He’s back

Tuesdays are for spinning, I extend the definition of “spinning” to anything involved with spinning. This means that it was totally fair that my contribution to Tuesday was washing some more of the fleece that I’m using for Joe’s gansey. (In as much as the gansey is moving slowly, it is on my mind, lurking around.) I put the fleece outside in the sunshine to dry.


The next morning went out to collect it. I opened the garden door, moved toward the chair and my heart fell as shock spread through me in a manner that was the exact opposite of a warm glow.



Now, the world still isn’t quite what we want of it and that means that ordinary people still outnumber us spinners and therefore show little or no interest in acquiring fleece, so it was unlikely that my culprit was human. (I also ruled out malicious human intent. Most humans also wouldn’t steal fleece just to be mean, since they don’t know how much we care about it.) As far as I know, my neighbourhood isn’t filthy with broke spinners so desparate that they have been reduced to midnight fleece theft, and all of this meant, as I stood there in the glaring light of summer mid-day, ruling out suspects…

He was back. The wool stealing squirrel was back.

Rat Bastard. (I feel entirely comfortable calling him a bastard. I am confident that since he is a squirrel that his mother was a squirrel, and squirrels are always born out of wedlock.) I thought he was dead when the pilferage and wool-filching had stopped two summers ago, and I guess I got lazy. Turns out he was just either working another ‘hood, one of his furbearing offspring have inherited his heinous fiber fetish, or we have once again run into the generally loose set of ethics possessed by squirrels… but one way or another I was looking at an empty fleece chair. Good fleece. Gone.

Now, I try not to focus on revenge (the criminal does, after all…have a brain smaller than a walnut and there’s only so much you can expect of that.) so I thought over retrieval. I did a lot of squirrel research during the first crime wave and while I was writing about it, and so I know a thing or two. For example, I know that it is very likely that he took it up a tree. A nearby tree. I assume he is (as all mammals are) interested in carrying things in his teeth the minimum distance possible, and examine the two nearest trees.




Bastard again. I can’t see any fleece at all. Now I am mad. I say a rude thing or two to a squirrel I see in one of the trees. It is a squirrel without a fleece or a nest, as far as I can see, but you can bet they darned well know each other, and he can give the fleece stealer a (insert expletive of your choice here)ing message from me. Furious, I turn to go back in the house and lo’…what do I see in the alley by my house?


At first I am sure it is a dead…something, and then it hits me. I run over.


Half my fleece. Lying in the dirt all tangled up with squirrel spit on it.

That little arsing thief – I can’t believe he’s back, I just can’t believe it. I’m standing there, looking at my chewed up corriedale, offended to the core that the stupid little tree-jockey didn’t even see fit to use all he took from me, instead tossing half of it away like nobody loved it, when it hits me. This is how the summer is going to be. He’s going to try to steal all my fleece and yarn, and I’m going to try to defend it.

I tried hard then, very hard. I tried to have some respect for this little mammal with the walnut sized brain. I tried to understand that he’s just a stupid squirrel incapable of higher thinking and that I’m the mature and considerate one here, and I gave myself a nice talking to about the circle of life and warm squirrel babies born into nests made of my stash and I tried to understand… but really? All I could think at then end of it, as I looked at my trashed fleece, stolen, stripped and left for dead in the dust was…

Game on.

The way things are

There are some truths. Things that just are the way they are, and no amount of desperate human optimism will change them. Allow me to demonstrate.

The guys showed up with the new stove. I went out front to meet them. Here is what I said:

Hi guys. Sorry it’s so hot. Can I get you some water? No? Awesome, we’ll just get this beast in, eh? Listen, the front entrance to the kitchen is only 66 cm.

Here is what they said:

Oh, )*&^%^&. This stove is like…..


76 cm. I know. It’s going to be a bit of a problem. I think I’m going to have to ask you to come around the back where the garden door is 86 cm and the kitchen door is 72 cm. We’ll still have a problem, but if we take off the knobs, the door and the drawer, to get down to less than 72 cm it should work.


72 cm? Oh. That’s fine. That’s really ok. We can do that.


No. It’s not fine, and you can’t do that. 72 is smaller than 76. It won’t fit unless we take it apart.


No, no. We can get it in. 72 is only a little smaller.


Sure, but it’s still smaller. Smaller is smaller. Always. Stoves aren’t squishy, this really isn’t variable. Allow me to show you figure A.


See how 10 is bigger than 9? See how there is no way that 10 can be made smaller than 9? We need to take it apart.

(I also reflected briefly on the wonders of the human ego that we think we can overcome truths if they are only small truths. It’s incredible. Here are two full grown humans who think they can alter physical laws (10 is more than 9) because they are SMART. )


We’ll try. You might be surprised at what is possible.

Me (inside my head)

Even though I am a generally optimistic person, I would be very surprised if 10 turned out to be less than 9. Off you go boys.

It came through the garden door.


and then they tried to make 10 less than 9.


As I suspected, ( I would direct you again to figure A.) this was not possible. This was, to the stove movers, a devastating truth.

They started brainstorming.


What if we moved your desk here so that we could put it in straight? If we could swing the back around….

Me :

10 is more than 9. It is more than 9 all the time. It is more than 9 at the top of the door, and it is more than 9 at the bottom of the door. 10 is more than 9 even if you swing the back around. We should take it apart.


Oh, I know. We’ll tip it and go diagonally.


Let me show you figure B.


