Too Random For a Monday

Turns out that my Monday was so random that now Random Monday is actually Random Tuesday which is really random, and that has to strike someone else as funny besides me.  Here’s Monday’s round-up, presented on a Tuesday.

1. I’m teaching and speaking at Vogue Knitting Live.  Pretty excited about it, mostly because of the company I’ll be keeping (I’ve got a serious knitter-crush on most of the other teachers) and because it’s New York, and how can you not like New York, and well.  It just looks nifty beyond all niftyness, and I collect yarn, which means that I know nifty when I see it.  Hope you’ll join me or someone else for a class if you’re within striking distance, registration is open.  It’s in January.

2. I’m also teaching/speaking at Knit East, which is a fabulous Canadian event in New Brunswick next year, September 30 to October 2nd, 2011.  Some of my favourite people again. 

3. I have been knitting.  I have a beautiful pair of Rogue Roses to show you, but sadly, no sock model. 

Better pictures of them tomorrow when I can corral one.  (Experienced sock models are hard to find, especially since the size you need can vary.  Should be a number we can call to get a volunteer. )

4. I got the new Commemorative Edition of the Knitters Almanac in the mail, and I’m so thrilled.  The Knitters Almanac has always been a treasure to me, and I feel in Elizabeth a great kindred spirit.  (I know that’s odd since the knitting is really all we have in common, but knitting’s like that.  It erases meaningless barriers like age.)  I love the new edition, and it’s not just because I wrote the introduction, but won’t say that I don’t love that too.  I’m very proud to be associated with one of my heroines this way. I’ve got a spare copy of this lovely book, so if you’d like a chance that I’ll mail it to you, please leave a comment telling me why you would  like to have it. I’ll pick at random.

5. I started a beatiful new set of mittens.  Last year when I was mitten cruising, I spotted these beauties La Joie du Printemps (That’s a Ravelry link… Blog link for non-ravelry users is here.) and I fell head over heels for them.  I’ve long been a fan of the fussy-fancy mitten, being a strong proponent of the idea of "dress mittens."  (If you live in Canada, it doesn’t take you long to get there.)

Last night I cast them on, using Gauja wool (a beautiful two ply Romney fingering weight that I’m really in love with) and charged along making grand progress.  This morning I got up, drank a cup of coffee and admitted to myself that the mitten was way too big.  I checked gauge, and yup.  8 stitches to the inch where I should be getting 10, and I ripped the whole thing.  I like this pattern too much to be not getting the right size.

6. I’ve restarted them.  I’d insert a rant here about gauge and how silly it is and how it lies like a lying liar bad guy, but really, if you don’t check gauge and then don’t get gauge, that’s nothing but knitter error, and I have nobody to blame but myself.

7.  I hate the part of me that doesn’t swatch, but really, isn’t a mitten small enough to sort of be a swatch?

8.  That’s what I thought.

A Pox

I’m having one of those days,  the days that I possess the reverse Midas touch. Instead of turning to gold, everything I touch turns to crap.  I’ve fouled a spreadsheet, my mail program, spilled coffee, forgotten to move the laundry from the washer to the drier (so now everything in there smells a little like cheese and needs to be re-washed), exploded a bag of cat food (don’t ask) misplaced an important paper, created a paper disaster while searching for aforementioned paper, received a book I ordered, only to realize it’s not the book I meant to order, found a splash of ink in one of my best knitting bags where a cheap pen has clearly vomited on my yarn and then discovered some evidence of a mouse incursion near my flour bin. 

I got two packages in the mail but they were both for Joe, my blog software crashed and took a great post with it, we’re suddenly and remarkably out of any sort of useful groceries, the battery in my camera is dead and I think I left the charger in Portland, the vacuum cleaner is making an expensive noise, and I think my phlox is dead in the backyard, which is probably related to the clear evidence that one of the soaker hoses out there really hasn’t been soaking anything for some time.  There was a spider the size of a Honda in the bathroom, the living room is a mess, I did the math wrong on a knitting pattern and it turns out I don’t have enough yarn after all, a ball of yarn fell off the winder mid wind and tangled, and I think that I kitchenered the toe of a sock shut this morning with all the skill of a drunken wombat with a crack habit and no knowledge of knitting – which really pisses me off, because you should be able to count on a skill like that, even when you’re having a bit of an off day.

