The Rules as I see them

I know that from the outside looking in, I probably appear to be a pretty structured person, but the truth is that I’m always right on the edge of slipping into total chaos over here, and only the rigorous controls I impose on myself keep me from a life of wearing stretchy pants while bra-less, eating chips and watching the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy more or less beginning to end while churning out socks that don’t fit anyone, you feel me?

Lucky for me, I’m usually pretty darned busy, and that keeps me on the straight and narrow. Unluckily for me, that means that being holed up unemployed and family-less in a pandemic has let things start to degrade a bit, if by degrade you understand that I mean that Dr Callie Torres is still my favourite and Kepner just gets on my nerves and always has.

In attempt to at least fill up my time and start giving me some structure to a day (I will eventually have to solve the job thing, I cannot believe that the career I started after SARS ended my last one has just been this badly upended by a second *&^%$ing virus) I’ve made some rules.  Mostly they have to do with sitting at my desk (hi!), but I’m also trying to talk to one person who isn’t Joe once a day, and clean one thing every day, and not watch the news so much because it’s really stressing me out and things honestly are (unfortunately) not changing fast enough to justify that sort of vigilance, but I’ve also made some fibre arts rules to try and shake things up a bit and inject an element of fun and surprise into my own life. (I know. It sounds bananas but I really am just trying to cope here. It’s going to be at least another month.  Work with me.)

We can talk about the other rules another time but the first one I made was that if it rains, I’m going to spin. I have always hated rain and loved spinning, so my thinking was that maybe this would be a way to…make rain fun? (I told you I am really trying.) So.. 10 days ago, it rained and I went to the stash and chose something great.

It’s a batt from Upstream Alpaca’s called Black Rainbow, 80% natural baby alpaca (that’s the black) and 20% silk, dyed in all the colours of the rainbow. I got it from Christine at one of the retreats at Port Ludlow, and it felt like a nice way to connect.

I decided I’d like to make it a gradient- and I supposed the easiest thing to do would have been to start at one end of the batt and start spinning, working my way to the other end, and bingo, done. I am not such a huge fan of single yarn though, so instead I split the batt lengthwise so I could make a two-ply.

There’s a risk in this I know – the possibility that I wouldn’t spit the batt evenly, or that I wouldn’t be consistent in my spinning from one half to the other and then things wouldn’t match up when I ply,  but I had a good feeling and what the hell there’s a pandemic on, let’s live on the edge.

For a few days there, I sat at the wheel when I had time (which was sort of a lot of the time) and it was pretty captivating stuff.  I admit, the most exciting thing that had happened around here since Meg, Alex and Elliot went home was that I painted a door, so I get the feeling I was particularly easy to amuse.

I didn’t worry too much about integrating the silk and alpaca, just let them do their own thing, so the singles ran back and forth, sometimes silk and alpaca together, sometimes just alpaca, sometimes just the silk.  I was lovely and freeing to just let it happen.

The fun didn’t stop when I plied it and received no punishment whatsoever for my recklessness.  None. I didn’t even take the small step of weighing both halves to see if they were the same before I spun or plied, and do you know, it still worked out – I had one metre left over on one of the bobbins, and that was it. (I know someone will ask, so my Kate (I flatly refuse to refer to it as Lazy) is from Clemes & Clemes and is the nicest one I’ve ever owned.)

It was like a miracle.

When all was said and done, I had just about 400m of a pretty nice fingering-ish weight yarn, and decided to apply another rule I’ve recently invented which is something like “use your damn handspun” and so as soon as it was dry and wound, I started.  A little investigation (and suggestions on instagram, thanks for that) and I had Wavedeck on the needles.

Wavedeck is perfect for this mission – I wanted something that would use up all of the yarn, so I wanted a pattern a little flexible, one where stopping a little early or going on for a little longer wouldn’t matter. Kate’s pattern also thoughtfully includes an estimate of how much yarn it will take to do the lower border so when I started to get in the neighbourhood of done, I went to the end of my ball and counted out how much I need, and marked that spot with a pin. Now I could happily go back to knitting without thinking too much, and simply start the lower border when I got to the pin…

Which is now. I’ll be blocking tonight, I think.

And there’s rain in the forecast for Sunday.

(PS The shelf paper I ordered finally turned up so it is non-stop excitement around here.)

The bunny gets around, yo.

It was predictable, I suppose that I would be challenged by this time. Not just working my way through grief- but the challenge so many of us are dealing with – where all of a sudden you’re locked in your freakin’ house and can’t see anyone and can’t go anywhere and you’re swinging back and forth between resolving that you’re going to emerge from this a whole new sort of person – one with clean closets, tidy drawers, a revived yoga habit and a new career… and being the you who can hardly handle it, eating cake with your hands standing over the sink. You know what I mean?