If an cube is 10 by 10, then if you take the diagonal, it is even more. It is 14 (roughly). That won’t work. 14 is more than 9. Always.

We should take it apart. The only thing that is smaller than 9 is numbers less than 9, like maybe….8. If we take parts off the stove, it will be less than 9.


Let’s try tipping it.



Them (Sweating and straining in the 43 (109F) heat) :

This won’t work. I think maybe 10 and 14 are both more than 9. I think no matter what we do, 10 and 14 are more than 9. I think we might not be able to get it though here.


Really? That’s a real shame. What could we do?

Them (Upon huge reflection and several checks with a measuring tape to make sure that the stove was still 10 and the door was still 9)

You know what? We should take it apart.


Good idea. This is why they pay you the big bucks, eh?


Perfect timing

It is hot. Totally hot. So hot that when you are knitting wool socks out in public people look at you like you are out of your mind because it is so hot that they can’t imagine that they will ever, ever need help being warm again.

Today’s predicted to be 43 degrees with the humidex (there’s always humidity in Toronto, year round. It’s that great big lake that’s the problem.) and for our American friends, that’s about 109 F, and it’s scorching.

(Sorry, quick aside here. The last time I gave a temperature and converted to Fahrenheit “for Americans” I got quite a bit of mail asking me why I’d singled Americans out. This time I’m getting ahead by letting you know that I said that for the simple reason that the US is the only country still officially using that scale. Lots of other people around the world remember Fahrenheit, but mostly, and certainly on an official level the switch has been totally made. Knowing how hard it is for me to travel in the US properly dressed (seriously. 43 is cold?) makes me sympathetic enough to put both on the blog.)

This of course, means it’s sort of ironic that I’m knitting wool while I wait for the delivery guys to bring my new stove, being delivered today. I’d be excited but I’m still so totally pissed that I had to buy a new one that I can’t quite connect with my glee. The old one kicked the bucket with an emphasis and creativity that was completely behaviour unbecoming a faithful appliance and I was forced to buy a new one. I feel sort of bullied. This broken stove has been in our house for a month, so loathe was I to accept the truth.


My old stove was a “no bells, no whistles” 10 year old gas stove and I liked it just fine. It cooked. It didn’t do anything else, it didn’t have any sensors or electronics…you just turned the fire on and it made things hot. On – off. That’s what it did. The new one, with it’s smarmy electronic display and pretentious self cleaning thingie is going to take some getting used to. It self cleans (my old one didn’t) it has a separate broiler (my old one didn’t) and you actually get to pick what temperature the oven comes to (er…my old one used to. For the last couple of years our relationship wasn’t so much about temperature as timing. It had one temperature and I put things in for however long it took.) Now that I think about it I suppose I’ll like the new stove more when I get over being forced to give it so much of my money.

The delivery of said unwelcome heat box (arriving on the hottest day of the year so far) promises to be entertaining. The front hall (traditional gateway to the kitchen) is only 66 cm wide, but the stove is 76 cm wide. That would be a 10 cm (gauge swatch) difference, and not in the favour of the new stove. Clearly it’s not coming in that way. When I mentioned this challenge to the sales guy he said “It’ll be ok. The guys are experienced. I’m not sure what experience does to shrink stoves, but I bet it’s fun to watch. (There’s always the back garden door, though then we’re tramping appliances through the back garden to make a try at a door that’s only 5cm too small….) I’m seriously looking forward to it.

Joe’s unhooked the albatross of a stove we have now (how did we get that one in here? I seem to recall a screwdriver and some disassembly) and I’m waiting, and knitting. It’s pretty hard to sit with the Kauni on my lap without getting a little woozy from the heat at present, so I’m onto socks.


These are Loksins! pattern bought from Ms. Too Much Wool herself, and I’m knitting them up out of some nice stash (the new stove means stash diving will be my MO for a while), sock yarn from Lisa Souza. (Colourway is “Turqua” a colour that Ms. TMW would never knit with. I figure it’s my duty to help the Loksins pattern be knit in all colours, even the ones that Cassie doesn’t like.) KnitPicks dpns size 1, and I’m happy as a clam. I love them, and they are the perfect hot weather knit. The pattern is pretty intuitive, and the chart is very, very easy to memorize and moves pretty quick.


As for yesterdays mis-matched monkeys, Laura left a comment saying the other two skeins were already bought, and middle-daughter Megan promptly claimed the mis-matched ones I made with enthusiasm. Problem solved, though I was leaning toward the “buy the yarn and save another knitter” approach.

Never mind. Mama’s got a new stove to pay for.

In which I am an idiot. (Again)

So I got this beautiful handpainted sock yarn from Joe for my birthday. It was an especially good choice, because I chose it and Joe bought it. (I say this now, in the beginning, so that all may know that it is not Joe’s fault for what happened next.) We were at Lettuce Knit, I saw that Laura had dyed some pretty yarn and I chose two skeins out of the bowl of prettiness and I handed them to Joe. He bought them and I was so taken with it that the yarn jumped the sock queue and was started instantly. I knit the first skein into a monkey sock.


Then I put that one away and I knit the second skein into a monkey sock.


Excellent. Two skeins, one pattern, a pair of socks…yes?

No. At first I thought that the two skeins had just knit up a little differently. (This happens with handpainted yarn. It’s one of the beautiful things about things made by hand. They have interesting variations.) A little differently?


Perhaps that picture is too subtle. How about this?


Or this?


