I just need an itinerary

This week is going to be a little fancy.  I see that now. We have family friends in from out of town,  and Mum and I will be giving them a little tour of the best of Toronto (sadly, I think they have little interest in yarn shops) and my sister is going out of town for a few days so Hank is coming to stay with us, and I’m going on three training rides this week, and I have two Bike rally meetings in the evenings and… it’s going to be fine, because I am going to get a spreadsheet and an itinerary, and I am going to make magic happen. (Likely I’m also going to finally manage to warp the time space continuum, but it was only a matter of time.)

To that end, I got up very early so that I could do my work and this blog before heading out for the day, and I am now in a position to give you the first official blanket report.

blanket1 2015-05-25

Lo. It is begun.  This blanket begins with the centre, and when it’s all knit, I’ll pick up all around it, and knit the border, and then the edge. You’ll see how it works as we go along.  That blue down there at the bottom is the provisional cast on.  I’ll unzip that later to reveal live stitches, so that both ends have the same amount of stretch.  (I suppose the other way I could get them to match would be to cast on at the bottom, then cast off at the top, and then pick-up stitches all around, but then they wouldn’t be the same as the sides. This is better, I think.) I’ve got a decent chunk of the thing done, just under one balls worth – but Joe was out of town, and I had a big chunk of time.  Expect progress to slow to glacial pace this week.  I have to follow the chart still – though I won’t soon, I can tell that I’m starting to memorize it, but until that happens, this isn’t going to go as quickly. Once I have the pattern in my head, then I can pick it up and do a little here, and a little there, and it will be much faster. (Said she, nervously looking at the date.)

Shall we do Gifts? Absolutely. I’ve got an inbox full, and don’t want to fall behind – I’m going to do as many as I can before I go out the door.  If you don’t know what I’m on about here, read this post, and consider helping Me, Jen, Ken or Pato. Anybody who helps can email me at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca, with the subject line “I helped” and be on the list for gifts from other knitters. (Don’t forget your name and address. It’s helpful.) We’ll do our best to earn it.

Onward! The first four gifts today come from Deborah F, longtime friend of the blog, and she’s got some beautiful sock yarn to send on to new adventures. First this lovely skein of Pansy, in the colourway Bingo, from Indieway will be going to live with Laura B.

Indieway Pansy Bingo 2015-05-26

Next up she has a very, very pretty skein of Sunshine Yarns, Ardennes and that’s on its way to Shanna H.

Sunshine Yarns Ardennes 2015-05-26

Ah, an old favourite – Two skeins of Koigu KPPPM: PS0465 (I love their romantic colourway names) will be going to live with PJ J.

Koigu KPPPM PS0465  2015-05-26

Finally, I hope Clara B loves self striping sock yarns as much as I do, because this skein of String Theory Continuum in “Exoplanet” will be arriving in her mailbox soon.

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Next, a beautiful shawl kit from Stephanie at Dirty Water Dyeworks.  This is her Brush Creek Shawl Kit,

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and Kendra M will be choosing her favourite colourway. (I love this one.)

Laura, over at The Stashbuckler has a beautiful skein of handspun to give way.

stashbuckler  2015-05-26

It’s 346 yards of a lovely sport weight, and I hope that Katherine T is so happy when she finds out it’s coming to her stash.

Maybe a few patterns would be nice? Wendy O, Lauren P and Lilac will all be choosing their favourite sock pattern from Kino Knits. She has the lovely Simple Cables,

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and the gorgeous Four Points Socks. Enjoy, knitters!

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Jocelyn at Decor Noir has a wonderful gift, one of her amazing knitting T-shirts,  either Knit for Brains,

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Or Knit your heart out will be going to Nancy P in the size of their choice.

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Whew! That’s ten gifts, and more than I thought I would get done today, and fewer than I’ll do on Friday. I’ve emailed all the recipients, so if you think your name is here, look in your inbox. Thanks for all your support Knitters.  I think you’re great.

(PS. If you sent me an email about giving a gift, and you made the subject line “Karmic Balancing” then I got it. I’ll work my way through, roughly in the order they were sent, and I’ll email you the day before, or the day of when I’ll put it on the blog. It may be a few weeks, so don’t panic early – and thank you.)

