Karma, we’re spreading it around

I’m sitting here knitting and listening to it rain. Well, technically I’m writing this blog post and listening to it rain, but I was knitting up until a minute ago. I’m desperately hoping it will stop, today’s the Pride Parade here in Toronto, and Team Knit will be donning our jerseys and grabbing our bikes, and heading downtown to march/ride. This year is the Bike Rally’s 20th anniversary, and we’ve got a rider for each year, and a float that the fantastic volunteers made (I’ll show it to you later it is very cool) and we’ve got other Rally People to dance, and…. it’s raining.  Pretty hard, actually – which is so totally demoralizing. I really feel good about the work that I do for PWA, but there are moments when I really do wonder why so much of it has to be in the rain.  (I just right this minute sent a text asking one of the people putting the float together and asked them what our glitter status is. I have visions of every bit of it washing off the thing. They’re under tarps, it turns out, so for now, Trevor reports “minimal glitter loss”.)  The forecast calls for things to improve a bit later – but if you’re sitting in sunshine right now, try to send a little of it Team Knit’s way.  We’re going to be very soggy on our bikes if this keeps up. If that inspires you to donate to us, that would be a pretty good pick-me-up. Team Knit remains: MeKenPato and Cameron.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and make a little sunshine this way – Karmic Balancing Gifts! We’ll see how many I can get up here before I have to get on my bike and ride to the Parade.  Maybe the rain will stop while I work on it.

First up, an amazing gift from Kate, 8 balls of Valley Yarns: Amherst, in Cayenne.  (I love this stuff, and that colour, actually.) Kate will be mailing that to Lizz, and I hope it makes her day.

Kristen, at Rosetwist LLC has two beautiful gifts from her shop, a pair of sterling silver earrings for a knitter – that knitter would be  Samantha.

and a charming pair of sterling silver earrings for a spinner (especially charming because she made them from charms) that Kristen will mail to Pelly.

Mary from Kino Knits has a great gift – I love the idea behind this pattern collection.  The Tolstoy Collection is a group of three patterns, a one colour, a two colour, and a three colour… all designed for yardage flexibility.  (That’s a neat trick.)

She’ll be sending out FIVE digital copies of that – to Jeannie, Wendy, Lara, Maida and Betsie.  I hope they love them.

Ursula, all the way in Vienna, has a beautiful present she’ll be sending to Bettina.

It’s 300g of a merino/yak/silk blend, and so lovely.

That’s it for today – though there’s much, much more to come.  It looks a little brighter outside too, so maybe Karma’s working.  Have a great Sunday everyone, and Happy Pride!

Fifty

Here I am, out the other side – I’m fifty now.

My birthday came and went on the 14th, and I had mixed feelings about it.  I think some of my friends and family interpreted my reluctance to have a birthday as a reluctance to turn fifty… wondering if I minded the age, didn’t like getting older… something like that. It wasn’t that at all – I don’t mind  a bit. So far, my experience is that being thirty was better than being twenty, that being forty was better than being thirty, and I expect that fifty is going to be pretty good too. (Exception noted for some of my body parts, which I rather suspect enjoyed the earlier phases more. I’m talking to you, left knee. Get it together.)

When Tupper died five years ago – five years ago yesterday, to be precise, Mum didn’t want to celebrate her birthday anymore. It was like she didn’t have enough happy in her for celebrations, and she said that if he couldn’t have any more birthdays, she didn’t want one either.  At the time, her choice upset me. It upset all of us, I think. It was plain to me that something had changed in my Mum with Tupp’s death. I worried that she was never, ever going to be as happy as she had been before- that his death had been too hard, too traumatic, too shocking and too sad.  To be entirely frank, I worried she was a tiny bit broken, just in the happiness department.  Not wanting to celebrate birthdays was a symptom of that, and it made me sad too. Mum didn’t survive her brother by long enough for me to know if that was really true.  She remained my funny Mum, my essentially happy Mum, with a little bruised piece that hadn’t had time to heal, if it was going to.