On the upside, I found an rotting and moldy apple core down the side of the couch, which at least explains the reek in the living room that floats over you as pungently as an elderly skunk conference every time you sit down.  (It does not, however, explain why nobody else could smell that we were running an indoor compost program.) 

In short, out an instinct that can only be interpreted as self defense,  I am canceling the rest of Friday.  If you need me, I’ll be in the bath with a beer.  
Peace out.

A little bit of something

Back home again, weathering that odd shift from one time zone, place and job to another.  It always throws me for a loop- a rapid change in expectations and pace. The first day home from a trip is almost always a complete loss. I get up at the wrong time, I’m hungry at the wrong times, and I feel oddly out of place in my own home.  Joe and the girls have always come up with their own systems while I’m gone, and while I’m mostly over it (if by "over it" you understand that I mean that I spend the day turning the upside-down coffee cups in the cupboard the right way around again) it still shocks me when I get home, open the fridge and discover that we’re keeping the cranberry juice on another shelf now.
(Why, yes.  I am resistant to change? What tipped you off?)

I find it so hard,  this one day, the day I come back and start unpacking, I always feel a little like I’m in no-mans land. Some weird limbo where nothing is sorted away or home, and I do the laundry, and turn cups around, and put the cranberry juice back where we keep it, sort out the mail and find out what I missed while I was gone, and struggle with the guilt. Today it was triggered by someone who asked me, straight out, if it bothers Joe that I go away like I do, leaving him with all the work.  

Begin Rant.

It’s the curse of a mother I think, that if I don’t earn a living I would feel guilty- but if I leave the house to do it I feel guilty.  Sensing a theme? I used to think that this guilt was self imposed, that it came from within me, and that if I could stop spreading it on my own toast that it would stop being true.  I did a lot of work on myself to put my guilt in the right place.  I reminded myself that although I do travel a lot, I’m home a lot.  When I’m not travelling I work from home, make breakfast and dinner, am here when people come home from school… participate at least as much, if not more than I would be able to if I had a 9-5 job and was out of the house every day. 

Over the last year, I’ve realized something. It’s not me.  Well, more accurately, since I have some issues remaining, it’s not ALL me.  Society at large does still have different standards for mothers and fathers.  Joe travels for work, and nobody’s ever suggested to him that he not do it, or that as a father, it’s inappropriate that he does.  Nobody ever asks him if he feels guilty or bad about being away, and there’s something to that question isn’t there? If you’re asked if it bothers you to be away, isn’t the insinuation that it should? How about if someone says "I could never be away from my kids" doesn’t that imply somehow that the fact that you do it means that you’re a little dead inside?

I think a lot about the things I hear and see around me.  The way that people think Joe’s an absolute rock star for managing the family while I’m away, but have never complimented me on my ability to manage that same family without him… The way that people tell me that their husband/friend/father is fantastic because he "helps with the kids so much" or is great about helping them with the housework.  (Implication being, of course, that childcare and housework belongs to the female partner, and that the male’s just a peach for assisting.)  I hear my friends and neighbours talk about how great it is that their male partner is "going to try to do more"… and just a few weeks ago I heard a father I know say that he couldn’t go out for a beer because he had to "babysit."
(You can imagine my shock when it turned out that he hadn’t taken a wee job to pick up some extra cash providing caregiving… but was in fact referring to HIS OWN CHILDREN.  His wife was going out and he was staying in.  Apparently that’s babysitting, not parenting. Feel free to imagine my reaction.)

In any case, I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to say that it annoys me a bit.  My absences seem to be constantly viewed with skepticism, and weighed in the cosmic balance sheet of whether or not I’m a good mum, with no apparent points granted for having been a stay-at-home parent for years and years and years, or no credit given for the choices I made about how much money this family would have when the girls were little so that they would have a full time parent instead.  My girls are big, I’ve waited a long time to have a career, and I have an excellent spouse who has loads of absences himself, including wicked long hours worked when I am home to spell him. We both work hard.  We’re both good parents,  our children are pretty grown up, and our system is pretty equal, all things considered – so why is the public view so often that he’s rocking it out, and I’m self serving – or more properly, why is it so much easier to be a dad than a mum, or a man in the workforce than a woman? Why do people still go into a home and decide, if there just so happens to be roaming dust bison or a mystery smell emanating from the fridge, that the adult family member who doesn’t have a penis might want to get it together?  Why- in my whole life have I never seen anyone walk into a messy home and decide in their hearts that maybe the husband needs to keep the sink a little shinier, rather than passing judgment on the wife?