Back Right Up

On Thursday, I was on my computer, when suddenly, my computer went black. Just died. The power light still glowed dimly, but other than that meagre sign of life, there was nothing. I shut it off, I tried to start it again – nothing happened. Nothing at all – so I did what I always do when something like this breaks. I called Joe. Joe had left just minutes before to go to the airport – he was going away for the weekend, and I don’t know how technology knows he’s left the building, but nothing ever stops working when he’s right here.   He got me to try a few things (Is it plugged in?) and then told me to unplug the power, let the battery die, and then try again in the morning.

I did that – along with googling the symptoms, all of which pointed to a very bad thing.  Failed hard drive – most likely.  I was pretty upset. Mostly about how I’d be without a computer for a few days -but at least I didn’t have to panic completely. I have a backup. Even if the computer was bricked (as in, turned into a brick, rather than a computer) at least I have all my information still.  Several years ago, I lost everything. My laptop did pretty much what it did Thursday night and that was it.  I was a lot less savvy then, and Joe and Ken (my resident tech department) had grossly underestimated my skills.  I think one of them had asked me if I was doing backups, and I’d thought about that – recalling that we’d put extra memory in the computer, and said yes. Big mistake. Turns out that memory in a computer has a really, really stupid name. It doesn’t remember anything. (I also had a really loose idea of how a server serves you.)  Joe and Ken just stared at me while I explained that it couldn’t be all gone – it would be in the memory – right?

Lesson learned. Now I’ve got some crazy thing that the two of them came up with to protect me from myself, and my laptop backs itself up to some other thingie a few times a day, as long as I’m home and plugged in. The worst part about a dead computer now is the money, and the inconvenience of not being able to work, which is totally ironic, since not working means no money and … you get it.   I poured myself a glass of wine, and walked away. It felt really mature.  I swatched instead.

swatch1 2015-05-25

This here is my first attempt – and last attempt.  I’m not happy with it, but I know why, so I made my changes, and started the blanket. You can see down at the bottom, where there’s garter lace? That’s the stitch pattern as written – a classic called “Madeira and diamond” and it only took, what’s that… 10 rows? to see that I wasn’t loving the garter stitch thing.  I thought it was what I wanted, but the yarn is too heavy to really make it elegant, so I swapped out the knitted rest rows for purled ones, and bingo. I like the stockinette version a lot better.  (There’s also a little intermittent “rowing out” that seems to be happening because my yarnovers were too relaxed on the needle I was using.  I’ve corrected it by using a smoother needle.)  The other problem is the gauge. I knit this one on a 4mm needle, and it’s too loose. The fabric looks good, but when I pick it up and give it a tug and a stretch, it opens up too much. It’s unstable.

swatch2 2015-05-25

(You can see here that for the purposes of the photo, I’m holding down one edge of it with my foot, so I can take the picture with my other hand.  I swear I don’t usually manage things this way.)

A really good hint for when this might be happening is when you can stick your finger though the solid part of the fabric. Almost always a bad sign for something that you want to hold its shape. (This goes for everything you want to have structure, especially garments. If you can put your finger through a fabric, then you’re probably going to have a sweater that stretches badly out of shape, and soonish.)

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When this blanket is done, it will be fairly heavy – and the fabric needs enough integrity to be able to hold up to that, so down to a 3.5mm needle I went.  This idea, that fabric doesn’t just have to look good, it has to hold together well? It’s a really, really good reason to swatch. I did my math after that, and I’m off to the races on the blanket.

My computer did start working again after I *let the battery go dead, and then plugged it in and restarted it, and then it died again, and then it started after I repeated from * throughout the weekend.  Yesterday I reset some thingie, and I’ve been up and running since then. Still, I think it’s time for this laptop and I to begin saying our goodbye’s.  This feels like a terminal illness, although the treatment seems to be working for now.

Sorry to have missed Karmic Balancing Gifts on Friday, I’ll catch up tomorrow – assuming the computer doesn’t have a relapse.

