I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.
I cannot commit a fancy chart to memory and knit without it.

Excuse me.  I have about five 500 stitch rows to pull out.


When I was at Sock Summit, I saw a whole lot of these super beautiful and interesting scarves- which is how I like to think of small shawls, because that’s how I wear them.  I’ve never been the sort of woman who accessorizes much or well, and while I appreciate women who can artfully perch a small shawl round their shoulders and look elegant, I am not one of them.  I need something that has heft, or the ability to wrap and stay put, and this interesting knit had buttons along one diagonal side of it, and this- I thought to myself, was a rather gripping way of solving the "I want to be as well dressed as those women but I can’t find my shawl pin and how do you keep your purse strap from screwing it up anyway" problem that so persistently plagues me.  I admired those scarves, but I was a little busy, so I put it out of my head… besides, my head gets turned by good looking knits all the time.  I’ve learned to let things go.

Two weeks after the Summit, I was still thinking about that scarf. Man- I loved it. I tried to find it on Ravelry, but I was knitting Jen’s blanket and so I got a grip after searching for about 5 minutes and let it go again.  I didn’t forget about it though, and I’ve been waiting to finish the blanket so that lo – that knit would be mine.   A few days before the blanket was done, I searched again, and still couldn’t find it.  It turns out that this is because I was convinced – absolutely incorrectly, that Stephen West had designed it.  (I think this was a natural error.  It was an interesting neck thing and he designs a lot of interesting neck things.)

I tweeted that I was looking for the cool two colour neck thing that "everyone" had been wearing at Sock Summit, and shazam and behold, two minutes later I had it. I will warn  you now that if you are susceptible to interesting knitting things but are trying to resist right now because you’re looking to finish a baby blanket first, it is going to take a lot of personal will if you choose to keep reading this entry.  Steady on.

It was Catkin, by Carina Spencer, who I don’t believe is even vaguely related to Mr. West, so you can see how I was held back in my search.  This pattern was, once I found it, even more interesting than I thought.  I don’t have anything against working with a few colours at a time,  but the cool thing about this one is that it’s all done with one colour at a time- which is, even if you don’t mind two colours at a time, still a neat trick.  I queued it so I wouldn’t lose it, and it out as a carrot for when I finished the blanket, and the minute I was done, I was ripping up the stash looking yarn.   Three hours and a very big mess later, I had my choices, an hour after that, my swatch.

Pretty, yes?  The reddish brown is Dream in color smooshy in Chinatown Apple, and the slightly pinkish beige is a mystery skein from the depths of the stash.  (I had to go really deep to get it. That means it’s old.  The stash has layers like an archeological dig.  The deeper you are, the longer I’ve had it. There’s yarn in there that’s older than my children. Children who vote. There’s no way to know where a yarn like that came from- though for some reason I think it came from Alison, which might just be an association because she’s nice and this yarn is too.)

I cast it on that afternoon, and I don’t mind telling you, I’m a smidge obsessed. It’s fast, fun, and oh – so much smaller than the blanket. 

In short, I am charmed, I can’t stop and I don’t care.

Dear Jen

I just talked to you, and while you claim to have felt nothing last night at 11pm, and are apparently still pregnant, I just want to show you something.

That’s right.  At 11pm last night I cast off the last little bit of the edging on the behemoth baby blanket, and this morning while I drank my coffee,  this beast went for a swim in the tub.  (Yes, by the way, that bit that got dragged along the bottom of the boat at the cottage came perfectly clean, and the beer that Erin spilled on it washed right out too.)

It is now blocking on our queen sized bed, which should give you a sense of the size of the thing – which while glorious, is both unintentional and no indication of the size of child I think you are going to produce.

I know when I give you this (and you’re not getting it until you’re ready for a trade. I get a baby to hold, and you get a blanket) you’re going to say thank you.
Don’t bother.  I didn’t make it for you. It is for whatever wonderful person you’ve been making, and I hope it travels with them for a long, long time. Long through cuddles, long past naps, well into journeys away from home. It should   be big enough to cover a crappy bed at University, sturdy enough to make it to a lousy first apartment, and if you teach this being how to take care of woollies, it might even someday wrap a whole other person that this person makes for you.

