was in exactly the wrong place. The smallest little thing, bugging the snot out of me.  I decided I could live with the annoyance and tried for a  little longer, but then I had a pretty good idea.  I went upstairs to the stash room, and came back down with this pretty bit of business.

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It’s a 80/20 Merino/silk blend from Fiber Optic Yarns – an old colourway I think, called Cyprus. (That’s an old page I scrounged up on their site – might work!)  I split the roving in two lengthwise, and started to spin.  I’m aiming for a 2 ply lace/light fingering, and so far, so good.

fiberopticsrovingfirsthalf 2017-07-17

A few days later, I’ve got the first half spun, and my finger is healed just fine (it really was a tiny cut) but I can’t seem to stop. It’s been a while since I was at my wheel, and I’d almost forgotten the peace of it.

fiberopticsrovingfirsbobbin 2017-07-17

Karmic Balancing Gifts? There’s a ton, so let’s bomb through a bunch! (If you’ve forgotten how this works, or you’re just tuning in now, this is a fundraiser for Team Knit – that’s Me, Cameron, Ken, Jen and Pato, and we’ll be riding our bikes to Montreal (that’s 660km) in just under two weeks – and we’re all working on fundraising goals.  We’re raising funds for PWA, it’s the People With Aids Foundation, and it provides practical, essential support for people living with HIV/AIDs. What we’re doing here is simple. You help – either by donating to one of us, or by helping to spread the word, and then send an email to me at stephanie@yarnharlot.ca with the subject line “I helped”.  (That bit’s important. It sends it straight to the right folder.) Tell me if you’re a knitter or a spinner (or even if you’re a non-knitter) and add your address. Then I draw names and other people who are awesome just like you send you presents. We’re balancing out the karma and making the world the kinda place we want to knit in.)

First, five lucky knitters are getting a free pattern from Emily Wood Designs. Teresa Y, Nicola R, Dana G, Carol S and Maggie S, good luck choosing. There’s some beauties.

emilywood 2017-07-17

Next up, Ann has found it in her heart to part with 8 ounces alpaca silk roving from Gale’s Art in the Scarab and Peacock colorways – and they’ll be making their way to newbie spinner Doreen S’ house.

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Ann’s also letting go of 8 ounces Wensleydale wool top by Hello Yarn in Smells of the Sea colorway… and she’ll be sending that to Scharleen O.

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Carrie went into her stash and found three gifts she’d like to say thank you with.

Sundara Yarn – Sundara Lace in Chocolate over Salmon, 100% Silk, 1000 yards/100g for Catherine M.

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Creatively Dyed Yarn -Voodoo2, DK, in Aim.   350yards/150g for Amy F.

carrievoodoo2 2017-07-17

Brooks Farm Yarn – Solo Silk, Sport weight, Colorway: Corals & Oranges, 50% Wool, 50% Silk, 400 yards/112 grams per skein – two skeins for Donna E.

brooksfarm 2017-07-17

Next, a big one! Handwork Hardware (I love these guys) are donating TEN gift packs, each pack has:
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– one of thier needle sorters, designed to provide an integrated knitting needle gauge and sorter contained within a secure storage container for multiple sets of double pointed knitting needles. (And the device that once made it possible for me to mislay ALL of my DPNs at once.)
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– one of their chatelaines, a pouch suspended from a belt loop or knitting bag handle that holds knitting accessories and other items for a knitting project.
They will be sending those out, with my thanks, to Jessie M, Nicole H, Karen K, Emily M, Lorraine M, Laura R, Mary Y, Lisa, Emily V and Mary G.
Julie’s stash is a place of wonders, let me tell you that, and Julie’s pretty alright herself. She’s got three beautiful gifts to mail out.
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Four skeins of Berroco Seduce (I love this yarn) for Lisa W.
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Beautiful silk/merino top from Hedgehog fibers for Kimberly F.
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Three skeins of gorgeous Viola MCN sport for Kathlynn K.
Here’s a fun one – I wish I had it for myself, so lovely. Ana (Air Illustration and Design)  is giving away two free six month memberships to her embroidery club. (No- you don’t need to know how to embroider, the instructions are really good.)
 embroideryclub2 2017-07-18 embroideryclub1 2017-07-18
She’ll be working with Liz B and Sage G to get that set up, I hope they’re as enchanted as I am. (PS, take a look at Ana’s instagram while you’re poking around. I follow her, and it’s really nice.)
Naomi’s got two pretty things,290g natural and 242g heather gray pencil roving that she’ll be sending off to Susan C.