Dudes, I picked up two different skeins of yarn and didn’t notice. Similar, but not the same. They are in the same colour family for sure, but they are not matching skeins. Worst of all, Laura dyes them in pairs so I have not just made a mismatched pair for myself, but have left two skeins of mismatched yarn at the shop, just to make sure that nobody else can make a pair either. (The irony that Laura herself has just knit a perfectly matching pair of socks while acknowledging that matching hardly ever happens is not lost on me.)

I suppose the fact that I didn’t notice until I had a pair has to mean that they are at least passable…but still. Idiot.

Do I have to buy the other two skeins out of guilt?

Practically a cedar closet

Well. Here I am back up and running after we were so rudely interrupted. Turns out our old webhost (for we have turned our backs on them and their multitude of problems, poor support and perhaps a smidge less forthright behaviour than one wants in a webhost) was completely unable to handle how many people wanted to contact this page, (not that many, really, especially when you consider how well the “adult” industry seems to run online) and that my site was making their server “sluggish” (Considering that their server moves as fast as I do fair isle with my toes, I don’t know how they could tell.) so instead of doing anything else, they renamed my blog folder, put a new IP on their server and unplugged my domain without so much as a by your leave. (I don’t know much about this sort of thing, but that reaction to a whack of knitters and a sluggish server seems a little over the top.)

Here, look at some wool. It takes the edge off.


Essentially (to continue a metaphor from the last time the internet bit me hard on the hind parts) if the blog is a house that keeps it’s stuff in a closet, this time we didn’t try to put to many blue shirts in a closet, we tried to open the door to the closet way too often. (Too much bandwidth) Naturally this would have been far less likely if the people renting me the closet had been clearer about the size of the closet, the number of doors we could open, or that it was a really big deal to all try to look at once. (Since the advent of bloglines, this is a really good thing to tell people about their closets.) Maybe let me know that the number of times you could open the door was sort of variable, or if they had warned me that we were opening the door often enough to generate a breeze that ruffled hair and ticked tech guys off…) In any case, there was too much with the opening and this time (unlike the last webhosts) they didn’t just close the closet door and lock it, or (unlike two months ago) they didn’t just tell me that they would only let a certain number of knitters open the door per minute before they locked it (throttled my bandwidth) this time they took all my stuff out of the closet and put it somewhere else, papered over the door to the closet and sent me an e-mail to that effect- after they had done it. (I actually got three e-mails. They noticed a door issue at 7:56 and the whole shebang was taken completely off the rails at 8:05.)

They did say they were sorry, but they won’t undo it. There are other people in the house who need to open and close closets (it’s a shared server) and I am in their way.

I know this is upsetting. Here. Let’s look at some nice knitting.


Now, I might have noticed this sooner, except earlier that evening their mail server had belched and routed me duplicates (or triplicates) of the last 1400 emails anybody had sent, so I was a little bit distracted by sobbing and stringing together filthy words. Thanks to that little glitch I can’t tell what e-mails I answered, what I read or what I dealt with and then deleted. (I believe that this development may actually qualify my always-very-very-bad inbox as an official disaster zone. I’m looking into it.) Wool?


I am resisting the urge to think that it is absolutely no co-incidence that the 1400 emails came flooding into my inbox when they did, and that they were actually sent to bury the three infuriating and upsetting emails telling me (in the politest possible language) that I didn’t have a blog anymore…but Ken and Joe think that I’m reaching for a conspiracy. As it was, I noticed about 20 minutes after the blog ceased to exist, when, like everyone else, I got the mysterious “Server can’t be found” message. I didn’t panic immediately though, since the service has been (for quite some time now) unreliable at best and a flaming dump of pig dung at worst, I thought it would come back. I sat and clicked “refresh” for a while, imagining no end of ways in which I would like to fix me a server or two (“fix” involving a sledgehammer) and waiting for my turn to open the closet. While I was waiting, I tried to sort the email mess (more filthy language- creative though) and found the emails telling me that they had dealt with their sluggish server by taking 9 minutes to think it over and then taking me off line. The emails said that they would put the blog back up whenever I could prove that I had solved the problem.


When I regained consciousness, I tried to sort it out. It was unsortable. This may have been because my whole tactic with the tech guy consisted of saying “What? What?” and “I don’t understand what you’re saying but I think I quite like your tone.” as well as the ever effective “MAKE BLOG GO!” This guy was convinced that the blog was experiencing some strange “attack” where many people tried to all contact at once. (I think they are called “readers”?) He kept telling me it was like a DoS attack where one IP contacts you so many times that your site can’t function, but my attack was weird, since instead of one guy contacting many times, it was many people contacting one time each. (Again. Readers?) We looked at my stats, and I tried to tell him that this was a pattern, and he told me that clearly I had been under attack for some time and that he had protected me and the other people on the server from this malicious attempt by shutting it down. (If I am ever in charge of it, I assure you that this tech guy will not be receiving hand knits for Christmas this year, nor any other as long as he draws breath on this earth.)

Now I need to look at wool.


Fine. Enter our hero Ken, who (once I found a new webhost who has promised me that there is nothing they enjoy more than the opening and closing of many closet doors) has packed up everything we keep in the old crappy closet and moved it over to our brand new house with a fancy new closet. This closet is nice. This closet is like a walk-in closet that you don’t have to share. (It’s a virtual dedicated server.) We can keep anything in it that we want to. We can open the door as many times as we like. We can put blue shirts, green shirts…shirts with polkadots and nehru collars. (If you wanted.) This closet has shelves for shoes and this closet won’t post comments twice or three times, and it won’t be locked one minute and unlocked the next. This closet is practically a cedar yarn closet it’s so darned nice, and it should (pleasepleaseohplease) solve all of my blog problems for the rest of my life.