None of the restrictions here in Toronto have started to lift, and frankly it sounds like we’ll be in this for a while yet. We’re still only to go outside for essential purposes like to seek medical attention or get groceries, and even then only one person from the household is supposed to go shopping no more than once a week. Joe’s that person here (and the designated shopper for his parents, Meg and Amanda, a few others, just so that it’s even fewer trips out for anyone) so he still goes out into the world in a limited way, but me… I’ve been in the house for weeks now, and there are moments where I’m a little wild around the edges.  The City’s said it’s okay to go out for exercise if you can keep your distance from others, and so I’ve taken full advantage of that, walking and running through the neighbourhood for my allotted time per day, and at least letting the sun shine on my face (when it is not goddamn snowing and yes I know I live in Canada and late April snow is technically legal, but the stuff seems unfair this year, all things considered) and I look out the window a lot, though there’s not much to see out there.

The separation from the family continues to make us all crazy. It is clear to me now that being a close and loving family that spends heaps of time together has worked against us here. We are all far too attached to each other – and I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but we are not just emotionally close – we’re close.  I can walk to the homes of most people I love, and the remaining ones are just a quick bike ride or drive. (Here in the city, those two modes of transit often take about the same amount of time.)  There is something about knowing how near they all are that seems to make me wilder. To know Elliot is a stone’s throw away but I can’t see him?

When my mum was alive, she used to remind me, in terms I won’t use here because I try not to swear on the blog, that when I am unhappy or challenged, I need to get out. Not just out of the house (though she thought that was good too) but right out of your head. Stop thinking so much. Stop worrying so much, get out of yourself and focus on other people. It’s terrific advice – it is very hard to dwell on your own problems when you’ve decided to think about other people’s, so as Easter headed our way and the family was sad and separated, I started to come up with a plan.

First, I knitted some stuff. Mostly stuff for Elliot… and for Bunny. It seemed to me that a new spring frock was in order.

Just leftovers of course, but it made for a charming addition to their wardrobe. (A reminder that Bunny is gender fluid and their pronouns are they/them/their. Elliot has felt no need to fence Bunny in. Bunny is being all the bunny they can be.)

I also knit him a sweet little toy – three is a good age for being obsessed with things that go in other things – pockets, boxes, envelopes… so I knit Susan B. Anderson’s little Flower Fairy and Leaf Sprite – though I left off the wings.

Mine are just little garden people. Then I started to knit an egg. (Pattern here, I knit mine in the round, fun and easy.) I thought it would be a sweet thing to tuck in a basket for him. I have to say though, that egg was pretty damned satisfying- so I knit a few more.

Those felt great too, and so I knit some more –

and then I came up with a system for blocking them.

And then I decided… well, I think I decided to go big or go home and the next thing I knew I had a houseful of eggs, Joe had been instructed to add a whack of chocolate to our weekly shop, I was baking my face off, and there was a spreadsheet and a very big plan. I went to bed early on the Saturday night before Easter, and set an alarm for…5:15am. (What. It’s not like I have anything else to do.)

(Pictured here, fewer than half of the eventual eggs. It got right out of hand.)

Sunday morning I got up, printed my spreadsheet, moved to the staging area (that used to be the dining room) and started to load up the car. Joe was a slightly less than cheerful accomplice at this point, but as always staggered on, mumbling things like “happy wife, happy life” and moving yet another chocolate bunny or knitted egg out of his way.

By 6:15 we were in the car. Moments later we made our first stop. I had the spreadsheet organized by both geography and predicted time of awakening for the recipients – so our first stop was Joe’s mum and dad’s back garden.  We snuck in and hid (not very well) a knitted egg, a chocolate bunny and a little tray of freshly baked cinnamon buns, then back out to the car and a quick text “There’s an Easter hunt in your back garden” and we were off.  The next stop was Katie and Carlos’s back garden where we hid bunnies for Luis and Frankie, lots of eggs, a big tray of cinnamon buns and a bottle of wine. (They are locked down with two little kids. You gotta help where you can.) We hit some friends after that…

We set up a hunt for Elliot down the back path by their walk-up, and then Amanda’s front porch, then a drive to Sam’s – she was our farthest stop and has a big backyard, so she got a proper hunt too. Then it was Ken’s turn, treats hidden on his porch, then Cameron, and Pato and Jen … Oh, and our friend Billy.  He’s a nurse and deserves all the love we can show him right now.

The whole thing was like the opposite of a heist, and we were even caught on security footage –

which Katie and Carlos texted to us after the fact.

We made the rounds, trying to do something loving for every person on our list and you know, mum was right. Still. Again, like she always was and is. We got out of our heads and into the feelings of the people around us, tried to make some serious deposits in the love bank that we’ll certainly need to make withdrawals from in the future,  and it was pretty great. I think we’re probably going to get through.