It also strikes me (along with the shocking realization that I could be a knitter for 39 years and still not be able to predict the size of a blanket if it’s on a circular needle) that this blanket reminds me of you, and your little family, and all that’s happened between us for the last six or seven years…

It’s a lot more than I had ever hoped for.  I bet the baby is the same.

Love always,


(PS.  Your move. Fire when ready, and not a minute before.)

In Which We Keep A Secret

Last night, a secret plan came to fruition.  It has become tradition in our weekly Knit Night at Lettuce Knit, to make a baby blanket – all of us together, when a longtime member of the coven falls pregnant.  Sometimes it’s squares, sometimes strips – there’s a lot of ways – This time, it was a real community blanket.  Four knitters, four needles, four balls of yarn, four rounds at a time, knee to knee.  The blanket got started at Lettuce Knit, and was knit on by those who love Jen at every possible moment.  On Saturday, Natalie realized that we were going to need a big knit in to finish, and she set up and hosted one.

We all turned up, and worked for hours – tapping each other out when we got tired, swapping in and out so that the work could be continuous.

It was not just productive, but ridiculously fun. 

Round and round and round wen went, until 2am, when the last bit of the border was done, and then we all rode off on our bikes into the night, and left Natalie to do the casting off (Thank you!)  She blocked it, and lay it on her deck to dry.

Last night, we threw Jen a little knitterly baby shower, and she recieved a ton of beautiful woolies to welcome her wee one.  There were beautiful sweaters and socks and a quilted blanket…

Jen pointed out that the sweater below is perfect for a baby. Dark, vertical lines… very slimming.

At the end, finally, the blanket.  Made by all her friends, celebrating not just the arrival of a baby in our community, but how wonderful it’s been to have Jen in our community from the very beginning.

I think she loved it, I hope, as much as we all love her.
  My present will be late.

With my wool as my witness though, it blocks today.

In Which I Do Not Complain

I am, dear friends, still knitting the baby blanket.  Progress is alarmingly slow, since it turns out that I might have totally misjudged the amount of knitting this really is. 

This is another example of optimism VS reality, which is a recurrent theme in my knitting, and another yet another disappointing check-in with my own intellect.  If I had thought about it, it would have made perfect sense.  Each repeat of the edging pattern is about 540 stitches to knit, and there are about 110 repeats to get around the edges. This means that to finish the border, I’m coming in somewhere around 59 000 stitches to be knit.  At my normal cruising speed, allowing for sips of coffee, turning at the end of rows etc,  I should expect that this will take about 990 minutes, or 16.5 hours.  (I think that’s right.  Whenever I start throwing numbers around everyone should remember that I’m someone who took four kicks at the can to nail a grade ten math credit.)

That means that each side of the blankie should take about 4 hours, and I guess that’s what it’s taking, but it seems like a whole lot more. (This is likely because I don’t have four hours a day to knit, although I think I do, but that’s a whole other set of delusions.  There’s also the fact that this blanket might be much bigger than I thought it was before it started coming off the circular, but again – a delusion for another day.) I’ve got one side left – I’ve knit 83 out of the estimated 110 repeats this bad boy is going to take, and I would ever so much like to finish today.  Ever so much.  I’ve started cruising the internet looking for the next great project, and that’s always a sign that I’m sick to death of what I’m knitting on. 

Even though I can see an end in sight, this project feels like it’s taking forever – and it’s starting to be less than a total thrill to work on it.  I know that if I just keep going, it will end.  It has to.  It’s a total law, but man, am I just about stinking done with it. 

I was thinking that this morning, as I sat down to do a repeat or two before work  and I actually thought for one minute "Man, this is never going to end, it totally blows that I’m still on this blanket – " and I almost wrote a blog post complaining about how long the blanket was taking, and how sick of it I was – and then I had a thought that stopped me dead in my tracks, and I was suddenly completely grateful that I was knitting a ginormous baby blanket and that I had merely to work on it.

