More and More

Joe packed up this morning and took off on a business trip, and to be totally and completely honest, his timing is great.  I’ve got something I’m working on, so the peace and quiet will be nice, and frankly he’s been on such a roll around here that yesterday Ken texted to ask if Joe and I were still married. We were, we are, and poor Joe has had a heck of a week, and I think that he’s just as happy for a few quiet days as I am.  He’s had one mishap after another, and last night the guy tried to make up for the craptastic week he’s had, and we went out for a sail with a friend of a friend.  It was lovely, and just the thing to make me think I would miss him and the remarkable sense of misadventure he’s brought to this week. We docked the boat when we were done, and Joe went below and got three beers, and passed one to me, and I opened it, and then plunked it down next to my knitting and then climbed up and over to flake the genoa. (That’s “fold up the front sail.” Joe likes it when we use proper terms. I think he likes to imagine we’re in the Navy.) He sat with his friend, chatting, and I was feeling great about our marriage philosophy.

cowlboat 2015-08-29

Whenever we’re stressed out, or things aren’t going well, we redouble our efforts to be kind to each other. It’s sort of a “fake it ’til you make it” idea.  If he’s bugging me (or the other way around – frankly that’s more likely) then we pour on the sweetness.  Forgot to do an important task? That’s cool man, I’ll do your laundry and fold it.  Left the car lights on (three times in a few weeks)? Your favourite dinner.  Ask me to meet you at the boat at 5:30, and then show up late at 6:30? That’s fine. I’ll rig the boat for you while I wait. This week has been just like that, and Joe knows it, so while he sat, I was happy to flake the sail, and do the tidying up.  I got it done, and Joe paid me a compliment about how well I do it (I am the best out of all of us, I think it’s all the laundry) and I asked him to pass me the sail bag from below, and he climbed down to get it, and then (likely because I bugged the hell out of him this week too) he came out on the bow to pass it to me, instead of waiting for me to come and get it. Very nice of him.  As he stepped back into the cockpit, and made to go over where my beer and knitting were, I said “watch out for that beer” and he said “OF COURSE I WILL” in a way that implied that he is not even remotely the sort of person who would not ever not watch out for a beer, and then promptly knocked over the beer, and drenched the cowl and yarn.

He looked right at me, then at the beer, spreading through the knitting and handspun, and he said something like “My flight is at 9.”

I’ll miss him – though I’ll miss him more when my knitting is dry.  (I suppose the beer will wash out after.)

I promised Karmic Balancing gifts for today, and I’ve got 2 hours – so I’ll whip through as many as I can –

Susan B, charming and lovely knitter that she is, has this gorgeous lot (800g!) of original Rowan Denim, that she’ll be sending to Stephanie N.

rowandenim 2015-08-29

Laura Neel would like to share a copy of her book, Sock Architecture with Margaret N.

sockarchitecture 2015-08-29

Linda L has very generously decided to send this POUND of cotton sliver to Linda R.

cottonsliver 2015-08-29

Lexy is offering ten balls of Kidsilk Haze in the once limited-edition and now discontinued shade of Daffodil. They’re still in the original bag, and I bet Rebecca D will be thrilled.

Chris Riley, over at Upstream Alpacas, has a really beautiful batt to share. (Everything in that shop is very pretty.)

upstreambatt 2015-08-29

It’s baby alpaca and silk, in a gorgeous colourway called “Black Rainbow” and I bet that Becky S loves it to death. (I would.)

Kristen, over at the charming Rosetwist shop (check it out, it’s jewelry made from rose petals) has a button and rose bead stitch markers for Melissa B. The beads are made of rose petals, and they smell like roses!

rosemarkers 2015-08-29

Jessica has a very nice present for Kelly B, 225g of undyed Perendale wool. Thanks so much Jessica!

perendalewool 2015-08-29

Nina, sweet as she is, has a project bag from Grace’s Cases (love them!) for Rebecca S.

baggracescases 2015-08-29

Three really neat presents from Judith Brodnicki, and Elizabeth Lovick, who got together to come up with some fun stuff.  Of their first gift, Judith writes “Print copy of Exploring Shawl Shapes, plus 2 hanks of Zitron Trekking Hand Art (75% superwash wool, 25% polymid) in the Sansibar colour.  Exploring Shawl Shapes has an expected release date of June 2015 from Northern Lace Press.  It is basically all of Liz’s workshop lessons rolled into one 98-page book.  Not only did I have fun in designing the book, but working on it gave me the courage to try out some new skills!”  Very neat, and it will be off to Barbara A.

