Hay, sun, etc

The girls and Joe are out today, so I’m working hard to take advantage of the opportunity. (It’s amazing how soon after having a meltdown where you did your best impression of the kid in the exorcist these opportunities arise. I’m sure it’s unrelated.) I’ve got no time to be anything but random.

1. Thank you for your support. The only reason I didn’t leave for Aruba was because there were so many comments from other parents that I realized that I don’t have the worst kids in the world and therefore am not morally able to run away forever. Very reassuring.

2. A reminder that I am at the Borders in Burlington MA on Thursday at 7:00pm, apparently you can email or call to reserve a seat. Details HERE. (That reminds me. I totally need a haircut.)

3. The next day I am at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison CT. Amy called to get a spot and was told that everyone planning to attend should register. I’m not sure if that’s totally accurate, and I’m positive they will just let you in if you come, but since the very nice lady behind the counter told Amy that only 30 people had signed up (probably because we didn’t know we should register) and she “didn’t expect it to be busy”, if you’re planning on coming, could you give them a heads up so we don’t have the chair thing again?

To reserve seats, call 203.245.3959 or 800.74.READS, or email books@rjjulia.com.

4. I could use knitters to take responsibility taking any hats we collect to a shelter when I am in both places. Any volunteers?

5. The details for Halifax are in! (I am unreasonably excited about Halifax. I’m really grateful to the Canadian Distributor of the books for finally getting me out that way.) August 7, 2007, Time: 6:00 pm, Lord Nelson Hotel, (SERIOUSLY! Sorry. All caps was un-called for, and the exclamation point was right out of hand. It is the Lord Nelson though…c’mon.) Regency Ballroom, 1515 South Park Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Loop Craft Cafe is in on it, and they can help you with any other details you might wonder about. I’ll get it all up on the Tour Page ASAP.

6. I am still entering the emails for the Knitters Without Borders database loss. I have done hundreds, but there’s a lot to go. If you have already resent, but didn’t hear from me yet, please be patient. I confuse very easily, so if you resend twice in a week it makes it hard for me to keep track of you. I’m sending everybody a quick email when I get them entered so that they know that they are “in” and when I think I have everybody I’ll let you know. If you still think you’re missing, you can resend then…okay?

7. No sooner do I explain my love for the firm, smooth pointiness that is the Knit Picks dpns and claim that I care nothing for wooden ones than I am forced to declare an exception. I DO use wooden dpns for the sort of colourwork that is the Kauni Cardigan, in fact the whole cardi has been knit on wooden needles, and am very much enjoying these ones.


The new Grafton Fibers Darn Pretty dpns. Which are smooth and firm and pointy, but still have some of the “drag” that’s so helpful for colourwork. Love them, and they are indeed fine needles, and (as the name promises) Darned Pretty….


which is awesome, because I really like the people who run this business and would hate to have to figure out what to say the next time I saw them if they were crappy needles.

8. I finished the first sleeve of the Kauni Cardigan, and decided that I am exactly the sort of obsessive compulsive knitter who cannot possibly tolerate it if the two sleeves don’t match. I tried to relax into it, I really did. I know other knitters can let it go and just let patterned yarns do their thing, and I applaud them and even think that their sweaters look great. I just. Can’t. Do. It. Turns out it was pretty easy to get it all matchy- matchy….


All I did was use the ball winder to wind off the colours I didn’t want, stopping when I had the blue matching the start of the first sleeve, then winding off the other ball until it was matching the green.


Then I set aside those wound off sections, I’ll use them for button bands or something, and I’ll begin knitting with the two balls rigged to start at the right spot.


See? Obsession made easy.

For now, it’s back to the salt mines, making hay while the sun shines….all that.

I’m only taking a laptop

I am running away from home. I do not know where I am going, or when I will be back, but the combination of Joe out of town for a week, the children all in the house and the work deadlines have finally taken their toll. I am getting on my bike and riding to somewhere where I can plug in a laptop and NOT BE SPOKEN TO. This may be Aruba. Someone should totally stop by and feed my cat. I am not taking her either.


