It’s all the scary part

Late Friday afternoon this arrived.


My brand new book of essays about knitting. Free Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot writes again. I wrote it.

It arrived late enough in the day that I had actually started thinking that it might not come until Monday, and that was fine with me. (I thought.) Then I wouldn’t have to spend the weekend exhausting myself working though my own deeply personal process of accepting that a new book has been published. A new book means swinging alternately back and forth for a few days between total juvenile pride and glee in my accomplishment (I have been known to dance) and a consuming fear and loathing of sending it out into public.

Here’s the thing. Being a writer is a scary job. Every part of it is scary. It is scary to try and say things so that people will understand you, knowing that if they don’t understand you, or if your idea is genuinely stupid, you will have no opportunity to say more about it or correct their ideas, or help them understand what you really meant and that you’re not actually the raving moron that they think you are based on the third sentence of paragraph six.

Once written, it is the book that has the relationship with the reader, not the writer, and it is the minute that I see that actual book… the finished thing – I realize that if I’m holding it in my hands, that more copies of this book are being sent to real people right this minute (and some of them even pre-ordered, and how terrible is that going to be when it sucks) and that from this moment forward – for the rest of my life- this book has made it absolutely certain that some people are going to stand around in yarn shops talking about how I’m a complete moron, I don’t deserve to earn any money (even a fraction of a dollar per book), and that frankly they wish that I wasn’t so full of myself that I thought I was special enough to write books at all. When I hold this book in my hands, that’s what I know.. and since every person has a voice inside them, the voice of their supremely unsuccessful self (a 16 year old short- skinny-bad hair-braces low self-esteem self, in my case) saying that anyway, the fear catches, and coalesces into nausea and a certainty that this can’t end well.

“From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

– Groucho Marx

I finished this book in the woods. I finished it sitting alone in the dark winter, snow falling outside, fire crackling near the desk – and when I finished it I pushed back from the desk and went and opened a bottle of my favourite wine, and I poured a pretty big glass and went back and sat there and stared at the computer. I stared and I thought to myself that it was a pretty darn good book – maybe even excellent, and I felt overwhelming pride and the happiness that comes from doing a hard thing as well as you can. I toasted myself, and I may have cried a little.

“Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.”

–Tom Clancy

Holding it in my hands today, my trepidation stems from knowing that there is no possible way that every person who reads it (and oddly, some people who don’t read it) will like it. There will be people who say that it’s not good, and I will have to lie in bed at night and try and figure out if that’s true. There will be people who love it, and as happy as I’ll be to hear it, I’ll have to lie in my bed and wonder if that’s true too. There will be the people who misunderstand me… and I won’t be there to correct them or mend my relationship with them. I’ll have to accept that they don’t know me, that the book isn’t me, and that just because they hate and misunderstand the book doesn’t mean that they hate me – that they don’t even know me. This will be extra hard, since these people often don’t say “I hated that book, it bored me to tears” but actually often say “Stephanie Pearl-McPhee? I hate her. She bores me to tears.” You can see how that might take a little self talk to get through. I have to remember it’s the book. It’s the book. It’s the book. They don’t know me. They’ve never met me. It’s the book. That’s their opinion of the book(s).

“From my close observation of writers…they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”

–Isaac Asimov

Then there are the people who just aren’t going to like my writing.. and that’s totally fair. I don’t enjoy Dostoevsky’s writing, and clearly there a lot of people who disagree with me. I don’t take that too personally (except late at night. I never read reviews after 11pm.) Just because my sister doesn’t like orange and I do, doesn’t mean that orange is a bad colour, ya know? I find a way to love those people anyway. Then there are the people who have expectations I really can’t meet – no matter how hard I try. I still remember lying on my bed with a cool cloth on my forehead the day that I read a review of one of my books that said that it “wasn’t as funny as it could have been” and that the reader “only laughed out loud once or twice per chapter.” I lay there, in the dark with a cool cloth, resisting the urge to write back and say “Do you have any idea how hard it is to make someone laugh out loud once with your writing, never mind once or twice per chapter? How funny do I have to be lady- because that’s pretty damned funny” and realizing, as I lay there in the dark, that I really had to let go.

“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”

–Franklin Jones

Then there are the people who tell me I’m brilliant, who write reviews that make me glow with pride. (The reviews I show my mother.) People who line up at signings and say the most incredible things to me, compliment me, bring me yarn (I love those people) tell me I’m just so funny, and such a good writer and how much they just really, really love it, and lying in bed in the dark, I realize that as much as I really, really don’t want to…. I have to let that go too. That those people don’t really know me either. That if I can’t accept (and I really- really need not to) that you can hate me based on my writing, that you can’t truly love me based on it either. That neither one is really true… that almost everyone, whether they claim to love or hat me, is talking about the book. This thing that for better or for worse, is a thing separate from me, and then that’s hugely painful too, because really, the essays in this book came from me, and are deeply personal, and they were made by me and from me… but in the end just aren’t me… but are my work, and I can take responsibility for it and enjoy doing it well, but I can’t take it as a personal endorsement either way – just a much appreciated and needed professional one. Every person who comes to a signing moves something in me, and it’s my job to make sure it doesn’t puff me up any more than the criticism rips me up.