shawlshapes 2015-08-29

Of the second gift she says “Print copy of Centenary Stitches, plus 6 hanks of Cascade 220 Quattro (100% Peruvian Highland wool) in colour 5024 (blues and greens).  I used Cascade 220 to knit the Service Cardigan, which is one of the patterns in the book.  Centenary Stitches is a book containing most of the patterns (for knit and crochet) that were used to costume the independent film Tell Them of Us.  There are 170 pages with patterns, information about the film and Crowder family (whose story is told in the film), and techniques.  More than 200 volunteers came together to knit and crochet for this film.”  Nifty, right? I love this idea – I hope that Tess Y. does too.

centanarystitches 2015-08-29

As if that wasn’t enough “DVD of the independent film Tell Them of Us. Produced in the UK by WAG Screen, this is the true story of the Crowder family of Lincolnshire during WW1. The script was created from the letters and diary entries of the Crowders.  I am the graphic designer listed in the credits (I designed the DVD cover, among other things), and I’m also one of the 200 volunteers who knit and crocheted items used in the film.  (You should see the list of knitters and crocheters in the credits — it’s impressive!)  I am also including from my stash 7 hanks of Fibranatura Shepherd’s Own (100% wool, natural colour).”  I’m very jealous of Rachel L.

tellthemofus 2015-08-29

Yvonne, over at the Dublin Dye Company, has a wonderful gift.  Corrine P will be choosing the skein of her choice from the shop.  (This one is 75/25 merino nylon ‘Swing’ sock yarn in the colour Sundae, but she can have any one she likes.)

dublindye 2015-08-29

LeeAnn has two charming little balls of My First Regia, she’s so sweet, she’ll be sending them to the equally darling Jessica M.

firstregia 2015-08-29

Finally, (I know, but it has to stop somewhere today)  Susan over at Spinning Bunny has a really lovely set of gifts from her shop.

spinningbunny 2015-08-29

It is 4oz / 113g of hand dyed black/blue face leicester top in Rose and a top whorl spindle hand made by Jim Johnson. The spindle has a Padauk bowl whorl with a maple shaft and weighs 1.2 oz / 34g – and they are both really, really lovely and will be going to live with Karen R. 

That’s it for today, more tomorrow!

That moment right there

There are a lot of things about knitting that I like. I like that I’m making something, I like that those things are (mostly) beautiful.  I like that it’s good for my brain, I like that it’s good for my sanity (mostly) and I like that my ability to make clothes gives my fellow humans a fairly decent reason to help me stay alive after the zombie apocalypse. Those are the big things I like.  This morning, drinking coffee and planning my day, I was knitting on the cowl and I looked over at the ball of yarn, and my heart leapt a little for just a moment, and I thought of a small thing about knitting that I like.

almost 2015-08-28

It’s that moment that comes after you’ve ripped back a bunch of knitting, and you’ve wound the yarn that you pulled from your work back around the outside of the ball.  You start knitting again, and you’re using the yarn you used before. Pulling it from around the ball, gaining back the ground you lost. You keep knitting, and knitting, but none of it really counts, and then you happen to glance at the ball, and see that there’s only a little bit wound around the outside anymore. Another few rounds, another few wraps disappear, and then it is that moment. It is that great moment when you’ve knit up all the yarn you knit before, and suddenly you’re knitting fresh yarn, yarn that’s never been knit before, and the whole world opens up again.

newyarn 2015-08-28

No matter what came before, everything from that moment forward, is progress. I love that moment.

Since I’m making progress on all manner of things today, not just the cowl (by the way, I’ve updated my gig page again. Check in if you’re near Boston, Calgary, Lethbridge, Vancouver, St Andrews By-the-Sea, or The Dalles. A bunch of you have asked about Rhinebeck, and yes, I’ll be there, but just as a knitter. I’ll be around, but have no events scheduled. Cuts into the wool time.)  I thought I’d tackle the Karmic Balancing gifts again. I know, I’m horribly behind to have that still going on, but it’s amazingly time consuming – and I keep needing many hours free to catch up. Today I have two hours to throw at it, so let’s see how many I can get through! (I’ll keep going as I have time. I promise. If you’ve sent me an email with a gift, you’ll hear from me when its your turn.)

First, some gorgeous patterns from Susanne Visch. (You know, one of the best parts of this is getting to see patterns I hadn’t noticed.  I love these.) Susanne has very generously donated at ton of them! She will be sending her Gladiool hat and cowl set to Beth J.

Gladioolhatanccowl 2015-08-28

The Ijskristal hat and cowl set pattern goes to Susan.

ijskristalhatandcowl 2015-08-28

Zoel hat and scarf pattern to Rosane M.