There is every chance that I will not come back until my daughters are all old enough to make a connection between interrupting my work and all of us going TO LIVE IN A BOX.

This is a struggle I go through every summer, when all of these people come and try to live in my office, aka, our house, and I know that this year it is compounded by the fact that Joe suddenly found himself “pursuing other opportunities” in September and has been around the house a whole lot more than ever. In addition, even though all the girls have summer jobs and Joe is freelancing, they appear to have finally perfected the ability to tag team me, so that just as someone is going out the door, someone else is arriving so that they have complete coverage.

Sometimes I read about “sleep deficits”, where people are chronically exhausted because night after night they fall short of their sleep needs, and I feel like that’s what’s happening here…not with sleep, but with alone time -the time that I use to reflect so that writing is possible and I can be at all sane. I know that parents everywhere are reading this and thinking “Holy cow lady, I haven’t been alone in seven years, that’s just what it takes to be a parent”…and I really agree with them. I think that it’s the added pressure of being a parent and working from home that’s got me. It means that I can’t really just take off everyday and go work at the library or something, because I am also a parent, and that means that I have to be dialled into what my kids are doing. (I happen to believe that teenagers need more supervision than 10 year olds. The stakes are higher.) If I just had to parent, or just had to work from home it would be fine. (Well. Mostly. Neither of those things is particularly easy, especially the parenting.)

A friend suggested this morning that I stop trying to tell these people my children “If you don’t go for a walk and let me think for ten minutes we will all starve to death because I pay the bills”, because they don’t believe me. They don’t believe me because it’s a lie. They all know that somehow I will pull it together and everything will be all right because I am the mother and I love them and would never let them starve.

She suggested that instead I relate it to what’s in in for them….Like saying “If you all leave me alone for “x” amount of time each day, then you will have a happier life, since you won’t have to live with a shrill, crazy harpy-lady who keeps yelling, crying and adding up the cost of the avocados you just ate.”

I think she’s right. I think she’s brilliant actually, and I’m going to try it, and any other suggestions you’ve got….because there have got to be parents out there who work from home, or maybe even parents out there who have creative jobs that take a lot of alone time to pull off, and some of you have to be making it work…right? I’ll try anything.

The minute I get back from Aruba.

Low Content

Stealth knitting and a ton of work continue to make poor blog fodder. Last night I knit a round or two on the Kauni Cardigan and just could not believe how long this is taking to knit. I mean, it’s a reasonable gauge, a simple pattern and it really, really should be finished. (I would like to overlook the fact that I’ve knit the first sleeve twice due to operator error, since it means that I would be a lot closer to done if I hadn’t gone nighty-night on the pattern instructions.) it’s demoralizing to have it moving so slowly. This should be one that’s just whipping along. Jeanie is even knitting it in another pattern and still making good time. Susan is charging along (and I like her edge better) Cindy is completely finished. There are tons of others too…all going forward. My slow progess on this is unreasonable.

I’m not into a race, I don’t care how quickly I finish, not really…but it’s been on needles forever and I just can’t imagine what the hold up is.

Note: I wrote all of that, then moved the mystery stole to put my coffee down, shifted the socks in progress, moved the stealth knitting to my office so I could knit it while I read email and sort of got it. The Kauni Cardigan is taking a log time because I AM NOT KNITTING IT.

Never mind.

Tuesday Q&A

I’ve made little progress on socks, sweaters or sundry, and I’m hoping to distract you from the pathetic lack of progress by confessing that I have an unblog-able secret project on the go, and I’m working a whole lot of hours with writing stuff (which really just looks like me hunched over my desk with my head in my hands…but is work nonetheless.)

Shall we do Q&A? It’s been a while.

Mary asks:

I am curious as to the needles you use for your socks. Are

they knit picks? I bought some and tried them a week or so ago and found them incredibly heavy, they were #1 (US).