When Mum died, after Tupper, and before Susan, I thought about my birthday and I got it. All of a sudden I got the whole thing. If they couldn’t come to my party I didn’t want a party. If I couldn’t blow out candles with Mum I didn’t want candles. After Mum, it was totally and completely clear to me why she wanted to cancel birthdays after Tupp and I decided to do the same, and felt such a clear understanding of my mother in that moment.

As time went on, and we got closer and closer to My Birthday (close enough that I started thinking of it with capital letters) I started thinking about it more, and I remembered how I felt as her child, seeing my Mum so sad. I remembered worrying about her and wishing she would let us celebrate her.  “But you’re still here… ” I would think, every time she said that Tupper was not, and that parties were cancelled for the indefinite future.  I especially thought about it every time that one of my daughters mentioned a party to me, and I remembered in the hospital, shortly before Susan’s death, her having a bit of a cry, and telling me that she was so sorry that the person who cared most about me turning 50 was gone.  She talked about my mum’s plan for that day, how much my mother would regret not being there… she said she was sorry that she couldn’t make up for Mum, but that she thought she wasn’t going to make it either.  She was right about that, of course, but she was wrong about people not caring. My girls, I realized, as I thought about it, were feeling as I had. I suddenly saw it in their gentleness with me, their new tenderness, their careful questions and sweet little attentions.

I was scaring them. They thought I might be broken too. The pain I had felt watching my mother grieve I now saw in them, and I resolved immediately to show them to that my ability to be happy wasn’t gone… or at least not permanently.  That I had a chance to reassure them here – and as hard as it was, I said yes, to it all.

Family dinner on my birthday? Yes. Big party on the weekend? Yes.

I cried often and mostly alone (I try to be polite) over those few days. At times, I missed my mother in a way that was physically painful – but I took deep breaths. I bought a new dress. (I shopped for it with my girls via text/photo group, and that was really fun.)  I put on a pair of my Mum’s shoes (god she had great shoes) and I went to the parties and I smiled at my girls and I am so pleased to report that they were right, and for the first time in history possibly, taking my Mum’s advice would have been wrong, because man, as painful as it was, there were moments of sweetness and happiness that I’d have been so foolish to miss. The girls were so good, and they worked so hard, and I was so impressed with them, and I think my girls see that I’m not broken, just different, and that’s okay, and that maybe I can put some faith in that too.

I’m fifty.

Cheers.

(PS. I’ll do the first big round of Karmic Balancing gifts this weekend, see previous post, and thanks for everything, you’re awesome.)

Disconnect

When I was thirteen, my mother’s mother, my very own Grammy, told me (while she was making lemon meringue pie) that if anything ever happened to her, I should remember to make my mum two lemon meringue pies every year on her birthday.  Reflecting back, I think one of the most charming things about this story so far was that my Grammy said this to me exactly like the risk that she was mortal was remote and unlikely.  My mum loved lemon meringue pie, and Grammy had always made her one for her birthday, and after I was born, she had always made her two.

My mother’s birthday was June the 13th, and because mine is June the 14th, in 1968 she was in labour with me. She didn’t get her pie, and so my Grammy brought it to the hospital right after I was born.  My grandmother held me, and my mum ate the entire thing.  The whole pie. Not another single person got a slice, or asked for one.  From then on, it was tradition… two pies on my mother’s birthday always… one for her, and one for everyone else.

When I was fourteen, my Grammy died very suddenly.  I look back now with so much sympathy for my mum.  I wish I’d had some way to relate to the pain she must have been in.  My Gram was only 59, and as gutted as I am to lose my own mother, she was 74. It was a tiny bit more likely to happen, and I was robbed of less.

When I was fifteen, I made my mother two lemon meringue pies, and have continued to do so every single year, with very few exceptions, for the last 34 years. I’d make my mum’s pies, she’d make my cake, and with our birthdays separated by just a day, it was almost like we had the same birthday, they were so linked to me.

Today my mother would have been 75. I didn’t call her at midnight, and she won’t call me tonight at 12:01 – both of us trying to be the first people to wish each other a happy birthday. I didn’t make two lemon meringue pies.  Nobody wore the meringue noses, and nobody will.