That thought was that if I actually voiced a complaint about this? That knitting this baby blanket was something that I was sort of sick of – that Super-Pregnant-Jen would be over here as fast as her full uterus would let her, with the absolute intention of beating the living snot out of me. I’m pretty sure I could outrun her, but it wouldn’t stop her from screaming "YOU’RE SICK OF KNITTING THE BABY’S BLANKET? HOW ABOUT MAKING THE BABY, YOU LUNATIC. EVER STOP TO THINK THAT MIGHT BE A BIT OF A STRAIN, YOU NON-PREGNANT-IN-AUGUST SNOT! YOU’D LIKE TO FINISH IT? YOU’D LIKE TO FINISH? TELL ME AGAIN HOW YOUR PROGRESS FEELS SLOW, AND STOP RUNNING YOU COWARD" All the while flinging whatever hard things were within her grasp at me,  aiming deliberately for my soft parts.

I think our friendship might be a wee bit awkward after that, so no.  I’m not complaining.  The blanket is going fine, and I’m happy to knit it as quickly as I am able for as long as it takes, and I’m not even thinking about socks.  Thanks for asking.

Going Again

Last night when I was leaving, there was a box on the porch.  I was pretty sure that I knew what it was, but I left it there and went on my errands. 
When Joe and I got home last night, it was still there. 

I brought it in and put it on the counter, and that box and I had a bit of a staring match in the kitchen.  It won, so I opened it, half scared, half thrilled, half flipped out.  (I know that adds up to 1.5, which is probably why it felt so strange.)  I put my hand in the box and pulled out the contents – two books wrapped in brown paper, and I carried them into the living room without unwrapping them.  I went back to the kitchen and got a largish glass of wine, and then slowly unwrapped the package on my lap.

It is an actual book, made out of an actual manuscript that I actually wrote.  It’s All Wound Up, and it is (Joe and I had to count last night) book number seven.
It is very beautiful.  I held it, and noted all sorts of details.  That it has an orange spine. (I love that) That they are still using the old author photo that makes me look unreasonably young and beautiful (I love that too.) That the book feels good in your hands, has nice paper, feels like it’s the right weight, and especially that it looks related to the other books of essays that I’ve produced over the years.  It feels to me like getting a sister, or a cousin in the family, and I’m glad it looks that way.  I turned it over and over, and then opened it, and started to read at random spots. 

There is virtually no way for me to describe to you (except for those of you who are authors)  the feeling that is reading a book that you wrote. The words that I wrote in a notebook or on my computer, now suddenly on pages – The hours and hours of swearing and laughing and crumpling things up and getting up at two in the morning because I’d had an idea and it was a good one, or even the heartbreak of writing for hours and figuring out it was all crap and could never, ever be allowed to see the light of day for even one second… all of that experience, condensed into a book that will go to bookshops and into your homes?

It’s like standing in the bushes outside of a school so you can see your child playing inside, or the first time you go into the place where your teenager works and see them doing just that.  It’s the disorienting feeling of seeing someone you know really well, someone you understand completely in a certain context – suddenly transported to this more formal independent place where suddenly they are their whole own thing, large and real and bigger than you imagined, moving to a place without you.

This book is quite possibly the hardest won of all of them. We have all had (or will have) an Annus Horribilis, and the one designated for this family fell smack in the middle of writing this book. I struggled to write it. There are writers who will tell you that they are not complete without writing. Writers who will tell you that they need to write the way they need air, food or yarn. Writers who tell you that they would do it whether they had to or not, just to be fulfilled as a person. 
I am not that sort of writer.  I probably would write whether I had to do it or not, but mostly I look at it as my job, and smack in the middle of a crisis or ten, like most people, I would rather not go to work, but had to. What I wrote then didn’t make it into this book.  It was not bad writing.  It was wonderful writing.  It was – however, writing produced in the middle of grief and sadness and learning and when I looked at it, I realized that it was – almost all of it, more intimate, more raw, and more naked than I had intended for it to be.  It felt like being caught crying at work…topless.)

I tried then to soften it. To cover its nudity with more words and fewer details and at some point I realized that I had dressed it to the point that it didn’t even look like me – and I started over.  I realized that book- whatever I had written, was something for another time, when wounds were healed, and I put it in a drawer, and went for long walks, and long talks, and sat back down and wrote  again, and what I had at the end of that was the book that arrived last night. 

It is my favourite.

