Across the Pond

After a wild ride out of Toronto, we’re safely settled in London.  The first hour and a half of the flight were as bumpy as I’ve ever experienced- just like you would expect for a flight minutes ahead of the storm.  (Toronto fared fairly well, considering the terrible damage done other places. There are many trees down, and some flooding, and lots of wet basements (including ours, but we were anticipating that) and many folks without power, but overall it looks like we got off easy.)

Once we were clear of Sandy, the rest of the flight was uneventful, if you don’t count Joe knocking a pudding onto me at 3am, and I’m sure he would rather we didn’t count that – and before we knew it we had arrived.  So far, all we’ve really done is navigate the tube and have dinner with family, but that’s no small accomplishment.

Today’s our day of adventure in London.  The weather looks fair – we’ve got our Oyster cards for the tube, and we’re going to see everything.


Hello dear ones,  I hope everyone is reasonably warm and dry. I know that might be a bit much to ask if you’re right in Sandy’s path – but I hope you’re all as cozy as possible.  The edge of the storm is just starting to hit Toronto, the wind is beginning to blow, and by this evening it should be a proper mess.  We won’t be hit nearly as badly as our neighbours, but there’s warnings of power outages, trees down, "severe winds" lots and lots of rain and flooding in low lying areas.   We’ve got water and food, and are well equipped for whatever.  Sandy should just be a bad storm by the time it gets here, so don’t worry about us. Send that energy to places closer to the sea. 

To be honest, we’re planning on leaving tonight.  We have a late flight to London (England) booked and while  we’re sort of expecting it to not get off the ground (and we’re fine with that) I’m spending today hitting the reset button on the family, unpacking from Chicago (I don’t have time to tell you quite how fabulous Chicago was, so I’ll give you these few pictures and move on.)

Every challenge I’ve ever had has taught me a skill or two, and this month I’m learning a new one.  I could already pack and bug out anywhere faster than a MASH unit – book tours taught me that one – but this month I’m learning the art of the reload.  I rush in the door, prioritize the family and making them some good food, and do homework with Sam and call anybody who needs anything, and the whole time I hide the truth.

If you’ve only got a few hours between jaunts?

It’s all about the laundry.

Forced to Comply

When I said I was going to stick to socks over the next little bit, I wasn’t kidding. There’s really not much else that’s as easy to pack and manage, although I keep looking longingly at the first pile of yarn for the Nephew sweaters, and wishing it was practical on any level at all to start.  While I’m still looking for the perfect yarn for Hank’s sweater, I found just what I needed for Lou at Madtosh, and have been experimenting with a few choice rationalizations for knitting it over the last 48 hours.  Luckily I’m too smart to fall for my tricks in that amount of time, and as of noon today I’ll be out of range of its aura of influence.  I’ll leave it here by my desk, and dutifully put my sock in my bag for Chicago, and maybe I’ll get another  pair of socks done before I’m back home where it is.

Another? You bet. Behold, contributions to the Christmas pile!

Pattern: Monkey. Yarn: BFMA lightweight in a rare gem.

Here’s a dashing little pair of socks (that fit me not at all, but luckily, they aren’t for me, so that’s perfect) finished, admired, photographed and placed in the long range planning box. 

Were I a better sort of woman (or the sort who swore she would do this last year) I would have wrapped them and tagged them so they were ready for under the tree. (The wrapping kicked my arse last Christmas. I’m trying to plan better this year.) These will make a certain someone very happy, and as always,  Monkey’s are easy and fast. (I love the idea of that turning up in a search somewhere. I sort of suspect all Monkeys are easy and fast – not just the socks. Seems to me like monkeys don’t have a lot of ethical anxiety around that stuff.)

Wrapped or not – you can stick a fork in these babies, because they are done – and the next pair is on the needles. 

Tanis Fiber Arts, Blue Label Fingering, 80% superwash merino, 20% nylon, colour: Midnight.