Thing the First

Well, there had to be something to sparkle up the knitting of a great big white thing, and here we are, right out of the gate with the first glitch.  I wound the first skein of the yarn, and something was bothering me. The yarn looked… different.  Not the yarn itself, that looks the same, but I’ve just finished knitting that layette out of this same stuff, and it looked to me like a different colour.

Now, the yarn I’m using is The Loopy Ewe Solid Series in the artfully named colour “White”.  (It isn’t really. It’s more like a cream. I like it.) It doesn’t have a lot number, so there’s no way I screwed up that part, but when I put the new yarn beside the old yarn?

alternaing 2015-05-21

I’ve got them alternating here, old and new, and I think even with a computer monitor between us, you can see it’s not the same.  It’s totally not the same. I showed it to Joe last night and usually when I engage him in knitting stuff, he does his best, but can’t see what I’m talking about. He’s good at the math stuff, but questions like “Is this lace too open?” or “Do you think this increase looks funny?” are usually met with this particular look.  He does his best to answer, because I love knitting and he loves me, and pretending to care about the process of knitting is a smart deposit in the love bank for him, but right before he answers, there’s this flicker of fear that crosses his face. Not real fear, not like, how I feel about spiders or anything, just that briefest moment of alarm that we all feel when we find out there’s a test, and realize there’s no way you’re going to pass. Usually right after that he searches my face to try and figure out what I think, and then says that.

So, last night I show him two skeins of yarn, and I say “Do these look the same to you?” and Joe glances at them, and then says “Hell no. Are they supposed to?” I mumbled something foul, and he asked “Do you have a knitting problem now?” and I mumbled something foul again. Yes, indeed, I have a knitting problem now.  Since there are no lot numbers, the problem is time. I bought the other skeins over a year ago. More like two years ago, and there’s no reason to expect that the yarn I buy now will be just the same. I was hoping though, that it would be closer than this. I was hoping the inevitable difference would be tiny, and I could cover it by using the different lots for different sections. You know- knit the middle and border out of one, and then knit the edge out of the other, something that would disguise the slight difference.

sidebyside 2015-05-21

(You see it, right? Tell me you see it.)

This difference though is more than slight though, it’s obvious, even to a non-knitter who’d only pretending to care,  and I think it would be too obvious for that kind of fix. That leaves me with two choices. I have eight skeins of the original, and I could just right now decide that come hell or high water, that blanket won’t take more than eight skeins. That’s about how much yarn I used for Lou’s blanket. It could be done. it would be risky, but it could be done. There’s be no way to get more if I ran out – and I don’t know if I want to play that particular game of chicken again. The other choice is to haul off and order more of the new white – and really, it turns out that I like the new white better than the old white – so that’s what I’m going to do.

This decision has its own set of risks. I can’t wait for the yarn to get here before I start knitting. The Loopy Ewe is great about shipping, but they can’t magic away the border, so it’s going to take a little bit. I’ll start knitting now with the four skeins I have, and when the new ones arrive, they just have to match. They simply have to. There’s no reason to think that they won’t – there’s only about a week between orders, and really, there is no dye lot. It should work. It should.  If it doesn’t, I’ll have to figure something else out.*

So, that’s where I am. Getting ready to knit my swatch, waiting for my order to ship, and feeling a little sweaty about my knitting. Pretty much a regular Thursday.

*I’m thinking that by then, a chunky lap rug is going to make more sense than a lace blanket.

Dear Prince

Dear Prince,

Thanks so much for last night. I’ve written before about you. I wrote about the time that we first were breathing the same air, when I was just sixteen, and you were twenty-six. You’re ten years older than me, and we almost have the same birthday, did you know that? (We’re also both short, and I know that doesn’t seem like much to base love on but think it over.) I wrote about what I learned after the second time I saw you. That was eleven years ago, and we were both older, and wiser, and I don’t know about you, but even if we had really discovered each other then, I know now it would have been my kids I stayed for. My husband isn’t really a barrier to us going to Bermuda or anything. We have a Prince/Parker Posey clause in our marriage. I won’t stand between him and Parker if she’s into it, and he understands that if you want to swing by to pick me up, I’ll be in the back of your limo faster than the amount of time it takes him to think of another reason why he hasn’t installed the soaker hoses in the backyard, and trust me, he’s really good at that. We’ve agreed that should this be what you and Parker want, we won’t stand in each others way, in fact last night as he dropped me off for your concert, he said “If you’re going to be gone longer than a week, let me know.” (For the record though, since we intend on returning to this marriage after Bermuda, if you would bring Parker with you when you come for me, I think that would be easier for him to take. Equity and all that. You get it.)  Anyway, it didn’t happen that night, and that was probably best. I had a ton of laundry to do anyway.

