For my next trick..

You know what? Most days when I wake up I feel pretty good about my intelligence. I mean, I dress myself, I keep other people alive, I manage to hold down a job and answer random questions about the universe from my children. (Who did think of the idea of legwarmers? Why? Why don’t they only have one kind of screwdriver? If we know that men and women are equal, why do men make more money and own more things than women? Why do mice come in colours?) Yup, I feel pretty good about myself. I’m regularly exhibiting all of the signs of an average intelligence.

Then, there are these moments.


See the pretty mitten? See the elegant white rows that run through the centre three rows of the motif? I cruised past the place where I am supposed to change to white every single time I got there. Not just by one row, but by one and a half picky rounds every single time.


It is not until I knit that centre stitch that something in my head says, *Oh, hold on. Weren’t we making this row (and the row before it ) White? Then I curse in Latvian (many thanks to Mary-Heather for making this moment culturally appropriate) , then I unpick an entire round and a half of the teeny weeny little stitches, then re-knit them using white. Then I make a mental note. Note to self: Remember. We are knitting the centre three rows with white. Do not make this dumbass mistake again.

Then I merrily come along until I get to the centre stitch. A row an a half too late for the change again. I repeat from the * until I get that strange vibrating twitch over my right eye or until I have finished the mittens. What is this? Some sort of block? Can I not learn this? Small children have conquered ideas like this! All I have to do is change my background to white the row before the centre. Where the centre is remains constant…I don’t even have to go looking for it! You could teach a chicken to do this, but me? I am defeated.

Further evidence that I am not as smart as we had hoped is that in my quest to successfully change colours every nine rows, I did not even glimpse success. I didn’t “almost” do it, I didn’t do it not quite so completely, I didn’t remember and then forget again… I screwed it up to exactly the same point each and every time, and I never caught it until I got to the centre stitch. I cannot be taught.

You will note in this image of the palm of the mitten,


that this band of white is missing in the repeat closest to the top. I discovered this right after I had woven in all the ends for the top and I was so angry with myself that I almost ate the mitten in an apoplectic fit of frustration . I just didn’t have it in me to rip it back.

I have pointed this out so that not only can this bug me forever…it can annoy the lucky recipient too. (Apparently having my intelligence taunted by wool makes me a little crabby.)

Are you still all watching the total in the sidebar? Know that it is still not quite current, but that I’m working as fast as my apparently low intelligence will allow. Thank you gifts continue to flow in…(and my thank you notes continue to flow out. I have learned that I am a compulsive thanker. I can’t not thank you. Don’t try to stop me.)

The things that are being donated are really lovely…. Besides Sandy’s beautiful mittens, Jean’s handspun and the MSF (that are beginning to pale by comparison), we have an MSF tee shirt that Ben’s offered, a $20 gift certificate for Elann, generously offered by Heather, The incredible hand made knitting journal that Emma made (if you click on nothing else today, click on that and read about what went into making this book. It’s stunning.) and so much more.


Do you know what that is? It’s Sock yarn from Laurie (yes…That Laurie, and yes….That yarn.) Somebody’s getting some.

Melissa donated the pattern and yarn for a Black Sheep bags pattern…it looks awesome (handpainted yarn. How could you go wrong?) and Caroline….this is gonna kill ya…Caroline went into the unruly wool room and has donated her very own pattern, and the fixings (click the yarn to make them bigger, Caroline has good taste)




for this.


Oh yeah, feel the love. There’s more too…but I’ll post them tommorrow, If would appear that I’m not the only one who would like to show you all how thankful we are.

65 thoughts on “For my next trick..

  1. I couldn’t possibly hold the row of white against you, on a good day I can’t even figure out how to thread my yarn needle and weave in my stinking ends (I’m envisioning a lot of knots here… I know, bad me. But the yarn is so big for the needle! I don’t get it!) and especially since I leave really stupid mistakes in because I figure if I have to unravel it I’m just going to put the stitches back on the needle wrong anyway.
    All the thank you gifts are insane! All the giving is insane! It’s really making January a lot nicer, for everyone involved, I think.

  2. Steph, you updated JUST as I was posting a comment to yesterday’s blog – since it’s moderately important (and answers at least two questions from commenters, if not more) I’ll recomment:
    I have it on great authority that the bookbookbookbookbook will also be available here, at greater profit to the Harlot herself… she’s just wading through thank you notes and donations right now… We’ve got three more months till it’s officially available, so keep her wading (at least in donations) for now and we’ll order later….

