A tree in the house

There is a tree in the house (and cookies in the oven.) This can only mean one thing.



(Well, apparently it also means that now I may pose knitting among shrubbery without venturing outside, but that’s a lesser point. Seen here among the branches is a Christmas sock, not nearly done enough. It’s “Lana Grossa Meilenweit Multiringel” for those of you who are about to ask. Colour # 5040.)

The greater point is that NOW is the time. People just don’t go and put great big honking needle dropping trees in the middle of their living rooms for no reason at all. It means that Christmas is soon and that you need to move. Wrap something. Bake something. Knit something. Move. Go Now.

Still here? Er, me too…but then again, I like to live on the edge. I like to live so much on the edge, that I spent friday doing a dye job on some old Lion Brand Van Gogh yarn that I had.


(What? Isn’t that what you would do if there was only 14 days until Christmas? Waste a knitting day on dyeing some yarn a better colour? You know you would.) This is one 28g bottle of blue food dye on 400g of wool. (It was an impulse. I was on the phone with That Laurie, complaining about my plain wool. She suggested dying and I said that I didn’t have any dye and she said “I bet you do”. She was right. Good thing I found the food dye or I have no idea where she would have gone with that. The woman is a force.)


The yarn is very pretty now, and I was really quite pleased with myself until I found that I had only dyed two of the three skeins.

I was going to be upset (this is a sign of maturity in me. See that? I was *going to be* upset) and now I have become very happy with the idea of stripes.

Loving the stripes. (Flexibility is very important with only 13 knitting days until Christmas. See that? More maturity. Don’t get used to it.)

I’m being brief today (aforementioned cookies in the oven) but wanted to thank a bunch of you. I got this wonderful surprise in the mail.


It’s a beautiful blanket, the brainchild of Kathy B. (Last name withheld to protect her internet privacy) but knit on by too many to list. I’m not usually sappy and certainly not the type to go weeping over my mail but this blanket was made by these wonderful knitters as an expression of sympathy for the loss of Janine, and it did move me. The blanket came with a wonderful letter bearing an explanation (The grey is for walruses and pussywilows) and so much thought went into it that I am amazed. It is a hard thing, getting ready for Christmas without figuring out what to make Neen and knowing that she won’t dance with us this holiday, but this does comfort me. That it is comforting came as the biggest surprise. Grief is so private and intimate that I would have thought that nothing much could help…but it is a warm reassurance in a difficult year to learn that the good wishes and warm thoughts of knitters who are strangers to me could bring a little peace to this Christmas.

Many thanks.

49 thoughts on “A tree in the house

  1. I would totally dye wool just before Xmas; you know I would.
    The blanket is beautiful! What a wonderful thing to do.
    Back to IT.

  2. You can dye wool with food colouring??? I have a hank of Knitpicks dye your own sock yarn that I am really looking forward to playing with, and there are many cool food colourings out there….hmmmm…. *rubs hands together thoughtfully*….
    The blanket is absolutely beautiful.

  3. There was a momentary pang of, if only I could have gotten a few stitches in on it, too, had I had any idea. I’d been thinking of Janine and what it must be like right now. What I wouldn’t have given to participate. What a wonderful gift. The peace of the season to those good knitters, and to you and yours and Janine’s.

  4. What a wonderful blanket. Thank you, Kathy B., and all who participated in this beautiful gift to comfort our friend Stephanie. A toast and good wishes to you all!

  5. A beautiful blanket, indeed.
    Of course I would. Just as I would and did schlep the entire family to Nowheresville, MA to acquire 40+ pounds of free raw fleece, because the (roughly) 30 pounds of roving/fleece I already have, having bought and paid for it, is not enough, especially since I also have a SABLE of actual yarn. Because I needed to do this when I could have been working on the holiday knitting. (DH made me drive. No, I cannot knit while driving at 55 mph.)

  6. What a wonderful thing for your friends to do.
    I would totally take a day to dye some yarn. There is no deadline. What deadline?

  7. The thing with grief is, you have to take comfort where you can find it. And sometimes you find it in the least expected of places. The blanket is wonderful and I hope it brings you comfort for a long, long time.
    On a less serious note, MY Christmas knitting is done. Neener, neener, neener.

  8. Beautiful blanket and a beautiful tribute.
    My gift knitting seems to grow by the hour, but after dad’s mittens are done it is memememememe.

  9. I’d say this is scarey, but it’s past that and I’m laughing too hard. One of my two reamaining not-sufficiently-complete gift socks is that exact yarn, just past the heel turn — but in the Feather and Fan pattern instead. Thought you’d been into my stash.
    Where it really leaves earth’s gravitational field is that I’m late in reading you today, having spent the day with my enablers on the faculty of the Art Institute. Doing what? Dying yarn, of course. Multicolored. For scarves. Which aren’t Christmas presents.
    Sing it with me,
    thirteen days
    and “I’m Still Standing!”