Five years ago we got another chance. I was in row 17 with my sister, and though that was the closest we’d ever been to each other, It wasn’t close enough for us to connect. It’s not your fault. There were 14 000 other people there. Those are crappy odds – I do appreciate the fact that you smiled right at me. Well, me and the several other hundred people standing near me. I know what it was about though. It was a “Hey, nice to see you again, it’s been awhile” kinda smile. I smiled back. I think you saw me.

Last night though, last night was something, and I think we both know it. Erin and I somehow managed to get tickets to see you, and let me tell you, i knew right away that it was going to be different. First of all the venue only held 3000 people, and I know that considering that you can fill a way bigger space, you chose that because you were looking to improve our odds. Erin and I showed up, clutching our tickets, and lined up with the rest of those people who came and honest to gosh, we didn’t realize we had front row tickets until we sat down. There was just those people in “The Pit” between us, and I think you’ll understand what I’m saying when I point out that there’s no point in a person who’s as short as we are standing in the pit. Am I right?

purplerain 2015-05-20

Then you came out on stage, and you were right there, and you did a great job. I mean that. You look great. I really liked that shirt you were wearing. (I was wearing this great shirt that I got at the Port Townsend Goodwill for $2.)  You sang and danced and Erin and I talked after about how amazing it is that your band is mostly women, because they’re so under-represented in the industry, but you’ve always been cool that way. Anyway, what I really want to talk about is that moment. There was a few times actually, where you looked right at me – Erin thinks maybe you looked at her, but I think it’s just that we were standing together, and we are sisters, and do look a little alike. It was right then, when you looked me in the eyes as you sang “I don’t care where we go, I don’t care what we do” that I knew.  We made eye contact, and you smiled, and I smiled, and then you looked at some other people so that they didn’t feel left out, which was so sensitive of you.  You looked right at me, and I knew everything.

I knew that I’m 46, and you’re 56, and that now that we’ve seen each other, and looked into each others souls, and then we went home separately, that it’s because that’s what we really want. We couldn’t live together. We both know it, now that we’re both old enough to look past all the glitter.  I couldn’t be in your band, and you don’t know how to knit, and even though it would be really neat to be with someone where I don’t have to stand on a chair to gaze into their eyes, I get the feeling you’re yarn ambivalent, and you can’t build a life like that, and we both know it.  It was a beautiful moment, knowing we’d finally found each other really, and that now we’re not together because in our maturity, we choose it.  Thanks man. Thanks for everything.


(PS. None of this rules out the part about Bahamas, if you ever want to go.)


Widdle Shoesies

Ahh, baby things. I love to knit baby things. I know there’s all kinds of ideas and superstitions about not getting things for the baby before the baby, but I don’t truck with any of that. I feel like the things I make anchor babies to the earth, makes ready the way.

layette1 2015-05-19

There wasn’t too much knitting here this weekend, but I’m half a bootee away from a finished layette, and it’s so beautiful, and so tiny. Knitting first size things always makes me nervous. Newborns have a chest size of about 30-35cm, that’s only about 12-14 inches, and the whole time I’m knitting I keep thinking “No, that can’t be big enough, they must be a little bigger” but they’re not. The sweater’s all finished but for buttons, and I blocked the wee sweet bonnet over a big apple this weekend, and now once I finish that bootee, I’ll affix a whack of ribbon to the whole thing and there it will be. Ready and waiting for someone to fill it.  I’m so delighted I might wrap it in tissue paper.

I was going to say that when it’s done, I’ll have time for a pair of socks or something, but while I was typing that sentence the letter carrier rang the bell, and voila. The rest of the blanket yarn has arrived – which is totally exciting for me, and the beginning of a long expanse of knitting the same thing in one colour for the blog. I’ll see what I can do to make it interesting, but I think you’d better prepare yourselves. There’s only so exciting I can make nine million miles of white yarn.