Can you tell a difference? Are things working better? There may be some little things to work out as we move. (I hope not. This is all so upsetting.)

The only downside (well. Aside from the twitch that Ken and I both have now) is that this new closet is now the nicest thing I own (the irony that I own a virtual closet this nice but that my real whole house only has two tiny crappy closets is not lost on me) and even though it was the only way to keep the blog up and running, it’s a little (a lot) on the pricey side. It’s going to hold a whole lot of blogginess though, so I’m going to think about the money another day. It’s good to be back. I missed you.


Yesterday was one of those days that just evaporates into a haze of comings and goings. The girls are wrapping up school and their schedules are madness. Exams, plays, musicals –


(This was the grade 7/8 production of Aladdin. Use your imagination in a big way. I knit my way through. One woman walking by me at intermission saw me knitting and said “Wow. I bet that takes the edge off.” She is correct.)


This time of year is notoriously unsettled for us. The kids are transitioning into summer, starting jobs, finishing school, starting summer jobs and I’m trying to learn how to cope with three (or four – since Joe remains “unsettled” for the time being) people drifting in and out of my office while I try to earn us all a living. This morning I had to negotiate for 30 minutes of familial silence so I could do an interview thing where the background noise wasn’t two teenaged girls having a meltdown over who took who’s straight leg jeans with the red line on the pocket and whether or not that breaks down the chain of possession enough that now Megan’s coveted blue shirt is now open season for Samantha. (I bet anyone with a sister just had a flashback.) I am doing what I always do with things are unsettled.

I am knitting.


I finished the body of the Kauni sweater (Turns out that Brenda is hosting a knit-a-long for this sweater here) and the thing looked pretty weird.


That’s the neck steeks (back and front) pulling in at the top and making it look odd.

I cast off for the bottom of the neck, then cast back on stitches to “fill” in that spot so I could keep knitting in the round. (This is all in the patten.) That’s the whole purpose of a steek. It’s a span of knitting that joins two parts of knitting that wouldn’t normally be joined. Steeks let you knit in the round when you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to, then you cut the steek open later to give you back the gap. This sweater has five steeks. One that joins the two fronts so the body can be knit in the round even though it’s a cardigan. (You can see that in the first picture. It’s the dashed lines that are out of pattern in the front.)

Two for each armhole, so that you can just cut holes for the arms later.


Then there’s the one each at the front and back neck, so that you don’t have to work back and forth while you do the neck shaping.

Steeks are cool, if terrifying in the beginning. The first one I cut had me pretty worried. (That is an understatement) Sure, the instructions say to…sure it’s how fair isle sweaters have been done forever, but taking a pair of sharp scissors to something you knit just isn’t natural at first. You know how this thing went together. You know how easy it is for it to come apart. Seems risky to just start hacking up the knitwear. What if you cut the wrong place? What if the sweater doesn’t fit right? There’s no coming back from a cut….Until you actually do it it’s pretty hard to believe that this is a good idea.


Here’s the neck steek, before the snip. (You can see that I have run a little hand stitching along the edge of the steek. This is because I am not a very trusting person. This yarn is sticky and shouldn’t need to be sewn to keep from unravelling along the steek after it’s cut, but I’ve been on the losing end of a sweater game enough times to trust yarn the same way I trust 16 year old boys near my daughters.) The orange line is where the eventual neckline will be (where I’ll pick up stitches), and the yellow is where I’m going to cut.


One smallish belt of Glenlivet later (I no longer require the scotch for bravery, I just like it as a ritual) the steek(s) – I did the back too.. are cut open. Make sense now? The curve of the neckline is accomplished by working decreases along the edge of the neck.


While I was hacking things up, cut open the sleeve steeks, you can see that I needn’t have worried about it unravelling…


It’s going nowhere, and after a little washing and handling it will felt slightly to itself and be even more steadfast. (Still I hand stitch. Trust issues, clearly.) I picked up stitches, and I’m carrying on for the first sleeve.


I want to thank you all for the wonderful comments on the post from the other day. Especially from those of you who understood that I wasn’t advocating being nice all the time, nor avoiding difficult topics or honest criticism. Nor, actually was I saying that you shouldn’t say nasty things on your blog or in the comments. I really loved that so many of you got that I was visiting the point that if you makes statements you wouldn’t your target (or boss, or mum) to know you said, you better fear the google-fu, ’cause you might be asked to own what you say.

Housekeeping: So many people have emailed me about a bunch of stuff that I’m going to whack it up here for everyone.

1. Yes. The audiobooks of Casts-off and Meditations are out. Yes, I think I sound like a hampster on meth, but I have been advised by people who hear my voice all the time that it’s really just fine. (Apparently I sound like that all the time and I just didn’t know.) You can get a hard copy (actual cds) from a bookstore. (I’m just linking to Amazon as an example, please consider using your local independent.) or as a download from Audible. (While you’re there? Get this. (Or anything else in that series, though that’s the first one.) FANTASTIC. Only book I ever liked better on audio than in my head, and that includes mine.)