Chin up gang.  This too shall pass. Go eat some cake with your hands.

Birthday Boy

I’m running a little behind, I know.  I should have shown you Elliot’s Sweater last week, and then yesterday we could have talked about Easter (what a weird one, eh?) and then today I should be showing you some spinning that I’m about to get to, plus I’m fixing a pair of socks for Cam and I finished a pair for Joe and Ken’s sweater continues apace – though progress on everything is slower than you’d expect from me. If there is one thing I’ve learned about grief over the last couple of years is that it’s actually quite time consuming.  I don’t know why, but working through so many feelings just… slows everything down around it, and I have such a smorgasbord of things to fret about.  I’m slogging on best I can, and I think I’m doing okay – a lot better than I was three weeks ago, when it felt like all the bombs were landing.

Three weeks ago when I decided that Elliot should have a birthday sweater, I logged into Ravelry, looked at my queue to see what I’d had in mind, was immediately buried in the million things I had planned for Charlotte, and realized it was far, far too soon for it, and opted for an alternate approach.  I shut my laptop and grabbed a book of my shelf,  looked for the simplest sweater in it, and got to work. I know! A BOOK. Can you believe it? Not even a pdf, or a Kindle version but an actual I swear to in the name of all things woolly book. Made of paper.

The closest book I had to hand was Strange Brew– and I’ve knit Tin Can Knits sweaters before and the directions are always clear and easy to follow – the perfect thing for the grief addled mind.  Meg was here then, and together we chose Mountain MIst, and I foraged some Cascade 220 out of the lower stash.

Here you must imagine a picture of that sweater in progress, though I just checked my phone and camera and there are none. (Sorry, it’s been a weird few weeks.)

I finished in plenty of time for his birthday, and Joe took it over to his house along with all his other gifts, and left them outside for his Daddy to collect. You all know how the rest of this goes – I think we’re all in some form of lockdown or another, so at that point Joe left for home, and the task of making a beautiful birthday fell to Meg and Alex alone. (I feel not a bit bad about the trip Joe made to their house, I know it’s essential travel only, but they live so close and doesn’t a birthday seem essential? He dropped some groceries at the same time so that the total number of trips up wasn’t greater.)

After that it was all FaceTime and videos, Joe and I got to watch him open his sweater in the morning and wish him a Happy Birthday, and I helped Meg make his favourite dinner over video too. (Pasta and chickpeas, in case anyone is keeping track)

and then that evening the whole family got on and were able to sing to him and watch him open his presents.

His sweater fits, but barely, even though this grandmother made it what looked to me like miles too big and that makes me feel like maybe he’s growing while I’m not with him – getting taller – will it be a shock when I finally get to hold him again, whenever that is?

(By the way, that is a number three, not a backwards E.  It took me a minute.)

Best not to think of it, and just keep plugging on.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that he’s so little that his birthday was a complete wonder to him, and the rest of us are old enough to handle it. I think. I am incredibly proud of his parents for pulling this off, in the most difficult of all possible circumstances.  They are simply the best.

PS He got a scooter.  His life is aces.

Back in the Saddle

Who am I kidding.  Not only am I not back in the saddle, I am unclear on where the horse I am supposed to put the saddle on might have got to.  I try really hard not to be the kind of person who wallows, who feels bad for too long, who gets in the deep end and swims loads of laps in the self-pity pool. While I’m not sure that I’m super successful at it every time,  I try hard to be someone who only sits on the edge of that thing and swishes my feet around for a bit, and then towels off and goes to work, so a few days ago I dried some of my tears, put on clothes slightly less stretchy than the ones I’ve been wearing (I almost put on a bra but that seemed like overkill, considering our positions) and I thought “Right Stephanie, let’s get to work.”

That’s about how far I got – see above comment re: missing horse. In my life, like in a lot of yours, a whole bunch of stuff disappeared at the same time. I admit, the grandchild was a a very big deal and really what I had intended to keep me busy in the next little bit (along with being Elliot’s best friend so he wouldn’t mind the presence of the usurper) but besides that all the work I had booked for the next bit (read – this whole year until June) also evaporated, leaving me wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do with myself.  I’ve only been unemployed once before (ironically, it was the last time there was a pandemic) and it is possible that I’m terrible at it. I love to be busy and have a lot on the go, so usually if I find myself in a lull for work I throw that time into the family – but I can’t be with them either, and similarly it’s not like I can go find a friend to amuse myself with.  No, it’s me and Joe – here in the house 23.5/7 and amidst my grief and anxiety over all that’s going on, I have made rather unending attempts to be… busy.