  3. Gorgeous thank you gifts! Extremely gorgeous mitten! And just so you know, your Latvian swearing site did bad things to my computer.

  4. The blue isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. 😀
    And wow! The total! *is awed* That’s some amazing stuff there. Knitters? Rock!

  5. I was told once that when quilting, it is unlucky to have a perfect quilt, there must be an error or a color out of place. This is how I credit my errors in knitting.
    I thought I was a fairly experienced knitter until I tried to knit Anv’s Mittens from the Estonia book. I kept making the same stupid mistakes repeatedly, and not ones that I could leave in. I ripped way too many times and have made little progress but I am determined and will not quit. Someday soon (I hope) I will sporting a pair of Estonia mittens!

  6. Wow. I love the yarn and cowl pattern.
    Um Im so amazed every time I look at the MSF total.
    And stephanie those mittens look wonderful. well ok that mitten looks wonderful i love the diamonds and the colors. Dont you dare rip it out.

  7. Ooooohhhhh….me likey the mittens….with or without extra white…
    It’s so fun to read here and find out what a great community of people your blog has brought together…
    Thanks for doing that..
    P.S. I’ve knitted with the Doucette et Soie…it’s very lovely stuff…she does indeed have good taste.

  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one to make the same mistake in my knitting over and over. It might mean we are ‘real’ people.
    Wonderful, generous people that read your blog. Good going!

  9. I don’t think that chickens knit mittens.
    Mostly because of the funny shaped feet. They probably don’t do socks either, for that matter.

  10. I read the computer screen without my glasses, so I have no intention of putting them on to look closer at that mitten-I will take your word for it and leave it at that-they look perfect to me (although I am sure even with glasses on they are still perfect). My faith and love of the human race has been reassured today; so many people who want to donate and give back. Not only is the total amazing, but all the goodies people are sending to show their thanks. I love telling anyone who will listen about this whole thing, and then laying the monetary total on them. Their jaws literally drop. Then I add “told you knitters do everything bigger and better…now do you believe me?” ;+)
    I understand your need to thank-I am not going to try to stop you…jumping out of the way…now!

  11. Glad the Latvian Swearing Site came in handy- I figure the curse for “you are a sheep head” is especially useful.
    The MSF is lovely! I have had repeated knitting gaffe moments like that, as well- like the movie “Groundhog Day” but with a lot more swearing and an eventual wallowing in red wine.

  12. Damn it! Now I have to start knitting mittens. I’ve been resisting, really, I have. But I just can’t hold out any longer. I am expecting a package today or tomorrow with the makings of at least one pair of the Nordic Mittens from the latest IK. I don’t think my first pair of mittens will pass muster as a prize, but I’ll be putting together a little something too. Will email you details as soon as I get to spend some time in the stash closet.

  13. Dear Steph,
    I just finished the entire front of MY FIRST SWEATER, only to realize that one tiny, flawed row (where I had frogged a few rows and then placed the yarn back on the needles) exhibited a peculair line running across the sweater that bothered me to no end. In fact, it made me INSANE. It made me want to force feed everyone who said “What line?” my knitting needles. It ENRAGED me.
    It’s safe to assume that I will very crazily frog the entire front side of this sweater (very soon), ensuring even more painstaking work on said sweater until I knit it to a perfection beyond perfection…and it wins my approval.
    Damn Type-A personality. I thought knitting was going to teach me to go with the flow and deal with tiny imperfections as “artistic interpretation.” Yeah, right.

  14. For knitting the second mitten, I suggest putting a safety pin in the repeat below the one you are working, to mark the place where you change to white. When you look down at the previous repeat it will remind you. If this works it will mean that you will only have to unpick one mistake � the first repeat, which won’t have a pin.
    The palm looks fine to me. Leave the white out of the last repeat on the second mitten so both mittens are the same, and you can pretend you meant it that way.

  15. Ok, take one Harlot and many loyal readers, add in the need for help for LOTS of people and what do you get? Amazing generosity!!!
    My poor little donation definitely pales in comparison, but you guys are truly amazing. Steph, You really need a huge pat on the back, I haven’t seen a single other site achieving what you have through a single post.
    it makes a girl feel proud!

