If I was a little faster

Off I go, into the wild blue yonder once again.  I’m off to Knit East (Atlantic Fibre Fest) this time, just now changing planes in Montreal.  I got up early this morning and packed everything, and organized it all, and then made a very nice pile of all the knitted things I was going to bring – my sweaters, scarves, shawls – all the cozy stuff to keep me warm in the autumn air by the sea, and then I left.

I left all of it in a pile on a chair beside where my suitcase was, and I didn’t bring any of it.  Not one little bit.  Not a single sweater, not a slip of a scarf… nothing.  I have about 20 pairs of socks, but here I am, the knitter that I am, and I’m thinking about buying a hoodie in the airport so I don’t freeze this weekend, but the thought of it makes me insane.  I’ve got so many ways to keep warm at home, and I hate even the idea of shelling out money for something I only need for a few days, but I don’t see any way out of it.  When  I first realized I didn’t have a sweater, my knee jerk response was just that I would go to the marketplace when I arrived – buy some yarn and knit one tonight.  (This still "feels" possible, despite probably being a big slice of crazy pie. Probably.)

If I knit a little faster I could maybe use the blanket as a shawl?

It’s almost done.  Four more border rounds (trying to ignore that each round is now more than 1000 stitches) and then the edging.  That’s probably possible, right?
Never mind. I’ll be the shivering knitter with the strong will.  

Home is where everything is

Yesterday morning I got up, packed a rather surprising amount of fibre into the car (and I say that as someone who is sort of hard to surprise in a fibre way) and drove like thunder for home.  As a general rule, I am not someone you want to have come home to you. This family is used to the way it works.  I get home, I’m exhausted from being away, travelling and whatever I was away for, and they all have missed me and been waiting to tell me stuff and have a list of things for me to participate in, and I stagger in the door just wanting dinner, a bath and my bed – and suddenly those two things can’t exist in one space – someone who is needed, and a person who needs a rest.  Throw in that I’m always looking forward to a home that operates the way I like it to  (since I have had limited success converting hotels) and the family has converted our home that runs the way they like it to while I was away, and boom.  Usually someone has hurt feelings and is brimming with resentment in ten minutes.  The longer I’m gone the worse it is.  I’ve been where they wanted to be (away doing fun things) and they’ve been where I want to be (home, doing fun things) and nobody can understand why everyone is annoyed.

Yesterday I got smart.  I lay in bed in the hotel and I thought about how I could make it different, and only one word came to my mind. Generosity. I was going home, and generosity was the only way it could work.  I would have to be generous with the people here. Walk in the door prepared to love them, and only them, and be here for them and only them, and that would be totally cool except for I was sort of tired.

I took a minute, and I got smart. To give them everything that they needed, I needed to be everything that I could be when I got home. I made a plan. I drank coffee in the hotel room, and I organized all my stuff.  I made it super tidy and well sorted so that I could walk in the door to my home and let it all sit while I re-connected with these people. I planned the laundry, I put it together in one bag, I organized the stuff (wool) I was bringing home so it could wait.  I sorted my receipts. I planned the whole thing so that the whole day was as nice as it could be for every person included, and darn it, that meant me. 

I drove home. My extremely well organized self got in the car, and set a route and I took lots of space around me so that the person who arrived home wasn’t a tired crazy person who only wanted to be left alone, but an organized, fulfilled person who was delighted to see her family, and was looking forward to cleaning up their mess.  On the way home, I stopped at Niagara Falls.  I’ve been there so many times, and it never ceases to fill the part of me that needs to remember the world is amazing, beautiful and bigger than I am.  I walked up and down, contemplated the force and largess of it all, and then drove the last hour and a half home.