You know, I’ve never liked pie, and I don’t think I’ll make them again.

Happy Birthday Mum.

I miss you.

Antivenom

I know I’ve mentioned this, but this year, I’m one of the two Co-Chairs for PWA’s Friends for Life Bike Rally. It’s a two -year commitment I made last year just before my mum died, in part because I thought she would be proud of me if I did. (She was.)  Ironically, I don’t know if I would have done it if I knew at the time that my mum had just weeks to live – though in a lot of ways it’s been a good distraction from grief, and the other stuff.  Part of the reason I decided to apply for Co-Chair last year was how struck I was by a guy who asked me if AIDS was still a thing.  I was so upset by it – at the time it seemed to me that he was ignorant. How could he not know? I mean, of course HIV/AIDS is still a thing!  (A friend talked me down, told me about how it’s perceived.  He was right. Turns out the guy was more normal than ignorant. I wrote about it here.)

I still worry a lot about the things that I talk about in that post.  Homophobia, discrimination, a lack of empathy, but the other part of the reason I volunteered- the largest part for me, I think, was that I feel like we don’t talk enough about how much of a women’s issue HIV/AIDS is. People who know that this is an important cause for me often don’t know how relevant that is – more than half of the people in the world who have it are women – particularly young women.  Here in Canada (and the States is pretty similar) about a quarter of all incidences are in women.

I care a lot about everyone who this issue matters to – we all have our own reasons, and everyone we know who is  HIV+ has their own stories, but it has always been true that vulnerability increases the risk, and women are particularly vulnerable, mostly because they have less of the things that are statistically protective (money, education, power, sexual freedom, access to healthcare) and more of the things that put you at risk. (Stigma, violence, poverty.) Women are simply less able to protect themselves, and that’s scary. I’ve been going down to PWA every week or so, and the place is full of women (and their kids). About 25% of their clientele, which makes absolute sense.

There’s this one woman – I’ve heard her speak a few times about her story and how she came to be a client of PWA, and that story involves surviving genocide, rape, poverty, and the death of her husband and a great deal of her family, followed by the birth of a child who was the product of that violence, and is also HIV positive. She came to Canada as a refugee, and PWA has been her everything. She credits them with saving her life, and the life of her child. This year, she, and the mother who taught me to care about that, are the reason I’m getting on my bike, even though it will be very hard.

Several of you have suggested (and you are kind and lovely people) that I not ride this year, because it might be too hard. That there have been enough hard things this year (although the shingles is just about all better, thanks for worrying) and that maybe I could sit this one out and support The Rally as part of the Leadership, and as a fundraiser, and you’re right. It has been a difficult year, to say the very least. Likely the most difficult of my life. I’ve struggled for my happiness a lot, had to work at finding the joyful things, and the important things and find a way to think about what is here instead of what is not.  I have had to embrace (or at least stop raging against) change. It’s been really hard – but here’s something I know.

Like can cure like, and doing hard things, meeting challenges, doing more than you think you can, it is like anti-venom to a snakebite. Every time I’ve shied away from that over the last year, it has made things worse.  Going anyway, showing up for the hurt, giving it my all… trying my best, and remaining open to the good surprises that can find me when I do, has been a life raft.  Now is not the time for coddling – nor fear. It is time to make the most of the world I’ve got, and stand up for people who don’t have the things I’ve had to fall back on when disaster struck.  Home, family, safety, food, money, help. Doing the best I’ve can with what I’ve got, with the people I love, has made all the difference. and I see no reason to quit now.

So, we’re on our bikes. We’ll ride from Toronto to Montreal again about 650 kilometres, (that’s about 400 miles, for my American friends) and Team Knit this year is:

Me

Ken

Pato

Cameron

(Jen’s completing her last year of Midwifery, and can’t go. She’s helping other ways.)

Our decision to ride our bikes to Montreal helps nobody, and makes no difference, not without you – as a matter of fact, you’re the important part.  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, as Team Knit and like last year, I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do things the same way as last year, because knitters, you were amazing.  We’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again. As often as I can between now and the Rally, I’ll choose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*

It’s going to be all about the Karma – just like we try to make it every year. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little family team then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie. (If you’ve already given this year, obviously you should send an email.)