If you’ve been reading for a long time you might recognize a few old stories,  (Joe and the truck, for starters) but that’s only two out of twenty-nine stories.  The rest are new, and I think you’ll love them.  There’s a bunch that are funny, and a bunch that are something else, and there’s one in there that left and returned to the manuscript about ten times, because it is a little close to that public nudity I mentioned, but in the end it felt good to put it there.  An homage to the book and the place I moved through to get here.  I’m sure you’ll see it when it goes by.

It has been two years since I had a book published.  It feels like forever. There will be a tour.  I will be on the road and hopefully, if things are the same way between us,  I’ll meet a bunch of you and see a bunch of you again.

I’m delighted.  I’m proud.  I’m scared too.

I’m holding a book, and I wrote it, and that never gets old. 

(PS.  I know some of you will pre-order this book online, and that’s great and I’m exceedingly grateful,  but if you are considering buying the book (or any book, really)  could I ask a favour? Would you consider buying it at your local bookstore? I think it’s "use it or lose it" time for a lot of them, and they’re the ones who make things like tours and author readings and signings possible.  Buying the book at the store is a nice way to thank them  for hosting knitters, and make it possible for us to keep meeting like this.)

(PPS. It is the first book of mine that says "New York Times Bestselling Author" on it, and I can’t tell you how much I like it. I know that’s prideful, but I can’t help it.)


This blanket is turning out to be a bit of a black hole- not that it’s a remarkable amount of knitting, it’s just a baby blanket, but because it’s total mass seems to exceed its total area, and I don’t know what phenomenon that is, but let’s go with black hole.

When I planned it, my plan was loose (if by loose, you understand that I didn’t have one at all.) I knew I wanted a blanket of roughly a certain size, that it would be lace, and I took those two concepts and looked at a bunch of other blankets with similar concepts, and I made a really educated guess at how much yarn I would need.  Then I took that idea down to Lettuce Knit and told a whole bunch of other experienced knitters what I was planning, and how much yarn I was buying, and when nobody screamed "Danger Will Robinson, Danger" that’s how much yarn I bought.  It was 10 balls of Viking Baby Ull, and each ball is 50g, and that’s 175m – for a whopping total of 1750m.
That seemed, in any reasonable universe, to be enough.

I started knitting.  I knit and knit, and the yarn was holding out just fine.  I knit the centre, then started on the border, and was pounding away on that up at Port Ludlow when it occured to me that I might want to sync up the yarn supply with the project planned, and did a quick headcount. I had two balls left with me, so I texted Joe and asked him to tell me how many balls were left in the basket at home.  He replied (after noting that being sent on yarn hunts is one of his favourite parts of our relationship) that there were three. 

Two plus three is five (pro tip) and that meant I’d used five, and that meant that I had tonnes left.  Buckets of room.  I decided to make the border a little bigger, and use the three at home for the edging.  Shazam.   I knit and knit, and then this weekend I tossed all the yarn left into a bag and went to the cottage.

I knit like the wind there, and what seemed like ball after ball went into the thing, and it wasn’t until this morning, when I reached into my back to get one of the remaining balls and came up with ONE remaining ball (with 3/4 of the edging to go..) that alarm bells went off.  One ball wasn’t going to cut it. Not even. It took me one ball to do 1/4 of the edging and any way you rig the math on that, I was going to come up short.

I came to the only reasonable conclusion I could.  I must have stashed the yarn somewhere else.  I’ve been in and out of a couple of suitcases since I started this (four, to be precise) so I dedicated a chunk of increasingly panicky time to ransacking my house.  Nothing.  Just the one ball of yarn – and my heart sunk with every moment.  I imagined the look on Jen’s face when I told her that I’d gotten held up on this thing, then imagined the look on her face when I told her that I’d ordered more and was sure it would be here "soonish" and I was sure there wouldn’t be much of a hold up,  and when my minds eye saw the look on her face in my imagination… I realized that there was no way I could tell Jen anything about this.  I would figure out how to get more rather privately.

I still couldn’t understand how it had happened though.  Ten balls of yarn should make a baby blanket bigger than what I was holding… and ten was what I bought, so there should be more in the house.  I  checked the car. Rechecked my bags.  Checked bags I never use – called people to see if I’d left it at their house… and finally, in desperation called Lettuce Knit to see if there was more.