While you consider that thrilling revelation, Thank you for your generous donations all weekend long. There was a rough few moments (or hours) on the training ride on Sunday, and knowing it was doing a world of good made all the difference. My arse doesn’t hurt less, but my heart was light.  Thanks to everyone who emailed in that they’d like the trip to Squam – Last night at midnight I sorted all the emails into a pile, then used a random number generator to select a name. Amysue will be  making her way there this summer. I’ve emailed you Amysue, and do me a favour? Have a swim in the lake for me.

More gifts on Friday, see you tomorrow, when the blanket starts. You won’t want to miss that. White knitting. For miles. And weeks. For now, I’m going to take a nap. I have a date with my sister tonight, and you wouldn’t believe where we’re going.

You know what’s nice? Fridays

Oh Knitters, oh wow. Thank you from the bottom of my woolly little heart for the response to our knitterly efforts for the Rally this year. I’ve read all the comments and been just so amazed by the kindness and the help.  You’re all good eggs, you know that? You inspire the heck out of me. (Also, thanks for being kind about the confession that I considered giving it a rest. It was a brief phase of cowardice. Thanks for letting me be human about it.)

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There’s another training ride this weekend (I’m so hoping it will be warmer than that last craptastic ride)  and so many more after that, but I’ll slog along and do my best to deserve everything you’ve given.  (By the way, there’s another knitter on the Rally, I met Val on a training ride a few weeks ago. Apparently she was inspired by the blog to try this, and I think that means I have a certain responsibility to her – her link is here. Show her a little love.)

One of the things that I miss most when I’m training, is the knitting time. Try as I might, I can’t figure out how to combine the two. When I was on the trainer (that stand thing that turns your bike into a stationary bike) this winter, I thought I might be able to knit on that – after all, it’s not like you need to steer or anything, but road bikes force you into this bent over posture, and I found that I really needed my hands on my handlebars. I assure you attempts were made, and there was one particular incident I didn’t document where I got a decent amount of merino caught in my drivetrain, and that more than anything convinced me that they just don’t go together. (I can take a lot of pain for the rally, but the agony of yarn mangling and loss is just too much.)  Today though, is NOT a training day – I rode Wednesday and yesterday, and there’s a long one planned for this weekend, and that’s enough for this week. (So sayeth my arse, which is really not in top form just yet.) That means it’s a knitting day.

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I’ve got this little sweater underway, and with any luck at all it (and the bonnet and bootees that go with) will be done this weekend, and then I’m going to start the blanket. I realized earlier when I was thinking about the loss of knitting time over the next few months, and thought about when I think that baby is going to come, that I really need to pour on the burn. I have a great idea for the middle of it, and I thought I had the edging worked out, but the whole thing was too frilly, and that’s not what I want, so – back to the drawing board I go.  (Also, the backup yarn hasn’t arrived yet, and I’d feel better if I had that in hand before I launched. I won’t need it for ages – if at all, but it feels like a risk.) So…

A knitting day. That’s what I’m having. Once I clean up this sty we live in, and finish my desk-work, and GIVE AWAY SOME PRESENTS!  Yup, it’s Friday, so let’s get this party started.

First up, an amazing gift that I’m not going to give away today, but Monday.  Elizabeth, of amazing Squam Art Workshops fame, has very generously offered up a whole registration for the Spring 2015 retreat. (I know, right?)

squampic 2015-05-15

Instead of just pulling a name at random, and getting someone who can’t go, or lives to far away or something, I’m going to ask everybody who’d like it to send me an email. If this would be fun for you, just drop me a line at stephanieATyarnharlotDOT.ca (replace the AT and DOT with the right symbols) and make your subject line “Squam”.  On Monday I’ll do the random thing. Remember, anybody who’s helped with the fundraising can send an email – no matter how you helped. (Take a look at the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.)

Dani (Hi Dani!) over at KSC Designs has two beautiful presents she’s sending to new homes. First, a set of three needle rolls.

