Victory is mine.

Despite Laurie‘s very clever guess that I am being punished by the knitting goddess, (which I must admit is really my gut feeling as well, but I am the suspicious type) I persevered and finished the hat without any further mishap.
No locusts, lightning strikes, floods or famines. I did take out a new project and put the yarn right in the living room to threaten the hat, and that seemed to take the edge off. I quite like the hat, and I’m especially loving the top.
The hat does measure 23″ around, leading us to Joe’s head size. Yesterday when I got the first comment saying that I may have mis-measured Joe’s head, since someone with a head 25 inches would be a genetic anomaly, I approached him subtly and re-measured. When Joe asked me what I was doing, I had to think quickly and come up with a clever response. I settled on “Nothing”, followed quickly by “What are you doing?” This distracted him, and I was able to confirm the 25″ hat size. I decided to disregard Aubergine of the comments, and contemplate the possibility that Aubergine has a very small head, and small headed friends. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that)
When Anne and Melissa also commented that 25″ seemed large, I couldn’t ignore the trend and decided to re-measure Joe again. Since I am not a raving incompetent who can’t measure a head, I decided that the fault must lie with my blue tape measure. I went and got the yellow one and approached Joe again. “It’s still going to be the same size Steph” he said, before I even got close. “I just want to check one more thing” I say. He resisted me for a few more minutes and it started looking like I might have to take my top off if I wanted to get my way, but at the last minute the phone rang and I got my chance while he was talking.
25″ , even with the yellow tape measure. I start thinking about getting on the internet to research head sizes, just to find out how big a freak my husband is. (I also spent some time wondering if this freakishly large head could explain any of the odd behaviour that he exhibits from time to time, or how it is that you can live with someone for this long and not know this about their head…but lets not focus on that.)
Then, a comment from Emma, who I think we can all agree appears to be normal in all the important ways and clever enough to knit lovely things…and yet claims to have a 24″ head. This is significant news.
I knit on the lovely hat for a while, and stop looking sideways at Joe to see if his head looks big. All goes well until Joe reads the blog comments later that evening. Now he’s muttering to himself as he works around the house. Things like: “Nothing wrong with a big head” and the very clever “I bet lots of people have big heads”. I’ve finally reassured him by convincing him that I “like” big headed men, and that it’s an enormous reason why I love him, and that I will point out to the blog readers that he’s a big guy, not some tiny little pencil with an enormous head stuck on top. I’ve also suggested that should I find myself with the opportunity, I could imply (in a very tasteful way) that he is a very manly big all over. That shut him up.

I’m going to post this,

I’m going to post this, then I’m going back to bed. Its not going very well for me. Wanna see the hat?
Disappointed? Me too. Here’s what happened. In a fit of absolute brilliance and foresight, I gave the hat some thought before I cast it on. That’s not something I usually do, I’m more of a seat-of-my-pants kinda gal. I like to live on the edge, if I make a hat that isn’t the predicted size, that’s usually ok with me. It’s gonna fit somebody. This time though, I wanted a hat that would fit the gardener, who is a pretty big guy. I’ve got a limited amount of wool, and only have time for one kick at the can. Fine. I’ll do the responsible knitter thing and I’ll give this some thought.
Well look at that. It’s a swatch. It’s a little known fact that swatches are actually magic charms woven by knitters to invoke proper knitting. If you knit one, a magical net is cast about your knitting and many good things happen. If you don’t ….knitting apocalypse. I’m sure you are familiar with this theory, or have at least suffered the wrath of a skipped swatch. Risky business.
So I knit the darned swatch. I did more than that, I actually measured the swatch and worked out how many stitches to the inch I was getting. I didn’t screw around either, I didn’t ignore 1/8th stitches, or stretch it a little bit or squash it. Nope, an honest to goodness non-fudged stitch count. Then, (If you can even believe that I took this much care) I measured Joe’s head, which I figure is about what I’m aiming for. Then I did the math, then I subtracted one inches worth (because you want a hat to fit closely) and cast on the resulting number of stitches. Check me on this….
5 stitches to the inch
Head measurement = 25 inches
5 X 25 = 125 – 5 = 120
Because I failed grade 10 math 4 times, I double checked this theory with Joe (who won prizes for mathematics) and he agreed that this was right. Excellent, I cast on 120 stitches and work merrily around the hat. I’m liking the hat, I’m feeling good about the world, I’ve got some really good looking hat happening…when I sort of notice that the hat looks a little big. Screw it, think I. I don’t have to worry about that. I get to ignore niggling little feelings like that because I am a knitter who knit a good honest swatch. I carry on.
I carry on until the feeling cannot be ignored. I decide to reassure myself by slipping the hat off of the needle (which is clearly distorting the thing somehow) so that I can see with my own eyes that the hat is 24 inches around. I know that the hat is 24 inches around because
120 divided by 5 = 24 (I double checked with a calculator…just in case Joe’s slipping)
Imagine my shock when I measure the hat and it is 28 inches around. Does somebody want to take a minute to explain that to me? Same yarn, same needles, same knitting method, I even knitted the swatch in fair isle. I used a calculator. I give up. I yanked it out. I went back to the swatch. It’s still 5 stitches to the inch. (Lying piece of junk) I’ve cast on 110. Screw swatches.
What’s wrong with this picture?
There’s only one tiger bootee, that’s what. Somewhere in between when I handed the person (who is a very lovely individual with a spotless record, who we are definitely not blaming for this catastrophic event) two bootees to transport to the baby’s mother and when they arrived, one of the bootees disappeared. Gone. Evaporated. Absolutely does not exist any longer. I have to knit another one. I am confident that as soon as I knit the replacement, the one that is without at doubt lost forever will reappear.
I see no reason to continue with this morning. I’m going to have a little lie down now.