I knew, since I distinctly recall having bought all that they had, that this was a pipe dream – so imagine my surprise when Laura immediately located more, even in the right dye lot.  Crisis averted.  I had her set it aside.

I got off the phone, and thought for a second that I didn’t have a problem, then realized that I might have a bigger one.  This, my friends, means that I have had a yarn blackout, where I knit up two 175m balls of baby yarn and can’t remember it, and that seems like a pretty big chunk of missing time. Even in the blur that’s a biggish baby blanket, that seems like a rather remarkable thing.  I thought all sorts of crazy stuff about yarn fumes and having a little too much yarn in the evenings, and wondered – if I was going to start having yarn blackouts where I don’t remember knitting 350m of yarn – maybe I should cut back a bit on the yarn consumption.

Then I found this.

It’s my receipt, and it turns out that it’s not my yarn consumption that’s the problem.  It’s my memory.  I only ever bought eight balls, and five plus three is eight (pro tip) and not ten, and that’s why I was missing two and why there was still some at Lettuce Knit, and somehow… the idea that my memory is going was a lot more comforting than thinking I’d lost track of my knitting.

It means I don’t have to cut back on the knitting to avoid blackouts, but I might need better records, and then it occurred to me that a little of that decent record keeping here on the blog could have totally given me back hours of my life this afternoon while I ripped up the house (and hours tomorrow when I put it all back.)  I started to write a note about that for all of you, and went back to the entry where I first wrote about the blanket.

No, go look.  I’ll wait. 

See the picture?  Eight balls.
I’m obviously beyond help.

Random Tuesday

1.  I finally feel like I’m back on the horse that threw me.  I had a great weekend, the laundry’s half caught up (which is sort of as good as it gets) I’ve re-established contact with everyone I love (they were sort of neglected through the Summit) and my inbox now makes me feel like I have a lot to do, rather than that I should torch the whole thing.

2. That last one isn’t really true, but it’s like the laundry. 

3. Our beautiful daughter Meg turned 20 yesterday.  I’ve already had one turn 20, so I was just stunned and amazed rather than incredulous.  I swear it took a month for her to go from this:

To this:

and I have no idea how anyone is supposed to handle that sort of pace – and why we’re all pretending that there isn’t a black hole of time around children that makes it do that.  Two decades? I’ve had her for two decades? Not possible. The person who figures out how you can have so many incredibly long days while you’re a mum, and then have it all seem like it went in a heartbeat is getting a Nobel Prize.   She turned out pretty darned good though. You’d like her.

4. My eldest daughter told me last night that one of the reasons she’s confident that she can learn to drive is because (and I quote) "Mum, if you can do it.  So can I."   On one level, I think what she’s saying is "Hey mum, I think I’m as amazing as you are" but really what do you think the odds are that she doesn’t mean what you and I think she means?

5. Jen has not had her baby.  We spent the weekend up at her cottage (she’s a generous person, that Jen) and did all sorts of wonderful things with little kids and ate and laughed and swam and there was a full moon, a meteor shower and a thunderstorm.  Still no baby.

6. This is likely because that would have made the baby two weeks early… and also…

7. Because the blanket isn’t finished, though I am knitting like a demon, and have 1/4 of the edging done and that means that I’m not going to be the holdup here. 

8. Jen doesn’t believe for a minute that I control the timing of her birth with my knitting – but there are still two things that are true.

9.  She has asked me to hurry.

10.  I am.

Home, home, home

It took me all of Sunday and a small chunk of Monday to get home – in fact, after a series of delays and episodes which must have been transportation based jokes that I just didn’t get, a sweeter-than-pie Joe picked me up at the airport at 2am Sunday night/Monday morning. We got my luggage and drove home, and we weren’t  in bed until after 3am, and so the last few days have had a bit of a slowness to them, and I don’t mind a bit.  I’ve been thinking about these few days for a while now.