These are old arguments, and old complaints, and really I’m not sure why I’m still bothered by it.  You’d think that at this point in my life I’d be used to people frowning when dads do their fair share while mums do theirs, but apparently I’m not quite over it.  You’d think I’d have accepted by now that the way we view mums and dads is essentially skewed.

I guess my point is that it’s a bad day to tell me that your husband is going to babysit your own children, or that he’s pretty good about helping with the housework, or that mums who sacrificed at least a decade of career to raise children and are now working their bums off to provide the bulk of their families income while being a parent and doing a whole lot of laundry still aren’t doing enough to get the credit a dad gets just for breathing right. 

To answer the original question, do I think it bothers Joe that I go away and leave him with all the work?  No.  I think he’s grateful, and that he think things are even, and that he and I and I are modelling for our daughters the way things can go in a family if people accept that dads are worth as much as mums (and the other way around) and that I’m as responsible for this families bottom line as Joe is the sink and kids orthodontist appointments.  Do we wish that was possible without anybody travelling for anything? Yup- but we’re all here when it matters, and we’re a team.

End Rant.

One Orange to Unite Them All

It is not, as I have explained to Joe a million times, that I am picky.  I am not picky.  I am precise.  I like things done the right way (and it is totally a co-incidence how often that correlates to my way) and I like to give things a lot of thought before they happen to make sure that things do mostly work out and I minimize uncomfortable surprises.

This makes knitting pretty much the perfect hobby for me, since there’s nobody to tell me that I can’t have it my way the right way all the time, and pretty much no limit to the number of times that I can rip things back and mess with them to satisfy my own set of peculiar standards, and it makes me just about the worst person in the world to be whacking dye on things.. because it’s so hard to plan and I know nothing about it and I don’t understand how it works and all of that would be bad enough – but add in that dye is permanent and you get someone (that would be me) who’s really reluctant to dye yarn- lest I get a mess that I can’t fix. This is bad enough with regular yarn, but with handspun?  I would be less likely to take up emu plucking as a hobby than dye handspun.

Now my friend Tina,  she’s not afraid of dyeing anything- and if you’re as dye repressed as I am, I would bet you $5 that the amount of abandon she has around this topic would be as disconcerting for you as it was for me.  Tina dyes like nothing bad can happen.  She dyes like yarn won’t be ruined if you make a mistake, she dyes like there’s no limit to the amount of dye and yarn there is in the world… she’s just not worried about it at all – and this makes us an unlikely dye team.  I stand behind her and say "Are you sure you want to put that much dye on?" or "That seems like a lot" or "Why not one skein instead of two" or "Can’t we just dip a corner in?" 

When Tina hears this, she just smiles and says something subtle like "Me dyer. You writer.  Shut up."

I do.  Mostly.

This weekend, Tina and I spent a good long time trying to dye my handspun.  I had a specific orange in mind that I wanted, and Tina was determined to help me find it.  We started by looking at other oranges (oranges inferior to the one in my mind) and critiquing them.  When Tina had an idea what I wanted, she started testing. 

My job? Be picky precise.  We spent hours. We had conversations like this.

Me: Tina, that’s not right.
Tina: Not right how?
Me: It’s too blue.  The orange is too blue. 
Tina: Right.  The orange is too blue – so more red?
Me: No. It needs to be dirtier.
Tina: Dirtier? Like this?
Me: No.  Like that.  That over there. That bush has almost the right colour of orange flowers except for they are too rosy.
Tina:Too rosy? 
Me: Too rosy. And it should be fiercer.
Tina: Fiercer… like that? 
Me: No.  Now it’s an angry fierce.  It should by cozy. 
Tina: Cosy like brown or cozy like red?
Me: Cosy like brown.  But less pink.  Not a pink brown. 
Tina:  Of course not.  That would be ridiculous.
Me: Exactly, and it shouldn’t have cool yellow. Warm yellow.
Tina: Just warm, or warm and dirty?
Me: Warm and dirty.
Tina: Awesome.  Like this? Does it need to be cozy, warm and dirty or are we done with cozy.
Me:  Oh no. Still cozy.
Tina: Naturally.  Let’s do another skein.

