We are a simple people

Yesterday I sat on the couch and knit a scarf. Last night Ken sat on the couch and knit a scarf. Beginning to end, maybe 2 hours apiece. This is mine and not his,


but dude, it was a fast, wickedly quick stocking stuffer. If you’re feeling like maybe all this Christmas knitting is getting you down, do one of these. They aren’t all that slick, but it gives you a wool buzz that lasts for hours.

Someone will ask me, I know they will (Now, you know that I would usually mock anyone who couldn’t figure this out, but I understand that with mere days to go you may be drunk and hostile rushing, and that there is little time for useful thought, so I will forgive you for not taking the time to sort your own garter stitch scarf out. Do not expect this sort of lassitude in June, when if you ask me for the exact same thing I shall laugh and laugh and deny you cake.) so here is the pattern, such as it is.

Bulky wool, about 120 metres, (or a combination of yarns that give you bulky, like 3 strands of worsted held together) size 8mm circular needle. (Get a long one, maybe 80cm.)

Gauge: Seriously? It’s a scarf…how will it not fit? What could happen? I mean for the love of…. 8 stitches to 4 inches.

Cast on 120 stitches (loosely) and leave the tail hanging. Knit a row, and when you get to the end, leave a long loop hanging. A loop as long as you would like your fringe to be. Knit 20 rows total, then cast of loosely (I am serious about the looseness) and cut your loops to make fringe, snug up the ends and tie two strands of the hanging ends together in an overhand knot, all the way across.


To make stripes, begin and end new colours at will, leaving the ends hanging as you go.

When you are done, block the whole thing by wetting it and then giving it a nice tug and hanging it to dry. It will likely grow a fair bit at that point. Mine did, coming in at about 170cm (66 inches) excluding fringe when it was dry.

There are better other scarves like this here, here and here. Go nuts. Two hours, one present.

While Ken was knitting his version I kept bugging him. “Isn’t it fast? Isn’t it funny? Isn’t it cracking you up? Ken? Ken?” and Ken (who really loves it when he comes over and I not only force him to knit things but also harass him while he does so) did concede that he was having a pretty good time and that it was holding his interest because (get this) the slight variegation in the yarn made it “interesting to watch”.

I agreed (somehow) that it was sort of intriguing to see it change from light blue to dark blue to medium blue to dark again….and that I too had found it gripping.


We are a simple people.

Blanket race:

Days: 14

Balls of yarn knit up: 13 (yes. I’m a day behind, but I knit a scarf…)

Balls of yarn left to go: 6

Babies weights: Just a smidge above birth-weight

Mood: Well… did I mention I made a scarf!

Finally, for Carole, Carol, Patti, Tree and Lora all of whom felt it necesarry to point out that they were finished their gift knitting in the comments yesterday…..The rest of us would like your addresses.

We’re just going to come over and force you to knit presents for our families until you weep tears and admit that adequate planning, foresight, intelligence and normal human reason just aren’t worth it bring you some cookies.

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.

Among my people

Last night was wonderful. The launch was great, the people were smashing the knitting was brilliant (Theirs, not mine..) and an all round a good time was had by all, even me…though my standards are low. (I just want to get through the talking without throwing up.)

My most sincere thanks to everyone who came out to show their support. I am very grateful.

For years I’ve been taking heat from the family (both extended and immediate) about perhaps having a little too much on the go at Christmas time. (This is perhaps an understatement. We shall gloss over it.) Last night I was afforded a rare opportunity for illustration.

I pointed out to the attendees that my entire family was present. Joe, the girls, my mum, Ian, Ali, Erin, the in-laws….and that they think I’m out of my mind. (Again, largely an understatement, again we shall gloss over.) I asked all the knitters in the room to stand. (This alone straightened out some misconceptions.) I asked anyone who was knitting for Christmas to stay standing. Then I asked anyone who was going to be in a bit of a pinch to stay standing….

finally, I asked that anyone who knew that they could never finish what they were already making on time, but had just added another project to the list despite that, to stay standing.


Yo. Peeps.

I felt quite vindicated and normalized. Look how many of the knitters are going to experience “IT”. Very reassuring. My mum pointed out later that proving that all of your friends are lunatics does not prove that you are not one…but I care nothing for her logic. The point was (and I do have one) that last night, people determined to express their love in wool outnumbered the members of my family who have suggested I am whacked, and I have a photo to prove it.