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

–Elbert Hubbard

I held that book on Friday, and I realized that it wasn’t just a book I wrote (although the thrill of that NEVER, ever gets old) It’s the beginning of a journey that will lead me somewhere. I’m about to get back on being critiqued, analysed, discussed, condemned and praised, and that this is simply part of being a writer. There is absolutely no way to write a book (no matter how silly or mundane) that avoids it. It is impossible to write a book that doesn’t open you up to all of the wonderful things and the hurtful things and the incredible things. It is impossible to do this scary job and say “I would only like the good parts please. I don’t have the self-esteem for the rest. Thanks so much.” I held that book on Friday and I thought “You twit”, and then I thought about the only real reason to write a book.

Every once in a while, I meet or hear from someone other than the people who read my book and love it (though I love those people, and really need them for balance) or people who read my book and hated it (and I try to love those people – and remember that I need them for balance) but someone who for some reason found a connection with the book. Someone who tells me that they read something I wrote that clarified something in them, something that moved them, something that made them laugh out loud, or something that helped them feel a sense of belonging, taught them something, or helped them somehow make a small movement in their life, and they come to me and say ” I wanted you to know that your book meant something to me” and in that moment, were it appropriate, I could leap across the table and kiss them full on the mouth… because what those people are really saying, no matter how they say it, is “I heard you”… and I can’t tell you how good that feels. In that moment, there isn’t any better job in the whole world.


So here we go again. This is my new book. I hope you like it. I do.

The positives of negativity

When I was taking art in school, I had this teacher who was entirely and totally hung up on Negative Space. She was also totally hung up on what she believed to be the ugly vicious truth about cheese (hint: Google “rennet”) was entirely obsessed with pointillism, and knew a really disturbing amount about which famous artists had what sexually transmitted diseases. For me, this has resulted in guilt around cheddar, an interest in Maximilien Luce, an overwhelming fear of syphilis and the knowledge that what makes lace so interesting to knit is almost entirely negative space.

This teacher, for months and months, had us draw not the subjects of our work, but the space around and between them. It’s an interesting trick. Let’s say that you’re trying to draw a face. In your head, you have all of these ideas about what faces look like. You know that eyes go at the top, that noses go in the middle and mouths at the bottom… right? No. I drew this for you.


See that? Eyes in the middle. Check it out on a real person. (We will not include all of my hair to avoid throwing off the average. )


The first time someone showed me that, I can’t tell you how surprised I was. (And how much better my face drawing got, and how quickly.) Noses and mouths in thirds below that. When you are trying to draw the positive elements of your subject, all of this stuff that you think you know that you actually don’t know (like that eyes are in the middle of your face) influences the way that you draw, and you might not draw as well, considering that you’re fighting a battle with what you’re seeing (eyes middle) and what your brain knows (eyes top). Drawing the negative space in a face… the space around the eyes, nose and mouth, lets your brain give its presumptions a rest. You might have some really specific ideas about where eyes go.. but I bet you’ve never spent a lot of time internalizing what the space around your eyes looks like. We just don’t look at it- we’re human. We focus on the present objects – not the space around and between them. Drawing the negative space lets you draw more accurately sometimes, because your presumptions don’t leap up and guide you.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking … this is a knitting blog. Please stop talking about drawing and your art teacher because frankly, the drawing part is boring and that teacher sounds like she shouldn’t have been around young minds.. but stay with me. Knitting lace is like drawing negative space.


I’m knitting the positive. The present “subject”. The yarn and my stitches are making a thing… and that thing is what you see here. Very nice, pretty colours, looks soft and clever – but it’s not breathtaking, not gripping, not something that you’d be missing sleep to work on. (I may have stayed up a little late last night doing that just one more row thing) Looking at the positive, this is pretty ordinary, but if you look at the negative.. the space between and around the stitches….


Knitting lace is all about negative space. When I knit it, I feel like I am just putting yarn around important and select parts of air, and when I look at it that way, it knocks me senseless.

(This is the Peacock Feathers Shawl, from Fiddlesticks Knitting (best charts in the world) yarn is Midnight Rainbow, from Perchance to Knit.)

