Stuff that I am planning.

1. I am planning to finish Icarus. Miriam left a comment yesterday pointing out that perhaps I was being punished through the gansey for not finishing Icarus when I was so close to the end. Whether or not the planet is defending this one shawl is impossible to tell, but her point that I’ll see her Friday next when I’m in Salt Lake City (I’m so excited) is a good one. I can’t face her with fewer than 10 rows to go. It’s embarrassing.


I admit that I’m also enjoying knitting something that I haven’t screwed up. (Probably shouldn’t have said that.)


2. I am planning a right huge sized flip-out concerning the tremendous outlay of cash that it takes to get the girls back in school. The binders, paper, pens, scientific calculators…not to mention the activity fees, locker fees, student card fees…lab fees…

It’s seriously pinching the snot out of the budget. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that they are going back, and I’m really grateful that all I have to do is cut a whole bunch of corners to squeeze it out of the finances, but it’s a lot of money and it’s public school. Public school isn’t supposed to cost hundreds of dollars. You’re supposed to have paid for it with your taxes. What about the thousands of families using the TDSB who aren’t lucky enough to have a budget that can be squeezed? Their kid doesn’t get a text book? Their kid doesn’t get a binder, paper or calculator? That’s totally going to have them poised to rise above their parents poverty with education. Totally. (Sorry. Rant over. I’m going to buy some extra pens, paper and a binder and give it to the school for someone else. I shouldn’t have to though. Paying my taxes should take care of it. This country has a surplus economy and basic public education should be free, not pretending to be free.)

3. I am planning to order more of the Knit Picks Options needles. (As soon as the budget gives me that option. They are cheap, but they still cost money.)


I had ordered a couple of the pieces of the set, (a couple of tips, a couple of cables, and one set of dpn’s) and after I yanked the gansey off the needles I decided to put it onto the Knit Picks ones that had just arrived. Normally I wouldn’t switch needles mid-sweater, in case the different needle gave me different tension, but I was knitting the gansey on an Addi Turbo (love those needles) and the Options needles seemed similar enough. Now the gansey is back on the path to rightness, and I’m loving the needles. They improved on the only thing I’ve ever wished the Addi’s had, sharper tips. The Knit Picks ones are sharp enough to hurt yourself with. The only thing that I would have done differently when I ordered these was I would have gotten the storage thingie. The tips are sort of a pain to store. I’m going to loose a one of a set, or loose the little key thing or something. I can feel it.

3. I stumbled on a new Canadian mail order place, The Sweet Sheep. I am planning to give them an extraordinary amount of money for the “‘All things Heather” yarn in their shop just as soon as I can figure out how to do that and still pay for all the kids back to school stuff and….um…food. I would consider it a personal favour if someone would go over there and buy it all out from under me so I could stop trying to think about how much money I might be able to sell the cat for even though I have more yarn than I can knit. Thank you.

4. Further to this budget talk, I am planning to tear the new Knit Picks catalogue into tiny little shreds the moment it arrives and eat them all one by one until every dastardly shred of temptation is removed from my house. (Do NOT tell me about the KIP bags. DO NOT.)

5. I am planning to improve myself enough that I do not manage personal stress with the hunting and procurement of knitting paraphernalia and yarn. (Does trying to quit that give everyone a pain behind their right eye or is that just me?)

Un Knitting

Brace yourselves, it’s not good news. In a dreadful turn of events, both the gansey and the shawl took a swim in the frog pond this weekend.

Things were ok with the gansey. The gussets were coming along, the pattern was showing up nicely…it was all good. I even remember thinking that it was sort of incredible that it was going so well. It’s not really often that you just pick up a sweater and knit, especially one you’re designing on the fly.