My house has never been cleaner – the drawers more organized, the laundry more up to date… and I even lost my *&$%#$%ing mind and bought shelf paper on Amazon.  I’m not even totally sure what the hell I’m supposed to do with it, but in the moment it seemed important and like it was going to be helpful.  I have been cleaning like mad, and if you are right now feeling bad that you haven’t been tidying your way through quarantine and feeling like maybe you should be, rest assured… it’s not nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped and I can wholeheartedly assure you that you shouldn’t bother unless you’re absolutely possessed of an urge to do so. I did repaint the kitchen door that’s been a mess for 17 years, and that felt pretty good but only took two hours. I’ve also been meal planning and cooking a lot- and that’s at least managed to keep us out of the grocery store except for the once a week per family we’re to keep to, so there’s that. (I admit that I’m finding it a little challenging to plan a week or ten days of meals based on how long salad lasts but I’m getting the hang now.  One word. Slaw.)

In the end though, as my ability to manage comes creeping back, as I get some footing on all that’s happened, It is my same old friend that’s here for me. The one that’s always there no matter what.

When my mum died, my urge to knit went with her, and so it was with Charlotte as well.  I think now as I did then, that for me knitting is so positive, so constructive, such a powerful way to move onward that it is a terrible match for my first intense wave of grief. For days Meg and I both held our knitting, moved it from room to room, looked at it and thought about it, but very little knitting happened.  Then all of a sudden as the fog started to lift, as we started to feel the possibility that the world was going to keep on turning, both of us picked up steam and now we’re unstoppable. (Joe had to drop off more yarn when he took Meg and Alex their groceries, so she’s making great time.) I knit a sweater for Elliot over the last 10 days of so – I’ll show it to you tomorrow I think, but now I’m onto a proper full-size man sweater for Ken, and it’s all I can think about.  (Not totally true, still trying to figure out the shelf paper thing.)

It’s Rift, which has lots of plain knitting but just enough details to amuse a knitter, and begins with a fabulous tubular cast on that’s just the bees knees.

I’ve spent ages patting it and stretching it and admiring it, and I’m pretty sure that Joe’s tired of talking about it. (While he feigns knitting interest pretty well, his ability apparently falls off sharply when I ask him to enjoy cast-on minutia.)

Thank goodness then that in all that it feels like I’ve lost over that last few weeks, I’ve still got you, my blog – and I can ask you and know that you’re there to answer with honesty and sincerity…

Isn’t that a really great cast on?

(PS there is also a sock.)

Perfect

This has been one of the hardest things of my life to write about. To find the words that match the experience we have just had, that Meg and Alex have had… I have thought so much about it. I have thought that perhaps I would simply not write about it at all, or perhaps write about it, but keep it private for just us. In the end though, there is no person in this family can change what happened, which is that we had the most wonderful thing happen, and then the most terrible, but one does not erase the other. Charlotte’s birth was a most welcome, happy, beautiful time for us, full of emotions and moments we would never want to forget. She was our little Charlotte, my most darling wee granddaughter, and though we feel robbed, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate having her at all. Meg and I spoke about writing this, and Meg said she was looking forward to reading Charlotte’s birth story, I said that I was having trouble writing about her birth because I felt it had a sad ending. Meg, showing far more wisdom than I could have ever hoped for in a daughter, reminded me that the birth did not have a sad ending. What happened 48 hours later was sad, but not the birth- and that event deserves to be remembered and celebrated as much as we are able, just like when Elliot was born. She’s right, so I’ll write.

Even while Meg was pregnant this time, I wondered how I would end up telling the story of this child’s birth. I am constantly surprised in my life by what ends up being important and what doesn’t, and my spectacularly crappy ability to predict it. Before Elliot was born, I thought that when I was at his birth, it was him that I would be most interested in – him that I would adore and delight in, and I did – no doubt, but it was the strength of my daughter that ended up rocking my world.  Her strength was the defining thing about that birth, and I was so proud watching her become a mother. So graceful and gentle and strong. In the hours that it took to move her son from one plane to another, she was amazing to me.

So it was this time, that I got another big surprise. We had high hopes for this birth. Meg and Alex had planned for it, arranged for it as best as people can, considering that you’re trying to plan for something that you can’t predict, and they had weighed and chosen their options carefully. Everyone has their own ideas and dreams and realities about what constitutes a perfect birth, and in my not insignificant experience as a birth worker, not very many of us get it.  Labour and birth involves the powers, passenger, passage, and psyche, and there are so many times that the fates conspire outside the influence of the dancers that it can be a pretty serious mistake to hope for a perfect birth. Meg knew this – and had absorbed all my messages about having a birth philosophy, not a birth plan. To hope for as few interventions as possible, not to say that there would be no interventions. To know that saying she didn’t want medication was a hope that could be shifted if they were needed, to know that (at least here in Canada) home birth with a provider is the safest place for healthy low risk mums and babies to do this, but to understand that risk is an ever evolving thing. You can hope and prepare all you like, but birth is complicated. You have to be prepared to roll with it.