Zoelhatandscarf 2015-08-28

The very beautiful Schelp Shawl will be going to Kathleen P, Karen W and Colynn H.

schelpshawl 2015-08-28

Moerbei is for Hannah S, Crystal R and Helen O.

moerbei 2015-08-28

Bloemen in het gras (I don’t speak Dutch, but I bet that means “blooming in the grass) shawl is for Mary M, Amy F and Stephania F.

bloemenshwl 2015-08-28

Her charming Zeeglas Cowl goes to Susan H, Rose M and Ashley F.

Zeeglas 2015-08-28

The Flits! Cowl is off to Monique G, Sally O and Miriam E.

Flitscowl 2015-08-28

and last, but certainly not least, Kay B, Victoria L, and Elizabeth A will be enjoying a copy of the Ayamaru Cowl.

Ayamarucowl 2015-08-28

Carolina has two generous gifts, a stocking kit with all the fixings for Jennifer D.

stockingkit 2015-08-28

and 14 skeins of beautiful Alpakas yarn for Jesse K. (14 is a lot. I wonder what Jesse will make?)

lotsalpaca 2015-08-28

From Shannon (delightful person in real life, and friend of the show) her fantastic bundle of knitting apps.   Knittrick and Knitamus for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. (I actually use these, and love them) for Arlin C, Elizabeth C, and Maro B. (All their emails were sent from Apple devices, so I know they can use them!)

knittrick 2015-08-28

If that wasn’t enough, Six skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Metalico, Cinnabar colorway.  50% baby alpaca, 50% raw silk. Delicious stuff, and it’s enough for Katy A to make the Etched Rio Wrap (which is what Shannon planned it for, but it would be awesome for anything.)
metalico 2015-08-28

Whew! I know that doesn’t look like much, but that’s 27 gifts! More tomorrow, I promise.  Joe’s out of town, and when he’s not around, my whole world opens up. For now, I’m off to the sailboat. Midge beckons, and there won’t be many more days like this.


Actually, in Reverse

For something that started so quickly, that cowl is totally going the other way now. The spinning and plying flew by and now…  The problem is me, like it always is.  I started knitting the cowl, charging along – following the pattern and when I had about 8cm, I realized that the gauge wasn’t working out, and that it was coming out too small, and… I ripped it back added another repeat, and kept going.

Now the astute among you will notice that I have here violated knitting rule #1, which is that I didn’t do a swatch, if I’d have done a swatch, I would have known my gauge was off, and that it would be too small, and I could have prevented the wasted knitting time. It’s a cowl though, and so I broke the rule, and when I had to rip back there was nobody but me to blame, and it wasn’t that much time wasted. The cowl is small, it’s fast knitting.  That first rip didn’t even bother me. It took two minutes, I pulled it all out, I added another repeat to the stitch count, and I started knitting again.  Now, is there anything you think I missed there? Any step that I should have taken, any technique I could have used at that moment to make it more likely that things would go better for me in the future? Yes, yes there was, my little poppets. I have here executed classic knitting mistake #2, which is that if you make a mistake, then it is likely best not to repeat the mistake and then expect the result to be different. I was in trouble because I didn’t measure, and I could have gotten out the measuring tape, and I could have seen how much it was too small by, and then I could have added an appropriate number of stitches based on that, rather than just adding “some” and feeling better about the whole thing.

That wasn’t the choice I made though, after executing mistakes #1 and 2, and so when I realized that I hadn’t added enough stitches (for the second time) and it was still going to be too small, there was nothing to do but blame myself again.  I pulled the work back, and added two more repeats, and started again.  Returning to the astute among you, we see that I have still not made any mention of a measuring tape or simple maths, even though I have now been twice punished with wasted knitting.  Inexplicable choice, that. Inexplicable. Still, I am who I am, so I added more stitches, started again, and knit until it was more than clear to me that I still had a problem. Then I knit for a while longer.

That’s right. Classic knitting error #3. I knew it was wrong, and I kept right on going while I thought about that.  I kept knitting and knitting, and the more I knit, the clearer it became that I now had not one, but two problems. First – the cowl was not going to be big enough, and second, it wasn’t going to use up as much of my handspun as I wanted. There’s nothing quite as sad as wasted handspun, so… I knit for a while longer and thought about how sad it was that I was making this mistake. I kept knitting, and knitting, and every so often i would spread it out on my leg and sigh, and think about the mistake I was making, and then do another few rounds. It was late into the evening before I decided that I couldn’t ignore it any more – so I knit another few rounds while I thought about how to solve it. This, of course, is knitting madness, brought about by brought about by an unwillingness to live in reality, and I kept knitting like knitting would solve my knitting problem. The more I knit, the bigger the problem got, and the more I knit the less I wanted to pull the work out and start again.  I thought about alternate ways to solve it while I knit. I thought about living with it (obviously, I was leaning that way), I thought about doing some increases and making a weird shaped thing. I thought about knitting socks instead.