  16. What B. said, about making the other one the same! Not having white at the fingertips is a *feature*… it’s so the fingertips don’t look dingy before their time. Brilliant! Good job!

  17. I must say that knitters are the most generous collective group I have come into contact with. It amazes me that all of our small donations have totalled such a big number. Amazing.
    Stephanie. I love the mittens. Leave them as they are.

  18. That felted book is just BEAUTIFUL!! WOW! Emma, you are a book artist!!
    I am no longer stunned by the number on the sidebar — we are knitters; here us roar! And I have to say, Stephanie, that I do not see ANY problems with the Latvian mittens. At all.

  19. Oh Great Yarn Harlot! Please leave that mitten alone? It adds another demention to it ( you know subconsiously you wanted to knit stripies as well as the pattern). Just make sure you do the same thing to the second one. Call it your signature on the mittens,or a happy happening, just dont call it a mistake.

  20. Ditto to what Jackie said earlier about perfection.
    Leave the mitt alone and make it your own!
    The total in the sidebar is amazing!!!!

  21. It seems to me that something knitted by the Yarn Harlot would only increase in value if the flaws (real or imagined) were left in. The mittens would be very rare that way, if they could not be replicated by someone following the same pattern. And blogging about the “mistake” authenticates it, which is important when selling to collectors. That’s genius marketing, Steph!

  22. What? Huh? Am I blind? I think I need a powerpoint tutorial with a laser pointer on a big projector presented by the Yarn Harlot with lots of ruler whacking to find the “mistake”. In fact, if I did not know that the Harlot doesn’t lie about her mistakes, I’d think the mitten was absolutely perfect.

  23. Moose mentioned that your “feature” adds another “demention” to the mitten. I’m not sure if that was intended or not but I think we have a new word for knitting mistakes that one simply cannot seem to stop making.

  24. Stephanie,
    I believe that Native Americans purposely weave a “mistake” into every piece of work they do… to remind them that no one is perfect, and life isn’t perfect… and there is great beauty in the ‘imperfections’.
    Those mittens are incredible!

  25. A few things:
    Jackie is correct about the *one* mistake. Only God is capable of perfection, so the flaw is to remind us of our imperfection. This is an old saying that I have told myself on many occasions, to avoid frogging entire projects, although I have been known to do that too. The mitten is stunning, and I love the palm.
    Emma’s journal is truly a beautiful work of art.
    The yarn Caroline sent is making me whimper.
    The MSF total amazes me, too. The generosity you have inspired is, well, inspiring.

  26. There’s a tradition in quilting to make sure you deliberately have one “mistake”. Plus, I can’t see it and would adore owning those mittens. Plus, I bought two books on estonian and latvian knitting yesterday – you’re inspiring me. Plus, I’ll happily pony up a marble for the drawing. I’ll take a picture later to send to you.
    (There! My kid would ask, what’s the origin of “pony up”?)

  27. I’m wondering who is Laurie and where did the yarn come from? Is there url to order this? I went to the blog entry for June, but no dice.
    p.s. Oh and the Latvian mittens look great, no matter if you made a mistake.

  28. That mitten is incredible… and I agree that you wouldn’t really want white out at the tip. The rounds are too short, and I think it actually looks better as is.
    My own donations go to my own pet charity, so I won’t be in your drawing, but I am following your amazing accumulated total daily.

  29. Wow those prizes are AWESOME. That knitting journal is just so amazing, I couldn’t possibly comment further.

  30. I actually gasped today as I was reading your entry and looking at the lovely things donated. Generosity seems to spawn generosity. Nuffin’ wrong with that!

  31. My parents come from Latvia, but my “kitchen” Latvian doesn’t include any of those curses — thanks for the enlightenment!

  32. Um, I, like, know it’s all about being drawn and stuff.. but if I could… like… just have that sock yarn… I’d like… um… be happy and stuff. 🙂

  33. What? Are you TRYING to drive me crazy? Are you laughing at me, mocking me and sending me over the edge? I can NOT see any of the flaws of which you speak. I’m looking and straining my eyes and going batty trying to find the flaws. You are hallucinating. Stop drinking Screech.
    I believe strongly in the galloping horse rule. It totally rocks.
    And that book! I had all sorts of generous plans to donate it back blah blah blah but it is TOO gorgeous for words! It is too gorgeous for my knitting quite frankly (see galloping horse comment above). I would just sit there, gaze at it and pet it. My precious.