Meg was ready for that, but as things unfolded everything just kept going their way. From the way that labour began before the pandemic limited the number of people who could gather and I was able to attend her as we’d hoped, to the way that it started at night, and ended before morning, so that Elliot was asleep. The timing of my arrival and the midwives was perfect – and music Meg has loved since she was little played in the background while she was supported by candlelight and people who love her best. Alex was confident and comforting, present and grounded, and as Meg had hoped, the midwives played lifeguard – keeping to the background and letting the family do their thing except when they were needed – which wasn’t much. The labour didn’t take long at all, but never felt rushed or surprising for a minute. Sometimes when a labour is quick it’s a little like getting hit by a truck, but this one felt like it was perfectly timed. Not so fast that Meg couldn’t keep up with its rhythm, learning to cope as she went, and never so slowly that we wished it would be over. Every time I looked up, someone was smiling, and a lot of the time, that was Meg. It was difficult to be sure, I think that no matter how a baby comes no person has ever described whatever shape it takes as easy, but I could tell that not for a single moment did she feel fear that she wasn’t able to do it. Her confidence was inspiring.

Gently and joyfully, her daughter crept closer, moved by the miracle that was her mother, and as she came closer, Meg concentrated more fully, relaxed more intently, softening, opening and welcoming and slowly, slowly, Charlotte found her way to us, until at last she was lifted from the water by the hands of her own parents, and the room dissolved into the purest form of happiness. She took her first breaths in her mother’s arms, holding her father’s hand, listening to voices of welcome that she’d come to know as she grew. It could not, and I do not say this lightly… have been a more perfect birth.


Meg stepped strong and unhurt from the water with her babe in her arms, that wee mite so beautifully built and delivered that she was ready to nurse, ready to know all of us, ready for anything. Meg settled on the couch and got cozy, and we set about tidying up. As I passed one of the worlds most charming midwives something she wanted, we caught eyes for a moment, and I saw that she felt what I did. This – what had just happened, almost never, ever happens in a birth. “This is the nicest birth you’ll attend this year” I smiled. “Maybe ever” she grinned, and I could see that it had been magic for her too.

The sun began to peek up, the sky lighten just a tiny bit, and things continued to be… perfect. The babe nursed, Meg and Alex celebrated, the midwives wrote things in the chart like “beautiful water birth” and Charlotte continued to shine with radiant health. Alex weighed his own baby (7’14”!)  Alex’s mother held her, and I did, and then we heard a little stirring in the other room as Elliot woke up. I crept into the room and darkness, and swept him into my arms. “Ellie” I whispered. “Guess what happened in the nighttime.”

I had worried that Megan’s son would be a replay of Meg herself, for when she met her little sister Sam the same way, at home in the living room… she took one look at the little interloper and the first words out of her mouth were “put her down and pick me up.” Not Elliot though, I shouldn’t ever have doubted our sweet guy. He was captivated. He smiled, and wanted her in his arms, and commented on all the right things. That she was tiny, that she was nice, that she was soft and beautiful. That she was his sister.


Meg got tucked up in bed and the grandfathers (anxiously parked in a car outside, waiting for the moment when they could meet their bairn) were finally welcomed by the grandmothers and trouped joyfully in, bearing food and pride and more happiness than that apartment could contain. “Is she okay?” Joe asked me, with Ken right behind him. I wasn’t sure if he meant Charlotte or Meg, but it didn’t matter. The answer was the same. “She’s perfect” I said.

Blog, I can’t tell you this enough. It was perfect. It kept being perfect. Charlotte was the picture of health, Alex was delighted and taking such good care of them all, and Ellie was adoring in a way that usually only appears in children’s books about being nice to the new baby in the family. He called her “my baby” and seemed to be charmed. All well, the midwives left for home, and Joe, Ken and I looked at our girl and her little family and baby in bed, had the presence of mind to take a perfect family photo, and then took our grandson home with us so that his Mum and Dad could get a little sleep. We even baked Charlotte a birthday cake to have with supper when we took him home.

I don’t know how many of you have been to a birth, be it your own or someone else’s, but I have been to lots and I find myself unable to describe the sacred rarity of what happened that night. It was not a good birth. It was not even a great birth. It was a perfect birth, and I’m not saying that because it was at home, or gentle or attended by midwives or any of that. Those things were what Meg and Alex wanted and values our family embraces but they’re not the point, we’re all going to have different ideas of what a perfect birth looks like. We’re all unique, shaped by our own experiences, beliefs, fears and choices. What makes something perfect for me isn’t at all what you may dream of, and what I’m trying to tell you is that what happened that night was perfect because it was such a good match for all Meg and Alex wanted, for the way Meg’s body worked, for how Charlotte arrived. It was a very special thing, and one that was amazing to witness, and amazing too in how long we were carried on that wave of perfection.