The difference was amazing.  It would seem that this time, I learned what it was to arrive home with a generous, full cup, prepared to do nothing but give to my family – and wonder of wonder, I arrived home to a husband and family who had decided the same thing.  The house was clean. Joe had taken the day off.  He had a dinner plan.
I arrived, we unpacked together, we did laundry together, and I went for a run while Joe checked in with work, and then I made dinner while he tidied up loose ends. Then he cleaned up the kitchen while I visited with the relevant kids and sent the emails I needed to, and then we had an evening together while I knit and he drafted schematics.  (I still don’t know what that is, but it seems to be his version of knitting.)

I think that after years of trying, we might have nailed re-entry.

Some People Love Easter

I love fairs. I don’t care for amusement parks, and you can keep your roller coasters and the midway, but a proper fair? I love them. All of them.  Book fairs, National Fairs, agricultural fairs – sign me up.  Joe and I went to the CNE and we spent a good chunk of time making sure we saw the butter sculptures and the tables full of the best eggplants. (The first prize one was beautiful. I’m only sorry we missed the biggest pumpkin.)  It should come as no surprise then, that Fibre Fairs are just about the best thing I can imagine – and they are.  All the elements of a fair while it’s all about the wool? Crisp fall air, leaves blowing around, and all of it seen as an awesome excuse to just show off your best sweaters? Building and tent upon building and tent, all full of wool and looms and wheels and sheep… These are our people, and if there’s a holiday season for us, this feels like it. 

Thanks to the Genesee Vallley Handspinners Guild. They run the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival, and they do a seriously awesome job. They made me want to drive straight from here to the next one.  (Oh. Wait. I sort of am.)

All By Myself

I should know by now that things are never as I imagine them to be.  Sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they’re worse and sometimes they’re a total surprise, but they’re never as I imagined them. Last week I set out for Squam, and over the course of the weekend, I decided not to go home.  Well, I didn’t decide not to go home really, it was that Joe and I were talking about how it would be – to drive Toronto to New Hampshire, then home, then turn around a few days later and drive back for the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival and all of a sudden it sounded stupid.  I can’t drive at night – and I mean that. It’s not an affectation or a difficulty or a preference or a fear, I actually am not legally permitted to run that thing in the dark, such is the nature of my vision, and that turned two of the drives into two day trips and… the time in the car sounded stupid. Going home and turning around and coming back turned this week into a slog of epic proportions, and it slowly just dawned on us… Why do it? Why not slow down, take a breath, stay through and make my way slowly to the festival, and arrive sane. Didn’t I want to be sane?

It turns out I do. (I know, I was as shocked as you are.)  I’m me, so then I started to worry.  What would I do with my time? Where would I go? What hotel would I stay in and where would I have dinner and also – I didn’t bring enough yarn or underpants because I thought I was coming home and… and… it turns out those aren’t really big problems.  I don’t get to this part of the country much except when I’m here to do something, so the idea of time here – well. After ten deep breaths I figured it out. I thought it was going to be lonely and strange and it’s been like that a little, but mostly I figured it out.

What I have done this week:

1. I have gone to bed early and gotten up early.
2. I have had less time than I thought, since my regular work still has to happen.
3. I ate at Taco Bell out of sheer panicky desperation. It was like eating food that had all been extruded – if indeed it was food. I’m not sure.
4. I stayed at a friends house and picked kale and met goats and read stories to her kids (the human ones, not the goat ones) and had a very nice time.

5. I had a dinner there that was the last time I’ve eaten anything resembling real food.  I remember it fondly.

6. I have watched the entire final season of Fringe while knitting on the blanket at night.

(It had a pretty satisfying ending. The blanket has not, although tonight I think I’ll finish the middle part.)

7. I went to WEBS all stealth and hung out in the warehouse –

or at least I thought I did. I shopped all by myself and had normal interactions with a few normal knitters who didn’t know who I was and then I went to the desk to pay (yeah, I got some yarn) and the nice lady at the desk said "Are you on our mailing list?" and I said "Um, pretty sure" and she said "Oh yeah, there you are" and I was in the car feeling smug about being stealth when I realized I’d never given her my name.