On and on it went, with Tina making notes and mixing dyes and me describing (poetically) the sort of orange that I wanted and the general mood of the colour.
(Again, I point out that I am not picky, it is just that I care a great deal. I’m misunderstood as an artist.)  We went on and on and Tina… well.  She seemed to be having a lot of fun, which is interesting, because it’s sort of the opposite way that Joe seems to feel about the version of this that you play when you have to choose a colour for the kitchen paint job.

We knew we had it when we pulled out a test skein that had both of us gasping.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.  We duplicated it on another skein….  just to make sure it was repeatable…

and then my handspun had its turn. 


Perfect orange.  Just perfect. 

I still don’t know what I’m going to make out of it.. but the pleasures of a deeply personal orange can’t be underestimated.

I love this colour, and I think Tina must too, because in the last 12 hours-

She’s put it on everything.


The universe seeks balance.  I say that all the time, and over and over it’s proven to me.  Here I am, just days after a sock practically knit itself in a day, and all I have to show for myself is almost nothing of the next one.

This sock and I don’t knit with each other, we just go to meetings.  Since I’m only here for a week (which is really 5 days, if you count a day for travel each way) Tina and I booked meetings with all of the Sock Summit 2011 contacts while I’m here.  All of them. 

This sock has been to meetings at the convention centre – we were there two days in a row, it’s been to meetings with the people who provide all the tables and drapes and chairs for the marketplace, it’s had a conversation about switching all our signs from foam core (can’t recycle) to new neat cardboard stuff  that we can….  it’s discussed what rooms to have where, been with Tina and I while we scribble on little maps of big rooms, and it was there when we talked about how many teachers and vendors we can have, and today it’s going to the graphics people, the bank, the accountant and the database people.  It’s a big list. This part of planning SS11 is super intense and weird.  Tina and I both feel like making decisions now for how things will roll out a year from now is both bizarre and scary.  When we’re not in meetings, we’re either buying bristol board, sharpies and post-its, or we’re using them.

It’s also though, if you can get past the part where you’re a little bogged down with decisions about chairs and contracts about signs – the coolest part.  This is the part where we dream, where we think about what could happen, how to make it happen, and we wonder what we could try… If you’re just making a plan, your plan could be anything… right? You could have any kind of Sock Conference you want.

There’s a whole lot going on- just not a lot of sock knitting and my little sock goes to meeting after meeting, where it sits sadly on the table with Tina’s sock, and they consider the irony.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane

Monogamy (just within knitting) isn’t my strong suit. (I’m fine with all other areas.)   I don’t think I’m really that fickle, it’s more that I knit all the time and if you’re going to knit all the time, then you’ve got to have your project type keyed to your activity.  I’m a pretty solid knitter, but even if I were capable of it, I’m not going to be juggling a chart and three balls of yarn when I’m on the bus.  That’s been the only down side of the self-imposed sock club, is that they’re all patterned socks, and none of them are really great for when you can’t be looking at your knitting – so I’ve been running extra pairs of socks in the background.   The first sock of this set took forever. Really I was interested in the sock of the month, and so it languished but for moments where I needed something simple.  Yesterday morning I was leaving for Portland, about to spend the better part of the day travelling, and I needed something good for the plane.   I snagged the sock, leaving the house yesterday at about 10am just starting the toe of the first sock.  By the time I was in the air I was grafting the toe shut and starting the second, and then- out of nowhere, things got shocking. 

Shocking how?  Shocking as in "Holy cow I just knit a whole sock in a day without ever really trying or cheating by making ankle socks." I was past the halfway point by Vancouver,

and then just about done by Portland, and I didn’t even knit last night after I arrived. Didn’t knit in the car, didn’t knit in the evening…

Whammo.  Socks.  I’d say that the yarn might be fast, but the first sock took a while, so that’s not it. 

Yarn: Zauberball Starke 6,  2.5mm needles. Pattern: My plain vanilla sock pattern from Knitting Rules , with two of the ribs from the cuff extended through.

