Avoidance therapy

I beg your pardon for going AWOB (Absent Without Blog) yesterday. It was a long and dodgy day and there was syrup in my hair for much of it. (I do not want to discuss how the syrup came to be in my hair, how long it was there, or what happens if you have syrup in your hair and then talk on the phone and get the phone stuck in the syrup. It was bad enough to live it.)

It took until about 6:30 last night for me to figure out that I had been specially selected to be the universes cat toy, and that the syrup in the hair was going to be the most positive thing that happened to me. Every once in a while the planet sets out to test me and sets into motion a law of physics. Yesterday’s choice was “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” You know how that works, don’t you? Here’s a good example. I washed a load of laundry (action) then brought the clean towels upstairs and set them on the floor. I was so pleased with myself that I attempted to celebrate with a cup of coffee. I reached for the pot, fumbled somehow and the entire pot of coffee was poured onto the clean towels. (Opposite reaction) More? Wash the bathroom floor – discover a science project (Dear God, let it be a science project) in your teenagers room. Write 800 words – the printer commits suicide and the file evaporates. (Do not tell me that computers are not sentient. The evidence just doesn’t support it.) I’m pleased to report that today appears to be much better…though I did eat chocolate for breakfast and am planning on making few “actions” in case the “reaction” theme is still on the menu.

Considering my role in the world yesterday, I decided that the MSF mittens and I should go on “break”. I will not be revealing the status or location of the mittens until I am certain that the world is done with exacting it’s revenge with sticky or staining liquids. Instead, I worked on a new sweater.

This is a kit from “Sweater kits” and I really like it. You will note that the variegated yarn, despite there being no attempts made by me to avoid it, is not pooling, flashing or screwing around with any sort of annoying wool shenanigans. You can guess how this makes me feel, but we will not speak of anything positive happening to ensure that I’m not going to be punished. You may also note that the sweater has a clever little hem, which I would have sewn up, had part of yesterday not involved the planet removing every single stinking wool needle from the entire house.


As an additional tactic to avoid bringing the MSF mittens into the spiral of disaster, I’m knitting a pink hat.

This is my own handspun, and I’m experiencing mixed feelings. I’m very drawn to this pink, but am dealing with emotional issues around it. Am I the only one who sometimes feels inexplicably anti-feminist when using pink? Discuss.


Thank you gifts continue to flood toward all of you, and no wonder. Seen the total? The draw for gifts of appreciation is going to be huge. I’ve given up logging the gifts ahead of time, there are too many, and Mr. Washie and I are feeling the strain of separation on our relationship. I’ll show they to you as they go to their new homes. Donations will continue to be entered into the draw for gifts until I have finished the mittens- of- which- we- shall- not- speak.

You guys make me think that there is hope for humanity. If the kindness, decency and compassion exhibited by this group of knitters was shown by the rest of the world…the possibilities boggle the mind.

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.


Toronto- Reports are beginning to emerge that may indicate that local knitblogger “Yarn Harlot” (we believe that may be an assumed name) has finally snapped.

The recent overwhelming realization that the vast majority of knitbloggers are incredibly decent, generous and kind (combined with the tragic loss of her daughter’s infant Tamagotchi) had her in an emotionally fragile state to begin with, but this mornings wrangling with HTML in order to provide a new page for the blog appears to have put her right over the freaking edge. (We also have suggestions that Rams suggestion yesterday in the comments that the Harlot stop writing thank you notes may have caused some sort of Canadian politeness short circuit. Rumour would have it that the Harlot was writing thank you notes when she got the directive from Rams to stop thanking people (or risk,…what was that threat? BITING?), which made the Harlot very grateful to Rams for such sensitivity, and that made her want to thank Rams, which was forbidden. The inability to thank someone for trying to relieve her of thank you notes and its resultant unfulfilled thankfulness may have sent the Harlot into some sort of feedback loop and resultant meltdown.)

When asked for a comment her blog-god buddy Ken said “I don’t know what happened. She phoned me and sounded sort of, well…crazy. I couldn’t even tell if she was laughing or crying. Something about how she only tried to add a tiny little button and now the “whole blog was !@#$%^&!! broken”. I did what I could to calm her, but it was all I could do to get her to stop gibbering and clicking on “refresh”. I fixed what I could…but I can’t even begin to imagine what she was thinking. I mean…she was pointing images to a local drive. I can’t talk about this anymore. She’s already chewed up half my day.”