8. I had lunch with my friend Linda, who also happens to be my agent. Usually when we’re together it’s work, and this time we got to just be friends and it was really, really lovely.

9. We went to a bookstore together, and really, a writer and a literary agent in a bookstore is the best thing ever.  Linda told me about  SnapTell. You take a picture of the book you want to remember, and the app recognizes it, tells you all about it and saves it in a list.  Darned handy, and much better than scrawling the name on the back of a receipt in your pocket. 

10. I tried to take pictures of the drive to show you how pretty the Berkshires are, and how amazing the Erie Canal is, but they sort of suck because you can’t look when you’re taking car pictures.  (Well, I guess technically you could, but I choose life.)

Actually, when I stopped to buy coffee and looked at them, I was pretty surprised at how good they were.

11. I have decided that this time was cool. It wasn’t what I imagined -which was either wild adventure (really- I don’t know who I think I am sometimes) or a strange knitter sitting alone in a Super-8 motel wishing she was home either. (That was just one night.) I have been a little lonely, but not too much.  Mostly I have been me, only in different places and six states.

12. Today I am going to try and be brave and have an adventure. I am driving from Utica to the Finger Lakes, and there has to be something between here and there.

See you Monday, with sheep pictures. I’m sure of it.

Still Boring

For the following reasons, today’s post is not interesting.

1. I am still knitting the baby blanket.
2. It is still large and white.
3. Even though I knit a lot on it it is not bigger.
4. I think I am in the black hole of knitting.
5. I am going to a meeting today and it is dangerously close to WEBS.
6. It is probably a super, super bad idea to go there when my knitting is this boring. 
7. I am in a motel. There isn’t even anywhere cool to take a picture of the blanket. This picture is from when I was in the woods.

8. I haven’t even made a big mistake, and so far I have lots of yarn.
9. That’s boring.
10. I think I have to knit at least 30cm more. It’s not getting unboring anytime soon.

Another One

Every once in a while, a knit doesn’t quite make it to the finish line in a traditional way. Usually something happens to interrupt the natural cycle. Maybe it has a crazy amount of making up that needs doing that I don’t want to do, or maybe it needs blocking and I don’t have a good space – or maybe it needs buttons, and maybe I don’t have quite the right ones, and maybe I put it away until I find the right buttons and maybe that takes a while. Or months.  Or years.

I "finished" Catkin September 2, 2011.  I blogged about it even.  I knit it in just four days. I blocked it, I loved it, but it needed buttons, so I didn’t call it finished.  It went into the pile of things to do, and it sat there until a little while ago, until a blog comment (or a few) reminded me that it had never gotten buttons, or made a formal appearance. It was a shame, because what a pretty knit it was. 

A few months ago I put the buttons on, and Catkin has been in rotation, although it still needed pictures.  This last weekend I had it with me, and remembered, so here she is in all her glory.

Catkin: yarn, Dream in colour smooshy in Chinatown Apple, and a mystery skein of something in cream – one skein of each.

Officially done.

The opposite of Madness

Happy Monday morning, my friends.  This blog post comes to you from a motel room in Maine, as I take the long way home from Squam.

I’m taking an extra day to visit a friend before I tackle the big drive, which is fine with me, because it turns out that long distance solo driving turns me into the kind of person who yells expletives in the car (not at anyone, just because I’ve hit my limit) cries in motel bathtubs (again, I’m not sad, just past it all) and apparently, puts her bra in her purse.

Squam was, of course, Squam – and along with everything Squam always is, it was also Taproot Squam – The Taproot Gathering, and while I know the people who put Taproot together and quite like them, I didn’t know what the intersection of the two would look like. 

I will make a confession here- Amanda wrote today about her experience at the gathering, and she talked about when her kids came home from camp with a whole new language that her family didn’t really "get". It was charming and funny, but an experience her boys had shared that the rest of them weren’t in on, and how that made it hard for the family to connect with their experience.   I thought that might be what the gathering was like.  I am not the sort of person who "holds intentions" or "moves mindfully" though my day, and when people say an experience was "real" all I can think is "how could it not be?" I mean, if it’s not a hallucination, it’s real – right?  I try to be kind, and I try to be articulate and I try to get on with my fellow humans in a meaningful way, but that language isn’t part of the way I talk about how I live and I wondered if that would be a barrier.  It wasn’t. 