  34. Um… The Perfect is the enemy of the good. The mittens are warm, beautiful and GOOD. I didn’t notice anything “wrong” (but then at least twice I’ve exited a “loo” with my skirt in my panty hose… so I’m not very reliable.
    For those who liken the Iraq quagmire to Vietnam, and are irritated by so-called Christian vindicators of death and destruction, I came across a prayer by Dr. Gordon Livingston and posted it at
    I hope that the Sri Lankan civil war will stop in light of the force of nature and the need to protect our civilization(s) rather than immolate them.

  35. I re-read your post and studied the pictures four times trying to find the mistake in the palm tip. You say you are missing white at the tippy end of the mitten? I agree with Amy S.–Good Job!
    We were always taught, “Only Gitchi Manitou is perfect”, but nobody said the mistake has to be obvious. Your mistake is obLIvious: Can’t see it. No one else would see it unless you pointed at it.

  36. I love the mitten, and am glad to know that I am not the only one. I am making gloves with cables right now and do you think I get the cable row EVER? No-I am forever tinking back to cross the cables. EVERY 5TH ROW!!! Oh-I for one want to know the answer to the screwdriver question.

  37. Stephanie,
    Those are the most beautiful mittens that I think I’ve ever seen–the pattern, the colors, the balance of all the elements. I think that if the back had that white row in it, it would look more like a machine-made mitten, because a person could decide that the last bit of tip is too small to insert a little white in without making it look cut off.
    And today I got to see what may be the most beautiful sock yarn ever again, thanks to Laurie. My eyes are happy.

  38. Actually, chickens cannot be taught to knit color work. They are better at lace, where they merely have to peck out a hole, instead of doing a yarn over. Pidgeons maybe — chickens, no.

  39. Um… maybe you could circle the so called mistake in like hot pink or something, because I have been staring at the picture for a whole 5 minutes and cannot find any irregularities in the pattern, other than the place I assume is to hold the place for the thumb.
    QUIT IT!! You knit such beautiful things and then proceed to find faults that are not there.

  40. *stare*
    What error?
    And good god, almost $40K. There are no words for how impressive that is.
    There are also no words for the generosity of both the readers who’ve donated the cash to MSF and also those who’ve donated beautiful items. Golly.
    You work magic, woman.

  41. Total: Amazing. Knitters’ Generosity: Fantabulous, what beautiful things!
    Mitten: Jaw-droppingly awesome – how can you knit so fast??
    Question: May I see the inside of the mitten? Just out of interest?

  42. Oh, POO. There. I said it. Are you happy now?? 🙂 That mitten is perfect. In looks, in generosity. In love. It is you. IN a mitten. So, it’s not perfect to your eye. To ours, it is.
    So there.

  43. I agree with the multitude. The mitt is beautiful as is.
    If your striving for perfection still demands that it be rectified, would you consider duplicate stitching in the white?
    Maybe we should adopt Rams’ method — threaten Steph with “biting” if she frogs it?

  44. Nice save. I looked for your “mistake” and wished you had marked it somehow, and then figured out that you HAD fixed it, and were just complaining that you are not infallible, not Superwoman, not truly Goddess-like, a mere human. It’s a nice mitten, to put it mildly. Nice day for the race, eh?

  45. If you knit it “toe-up” or fingertip-to-cuff, the fleurs-des-lys would be right-side up. Except when the wearer holds her hands down at her sides.

  46. Steph–at least you were consistent in your error. There must be something positive to be said about that.
    I’m glad everyone likes the book. I had lots of fun making it and am definitely planning on doing more felt (and therefore more felted books). Who knew that making felt was going to be so much fun!?

  47. Hmm. I missed the little smiley at the end of the first sentence…Of course the mittens are beautiful, Steph! I wouldn’t bother with the white tip at the end either—it’ll just get dirty too darn fast.

  48. Like most everyone else, I cannot see the gaff. I’m sure it’s glaring out at you and you don’t understand how no one else can see it, though. Like others have mentioned some cultures purposely make a mistake, and in Navajo rugs they purposely make a path leading out of the rug, so that they don’t get trapped in the pattern. At least, that’s how I understand it.
    Anyway, what I am trying to get at is, your mitten if freakin’ gorgeous. We all love it!
    The compulsive thanking thing is probably our Canadian curse.