Now, we know not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, that counts.  Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can forward the email to people in your family who will give…  There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did. No money needed. (Of course, money is always good too, and even small gifts make a big difference.)

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are, like they always do?  Ken, Pato, Cameron, and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. We keep telling you that they’re awesome.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier -I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions –  I’ll keep track.) I’ll try to get through them all, though it can be overwhelming. Thank you!

(PS. If you donated last year and I didn’t give away your gift because of my mum, please accept my apology, and resend your info if you’re still into the scene. You’re great.) 

Far Above

This post comes to you from high above the middle of Canada – sort of. I’m way too cheap to pay for the inflight wifi unless something really important is going on so I wrote this at 10000m above the earth and 818km an hour, somewhere over what must be Saskatchewan, but I’m posting it in the lounge in Vancouver, waiting for my flight to Seattle.

I don’t usually work on flights, or write on flights, unless I really want to. I’ve got a rule that when I’m this far off the earth I can’t possibly have a responsibility to it, and so I knit, and watch movies and this time is all my own. I fly a lot, and having this rule has made me feel a lot better about the hours I log on planes. I almost look forward to it now.

Today though, I’m blogging, and working on Bike Rally stuff and answering email and organizing and trying to land a little more caught up than I have been. It’s probably mostly hopeless, but I would really enjoy the feeling that I tried. (I have a sock in progress on my lap as consolation.) Lately I’ve been particularly delusional about what I can accomplish in a day- like, the other day? I decided I would deal with all my email, and then immediately left for a training ride I was committed to. I have no idea how I thought that I was going to answer all my mail while I was on my bike (or answer all my mail even if I was off my bike) but I knew I was going on that training ride, and I still made my completely unachievable goal to answer email. Why on earth I didn’t make the task for the day something like “ride 80km” as I strapped on my cycling shoes, will remain a mystery forever, or maybe the only way you can continue to disappoint yourself once you’re almost fifty and used to all your regular failings.

I did get a few little things done – the World’s Top Knitwear Model™ and I were together, and she agreed to model my finished Russell Street. (I think she was feeling the competition from Elliot, who of course, is only not the World’s Top Knitwear Model™ because he’s not cute on purpose.)

Pattern: Russell Street

Yarn: Autumn Rainbow Kit from Cannon Hand dyes

A nice cozy, generously sized shawl/scarf/wrap thing, finished thankfully just as summer arrived properly and Sam had to wear it in the blazing heat.


(Gratuitous grandson picture, unrelated in every way, but it should make up for the disappointment of this next bit.)

Last week I also turned my attention to that pretty little Jacob fleece. I still don’t know what I want to make – but I now that I want to make the most of the fact that they’re a spotted sheep, and see what interesting thing I can do. I started sorting the fleece… making piles of totally white, totally brown, and then a pile of locks that were mostly white with a little brown, or mostly brown with a little white.

Next I had this big plan that I was going to hand card it all. You know how people are sometimes on about “slow food” or all that stuff about being intentional? I was going to super-intentionally sit down with hand cards and a spinning cloth on my lap, and card out the little bits of VM* and make perfect and beautiful little rolags and line them up in a basket.

Then I saw my drum carder, and I thought about how much I actually want to be spinning and knitting with this, and boom. That wee machine was clamped to the table and I was throwing fleece into it.

 

It still took several hours over a few days – but I ended up with the most charming little row of batts you’ve ever seen. Four white, and then two each of three shades of grey/brown, and two dark batts of brown. (I snipped the little sunburned/bleached tips off of the dark locks, so that they would be even darker.)