Secret Identity stuff.

This morning when I got up I came downstairs, made coffee (it’s the first thing I do…we’ll discuss my rather intense dependance on the glorious brown elixir of life another day) and started to make the school lunches. As I did so, I noticed an odd little package sitting on the counter. I opened it, and this was inside.
It’s the hand spun, nature dyed wool that my spinning class and I made. The gardener at the farm where we meet collected all the plants for us, and we thought that it would be nice to thank him by knitting him a hat out of the yarn that we made. In some insipid moment of generosity I offered to knit it. I don’t know why I did that. In fact, I believe that I mouthed off about how it would be “no big deal” and that it would take so little of my time that it would “fall off me while I was walking”. It’s sort of a knitters version of your eyes being bigger than your stomach. In any case, I’ve been avoiding it. I thought that I had hidden this wool rather well…but here it is.
I do wonder who might have snuck into my home, rooted through the interim stash section of the linen closet, found this wool and put it here on the counter. I lifted up the first ball of brown, and discover a small engraved box with a combination lock on it. I suddenly realize that this is no ordinary knitting project…. I look around to make sure that no member of my family has wandered in, take my Code ID from under the laundry basket (nobody would touch the laundry, it’s where I hide all my secret identity stuff) and enter my code. The box springs open and displays this message.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design and knit a fair isle hat prior to tomorrows spinning class. Completed, this hat will encourage further co-operation from the engineer of agriculture, currently using the code name “gardener” and ensure that further fibre transactions between our two agencies are successful. Without this hat, there will be no wool in shades other than cream and brown, an obvious breach of cover. Even more significant than limiting the agencies colour palette, should you fail to complete this hat on time, you will be mocked and belittled by the other agents at “spinning class”, who will reveal you as a knitter who is “all talk and no walk”, and give you a really hard time about it for an undetermined period.
This message will self-destruct with a smallish explosion in 10 seconds. (Don’t throw it in the garbage like you did last time. It was a stupid amateurish mistake)

I’ll be busy for the rest of the day I suppose. This will be my first shot at designing Fair Isle, I guess we’ll know by this time tomorrow if I’m any good. Don’t tell anybody about the secret identity thing eh?
Happy Birthday to Hank (my nephew) and Kamilah (my niece) Here’s the Hank man (remember the pink dragon mittens?) enjoying a pick dragon cake that I made for him yesterday. He’s wearing a dragon sweater that I knit him, though I broke out of the pink box for that. (He accepted that…I don’t think he was thrilled. He didn’t buy the “burgundy is just really dark pink” argument). The more clever among you will have begun to sense the dragon theme.

I admit it.