Sorry guys, some of you are telling me that link to Audible doesn’t work for all of you. It’s pointing to “Crocodile on the Sandbank” , first in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, as read by Barbara Rosenblat.

2. Yes. Knitty Gritty is replaying my episode June 29th at 2pm.

3. Yes. I know I’m nominated for a Bloggers Choice award (or three) I’m very, very proud, but I feel sort of weird talking about it. At the urging of several private emails and my mother, I’m only telling you about it because there are other fine blogs there (Including Wendy and Crazy Aunt Purl) and because you can vote for whomever you like. I’m nominated for best craft blog, best blog design (which is totally pushing it) and best blog ever, which, while it is an honour of devastating proportions, is an award that even my mother and I wouldn’t advocate for me in. (Just don’t let Neil Gaiman beat me. I like him, but It’s an author thing.)

We are not alone

I always get this huge kick out of when I meet other bloggers and I say “Hi, I know you from your blog” and they say “No, no…you’re just saying that” and I say “Dude, you were knitting those blue socks and your dog took the yarn and you found it in the kitchen” and they say “WOW, you did read my blog” and then I remind them that this is a community. That the whole point of the thing is a community. Knitters blog and comment and take part to form a community and I am a knitter who blogs and comments just like all the other knitters and it is truly no more remarkable that I do it, than that any of you do. Sure I’m busy. I bet you are too. Sure it takes time to read the blogs, but you do it, and there’s just no way that most of you have way more time than me. We all have lives and jobs and families and friends and knitting and ….

I’m losing track of my point. My point is (and I do have one, no matter how long it takes me to get there) that we are all right here, in the community, reading the blogs together, seeing the stuff you do…reading the stuff you write.

“Stephanie” I can hear you saying “We know that”. True, most of you do, but lately, I see people sometimes writing on their blogs, or in the comments of other blogs, like they think they are in private.

Blogs are not private. Sure, I hear “It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want” and “If you don’t like what I write, don’t read” and sure enough, you can, and you will, and you’ve got a fine point, but it is this bloggers humble opinion that having a blog is like throwing an open-house party for your neighbourhood and saying that anyone who wants to can come.

I’ve been to a fair number of neighbourhood parties, and I bet you have too, and I have never once, not ever, not even a little bit, ever seen the host get up with a microphone and tell the rest of the party what they thought of one or two of the guests. Can you imagine? You’re over at Jane’s for a neighbourhood thing and Jane stands up at the head of the room and says “Excuse me? Yes. Thanks so much for coming, I’m so glad you’re here. Now that I have your attention, I’d like to point Susan out to you, that’s her – in the back in the red shirt. I just want to tell you, I don’t like her. I think she’s ugly, tremendously damned stupid, and that she’s a terrible mother and can’t knit her fool way out of a washcloth. Also, this is my house and I’ll say what I want. Comments?”

Never going to happen…Right? There are a few types that we all love to hate who are going to say that sort of stuff at a party where Susan isn’t invited, trash her behind her back and have a good time doing it, but there are very few of us who would do it to her face, in front of everyone she knows….and if any of us did do it we would certainly not wonder why we didn’t have any friends any more. There’s simply very few human beings (and thank the fates for that) who would lie in bed after trashing Susan over the microphone and watching her burst into tears and flee the party, and in the dark truth of midnight say to themselves. “I’m not mean, I’m honest” or “Well, I have a right to share my opinion” or “If Susan doesn’t want to hear things like that, she shouldn’t come to the parties I invite her to.”

Yet, even though blogs are PUBLIC, and even though most bloggers are hoping to get more of the community to stop by and read at our blog parties, the scenario happens all the time. I’ve noticed, more and more often, people writing about other people like they aren’t going to see it. People, people who would never, ever say it to you if you were in their living room, or if they knew you would read it, writing away like they are in private, even LINKING to the person they are saying the hurtful things about, with no regard for the fact that the odds are pretty damned excellent that the person they are writing about is going to read it sooner or later.

Now these people may just have forgotten that you don’t choose who reads your blog, or maybe they would argue that they aren’t part of the community (even though they are in a whole bunch of knitting blog rings, or leave comments on other blogs) , and some of them may perhaps be confused about the difference between vicious invective and considered criticism (Hint: “Her grammar is poor” is criticism, but “She looks like a weasel” is vicious invective.)

Stunningly though, most of the people writing this stuff aren’t like that. Most of the people writing this stuff would never, ever say it to the face of the person they were talking about if they were in the same room with them, most of them, if they knew the other person was reading, would be downright ashamed of themselves. (Note my acceptance of the existence of a few people who are simply downright mean or troubled, and know that I don’t expect them to be reasonable, nor I am naive enough to believe that everyone should think that we are all able to play nice or get along) If – for it is only “if”, since we all tend to look the other way during these things, the writer is called on their behavior, then they invariably claim loudly that they have a right to their opinion, that it is their space and they can do what they like, or suggest (with increasing ire) that if you are going to get your feelings hurt about something as unimportant as what people say about you in rooms full of thousands of other people, then maybe you shouldn’t read blogs….


They are right. You do have a right to write anything you want on your blog or when you write comments. You have a right to any opinion you want to hold, and you can scream it into a microphone as loudly as you want at any party you want. My point is, and it’s the only one that I have…is that when you write this stuff, you are not in private. You are in public, and WE CAN ALL HEAR YOU.