rippingmeasuiring 2015-08-27

Once I’d sighed several times, and spread it out again, and the problem was still there (despite all the times I’d tried fixing it by doing nothing) I finally took the needle out of it, and got a tape measure, and went to the scale, and faced a few facts.  First, yes. It was too small.  I wasn’t getting gauge, and it wasn’t going to be big enough. Not quite. Second, after weighing the thing, it was plain that I wasn’t going to use up the handspun. I was more than halfway through it, and there was way more than half the yarn left.  I think that was when I poured myself a decent size glass of wine, reminded myself that I had nobody to blame but me, wondered absently how it is that I never learn my lesson, and ripped the thing all the way back.

Now I’ve started again. I’ve done the math, I’ve used a measuring tape, and I’ve (once more) sworn that I this is the last time that I’ll ever screw up in this particular way.

redocowl 2015-08-27

I’m 12 rounds in, and I vow, this will be a cowl. There’s no other mistakes left for me to make.



Whoosh, that’s the sound that the last week made as it blew right by me. I’ve been so determined to enjoy what’s left of the summer, before everyone gets all the way back to work, and the weather turns. There’s only a little time left for sailing and bike riding, and going outside without layers on, and I haven’t wanted to miss a minute of it – so that’s where I’ve been, making hay while the sun shines.  A very busy September looms right around the corner (I’ll be in Lethbridge, and Calgary, and Downsville, Wisconsin, and there’s another one I’m just about to add in Boston) and that month will be all hotels and airplanes and knitting and writing. Since I saw you last I’ve snuggled Frankie, and read a story to Luis, been for a very long and lovely bike ride (I can’t believe I just typed that about a ride that was 110km long. I don’t even know myself anymore) and ate peaches in the sunshine, and been to about 4 meetings, and worked (almost) every day and KNIT and SPUN.  Yay verily, the time of the big yarning is upon me, and I can barely stand to put down the needles or step away from the wheel.  It feels fantastic. I had a big attack of startitis last week, and managed to rein it in enough that I only started one thing.

babydress 2015-08-24

I know. It doesn’t look very exciting, but it is.  It’s the little dress on the cover of this book, and it’s miles and miles of tiny knitting that culminates in a ton of – wait for it… crochet.  I know, I know. I’ve said I don’t like it, and I meant that, but this little dress is worth it, and crochet is the perfect thing here and, well. We’ll see how I feel about it when I get there. I saw this dress all knit up the last time I was at StevenBe, (I bet they still have all the parts, if you were to ring them) and I think it’s just about the most charming thing. I feel like this dress is the whole reason that I have a little niece, and wing of moth, she will own it, no amount of crochet can stop me. (Again, let’s note the date and time I said that, and correlate it with the actual action of crocheting, and its attendant swearing later on.) For now, it is miles and miles of plain stockinette, and that leads me to what I needed to do to break that up a bit.

I’d gone into the spinning stash with every intention of coming out with another two rovings so I could try the gradient experiment again, and inexplicably came down with this braid of roving instead. It’s a gorgeous bit of business from Western Sky Knits, and I’d forgotten it was even in there.  What happened after that was so fast that I barely noticed what was happening.

westernskyroving 2015-08-24

In the blink of an eye I had a full bobbin…

westernskybobbin 2015-08-24

I blinked again and there was two…

westernskybobbinstwo 2015-08-24

Then a skein…

westernskyskein 2015-08-24

Which I tried to put away…

westernskyskeintwo 2015-08-24

Somehow while I was putting it away I wound it.

westernskyball 2015-08-24

And now it’s becoming a Hudson Lace Cowl.

westernskycowlnot 2015-08-24

Actually, that last picture is a lie.  I’ve ripped it back since then and started again. As is so often the case with handspun, I wasn’t getting anything that was remotely like gauge, but I liked my fabric, so ripped back, added another repeat, and went for the do-over. I’m in love, and I don’t know why. The colours aren’t me – but I loved it when I bought the roving, and I freakin’ love it now. Every once in a while there’s just no explaining that kind of thing, and I’m just going to roll with it. (I may rip it back again. I still think it could be bigger.)