This pair’s destined to be one of the three or four "guy" pairs that wear on me each holiday.  I find it hard to find/buy "guy" yarn, hard to find "guy" patterns, and hard to keep up the enthusiasm for those big feet.  This is of course complicated by the fact that none of the guys in the family have the same definition of guy colours or guy patterns, but that’s a thing for another day. Suffice it to say that mostly they’re boring, and I put them off – and so I’m going to try and bang out a couple of pairs now, forcing myself to comply by only having those projects with me.  I’m also not taking any patterns, so we’ll see what this little experiment generates.  There’s got to be a way to amuse myself.

For now, it’s off to Chicago. VK Live awaits. See you there?

And it was never on fire

Unpacking and laundry are done, and re-packing to leave tomorrow for VK Live in Chicago has commenced.  I didn’t even put the suitcase away, just left it in the middle of the living room.  
I have no idea how I can be stressed and delighted to be leaving at the same time, but I have this cramp in my tummy that’s screaming "Wow!" and "Whoa!" all at once.  (The by-product of this is not being able to tell if I’m hungry or not and then trying to fill the void with coffee.  It’s not helping, but I’m about a half cup away from being able to feel my hair growing.)

Let’s pause then, and spend a minute with something lovely, calming and perfect… shall we?  I gave you a sneak peek yesterday, but here’s Miss BB in all her glory. 

Pattern: Miss BB. Yarn: Classic Elite Waterlily. (It’s discontinued, but Webs has it here in two colours, both stupid cheap.)

This was such a great knit. Fast, fun, and as always with Chic Knits patterns, spot on perfect and easy to read.  This, as always, didn’t stop me from changing a thing or two, and so the back cable isn’t quite as written. It’s like a sick fetish – but I did the cable wrong by accident the first time, and decided I really loved it my way. (I only mention it because I don’t want some poor knitter up late trying to figure out why mine doesn’t look like hers.) I knocked the purl stitches out of the centre. 

Other than that, and shortening the sleeves to match my actual arms (which it turns out are so hobbity short that it is nothing short of amazing that I can buy clothes at all) and shortening the torso a little before the waist  (also hobbity short) I knit it as written -right down to the shawl collar I didn’t think I would love, but do. 

In the end, the arms weren’t the same length, and aren’t in these artfully posed pictures. (All photo credits to Caro Sheridan, photographer and purveyor of funny knitting shirts. Careful arm placement by Stitchy McYarnpants. Together this duo made Knitting it Old School . Great book.) They were about an inch different, but as I suspected it was a blocking problem, and when the whole thing was washed and dried together, they were absolutely perfect. I was super careful not to put both arms down at the same time while I was at Rhinbeck. 

(Here, Stitchy attempts to smooth my hair- her skills are mighty, but my hair has more will than she expected.)

All in all, a sweater in less than a week, and a great fitting, nicely flattering one at that.   I’m especially proud of the fit through the shoulders, my clear acceptance of where my waist is (or isn’t) and my ability to finally learn to seek V-necks so that I don’t look like the worlds most hobbity linebacker.

I love it when a sweater works out- and especially proud that this one has no charred bits.

Among My People

I don’t know what it says about my self-esteem and basically optimistic nature that I looked at my schedule for the next little bit and thought it was doable, because right now all I can do is look around me and feel the fear of the recently disillusioned.  The schedule is, of course, completely doable.  It’s just only doable by someone really super organized, tidy and fresh, who doesn’t need sleep much and has a cook and a maid.
Sadly, it turns out that I am not that person – and although I’ve always known that, I keep thinking that I just have to woman-up and I’ll be totally fine.  Then there I am, two weeks later unpacking and repacking a suitcase while printing handouts, cleaning the fridge, fighting about homework and making soup while confirming flights and still meeting a word count, and the whole thing makes me want to go upstairs and look in the mirror and tell the person there that she needs to work on her self concept.  Then it all works out, and it’s even worth it- and weekends like this last one are what keep me from ever learning my lesson.
After a great experience working at Webs, it was off to Rhinebeck for me, which always for me, is like walking among my people.  It’s a whole weekend where the whole world is the way it should be, if fibre people ran the world. 