London Calling

Sunday was my last day in London, and it was just about the first day that I felt human and well rested when I woke up. (The irony of finally getting the better of the jetlag the day before I incurred it again wasn’t lost on me.) I drank tea in my hotel room – my hotel room had a kettle and teacups rather than coffeemaker and mugs, examined my map, and finally decided that I would just wing it. Just let it happen. I would get on the bus, and I would just… go. Wherever the bus went, that’s where I would go. I put £50 in my pocket, armed myself with a sock to knit and an apple to eat, and bravely went forward. What happened for the rest of the day, I’m not even sure how to describe. I wandered, I had good luck… I had strange happenstance and lonely moments. I had so much, that I’m not even sure that I can give you a blow by blow of every moment, so full was that day. I’ve struggled with how to write about it for two days… (though not really yesterday, when I was so jetlagged that I scarcely worried about personal hygiene) and I’ve decided you’ll have to live with highlights. That day was mine, and there are parts of it that I’m just keeping.

Highlight One:

I attended St. Paul’s Cathedral for the Sung Eucharist. Many of you will know that I often say that I am a godless heathen, which is to mean that I do not keep with any particular church, and that I am (gasp) an atheist. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t respect or enjoy religion in general, and as a matter of fact, there is a very great deal I find my personal moral code has in common with much of organized faith, particularly when it comes to the basic rules that almost all faiths…. and all good people, have in common. (It is the interpretation of those rules that defeats me. Stuff like “Thou shalt not kill” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”being interpreted as “Thou shalt not kill unless you happen to think that the other person isn’t really a person because of your own rules” or ” do unto others as you would have them do unto you unless you think that simply being a human isn’t a good enough reason to receive human rights” is a problem for me. I would have been invited to no parties at all during the Crusades.) I loved the sermon (topic involved how being a good Christian must include being an environmentalist, should you respect the work of God at all) and was profoundly moved by almost all of the sentiment. When I was offered a sign of peace, and made that same sign to others, and the organ swelled and the choir sang, I was filled with an enormous feeling… A respect for the monumental force that is human faith. Although I don’t place my faith in a supreme being whom I believe to be sentient, I am faithful. I have faith in the goodness of people. Faith in the love I have for my friends and family, faith in the love they have for me. I have faith that people will almost always do the right thing, especially if they are not hungry or poor or homeless, or worried about becoming hungry or poor or homeless. I have faith that most poor human behaviour is driven by ignorance, not cruelty. I have a mountain of faith, and that was what I had in common with everyone else in that church. Faith. Different sorts of it, but faith nonetheless, and it was a very human and binding experience.

Highlight Two. (Click to embiggen stuff)



Architecture and statuary. Love it. Enough said.

Highlight Three.


Standing at the Tower of London and thinking about Anne Boleyn actually being imprisoned and executed there.

(I have recently read The Other Boleyn Girl.)

Highlight Four:


More stone stuff, randomly found and devoured like treasures. (As Ken said “London certainly does not lack for “big and old”. )

Highlight Five:


My previously unknown superpower for finding marching bands instinctively. (This is lucky, considering that I love parades and anything at all the has anything to do with one.)

Highlight six:


Walking in Chinatown, lunching in Soho.

Highlight Seven:


Randomly being found by a knitter and blog reader as I watched The Tour of Britain.


Hi Jennifer! (I asked her how she reckognized me, and she hedged. I asked her if it was the hair, and she said “I’m not going to tell you what you already know.) I loved the look of the people nearby as they clearly thought she was absolutely nuts when she asked me to hold her sock for a picture, then the way that they just about dropped dead when I produced a sock from my bag and asked for the same. I love messing with non-knitters.

There was more, so much more.. but I can’t tell you all of it. You’ll have to go see for yourself. London is an incredible place.



I totally knit on the plane all the way home. No problem.

PPS: Ignore that wine. It is a very long flight.

The more things stay the same

Sorry for the delay in getting this report of events up.. .I was sorting through it yesterday morning, when suddenly I got a hold of myself and realized that I was spending my last day in London (and my only really “free” day blogging. I immediately snapped my laptop shut and left the hotel room. I love you guys… but there’s just no way you win in an arm wrestle with London. Now I’m getting Saturday up today (waiting to go to the airport) and I’ll write up yesterday while I’m in the airport waiting for my flight, and then I’ll be caught up in real time. (Ditching the blog yesterday was totally worth it.)

For all of my astonishment over the last few days, as I stagger through London working and looking (and trying to get out of working so I can look) gasping with stupefaction at how different everything is…Saturday I discovered what exactly is the same here. The same as it has been everywhere so far… The Knitters.