Finally, in between all the knitting and spinning and fun I’ve been having, I got a pattern finished.  When I knew that Frankie was coming, and that he would be born in hospital, I decided he should have a very special outfit to wear home. I wanted something perfectly sweet, and unisex, and simple, but charming.  I designed what to me, is the perfect layette.

frankiewhole 2015-08-24

A sweet little top-down, seamless sweater, with a matching bonnet and bootees, and trimmed with plain, good ribbon and four perfect little buttons.

nouveaunewhole 2015-08-24

It’s mostly plain, with the bonnet, bootees and sweater all adorned with an old favourite of mine, Bee Stitch.  Bee stitch is a “knit one below” stitch pattern. Instead of knitting the stitch on the left needle, you knit into its mother, below. It collapses the stitches atop each other, and makes it extra cozy and sculptural.  I love it for so many things. (I used it on Luis’ blanket, and I use it for washcloths all the time.)

frankiefeet 2015-08-24

I made the neck big (because of the way that babies sort of don’t have a neck) and the sleeves a little short, so they don’t fall over their tiny hands and get chewed on, and the sleeves and armholes are nice and wide, so that it’s easy to get on and off.

nouveaunesweater 2015-08-24

When I was done knitting it, it was everything I’d hoped for – to my way of thinking, the perfect newborn layette.  I wrote it up, waited for Frankie to be born so he could model it, and voila.

nouveaunebootees 2015-08-24

Nouveau-né, that’s French for newborn, and it’s the name of the design.  I hope it warms many a wee one.

frankieface 2015-08-24

I think Frankie liked his.

Randomly on a Wednesday

1. I don’t know what came over me. Despite being behind on so many things, when a chance to go to the cottage for 24 hours came up, all I could think about was swimming in Georgian Bay, knitting in the sunshine and eating peaches, and I got in the car and left.

2. It turns out that swimming to the big rock with your sister doesn’t get old, even if you do.

bigrock 2015-08-19

3. My middle daughter, Megan, turned 24.  I have few words for this, since I’m really not sure it’s possible.

megbirthdaybetter 2015-08-19

(That’s her puppy, Penny. I have no dog. The cat will not tolerate such nonsense.)

4. I updated my gig page, with everywhere I’ll be in the next little bit. Have a look, if you’ve been trying to hang out. There’s some good stuff, and there’s still spots.

5. I finally finished Ken’s Rally Socks.  I didn’t tell you about that, because I was trying to be all stealth.  I began them on packing day for the Rally, and knit them all through our trip together.  Last year I made Jen some socks to thank her for being my co-lead, and this year it only seemed fair to continue the tradition, especially since Ken was good enough to step up and help me when I was really in a bind.

kenssocks2 2015-08-19

He totally deserves them. I couldn’t have had better help.

kenssocks1 2015-08-19

Last year I made Jen’s socks out of the colourway that Kim at IndigoDragonfly came up with as a fundraiser for the ride. This year I thought it would be nice to do that too.  (Hey, did you know that IndigoDragonfly sponsored our team shirts again? They’re awesome.) In any case, I wrote to Kim and asked her if there was a rally colourway, and she asked me to stand-by, and I did, and a very little while later, a package arrived at our door.  I opened it, and inside was several skeins of yarn, all in a colourway I didn’t recognize, and a letter.

kenssocks3 2015-08-19

I asked Kim if she wouldn’t mind if I told you what the letter said.

Dear Stephanie,

You asked me to send you a special colourway to knit Ken socks with, if we had done one for the Rally.  Every year we change up how we’re going to raise a little money for your team, sometimes we choose a yarn base, sometimes we make a colourway. This year it was a yarn base.

But there is a special Rally colourway.

There is one pot of this yarn in existence. There will only ever be one pot of this yarn in existence. It is for your team. There are skeins for each of you, and a skein to knit Ken’s socks.

Let me tell you about this colourway and why it’s for your team-

Brown: for every time you’ve fallen and gotten up to keep riding.

Red: For every bump and bruise, every scrape and cut. And for your hearts, that keep you coming back year after year to do the crazy.

Pale grey: for every piece of gravel you’ve picked out of your knee, every rock you’ve hit with your tire, every pebble that’s slingshotted into your glasses. And yet, you keep going.

Black: for strong tires and a fast road.

Blue: for clear blue skies to ride with, and the wind at your back.

Ride well and strong, my friend.


6. The colourway name? “The Seven Deadly Schwinns.”

kenssocksprogress 2015-08-19

I think Kim and Ron are just about the best ever. Businesses don’t have to act this way. To contribute actively to their communities, to support things they think are good. It’s optional, and I think it’s amazing that they do it year after year.  Thanks, guys.