While I don’t ususally do meme’s, Scout tagged me with one I quite like and it fits in with what I’ll be doing today. Today I have no book to write, no launch to fuss for, no speech to prepare, no interviews to do, no plane to catch…today I am officially on vacation and will be remaining in largely this spot until Christmas.


I’m so ready.

And the goat has it.

That was a complete bust. I don’t know what happened to yesterday, but clearly the fumes got to me or something.

I spent the better part of the day alternately spinning, plying and attempting to disperse the olfactory nightmare I was generating at the same time. I decided, in my infinite wisdom (I hate myself) that the smart thing to do would be to do all of the spinning and plying and then wash it all at once. (This conclusion was reached after mightily polluting my home for a second time with the second skein. I swear that it’s the fumes. Who does that? ) The smell off of the unwashed skeins and roving last night was enough that we could not eat in the same room with it. (“Mummy? Why does this dinner taste like jet fuel?”) and when I finally came to my senses around 10pm, this is what I had.


Two skeins, washed but still fetid. I thought yesterday that they were ok, but it turns out that they are only ok by comparison. They smell way, way better than the unwashed skeins, but still appalling compared to, say ….the great dancing monkey king rutting with his armpits full of cheese.


Two bobbins full of plyed yarn that I cannot bear to touch since it took me about nineteen handwashes to get the smell of me yesterday enough that I could sleep with myself. (Joe, for the record, said nothing. This is because he is smart and perhaps, a little bit afraid.)


This much roving, unspun. I don’t know what to do.

I think the goat just ripped me off for a day of Christmas knitting. (I cannot believe it. It makes me short of breath to think of it.) Clearly, this roving/yarn/odour from the gates of everlasting fire needs a longer term plan. While I remain confident that one of the de-stinkers from the comments yesterday will work, (the goat will not win) the question remains (and I am really proud of the maturity I am showing here) can it be de-stunk before Christmas, and should I be wasting precious knitting time melting down about it now? I think not. I shall leave it for last, deal with it if there is time and buy the recipient a book if their gift still smells like the six day old crap of wild tree elves a few days before C-day. Let us speak of this no longer. I have already lost an entire day to my own stupidity and I choose to blame the redolent asian goat sent to vex me.

Tonight is the launch, and I have not yet written the speech (Don’t look at me like that. I tried, but there was this goat… ) I’m very, very afraid. Very. Luckily, it’s two weeks until Christmas (sorry, sorry…didn’t mean to freak anybody out. More like three weeks. Definitely.) and that aught to keep the numbers down. There can’t be that many knitters who are willing to take time off knitting to put on pants to come to this thing. This means I’m going to be pretty impressed (and grateful) with anyone who comes, understanding of those who don’t, and that when I melt down, speechless and smelling ever so slightly of mature goat, I shouldn’t be embarrassed in front of very many knitters. (This close to Christmas you have to have to keep your priorities straight. ) I will, by the way…bring some of the pins with me. A donation of $2 or better gets ya one. (Now that the book is done, I’ll be getting back on making the pins out to the rest of you.)

Finally, to make you feel like crap inspire you,


Elizabeth in Callifornia knit my snowdrop shawl pattern. She is sixteen years old.


Clearly, we are all slackers she is destined for great things. Way to go Elizabeth! We’re all really wondering why our own teenagers aren’t knitting shawls proud of you.

I’m going to go try to wash the lingering bouquet of goat off me before the launch, write a speech and if I see you tonight, pardon the twitch. There was this goat…

Odeur De Chèvre

Tuesdays are for spinning are back here chez Harlot, now that the book is finished and the whole world of possibilities leaps in front of me. My time is my own again (well, except for writing a Christmassy speech to give at the Launch tomorrow, the absolutely disgusting condition of the house and the way I have an entire inbox full of email I haven’t answered.) and I’ve plunked myself in front of the wheel to begin the Christmas spinning that is the preamble to Christmas knitting. (Because you know, having 19 days to knit all this stuff somehow feels totally reasonable. Welcome to phase one. We shall be discussing “IT” tomorrow evening at the launch.)