Back at Alaska

It says a lot about you guys and my family that two days after coming back from Alaska, you can all make a birthday a very good time. I had a wonderful day, fully appreciated all the wonderful comments ( especially from those of you who also have trouble with keeping track of your age) kicked off the night before at Knit Night, full of good wishes and cake and my favourite Indian restaurant and new yarn which I am happily knitting up.


Yarn from Lettuce Knit (a gift from Joe) hand dyed by Laura. (Who is good at so many things you’d want to smack her if she weren’t so nice.) I’m knitting it up into Monkeys. (I know. It’s Cara. She makes it all look so beautiful that you don’t even notice it’s peer pressure.) The lace pattern is sort of lost in the colour, but I don’t care. Just made a mental note to knit them again in something plainer.


Before the birthday partying, I was in Alaska, and I still owe you a post about that. (I’m sort of glad that this is the last one before I get caught up. Blogging in the past tense is weird.)

I landed in Anchorage at about 11pm, and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was light as day! The sun shone and shone…the lady at the hotel gave me a little lecture about using blackout curtains and paying special attention to AM and PM (good tip, since there is no difference in how 10am and 10pm look) and I went up to the room and laughed and laughed. It simply didn’t get dark. Unbelievable. I took these two incredibly dorky pictures.

This is my hotel clock radio at


AM – and this is the view out the window at that time.


and I don’t even care how dorky that makes me. That’s a BLUE SKY. A blue sky at 1:44 AM. Unbelievable. (Yes. I had a little trouble sleeping.) I kept looking out the window as I lay there and all I could think was “If I lived in Alaska I would get SO MUCH DONE.” My esteemed husband – when I phoned him to tell him about how efficient I would be if the sun shone all the time, had a one word rebuttal. “January.” Point taken. I suppose that how energizing and thrilling this light is, is exactly as draining and hard to bear as the lack of light would be for me on the other end. I’d like to see the dark days though. I think it would be just as interesting.

The next morning I had a little time, so I went into Anchorage to see what I could see. For the first time I wished I drove enough that I could rent a car and go see some stuff a little further out. (Like a glacier. I really wanted to go to a glacier.) I settled for this instead.


The sock and I went to the Cook Monument.



Mount Susitna (The Sleeping Lady) is the mountain you can see there. It’s pretty darned big. If it had been a clearer day than it was, then I’m told I would be able to see Denali, the highest mountain in North America. (I know some of you are going to protest the name, claiming “Mt. McKinley” is right. However, my rule…when these things are in debate, is “When in Rome….” and Denali is the official name recognized by the State of Alaska and the people who were there first. Good enough for me.)

I saw some other mountains:


Most interestingly, I went to Oomingmack.


Oomingmack is a cooperative of qiviut knitters. The knittting is done by more than 200 native knitters across Alaska and the cooperative owns herds of Arctic Muskox. The fiber is gathered, then sent to a mill to be turned into yarn, then sent to the knitters. The knitters all pay a $2 annual membership fee. This entitles them to the qiviut yarn supplied by Oomingmack, and they are then paid by the stitch for the knitting that they do. When they are finished they send the scarves, hats and nachaqs to Anchorage, where the staff block and sell their work. At the end of the year, because it’s a cooperative, the knitters are paid a share of the profits.


This is Regina, she works at the shop in Anchorage. Behind her you can see the blocking boards they use. This is Portia and Jonathan:


Great tour guides. Jonathan showed me this fantastic map with pins for all the herds of musk ox and the villages with the knitters. Each of the villages or areas uses a pattern relevant to their history. Qiviut is a miracle fiber. This downy undercoat of the Arctic Musk oxen does not have scales like wool, so it is never itchy and doesn’t felt. (This also means it has no “memory” so things made of qiviut will “grow”. It’s a reason it’s so good for lace.) It’s hypoallergenic and like wool, it stays warm even when wet…though it’s 8 times warmer than wool.


The scarf above is the “Harpoon” pattern, trademark of the first village to join the co-op, Mekoryuk, home of the Cup’ik people.

My favourite is “Wolverine Mask”, from Unalakleet. Unalakleet is said to be the firs settlement in all of North America, having been settled in about 200 -300 BCE. In Donna Druchunas terrific book Arctic Lace, she tells of how only 13 members survived a smallpox epidemic there in 1938. The early Christian missionaries banned the Yup’ik and Inupiat people from making their traditional masks, and now that the culture is in recovery, the “Wolverine Mask” pattern for these lace scarves is especially significant.

The co-operative is not a knitting shop. They don’t sell yarn (except for bulky yarn sold in a hat kit.) and they don’t publish the patterns, since both of those activities would undermine the profits of the co-operative, or fail to protect the cultural property of the knitters. It’s a fascinating place, and if you’re interested in knowing more about it then I really suggest investing in the Arctic Lace book. It tells the stories of the native knitters of Alaska, provides patterns in the family of what they are doing (without violating their own patterns) and is a completely fascinating chronology of how knitting helps to shape these peoples world. I love it.

From the co-op I went to a lovely knit-in at the town square, then over to Title Wave books for the talk. There are a lot of knitters in Alaska, let me tell you.



This is a whole knitting family.


Well, baby Rachel doesn’t knit, but she’s wearing knitted pants, and that’s her knitting mum Casey and her knitting Dad Jay (holding his 1st sock) so I have high hopes for her future.

This is Heather with her awesome Alaska washcloth


and Katie, the Prairie Knitter


(I love meeting imaginary friends- which is always how I think of far-away bloggers, especially out of context, which Katie certainly is. She’s far from home.)