  10. THATS MY MOMMY…..i don’t want to take away from Stephanie and her loss but i am so proud of my mommy for taking her muse by the hand and running with her for the good and comfort of another. I know her personally (good thing eh?) to be afraid to follow her creativity, however it is truly amazing how someones gesture, be it small or large can shift your whole outlook on life. My mother constantly inspires me to reach out and hug all those around me, doing whatever i can to put them first. My mother is the most amazing person i know, and i am not being bias or her daughter, i’m saying this as a person who has experienced her love and kindness first hand and how she touches everyone around her. Stephanie may this blanket warm you when the cold memories slip in and know that many people care about you. Also please ask my mom sometime about the “hugs for harlot” story 🙂 quite a laugh!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, good luck with everything. Please remember that everything you do DOES NOT go unappreciated, it wouldn�t be the holidays at all without your hard work and hair pulling. Thank you!!!

  11. Beautiful blanket! It simply reinforces my thought that knitters are warm.loving people.
    I wouldn’t dye yarn this close to Christmas…but only because that’s something I haven’t attempted yet (you see, I’m new to knitting). But last night I decided to “play around” with 2 yarns to make a scarf…and tonight I thought of yet another thing I should make for a Christmas present.
    I say 13 (or 14 or however many) days is PLENTY of time!!

  12. The blanket is wonderful. I know how strange it is to have a family celebration without a special family member there. You will look around, knowing she will be standing there, but she won’t, except that because you thought of her she will be there. I hope that made at least a little sense…
    On a lighter note, I would so try to dye something if I had it around. You might also take comfort in knowing that you are ahead of some people who not only do not have cookies in the oven I (I mean somebody) hasn’t even gone shopping for the ingredients yet!
    To Lucia: knitting while going 75 is possible when driving thru Nebraska. On something really simple, when nobody is looking, don’t ask how I know.
    To Rams: I love the Art Institute, esp the Thorne rooms, since I also make minis….talk about a place of inspiration!

  13. Lovely blanket, lovely sentiments. Wish I’d helped out with it but I guess being in Oz is a bit far away.
    I’ve got knitting pressure too – I ahve to send off stuff by the end of this week at the latest if it is to reach England for Christmas. And move house. Eeek!

  14. That’s an amazing blanket… and I love the collective stitching idea… and of course, it gives those of us who are shy about gift giving a little courage–Should I give this gift? I don’t care if I get one in return but will it seem wierd if I give a gift so someone I don’t know well? Who falls under my gift giving provence? Is there such a thing? Is there any such thing as an unwelcome gift? Will it seem too personal?– as a shy knitter, I waffle with these questions at least once a year… Thanks Steph, for helping us remember that honest and loving labor is always welcome…
    And Christmas? Don’t we have until January to get our gifts out? The 31st, right? I mean, this 25th thing is really just a guideline, right?

  15. Beautiful blanket, and kudos to the wonderful people who put it together for you and Janine. Someday, if you feel up to sharing the rest of the meaning of the blanket…
    And just one question… why are you wasting knitting time on cookies?

  16. You know, from a strictly theological perspective, the actual ‘gift giving’ part of the first Christmas didn’t happen until the Three Kings arrived, and THAT didn’t happen until Epiphany, which is January 6th. Twelve days after Christmas. Twelve. Twelve extra knitting days. Almost doubles the time you think you have right now.
    Just sayin’.

  17. What a lovely blanket, and how thoughtful!
    … and I’m done with my holiday knitting too. Clearly I have not fully latched on to the mania that’s promulgated here. 😉

  18. I am so sorry for your loss – while I’m usually an avid knitter I missed your blog entry sharing that with us.
    I am writing for some help as I have my first grand child (a little girl) and her sweet mother struggling for their lives half a world away (Japan). I am stricken by overwhelming grief and can’t even think about Christmas anymore. Could you please recommend something to knit for an intermediate knitter? I have to do something positive for this sweet baby girl and knit stitches in every prayer as I go.
    I’m sorry to impose on your time…any suggestions would be tremendously appreciated.
    Thank you and God bless,

  19. Wonderful blanket, wonderful friends. You are deeply loved by many, and I’m sure Neen was responsible for much of the terrific person you are.
    Love the new yarn color, and stripes…Perfect!

  20. So where are you up to on the baby blanket ball count? I’ve been keeping track and hoping that you
    got some balls knit up this past weekend. Go Stephanie Go!

  21. OMG awesome blue!! Was it paste food colour or the liquid goo? I am itching to try my hand at dying (and spinning and carding and all these new things I hadn’t ever thought of) and am anxious anxious anxious to get started! It’s what, 12 days til Christmas now?

  22. Score card to date: no tree, no cards sent, no cookies or jam made; but majority of xmas knitting is done, most of the other gift-purchasing is done, and I did wash my floor this weekend!
    Love, love, love the blanket… I’m glad it helps. Such a warm and wonderful gift.