I fetched up today’s roving,


which is the goat from Kazakhstan that Ben brought me back. This goat is what I shall henceforth refer to as “rustic”. You can see the guard hairs and if you were here, I assure you that you could smell the rustic. (I’ll never wonder again what a central asian goat smells like.) Now, despite being a fan of merino and silk and wonderful soft not-at-all-rustic fibres, I like this roving. It’s got character and I like knowing that it was made by a person, not a machine and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. It does mean though, that trying to spin it like it’s a commercial soft fibre is likely a pretty bad idea. I decided that the best thing to do with it was to embrace the rusticness, since goodness knows that the resulting yarn will need to be sort of tough, since it will probably have to be washed 478 times to get the unholy reek of goat off of it.

I chunky singles yarn seemed to be the answer, and I spun me a bobbin full. (If you’ve been spinning laceweight for a while, this just flies.)


Nice eh? I like it too, though the “odeur de chèvre” was amplified by the act of drafting and spinning. While it was darned nice, it isn’t a chunky weight. Maybe a worsted. This messed with my plan a little but I could still make it work. I thought about plying it to make it a chunky, but I thought it would then be too thick. I put it on my niddy noddy,


and went into the kitchen to steam it to set the twist.

I held it over the steaming kettle and the second that the hot moist air hit it…two things happened pretty much simultaneously. First, the fibre relaxed and became inexplicably thinner…and secondly, the smell that came off the goat just about gassed me into merciful unconsciousness.

I reeled and choked, my hair uncurled while my eyes watered. The cat came rushing in to see what herd of livestock was stampeding through the kitchen and stood there screeching hostile meows as I attempted to stay on my feet holding the singles in the steam. The malodorous funk that came off of the fibre was so potent that I swear to you that it just about had a texture and a colour.

I panicked. I turned around, filled the sink with hot water and lemon dishsoap and tossed the skein in at an arms length. The singles sank below the water emitting a cloud of citrus scented goat stink that will probably linger in the house for months. (Can you imagine? All of my visitors sort of coming in, breathing the air and then frowning a little while wondering what the (*&^! Joe and I do with pet goats in our spare time.) I sat on the floor.

Then I opened a window. Then I opened all of the windows and turned on the stove exhaust fan. Then I left.

When I returned, the water in the sink was the exact colour of tea that you left in the pot for 16 days, complete with an iridescent slick of perplexing and noxious oil floating across the surface. I emptied the sink and washed it again.

Four washes later the cat lost interest and I decided to risk breathing through my nose. It smells better, though still a little whiffy. (I dried it outside, after a friend snatched me back from the edge of disaster. She called as I was about to put it on a heating vent. That would have been something to smell. I bet my neighbours would have called.)


The only issue now is that the yarn was apparently so embedded with dirt that having been washed, what was a worsted weight is now not even sport. It’s like it was 50% SMELL by volume. There isn’t enough of the roving (I have no idea how I will get through washing the next lot) to just throw this away, so I need a plan to salvage it.

Can I re-spin, add twist and then ply? Can I rent a gas mask?

(Can I really give this to someone for Christmas?)

Blanket Race:


Days: 7

Balls of yarn knit up: 6.5 (I know. I’m falling behind. I was distracted by the reek of wild goats in my freaking kitchen.)

Balls left to go: 12.5

Babies weights: They have each gained 40g

Mood: Pretty good. You don’t think the goat smell got on the blankets do you?

Pass the lysol!

I am so happy, so overwhelmed with glee and delight and simple unmitigated joy that I cleaned the kitchen floor. (I know. I’m not sure about my reaction either, I think I was so happy that I wasn’t even making sense.)

Happy thing the first:


Monty is getting bigger and fatter and is a pretty good baby. Monty is seen here wearing the better hat promised to him on the day of his birth and provided generously by Sarah. I think (considering the limited range of purposeful expression that three week old babies have, that he looks delighted.) Sorry for the odd angle, he wasn’t really into being laid down for a picture.

Happy thing the second:

Megan knit a hat,


all by herself, using this book and her wits. It’s the first really wearable piece of knitting she’s turned out (though she did alter the pattern a bit, which I think may be genetic.) and I’m feeling proud.

Happy thing the third:

Socks That Rock, do.


I love this yarn. Pattern, the feather and fan socks that Cassie loves, from Socks, Socks, Socks, colourway….forgotten. The only bad news about these socks is that I think I might be addicted to this yarn, and I don’t think I can get it in Canada. Brutal. I may need a hook-up.