This is Jodi (If my handwriting is to be believed, and I don’t know that it is)


Who has finally come up with a knit-blogger use for the commercial sock. (Camera case)

This is Holly: (But not this Holly– who was totally there too.)


Holly is holding her sister Mandy’s book and a note from Mandy requesting not that I sign her book (which was implied) but that I hug Holly, since she really doesn’t get to see her enough. It was really charming. (Mandy – I delivered that hug for you.)

In return for the hug –


Alaska Summer ale in felted beer cozies (Which is a darned good idea, especially in a state where, like my home, your hand could freeze to your beer if you weren’t careful.) Sorry you two look so manic in that one.



with the washcloth that proves that everything really is bigger in Alaska, and our wonderful Anchorage Hat lady Linda,


who collected a staggering 95 hats. Which means that (as expected) Anchorage totally overachieved.

Finally, we rolled out of the bookstore and off to get some beers, and when we staggered into the parking lot I took this picture.


Knitters. Near midnight, in daylight.

Let me tell you. Alaska is one freaky cool place.

Back to blogging in the present tense. Whew.

I’m doing two

On my sister Erin’s birthday in March this year, the family was gathered together at my Mum’s. We were talking and laughing and everything was completely fine, fine up until we started discussing the issue of how old Erin was. I said she was 32. Ian claimed 33, Erin was unclear.

We asked mum. She was able to state the date of Erin’s birth (it’s amazing how little details like the date you passed a whole other person through your body stay with you.) but couldn’t translate that into an age with certainty. (We are not a family that is focussed on numbers or the addition of said numbers.) We all started to work it out. Ian claimed that Erin must be 33, because he was turning 35, and James was 37. I claimed that it was impossible, that she must be turning 32, because I knew (no matter what these other people believed about their ages and the mess they were in) that I was unequivocally 37 years old, turning 38 on my next birthday (which would be today). Ian disagreed. No, he claimed. I was already 38, I was turning 39, and that made Erin 33.

I sighed. They could argue all they wanted (and frankly, I can’t believe Erin lost track of her own age) but I was 37, and that made Erin 32, since I don’t think you can change a thing like being 5 years apart.

I continued to support my argument with little details like “Five years ago I had my 32nd birthday…therefore, I am 37” and they asked me what year I was born, and in as much as I felt that was irrelevant to the argument, my mother (good with those details again) provided the date of my birth.

HA HA! I shrieked. Born in 1968, add thirty seven years….wait…No, it still makes sense. Even though that comes out to 2005, and that’s not right, that still doesn’t prove that I’m older than I think I am, because the first year you are on the planet doesn’t count because you aren’t “1” until you’ve been there a year and I don’t turn 38 until later this year so…whammo! 1968 plus 37 is 2005, plus one year for the first year, and one year for later this year is 2007…therefore, as I suspected, I am turning 38.

Blank stares all around. Ian looked me dead in the eye, and supported by Ken, who nodded gravely (but not without a touch of smug) very plainly said. “You are 38”. I objected. Did they not think I could count? Did they not think I knew how old I was? My mother came to my defence (likely because my argument made her a year younger as well) standing up to her kin and saying “come now, look at the math. Stephanie’s right. You aren’t a year old when you are born… you can’t count that year at all.”

I glared firmly and stood with my mother, though inwardly I was a little worried. Even though I knew I was 37, my grandfather always said that if one person thinks you are wrong, you can still be right. (This I accepted) If two people think you are wrong, you have to reassess your argument. (This I had done. 1968 + 37 + 1 + 1 worked fine.) If however, three or more people think you are wrong, you are likely mistaken. (I swallowed hard.) I faced Ian, Ali, Erin, Ken and the girls and tried hard to look confident and very firmly 37 years old. They were all starting to really upset me.

Ken stared me down. “Steph”, he said (with that vein on his neck sticking out) “Try to follow…in 1968 you were born. In 1969 you were 1. In 1970, you were 2. Thus, in 1980 you were 12. In 1990, 22 and in 2000, 32. Now it is 2007 and your birthday is in June….are you seeing it?”

I was stunned. I resisted seeing it. I ran one last check before I gave up. I am 5 months younger older (that error was wishful thinking) than Joe, and because his birthday is in November and mine is in June, in March, we are the same age. I know I can always count on Joe. I phoned him. “Joe, these people are messing me up about how old I am.” I held my breath for a second. “How old are you?”

“38” he said, “Same age as you.”

The world shifted. I was a year older than I thought. In 10 minutes, I had missed a whole year. I was suddenly 38 years old. I turned and admitted defeat. I had never had a 38th birthday and I had been giving my age wrong on official forms for heaven knows how long. All I can think of, is that I must have done a birthday twice somewhere along the way.

All this, done and accepted, I am doing the only reasonable thing I can think of today. It will be my 38th birthday until about 5pm, then I’m switching to my 39th birthday to get caught up.

I’m going to do this:


and skip working the whole time. Cheers friends. I’d share cake with you if I could.

(PS. Erin said watching me get a year older in 10 minutes on her birthday was the best present she could ever have.)