  49. I think your gloves are a beautiful manifestation of what the Japanese call Wabi-Sabi:
    “It (Wabi-Sabi) is the beauty of things imperfect impermanent and incomplete.”
    It certainly plays a big role in why we should bother making things by hand instead of having them made by machine…

  50. You know Steph, those diamonds look like upside-down Fleur-de-Lis. Very appropriate for “Mitaines Sans Fronti�res”!
    Do you still want prize donations? I’m making a wool had in navy and red (seemed to fit the MSF/Red Cross theme) that I was thinking of donating, or hand-dyed wool.

  51. I swear, I can’t figure out what error you’re referring to. The mittens are exquisite. They almost make me wish that I lived in some arctic northern clime, instead of balmy Florida, where the temps have been in the upper 70s for the last couple of weeks. Ha!
    And re: Laurie’s yarn: Laurie, I want to be your friend. Come & visit me in balmy Florida. Bring a hostess gift. If you’re looking for ideas, may I suggest some of your yarn….

  52. Mittens: Frog ’em and there will be Biting. (I’ll get together with Rams and Carol and we’ll form Biters Without Borders, an organization whose sole purpose will be to protect and defend Steph’s sanity by discouraging excessive thank-you-writing and mitten-frogging.)
    Laurie’s yarn: Does Laurie have a website? Does Laurie sell her yarn? Does Laurie need a new friend in Colorado? Does Laurie need me to wash her dishes, clean her toilets, bake cookies for her? I’m mostly well-behaved, I promise. (Mostly.)
    Emma’s book: Emma, I am speechless. This speechlessness is worthy of a spot on CNN, it happens so rarely. That book is stupefyingly beautiful.
    I would go on and on about Sandy’s mittens, and Jean’s handspun and the rest, but I’m running out of clever hyperboles.
    Harloteers rock.

  53. Once is a mistake…twice is a co-wink-e-dink…three times is a pattern!
    I personaly think the mitten as beeeeeeuuuuutttttttteeeeeeeeous! And as such ..should remain an orginal color pattern. A truely once in a lifetime pattern by the harlot. A uniquely unique pattern. After all…it’s your knitting..make it anyway you want…unless you’re sending the pattern…who are we mear mortals to know the difference? The Amish say only God can be perfect and make perfect things-the rest of us…bow to your talents.

  54. I have been thinking about making a donation and didn’t know where or how–have been debating back and forth–the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders/Medecins San Frontieres, etc. But getting to be a Tricoteuse Sans Frontiere decided it for me. Thanks for doing this, Stephanie!

  55. I, like you, fret over my knitting and if I recognize an error, it is very difficult for me to leave it. Generally, I must go back. So I understand. I can relate. I do it too. After all, if I know how to fix it and it isn’t what I intended, what else is there to do? If you find a way to change this behavior, please send me the secret.
    What gauge are the mittens knit at and what kind of yarn? I know you are “Thank youing” and therefore, it your replying time is slim, but if you get the chance, I would appreciate knowing, no hurry. I love all you stuff. thanks Julie

  56. I get impatient with this humans-can’t-attain-perfection thing. Are we supposed to think that god is up there in heaven knitting Latvian mittens and getting all huffy if a mere mortal makes one that is just as good? I should think that if an all-powerful being happened to want Latvian mittens, he would arrange for Stephanie to knit them.

  57. God (who, I strongly suspect, doesn’t give a rat’s ransom about perfect handcrafts but does value logic,)bless you, B. I’ve never seen a verifiable citation for that legend of the deliberate mistake — it’s always “I hear…” (This doesn’t apply to the path-out-of-the-basket, which isn’t a mistake, deliberate or otherwise.) Besides, it doesn’t make sense — only God is perfect, so we should put in a deliberate mistake…because otherwise we’d be perfect? But you just said… (I do like the quilters who call it a “humility patch,” though.)My guess is that it’s usually retrofitted to the screw-up at hand. Wabi seems a much better way to go, overall.

  58. P.S. I’d like to add that the fabulous generousity of the unofficial band of harloteers is beyond amazing! I can’t believe the total in the sidebar, yet alone that fabulous prizes offered up for the drawings. Wow. I am feeling very humbled by this blog, and by knitters in general.

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