I was surprised that the knitting fates could resist the urge to point out my failure to plan. (That sort of thing is usually irresistible to them, eh?) I knit merrily along and I made it all the way up to the end of the gussets before I figured it out. I decreased every other round instead of every third round. You can imagine what sort of difference having ONE THIRD more rounds makes to the length of the gussets…and to the sweater. This mistake is my least favourite kind. It’s one of the ones that are entirely my fault. Beth says to decrease every third round. I did not follow the word of Beth closely enough. I skimmed Beth. I looked at the pictures, I thought “yeah, yeah, diamonds in the armpits. Got it.” and I did not read the charts for the gussets. I was too good for Beth’s charts, and now I am punished. I accept this, and I pulled it off the needles.


See how wide the gusset becomes so quickly? If I kept increasing at this speed, by the time the gusset was the right length it would be so wide that it would wing out from under Joe’s armpits towards his nipples like a woollen version of half a missile bra like Madonna used to wear. That’s a good look.

While it was off the needle I took the opportunity to try it on Joe, and discovered that it’s a pretty good thing that I’m a lazy slacker who didn’t check the charts, since I started the entire gusset at least an inch too soon, and that error, combined with the too short gusset almost made Joe a gansey that would proudly have displayed the gentleman’s full on mature man belly button. (I firmly believe that there is no amount of elegance a man can carry himself with that will pull off that look, and further to that, I can’t let Joe wear a belly-shirt and then insist that his daughters cover up. They’d all want belly-ganseys too and soon the standard for elegance in this house would be in the dumper.) The good news is that the sweater is the right width. When I pin down length things are really going to come together. (Assuming ripping back several inches is enough penance for the knitting muses. You never know what will satisfy them. )

The shawl….the shawl I’m not ready to talk about. The pain is too fresh. Let’s just say that I apparently cannot count to seven. At all. Ever. The shawl and I have gone to separate corners until I can bring myself to tink back another row or two, or fifteen..or whenever the last time I counted to seven correctly was. Let’s leave it at that.

In the meantime, I’m going to distract you from my bad knitting by adding more stuff to the tour page:

-The time for the Powells event is 7:30

– I’m going to go to Knitty City after the Knit Out in NYC on the 17th – to sign books and hang out (I won’t be giving a talk there.)

-November 5th I’ll be speaking at The 2nd Annual Fall in Knits Benefit Fashion Event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, CT Affiliate, 2pm at the Granby Memorial High School (hosted by
Marji’s Yarncrafts)


I set the book aside for a little while yesterday, and spent a little time away from the narcoleptic glow of my computer screen. I realized that I was starting to get a little weird with so much working and tried to balance things out a little before I blew a mental gasket and ended up typing just pages and pages of “All work and no knitting makes Steph a dull girl”. I thought that was the creepiest moment in The Shining. When Jack Nicholson has been working on his book for months and months and months and Shelley Duval finally goes into his study and reads his manuscript and there is no manuscript, he’s just been typing that one sentence over and over for hundreds of pages, (His didn’t have knitting in it) and all of a sudden Shelley realizes that Jack isn’t really swimming in the deep end of the sanity pool anymore. In that movie it’s supposed to some kind of evil presence in the hotel that’s making him crazy and dangerous, but I think it was just that he was trying to write a book. Like I said, I started thinking about ol’ Jack and decided that maybe I’d have me a little knitting break and get the top of the gansey designed and started. I hauled out the reference books that I thought would have the best bets and started in.


On the table

Barbara Walkers, one, two, three and four

(Who doesn’t love these. I wish all four books had everything charted though…)

The knitting stitch a day Calendar. (Darned handy)

Patterns for Guerneys, Jerseys and Arans by Gladys Thompson.

and the book that is currently within arms reach at all times: Knitting Ganseys, by Beth Brown-Reinsel. (This is a great book. I’m completely in love with Beth Brown-Reinsel. There is not one question I’ve had that she’s not answered in this book. It’s only because I’ve got this that I feel like I can knit a gansey by the seat of my pants this way. The woman is brilliant. Last night I was trying to figure something out about the armhole and just when I thought I was going to give up because Joe wasn’t around to measure, I found a table of measurements in the book. Beth’s got my back.)


Since I am not your planning ahead kind of knitter, all I’d done until now was take Joe’s measurements and start knitting. I figured that I would make whatever I chose for the top simply fit when I got there. (There are about a thousand better ways to do that. I admit that.)