In the Garden City

I’m home (the flight from Alaska is seriously long.) but still catching up on where I’ve been and what I’ve done. The Garden City is Victoria’s nickname, and it’s entirely apt. Victoria sits on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, and it’s British Columbia’s capital. (People often think it’s Vancouver, but that city just gets a lot of press.) It has the mildest climate of Canada, and I’ve often said that I would live here in a second, but for the rain and banana slugs. (The banana slugs are just plain creepy, growing up to 25cm that’s 9 inches. Someone just told me that if you lick them your tongue goes numb. I am absolutely gripped by wondering how the heck someone figured that out. Not wanting to be burdened with a horrible mental picture, I didn’t ask.) Victoria is also home to the oldest yarn shop I know of, Beehive.


101 years old this year. (I bet the back room is a sight to behold. I wonder what you could rustle up in there.) The sock saw the gate to Chinatown


and Marilyn’s house.



She’s the organizer of the knit-out, and lives on a boat. (She keeps her stash in a room of a building off the boat. I asked. I knew there was no way her stash was fitting on a boat.) The sock was happy to play to a Canadian crowd, and I was relieved that (since much of my family hails from the west coast) there was nobody I was related to in the auditorium. (Public speaking is weird enough without surprises to make it weirder.)



When it was over, the parade of 1st socks began. (I am so dim. It only occurred to me the other evening that this many 1st socks in one place can’t be an accident. Wily Canadians. You wait and see, I’m going to switch it to shawls or something.)


Click to make the knitters bigger.


Colleen heard me when I said “That’s it. I’m not doing 1st sock anymore. I’m going to do First Shawl!” and she whipped this out.


Yup. First Shawl.

Alyson (who just got married) used the same yarn as I used for my big pink thing (Blue Moon STR Pink Quartz) to knit her own big pink things.


Seriously fabulous.


Maybe you can only use this yarn for big pink things? Has anyone used it to make a small pink thing? Is it possible?

McKenna was there.


McKenna is the architect of the very clever and beautiful stash weasels,


and because part of the money is going for her education, and part of the money is going for Knitters without borders, I can tell you that should you wish to have your very own one of a kind Stashweasel (complete with birth certificate) that I’d be happy to put you in touch with the young artist in question.

Check this out. Val started with the baby sweaters and you know what?


She can’t stop! It’s not just me! The things are addictive. What an enormous relief to see her standing there with them.

I was honoured that Rabbitch was my hat lady…


Don’t let the smile fool you. We all know just what we’re dealing with here. (Note that she is not covered in dye. I take this as a personal compliment.) This was the only time she looked pleased, right up until we got her some beer. (That improved my mood as well.) After the talk and all the first socks, the Knitters invaded the patio of The Canoe Club (Canadian knitters are apparently a pub invading force to be reckoned with)


where over the course of an hour or so, we managed to claim all seats (a great cheer would go up when knitters procured another table)…except three. In these three seats remained three handsome young chefs…who were given a choice. Knit…or go.

I used my special knitting lesson for young straight men to teach them. It is not fit for repeating here, lest I lose my reputation for tasteful vagueness. For the curious, I will simply disclose that an analogy was drawn between the insertion of a knitting needle into a stitch and…well. Other forms of ins…..never mind. I’m sure you see where I’m going. Carry on. I’m sure that someone will post a link to pictures of this in the comments. One of the gentlemen said to me “knitting is sort of hard!” and I assured him that as with other things he was having difficulty with at present, like walking, speaking and forming an intelligent string of reason….knitting was easier when sober.

The next morning I made my way to the Knit out at Saxe Point Park,

and I met many wonderful knitters, including Barb


(Don’t you just love the hat?)

and Paul.


If you look closely at Paul’s knitting, you’ll see that he’s holding two really interesting knitted objects. In recent years, Paul’s had two surgeries. Open heart surgery resulted in the anatomically correct heart he is holding on the left (The inside of the heart is correct as well, right down to the valves and chambers) and then more recently, he had a hip replaced….and he knit one of those too.

Lest yee think that Paul specializes in body parts…


this is just one of 84 blankets he’s made. Incredible.

The sock and I checked out the view over the Juan de Fuca Strait, and we looked for whales…


but a found another sock photographer in the wild.

(I am so not alone in this.)


On that note, I made for the airport and Alaska and knit the whole way. I’ve been knitting tons actually, Alaska is far, and the trip there and back is seriously good knitting time. I’ve been working on the Kauni Cardigan.


I think it couldn’t possibly be more lovely. (I know, you’re all asking. the free pattern is here at Ruth’s, (click on the little Union Jack to download a pdf in English) but the yarn is a little more complex. There’s a rumour that it can be had at Knitty City in NYC, but I suspect it’s all gone from there. I don’t know of any other US/Canadian source, all the places I found were European. I ordered my yarn from here, and though my Danish is non-existent, when I emailed her in English she responded quickly (in English) and the transaction was swift and easy. The yarn was in my hot little hands very quickly…though shipping is a little dear. I suggest finding some other knitting friends who want the yarn too, and doing the shipping equivalent of a carpool to save money.

Happy Hunting.

I’ll write about Alaska in a few days. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I don’t do squat on my birthday that I don’t want to- and that might mean I don’t blog. No way to know. Today though, is the birthday of my esteemed mother, the person in the world I have the most respect for. Funny, articulate, sensible..If I am anything good, I learned it from my Mum. (Except knitting. She does not knit, but is perfect somehow anyway.)

Happy Birthday Mum!

(PS. Since tonight is the Knit Night at Lettuce Knit closest to my Birthday, and since I think the best place to have your birthday party is a yarn shop, I shall be there celebrating …and you should feel free to join me.)