Ken indicated that despite the profound damage the Harlot had done to her own blog code while apparently trying to “upload” something…he had managed to reconstruct the brand new Knitters Without Borders Homepage for the KWB button to link to. He concluded by saying that he wonders if the Harlot was simply suffering some sort of seizure. “The tally in the sidebar is all she talks about. All the donations? I think she just got too happy“.

This reporter began to suspect a plot when she confirmed that Jean may have played a role in bringing on these dangerous levels of happiness by donating an incredible hank of handspun yarn to the Knitters Without Borders reward pot. Jean has details of this on her blog, where The Harlot may have shamelessly lifted this picture from.


Not just any handspun…but the flagship handspun from her own blog….where, not coincidentally, this reporter discovered completely intact HTML code. Suspicious?

Only one sighting of the Harlot herself has been made since several witnesses confirmed her extremely odd behaviour at the stitch and bitch at Lettuce Knit on Wednesday evening. “You wouldn’t have believed it,” said one incredulous knitter..” she was here for hours and she didn’t buy anything. Nothing. Not even a magazine. We couldn’t believe it. She just kept muttering about needs and wants. Then she left. She didn’t even have any knitted stuff on…In January? It was really weird. Do you think she’s ok?”

While this non-yarn buying behaviour is highly suspicious, we continue to hold out hope that the Harlot is merely experiencing an uncharacteristic period of focus and self control. Since the Harlot has never before exhibited either of these characteristics, it is too soon to tell if it is a sign that she has become crazier than Cher claiming that she doesn’t like sparkles. This reporter gained access to the harlot home last evening and after digging through the rubble found the following mitten part on the table.


This mitten appears normal enough…but among the things overheard in the wool strewn house was a concern that the Harlot believes that the pattern on the hand is “too low contrast” and may need to be re-knit. Somewhat reassuring is that the Harlot may have been able to let go of her obsession with stripy palms and knit some sort of little diamond action on this one.


This reporter also overheard a discussion between the Harlot and a man she called “Joe” (though he may also use an alias) and some smaller people, who were all trying to figure out a way to deal with the decrepit Christmas tree in the living room. There was significant resistance to the Harlots suggestion that perhaps one of them could carry it outside for compost pickup. There may be some hope for the Harlot….as she did reject Joe’s alternate idea that perhaps they could just keep vacuuming up fallen needles from under the tree all year. According to “Joe” the tree would eventually simply disappear.

The Harlot’s response? “You know dude, thank goodness I work here, or you people would be exhausted.”

Horribly wonderful

I only have one thing to say about the total.


I really wish there had been other suggestions on the mode of celebration.

(By the way? I know this photo is of poor quality. You can’t make me go back out there.)

I’m overwhelmed with the generosity and decency of each and everyone of you.

In fact, I am so overwhelmed that I’m starting to fall apart. I’m writing a thank you note to each and every person who sent me an email, but there are THOUSANDS of you. I’m going as fast as I can. If you have not got a thank you note…then you haven’t been added to the tally yet. I am writing emails at the speed of sound, I am doing laundry, and my job, and the phones at MSF and cooking and cleaning (Ok. Fine. I’m not cleaning.) and still writing emails to express my profound gratitude. I want you to know, that if you haven’t got yours yet… I am writing them with such incredible devotion that I have accidentally killed Sam’s Tamagotchi.

The last thing the child said to me this morning was “Mommy…don’t let my Tamagotchi die while I am at school”, and now look. It’s dead. Belly up. Finito.


I was not completely negligent. I did feed it virtual pizza around 10:30…but then there was a beep that I thought meant that it needed something. I went to look and lo and behold…it did need something. The last rites. The poor kid. She must have thought that since I have kept actual live human beings alive for 15 years that I could be trusted to push a button occasionally. The guilt is crippling. I can only hope that the child understands that the Tamagotchi was sacrificed for a greater good.