What it must be is that I was just super knitter for an afternoon, or accidentally warped the time space continuum, or spent an afternoon with Dr. Who (who has conveniently wiped my memory of the experience, but returned me to my same timeline so I never knew I was gone) or – maybe I was kidnapped by aliens! (No, then I’d be missing time, not going faster… ) Maybe it’s just the planet catching up and balancing out all of those times that I knit for hours and got nowhere… the scales finally tipped in my favour and here we are.  A sock in an afternoon.  The cosmic payback I deserve all come home to roost, ironically when I care least- since if there was a knitting goddess who knew and loved me, she’d be giving me this gift on December 23rd.  Just saying.

In any case, for whatever reason, by whatever magic.  A sock in an afternoon.  If only it was repeatable.

PS.  This yarn makes socks that are seriously fraternal rather than identical. Seriously made me nuts.

This Thing Is Working Out

I have had a lot of good ideas.  Good ideas like "Find your own food Fridays" or "Make your own Fun Mondays",  good ideas like the boccancini-tomato pasta thing.  (Someday I’ll make it for you.  It’s stupid good.)  Oh sure, I’ve had some bad ideas too… trying to save money by fixing my own toilet was revealed as being a few diapers short of a layette about three hours into it. (My principle error was realizing too late that people with one bathroom really can’t have it disassembled for a long time while they’re figuring it out,  you know?)  In any case, the bird thing was stupid too, and I don’t even want to talk about the thing with the parking.  Not good ideas,  but every once in a while one of my ideas really is good.  That’s the case with the Self-Imposed Sock Club.  Here it is, the 17th of August – not even close to the end of the month, and here’s the socks for this month.  Done and ready to join their chums in the box upstairs – where there are actually now eight pairs of finished socks,  one for every month so far. 

Pattern: Cotty.  Nice, quick, fun pattern, really easy to memorize.  Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Skinnamarink.

In January I matched up 12 patterns I really wanted to get around to with 12 yarns I really wanted to get around to, rammed one set per month into ziplocks and shoved them onto the top shelf of my downstairs stash closet.  Every month since then I’ve been drawing one at random, and I can’t believe how much fun it is.  I don’t know what I’m getting, I’m trying all sorts of things I was looking forward to, and I’m knitting tons of socks that really would have ended up being plain socks because I sometimes have so much trouble deciding on a pattern that I end up doing plain ones just because I can’t make up my mind. 

This has been a blast, and I feel like I’m really churning out the knitwear and I’m getting other pairs in too- since when I finish ahead of schedule, like this month, I’ve got almost two weeks now to work on another pair. 

This was a way better idea than the thing with the leak, the duct tape and all the tin foil.

Random Monday

I’m starting to really feel the love for this Random Monday thing. Here it is, the beginning of a busy week and I don’t even have to pretend to have any sort of a cohesive structure to a blog post- which is a relief, because I don’t think any was forthcoming anyway.  So here we go.

1. I’m packing. I hate packing.  I wish you could just type the location and event you were going to into a computer on the side of your suitcase, and it would just walk around the house putting everything you would need in it.

2. I’m going to Portland because it’s just about a year until the next Sock Summit, and that means that Tina and I have to start the endless string of meetings and in-person organizing that has to happen so the thing flies. 

3. I have bought new post-it notes to make sure it goes well. I suspect Tina has too. 

4. I finished spinning the latest obsession.  Four skeins of yarn that are now ready to be dyed – all to match.

5. I still have no idea what I’m going to make out of them, but I’m starting to think that the woven scarf experiment might have triggered this, and maybe I’m supposed to make another woven scarf. 

6. I guess this is another trip where I try to put a loom in my suitcase.

7. My loom is pretty little, so I don’t mind doing that, except for that moment at security when I have to explain what it is and why I have it with me.  I can tell by their faces that I’m yet to find a way to do it that sounds sane by their standards.

8. Their standards are weird.

9. Megan turned 19 yesterday.

That means that now I’m the mother of another person who is old enough to do everything there is to do in Canada, from driving to voting to drinking- and to do it without my permission.

10.  I’m still working on how I feel about her being able to yell "You’re not the boss of me" and have an actual point.   I bought champagne for her anyway.