They look delicious to me. I imagined bringing them with me to Port Ludlow, sitting in the sunshine and spinning, getting that all spun up so that I could start knitting it right away. I went into the kitchen and got out my travel wheel (what? Where do you keep yours?) and then couldn’t quite find it in myself to slog it all the way here when spinning time at the retreat is likely a total fantasy. Then I imagined I could ask Judith or Debbi to bring me a wheel because they’re driving, but then I thought that maybe that was a lot to ask when the spinning time is the previous mentioned fantasy. It also seemed kinda dumb to give up suitcase room to something you’re probably not going to use (and yes I already reminded myself that fibre can squash down pretty small in a suitcase) but in the end wheels are big and pragmatism won and the orderly rows of batts stayed home, on the dining room table (what? Where do you keep yours?) and I packed off without them, knowing they’ll be a really nice birthday present to myself when I get home next week.

Now I’m on this plane, an unknit sock on my lap, no time to knit it, and one word just occurred to me.

Spindle. *****

*VM is “vegetable matter”. It’s straw and seeds and crap the sheep got into. (It’s also occasionally actual crap, depending on how nicely the fleece was skirted.**)

**Skirting is when you lay out a fleece, usually right after shearing, and take off all the yucky bits around the edges. Short fibres, dirty or matted fibres, actual crap etc.***
*** This fleece was beautifully skirted and also washed so mostly it just has a little straw and grass. A fleece from Judith would never have actual crap after she dealt with it.****

****Maybe before.

*****Because you know, it’s not stupid to bring things you won’t use if they are small.

Uncle

I am never going to finish that sweater – I see that now. I brought it with me on the Bike Rally Road trip, the thing where we’re in the car for 3 days and stop every 45 minutes, trying to figure out every single logistical detail,  and while we were driving I thought “Oh yes, sweater, you’re a done deal.”   Then I realized that I’d left the ball of yarn  I needed to finish on the chesterfield, and knit socks instead.  Sometimes you have to give up, and I did. On the upside, those socks are almost done.

In the meantime, I’ve turned my attention to the fleece that’s been on my desk for a few weeks.  It’s a tiny little Jacob fleece, a weakness of mine (see previous obsessive phase with this sort of wee thing) and I somehow wheedled it out of Judith MacKenzie at a retreat, and through some sort of magic, somehow convinced her to wash it too. ( I swear I did not even mention that part, though should the stars ever align in a way that a spinning ninja like Judith might wash your fleece for you, I suggest you sit quietly in awe. It’s perfect.)  Tonight I’m going to start messing with it a bit, and break out the hand cards.

I love me a sheepie adventure. What should I make?

 

All The Shingle Ladies

This post actually doesn’t have much to do with me having Shingles (I feel like I should capitalize it out of respect, it was so great and hideous) except that for the three weeks since this thing felled me like a tree, That song’s been kicking around in the back of my head as the funniest and most persistent earworm, and I hope to pass it on to you so I can be rid of it. (It hasn’t worked so far.)

I take that back – this post does have something to do with Shingles… it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the sweater I’m knitting that still isn’t finished…though I’m on sleeve island, so not too much longer.

That knitting on this sweater is seen here perched at the top of my knitting bag, where despite going most places with me, it’s still not done.  Mostly, I haven’t been going anywhere except to the hospital to see my Mother-in-Law, and mandatory Bike Rally meetings – oh yes, I can feel your envy from here, so exciting is my life. Here. Look at a flower from my garden.  It will perk things up a bit.

That’s a Snakeshead Fritilaria. It’s the most interesting thing in my garden right now.

What’s more interesting about the last several weeks isn’t what I’ve been doing. It’s what I haven’t been doing – and that’s training for the Rally, fundraising for the Rally, essentially doing anything for the Rally that doesn’t make it amazing for the other cyclists and crew.   (Did I mention that I took an expanded role with the Rally this year? I took all leave of my senses and took on the role of Co-Chair, which is a great honour and a big responsibility and absolutely an indication of how I feel about this cause and the organizing for that has been sort of a lot and I was thinking… wait… What was I saying?) Nevermind. What I’m trying to say is that between all of that and the completed or attempted edits to my family…  No Bike.