Maybe just one more ball

Today I’m posting late pets, because I just did one of the wildest things that I’ve ever done, from a knitting perspective. Do you all remember my sister-in-law Kelly? She’s been a regular on this blog since the beginning, and Kelly has a wild life. She lives all over the world, most recently in Madagascar, and now she’s been home for a few months to see Frankie safely born, visit with us all, and… frankly, to restock on yarn.  Kelly and her husband Ben are done their work in Mada, and now are taking off for a few years in Vietnam, and since there will be no access, or limited access to yarn while she’s gone, and since Kelly has a pretty significant knitting habit, and pretty limited luggage space, before she leaves for a whole year without a re-stocking opportunity, today she and I went shopping for (get this) an entire year’s worth of yarn.

That’s right – she’s going to have no stash except for what we were going to set her up with, and the idea was so overwhelming that we decided we needed a good plan. Kelly’s been collecting patterns that she likes, coming up with enough projects to amuse her for a year, and today we took that stack of patterns to the yarn shop, and started.

arrivingromni 2015-08-13

We only wanted to make one stop, and we wanted to be done pretty quickly – that kind of pressure gets to you after a while, and Kell was saying that she thought that if she had to do it alone, she’d end up freaking out, buying weird stuff and regretting it all when she got there. It’s a more complicated thing than you might realize.

checkingthelist 2015-08-13

Not only do you need the right amounts of everything, but to maximize her limited amount of space, we needed to make sure that the leftovers from things can sort of hang together, so that a half ball of this and a part skein of that can be a striped something else – you don’t want to be giving real estate to something that could become an orphan.

Now, Toronto has some pretty awesome yarn shops, but if you have to buy a years worth of yarn in a single afternoon, you go to Romni. It’s the biggest, and has the largest inventory, and we thought it was out best bet for big lots of matching yarn, and since part of our strategy was the same yarn, but in lots of different colours… Romni it was.

Dudes, it was nuts. We had a sheaf of patterns, and it was about 15 minutes before the calculator came out, and then the Romni staff was up and down ladders, finding a bag of this, another skein of that…

onthefloor 2015-08-13

The perfect blue, the softest bit of that, finding the perfect colour, but in the wrong weight, the right amounts, the matching dye-lots…

I think by the end of it the staff there had figured out we were on some sort of black-ops mission and not just total lunatics, but I’ll never know for sure. (It’s possible I should shop somewhere else for a while until the memory of how bizarre we were fades a little for them.)

nevergoingtofinish 2015-08-13

The whole thing was really intense. Really intense. When you’re talking about a whole years worth of knitting, everything has to be just perfect I suppose that if we made a mistake, and had the wrong amount or the wrong colour I could technically mail it to Kelly, but mailing stuff to rural Vietnam seems like a terribly slow and expensive way to solve a yarn problem – and since this was a years worth of knitting, it’s possible Kell wouldn’t even know she had a problem for 9 months, and what happens if it’s your last yarn, and it’s the wrong yarn? What’s she going to do… not knit until the yarn gets there? What if the yarn was wrong for the pattern? What if we miscalculated, what if Luis is way bigger in a year?

We feel really proud that it only took about 90 minutes.

thehaul 2015-08-13

(Note to you: That is not all of it. Note to Ben: Sure it is.) in the end, we felt pretty stunned by the whole thing. Kelly’s got about 15 knitting projects there, big, and small, and creative ways for all the leftovers to go together that will give her a few more…

thisone 2015-08-13

When we were done, we went to lunch, and I got out some paper and we compared the patterns and the yarn, and made a list and put them together so that seven months from now she’ll stand a chance of remembering what we were thinking that crazy summer day in Romni, when we bought everything she’ll knit for a year.

wineafter 2015-08-13

I feel good about it, but I’m not the one who just got locked in.  Good Luck Kell.



A quick one from me to show you the plied yarn from yesterday. Then I’m off to do “something” about the house, which has slipped into a chaos that’s beginning to feel permanent.  I feel like that “something” is going to be cleaning, but am hoping to discover an alternative. (Over the last few days I have tried knitting, spinning, having brunch with my daughter, snuggling a baby, drinking coffee, going for a walk, napping, drinking wine and ignoring it. No dice, and the fridge still smells funny, but will keep you posted.)  Last night I plied up the two bobbins of yarn I had, and the end result, while quite pretty, isn’t quite what I wanted – although I think that next time I try it, I’ll get something that’s more like what I intended.  If you recall – I had two colours of fibre. One reddish-orange, and one brown. I split the reddish-orange into thirds, and spun 1/3 onto one bobbin, then finished with brown, then spun the other 2/3 onto another bobbin, and finished that with brown.  In theory, when I plied those two bad boys against each other, I should have gotten a skein that was 1/3 red/red, 1/3 red/brown, and 1/3 brown/brown.