It turns out that that everyone who’s living in a way that’s designed to reflect their values and ethics is pretty much on the same page.  Sure, I don’t raise chickens, but I want to be the person who buys your organic eggs, and my family didn’t want or need to un-school our kids, but I did want to shape their education to reflect their personalities and needs, and it turns out that even though I use different words (mindful= thinking, intention= plan) I’m on the same page.  I had a wonderful time.
I have a lot to say about this, but I’m having trouble making it all come together in a motel.  I’m sure my idea’s will firm up while I’m driving.

In knitting news, I’d taken my Kusha Kusha scarf with me to wear, and it occurred to me that I’d never taken pictures of it as a finished object. 

It’s knit from one strand Habu stainless steel/merino, and one strand superfine merino, held together, and then not, and it took me years to knit, because the yarn annoyed the crap out of me. When it’s done, you felt it lightly.

I had a vision  of a post-apocalyptic my-clothes-are-all-rags but-I-am-still-chic sort of look, and since I look post-apocalyptic on a good day anyway, I thought I could pull it off. 

I imagined it layered over a black or white shirt, with a plain skirt or pants, and that’s just how I wear it, and I love it.   The stainless steel in the yarn means it stays where you put it, and I’m a simple enough person that I can get hours of amusement out of that.  It’s fabulous – and somehow, even though in my mind it’s straight out of The Matrix, it looks perfectly at home among the trees, like a spent leaf, or an old piece of moss.  You wouldn’t think that would be a good look, but somehow, it suits me.

For anyone keeping track:

The baby blanket is a little bigger, and yes. It is tricky to hang knitting-in-progress in a tree for a picture, but the look on the face of passers-by is totally worth it.

See you tomorrow.

Randomly on a Wednesday

1. I am on my way to Squam.

2. I came the wrong way. I came the way that Joe thought was right and that Julie the GPS thought was on crack. Usually, Joe is right and Julie is on crack, so I did it his way.

3. Julie the GPS was so violently opposed to Joe’s plan that even when I was crossing the border she was still telling me to make a U-turn. Yeah verily even as I was on the bridge she was imploring me to turn around.

4. Julie was right. Joe was wrong. We’re just going to leave it there, because I have a really long drive ahead of me today.

5. This morning when I woke up in my hotel room, I couldn’t find my bra for 10 minutes. There was absolutely no reason for this. I didn’t unpack last night, so it really couldn’t be mixed in with my stuff – I didn’t take it off until I was falling into bed, and I don’t recall swinging it around my head nine times and then letting it fly. The room was perfectly tidy, the bed has that wooden skirt thing underneath so that you can’t kick a bra under… there were only so many places to look, and I even looked ridiculous places. Behind the bed. Under the chairs. Places it really couldn’t be, and still I didn’t find it.

After about 10 minutes, I started to get a really upset feeling. I started to think that the only explanation for this was that someone had snuck into my room and taken it. I started thinking about how weird that would be. My computer, my purse, everything is right there, and this person comes in while I’m sleeping and takes my bra? Just my bra? As I became surer and surer that this was what happened, I began to feel two things. Violated (because it was too late for scared) and filled with regret that it was such a crappy bra.  I can’t explain that second part, but as I realized that this person had stood in my hotel room while I was sleeping, I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do now? Tell someone? Who?

I made myself a cup of coffee and started digging through my suitcase for a different top. One that made it less obvious that I was bra-less.  I decided I would tell the front desk what had happened as I left, and then never, ever come back to this place. Then I thought that maybe I had a responsibility to call the police, because even though I was completely and totally uninjured and just freaked out, maybe this was the sort of thing that could escalate and I’ve watched enough Law and Order: SVU to know that.  I took a deep breath, and decided that before I did anything else, I would have my coffee and a bit of a knit. It’s always a good place to start when I’m confused and there’s no imminent danger, and this was certainly the case here. Worst case scenario some guy is cuddling with my crappy bra. 