My process went like this.

1. Determine how many stitches I had to play with.

2. Find patterns that I liked.

3. Try to make the patterns fit with the stitches that I had.

4. Realize that they don’t fit and I’m a dumbass.

5. Try again.

This involves graph paper, maths and a great deal of time. In the end it took a little longer than I thought because I was really hung up on using only traditional gansey patterns, so all applicants had to be carefully screened. (Traditional choices include patterns based on knit/purl combinations and simple rope cables. Remember, Ganseys were built for speed, warmth and ease of knitting. Getting stupid complex cables going on was counter-productive.) Extra time was also added because I forgot for a moment that cables take up extra width. I like to increase a few stitches in the bottom of a cable to account for this, since I think it makes a nicer start and keeps the cable from pulling in too much in that spot and making the knitting seem oddly flared at the base of the cable. I’ll chart only four stitches for a six stitch cable, work the first row of the cable with four stitches, increase in the second row to six stitches, then cable on the third. Works nicely, though is a tad obsessive and can really mess up your charts.

In the end I came up with this pattern…


which I swear is totally enough to knit a gansey from. I know it looks dodgy, but nobody has to understand it but me. (I bet Beth Brown-Reinsel just lost it somewhere. You should see how well the sweaters are planned in her books. These scraps of scribbles I’m doing this from must make her nauseous. I hope she doesn’t find this blog.) I knit a “Definition ridge” another characteristic of a gansey. It’s a ridge of garter, purl, seed or moss stitch that divides the plain stockinette work from the fancier top.


and I started in on my pattern. I placed a marker for each different area of work so that I there would be any possibility at all that I could manage to keep it all straight, (this is a fools game) and I started the gussets at the same time.


The underarm gussets are probably the defining feature of the gansey. It’s a diamond shaped piece of knitting worked in as you go, with half being worked in the body and the other half worked into the arm. Imagine where you put deodorant in the morning. That’s the part of your sweater where the gusset goes. The gusset gives additional room for the arm to move without needing sweater that’s looser overall. That’s a good thing, since a tighter sweater is easier to work in and saves on knitting time and yarn. Ganseys are traditionally worn pretty tight with only about 2 inches of ease.


When I’ve knit around and around until the gussets are done (about 3 or 4 inches from now) I’ll put the gussets on threads to save for later and split the work into front and back to be knit flat. (I love knitting flat. I’m really looking forward to that part.)

For now, I’m going to go wish my buddy Sandy a Happy Birthday, and do the same for Joe’s Mum. (Only the best sort of people are born on this day apparently.) and throw myself back into the salt mines. While all work and no knitting might make Steph a dull girl, all knitting and no work will make Steph miss a book deadline.

How’s it going?

The deadline for the book is a few weeks away. (Longer than that really, but I need to subtract the time that I’m on tour, since the schedule moves so fast that it’s almost impossible to get anything done except for the events.) To compensate for missing that time, I’m busting it pretty hard right now. This is how the living room looks.


What’s missing from that picture (aside from the gansey, which is just out of camera range and totally ready for me to design the top part) is me lying on the floor marking up pages, swearing, weeping loudly and ignoring the needs of an entire trashed house and three teenagers while hopped up on so much coffee that I can feel my hair grow.

I work on the living room floor until I am ready to print up the next part or someone asks me a stupid question. Currently on the list of stupid questions are the following:

1. How’s it going?

(Seriously. Look at me. Look at the mess. How does it look like it’s going? Do you usually ask crying, sleep deprived people who have been wearing the same tee shirt for 4 days how it’s going? No, no you don’t. You just walk around them really quietly and make soft noises and make MORE COFFEE. )

2. Do you know what Amanda/Meg/Sam did?

(Unless they burned a page of manuscript or wrote a page of manuscript I don’t care. Go sort your sister issues out and don’t speak to mummy unless the police are here or you need pizza money.)

3. Do you want to come to bed?

(Would I be making more coffee if I wanted to come to bed?)