I was really freaked out Saturday, pacing around in a little curtained room off to the side, listening to the room fill and generally figuring what I had to change in my life to make sure this never happened again – that’s a plan I always make, right before I walk on stage… and this time I think I was totally extra flipped out because people had paid to see me, and somehow even though they hadn’t paid me- that was making me feel an extra burden of responsibility to them and to Gerard and Craig and the publisher -everybody who did have a stake in it, and the whole thing was making me feel ill. I was just about at the peak of my breakdown, when out of nowhere – in bounds a fast moving beautiful woman with an Irish accent, the smilingest eyes I’ve ever seen (I mean it. I dare you not to think that all is contained in her is happiness, adventure and intellect the minute that you look into them) and she scoops me up in this big hug. (Two – actually – I’ve got one to give to Rachel H.) …


and she’s Celtic Memory Jo (which I should have suspected, having seen her on her blog, and enjoyed a peripheral, albeit vague cross continent relationship, but memory always fails me while I’m scared.) who has simply (and thankfully) muscled her way backstage saying “Oh, they’d have trouble keeping me out”… and somehow, that just broke the ice on the thing. Once I saw her and understood that really, the audience was just more Jo – and knitters like Jo, knitters that I really already knew on some level… I reverted to my normal (reasonably manageable level of abject horror, and decided to go out there. It was a moment that I’ll owe Jo thanks for as long as I live – and likely Rachel too.. since I suspect that she’s the one that harnessed that. Behold. (Some of – because there are way, way more than this…by a lot.) The knitters of the London (and The rest of Engand, and Belgium, and Ireland, and Scotland, and France, and Germany, and The Netherlands, and Italy.. and … well. They were from all over.)




Other than a microphone incident (which scared the snot out of me in a tremendous feedback thing – heck of a start really) it was great. I did what I do, which was fine, and they knitters did what they do… which was spectacular. There were some babies, and you know how I like me the babies, this is Ella and her Seth, and Jennie and Marianne (Click to embiggen small knitters) and a very enthusiastic young knitter.. Catriona, 10 years old.


There was the First Sock Brigade: Charlie (who is making a baby to go in those socks) Saira, Sarah, Helen, Bec, Erin, Suzi, Sarah, Mandie, Lynn (double qualifying with both a first toe up and a first top down), Gabrielle, Kayla, and Jenny.




I met Jenny, who brought a photo of her knitting daughter who couldn’t come


That’s Jenny, showing off her first sock (and first baby Theo).

Jane turned up bearing socks made of yarn she won in one of the KWB draws…


Speaking of KWB, Natalie from the Yarn Yard turned up..


you should pop over to her site and see what she was up to on behalf of MSF UK. (Aug 20 entry). She’s a nice lady, I tell you that. Jeni from Fyberspates had one long sock….


The other leg was bare.

There were knitters bearing washcloths. (I don’t care what some people have to say about the washcloth. I believe it can be a vehicle for the highest form of art.) This is Liz and Ann, Michelle, Diane, Claudia, Alex and Sophia,


and Alex also had a little knitted Dalek.


(What? It’s London. There practically HAD to be one.)

Anna double qualified with a pair of first socks – and a washcloth.


She was also wearing a Hey Teach, and hers had buttons and everything.

This is Kat (sorry, she’s less blurry in real life) and I laughed because after about 30 minutes at iknit day, she’d resorted to pinning a note to herself to head off inquires.


It reads “YES. It’s Kauni”

This is David and Alison, and David was one of the best sports ever.


That day was his 37th birthday, and Alison, overwhelmed with the thrill of Iknit day, had bought her tickets really fast, without thinking about the date at all – and David, who happens to be a non-knitter, found himself celebrating his birthday amongst knitters and a lot of yarn.



The Dutch Knitters, a force to be reckoned with… all three wearing the finest examples of lace and littering iknit day with Stroop Wafels (which happen to be very yummy.) There was a ton more to this day, not the least of which was what looked like awesome workshops and shopping – and I have regrets that I missed that. I had interviews right up until it was time for me to talk, and then I talked, and then I signed until all the yarn was packed up and put away, so I missed all the shopping, and didn’t get to meet the fabulous Sasha Kagan or Jane Sowerby, or Erika Knight... but such are the perils of tours, and really, it was a ton of fun to see what other people were buying and admire their scores and imagine what was there to be had – and if I had to choose between meeting knitters and shopping for yarn….

I’ll take the knitters.

The slower way

I am, after all, here to work. That’s what I thought to myself yesterday with two days of working, not poking around London ahead of me. I had to remind myself, because I might be rather taken with this business of wandering the city, and although I failed in my mission to go to a pub last night (the jetlag got me. I made one pathetic attempt to find Laura when I came in around seven- discovered her already out, and then promptly knit two rows on my shawl and fell asleep. Party animal.) I had decided yesterday, should it not rain, that I might be ready for a coffee in a cafe alone. (I’m a work in progress.) Instead, I found myself sighing over my breakfast, reminding myself that I am here to work, and resolving to be cheerful about it. Turns out I should have been way more positive, because my day was really, really great – despite the work. (Is it possible that everything is fun if you’re in London? I think so.)