Rhinebeck is like Christmas for knitters- at least the way I do it.  I do things I only do once a year, see things I only see once a year,  take time with friends I only see once a year… even eat things I only eat once a year. (I’m looking at you – chips on a stick.)

For three days we talked, ate, laughed…

We made two weavers out of thin air, and helped them warp their first looms.  (I’d be prouder of Kellee and I doing that if we hadn’t have warped their looms totally backwards and not noticed for hours. We both blame the wine – and the fact that somehow we thought it was really smart to do it really, really late.)

We shopped,  we greeted people seldom seen –

We communed with our spirit animals

and we talked for hours about things that other people have a limited threshold for – like necklines, and twist, and roving, and decreases, and the joys of mattress stitch, perfectly done.

We had photo shoots of Rhinebeck sweaters that made it… (Thanks to Caro for these awesome shots- and to Stitchy for smoothing.)

And we tried to figure out what to do about the ones that didn’t quite make it. 

And then… just so we knew we were in the right place…

We watched other little tribes do all the same things. 

It was great. It was like Christmas- and just like at Christmas?
I’ve got a lot of wrapping paper to clean up before New Years, and it was worth it.

Quickly so Quickly

I’m running by the blog at a thousand miles an hour, about to leave the cozy, happy place that is Webs, and head for the glory of Rhinebeck. 

I love Webs.  I love teaching at Webs. I’m pretty sure I love Steve and Kathy because they are kind, decent people who are so lovely and easy to work with…

but it might be because they own Webs.  Webs has this huge variety of yarn, so much that I’ve kidded about retiring to a corner of the warehouse, and I wasn’t even really kidding.  (I am going to make a nest.  It will be lovely.)  

There’s what’s out front…

Then there’s what’s in the Warehouse out back…

and I feel like you could spend days there and not see it all. 

(Actually, I really have just spent days there, and haven’t seen it all.)  The staff is sweeter than pie

and clever too –

That’s Leslie Ann, with her new book Cast On, Bind Off.  (It’s very nice, I have a copy.  Great illustrations.)

Going to Webs before Rhinebeck was a great treat, and I’m probably going back before I leave for Rhinbeck this afternoon, and I’m not ashamed or sorry.  There’s no such thing as too much time at Webs. 

PS. Miss BB is finished.

Almost.  She needs buttons sewn on, I have to find some thread, and one sleeve is still a little longer, but it’s still damp.  (I might dampen the rest of it.  If you can’t beat em’ join ’em.) 

Rhinebeck Ho!

Randomly on a Thursday

1. All the parts of my sweater are done.

2. They are not all dry. 

3. When I was at home, I washed the pieces as I finished them, and blocked them flat on a rack that fits in my dryer.  This was super fast.

4. Last night, I washed the final sleeve, and laid it out flat to dry in the hotel.  It looked a lot bigger than the other sleeve.

5. When I compared the two sleeves, it turns out that the reason the wet sleeve looks a lot bigger than the dry sleeve is because it really, really is.

6. There is no reason for this.  Same needles, same number of stitches, same number of rows.  All same. Totally the same. Absolutely the same. I am sure they are the same every way that it is possible for a knitter to be sure.

7. Yet, they are not the same, which shouldn’t really shock me, because sometimes knitting doesn’t care about things like "if you knit two things that are the same in the same way they should be the same." Knitting’s bad ass like that.

8. I think maybe they aren’t the same because one is wet and drying on a hotel duvet, and one is dry and was dried on a rack in the dryer. Maybe that matters?

9. So this morning I decided that it would be a really great idea to sit on the floor of my hotel bathroom with the sleeve,  a cup of coffee and the hotel room hair dryer – and try to dry it like that. 

10. For the record, this is an incredibly stupid and ineffective way to dry a sweater sleeve.  Just in case it ever comes up.