4. Do you think you’re going to finish?/ How much did you get done today/ When will you finish? / Are you getting it done?/ Do you think this is a healthy approach?

(That’s it. Pressure the crazy lady.)

5. Are you thinking about making dinner?

(I find that staring the questioner down while creating an awkward silence works well here.)

Then I leave. I go to the back room. I enter into the 78th debate with the stinking cat about who’s office chair that is….


and then I keep going.

It’s going to feel really good to finish. I think I need more knitting time.

Let it be known

Let it be known far and wide across the land that (on Kelly‘s suggestion) the noble washing machine formerly known as “Mr. Washie” shall, in recognition for his many long years of service, his ability to be fixed with a $30 dollar part that Joe knew how to put in, for his unfailing loyalty and decent felting, for withstanding basement floods and holding his lid high even though he has not been given so much as a wipe in a couple of months…For dignity, class and not needing me to call a repairperson who would have taken me for a serious ride, I dub him


Sir Washie.

(We’re back in business. I bought him some really nice detergent as a treat.)

The way they used to make them.

Mr. Washie, my beloved companion and faithful friend, is not at all well.


At present, he lies in the basement disemboweled and de-hosed, his parts hanging out and ashamed, with some mysterious organ of his having been disassembled on the living room coffee table for surgery. This day had to come really, it did. When I moved into this house 11 years ago, it had a dryer, but no washer. I was pretty sure (being thrilled just to have a house, never mind appliances) that I could live without a washing machine, which was good, since saying the I was a little broke would be like saying that Johnny Depp makes a little bit of a good pirate. I imagined myself loading up the wagon with loads of laundry and three little girls, and trouping off to the laundromat to wash our clothes, then bringing them back home to dry them. I lasted 10 days, until a stomach bug wracked the household one night and suddenly, the idea of taking truly disgusting sheets and jammies down the street to the washer with sick kids hanging off of me lost it’s romance faster than a Britney Spears marriage.

At exactly that moment, my sister bought a new house, and it had a washing machine, but she owned a better one. Mr. Washie was dragged up out of her basement and installed in mine by my brother and his buddy Pablo, whom I paid to install it with a case of beer.

(You would be surprised how many household services can be procured with a case of beer in this country. I got the gas connected to the stove for a 12.)

It was instant love. From the moment that I first lifted his lid to until he fell ill Friday, we have had a happy and..for the first 9 years, monogamous relationship. Mr. Washie has, in recent years opened his heart to Joe and the girls, and allowed them (even though they do not appreciate him the way that I do) to enter into a partnership of sorts. Through all of the loads of diapers, sheets and dirty clothes, Mr. Washie has never let me down. (There was that one time that I accidentally clogged his pump felting knitted clogs, but I bought him a new one and he forgave me for my carelessness. ) Mr. Washie has done more to help me with this family than any other thing on earth. I love him.


Further to that, Mr. Washie and I have the sort of commitment that married people only dream of. He was installed in the basement 11 years ago, and 5 years ago Joe and I remodeled the kitchen, carelessly installing a large pantry near the basement door. There is no chance now of Mr. Washie ever coming out, or a new washer coming in without some serious cupboard mangling. (Really, I don’t know what we were thinking.) That means that on Friday when Mr. Washie had a seizure and quit, Joe went on a hunt for parts.

He called Sears (Mr. Washie’s full name is “Kenmore Heavy-Duty”) and told them what washer we had. The lady on the other end of the phone asked for the model number printed on the back. Joe told her. Then she asked again. Joe told her. She asked if there were any other numbers. Joe lay on the floor of the basement and read the numbers out to her with precision.

“You’re sure?” she says. Joe, in a supreme demonstration of will-power did not point out to her that he reads numbers …all of them 1 through 9 with remarkable accuracy, and simply said “Yes. That’s all it says.” The woman went away then, when she came back she said something shocking. She had found Mr. Washie’s date of birth, and he was made in… (You’re not going to believe this. I know I’m still stunned.)