First up, meet the London publicist in the lobby for tea and go over the plan. I have many interviews scheduled this day (along with one the day of arrival, and I can’t even remember what I said on that one.) There are knitting magazines, then a lunch with the UK distributor and publisher, and then three back-to-back BBC interviews (one of them Live, how terrifying.) First though, we will troupe over to the hall where I’ll be speaking, find Gerard and Craig from iknit, and do sound check and get the lay of the land. The day, Claire-the-UK-publicist assures me… will be fun and easy. Somehow, it turns out that she is right – though mostly about the fun, rather than the easy. First up…this is the space I’ll be speaking in today. Lindley Hall. I don’t mind telling you that when I saw it, some element of me said “Well. I won’t be doing that.”


I broke it to Gerard and Craig. I don’t think they believed me.


From there it was lunch (gone to lunch in a London cab, very neat. Four seats facing each other.) right next to the opera house, and then off to the interviews, all of which were charming, if harrowing. (I admit a special fondness for the interview with Laura from Let’s Knit. She’s a knitter, and I always get on better with knitters. I held her sock. We understood each other.) After all of the interviews, I found myself in St. Marylebone (assuring Claire that I would be entirely fine if she left me there) within striking distance of The Button Queen – but after 5, when they close. (A thousand curses. My last chance to have buttons for Hey Teach for today… thwarted.) I was briefly sad – and then made the most of it by walking back to my hotel in near Vincent Square, rather than grabbing a cab. It was definitely the slower way, but by far the better one. With my map clutched in my hands, I went down Regent Street, across Oxford… past hundreds of fancy shops.


I took a turn down Swallow Street, really no more than an alley, but filled with restaurants with real furniture out to sit on, chesterfields, chairs.


At the bottom of the street, starting onto Piccadilly, the promised rain appeared. First what Joe would call a drizzle.. just dampness hanging in the air. Then a light rain, and then the heavens opened and it poured with a violent wet sincerity. Everyone in London pulled an umbrella out of nowhere (where are they keeping them?) and their mushroom tops in all colours were everywhere, marching along. Me, I had my raincoat, but nothing more, so I ducked into a doorway to wait for the worst to pass, sharing my map (and terrible french) with a clutch of Parisian teenagers who had the same thought as I did. “Le Palais?” they asked me, gesturing in the general direction. “Oui” I said, and showed them the road to Buckingham Palace on my little map. They laughed then, and said “Vous êtes Canadien!”

“Oui” I said again… “how can you tell? Comment pouvez…” (my french failed me entirely there.) and they burst out laughing again. “Le bruit d’un canard” I think they said then, but for sure I caught the word “Canard”…. for duck. Sigh. All I said was “oui” and they pegged my nationality. They fled, giggling and waving into the rain, and I stood there then in a doorway for Lloyds of London, and peered around at everything. I looked across the way and saw a grand building. Beautiful, with statues and carry on all over it, and big words inscribed metres tall across the top. Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours.


And that’s just what London is like. I wish I could take a picture of a feeling, because I can’t convey to you what it’s like for every moment to be like this, it isn’t a good thing found here and there, long walks between sights…


It is a constant wonder and awe. You can tell the difference between me and Londoners because they aren’t falling over cracks in the sidewalks as they read the tops of buildings and take pictures of everything they see. I wonder how long it takes to build immunity?


I kept on down the street, turning south (?) onto Queens Walk (?) and took the path along the backs of grand buildings, headed for St. James park, I thought.


I took breaks to peer down lanes and examine the architecture of grand houses, letting my curiosity have free rein.


I read the inscriptions on sculptures…. read signs…


At the end of the walk I looked around, and suddenly realized where I was.


Buckingham Palace, looking toward the big statue of Queen Victoria and the statues of Victory, Constancy and Courage.


Surrounding this are three gates, the gates of the Dominions- Australia, Africa and Canada. Naturally, I went to the Canada Gate. (I happen to think it is the best one, and I’m confident that I’m properly objective there.)


It inspires something in me, though I’m not sure what. Something that goes beyond knowing all the words to God Save the Queen, seeing her on our money and noting the presence of our Governor General. Seeing the Canada Gates invokes all the history of my fine country, and how much of it – our history, system of government, money and tradition all stem largely from this place.