Happy thing the fourth:

Blanket race

Days: 6

Balls of yarn knit up: 6 (almost. I’ve got a 1/4 ball left in one but I’m having such a great day I’m going to overlook that.)

Balls left to go: 13

Babies weights: I dunno, but they sure are cute.

Mood: I’m still having a good time, although I did sort of notice how long a ball of yarn was last night. Yarn is, (for those of you who asked) Mission Falls 1824 Wool. (Discontinued…get it while you can.) and the patterns for the blankets are…well. I’ll tell you tomorrow when I can look it up. I’m to happy for research.

Happy thing the fifth:

Amanda has a boyfriend. (That really isn’t the happy part, though I suppose that at sixteen and a half I had to accept that it was sort of inevitable that she would take up with a boy sooner or later.) The happy part is this…


Yup. When he duly reported here for reasons of parental examination, Amanda taught him to knit. I don’t know why he did it (He’s either actually interested or an Eddie Haskall type) but either way I think I speak for mothers of teenaged daughters everywhere when I say that I’m all for anything that keeps his hands busy.

Happy thing the sixth:

Dude. I finished the book. Bookbookbook III is sitting with my editor and I feel so light and happy that I sometimes giggle a little bit when I think of it. I could dance. (I did dance.) It’s good that I finished it before the caffeine intake killed me. (Link a generous heads-up from Ilsa, who was clearly concerned I was walking a little close to the edge.) I finished it, hit send, laughed out loud and then thought…

Holy crap. The Christmas knitting.

An Invitation.

It is with enormous pride and satisfaction (as well as an impending sense of doom – which I’m learning is normal, at least for me) that I invite anyone who can make their way to Toronto to the Official Launch for Bookboookbook II – Aka: Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter. (Am I the only one who thinks that might be the first time I’ve typed the real title on this blog? I sometimes think about how twitchy it must make the publisher that we call it Bookbookbook II. How my complete failure to “stay on message” and lack of interest in mentioning the title as often as possible must make them want to lie their heads down on their desks for a little bit.)

Wednesday, December 7th, 6:00pm at the Textile Museum of Canada. Cocktail party, Launch and generally big deal (well, for me) and knitting gala. (I’ve always wanted to write “Knitting Gala”. So it is one, but you can still wear jeans.) Spread the word, bring a friend…bring your knitting.

A couple of notes.

– I know 6 is early. I know about the TTC and the Traffic and the thing with the guy. Do your best…we’ll wait for you. (That’s a lie. We’ll wait for my mother but she isn’t off work until 6 so I don’t know when we’ll start, but unless that’s the day my mum learns to teleport…I assure you that we will be shmoozing for at least 15 minutes before I talk. At least. If you feel you will require more time, please contact my mother, I have it on good authority that she can be as late as you need her to be.

– I will talk. I will talk and I will read from the book…or so they tell me. I havn’t figured out what I’ll say yet, but it will probably have something to do with knitting. I had a dream last night that everyone at the launch was naked and I had to knit you all clothes before I could give the speech. I was crying and knitting and all of the tape measures were gone and they kept yelling “now! now! People are waiting!” and it was awful.

I woke up this morning and realized that I may have some stress about the talking. That’s good for people who come to see me…since even if I suck it will be entertaining to see me sob helplessly and get all sweaty.

– The gift shop will have both books and I’ll sign both books so if you were trying to think of some sort of Christmas gift for a knitter, one of these books could totally get you out of giving them some yarn.

– I don’t know what “Cocktail Party” means…but I think you could get a drink. Pretty sure. Last time people got free wine.

-The Textile museum says that it costs money to get in, but that’s a lie. There’s no charge to come to the launch since admission is free after 5pm and the launch is at 6. If you show up at noon they’re going to charge you, but that seems fair.

Anything else? I hope I see anyone who can make it there. It’s a wonderful day for me, and the only day I feel like I’m allowed to be very proud of a book I really like…and I can’t wait to share my celebration with you. (I bet there will be an afterparty too. Joe’s big on the afterparties.)