Ok, It’s not a swatch.
It is, without a doubt, a full fledged Snowdrop Shawl, finished just in time for the snowdrops to bloom here in Toronto. It turns out that the mohair thing was a one night stand, sort of like going out dancing, but still coming home to make pancakes in the morning. I finished last night, and had the infinite pleasure of blocking lace.
I am, for the record, a “soaker” and a “pinner”. For me, there is no greater knitterly magic trick than taking a grotty, tangled wet knot of yarn and gently bending it to your will, pin by pin, moment by moment…while delicate gossamer lace emerges. I know there are varying schools of thought on this, and I know that somebody is going to tell me about blocking wires. I know of blocking wires, and I swing wildly between desperately coveting them, and frowning in their general direction. I am now, and will forevermore be a “soaker”, and there is no point in trying to convince me that I should dampen or mist things during the blocking process. I believe in the full immersion method, I have come to believe that it more deeply convinces the fibre of my intentions. I think that being a soaker might mean that I frown on blocking wires, since I imagine that threading the wires through a wet shawl might be as much fun as licking cactus. Since I don’t own blocking wires…the point is moot.
Laura A. asked in the comments how I’m going to wear this. Well…I’m not. It’s a gift for a friend. Almost three years ago I had the honour of being the first person to touch her son, and sometime in the next few weeks she is going to deliver a daughter into my hands. Since this daughter is going to be born with the blooming of the snowdrops, I thought that the shawl would be a good way to commemorate her birth. I’ll wrap her in the shawl on the day of her birth, and I’m actually romantic enough to have a whole fantasy worked up about this daughter wearing it for her wedding, or wrapping her own baby in it. It’s enough to tear me up a little, I imagine this sweet wee babe, born on a day the snowdrops are blooming, wrapped in this fine lace….Unless, my friend delivers late. Then the snowdrops are gone and the plan is dumbass.
Finally, I leave you with the picture of innocence.
I’m sure you believe, as I do…that there is absolutely zero chance that this Black cat is not going to lie on this White shawl the moment I leave the room.

So close, and yet so far…

I am boring the living daylights out of myself with the shawatch.
Now that I have mere inches to go, my Harlot nature is showing. It’s always like this. I like a challenge, and the minute that my knitting nature works out that I’ve won, my interest wanes and I’m starting to think about other yarns. I’m trying to stay focussed on the shawatch, I really am, but now that it’s not playing hard to get …
I’m trying not to repeat history. I love the shawatch, and hours have been spent coercing it. I’ve built our alliance with hard work, determination and gentle entreaties. I’ve adored the fine nature of her fibres, the delicate halo of the yarn. How best to coax it into a delicate shawl, what border? How to attach it? Do I honour her with I-cord? I’ve given her all of the offerings a knitter can give a yarn, just to glean her favour and persuade her to be the best darn shawl shawatch she can be. Finally, after so many hours together, so much graph paper, so many memories….the shawatch has finally relented and loves me as much as I love her. The moment that I realized that she was mine, that she would resist me no longer, that all I needed was to knit to her gracefully (already designed) corner and we could be together forever…
Forgive me.

Driving me round the bend

I’ve been doing this blog for 62 days, and last night was the first time that I have ever been sorry.
The point of the shawatch (Jon named it that in the comments yesterday…I like it because it sounds like “sasquatch “) has been knit and tinked back more times than I can possibly tell you. I have:
-knit beyond the point and put the shaping off to the left.
-fallen short of the point and and put the shaping of to the right
-misidentified the centre stitch several times, thus putting the centre shaping in mindbogglingly odd places.
-generally screwed up in ways that are too stupid to admit in a public forum.
As I sat last night, practically weeping with the frustration of it all, Joe said several things that made me think.
I don’t know why you think you like knitting. I just looked at him. I love knitting. I don’t know what could have possibly led him to think that I’m not enjoying myself. The cursing? The crying? The 14 sheets of shredded graph paper?
Maybe you are tired, why don’t you give up, and try again tomorrow ? Straight off….Give up? Your local Yarn harlot does not give up. Never say die. Especially, do not say die if you are going to have to admit it to your blog readers in the morning. What would I post? I can’t face everybody and tell you all of my abject failure to count. No way. I’m accountable to the blog.
I stayed up, I fought on.
Score…Shawatch 0. Stephanie 1.
Take that.

Depends on how you look at it.