1978. My washing machine is 28 years old.

I am so moved by his years of service to me that I can’t even tell you of it. He’s done easily 3500 loads of laundry in this house…and there’s no way to know what he accomplished before he came to live with me. Dudes, get yourself a Kenmore Heavy-duty, because they are not screwing around when they make them. I don’t even clean his filter as often as I should, he’s been in at least two basement floods, he’s 28 years old and he still did two loads of jeans and a whack of towels before falling down on Friday.

The best part? Joe thinks he needs a $30 part that you can still buy from Sears. With any luck, Mr. Washie will be recovered later today, and I’m going to go straight out and buy a nice magnet to stick to the front of him. Maybe flowers or something. Bless his heart. Welcome to the Washing Machine Hall of Fame buddy. I’ll buy you all the parts you need.

Large Grey Blob

I tried a whole bunch of ways to make this post interesting, but the truth is that I am knitting a large grey blog out of large amounts of grey handspun and that there is very little to write about that. The silly little cut on my finger is still present enough to prevent the knitting of lace, so it’s just me and Joe’s gansey, all the time.

I’m knitting it on the bus…


I’m was knitting it on at Joe’s sisters birthday last night…


(Although I did take the travelling sock out of my purse for the occasion of Kelly’s 40th birthday. ) I’m knitting it everywhere that I go, and still…


The thing is a big grey blob.

The traditional gansey usually (but not always) has a plain stockinette bottom which gives way to cables and plain and purl patterns round about the armpits. The idea is that the stockinette knits up quickly (HA) and efficiently (Ok. I’ll give it that) and that the patterning across the chest is both beautiful, interesting and (remember that everything about a gansey has a reason) that the cables and patterns across the chest take up more yarn and provide extra warmth and thickness where it’s most needed. That patterned part will start to be considered 15 inches/ 40 cm up in Joe’s case, and I’m only at the 27 cm mark, and I’m pretty much bored out of my mind.

I know that lots of knitters love plain work. They love it. It’s meditative, it’s simple, it lets their minds wander while the perform brain work or watch tv, their hands chug along and they find the simple straightforward nature of knitting every single stitch for miles and miles and miles really restful and relaxing. I might be able to get into the zone too…except for this.


There are two purl stitches, one at each side of the body. These mark the “seams” of the gansey and mark the spots where the division for the arms will be. They are there, technically, so that the gussets for the arms have a natural line to grow out of, and so that the gansey knitter can be on autopilot while knitting, never having to figure where the arms or gussets fall. (There is the added bonus of the sweater folding a little tidier and taking less storage space.) Me, I’ve discovered another purpose. I believe that these two stitches are there to drive me stark raving mad, since I keep getting into the stockinette zone, then blowing by the purl stitch and discovering 20 stitches later that I’ve knitted it instead of purled it. The first 47 times I did this, I decided to tink back, correct the error and reknit the 20 stitches. Then I got smart, and decided that I would I would rather dust the living room with my tongue than tink back one more time and made the very clever decision to correct the stitch the next time that I came to it.

This would have worked, had I been in touch with the problem of my original lack of intelligence, and not blown by the stitch a second time on the next round. Clearly that won’t work. Other ideas?

a) Do my best but accept that I will periodically correct that line of stitches with a crochet hook and try to be happy.

b) Go to my knitting basket and get a big honking stitch marker that I can put on my knitting to warn me of the purl stitch. (For this to work I would need to be able to accept the intense burning irony of using a stitch marker to warn me of a stitch that is a marker.)

c) Rig some sort of finely tuned electrical device to those two stitches of my knitting. Some sort of technology that would, when I blow by that ridiculous purl stitch for the 484th time, deliver a mild dose of voltage that will be not really dangerous, but corrective. I’m imagining some sort of knitting variation of an invisible fence.

Knit the purl stitch and ZAP.

Choice C, despite it’s complexity is likely my best option, since it stands a greater chance of ultimately correcting my dumbass behaviour on a more permanent level. I can see other knitting uses too. Miss an increase on the 4th row of a sleeve? ZAP.

Forget to cable every six rows? ZAP.