Half Baked

I’ve been drifting along in my knitting, working on my socks while I wait for the next big thing to come along.  There’s always something.  I see something, think of something, have an idea about something, and this time was no exception.  The muse turned up last week when I was poking through the fibre collection looking for, well.   Something, and I happened upon two big bags of processed fibre that’s fall out from an episode I had while with Denny at the Royal Winter Fair last year.  (Hint.  If you think you have enough fibre, don’t go anywhere with Denny.) There’s a big bag of a lovely grey/brown wool, and an equally large bag of creamy wool of the same ilk, and I had an idea.  (Well, first I had another idea, to spin enough wool for a sweater and take it with me to Portland next week and force ask Tina if she would help me dye it, but really, I leave Tuesday and I must have been hit with a common sense stick because I realized almost straight away that I was being a lunatic.)

What if I spun three bobbins of each brown and white, and then combined them as a three ply in a graduated manner. The first skein would be three plies of brown. The second skein two plies of brown and one of cream, the third skein two plies of  cream and one of brown, and the fourth skein would be the opposite of the first.  Simply three plies of cream.  What then, if I took that yarn to Tina and got her help dying it all one colour? Would that be cool?

The voice in my head thinks it would be.  Mind you, the voice in my head also thinks that books and yarn should be free and that cheese should make you skinny, so who knows if it’s to be trusted.  I’ve started already, and come Monday I should have all four skeins to show you.  At the end of this little enterprise I will have 4 skeins of a  three-ply light worsted yarn… each about 100 metres, all dyed to match, each lighter than the last.   I think that when I knit that up into…

Well. There’s the half-baked part.  No idea what I would knit it up into. None. I have this crazy obsession with bringing this yarn into being, and no idea what I’ll do with it when it gets here.  I’ve decided not to worry about it, since I’m helpless in its grip anyway, and leave the ideas to you.  One of you, I don’t know which, has just the thing in mind… .don’t you? 400m worsted, graduated colour.  Go.

In the meantime, I leave you with this, thoughtfully emailed to me by Catherine M, who thought I would love it.  She was right.

I am a knitter, however not one who had the time to knit all off the sweaters I like to wear during the rather long rainy/cold season that lasts from October to June in Portland, Oregon. This means that I am also a Goodwill shopper, constantly looking for wool sweaters. Naturally, I always check the fiber content, but I had never seen a label quite so…amazing as the one I came across last week.

Not only is this sweater 100% "Virgin Acrylic," is proudly states the fact in gold metallic.

And really… that left me speechless.  I suppose it’s technically true, since it’s unlikely the acrylics are not virgin (in either the textile or literal sense) but still.  It raises questions about all the other acrylic sweaters and yarn we’ve ever seen that was NOT labelled as virgin, doesn’t it?

Happy Weekend. See you Monday, yarn in hand.

Where I Wish

  The issue with taking these concentrated mini-vacations… like the 18 hours I just had at the cottage with the girls before I left them with their grandmother, is that it makes me feel like I’ve got to cram in as much fun as can possibly be had that wee time.

(The first Cotty sock, reclining on the reading log at the beach.)

I definitely had it too.  My nephew Hank and I looked at rocks and admired the pyrite sparkling in the water at the beach.

I read on the beach, we ran races on the sand.

(All of us, even though we’re mostly all grown up.  Some family traditions are oddly sticky. Also, my sister is surprisingly fast.)

I swam and swam, all the way out to the big rock with Sam. (As one would expect of a sailor, she can swim like a fish.)

It was wonderful, and all to fast. I sat on the rock at the empty beach watching Samantha and Hank play dolphin (I thought 16 might be to old to play dolphin.  I was wrong) and I started my second sock, and tried to figure out how to stay longer.

I left the girls there, to play and swim, and drove back to Toronto to work, with nothing but a nasty sunburn to show for it. (Yes, I was diligent with the sunscreen.  It’s just a side effect of trying to enjoy the beach while you can be at it. I tried to avoid it, I got it anyway, I think it was worth it.)  Now I’m here, and I wish I was there.

I’m not good at playing dolphin, but I’m pretty wicked at crocodile, and as Megan said "If you don’t know what those games are, you’re not doing the beach right."

I love summer.