They are indeed Knit Picks needles, of which I am a pretty big fan. I almost always knit socks on metal dpns, I find them fast and sturdy, and for my particular tension and style of knitting I like a really rigid needle. Wooden needles at the finer gauges drive me insane because of their flexibility, that little bit of “give” sometimes makes it harder for me to knit. (There are exceptions, of course.) Naturally, there are many knitters who find the exact opposite is true, it all depends on your personal bent. These needles are nickel plated like the Addi Turbos, and have much in common.

As for the weight, there are a couple of issues. Knit Picks makes two sizes of US #1s, so that the full metric range is represented. You can see in this kit (which I just bought and really love) that the sizes are:

2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.75, 3, 3.25…..all standard Metric.

BUT in US sizes, because the system isn’t set up for that much differentiation, the sizes in the same kit are:

0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to note the difference between the two ones and the two twos (maybe I call them US number one ones and number two ones and US number one twos and number two twos? 1a? 2b?) but for the purposes of the rest of this bit, let’s assume that I am comparing the first US #1’s (2.25mm.)

(Kindly insert here my standard rant on the difficulties of the US needle sizing system, why I don’t like it and why I don’t use it. I think that there are two ones and two twos and that you need metric to explain the difference totally illustrates my point.)

In any case, according to my handy little scale, (and Grumperina’s, since she weighed some a while ago too) my rosewood DPNs in 2.25 mm (US size one ones) weigh 1.6g. My Susan Bates cheap aluminum ones (the ones that were my favourites before the Knit Picks ones came along) weigh 7g, and the Knit Picks are 11.3.

That means there’s a difference of 4.3g between the two metal brands I compared – and that’s about the weight of two pennies.


For me, that tiny little bit of extra weight is nothing and doesn’t bother me at all, I don’t even register it. I think if I were a wooden needle user I might notice the difference more. Clearly, if I were concerned about weight, I would be using the rosewood, which are very much lighter. As it is two pennies worth of extra weight seems so completely inconsequential to me that it won’t hold me back in the slightest, and as a matter of fact, I find that wee bit of extra weight sort of comfortable and sturdy. What will bug the snot out of me is broken needles (because I carry my knitting everywhere I am death unto wooden needles for socks) bent needles (the cheaper aluminum ones don’t really stand up well to my sock lifestyle either, although until now they were they best I could do) and needles that aren’t sharp enough to make light work of stitch manipulation with cables and such.

Everybody else is going to have their own set of priorities. It could be that flexibility is really important to you, in which case you’re really going to hate the Knit Picks needles and would enjoy plastic. If you knit very loosely and find that your needles slide out of your work easily, these are going to make you nuttier than Peter Pan at a retirement home and you’re going to love bamboo. If you love smooth, fast, sharp needles, these are your babies.

There are no “bad” needles out there, just needles you or I don’t like. I could pull what I thought was the worst needle out of my bag tomorrow and someone here would defend it to her death as the best needle ever. There’s simply too much personality in knitting for us to ever be able declare a universal best choice. (We can have the Circular VS Straight argument tomorrow if you like.) For now, I’m really enjoying the Nickel Plated, and there’s only one way that Susan Bates has got them beat….


You can’t match the Knitpicks to your yarn. Bummer.


For various reasons (have you met my new stove and seen the tour schedule?) we found ourselves too short of time and money to do a whole lot, vacation- wise this summer. We decided to do a quickie when we heard about the bike train. We have cycled to Niagara before, we did it as a family when the girls were 8, 10 and 13… it’s not at all hard and is only 200km away, but that’s a three day ride each way… and that was too long for us. (Not distance wise, we’ve done 400km on family trips before, it was too long a time to take off work.) We could do what we have done in the past, box up the bikes and ship them on the train, but to be entirely frank, it’s a huge pain in the arse. You have to take of the pedals and turn your handlebars and tape the boxes and pay the money for the shipping and wait for them to be loaded and unloaded as oversize baggage, and if you’re travelling with a whole family, the time that takes really sucks…but we’ve done it.


The bike train solves all this. You ride over to Union Station, hand them the bike right there, they put it in a bike rack on the baggage car and hand it right back to you at the end of the ride. It’s spectacular. Ken and I knit the whole way.