Knit 10 cm past where you were supposed to start the fair isle? ZAP.

How about the worst…You know the ones…the ones where it says “decrease two stitches at the beginning of every right side row for neck until 15 stitches remain” …So you do. You decrease for ages and you’ve got 15 stitches left and you feel pretty good about it and you look for the next instruction, and it says “at the same time” and then, while your heart sinks all the way to your flip flops, it details some stinking thing you were supposed to do while you were doing your decreases. Something like “continue to shape armhole as set”.

That one? Fail to check ahead in the instructions?


This could be really useful.

I was going to knit a lot…

Five reasons I have no really impressive progress to show you.

1. A good chunk of my knitting time was sucked into the “housekeeping, feeding your family, celebrating family milestones and earning a living” trap. I can’t believe I keep falling for that.


It was good pie though.

2. I went to the dentist again. I have not yet figured out how to knit while in the chair, and I was in the chair for a long time. (I will spare you the absolutely pathetic story of this visits panic attack. I assure you that I am normally a very tough lady and that the completely pathetic behaviour I exhibit at the dentist is a rare anomaly that is best forgotten by all parties concerned.

3. I have suffered the worlds most minor injury.


Sadly, this incredibly insignificant cut on my finger is in the precise position necessary to interfere with knitting. I can still knit, but this makes me slow. (It also makes me knit with my finger sticking up like I’m trying to make a point. Very unbecoming.)

4. Megan got an Eye Toy and Kinetic game for her Birthday.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the playstation out there. There have been a few terrible incidents involving several days of my life lost to The Sims (I do really love being in charge) and the kids (and the adults) have some pretty sharp limits on how long and when they are allowed to play. As a result, the black box of inactivity had gathered a layer of dust around here. Then Meg’s buddy Maddy walks in here last night and sets this thing up. It’s a little camera that plugs into the playstation, and the Kinetics game starts and the camera puts you on the TV and you go through all of these virtual games and workouts. You follow a glowing ball with your hands, kick a virtual ball away from a target you protect… the thing really, really gets you moving and raises your heart rate. The kids were all fighting over the privilege of getting to play and the grown-ups were having a good time too. You can watch a preview of how the thing works here. I had no idea that these virtual games even existed. It’s a very good time and leaves me, as a mother, wondering what the rules should be on a video game that’s a workout. Thoughts?

5. Ted (The Oracle) sent me yarn. I usually don’t blog gifts between friends, because I think them private matters, but this was simply to stunning to not tell you about.


Ted spindle-spun this 100 grams of finn laceweight, and it is so beautiful that huge swaths of my day are falling away as I sit and stare at it.


No photo can show you how complex and lovely the red/orange is. It makes me want to pitch everything I’m knitting now and sit fondling this one skein for all of my days. Mercy.

As compensation for the lack of knitting projects, I leave you with these pictures of hatty success. Remember when I asked knitters to help support breastfeeding by sending fruit and Veggie hats to WIC offices for Breastfeeding week? Knitters are maniacs. Jeanne received 400+ hats, and Ilene got more than 100. That’s incredible to me.

Here’s tons of hats…


only a small sampling of the hundreds that arrived in California at Jeanne’s WIC office.


Hats on tables,


hats on breastfed babies.


Hat’s in Brockton at Ilene’s WIC office.


Read more about it here (and make sure and look at Mary’s fruit and veg hats with ladybugs on the stem.) I can’t thank you all enough. Breastfeeding is such a cheap, easy way to change the lifelong health of the babies who get it and the mothers who do it, and makes such a tremendous difference to the economy of the family, that I get all choked up when I think about knitters using their wool and their wits to change the world.

Next stop…world domination through wool.

Meg is 15!

Today is Megan’s 15th birthday, and she continues to be a lovely, engaging young knitter woman. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Megan for not doing anything too horrible during the year she was 14…and especially for not doing anything that involved a fire truck, police station or the words “safe house”. Keep it up kid, and I’ll keep making the birthday waffles.