Charlotte glowed with perfect health, nursed perfectly, cried perfectly, was soothed perfectly, scored perfect on every test, was given an exam on the morning of her second day when the midwife smilingly pronounced her perfect, again. She seemed to enjoy her knitwear, and I tell you this, the smell of her head, the warm heaviness of her in my arms, the beauty of her in her parents arms… it was all so perfect. We kept saying it like we all couldn’t believe it. “She’s perfect, this is perfect.” She slept perfectly, and she woke up perfectly right as she should have until she was just forty-eight hours old and then….she didn’t.

This of course, is the part where this story becomes unbearably sad. I don’t want to speak to grief right now because I feel like it goes without saying that it hurts, so I’ll tell you in so many ways, we were lucky that even in this terrible moment… things were as perfect as possible. Despite their shock, Meg and Alex took instant action that was perfect. The response by emergency services was perfect. The responders that transported the whole little family to the hospital were perfect, that they live so close to the best Children’s Hospital in all of Canada was perfect, the screening agent who let Joe and I into the hospital so we could be with Meg despite Covid-19 was perfect, and perfect was what the doctor said Charlotte was, when she came to tell us that she had died. “I am so sorry” she said. “She was perfect.” We’ve learned since then that Charlotte was indeed perfect, and that she is dead for no reason except that sometimes little babies simply die, and there is nothing that anyone could have done to change it.


Nothing has been perfect since. This hard time has been compounded by the escalation in the pandemic response, and after spending a week together here to recover, Meg, Alex and Elliot are at home now, taking care of each other. A service for Charlotte will have to wait until this is all over, and we are able to make it as perfect as we can, since things are obviously pretty far from that now. It is a terrible time for our whole family to be parted from each other, but we are doing our best.

I can’t think of anything else to say about this. It is so far in so many ways from the hopes and dreams we all had, so I will just tell you what I think. I think that if a baby must die, and I freely admit that I cannot understand or condone any system where they must, let it be as this was. Having only known love, having never known hurt, sadness, pain or disappointment, a tiny little life of absolute happiness and amidst a family who could not have wished for any experience or any little person more perfect.

Thanks for stopping by sweet Charlotte. We miss you.

Charlotte Bonnie

It is with broken hearts that our family tells you that our darling Charlotte Bonnie died suddenly yesterday morning. Though we only had two days with our beautiful girl, she has left the mark of a lifetime. We ask for your patience while we take some time to privately care for each other.

Things I thought

An incomplete list of things i have not been correct about lately.

1. I thought the baby would be here by now.  She is not. Clearly she’s on a timetable all her own, and is well and happy on the inside and I guess we just keep waiting.

2. I thought that since the baby was not here by now, that the mystical power of the knitted baby blanket was prevailing, and that as soon as i finished, she would arrive. I finished. She did not arrive.

3. I decided then that it must be that it didn’t work was because I hadn’t blocked the thing, and that the knitting force is so strong within this young one that she was calling bull on her grammy, and so I blocked it. She did not arrive.

4. When that didn’t work, I thought – fair enough. it’s not dry, and folded and I haven’t snipped off the last two ends.

The child noped that too. She remains unmoved. (Meg had high hopes for that moment, let me tell you. I’m going to wait to show you the whole thing until she produces the worlds next great knitwear model.)

5. I also thought that there was going to be a way for our Strung Along March retreat to go forward next week, but after looking at the situation realistically, realizing how many of the attending knitters are in the high risk group and having a chat with public health out Port Ludlow way… there wasn’t.  Our retreat thus joins the ranks of so many other knitting events that are cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19.  I don’t know a single knitting teacher or event organizer who doesn’t feel like they did the right thing when they cancelled, and isn’t committed foremost to the health and well being of our communities,  and to slowing the roll of this thing, so as not to strain health resources any more than they have to be…  but I’m not going to pretend it isn’t difficult.  Lots of people are going to have a hard time economically over the next little bit in all sorts of industries, but today I raise my glass to all the knitting teachers, vendors and event organizers out there who’d already written cheques and signed contracts and are wondering what comes next for their businesses.  Lets hang in there together.

6. I thought people might be upset or angry when the retreat postponed, but I was overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of everyone involved, including The Resort at Port Ludlow. I think it’s that spirit that will mean that these events will still be around when this is over.

7. I thought I was mostly over the urge to embroider on knitting.

Turns out I’m not even a little bit over it.  I finished a little sweater for the baby, and then something came over me and I put a rosebud on it, and the next thing I knew I had seven colours of embroidery floss and whammo.