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Those beautiful things will be going out to Jenn R. and she’ll get to pick the fabric. Dani’s also sending a handled box bag out…

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and we both hope that Carolyn N will really love it.

Cecilia Campochiaro is both clever, and generous, and she’s giving away a copy of her intriguing book Sequence Knitting. (I own a copy, and I think it’s really neat.)

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She’ll pop that in the mail to Blandyna W and I can’t imagine that they won’t love it.

Cynthia, a reader who’s very generous, and has excellent taste, has two beautiful presents to re-home. First, this  4 oz bundle of fiber called 2 Gems and a Pearl (club fiber) from A Verb for Keeping Warm. It is 2 oz of Superfine Alpaca and 2 oz of 50/50 Cashmere/silk bundled together will be going to live with Dorie L.
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And as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also (somehow) parting with this beauty.

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It’s Orangeflower Luxe 70/20/10 (discontinued), 2 ply heavy fingering yarn (400 yds), 2-ply Baby alpaca/silk/cashmere, in Tangerine. Cynthia says It is very, very, soft and warm and I bet that Leanne D is going to agree. It sounds perfect.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve had a love affair with String Theory Colourworks self striping yarns for a long time, and so I know that this next one is awesome.

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A skein of the yarn of their choice (out of whatever’s in the shop) are each going to Tamsie H, Trish B, Regina J, Amy W, and AnnWG. Shazam! Self-striping madness.

Kathleen‘s offering three presents! First, her (rather amazing)  Ebook, “Flip for the next Feed: five reversible baby bibs” (I can think of a few babies who need these.)

flipbibs 2015-05-15

She’ll send that out to Donna D. Then there’s her beautiful Baby Tops Quartet: the Wuv Vest (I can think of a little boy who might need that)  the Leafy Baby Poncho, The Parfait Cardigan and the Sweetness tank top.  Kathleen will be sending that right along to Nancy L.

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Last but certainly not least, her Colourwork Quartet: The Bukhara mosaic cowl, Jianzhi double-knitted cowl, Old freshened stranded cuffs, and the Tracery stranded vest. (Look at that one!)

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Kelly Y better get her needles warmed up.

Finally – a double dose of good Karma here.  Karen from Greyston Bakery is giving away a A twelve piece assorted brownie gift box.  Greyston Bakery is an over 30 year old social enterprise in Yonkers, New York focused on creating jobs for individuals with barriers to employment including homelessness, incarceration and chronic, generational poverty and providing access to the resources needed to improve their lives, their families lives and the health of their communities. Click on the link. They’re doing amazing things.

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When Karen O eats them all up, she’ll know the world’s a better place about 16 ways.

Thanks to everyone. You’re all made of amazing.

(PS. I’ve emailed all the lucky helpers. Check your inbox if the name looks right!)



This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

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(Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.)

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA (the Toronto People with Aids Foundation) was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

(Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.)

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

(Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.)

Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team





Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!

And a dandilion bouquet

Ah, Mother’s Day.  As my friend Amanda observed, it’s a loaded holiday, isn’t it? I’m sure I’ve written before about my tenuous relationship with the day.  When I was a younger mum, I was so often guilty of using it like a report card, and the trouble with that was that it almost never went well.  My kids were little, and really weren’t big enough to avoid the things that set me off about the whole shebang. All I wanted from that day was for things to be “nice”.  Big problem. Motherhood isn’t.

Motherhood is messy, and complicated, and frequently loud, and full of amazing things interspersed with horrible, terrifying things, like sick children, and choking hazards, and broken hearts, and wishes for strange haircuts and tattoos. (I think I’m running several decades together there.) Sure, there are hugs and kisses and stories, and moments that are beyond sweet, and breathtakingly beautiful, but the hallmark of motherhood isn’t those moments where sunshine is streaming through a window, while you and a throng of sweet, charming children make dinner from scratch while discussing the stuff that will shape them as people. It’s more like doing laundry at 3am because someone just puked on the last clean set of sheets, while you wonder how the hell you’re getting through tomorrow because there’s that *&^^$ing soccer thing and despite trying to avoid it, it’s your turn to bring the cut up oranges that you haven’t bought yet – even though you have a work deadline and the budget is totally screwed this month because another one of the kids outgrew their shoes, while you wonder how many cups of coffee it’s going to take and if this is the week you cry at the grocery store. (That’s an actual flashback, right there.)