We have a tradition that the birthday person in the family plans the menu for all three meals of their day. I’ve been absolutely flabbergasted to discover that even when they can have anything at all, the girls still plan really well balanced meals. Meg’s dinner tonight is rice, mushroom sauce and those yummy fake meatballs from The President, (I really feel affection for him, don’t you?) salad with goat cheese, balsamic and pine nuts, and apple pie with sharp cheddar.

When I was Meg’s age I think I chose a big plate of sauteed mushrooms. Full stop. (That was a great dinner.)

Although today is Tuesday (and tuesdays are for spinning) it rained too much yesterday for the fleece to dry. Today is warm and sunny, but too windy to put the fleece outside, so I guess it will wait for another 24 hours before I haul out the drumcarder. (Really, I need to wash more anyway. I’ll fulfill my spinning obligation by washing fleece. I do it on the stove…I’ll show you how in an upcoming blog if you want. It’s gross, but effective.)



My shropshire shawl is amusing me to no end. I’ve worked three repeats, and by my reckoning (and without figuring the math for getting my chosen 50 row border to fit) I think I need seven. According to the shawl calculator (found on Jessica’s blog in the sidebar), this means I’m about 14% done.

14%? This could take a little longer than I thought.

Shawl Q&A

Mary Asked what needles I’m knitting this on…


3mm Ebony Holtz & Stein circulars. I like them, since they are

a) Black. Easy to see white yarn on black needles.

b) Pointy enough. I would wish for pointier, but I always do.

c) Wood. Gives a little bit of grip for manipulating wee yarn.

d) Have a reasonably smooth join, though I still find that the yarn catches on the join as I try to pull it back over on the purl side. (Someday I will do a scientific study about why “knit-facing” mounted stitches slide nicely over even the most craptastic of joins, but “purl-mounted” stitches resist the charms of even the nicest of needles. Anybody else notice this?)

Barbara A.M. asks:

All that laceweight yarn is inspiring me to try some myself. Any advice to someone trying their first laceweight project? Should I make your snowdrop shawl? Is there a classic, laceweight yarn that every knitter should use in at least one project? I am wide open to suggestions from those who have gone before!

I actually wouldn’t suggest my snowdrop shawl for a beginner, not because it isn’t easy…but because the directions are a little “quick and dirty”. I’d suggest starting with any of the shawls or scarves from Fiddlesticks Knitting. Dorothy’s charts and instructions are impeccable, and several of her designs (like Lotus Blossom or the Triple Mohair Triangle) are written for larger gauge yarns, so you don’t have to get used to lace and tiny yarn all at once. Really, I don’t think lace is difficult, it’s mostly just yarn-overs and knit two togethers, it’s keeping track of where you are that takes learning. My solution involves moving post-it notes around the chart.

WavyBrains (love that) asks:

What ball winder do you use/recomend for these herculean tasks?

I’ve got me a standard issue ball winder. The gears on it are starting to go, but it’s served me nobly for many years. The design limits the ball size, some huge skeins (like the shropshire) need to be broken down into smaller balls, but I don’t mind, especially with lace, when a large ball is more likely to result in a tangled ball.

Some knitters swear by nostepinnes, but when it comes to winding 3000m of yarn (that’s 3km!) there’s no way I’m doing it by hand. I want to be able to use my hands when I’m done.

Mardi asks:

I’m knitting a baby blanket in the Lorina Shell stitch pattern, and have resorted to knitting off my #2 needle onto a #5 just before the row that says “knit 4 stitches together” because otherwise one ends up paralyzed after attempting to work the needle through the 4 frickin’ stitches umpteen times over. Anyone else out there ever have this sort of problem??

Yes. I myself work multi-knit togethers using a complex system requiring a decent Shiraz, a very pointy needle, isolation and curse words. You don’t want to know what “PURL 4 together” takes.

Other solutions welcome.

Filambulle says:

That whole lace thing is addictive, isn’t it?

Yes. Next question?

Tour update:

Jayme-the-still-seems-pretty-wonderful-publicist who is completely in charge of where/when/why I go places has sent me some updates for the tour page.