Well there’s good news and bad news today. I’m either a triumphant, victorious knitter, deserving of praise and the spoils of war…or…really someone that’s going to be the butt of obtuse knitting jokes. Be kind.
pointplanAfter much trial and error, comments reading and swatching for the swatch (I wish that weren’t true….) I worked out how to handle the corner. I tried working the uber-point but it was going to be too pointy (Claudia…I know you think there is no such thing as too pointy, give it up) After experimenting with short rows that maintained the integrity of the lace, and then deciding that it was really a better idea to impale myself on my DPN collection, I opted for a fairly straightforward sort of gathered-attachement plan to ease me around the point. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty and I’m not proud of how long it took. It was way into the night by the time I had it figured…and I went to sleep feeling like the queen of the world.
Then I get up this morning and two things happened. Firstly, after having spent a hugely unreasonable amount of time working this out, I discovered that Lori had very nicely sent me a comment suggesting (with nice little directions) exactly how to do what I had spent hours working out. In fact, her comment landed in my inbox while I wasn’t reading comments because I was busy trying to choke myself to death with a pad of graph paper and the corner of a laceweight swatch. (I, Stephanie, do hereby swear that after I ask my readers for help I will wait a reasonable amount of time for them to weigh in with clever and timesaving ideas. I will not charge ahead, doing things the hard way, frothing around the living room in the dead of night, whacked out on cold medication and giving my spouse another thing to write on the “Ways I can Prove My Wife is Insane In a Court Of Law” list.) Thank you Lori. Your attempt to save me from myself is duly noted.
Secondly, after I had recovered from the shock of realizing that if I only had checked my email I’d have three hours of my life back, I put the plan into motion. I nimbly knit to the critical starting point for the stunning Point Plan, and launched. The joy, the relief, the thrilling climactic ….oh…..
Crap. Do you think that the “Point Plan” should take place somewhere even close to the point of the swatch? Do you? For crying out loud would somebody just kill me. I cannot believe that after this much freakin work on this shawl swatch that I would notice that I shouldn’t be PAST the point when I begin the Point Plan! Who doesn’t notice that! Who? Public mocking is too good for me. Today’s knitting segment will feature Stephanie tinking back edging, screwing with the number of stitches before the point and stringing together expletives in new and creative ways.
In other news, these are quite possibly the cutest bootees in the history of the universe.
If they would fit me, I would keep them. For anybody who was asking…the pattern is from 50 Baby bootees to knit, by Zoe Mellor.

What’s your point?

When I knit 3 more points of edging on the swatch I will come to the bottom point of the shawl. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do when I get there. None, nada, zip. Clearly, since I have a 90 degree corner to turn, I’m going to have to do something, I mean, you can’t just ignore it. Can you?
Choice A.
Work some kind of mitred clever point thing. Sort of like the point on the Butterfly Shawl. Advantages….well, I think the math is doable. Even for a numerically challenged person like me. I think the pointy pattern could be made to come to an Uber-point without too much screwing around. (Note to self: every time you say that something shouldn’t be to hard the project immediately sucks you to the very gates of Hades, don’t smart-ass about how you think you can do it “without too much screwing around”. You will be punished) Disadvantages: I don’t think it would look as good as choice B.
Choice B.
Work some kind of short row magic and mystically get the points to continue around the 90 degree turn uninterrupted. Like the point on “Concert in the park“. (Which is one of the most stunning things in the world. I swear in the name of all things wooly that this shawl will be mine…I want it in the colourway “forest floor”. Be still my heart.)
Advantages: pretty, pretty, pretty. Clever too, and I think that it would fit in better with the overall look of the swatch. Disadvantages: I have no idea how to do that. I can short row, that’s not too hard, but how on earth do you short row pointy lace and still have pointy lace at the end of it?
Choice C.
Screw it and knit tiger bootees.