I reached into my purse to get my knitting, and my hand touched something funny.  I looked in, and there is my bra. Neatly folded with the straps wrapped around it and tucked right into my purse beside my knitting and wallet.  I can’t tell you about the relief that swept over me. I put it on, and sat down for that little knit.

6. I was so glad that it hadn’t been stolen that it was a full five minutes before I started wondering what kind of a woman folds up her bra and then puts it in her purse? I assure you, I’m a take it off and drop in on the floor/suitcase/chair type. The purse wasn’t even on my chair where I thought I’d dropped it. It was across the room.

7. Now I think someone broke in and tidied my stuff.

8. That or I’m losing my mind and this is like when I found my keys in the freezer.

9. #8 is really more likely.

10. For sure.

It’s sort of like a Tardis

I’m working on the final copy-edit of the new book (only one more step after this, page proofs, and then it’s done – finally, gloriously done) and so I only have a few minutes to spend with you today.  (You understand of course that this isn’t the way I’d choose it to be. If I were in charge, we’d just knit and talk about it all day.)

I was wondering just how I was going to spend those moments with you. I mean, the blanket proceeds apace, chugging along at a rather glacial pace – and I was thinking that it’s going really slowly. Really slowly, for anyone, not just me, and as I finished the row I was on, I realized at least  part of the problem, and knew that finally, there was something to say about this blanket. Something pathetic, something that makes me wonder if I need to start taking some kind of vitamin, but something, nonetheless.

The centre of this blanket is almost the "Smocked Lace" from Barbara Walker’s third treasury . (I love this book. It’s awesome, and the tidy hand drawn charts remind me how amazingly recent the revelation of charts are at all. I mean, this book is originally from  1978 – although this is the Schoolhouse Press version, reprinted in 1998) and contains the statement "Written out directions, rather than charts have been the rule in the United States however; and it is possible that we Americans have missed out on a good thing." Ms Walker goes on to explain the many advantages of this snazzy new system.  I knew perfectly well that charts were very new to North America – every pattern I had, even just twenty years ago was written out – even the most challenging lace, but somehow I had totally forgotten.)  In any case, it’s almost that lace, because I changed it a little bit, making almost all the wrong side rows simply purled.  The original had some slipped stitches in there, but when I started the chart I was working from memory, and forgot to put them in, and it turns out I like it that way. It also turns out that because I didn’t bother to check the stitch key, I used a totally different decrease, and I like that too.  (We will pause here to reflect upon how many stitch patterns have been created exactly this way – by screwing something up.)

I say "almost" all the wrong side rows, because this lace has two wrong side rows in the entire twelve row repeat that have something going on. They’re rows where everything is just purled, but there’s also a "smocking stitch", wrapped stitches that make it all pull in really fetchingly, and this is exactly the part of this stitch that I adore. You can tell, I suppose, because it’s the only part I’m faithfully reproducing, except… I’m not.

Every single time one of these two rows has come up, I have cruised across the row, purling it plain like all the others. At the end of the row I realize what I have done, and have to tink back all 195 stitches, and re-work the row.

Let me be perfectly clear.  I have not done this a few times. I have not done this most of the times. I have done this Every. Single. Time.  I have not got it right on any row at all. Furthermore, I have not even once remembered this or caught this mistake (despite vows, notes and promises to myself) part of the way through any row. Wrong all the way across. Wrong every time. It’s like I’ve somehow come to think that the instructions for this pattern actually include ripping out every sixth row while shrieking obscenities.  I believe I may be scaring the cat.

I just thought you’d want to know. This blanket might be moving slowly, but it’s got 1/6th more knitting in it than you think it does.