Sept. 10th I’ll be at Yellow Dog Knitting in Eau Claire, WI at 6pm

Saturday, September 16th I’ll be at the Park Slope Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn at 7:30.

Sunday, September 17th I’m going to the Knit Out in Union Square

(New York, New York ) from 11am to 5pm

….and there’s one change. The Powells event in Portland is at Powell’s Books for Home and Garden, 3747 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd, not at the other store.

I’ll update the tour page shortly, but for now, I’m off to bake birthday pie.

Paging a smaller fisherman

The ladies are back and order disorder is restored. I remember what it’s like now to have no phone, no food and no quiet. It’s all coming back to me. I’m not sure I mind though, except for the abbreviated work-day. That really bothers me. Trying to cram a whole days worth of work into the few hours/moments/seconds of peace per day that three teens affords you? Tense.

Might not allow much work time, but it’s pretty good for knitting time.


Here’s Joe’s handspun gansey, moving right along. I cast on 200 stitches and knit 6.5 cm of 1X1 ribbing, then increased to 228 and began working in Stockinette.

A bunch of you have asked for more information about Ganseys, so I’ll try to explain about them as I go. For starters, a gansey is a fishermans sweater of a construction that predates other sweater types (like Aran) from the British Isles. Ganseys, unlike Arans were not knit for commercial sale, they were working sweaters and every characteristic of a gansey was knit for a practical reason.

Allegedly, both Ganseys and Arans were knit with particular patterns to help identify drowned sailors. This has turned out (probably, depending on who you believe) to be untrue of Arans. The legends surrounding the meaning and significance of the patterning of Aran sweaters were likely developed in this century as part of a completely charming marketing ploy. (I actually find this pretty intriguing by itself. The idea that knitters came up with the Aran sweater and it’s legends to supplement their meagre incomes is fantastical to me. I love stories of genuine resourcefulness.) There is very little in the way of photographs or actual historical evidence to support the idea that anybody was really knitting (or wearing) Arans until pretty recently, when they were adapted from the Gansey, and supplemented with the particular Irish artistic sensibility. They were knit for beauty.

Ganseys on the other hand, were actually worn by fishermen (and were often knit as betrothal gifts by the fisherman’s lovie) and as such have some very practical details. (More on that later when I knit the very practical details.) For starters, they use a very sturdy double cast-on (or other strong techniques) to make them wear better, they are knit from a tightly spun yarn worked at a tight gauge to repel wind and water, and because the patterns were passed on knitter to knitter, by watching or telling, the patterns used vary from town to town across the British Isles. (In Gladys Thompsons cool book she collected these patterns by region.)

After a couple of rounds I knit in Joe’s initials.


This is a traditional feature of a gansey, allegedly for identifying a drowned sailor. (Another feature of the gansey is that it is close fitting, so as not to wash off in the water.) Joe is a fine sailor, and unlikely to wear his gansey swimming, but I thought that it was best to include this. If I’m going to knit a handspun traditional gansey then I might as well go all out. This is an appallingly poor photo, but the initials read J D.

From here I just have to go on and on and on, around and around and around doing nothing but knitting until it measures….well. I don’t know what it should measure, I’m sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I’ll keep holding it up to Joe until it looks right. (I think this is also a very traditional approach.) I know it’s not long enough now, so I haven’t even measured it or him.

What I do know, now that I’ve knit a bunch of gansey, is that I am definitely not going to have enough yarn. I knit the ribbing out of one ball, then joined another ball and started alternating rows. (This is an attempt to hide any inconsistency in my spinning from one ball to the next.) I’ve just run out of the first ball, and I only have 13, so clearly….


I needed to wash more fleece. I’m trying not to be crushed by this realization (and have drunk a great deal of coffee and eaten a great deal of chocolate on the path to acceptance) and to embrace the opportunity to spin more wonderful yarn for this great sweater. (Sigh.)

The only thing comforting me, considering the long history of the gansey, is that I really can’t be the first knitter who sat there watching her wool run out and thought “Man. In my next life, I’m going to love a smaller fisherman.”