I dodged traffic then, crossing to the front of the Palace, and peered up at the windows. My grandfather, Lt. Col. James Alexander McPhee, was the Queen’s Press Agent in Canada, and he walked in this place, dined with the Queen, was knocked over by corgis. The flag was flying, so I know the Queen was home, but I didn’t see her, but I stood there in the rain, thinking about all the times he reminded me of my manners, saying “Careful now, or you’ll never be invited to the palace” and I remembered how as a little girl, I thought that was an entirely possible thing.


The rain reverted to a drizzle, and I walked along Buckingham Gate road,


taking pictures,


eavesdropping on conversations in at least 4 European languages – wondering if the £2 I had in my pocket was enough for a pint, and gradually making my way back to the hotel – thinking this all the way.


Every time I see something beautiful here, I think “Oh look. I’ve found the most charming thing in London”, and then I take another step and find something more. This city is like a jewel box. It may only hold charms, and you might never see all of them.


I love it here.

Off now to speak at iknit. Nervous as all get out.

Adventure is my middle name

I’m a shy person. I know there are tons of you out there who won’t believe me because I fake outgoing so well, or because I have a pretty congenial personality, but the truth is.. I’m tremendously shy, and not really brave to boot. If I’m travelling alone, this combination of shy and cowardly usually gets the better of me. I usually stick to the hotel rooms, nervous about venturing out, walking and eating alone. I worry about getting lost (turns out that fear is accurate and appropriate) and truth be told, things aren’t as much fun alone as they are with other people. I’m forever seeing things and wanting to share them, and when it’s just me, it’s like things lack resonance or permanence. It’s like they aren’t really happening. Yesterday, this feeling was cemented by the profound exhaustion, but I was determined to see London (and to stay up until at least 8pm) and I have so little time to do it that I had all sorts of plans not to let my instinct to stay safe and alone come between me and and adventure.

Yesterday after I posted, I set myself a mission. I would buy buttons, that would take me into London (and keep me moving so I didn’t fall asleep) and I would write about it so that it didn’t seem so lonely.

I bought a map, a notebook and a great pen, googled the button store closest to me, wrote the address on the top of the first page of the notebook in firm block letters and left the safety of the hotel. (I put £20 in my pocket before I went, just in case I had to bail out and take a cab back.) I walked along the street (keeping left. I can be taught) passing Greycoat Hospital school as I went, past Georgian row houses, very narrow and tall with wrought iron all over them, window boxes spilling bright petunias over old brick. (I bet it costs a million pounds to live in a row house at Greycoat Place. Maybe two.) I walked along Victoria street, past a pub that looked nice – but getting a pint ran counter to my goal. (Plus, drinking a pint alone in a pub is too far a stretch for someone just practising being Captain Adventure.) I passed Westminster Abbey with tourists swarming the place.


I wish now I’d gone in for evensong, there has been music in the Abbey every day for more than a thousand years.

At Parliament Square I stopped and admired Big Ben… or what I believe is Big Ben, if it’s not, don’t shatter the moment for me. It was grand.


I walked more, coming up on Trafalgar Square again, and now it was busy, not the empty place it had been at 8:00 that morning. There were people everywhere, climbing the lions, draped over fountains, all laughing, taking pictures – even the pigeons had turned up. I’d noted them conspicuously absent that morning – I think it’s part of why I didn’t recognize it right away. I passed through the square, stopping to take a picture for a German couple on their honeymoon, and I walked right up The Strand, looking for Bedford Street, and stopping every so often to peer in shop windows, people watch and breathe. I found Bedford and wandered up and down, looking for my button shop… and eventually it dawned on me.


The button shop at 43 Bedford is now an organic coffee shop. (It looks very good, fair trade and all that, but they didn’t have any buttons.) I heaved a sigh and did the only reasonable thing an Art History minor could do, were they in my place. I packed myself off the National Gallery and spend a glorious two hours knocking myself senseless with wonder. The things I saw. The things I stood near. In every room, something to tighten my chest with awe.

I saw Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, seeing for myself how he painted, a few dots here and there foreshadowing pointilism…Renoirs – at least four of them. I adored Van Gogh’s Sunflowers…standing inches from the canvas and looking at the thick impasto treatment, texture and height I know I’d read about, but truly never understood. There are shades of yellow in that painting that I didn’t ever think, when I thought yellow. I am changed forever. I breathed molecules in the same room as Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, I saw chalk on paper works that make me understand that I’ve never really sketched anything.