August 8th.  That was yesterday and it’s the day that I was finally home, and not running a Summit, and not wrapping it up with Tina, and not sleeping in a bed that’s not my own and not drinking coffee that isn’t quite right and not in a convention centre, and not in a restaurant… and don’t get me wrong.  I love a lot of those things (even the convention centre grows on you if you put enough yarn in it) and I’ve had the most wonderful two weeks (especially if you like hard work, and I quite do) it’s just that there’s nothing quite like home, and for weeks now I’ve been fantasizing about these first few days home, and how wonderful they’re going to be.

Usually, this is a set up. Usually I walk in the door after having been away for a while, and it only takes a few minutes to for the rosy fog to clear.  Usually when I come home from a trip I’m only happy to be home for a bit, then realize that the relaxing and beautiful home I’ve been looking forward to is somewhere under a total pile of crap, and I freak out.  I can’t ignore the mess, and I get so mad that I didn’t come home to what I wanted to that I end up ruining my own homecoming.  (This may be one of the reasons that Joe often calls my arrival home "intense".   Personally, I’ve never understood why he doesn’t dodge it by cleaning EVERYTHING before I get here, but such are the deep and perpetual mysteries of our marriage.) 

This time, in a move that has surprised even me – I don’t care.  You wouldn’t believe how much I don’t care.  I’ve been in the time-mire of Sock Summit for months. The house was trashed when I left, so it’s no surprise to me that it’s even more trashed now.   The house is so totally trashed that I can’t even hardly tell where to start straightening it out, and in a shocking turn of events,  I’m so happy to be home that I’m almost finding the mess charming.  Yesterday I ignored it wholesale.  Hell, I sat in the middle of it and knit, and this morning I sort of chuckled at an endearing hairball that the cat must have hacked up sometime in the last two weeks. (I did clean that up.) I hardly recognize the way I think being out of J-clothes is not an urgent issue,  I doodled my name in the dust on the piano.   I find it amusing that there’s a strange smell in the fridge, and hey? Did you see the way the recycling hasn’t been taken out?  It’s sort of cute.  

I simply love it here, and even the fact that it’s raining today and I’m out of clean clothes, eggs and bread doesn’t bother me.  I’m untroubled the fact that I can’t find a clear spot to put so much as a coffee cup on my dining room table, because it’s MY dining room table and MY coffee cup and MY coffee and maybe tomorrow I’ll wipe something off, because today I’m really, really going to sit in this trashed house, and knit.
It’s my mess, and it will still be there tomorrow. Or the next day.

(PS. The baby blanket is way bigger.)


When I started the project I’m about to show you, I believed that I was doing it because somehow, even though I had only done it once before, it was traditional that I do it.

(I am somehow the sort of person who thinks that something that was a good idea is totally a tradition instantly, even if it hasn’t got the background for it.)  Last Summit, I cast on and knit a pair of socks for Tina over the course of the event, because really, what sort of commemorative thing makes more sense for a Sock Summit than a pair of socks?  (I gave it some thought.  A plaque seems dim.) This time, I procured (read – stole) a skein of "A Paler Shade of ST-1" the morning of the Summit, and I cast on as we drove to the convention centre.

Natalie and Stephen helped.

I knit on it all through the Summit (when I was able. I may have briefly forgotten how to knit right there in the middle) and I had a ton of help.

Teachers, friends, ST-2s and volunteers…

Everyone who crossed my path (or Natalie’s – she was a big help in getting the sock around the Summit) was asked to put in a few stitches.

By the end, the last moments of the Summit, we were turning the heel of the first sock, all of us, and it was a magnificently odd thing.

Suddenly, I had the better part of a sock in my hand – and really – other than the first few stitches and a few here and there when I had a minute, I really hadn’t knit it.

I looked at that sock then, and I realized that I’d started it to continue the tradition of commemorative socks from the first time, and realized in the end that they’d ended up being way, way more than that.

They were symbols of the whole summit.  Symbols for Tina’s feet. 

Symbols about teamwork, and many hands making light work, and how much can get done if a lot of people do a little, and that’s really what the whole Summit was about this time.  The whole thing came together in the most beautiful expression of teamwork – and here there are, the little socks that think that’s true.

I hope that they mean the same thing to Tina that they do to me.  Two woollen expressions of what got built, 

and how.

(PS. I knit the second one by myself.  I’m not a total slacker.)