  23. What a beautiful gesture that blanket is. So very thoughtful and caring. And your blue yarn is very bright and cheery. If you aren’t completely satisfied with the striping idea you could always go with a subtle color variation. Maybe die the white ball a different shade of blue. Either way I’m sure it will be beautiful!
    ~ Christina

  24. What a beautiful blanket, such a wonderful, loving and kind gesture. The ultimate compliment/gift. You so deserve it.

  25. That is a beautiful and kind tribute. I also am very sorry for your loss.
    And on a lighter note…. am sharing in your panic. My christmas socks, however, are at the heel of the *second* sock. I’m making my daughter “Ravenclaw” socks, because I’m a (dumbass) good mommy.

  26. Stunning blanket, and kudos to Kathy for the thought and sharing. What a wonderful tribute to Neen. (Who, by the way, will be with you this holiday – you’ll feel her, just as I know my Dad is with us).
    Panic now? I started a week ago – too much planned, too few hours. As Janine said to Erin, “Sleep is for pussies”!

  27. The blanket is wonderful. It is what all Christmas should be, a gift given from the heart to one who will understand it’s meaning and take comfort and joy from it. Friends known only online can do that for you, it’s been done for me too! (of course I got quilt blocks but the hearts gift is what it is.)
    And does that black cat think it owns that yarn or WHAT?? I can see “mine, mine, mine” all over that furry face!!
    oh and all my Christmas crocheting is done too!
    S’s Mom

  28. Does the food colouring run when you wash the yarn?
    (Should I not have asked that, this close to “IT”?)
    I’m three pairs of fuzzy feet, one hooded scarf and a Lady Hat away from total insanity. I salute you for even bothering with the cookies.

  29. The yarn IS very pretty. How colorfast(?)I wonder. The blanket is so beautiful. I would like to see it spread out. I have been knitting all my life but never this good.
    What a great expression of compassion and love. vj

  30. That blanket just gives me the “warm fuzzies”. Even though I did not participate in the knitting, I feel so fortunate to be part of a group that thinks like this.
    As far as IT, let’s just look at the scorecard…a scarf (not yet started), 3 felted baskets (have been through washer once), 2 more baskets to knit/felt, cookies/candy to make, maybe a pair of felted clogs (not started yet), 2 dishes-to-pass (over the next 2 days), gift wrapping (thank goodness for gift bags), decorate Mom’s house, organize some kind of family get together (dinner, brunch, who knows yet?), while working outside the home full-time. Yeah, we can do this (I think I can, I think I can…)!

  31. Stephanie,
    I never understood what you were talking about when you said “IT” until last night. My Hubby just purchased both of your books as a gift for our wedding anniversary and they arrived yesterday afternoon. I am almost finished with Yarn Harlot The Secret Life Of A Knitter.
    My favorite entries so far HAVE to be “What Her Hands Won’t Do” and “One Little Sock”. They had me in tears! Lets just say they touched me personally.
    Now, back to “IT”, I decided to knit for MYSELF this year! So, no crazy nights with no sleep, fogetting to take a shower, and drinking bottle after bottle of White Merlot this year ;o)
    (Running & hiding here)

  32. Love the cat and yarn shot. I’m a sucker for those. But my first thought, when I saw the yarn in the dye bath was “Intestines? Cold intestines??”

  33. Hi Stephanie and all other knitting crusaders out there… I just flew to New York from London for the first time….I was allowed to knit on the plane! A jolly good thing too because there are only 10 days to go until big cosy Christmas day and I loose 5 hours of knitting time when I fly home…I’m trying to finish a knitted landscape painting, it’s a scene I started in the summer, and I’m trying to knit cornfields while there’s snow outside! I’ve never posted a message on a knitting blog like this, because we don’t really have them in England!
    I’m here because I signing my first book “Knitorama” and I’ll be at Seaport Yarn tomorrow, if any of you would like to take tea with me and knit some cake?
    I run a knitting club called Cast Off in London, and I’m learning so much by reading your blogs.You are very supportive of each other,and the way you share your knitting stress! Knitters don’t do this in England. I love the way you have no time for people who say they have no time! I know that ALL these projects will get finished before Christmas. Why is it that when you really NEED to finish something for someone who really NEEDS what you are making, and there is no time at all, that time always comes from somewhere, and so do all those extra rows that you can’t believe you completed…Good luck to you all, We can all knit in our sleep!, Love Rachael xx

  34. I laughed out loud when I saw the picture of the 2 blue and 1 white balls of yarn. It made my day!

  35. One English knitter here wo gets lots of support and chat on the UK Hand knitters forum and reads English knitting blogs too.
    Steph love teh idea of using food dyes, I always ahve some going out of date in my cupboards, paste or liquid?

  36. What a wonderful gift! It’s a beautiful blanket, and so reassuring that we not only are capable of, but need to comfort each other.

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