I am in love with it more than I can say.  I really hope this baby isn’t one of those spitting up kinds. I haven’t given the sweater or blanket to Meg yet, I have decided to withhold all knitwear deliveries until she makes good on her part of the deal. She gives me a baby and I give her the goods. No exceptions.

7. I thought I was done knitting for the baby, but it turns out that I am helpless in the face of this kind of expectation and so now I’ve started something else.

8. I thought it would be finished today but it’s not. A wee vest thing – it’s the handspun merino from a few weeks ago.

9. I thought I could promise that maybe I would knit something for someone who weighs more than 10lbs.  I can’t.  I think I’m just going to keep racking it up over here. Maybe another bonnet.

10. I thought being a grandmother for the second time would be a bit more chill.

Not even a pair of socks

Still no baby here, and still no blanket, and while Elliot didn’t care that his blanket wasn’t done and came anyway, I have begun to have concerns that this wee one may be more rule abiding. Meg herself is quite a lawful creature, and she was born two weeks early – the day I finished her blanket.  Meg’s currently so pregnant and uncomfortable that I’m starting to feel a bit of guilt, so  I’m trying to pour as much time as I can into the blanket, hoping that it won’t occur to Meg to hold me accountable for her discomfort.

I’m past halfway – only about 300 stitches left to work into the edging, which is about 17  repeats to go, which is about 612 rows of lace left to knit.  Just typing that makes it seem to me like I should be cancelling all plans that are not blanket related (like social engagements and sleeping and eating) but I’m trying not to get weird about it.  (As an aside, I am pretty sure that Meg would be fine with me getting as weird about it as I need to.)

Thus far, I have declared myself monogamous to this project, and I have made the incredibly brave choice to give up cleaning and laundry. We will see what further sacrifice is required.

A small rescue

This morning as we made waffles and chatted about our business, Elliot and I discussed the weather.  There is a big snowstorm coming, I explained to him. It is snowing now, and it is going to snow all day, and all night.  Elliot looked at me, then looked out the window at the bleak landscape, and rather seriously said “and all summer” with the exact kind of pessimism that settles into a Canadian heart at this time of year.  We learn it young, here in the frozen North.

We are all also on high alert today, because as any birth worker can tell you, this is exactly the sort of weather that babies prefer to arrive in.  Not now, not while the roads are still pretty clear and it’s not too terrible to drive around in, but later – at 2am, when everyone is tired and there’s 20cm of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down hard.  If there is a moment of lowest possible visibility, and you’re looking out the window thinking “mercy I hope I do not have to travel in this” that is when they are possessed of a sense of urgency. I have it on pretty good authority that every midwife in the city woke up this morning, looked at the weather and thought “Right then” and went straight away to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and they still have that shovel in their trunk.

I have my bag packed and ready to go (and there is already a shovel in my trunk) and I’m going to spend the whole afternoon working on the blanket (as soon as I can skip out on the rest of my work.)  Last night Elliot did not go down early (thanks dude) and it took me a little longer than expected to get around the corner of the edging (if by a little longer you understand I mean about 90 minutes) so the blanket is almost the same as when I showed it to you last.  I’m officially only about 1/4 of the way through the edging.  In short -weather and blanket status combined,  it is a perfect day for a baby to arrive, if you have a neonate’s sense of humour.

I promised to distract us all from Baby Watch 2020 with a little show and tell about an old sweater, so here goes.  I save things. Not a lot, you understand – I  part with objects fairly easily and (yarn and patterns aside) have few hoarding tendencies.  My mum was the same, and she saved very little from when we were babies, but she did have the good sense to tuck away a few bits, and I’ve been able to pass them on to Meg – along with some stuff that she and her sisters wore as bairns. My mum didn’t knit, and neither did my maternal grandmother, but my great-grandmother did, and she was really pretty good at it. When I was born, she knit me a tiny little layette set in a newborn size, despite the fact that I was born in June. (See above comments re: Frozen North. All babies get woollies.)

Considering that it is a 52 year old sweater set worn by six babies, it is in pretty good shape.  It’s a soft baby wool, slightly yellowed by age and felted by washing, and  it was white (or natural) when it was new. (I can tell because the ribbons don’t match.)  I took it out to pass it on to this baby, and found that in the almost three decades since it graced a little one, something’s had a bit of a snack on it.  It looks to me like carpet beetles, rather than a M**h – the holes are clean and look like they were drilled through – and the damage is localized. Three distinct spots, two on the bonnet and one on the sleeve of the sweater. Apparently this beastie cares not for bootees. I gave it a good wash and a little dose of sunshine, and started.

When I make a repair, usually I have some of the old yarn, or can salvage some from the garment. Unpick a cast off and pull back a row or two… then cast off again, but this is a little felted so that wasn’t going to work.  I needed a fine, softly spun wool in a matching colour.  I knew I had nothing like that in the stash (rather unbelievably) but I did have a yarn that was the right colour, though not the right weight.