Every room, something else to sit and wonder at. Every room, something I never thought would be as wonderful as it was. Dark Caravaggios, gauzy Turners that almost seem lit from within. Landscapes by Constable, Portraits by Van Eyck – although it turns out that the Arnolfini Portrait is much smaller than I thought. I wrote a whole essay on that, and I had no idea. It was wonderful. So wonderful that I actually asked a guard in the same room with Monet’s irises if they thought they had a wonderful job. (They did.) I left the place (after contributing to Yoko Ono’s new secret project #3) and walked through St. James Park on the way home… stopping to commune with some pigeons and ducks, to whom I spoke at some length about the heartbreak of my love for Albrecht Dürer.



It was wonderful, and a very great adventure, lack of buttons besides.

PS. I have to work all day, but should this uncharacteristic sense for adventure continue past 6pm, are there knitters to be found nearby?

PPS. I have now been to 4 places on the Monopoly Board. Strand, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Pall Mall. This pleases me in a ridiculous way that makes me feel about six years old.

Steady On

I am so tired that I’m wild. I had trouble sleeping on the plane (got on at 6:30pm Toronto time) since it was nowhere near bedtime. I tried, I really did, but there was nothing for it. It was dark all the way here though (as predicted yesterday, by knitters far smarter than I am) with sunset coming right after takeoff and sunrise coming just before we landed here at 6:30am. I sat up, knitting, watching bad movies, and for 30 glorious minutes as we headed out past Newfoundland and over the Northern Atlantic, watching a spectacular display of the Northern Lights play across the sky like an electric green and blue curtain blowing in a celestial wind. It was heartbreakingly beautiful, and that 30 minutes, peering out the little window into the dark was entirely worth being awake for, no matter how tired I am now. I assure you that the same cannot be said of the Sex and the City movie.

We landed, me peering out the window again, trying hard to see London through the clouds, and a very nice driver named Dave drove me from Heathrow to the part of London that I’m staying in, giving me tips and history lessons, showing me points of interest, helping me get oriented. He was great, and gave me the best tip I’ve had so far. (Actually, Ken gave it to me too… but I’d forgotten due to exhaustion.)

Be Very Careful Crossing The Street.

I am not kidding. You laugh when someone says it to you, but dudes, the cars here are totally not coming from the direction you think they are. You look in the direction you’re used to looking, what would be oncoming traffic, were you home… see nothing, step off the curb and promptly find yourself in front of a double decker bus careening at you from out of nowhere. (Also, the British may be slightly mad drivers, but you didn’t hear it from me.) I’ve been honked at sixteen times, and I am also pissing people off on the sidewalks. (Hint. That’s opposite too.) I had just got the hang of crossing the street when I encountered a roundabout. I swear to you that the only reason I am writing this is because the good people of London have instructions written on the road to help you with the problem of crossing the street with cars coming from all directions, which totally makes me think that maybe they’re just hard in general, and not just hard if you’re really, really, really tired.


It is, at the time of this writing, about 9:00am here, and I’m in a cafe, drinking my 11th cup of coffee while I wait for the National Gallery to open. (I don’t know if I’ll go in.) There’s no internet though. I’ll hit post later, when I have a hotel room… because that’s what I’m doing. Walking/drinking coffee/ seeing things until I have a hotel room. Check in isn’t until 2pm, so I’m roaming the streets, getting lost, finding things and generally having a good time. It took me all of 4 minutes to get profoundly lost. Profoundly… but I just kept walking, thinking that sooner or later I would find something that would mean I wasn’t lost anymore. While I was lost, I found Parliament (I think)


What I think might be the Horse Guard buildings – and a Guard wearing a FANTASTIC hat, all manner of things. The best part though, was a little while ago, when I was walking along, looking, not caring that I was lost, just trying to be here.. you know what I mean? I was, at this point, very seriously lost. I’ve got no bearings here, I’ve found the Thames, which should help but doesn’t, because it’s pretty twisty and I’m not sure how it fits into things anyway – though I was briefly relieved that I knew that it was the Thames, which is sort of one of the minimum English geography things everyone should know – and I am reasonably sure (I have just got to get a map) that I am on the West side of the river.


In any case, I was hugely lost, and just then starting to think about maybe asking someone where I was, when I saw Canada House and laughed. Trust me to be lost in another country and find my Embassy.


Then I saw a gorgeous fountain…


Then wonderful steps and Lions…Then I sat and looked at the monument that was there….and then it hit me.


I’m in Trafalgar Square!

I’m hoping that the fact that my first thought was “what a lovely place” instead of “Wow. An internationally recognizable famous landmark” can be chalked up to being up for 24 hours, not general stupidity, but I can’t guarantee it. I saw Buckingham Palace later, and recognized that straightaway, so there’s hope.

I’m trying to stay up until bedtime London time, but I don’ t know if I’m going to make it. If you see me lying by the side of the street, sock clutched in my hand…camera extended in the general direction of a landmark…please pour tea down me until I’m revived enough to tell you where my hotel is.