onniddy 2015-08-11

In reality, what I ended up with was a skein that’s goes red/red, a tiny bit of red/brown, and then brown/brown.  That middle third isn’t as big as I would have liked. Knit up, there will still be a transition, but it won’t be the third I thought would happen.

yarnstrand 2015-08-11

In retrospect (like the funny smell in the fridge after 2 weeks of ignoring it)  this really shouldn’t be a total surprise. I think where I went wrong was when I eyeballed the amount of brown. A smarter spinner, the one that I will be when I try again… a smarter spinner would have done something clever, like weigh the brown and divide it up that way, instead of what I did do, which was guess. Badly – apparently.

yarnskein1 2015-08-11

I think it would have worked better too, if I started with the brown on the wheel, and then the red. I ended up with an unequal amount left on the bobbins – one ran out before the other did, and I think that threw off the calculations – if you can call making a wild guess a calculation, which it turns out you can’t.

yarnball1 2015-08-11

Still, for all the work it is a pretty little ball of yarn, and not a total disaster, and it’s encouraged me to go back up to the stash and try and find another two fibres to try it with.  You know. After I clean. I’m going to start with the fridge, then vacuum the cat hair of of the…. everything, and then it’s back to the wheel.  Anyone have a better way to come up with what I want?


It’s a quiet, rainy afternoon here Chez Harlot.  Everyone is at work or play, and there’s just me, wandering around my trashed house, wondering when someone who wants to clean it will show up.  Joe and I have been playing this game for a while, neither of us cares enough to do anything other than sail, eat, sleep, and knit.  (That last one is just me.) My hands are a little better, coming around slowly, and nothing I do seems to make them better or worse, except for knitting (better) and typing. (Worse.)  I’m trying to do as much of the former as possible, and as little of the latter as I can… this blog post excepted.  I also sat at the wheel for a while over the weekend, and have almost finished a spinning project from (ahem) June.

brownbobbin 2015-08-10

I had a little wee batt of something gorgeous I got from Judith MacKenzie, and wanted to add something to it to make it go a little farther. I found a complimentary bag of mystery brown in the stash, and spun it all up.  I know that bobbin looks like it’s all brown, but it’s not.

brownbobbinred 2015-08-10

See the colour peeking there?  I spun 2/3 of the batt onto a bobbin, then finished with brown, then spun the other 1/3 onto another bobbin, and then added enough brown to make them roughly the same.  Tonight I’ll ply, and if all has gone according to plan, then I should have a skein where 1/3 is the reddish batt, 1/3 is one ply red, and one ply brown, and then the last 1/3 all brown.  A very simple gradient, if it works.  We shall see.

I don’t know how much more typing I can do before my hands start to hurt, so I think I’ll spend what typing time I have left on a few Karmic Balancing gifts, if that’s cool with you?

I have several more beautiful bags from Denise at Neese’s Pieces.  She’s got a whole group of beautiful little quilted bags that she made with her own two little hands – and inside each one is a co-ordinating set of stitch markers – also made by her, right down to the lampwork beads. I’ll be sending those out to Ceri, Jacqueline, Janet, Carolyn and Sarah.

neeses 2015-08-10

Next up, a beautiful gift from Justine Turner.  Justine’s offering hardcopies of her charming books Toastie Pie

toastiepie 2015-08-10

and Garter Stitch, Plain and Simple.

garterstitchplainandsimple 2015-08-10

(I love garter stitch. I actually just bought this from her and sent it as a gift to my sister in law. That whole book is right up her alley.) Justine is going to combine both of those books with 4 skeins of Skeinz Heritage Organic Merino in the Ecru colourway, since she says it’s just perfect for all of these projects. I hope that Jennifer C loves it.

Laura from Knitfacts (friend of the show) has two beautiful gifts. Two knitters, Rebecca B and Helen G will each get a sampler set of markers from the Knitifacts shop, and the pattern of their choice from Laura’s Ravelry shop.  Enjoy! (Especially the cell phone plug marker. That’s my favourite.)

laurastore 2015-08-10 knitfactsampler 2015-08-10

Next up, a present from Lisa Kartus,  a copy of her great book “Knit Fix, Problem Solving for Knitters” and a skein of  skein of Wollmeise 100% merino superwash in the colour-way “We’re Different.”
knitfix 2015-08-10

I hope that Jenny I really loves it.