The Blanket Race:


There’s my ball of yarn for yesterday. I decided to swap between the two blankets, partly so that they will be done at about the same time (just in case there’s any mojo in it.) and partly to attempt to make it a little more interesting in a probably futile an attempt to keep myself focussed on them so I don’t wander off. I’m keeping a little scorecard to try and motivate myself. I’m trying to race the babies for home, but they are so healthy that I think they might be allowed to go before they are 5lbs, and that (while their mother would be thrilled) is not helpful to their local knitter. Therefore, I have revised my plan to simply knit the two blankies ASAP and hope they are wrapped in them soon.

Days: 3

Balls of yarn knit up: 3

Balls left to go: 16

Babies weights: Morgan: 4lb and Liam: 4lbs 3oz.

Mood: I can totally do it. This and Christmas knitting too. It’s like my hands are a blur. Stand back so you don’t get hit with flying lint.

Yee haw.

The end of a perfect record.

My dear friend Lene had an incredible day yesterday. In mere minutes she was catapulted into the rich, varied and wonderful class of “eccentric aunt”. In fact, because she is Danish – she will be more than any ordinary aunt and will receive the title of “Moster”.(I don’t know for sure, but I would be willing to bet you a dollar and a bar of organic chocolate that in her secret “english as a second language” heart Lene celebrates how much that sounds like “monster”.)

“Moster” means “sister of the mother” and it’s very special – anyone can be your aunt (and given the way Lene’s mother adopts strays…these children will have many aunties), but they will only have one Moster Lene, and at present she is delirious with joy. She would have been merely thrilled to freakin’ death…but she got doubles. Liam and Morgan, a boy and a girl, (born seven weeks early but healthy and strong) arrived yesterday and you can see pictures and send good wishes to all parties concerned at Lene’s blog.

Which brings us (naturally) to the knitting for said babies and the fact that it is not finished. At all.


Whoops. There’s two blankets and two dales and ….they are not finished. I’ve espoused the theory several times that babies do not come until I have finished their knitting, so this is unprecedented, and frankly (since it would appear that I am drunk on my own apparently unproven knitterly power and ability to guide the universe with my knitting) confusing. This is the first time EVER that a baby has beaten me. (Is it wrong that I’m slightly vindicated by thinking that it took premature twins to take me down?)


This is Morgan’s Dale. As I mentioned yesterday it’s a Dale of Norway, “Voss” from “Soft Treasures for little ones”. (Very much a favourite book) knit from Baby Ull (a favourite yarn, superwash but doesn’t feel like it – it’s not flaccid like superwash so often is.)

Morgan’s dale has two sleeves and about 1/2 of the body…which is not bad, especially since Morgan currently weighs 1810 grams (about 4lbs) and is a little ways off of the Dale of Norway sizing chart. Liam’s dale is…well.


Ok. So I need to get that one going. On the upside, lest ye think that I am not doing something for Liam…this is his baby blanket.


It’s a joint project between Ken and I. Ken knit the diagonal garter stitch middles, and I’m bordering them. We have no pattern, we’re just faking it. Morgan gets a blanket too…


but only Ken’s part is done on this one.

I’m trying to figure out what this means to the deadline. Clearly, since my knitting schedule did not divine their birth, what does it divine? (The theory that my knitting does not rule the world and fates in any way has really not occurred to me.) I’ve decided that the blankets (I can let go of the sweaters…it will be a while before they fit) need to be finished before Liam and Morgan go home, and I’m trying not to believe that perhaps I don’t control when babies are born, but when they go home? In any event, there is this much wool to knit up before they will be wrapped in these for their trip..


which should happen when they are about 2250g (5lbs). I’ve seen this family eat…and I don’t think that’s going to take very long, so I’m going to haul arse on it. Please. Not one word about what this does to the Christmas knitting schedule. I am fully aware that this is the first of December and that Christmas is the 25th. Also not one word from a smartypants who feels compelled to point out that I’m talking about knitting up 1250 metres of wool faster than a set of twins can gain about a pound apiece. (Let’s see…babies doing well can gain between 4-8oz a week…let’s say they don’t start to gain for a couple of days, then gain at an average rate, 16 ounces to a pound… I’ve probably got about 2-3 weeks. That means that I have to knit at least a whole ball a day just to beat them home…never mind the sweaters…

Holy crap. I will I’ll flip out tomorrow. (Flip out might actually be a minor reaction. This may call for actually blowing a gasket or something.) Today there are twins, and I’ll be busy knitting love, welcome and good luck into their blankets. (Quickly.)