This time I have pants

I think I’m ready. I’ve walked through the things I need to do in London in my head, imagining each day and what I have to get done in it, and then putting things in my suitcase as the imaginary me needs them. (The imaginary me surprised me this morning by suggesting that we needed an extra large ziplock. I didn’t ask questions. I just put it in there. Perhaps all will be revealed in the fullness of time.) I’m nervous, which is really more of a personality trait than anything else, and usually the nervous me also suggests putting things in the suitcase which are really just madness… like a first aid kit, lots of batteries and a dictionary. (I am unsure what literary emergency would be solved by the presence of my trusty Oxford Concise – but with a trio of rescue materials like that, I would imagine I would be in high demand should we end up doing a real life version of Lost.) I’ve pared it down to the minimum this time though- since this feels like an undertaking, and I don’t want to be encumbered.

I also packed Hey Teach, which is totally finished, but buttonless, as I couldn’t bring myself to put myself on my bike in the 30 degree heat (the weather turned again. It’s scorching) and ride down to get them. Instead I’ve packed the thing up, with a vague plan to find buttons in London.


I’ve never been to London, but in my mind (admittedly shaped by my families strong royalist bent, a lot of Victorian novels and a recent review of Brideshead Revisited) London seems to me like the sort of city that would have button shops. Maybe even really funky button shops. (I am also looking forward to the chance to use the word “haberdashery” in public, and in context.) If I can get up the nerve and find the time, I’m going on a hunt.

Finishing the sweater meant that I needed something new for the plane, since the Josephine top is on straights, and straights on a plane (holy cow. I just imagined a whole movie) are sort of rude I think. They take up all manner of space and are unwieldy. I needed something on wee circulars, so that I could keep my knitting business to myself, but was small and light, even after 14 hours (there and back) of flying. I’ve been planning what was next for a while, so I wound up this.


Midnight Rainbow from Perchance to Knit, 50% silk, 50% wool laceweight, which has been in the stash for a couple of years now, always with it’s destiny clear to me. Its got another name, which I’m sure will be a hint to you.

Should be an awesome flight – knitting all the way to a whole new place. I’m curious to know… If I leave here just before sunset, and I arrive there just after sunrise… will I ever be flying in the dark as the plane follows the sun?

A grinding halt

I spoke too soon about Hey Teach being done, since today, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to make any progress on it at all. This is probably because I am trying to do all of that knitting with the power of my mind, rather than by actually picking up the knitting.. which has a way better track record, in my experience.


The parts are done, but it needs seaming, neckband and buttonband and buttons… all of which suddenly don’t seem possible while finishing the actual job that I get paid to do, packing for the trip tomorrow and of course, the rampant and mandatory celebration that the girls are all back in school. (All hail Samantha.. brand new minor niner.) I’m beginning to think that finishing this sweater before I go tomorrow is about as realistic as that clearly psycho recurring dream I have where the laundry is all caught up and there’s nothing stuck to the kitchen counter. We’ll see.

PS. I’ve been alerted that there’s errata for the Baby Yours sweater – though we’re not sure how it snuck in there, what with three of the worlds most obsessive perfectionists producing the thing, but there you have it. It’s not too bad though. Where the sleeves are very obviously worked in the check pattern (as several pictures show) the pattern accidentally reads “cable” rather than “check” at one point. Common sense would definitely show you your true path, but just in case…. the sleeves are indeed in the check pattern, just as illustrated. Every copy that goes out from here on in will have an errata sheet inside and Tina will list it on the Blue Moon blog, and I’ll add it to the Ravelry page, but if you already have yours, you might want to make a mental note not to spend hours trying to figure out why it says cable when it’s obviously check. It’s check.


A Proven Fact

I’m not really blogging, since it’s a holiday and there’s other stuff to do besides blogging.. stuff like dance in the street while throwing around dollar coins and candies in celebration of the fact that tomorrow is the first day of school, but I wanted to show you this.


This is a back, two fronts and 3/4 of a sleeve of Hey Teach


and actually, when I finished both fronts, I decided I wanted the distance from ribbing to the beginning of the armscye shaping an inch longer and pulled both of them back to there and knit them again…..

and it’s still almost done. It’s still almost done, even though I sat on a patio and drank beer with Ken while knitting a sock, not a sweater… and it’s still almost done even though we rode our bikes to the beer place and there was no knitting while bike riding. (Obviously. If I haven’t figured it out by now, it can’t be done.)


That sweater is almost finished despite the fact that I spent hours and hours on my paperwork… (It’s done. Thanks for asking.) and despite the fact that I didn’t really try really hard. That makes this the fastest sweater ever, maybe.

Zoom. Sort of makes me wish I’d remembered to buy buttons.