Training rides begin at around 30km, and work their way up to 130km.  (That’s about 80 miles, for my American friends.)  One of the most beautiful things about the Rally is that it is totally doable by an ordinary person.  If that person shows up for at least one training ride per weekend (and the occasional two in a row close to departure) then they are going to survive the Rally. It’s a challenge for everyone who does it, but for those of us less gazelle-like than your average long distance cyclist (let’s say you were a slightly dumpy knitter a few weeks shy of her 50th birthday) you have to get married to that training.

Here’s the part where I tell you the scary thing.  The training and I have not been married.  We’ve actually been legally separated, first because I was in Port Ludlow. (Fair. Everyone has a job.) Then I missed one because of Elliot’s first birthday. (Again, legal excuse.) Then I was at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, then the very next day I gave myself a stern talking to about how now that I was done all the travel I had to get really serious, and the very next day Carol had a stroke.  Shortly after that I got the accursed Shingles, and if I were going to be explicit about where I got them and the interaction between Shingles and a pair of bicycle shorts you would totally understand why there was zero chance I could get on a bike, and then just as I have started to feel better, Carol had open heart surgery and (she’s recovering so beautifully, thank you) and now… oh man.  I’m getting so stressed out. Here’s another flower.

(That’s a Trillium under my tree. Do you know I used to think there were white and pink varieties? Turns out they’re the same one. They start white, and change as they age. Who knew?)

Now the training ride lengths are already up to 70km and I am freaking out. It seems like a very difficult place to start – and I haven’t properly started fundraising or doing Karmic Balancing Gifts and there are still some in my inbox from last year when my Mum died and I felt like it was all to much to finish and instead of doing what I have been thinking about doing all day, which is breathe really shallowly while I freak out and wonder if I ever make any good choices… I am going to do something else.

I am going to start fresh. I am just going to start.  On Sunday morning I have to leave for Montreal with my Co-Chair and a few other planners, to make sure the route is good and make some arrangements. That means the Sunday ride is out, and so tomorrow it is. It’s going to be 70km. I am going to ride it, and it is going to be okay.  I don’t think it can kill me. I think the worst thing it can be is really, really hard, and that’s okay.  Considering my life since my Mum died last year, I am absolutely specializing in really hard stuff. We’ll just have to hope I’m getting good at it.  When I come home, I’m going to get a post up about fundraising and Karmic Balancing gifts, and in the meantime, please feel free to give Team Knit a boost. This year our mighty family contingent is:

Me

Ken

Pato

Cameron

The guys aren’t riding tomorrow – I think they’ll all be on their bikes on Sunday, so tomorrow I’m braving it alone.  I’m going to turn the page, start fresh and boldly go. It’s going to be okay. Right?

Stupid Shingles.

Interlude

You know how sometimes, you’ve got these friends, and they totally love that you’re a knitter, and they really think that it’s terrific that you knit, but they’re kinda fuzzy on the details?  This is a story like that.  I know this guy, Barrett, and a while ago (I am unclear how this happened, truth be told) Barrett came into possession of a bag of yarn. He was thrilled. Delighted really, because he knows me, and I know what to do with yarn, and he presented me with this bag of yarn – all smiles, and asked if I would make him a scarf.

For reasons that I can’t even begin to explain, I agreed. (Actually, the way I remember it, I only sorta agreed, but then he agreed to be a Team Lead for the Bike Rally and I said it was for sure then.) The problem, other than that knitting a scarf is actually tons of work, was this.

I don’t know if it’s clear from that picture, but there are two problems.  One is obvious. Those colours don’t really “go”.  The second problem, and I this is the one I think you can’t spot… it’s dishcloth cotton. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how I was going to make Barrett a scarf that was a) remotely good looking b) not so heavy that it didn’t threaten to break his clavicles.  I thought about it for a while, and by a while, I mean months. Maybe a year.  (Okay, it was a year for sure.)

A few weeks ago, I got this idea. I’d pretty much firmly established that I had no interest in knitting this yarn, but I still kept it around in the canopy of the stash, right at the top, where I had to feel guilty about it. I’d told Barrett it would be a scarf and I didn’t want to tell him it wouldn’t be, and frankly, part of me didn’t want to give up. I decided that if I couldn’t/wouldn’t knit it, then maybe there was another way to make it into a scarf?  I started playing around with it, making different piles, wondering how it could go together… then I got my little loom.