I’m not saying motherhood isn’t wonderful. It is. I’m not saying it doesn’t have moments that are totally worth it. It does. I’m not even saying that the whole thing is s deadly slog, that only the bravest of people should entertain. (But it is.) I’m saying that mostly, being a really, really good mum is a metric tonne of work, and that expecting that one day a year, all of that will be suspended so that you can have an amazing Sunday full of just the good parts of parenting, with wave upon wave of gratitude sent your way by all the people you’re working to keep alive is totally batsh*t insane, and it took me just about twenty years of mothering to learn it.

It’s just a day, and if it doesn’t go well, and if at 8:30am there’s a huge fight in the kitchen because they’re trying to make you breakfast in bed and someone stirred the batter for pancakes (even though that’s their favourite, not yours) when it wasn’t their turn, and someone else spilled syrup (and all you can think about is that you’re going to have to wash the floor eight times to make it not sticky anymore) and someone else is now yelling “I hate you, YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE” because you’ve made the wholly unreasonable suggestion that they spend the morning with you instead of their boyfriend, because he’s not a stinking mother… (whoops. Flashback again.) Then this does not mean One. Little. Thing. about being a parent, or how good you are at it, or if they value you as a mother.

They do. They’re just kids, and kids (rather ironically) are the whole problem with Mother’s Day. They’re too young. They can’t set aside who they are for the sake of showing you how much they care, not unless about 87 things go right, and well… the odds of that aren’t amazing. Lower standards are your friend here. Mother’s day, that’s for Mums who’ve got it mostly licked. Mum’s who have kids who are… well. Adults. That’s who’s good at Mothers Day. These ladies, for example, knocked it out of the park this year – although there was almost a small fight about who would clean up. (They’re adults, but still sisters. The risk remains.)

the ladies 2015-05-12

This Mother’s day, we all turned up at Ken’s. He and the girls made an amazing dinner for me, my mum, my sister, my mother-in-law and my sister in law, and they did a fabulous job. There was laughing, and food, and champagne (and I think Luis bit his mother, but only once) and it was lovely. It was also my 25th Mothers Day.  After dinner, when Joe proposed a toast, we all lifted our glasses, and he said “To all the Mum’s – thank you for giving us life” and we toasted our mums, and I remarked “Giving you life was the easy part” and Katie held her glass aloft and said “You should really be thanking us for not taking it back again.”

Word.  Happy Belated Mother’s Day. I hope it was… what it is. A Mother thing.

And it begins

Blocked, washed and ready, this little baby sweater (complete with not one, but TWO sleeves, is almost done. I say almost, because the original has a sweet little monogram on the front of the baby’s first initial.  I thought I’d do that too, but I won’t know the name for a little while yet. (Well, probably not until their birthday.)

vivi 2015-05-08

Pattern: V is for Vivi. Size: 3 months. (The pattern doesn’t have a three month size, so I just changed the gauge a smidge, to give me another size between newborn and 6 months.) Needle: 4mm. Yarn: Big Bad Wool Wepaca in “blue eyes” – 2.25 skeins.

Lou’s sibling, our next niece or nephew, is set to land on the planet sometime in July, and as the fog of the last few weeks clears, and I start looking at the calendar, and making my plans, I realize that I need to get a hustle on. This new bundle of sweetness will need more than a sweater- my excitement needs to be writ in wool – with hats and sweaters and soakers and … their blanket. The grand tradition of the baby blanket isn’t something I take lightly. I make one for every special baby in my life, a unique thing for each of them. I use stitches I think reflect where they come from, and what the traditions in their family are. It’s no small undertaking, and in the past, actually, they’ve been no small blankets.