House of Cards

You should see how I get ready to go the airport.  I am like a machine. I have gotten ready to go to the airport so many times, that now when I do it, I think it must look like watching a ballet, or maybe seeing someone really smart do long division.  I get up at just the right time, and from the moment that I stand up from my bed to the second I step off my front porch towards the waiting cab, every moment is orchestrated perfectly.  It is a routine that I follow exactly the same way every time, and following it means that I go out the door on time, relaxed and confident that I have all that I need.  It has not always been this way, but I’ve learned, and now I’m really, really good at it.

This morning I got up and started the routine.  I got out of bed and went downstairs, taking the first of my bags down with me.  I put on the coffee, and went back upstairs, stopping in the bathroom to start the tub filling.  That done, I took the other suitcase downstairs, leaving it unzipped on the chair in the living room (so that I can add my knitting and running shoes to it, because they are downstairs)  then came back up and grabbed my travel clothes, bathed and then went downstairs dressed and ready to leave.   I poured myself a coffee, and started the second phase, checking my email for anything I need to see right away, and copying down my flight info onto a post-it that I put in my bag. (The batteries never wear out on post-its.)  Then I gathered up all my knitting stuff, divided it into what goes in my carry on and what goes into the suitcase for later, and confirmed that my little travel notions case was there.  (The routine is perfect.) I looked at the weather, for both Toronto and Hartford, then neatly rolled up my rain jacket and put it in the suitcase- and then I moved around through the house, getting the big knitting bag I use just for flights and putting it on the chesterfield.  That big bag is pre-loaded with 90% of the things I need – it’s my go bag (just like they have on Criminal Minds)  and so all I have to do to be ready is add the last minute things.  I do that then, checking to make sure my phone is nearby – and it is. Charging right beside the bag, just like my departure protocol says.  I checked the time on it, and went into my office to call and book a taxi to arrive in 15 minutes.

I poured myself another cup of coffee, and got ready to perform the last minute routine.  I brushed my teeth, looked at my hair, and tried to figure out if we will ever live in peace together, then I went downstairs, glanced at the time, and went to my office to collect my computer and it’s charger.  I brought those back to the living room, and fitted them into their spots in the go bag.  Reflexively, I slid my hand into the front pocket of my bag to feel my passport there. 

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this about me, but I’m a little obsessive about my passport.  It’s the only travel item you can’t fake, do without or replace quickly.  Anything else I forget, break or lose… I can come back from that, but a passport?  When I’m travelling I look for it all the time, I check it often to make sure it hasn’t expired – and when I’m home I keep it in the same place all the time.  The front pocket of the go bag – even if I need to take it out to book a flight – it goes right straight back into the bag. That’s its spot, that is where it lives, there is no other spot for it, so when I slid my hand into the pocket to reassure myself that the passport was there, and found nothing, the world collapsed.   To my way of thinking, for one horrible second, if it wasn’t there, it was nowhere.

I immediately felt sick.  Then I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself.  I checked the pocket again. I checked the bag. I took everything out of the bag and checked all of it and then checked the pocket again, now almost on the edge of tears.  I ran to my office, and looked on my desk, because I thought maybe I had failed to put it back after Natalie booked my last flight? I ripped open my desk drawer and searched that – then I ransacked the cupboard that I keep the bag in – in case it fell out, then I thought about Natalie booking that flight and then I thought of that desk, and ran to the dining room.  I rifled through the family stuff on that table becoming more and more incoherent, and then – the cab honked.

With that, I went off the deep end.  I looked at the time, looked at the cab, looked at the bag and started to cry. I got on my knees, in case it fell on the floor. The office floor? I ran back there and couldn’t find it.  I sprinted through the house scanning all surfaces, desperately searching.  I ran upstairs and burst into our dark bedroom, then crossed the room to Joe’s side of the bed, snapped on the light and said "I NEED HELP THE CAB IS HERE AND I CAN’T FIND MY PASSPORT"  and Joe snapped to attention instantly – saying "Oh s**t!" and I said "I KNOW" and then something about how he should be looking and it’s important and c’mon, and then I went over to see if it was on my dresser – under my pen or something, and it wasn’t.   I turned to leave the bedroom, to maybe go search the fridge or just stand there crying and wondering how I always ruin everything and that this all started when I couldn’t learn the six times table and it had to catch up with me eventually – and then I saw it. 