When I saw the little icon had gone to a better place, I panicked. I pressed all the buttons. I pressed them repeatedly, but nothing worked. Not the food button, not the status button. .. I phoned Kelly in a state of panic. Being the mother of a child with a Tamagotchi, Kelly was sympathetic. “Something had to give.” she said. “Given your choice of dead things…..”. Kelly has a point. Still, anyone want to be me at 3:30 when I have to break it to Sam?

There is resistance at the border of the MSF. I took it to Lettuce knit last night and had a deep planning meeting with Aven, Dani, and Jane. They hemmed, they hawed and they decided that I was on the right track. We decided that the palm should be the light grey and the darker grey, with shots of the white run through for “sparkle”. They liked the band of white near the border, they didn’t think it was too bright. After all this planning….


I ripped it out. I didn’t believe them. I think they could see how close to the edge I was (though they didn’t know yet that I was capable of negligent Tamagotchi homicide) and were trying to humour me. I like the new effort better.

I understand that this means I have to reknit the braid. I am considering strong drink.

In other news…

Emma is making a wooly journal to donate to our cause. Look how beautiful her start is.

Katie is running a very cool little Tsunami knitswap here for those of you that would be interested.

Anybody know how to resurrect a virtual pet?

Turn left at the sign

Welcome to Harlotville, where the sun shines all the time and everyone is noble and generous. (C’mon in. The knitters are fine)

Reasons to never leave Harlotville.

-LOOK AT THE TOTAL. Now go dance in the street. (I don’t know how we celebrate 20 000. Maybe dancing naked in the street? Other suggestions graciously accepted. It’s cold outside.)

Ben’s a pretty happy guy too…

Dear Stephanie and all the Harloteers,

Over 15 grand!?! This is amazing! Like somebody said above, knitters rock! I wonder if it isn’t time to set up TSF – Tricoteuses Sans Frontières or Knitters Without Borders? That’s what this international blog increasingly represents.

On behalf of MSF in Canada, the US, Germany and Sweden – among the various chapters that have benefitted from your generosity – I thank you.

And thanks also to Steph for volunteering to come in to help out on the phones yesterday and for telling the old man who gave $500: “Atta boy!” .

Sorry you had no time to knit, though…


That’s me in the back and Joe’s sister Kelly in the front. We are taking donations at a thousand miles an hour… If you are not Lene you may click


for a very harlot photo. Me, my knitting, the phone and a coffee. As is always the case in Harlotville…please excuse my hair. (Note: No descriptive discussion of the item in the photo will be allowed in today’s comments. The item in question is a present for Lene. You may say things like “very nice” but you should make every attempt to not blow the surprise. You may feel free to torture Lene with hints that do everything but blow the surprise.)

– Taking Ben’s suggestion to heart…the lovely and ever so clever Abby has made us a new button. Giddy up.


Steal the “Yarn Diet For Charity” one she has going on at her house if you are so inclined. It’s beautiful. As the mayor of Harlotville, I declare button making Abby’s superpower. In honour of Abby’s superpower, we will all save the buttons to our own servers, right?

My Your Mittaines Sans Frontiers have borders!


Good looking borders if I dare say so myself. The time has come to decide on a palm pattern. Here in Harlotville we have choices. A) Pinstrips. Never gets old. B) Something else, maybe dots. The stripes are totally getting old. C) Anything but the stripes. You always knit the stripes. Let the stripes go and move on with your life.

-Harlotville has the nicest neighbours. Have you seen Sandy’s mittens? Go look. I’ll wait here and think about stripes. Beautiful, yes? Despite the trouble that Sandy is having with these mittens and their roaming thumbs, she will finish them and when she does? They will be yours. Sandy has graciously donated the mittens to a random donor. Lucky people.

-Harlotville, with it’s fine neighbours also has an awesome postal service.

Look what Mia sent me


Lovely Mia! Very beautiful hats, and well knit! Mia tucked some chocolate into the hats…but, er….I can’t show you that right now ever. Mia…the pink one doesn’t even look very phallic on me. Well done!

-Harlotville continues to have accurate media. While news agencies continue to report that MSF “doesn’t need more money” MSF (like the Red Cross) continues accepting donations to their general emergency fund, sends relief to Aceh, Sumatra, aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, and begs you not to forget about the places that aren’t in the spotlight where suffering meets….and exceeds the losses to the tsunami.