Marlowe’s blanket was um, pretty big.  The blanket I knit for Luis wasn’t small, and things got right out of hand when I made one for Myrie.  (Thank heaven for Martha. I still think about how awesome she was.) Each of those blankets took up to 1700 metres of yarn, and as much as running out of yarn for Myrie’s made for high entertainment, I still like to learn from my mistakes, so this morning I went through the stash to see if I had enough yarn to start this bairn’s blankie, and saw that I had ten skeins of yarn.

tenwontdoit 2015-05-08

Lou’s took eight, and Myrie’s ended up being nine, and since this time I’m planning on having it come in a little smaller, ten is more than enough, I’m hoping to only use seven, but when I got to thinking about it – I decided that I’d like to do a full on, old fashioned layette.  Blanket, sweater, hat and booties – all in the same yarn, and I figure I’ll need two more skeins to add that stuff.  That means that I should have just exactly the right amount of yarn. If the blanket takes seven (and I add a skein for insurance), the sweater and bits take two… that’s ten, that works out perfectly. The stars aligned.

So I ordered four more.

The cat isn’t speaking to me

Finally home. The house is trashed, my inbox is out of control, the fridge smells funny, there are dust bunnies everywhere – no, forget that. These are dust bison. Huge, hulking things – roaming across the hardwood in herds. My suitcase is in the middle of the living room, spilling contents around, while piles of stuff I brought home on the previous trips, but didn’t have time to put away sit in sentinel piles thoughout the main floor. Joe walked out the door for the airport a few hours after I walked in, and I’ve spent the last little bit essentially lying face down on my bed.  I only got up long enough to go to a Bike Rally Steering Committee meeting last night where I’m pretty sure I was a jetlagged lunatic. (Why am I always the only one knitting at these things? How everyone else copes, I just don’t know.)

All over the house are the knitted things produced in the last month, all needing blocking. There’s two unblocked shawls,  an unblocked baby sweater, and… something else I can’t remember right now. I need another day of retreat from retreats before I’ll be able to think straight.  That last retreat was beautiful, but by the end of it I was starting to feel like teaching – the sharing of information, was starting to be a transfer of information. My students were knitting better and better, and I was knitting worse and worse.  Case in point?

I’d started that little baby sweater after finishing the shawl, and thought it to be perfect for the sort of knitting that gets done at these things, when you’re always talking, always listening – the environment takes a lot of focus, so the knitting needs to be easy peasy. This sweater is that. Dead simple. Nothing to it. You cast on at the neck, mark four points of increase, go at it until the yoke is big enough, then put the sleeves on holders, and work the body round and round, then go back and knit the sleeves down. Walk in the park. I could knit it in my sleep.  I cast on with a borrowed baby on my lap, just so I’d have the vibe right, then knit away on it all through dinner. (I kept the baby too. Knitting while rocking a baby is one of my specialties. I cross my legs, ankle resting on knee, then plop the wee beastie in the nook. Works really well.)

babylap 2015-05-07

I kept knitting, almost to the armholes at Fiona Ellis’ talk about necklines that night, and no end of people came up and asked what I was knitting, gave it a pat and a nod. Fiona had a look at it, and Amy had a look at it, and I was sitting beside Clara Parkes. They all had a look and copped a feel. To sum up, I am a knitting teacher. Three other knitting teachers and about a hundred perfectly competent knitters at a sweater retreat all had at least a glance. This should, you would think, mean that any truly large mistake I was making would have been pointed out to me at some point in the evening.  When the evening was over, I collapsed onto the bed and lost consciousness – jet lag will do that too you.

I was up, bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 5am (that’s the flip side of that jet lag) and thought I’d take a minute to separate the sleeves, and get going on the body. That way it would be all sorted to be my takealong knitting for the day.  I knit across the front stitches, then threaded spare yarn onto a darning needle, and started slipping the stitches from the needle, onto the thread, one by one, just churning along until I got to the next increase. That would be a sleeve’s worth. Except – well, it seemed like a lot of stitches. A whole lot. I stopped, thinking maybe I’d knit across a sleeve instead of the front, and checked the pattern to see how many stitches that sleeve was supposed to have, and laid the work down to figure out what was up.

Then I saw what a hundred knitters had not.

wrongagain 2015-05-07

You bet. That whole time, in front of everyone, as a recognized knitting expert, surrounded by knitting experts, I had knit the full yoke of a sweater with one and a half sleeves.

Transfer complete.