Not the passport… another bag I have.  Another green bag with a front pocket – it is a totally different bag, but I wondered for one split second if – when that other bag had been downstairs, if I was actually absent minded enough to slide the passport into the wrong front pocket?  I bent over, slipped my hand in, and connected with the soft leather of my passport case.  I slid to my knees for a second, took a deep breath, and then told a very confused Joe to go back to bed. 

The cab honked, for the third or maybe fourth time, and I looked at the time and realized that I was going to be late, and that cab might leave – and I bolted down the stairs and out the front door, told the cabbie I was coming, and ran back in the house.  My go bag was dumped out, my routine was shattered, and I had minutes.  I rammed stuff into the bag, grabbed a sock sack, shoved my phone in my back pocket and reached over to grab my suitcase off the chair.

Sadly, I’d been scrabbling round on the floor in the moment that I would usually have spent zipping the suitcase, and so as I pulled it off the chair, it tipped over and dumped the contents onto the floor.  I swore, shoved it all back in, zipped, and ran. 

Minutes later, speeding towards the airport, with the adrenaline abating and the ability to pull myself together returning, I started to realize that there was going to be fallout. The routine exists for a reason, and there were going to be casualties.  I felt completely and totally jangled, and all the way there I realized something I’d forgotten every five minutes. My running shoes, phone charger – when I grabbed my phone,  I didn’t get the charger.  Earphones.  I usually take those out of my knitting basket as I do the last minute stuff – odds and ends really, but important ones. 

I resolved to buy headphones and a charger  at the airport, infuriated really, since buying things I already have is hard on the budget, and I spent the rest of the way there trying to unscramble my life and shake the feeling that I’d lost control of the day before 7am. I sat there with this terrible feeling of foreboding coming over me.  I took out my knitting (I’m still on the sleeve) and stared out the window. It was just a bad start, I told myself, just a rough beginning. 

Sadly, since then I’ve realized that one of my credit cards is missing, that airport headphones are priced using the same index as gold and black market human organs, and somehow the egg and cheese sandwich I bought to take on the flight was turkey – which really isn’t vegetarian, and I didn’t notice until I unwrapped it on the plan
e.  I was connecting (for reasons that are complex and ridiculous) through New York City and Philadelphia to get to Hartford, but my first flight was delayed by about 5 minutes – which turns out to be exactly the right number of minutes to make you miss a flight by about thirty seconds, even though you ran from one terminal to the other – outside, at La Guardia. 

Now I’m on a flight from New York to Washington DC, which isn’t even in the direction of Massachusetts, I think – and from there I’ll still make Hartford this afternoon and everything will be fine – and the beer I’m planning on having with dinner is going to be ridiculously appreciated, and I’m sure anything I forgot can be replaced or borrowed or anything – and I do have my health – and my passport, so I’m going to spend tonight getting my zen on,  because having this much stupid stuff in one day? It must mean that the rest of this trip is going to be amazing.
If it doesn’t, don’t tell me.

PS. I spilled coffee on my jeans and a surprising amount of it went right in my boot and my flight’s tray table was broken – and yes. Those two things are related.

Sometimes it comes from behind

I had a good look at my schedule yesterday, as I sat down and started to size up what everyone’s responsibilities will be over the next few weeks.  I knew the next few weeks  would be tricky but I didn’t really have a totally awesome grip on my plan, which is great, because my plan is hardcore.  If by hardcore, you understand that it’s just hard. 

I’m teaching at Webs, then going to Rhinebeck, then teaching and speaking at VKL, then crossing the pond to a wedding in London and then heading up to Port Ludlow for the November retreat.   That means, my little wool obsessed friends, that I will – from the 16th of October to the 17th of November, sleep in my own bed a grand and glorious number of times, and that number is 8.  Yup. 8 nights, and they are not even all in a row, and they are not all with my husband because he’s staying in the UK for longer than I am. 