Joe did whatever it is that non-knitters do with a train ride.


Once there, we got our bikes back and took off on a ride. We decided to go from the Niagara train station to Niagara On The Lake, then cycle back and check into our hotel. The next day we would cycle south toward Fort Erie, then whip back before getting on the train to go home to Toronto. Only Sam was with us this year, since her older sisters have jobs that mean they can’t take weekends off, so Sam was queen for the trip and set much of the agenda. The coolest thing on her list was the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum. (Naturally, and I’m sure all the Canadians will be having flashbacks to 7th grade history class, this is located in the historic home of William Lyon Mackenzie, rebel publisher and instigator of the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837.)


They had all sorts of printing presses, including one that is the eighth oldest printing press in the world, and with the exception of that very old one, the rest are hands on. We all got to take turns pulling handles and levers and printing our own bookmarks, and Sam set her name in type (“Samantha” instead of “Sam”. More fun that way). Very, very good fun.


(Bloggers should be interested to know that this, these letters that one moves around to set the type for printing is an invention called “Movable type” Sound familiar?)

They had a linotype press too…it was absolutely fascinating, and considering how time consuming it is, it’s pretty fantastical to know that there are still plenty of newspapers all over the place who still use the technology, and that a realistic alternative only came along in the 70’s. The New York Times used Linotype until 1975.

We Cycled along the Niagara River for the rest of our day.


We saw orchards with almost ready peaches, and acres and acres of vineyards as we cycled along the “wine route”.



At the printing press we met a man named Roy Charles Asplin, who is a very charming old man and a neat guy, and he told us that he had made a statue of Lord Simcoe the stood in Simcoe Park in Niagara On The Lake.


We found it…and with little thought, the next picture was obvious.


The sock went to the Butterfly Conservatory,


which is really a fantastic and magical place.


Butterflies everywhere, even one to match my knitting.


This whole day took about 60km of cycling, and took us back to downtown Niagara Falls, where we started looking for the hotel. We cycled around Clifton Hill (an insult of incline after 60 k of cycling) we looked up and down the street, but try as we might, we couldn’t find our hotel. Ken finally asked me for the confirmation email so he could take it into another hotel and ask where it was, and I handed it to him…telling him the address, and he started to walk away.

Then he stopped dead, turned slowly and said “We have a big problem.” He pointed at the address. I looked where he was pointing. 433 Main Street, Niagara Falls. “What problem?” I said.

“Keep reading Steph.” I looked at the paper. 433 Main Street, Niagara Falls, USA.


Damn. Double Damn. There it was, across the river with that big huge BORDER in between us and it. Might have well been on Mars for how attainable it was. We hadn’t planned on a jaunt to another freaking country, so while we all had passports, we certainly didn’t have them with us, and nobody was carrying any proof of citizenship. (Except Sam. That kid was prepared for anything.) We did some fancy dancing, made a bunch of phone calls and found what we were told was the last available hotel room on our side of the border. Stupid, stupid, stupid. (I am back to self blame for the bonehead move on that one, although when we couldn’t find a hotel room I did have a rather good head of steam worked up about the stupidity of having two cities with the same name right next to each other.)

The next day we visited the falls,


contemplated a daring photo, but realized the risk to the sock was too great,


cycled south from the falls,


had a nice lunch, rode and rode and rode, and then turned up at the train station, boarded our bikes and headed for home.


It was a really good time, although if your view for a whole weekend is like this,


Then this is all the knitting you get done.


We’d do the bike train again in a heartbeat, even though today, I am- despite owning a great seat for my bike….acutely aware of my own seat.

Good company

You all may have noticed that I rack up the frequent flyer miles pretty good. The upside of this is that I have friends all over. The downside of this is that my friends are all over. Rachel H. and I have both been privileged to enjoy a lovely (mostly) cyber friendship with Rachel’s fellow professional commenters, Rams and Presbytera, and we missed them. Presbytera’s very nice husband suggested she grab Rams and make a run for the border, and Wednesday morning bright and early they did just that. They made record time from Michigan and by dinner time, it was me, Denny, Rachel H, Rams and Presbytera drinking and eating in Kensington Market.