Undaunted, I took just one ply of the worsted weight I found, and it worked just fine. There was a tiny hole in the brim of the hat – that took just a stitch or two to fix, I simply worked duplicate stitch over the missing bit.  The larger hole in the bonnet was a little harder, a combination of darning and duplicate stitch made that one go away.

The hole in the sleeve was another matter.  One whole column of stitches was absent – it’s missing all the ladders in that column- so I couldn’t just ladder it back up like a dropped stitch, it was too wide to just sew up, and it wouldn’t look right if I darned it.

I thought about knitting a patch, a little heart or something, and sewing it over the hole, but then I had another idea. I used a technique that I teach in my Fix is in Class.  *

Working back and forth, I gave myself the ladders that I needed, one for each missing row, then inserted my tiny crochet hook in the intact stitch at the bottom of that section, and laddered it up like it simply was a dropped stitch, anchoring it at the top with a single stitch of grafting to the intact stitch at the top.  Voila!

You can’t even tell it was ever munched.  When I was done I took the ribbons out and thought about replacing them, but though they’re a little ragged, they’re the originals, and silk, and serviceable enough that I didn’t want to swap them out. They got a little pressing, and I put them back in. The whole things looks almost as good as new, or as good as a 52 year old sweater set can.

Now my little grandchild can wear something I did, and that their mother did, and it was lovely to work on something my great-grandmother made with her own two hands.  It felt really good to be able to be responsible for restoring her good work like that, and I think it will feel even better to dress a babe in something her great, great, great grandmother knit. I know it’s a wish of mine that the things I make will last this long and be this loved.

That’s her – Dorothy, in the back next to my Great Grandfather Archibald. My Grandmother Kathleen is on the left, and there’s my mum Bonnie, holding me.

(PS. At the Spring Retreat I’m going to teach this sort of repair, our theme is the letter E, and that covers “Errors” and this comes up in that section. All the workshop spots are filled up, but we still have a few spots for textile artists who’re able to spin and knit. For the record, and because people always write to us and ask, you do not need to be a very experienced knitter or spinner for these retreats. They’re learning experiences, and it’s just fine to be a beginner in both departments.  Everyone always says “maybe when I’m good enough” and there’s no reason to wait. This sort of thing is supposed to help you become that good. More info here if you’re into it.)

Am I winning yet

There is not yet a baby, which is a good thing in the knitting department and I’m quite pleased by it, though Meg less so, to be truthful.

I’ve been quietly sending “not quite yet sweetie” messages out into the universe, and so far it’s working.  I did decide, after the last blog post to add another repeat of the lace – it seemed silly to make a short term knitting decision when this will be a long term grandchild, and I knew I’d be happier in a year with this choice than I was with it in the moment – so my nine rounds to go turned into 25 rounds to go, and I poured on the burn.

(I know, that is such an incredibly hip thing to say that you can hardly stand it.)  I dedicated a few days of really intense knitting to the thing, and I’m happy to announce that the body is done, and I, gentle readers, have made it all the way to the edging.

This blanket has almost a thousand stitches in a round now – and that means I have to work around two thousand rows of the edging to get around the thing and have it cast off. It’s about 55 repeats of the edging pattern, plus a little more to get around the corners. I’m almost to the first corner now, which means I am at the exact point in the process where it feels completely hopeless.  Elliot’s coming for a sleepover tonight and that’s always good for a chunk of knitting time – he goes to bed early and easily, bless him. (He remains the sweetest child to ever walk the earth, I tell you. It makes me wonder if this next babe will be the end of all peace, but let’s worry about that when we see what sort of vibe the kid is rocking.)

I took a little blanket break earlier in the week, partly because I was bored to the point of chewing my own arm off, and also because almost everyone I know who’s ever had a knitting injury can point to a wicked knitting jag that did it. I think it’s pretty important for your hand health to keep mixing it up.  (Do you know what makes it hard to get a repetitive strain injury? Not repeating things. It’s not like I’m going to knit less, but I can keep knitting with variety. That wee break meant that I finished the sweetest little onesie.  So darling I can hardly stand it. Soft and warm, perfect for the first few weeks or so.

Pattern:Tiriltunge Newborn Onesie Yarn: Rosy Green Wool Merino d’Arles in Mistral. It took about 1.5 skeins, and I used a 3mm needle.

It is just about  perfect.  I loved this yarn a lot, and the result is charming, cozy, was pretty easy to knit if you keep your wits about you (and I do.)  I think it’s going to fit too – and may be a hair big, which is perfect, because new humans grow so quickly.

I also spent a little time restoring some old knits, ones that were mine when I was a baby, of all things – but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.  Trust me, we’re going to need something to break up the blanket monotony.