The basic upshot of this is not that my family life is going to be ridiculously complex, because we have a great plan.  My youngest is a teen and would rather phone and text than live with me anyway – and also my amazing sister and mum live near by and will be a huge help… and also I’m married to a man who’s a solid parent who will pull his weight while I’m working, and  that means that while I’ll likely be a gibbering mess by mid-November, the family will be okay -so let’s focus on the real issue.

I have six nights away, then three nights home, then three nights away, then one night home, then six nights away, then three nights home, then eight nights away. The real trouble here is not the fridge or homework or groceries (although that stuff is going to be challenging) it’s going to be the knitting.

I have to have all the knitting for the next 30 days pretty much sorted when I leave here tomorrow morning.  Organized, wound, planned… because those few nights home are going to be entirely taken up with family stuff – cooking, laundry, errands and spending what little time I’ve got with the family, right on the cusp of Christmas Knitting. Organizationally speaking, this next month is going to make running the UN look like a romp in the park, and the knitting is probably going to be the only thing that keeps me from throwing a temper tantrum that makes a two year old look well balanced – so it’s a pretty vital piece of the puzzle.

The knitting needs to be small enough to fit in my bag,  the backup yarn needs to not take up a lot of luggage room, and the whole thing has to serve the Christmas mission.

That just screams SOCKS to me, and so today I’m finding myself a few several pairs worth, and taking real comfort in knowing that no matter how crazy things get over the next little bit, I’ll be piling up the pairs for under the Christmas tree – and revelling in the knowledge that in December? I am home every single night but one.  

As for the Rhinebeck sweater? Completely and totally uneventful. I know I shouldn’t say it, but this baby is just about knitting itself.  I’ve finished a sleeve, the back and both fronts, including the collar.  That leaves a single sleeve – and if I fold time and space right today, I can pack everything I need, sort this house and family for launch, and knit and block that.  Tomorrow night I’ll sew it all up – and bingo.  A Rhinebeck sweater.  (Note to self: pack buttons. Actually, choose buttons- then pack them.)

I can do this.  It’s going to be fine.  I have a lot of sock yarn, and I know how to use it.

Proof of Life

There have been a few comments over the last little bit that have implied that some readers may think that perhaps the pictures of last years Rhinebeck sweater (that wasn’t quite a Rhinebeck sweater) are overdue enough that it is time to become suspicious.

These comments have implied that maybe I did not actually finish that sweater at all, or maybe the fact that it was singed, knit wrong, had surgery on it’s cables and was late was a little bit much for it – perhaps it is an ugly sweater, overwhelmed by its flaws.  Other comments have said that it would be normal for me to have hardened my heart to the sweater, what with all we went through, and said that maybe I hate it,  or maybe it fits funny,  because why else on earth wouldn’t there have been a photo shoot, because it’s been almost a year…  RIGHT?!

Apparently these commenters underestimate my powers of procrastination.  Gwendolyn is indeed finished, well, happy and being worn.

Sweater: Gwendolyn, by Fiona Ellis.  Yarn: Shelter: in Embers.
Modifications? You bet. I cardiganized it, and left off the hood.

Somehow I never got around to taking many pictures of her – at least not formal ones.  Instead, there are many pictures of Gwen in use, over the last year,  because this has become one of my favourite sweaters.

I travel with Gwen, and it’s been hung on countless chairs,

Used as a pillow or blanket on about 20 flights:

Been hung on lots of restroom doors.

She hangs on a hook by my front door most days, so Gwen appears often in photos when I do.

I almost always grab this sweater as I head out into the autumn air, whether I’m shopping in the village,

Or just running to the corner.

It’s a great sweater, despite the scorching, the cable problems, the mis-knit and all that… Maybe even because of it.  After all we were through together? How can I not love this sweater? (Don’t answer that. I like to pretend that I never consign knits to the abyss.)  I’m going to pack Gwen for Rhinebeck this year, so at least this sweater’s destiny will be fulfilled.

(PS: I am 28cm up the back of Miss BB, which is almost halfway. So far, so good, but I don’t want to jinx it.)