Born Free

It’s freezing cold outside, I have a terrible cold, I am up to my armpits in work, laundry and dust bunnies, and I really couldn’t be happier. I am filled with the simple pure joy of a mother who has survived March Break. The children went to school today, Joe will go to work eventually and then I will be alone. Gloriously, stunningly alone. I’m going to go to the bathroom by myself. I’m going to drink a whole cup of coffee without it going cold, I’m going to write my column without screaming “Stop looking at your Sister…you know she hates it!” and I’m going to have at least one uninterrupted phone call. I feel like dancing.
The swatch is still getting an edging. It has fallen into the black hole of knitting. You know the black hole don’t you? Its where you knit and knit, then measure and check, then knit and knit, then check again only to discover that even though you have worked on the thing for hours it is miraculously the exact same size.
It could be that the swatch is actually trying to help me, since as I was knitting the edging last night it occurred to me that I wasn’t exactly careful about how many stitches I picked up along the sides. I just sort of went with it. My thinking was that as long as it looked right…it was right. It wasn’t until last night when I was absently wondering how it was that I could have knit 4 points of the edging and be no closer to the centre point that it occurred to me that I might want to have the same number of stitches on each side…so that I would have the same number of points on each side. I’m going to think about possible fixes while I am here in the black hole.
Wool Pig.
Claudia asks if there are qualifications to brand oneself “Wool-Pig”. Number or bins of yarn, poundage or yardage amounts that need to be met…etc. It is this writers opinion that “Wool-Pig” is more of an attitude towards ones yarn…rather than the amount of yarn. (It is assumed that you have lots of yarn) I’m sure that you guys will come up with more but here are my ways of telling.
You might be a Wool-Pig if….
…you have ever bought new yarn rather than use well established stash yarn.
…you are teaching someone to knit and you generously give them a ball from your own stash (after selecting one you think is sub-standard, or lying to them about the qualities of the yarn they chose “no, no…that merino is way to scratchy for a hat”)
…you have knit, and will keep forever things that you will never…ever wear, just because you liked the wool.
…you have ever bought yarn only because you heard a rumour it was going to be discontinued.
…you have ever bought yarn only because another knitter was looking at it and there was only 10 skeins left and you didn’t want her to have it.
…you have yarn that is sitting in the stash waiting for a project that is “worthy” of it.
…you have lied about yarn possession.
…you find it difficult, impossible or painful to give away yarn.
Finally, In the spirit of the Anti-Wool-Pig (because we all want to be better people) I’m going to draw your attention to this. It’s an Afghanalong for Afghans. All you need to do to score some good karma is knit an 8 inch square and send it to Kay and Ann at Mason-Dixon Knitting, and they will sew’em up into blankies for people who need them. If your inner Wool-pig doesn’t want you to give Kay and Ann any good yarn…tell it about the prize. (Hint: the prize is wool)
Here’s my first one. C’mon, just knit one, it’s good for you.

On the edge

In more ways than one. The children return to school in 22 hours. I have become so completely deranged by the constant presence of this many people in the house that three things have happened.
1. I have begun to feed and house random children from the neighbourhood. Yesterday there were 4 children at dinner, this morning there are four children at breakfast. I have three children. That means that one of these is not mine. I have not investigated this further because whoever the extra kid is….I think they put their plate in the dishwasher. You don’t just walk away from that.
2. I have actually contracted some kind of dread disease ( probably from one of the “free range” neighbourhood children streaming in and out of my home, eating all the food, messing up the kitchen and spreading pestilence). I believe that it may be the common cold. I find it bitterly ironic that I have been stricken in this way the day before I have a reason to live.
3. I have decided that since I feel really, truly crappy, and since Joe does not have a twitch over one eye and a March Break related affliction that I will sit on the couch drinking tea and ignoring the children while swatching the edging for the snowdrop shawl. I’m imagining that it is going to do me a lot of good to watch him suck up his share of “family time”.
What say we all? I did an applied I-cord edge to the top, then (brace yourself) picked up stitches all the way along the two long edges of the swatch. (Not as bad as I thought….about 400) I knit a little bit on those stitches, then settled on an edging. I took a pretty simple eyelet pattern (It had to be simple if I was going to work it out) and combined it with the column pattern from the snowdrop lace. I love knitting lace. I love the way it looks like a puddle of crap until you block it,
and I love how far laceweight yarn goes. That ball there, my little kittens is the first ball. That’s right, I’ve knit this absolutely huge swatch, a whack of I-cord and a whole ton of edge-swatch and I’ve not yet run out. I’ve got nine more balls! I’m the queen of the world! I could make like…..7 shawls or maybe 25 scarves, or a christening dress and 6 shawls or…..One really, really big swatch.
Abby has made me some Buttons. Despite having suffered a tragic sock frogging incident this week, she thought of others. What a nice lady. Steal at will. I’ll put them in the sidebar as soon as I figure out how. I’m especially fond of the Wool-pig, which is obviously not a Harlot specific button.