I can’t tell you what a lovely time we’ve had, despite me needing to pull back the kauni cardigan (again) by 7-8cms.


Note: The beers in that picture are not all mine. Admittedly, some of that beer is mine, but certainly not enough of it to justify the bone-head mistake I made in the sleeve. I plead distraction by my fine company.

Rachel, Denny and I tried to show them the best possible knitterly version of Toronto. We took them to the Lettuce Knit Knit Night.


We took them to the Romni sale. We got Rams a plate of poutine, we drank local beer.

We went to the bead stores on Queen West and picked beads to go with our new yarn….



(All of us. It’s was like a lemming convention.)


We went BACK to Lettuce Knit, we took streetcars and subways and city buses. (Knittiing the whole way.) We had a very decadent dinner in my backyard, where I made a plain pasta dish and a very boring salad, and Presbytera made spanakopita and baclava and Rams made a pie and WE ATE IT ALL. We drank wine and knit under the backyard twinkle lights.


(I have no idea why in this picture for this moment they are not laughing. I swear we were having buckets of fun, but I have failed to capture the moment. )

We got up and went to St. Lawrence Market. We ate lunch at a pub.

We went to St. James Cathedral and we took sock pictures under the web of some enormous urban art spider.


Then we bought them butter tarts and sent them on their way.


I miss them already. May I suggest, if you don’t have some already, that you immediately cultivate some knitting friends? Friends who want to go to yarn stores? Friends who want to sit and knit and see your patterns? Friends who just move the yarn in the freezer to put in the spanakopita like it’s perfectly reasonable? It’s simply, fantastically, the best.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

-C.S. Lewis.

Time Flies

I was going to write this great big post about the Mystery Shawl and how I finished clue three and I think maybe I’m addicted and I can’t stop but I have to because clue four doesn’t come out until Friday morning…


but it turns out that my big super-exciting knitting company from Michigan is making much better time on the highway than I thought and I haven’t vacuumed and my hair is bad and I don’t have clean pants and I didn’t get to the grocery store yet and it’s all because I sat and knit lace. The only reason I’m even writing this is because I ran out of chart.

I gotta go. You know, if you looked up the exact opposite of “time management? It would be me.


1. The Knitters Without Borders total is rising again, see in the sidebar? I’ve still got about 800 emails to deal with, but I’m getting through them pretty quickly. When I do yours I send a quick note just to let you know that you’re on the list and I’ve “gotcha”. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and have ever sent me an email about Knitters Without Borders, please read this, and help me spread the word to anyone who might need to know. When I’ve got everything tallied I’ll start up again with the gifts. There are tons to give away.

2. Jayme-the-wonder-publicist is at it again. Update to the tour schedule here. There’s Burlington MA, Madison, CT and Halifax, Nova Scotia in August, and Seattle, LA, Wichita Kansas, Houston Texas, Atlanta Georgia and Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia in September. I would not be surprised if she didn’t put another one or two on there either, but I am not in charge of the woman.

3. I’ve been plugging away on my Mystery Stole, halfway through “clue 3” (Ok. Fine. Not quite halfway. Picky, picky.) There are 50 rows in each instalment of the pattern and they arrive each Friday morning.


I’m trying to stay on track and not fall behind. I wondered how I would feel about not knowing what I was knitting, and it turns out that I love it. I think it’s tons of fun to watch the pattern develop. I suppose that it would be less fun if Melanie hadn’t designed a stole that happens to be right exactly what I would design if I were as smart as her and had thought of it first… but that’s not the way it’s going. I think it’s very, very beautiful.


The yarn is Lane Borgosesia Baruffa Cashwool, which makes it sound like it has cashmere, but it doesn’t. It’s a very nice solid coloured merino laceweight with one hundred million metres to the skein. (I’m lying, but it’s still a whole lot…1350m.) I chose it for this project because it is very cheap, and I didn’t want to spend any more than $14 to knit a mystery. (I’m so sorry I doubted you Melanie, I bow at your feet in penitent shame. ) Now the thrifty knitter in me is thinking that since this was the only skein I had I should have more of this yarn in the stash.