I made the yarn into two piles, in the end and did a bit of math to make sure my plan was going to work.

Then I wove,

then I warped it again.

When all was said and done, I felt like I’d done a magic trick.

It has occurred to me, while I think I’ve pulled off quite the charm, that I’ve likely done very little to teach Barrett about good yarn, about what can be a scarf and what can’t be and he remains a person walking the earth thinking that you can just bring a textile person anything and have them turn it into something pretty good.  I wondered, as I handed him the scarves, if I should have said something. Something like “You know, this is actually very impressive” or “You know, this was practically alchemy dude, that was dishcloth cotton”. Instead I just forked them over, and he looked pleased, and said he loved them.

I didn’t say a word, but we’ll all know.  Magic, I tell you.  Magic.

Garden Party

It’s Victoria Day, a holiday in here in Canada.  Victoria was the first Queen of Canada,  and the day was originally to honour her, but over time it’s become the day that Canadians celebrate the current Sovereign’s Birthday – even though the Queen’s birthday is in April. (Don’t look at us like that. The weather in April is dodgy, this makes way more sense, and you can’t have a federal holiday moving around every time you get a new King or Queen. How on earth would you plan anything, and besides, the Brits assigned her a birthday in June. We’re not alone in this.)  Here in Canada we like to further complicate this holiday by referring to it as the weekend of the 24th –  as in “What are you doing for the May 24th weekend?” even though the weekend doesn’t always fall on the 24th.  Technically, it falls on the weekend attached to the Monday before the 24th, and as complicated as that seems when we try to explain it outside of Canada, it makes total sense here.  (As does calling it “the May long” or “May two-four” – to get that last one you need to know that in much of Canada a case of beer has twenty four bottles in it, and thus is called “a two-four”.)  It’s a traditional start to the summer, a day for (most) Canadians to put in the garden, open cottages, crank up the barbecue for the first time of the year – generally enjoy being outside after the long winter.  I say most, because it’s still snowing in Nunavut, and the warmest place in the whole country today is in Grand Rapids, Manitoba where it is only a balmy 20 degrees. (That’s 68F for our American friends.)  In many cities, tonight there will be fireworks.  (Edited to add that the forecast I looked at was clearly wrong! It’s much warmer than that in lots of places, including here.)

Here in Toronto it’s just sixteen degrees (edit: it’s twenty now!)  but that’s not stopping me. I’m feeling a bit better, shingles and all (or maybe I’ve just got better drugs, who knows or cares) and before we visit Joe’s mum in the hospital today, Joe’s headed to the Marina to paint the bottom of the boat (this is, apparently, a yearly thing) and I’m going to our tiny back garden to try and make sense of it.  Last fall my Mum had just died when it was time to prune everything and put the garden to bed, and it didn’t get done at all. That’s a shame, considering how much mum Mum loved to garden. If she were here she’d have had words with me already about the state of the thing, and as a matter of fact, I think this might be the first time I prune the rose in the back myself. My mother’s always done it for me. Lucky for me, it was always accompanied by a lecture, so I feel sure I know how.

Not much is in bloom in the garden just now, a trillium or two are blooming under the tree, the snakeshead fritilaria is finally out (every year it’s late enough that I worry it has died) violets are everywhere, but the real star is the Bleeding Hearts. They love it in my garden, and have spread everywhere, and this week of the spring is the reason I don’t pull any of the volunteers out.

Pictured with the glorious things, a fetching pair of socks. They’re hot off the needles (well, last week) and are a pair for Carol, who was complaining of cold feet in hospital.

Yarn: Paton’s Kroy 4ply sock in Dad’s Jacquard #55714. Pattern: my own plain vanilla pattern from Knitting Rules.

Also on the needles, a spur of the moment sweater. It’s version C from Seasonal Droplets Trio, knit out of Hemp for Knitting’s Allhemp3.  I snagged this at Knit City last year, and while it doesn’t look like much on the needles, the sample had that whole post-apocolyptic-my-clothes-are-all-rags-but-I-look-great Matrix vibe going for it.