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And 151g lace weight dark wool (black, grey, purple). Apparently her 2.5 year old saw the yarn cake and called it a tire (he’s obsessed with vehicles). I hope Carol T likes tires too.
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Last, but certainly not least, Caitlin has a kit for her charming pattern Epaulet, that she’ll be sending off to Rita V.
epaulet 2017-07-18 epaulet2 2017-07-18
I’m pretty wild about that pattern, the little fabric touches are adorable! Rita, if you don’t know any littles who would look cute in that, let me know. I’ve got loads of them over here.
Whew! That’s 28 gifts, and I don’t think I really made a dent. More tomorrow, when I’m pretty sure I’ll have finished socks.

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And I might have another nap too

Sometimes when I write to you, I sit here tapping my fingers on the keyboard, thinking of what I could be doing that would be interesting for you to read about.  Paperwork? Laundry? Another pair of plain socks because this is Canada and winter is always coming? Then there’s weekends like this one, where I did so much that’s worth telling you about that I can’t decide what to tell you first. I think I’ve got it sorted out now – I’m going to show you knitting – I know, totally shocking.  I was going to tell you about the weekend, Jen and I did our “back-to-backs.”  It’s a training benchmark everyone doing the rally has to meet, and this was the deadline, and so on Saturday we rode about 115km, and on Sunday we rode another 105km and together that’s about 220km or about 136 miles, for my American friends, and after careful reflection, there’s only two positive things I can say about it. We lived, and it didn’t rain. (It is almost a shame it didn’t rain, because it would have taken the edge off of the oppressive heat.) I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t struggle. It was really, really difficult, and I’ve been having a hard time with back pain while I’m on my bike this year. It’s a new thing, and I can’t quite figure out what’s causing it, but I can tell you it’s sorta awful.  (That’s an understatement. It almost makes me cry on my bike, and if you know me, that’s really saying something. I’m not into public tears. I cry in the bathtub like a proper McPhee.) I’m also not into suffering (more than I have to) so before several of you cyclist knitters out there pile on in the comments, know that I’m getting a bike fit (another one) and have an appointment with a sports medicine doc, and I’m working with a trainer, and stretching AND today, I am resting and enjoying the miracle of ibuprofen.  (If I’m missing something there, you can tell me, but I think I’ve got the bases covered.)  I am always, always unbelievably grateful for the donations you guys make to the ride, but I want to specifically thank the knitters who donated on Sunday and made my phone ding. Some of those cheerful little noises came at exactly the right moments, and specifically, Hannah D – you are personally responsible for the fact that I didn’t get in a damned taxi and sob my little way home.  Whether you know it or not, you guys have good timing.  Thank you. I know that it seems like a big deal to train for and do this ride, and you’re right, but it means nothing to PWA without your help.

Now, a little knitting? Actually, a lot of knitting. Let’s be fair.  On Thursday night I stayed up late and put the last few rows into the latest baby blanket, and blocked it with Joe’s help.  It was 2:30am by the time we finished, and I have to tell you, there is no love like like that of a non-knitter blocking a blanket in the wee hours.  He’s a good sport, my Joe.  (Also, while he’s a pretty poor knitter, he’s pretty good at blocking.) I put fans on it, and the next morning it spent a little time in the sunshine to finish drying – and then it was done. Completely, entirely-nobody-else-is-pregnant-spare-me-from-blankets-for-a-while-done.

Chair 2017-07-10

As soon as that bad boy hit the water, it was clear to me that once again, I had overshot in the blanket department.  It would seem that no matter what my intentions are, I cannot knit a small one. This is another ginormous beast.  As always with these epics, there is no pattern. I like the idea that like the babies that I make them for, they are one of a kind. This one is for my sweet new nephew Emmett (that’s Joe’s middle name, and quite a compliment, he thinks – though the word on the street is that his brother forgot that was Joe’s name when he picked it, but you’ll never convince Joe.)