4. Luckily, I have the new stove gleaming in the kitchen to remind me that no matter how cheap the yarn is, buying yarn doesn’t save money. Not buying yarn saves money. I have a new stove. I will be strong.

5. Yes. Watching other people buy yarn is the next best thing to buying it yourself…why do you ask?

6. No, that’s not enabling. That’s helping.

I don’t care about other mothers







That’s all I have time for today, since I lost huge amounts of my morning to the drama involved in being somewhat embroiled in The TV Fight for the 48679th time in my life and I still have to do today’s writing work. (I say somewhat, because I find vague detachment from teenaged ire helpful.) Under my tyrannical rule (unlike, it would appear, the rules of every other mother in the world who are all nicer than and saner than me) it has always been that there is no TV in the summer until after 4 in the afternoon. This is because I think 8 hours of TV is unhealthy, and because I work from home and find the TV distracting and loud. For these reasons, and some others, involving physical fitness and stuff like that, I still think this is an excellent rule and there absolutely zero chance that I am changing it. (This would be the rub of the drama.) I have said this every single day of every summer since the kids began school… and they are apparently the worlds most tenacious kids. Therefore, we have The TV Fight.

There is no school. The sun is shining. If they have a day off work they can go outside. Read a book. Ride their bikes. Go to the park or the pool. Paint. Put away their laundry. Knit. Use their YMCA memberships. They can lie on the floor prostrate with grief and fury or lie on their beds writing emotional dark poetry about how much they hate me… and I can’t believe that out of all of those choices they want to have The TV Fight with me. I have never lost The TV Fight, and I am not starting today.

I admit, when they told me that all the other mothers and teenagers think I am crazy and mean as a result of my insane TV rules, I was swayed for a second. I also felt a little bit bad about being “the only mother in the world” with rules about TV watching, and I do feel just sick about demanding a well-rounded lifestyle while everybody else’s mother “cares about their kid” and isn’t blatantly “trying to ruin their summer”. Although I feel a burning heartache over “obviously not caring” if they are unhappy and “being a hippy freak mother”…

I can live with it.

I like knitting

I like knitting, I like knitting, I like knitting. I like knitting. I like knitting.

This is all I am muttering, sitting here, gently rocking back and forth, definitively coming to the unavoidable conclusion that I need to rip back the entire sleeve of the Kauni Cardigan and have a complete rip and re knit of said offending portion. I have screwed it up in the following ways:


1. I have picked up a number of stitches around the sleeve opening that is unrelated to the number of stitches actually available around the sleeve. In fact, not only is the number of stitches unrelated to the opening, it is also apparently unrelated to the number given in the pattern. Clearly I have just picked a number out of the ether. While I’m a big fan of doing what works and not being a slave to patterns, this does not work, and in fact offers a subtle “lamb of mutton” sleeve effect that is doing the opposite of working out.

2. For reasons that I cannot fully explain (and frankly, choose to avoid, since they centre around my lack of intellect) even though I have knit the size small body, this number of sleeve stitches is closer to those suggested for the largest size.

3. I have added insult to injury by refusing to acknowledge, even though I could see it with my own two eyes, that something profound had happened to my gauge when I changed from circulars to DPNs after about 10cm of sleeve. It got looser after the switch and this, while it is offensive alone, is horrific when compounded by the magnificent number of sleeve stitches.


4. Since I went swimming in the river of denial on this one, I actually have pretty much finished the reeking slag heap of a sleeve before I could no longer devise ways to convince myself that the sleeve was “just fine” or would “block out”. It has to be ripped back. It has to be knit again. Fortunately for me, I am a knitter, and ripping it out just gives me a wonderful opportunity to enjoy this (*&^%$#@!!!ing sleeve all over again.

I like knitting, I like knitting, I like knitting, I like knitting.