Read about Northern Uganda, where there are more than 1.6 million displaced persons, the deaths rate is surreal, and 20 000 children have been abducted. Ben writes:

We think of the psychological impact of losing family members to a natural disaster but imagine the impact of being forced to execute some of your family members and then being abducted and made part of a crazy child army. Think about the people who wait nightly for a possible attack from this “Lord’s Resistance Army” and leave their villages to hide in towns where they hope to be protected.

This is ongoing. This is every day…and no-one knows.

Harlotville cares. Call MSF. Maybe I’ll answer the phone.


I am simply without words. (You may all take a moment now to ponder the magnitude of that statement.)

Look at the total donations to MSF. I can scarcely breathe I am so overwhelmed with the kindness and decency of all of you. The total can only grow too…since this does not even begin to cover the donations made by those of you who are taking the Harlot MSF Challenge for the week. I’m going to have to have a lie down when you break $10 000. I applaud each and every single one of you.

The MSF (Mitaines Sans Frontiers) are apparently taking their name a little too seriously.


Last night I cast on the first braid. (Yes. Multiple braids. Look at the total. It’s the least I can do.) I worked the yarn-twisting lunacy of the first row, then began the row that slants in the opposite direction. Halfway around the second row, I glanced down and noticed that I was no longer making braid, but instead some sort of very clever multiple row latvian twisty looking thing. I looked back at the beginning…fine. Checked my second row…the trouble started about halfway around the second row.

The first row of the braid goes like this ///// ,

the second…like this \\\\\\\

when you stack them, you get this >>>>> .

Get it?

Unfortunately it turns out that I am a stark raving moron with no right to be knitting, and a shame to decent latvians everywhere. (They will hear my name and spit in the dust.) What I did, was this:

For the fist half of the first row I did this ///////////

For the middle, .I did this \\\\\\\\\\\\

Then, having suffered what I can only surmise must have been some sort of knitting seizure…I reverted to this //////////

This means that when I went on to knit the second round…the charming little Latvian Braids came out like this. >>>>>>>////////////>>>>>>

Thusly, the Borders of the MSF were screwed beyond all recognition and I ripped it out with an appropriate use of expletives. I think is time to learn to swear in Latvian.


Questions from the comments yesterday…

Question: Nanette lives in Atlanta, and she asks….”How about knitting a Latvian bikini?”

Answer: Nanette…with all due respect and the utmost of love and concern for you and all you love….NO. (I don’t know what is says about me that I actually spent some time last night thinking about how I would do the crotch. Don’t let me start.)

Question: Natasha says “If they’re to be Mitaines Sans Frontiers shouldn’t they be more than just Latvian?”

Answer: See above – and are you people trying to kill me? Is it not clear to you that my sanity is a fragile little thing to be tenderly protected from this sort of dare?

Question: Kelly asks “When is the deadline for this?”

Answer: I’ll keep the tally going in the sidebar until the Mittens are done. Clearly, you have some time.

Question: Debs asks ” Are you looking into any organizations that would take donations of knit items?? ie, socks, blankets, etc??”

Answer: Not right now…but thanks for reminding me to tell you that the current deadline for getting items to Afghans for Afghans is Jan 16th. (Thanks Sue…for the heads up)

Question: What’s up with MSF not taking Pfizers money?

Answer: It’s not just Pfizer. It’s an issue of MSF remaining independent and free of a conflict of interest. They do not accept money from any company that manufactures drugs, alcohol or tobacco. It’s a question of medical ethics, and one that I think is honourable.

Question: How come MSF is saying they don’t want any more money?

Answer: HOLY CRAP. Where did you get that? While MSF has indicated that Donations designated strictly for Tsunami relief are no longer appropriate, the thought that they don’t want your money is….well, desperately wrong. The problem with donations made for a specific cause is that they MUST be used for that cause. If the time comes when the money is not needed or cannot be absorbed by the community or relief agency it cannot be diverted to other causes.