Like all these blankets, there’s a theme – I chose the stitches to reflect the child, and the family that they’re in, so for Emmett’s blanket, there’s leaves and ripples of water, for their love of the out-of-doors, and canoeing, and trees…

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and the border is triangles (for the family of three that they were) and squares – for the family of four that Emmett’s birth makes them.

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The edging is the same one that I put on his sister Myrie’s blanket, waves and waves, for both Chris and Robyn come from islands.

Like with Myrie, I know that you’re dying to see Emmett, and he is indeed a beautiful boy – but like his sister, he’s a stealth baby. Chris and Robyn are keeping him close, and private…

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and maybe someday he’ll choose to be on the blog, but he’s too little to say so today. You’ll have to content yourself with his darling wee feet, swaddled up in a ton of wool.

Well, not quite a ton- but remember when I said that I was ordering so much yarn that there was no way I could run out and have a yarn emergency? Remember when I said I’d learned my lesson, and I’d gone way, way, way overboard in the yarn buying department? Knitters, my darlings, I bought 20 balls of it, and my confidence was high.  I spent half of the blanket trying to figure out what I was going to do with all the leftovers.

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Turns out it’s not that big a decision.  1.75 balls remain.

Whoops.  Stay warm, Emmett.  Welcome.

 

Turnabout

I started out thinking that this Wednesday wasn’t going to be anything special. As a matter of fact, it started with the Dentist (not my best scene) so I didn’t have high hopes.  It turns out though, that at just about the moment last night that I put down the blanket and turned to Joe to say “I’m pretty sure I can finish this tomorrow” my sister-in-law Robyn went into labour, and today we’ve got a lovely new nephew.  Details to follow, but he’s healthy, and lovely, and his mum is just fine, and they’re tucked up in their bed at home. (That’s where he was born. Quite nice.) Since I have neither a nephew or a blanket to show you, can I distract you (with my thanks, for showing Cameron a little love yesterday) a few Karmic Balancing gifts? I don’t have time for many, I’ve got a Rally meeting to go to, and an comrade in Australia to work that out with (when he wakes up) but here’s a start!

(PS, a few of you have asked for the links for Team Knit again, so here they are.  It’s me, Ken, Pato, Jen and Cameron, and we’re all hoping to meet our goals this year. Jen and I have a ways to go yet.)

From Kate, who’s obviously generous and has great taste, two lovely gifts.  First, a skein of MadTosh DK Twist in Bottle Green, for Maggie K,

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and a beautiful MicMar Gradient (they’re Guilty Treasures now) for Catherine H.

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Mary, from Mary Rose Designs has a nice gift, any pattern from her store that Jennifer C so desires (except for the Hugs and Stardust hats and cowls, because Mary is so nice that those are already designated for another Fundraiser… check it out.)

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Melissa from Prairie Dye Studio has such a charming gift for Monique G.

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A Sock sized Craft Fox Wedge Project Bag, a skein of Elk Lake on Anna’s Sock (80/20 Merino Nylon), a Mookaite Snagless Stitch Marker Set, a couple Progress Keepers (1 hook, 1 Locking) and a couple Knitty Button Pins.  (I’ve added links to all that, you should see the Canadian themed bags. Go on. Click.)

Darlene has two skeins of Louet KidLin in the glowing lovely Allspice colourway. Each skein is 50 grams with 250 yards so that is 500 yards of lovely kid mohair (let’s call it what it is, knitter’s crack!?) and linen goodness. (Darlene wrote that, but she’s not wrong.)  We both hope that Karen M likes it as much as we both do.
kidlin 2017-07-05
Marin has such a lovely gift for five lucky spinners in the crowd, Louise H, Leah R, Jenny R, Deike P and Lily N are all going to get a brick of Grade A1 White Mulberry Silk. (About 123g each.) So, so nice to spin.
 silkbrick 2017-07-05
That’s ten gifts, but there’s so much more in my inbox – we’re going to have to have a Karmic Balancing Party every day, I think.
See you tomorrow everyone, and smile – there’s a new baby in the world, and my nephew collection is expanded!  (I gotta finish that blanket.)

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