I thought it was going to take about 10 minutes to knit, but so far it’s a shocking three days. I sort of regret starting it now, because as delighted as I’ll be to have a summer sweater – there’s a fleece in my office singing my name, and I can’t wait to get to it. (It’s a little Jacob. Very exciting.)  Also on the needles:

More socks – one pair off the needles, one pair on.  I’m loving this yarn, it’s Ridley Sock Yarn from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts (I think the colourway was called “Imagine”) and I thought I liked it, but as I’m knitting with it, I’m coming to love it. It’s a cabled yarn – four plies each made up of a two-ply, and that’s a structure I really love.  Complex constructions like that are such a great way to give yarns made from softer fibres (like merino) more durability.

Rather slow going on these socks at present, just because I’m trying to make good time on the sweater, poor little things have been in the bottom of my bag for a few days. I found out about Sea Turtle Fiber Arts, by the way, because Sarah’s very generously sent along skeins for the Strung Along Retreats a few times.

This upcoming retreat is our Knit, Play, Cook retreat, and if you’ve got a business and would like to get the neat thing you make in front of our retreaters we’d love to talk to you about it.  We do it a little differently than most other retreats, so shoot us an email and we can talk about it.  (Info@strungalong.ca)

PS. We’ve got a single cancellation for the June Retreat – the only one this year that’s for knitters only. (The rest are for knitters who are also spinners.)  There’s some more info here, and you can email if you’d like to talk about that too.  info@Strungalong.ca

Impeccable Timing

Last Monday, in the middle of all the things going on here, rolling up to a tricky Mother’s Day and with Joe’s mum still in hospital, I started not to feel so well. There was a pain in my leg up at the top, and I iced it, thought that maybe I should be going to yoga and tried to get on with everything I had to do. Tuesday morning, without wanting to be dramatic about the whole thing, the pain had spread from my inner thigh up and around to my back, and I was pretty sure something had gone wrong. It was swollen, it hurt, and at 5am I could no longer tolerate the pain and I was pretty sure I was dying of something, and me – the sort of person who thinks that if you don’t feel well you probably need some kale, a bath and to buck up in general – I went to the ER.  Once I was there they confirmed that it was super inflamed and swollen (got that, hot shots) ran some tests, and said the redness was likely cellulitis. They praised me for coming in and not just having a bath and some kale, and sent me home with some high powered antibiotics. Two days later I was back – telling them that their antibiotics were completely full of it, and that I was worse, not better, and the lot of them did more tests, and sent me home with a prescription anti-inflammatory, urging patience. I limped home, and cried. By Saturday I was a mess. I had a rash, I couldn’t sleep or eat for the pain, I was absolutely unable to say the word “groin” even one more time to anybody, and I managed somehow to stick it out until Monday, when my family Doctor took one look at me and said “No wonder you’re miserable. That’s shingles.”

From there, things got better – appropriate drugs for the pain, some antivirals, and the situation came down to a dull roar. There was the day where I took the suggested dose of the pain stuff and accidentally wound up as high as &#$%&$, but I’ve got a grip on the level now.. enough to keep me moving, but not so much that I don’t dare leave the house. (I gotta tell you though, I see why somebody might abuse this stuff. I felt terrific. Really tall.) I’m still not feeling good, and we’re still at the hospital all the time, but it’s clear I’m going to live, and now I’m leaning on distraction from the discomfort.

Wanna see a sweater? Great.

It’s Elliot’s finished Birthday sweater –

Pattern: Hearst

Yarn: Alpha B Yarn “Kiwi B”, an Australian Polworth that she dyed just for one of the Strung Along retreats a few years ago. The colourway’s named for the co-ordinates of Port Ludlow.

I think it looks great on him, and he seems to love it. We gave it a trial run in the park, over by the cherry blossoms.

It’s a little big, because it’s finally warming up here, and I wanted him to have a sweater he could wear this fall, I love it.

And that’s not just because I’m kinda high.*

*I think