Ben writes (thanks Ben)

The generosity of people worldwide has been amazing. As of this

morning, MSF had raised close to $67 million (Canadian) worldwide during

the past week and the number will continue to rise. As pointed out by

some of your readers, MSF is now asking people to donate to our

emergency fund so that we can direct surplus funds to forgotten

emergencies …where the humanitarian situation is horrific but CNN, CBC and ITN

are never seen with their cameras. Two weeks ago I was in Ivory Coast

and saw that some NGOs had left due to lack of funding. Back in April,

I saw the same in Sierra Leone. There is nothing like being in a

feeding centre (belonging to Action Against Hunger) with sixty kids

under five and in various states of malnutrition receiving supplementary

feeding and knowing that the project was to close down the next month

due to lack of funding – just as the post rainy season “hunger gap” was

about to start. Western governments did not want to fund the project,

believing that Sierra Leone was at peace. Never mind that it was a

recent, fragile kind of peace. Also, there were no TV cameras to create

public pressure for them to act.

So believe me when I say that surplus money coming to MSF will go to

worthy projects. In fact, I have a real problem with organizations

still voraciously fundraising when – like in Rwanda in 1994 – it may

take them years or decades to spend it. People’s generosity must not be

abused and this is why MSF is taking such a seemingly strange position

on tsunami donations.

Remember, this is a fundraiser for MSF. We don’t want to limit their ability to help people. MSF is an experienced relief organization. They won the Nobel Peace Prize, for crying out loud. I trust them to make good with the money. Would it really be so bad if they spent some of your money on the next Tsunami? Or earthquake? Or famine? Or in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Ben writes again:

One estimate is that 31,000 people die per month in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to man-made, not natural reasons. That means that every 5 months, DRC has the same death toll as the tsunami.

Read more here.

I’ve assured Ben that I can’t imagine people only being interested in reducing one kind of suffering. Dig deep. I’m going to try and get some borders on these mittens.

Needs and wants

Things are a little different here at Chez Harlot today. With the recent nightmare of events in South-East Asia I thought it was time for me to try and make a small difference.

Meet Ben Chapman.


Ben is the Director of Human Resources for MSF Canada. He’s also a pretty decent brother-in-law with the good sense to have feet a little on the smallish side. Ben’s wearing his Christmas present socks here, known to all of you as December’s computer socks.


Ben’s life freaks me out. Ben has saved lives before he finishes his coffee in the morning. While I knit in my cozy home all December, Ben woke each morning in the Ivory Coast. He missed his wife and daughters, and they missed him. Ben and MSF (Doctors without borders) attempt to bring medical attention, human rights and a voice to parts of the world that know suffering beyond what you can imagine. They are without religious affiliation and remain completely impartial. MSF is the Harlot family charity of choice and in the wake of the tsunami I can think of no better way to start the new year than with compassion and simple human concern extended to those that need it most.

By any North American standard, I am not a wealthy woman. Still, there has never been a day that I went hungry or wondered where I would put my kids to bed. I choose between my clothing in the morning and at least once a week I throw away food that went bad before we could eat it, buying fresh without even feeling a pang of decadence. I have never wanted for anything more than “more” of what I already have. I am…to most of the people that the tsunami effected, obscenely wealthy…

As are you.

Here then is My MSF Challenge. For one week do this:

1. Each and every time you think about buying something…ask yourself if it is a need (food, water, shelter, medicine or safety) or a want. Be honest. Yarn is not (sob) necessary. Latte’s are not necessary. A seventh pair of shoes? Fabulous pair of new jeans? Eating out? Could you skip a haircut? Search yourself and ask, do I need this, or would the money be better spent on someone whose home, or village…or children, were just completely swept away.

2. At the end of the week (or sooner…if you don’t need that much time to think about it) Donate the amount of money that you didn’t need to MSF. There should be no reason why every single person who reads this blog can’t find at least a dollar.

MSF Canada (The government is matching donations)

MSF United States

MSF International

3. After you donate, email me the amount of your donation (my address is in sidebar on the right), your name and email. I don’t care how much your donation is and I don’t need any proof that you made the donation. (I believe that that planet would smite you for lying about this sort of thing) I’d like to know the amount that you gave only so I can keep a running tally in the sidebar. I’ll know that whatever you give is your best effort, given your unique circumstances.

4. I’ll keep a list of the contributors while I knit my next project…MSF


Mittens Sans Frontiers. (Mittens Without Borders)

When they are finished (they will be Latvian and they will have braids) I’ll draw a name from the generous souls who gave to MSF and helped Ben save lives, and I’ll mail them the mittens.

Who’s in?