Lisa has some yarn in her stash that needs a new and loving home, and I bet that Catalina H is just the knitter to love it. (Karma is good that way.)  First, on the left is one skein of 430 yds. of fingering handpainted Black Bunny “Apollo”  (nylon, merino, stellina) in Glace colorway.Second, 2 skeins totaling 360 yds. aran worsted Scrumptious by Ysolda (Fyberspates) in color 411 Sugar Mouse.

lisayarn 2015-08-10

Jaemi has three wonderful gifts – I know because Lou has a set of these, and loves them.  It’s SNOWBALLS.  (The perfect kind for a snowball fight in the house. They’re soft, and don’t melt.)  Jaemi has three sets of snowballs, plus the pattern for each of Anna L, Linda M, and Kay S.

snowballs 2015-08-10

Next! A beautiful gradient from Art-by-Ana (in Halifax! CanCon for the win!) and she’s sending a hand painted yarn called “SE Sock Garden Party Cake”, which is approximately 120g and 555 yards.  It is 75% SW Merino, 25% Nylon. Pretty, right?

artbyana 2015-08-10

I hope that Kimberly R thinks so.

Julie (from TillyFlop) has two gorgeous presents. First, a copy of her “Knit Happy” Print – that will be going to Sara K.

knithappy 2015-08-10

And second, her I‘d rather be knitting tea towel.  I love everything in her shop, but I own this tea towel and it’s my favourite. I hope that Jenny R enjoys using it as much as I do.

tillyfloptowel 2015-08-10

That’s it for my hands! I’ve emailed all the winners, and I’ll do more tomorrow, and who knows, maybe I’ll have some knitting to show you.  What are you working on?

Uncomfortably Numb

There’s a thing that people on the rally talk about. We call it “The Bike Rally Blues”. It hits you right after the rally – as you find yourself suddenly disconnected from your massive travelling family, as the momentum of the rally falls off, and this huge thing you’ve undertaken is over, and you go back to what now seems like an incredibly isolated, mundane existence.  Usually you go back to your job, which is now more or less ON FIRE, because you walked away from it for 10 days while you did this epic thing, and you have a pile of the most disgusting laundry you’ve ever seen, and camping equipment all over your house, and you’d air out and pack up your tent except you’re pretty sure it’s full of spiders. (The spider thing is a big deal for me. I hate them. I woke up one morning on the rally and there was a spider in the tent with me, hanging in its creepy little web right over the door. I was so frightened I tried to text my team to give me some kind of rescue, but I had no mobile service, and in the end I squashed it between the two cups of a dirty sports bra and then threw the bra away. I’m not sure I can handle another spider turning up just yet.)

There’s also the fatigue – everybody sleeps like the dead for a few days afterwords, and it’s impossible to focus, and I think that for me, the exhaustion is the biggest part. I got home on Sunday night, slept for more than 10 hours, have done the same thing every night since, and am still falling asleep over my knitting all the time. It’s taken a fantastic amount of coffee to keep me at my desk the last few days.  There’s also whatever healing you have to do. There’s your sore bottom (fine now, thanks for asking) and sore knees and scrapes and bruises and I got off really lightly this year (thank you training rides) except for one really, really big deal. This year I got a pretty wicked case of ulnar neuropathy, which is nicknamed “Handlebar Palsy” or “Cyclist’s Palsy.”

As tickled as I am on one level to have cyclist’s anything (does this make me a cyclist?) it’s been more than a bit of a pain.  It comes from pressure having been placed on the ulnar nerve while you’re riding, and from road vibration coming up through the bike.  I usually wear gloves to help prevent it, but there were a few days where I didn’t this time (I forgot them in my bins and couldn’t get them out) and the consequences have been numbness and tingling in the last three fingers on each hand, and a fair bit of hand weakness. It’s improving, as I stay off of my bike and the good news about it is that it’s self-limiting – it gets better all by itself.  In just five days it’s improved a lot, but it is still making things like typing difficult, and (you better brace yourself for this one) KNITTING is sort of hard.

Now, you can tell, by the way that I am not in prison or a court-mandated anger management program, that this doesn’t mean that I can’t knit at all.  I can, and am, thank goodness, but it’s slowed me down a terrific amount.

onesock 2015-08-06

I have been knitting this one sock for the whole duration of the rally, and since I got back, and usually twelve days of knitting would look more like two pairs than this sorry state of affairs, but I’m trying to relax into it. (I’m also looking at my bike fit, and I’ll always wear gloves from now on, and I’ll be staying right off that bike until this is all better.)  Since knitting and typing are both slow right now, and since that’s pretty much all I do with my day – I’m sure things are going to be boring here for another day or two. (Or not, if I eventually wig the hell out)  I’m hoping you’ll be patient.

I’m off to try the spinning wheel. Maybe that’s the answer.

The heart finds its morning

Dear Bike Rally,

I’ve started and deleted this post about 16 times. The problem isn’t that I don’t know what to say, but instead that I can’t seem to say it without reducing myself to tears within two sentences. I’m hoping that the Bike Rally didn’t actually break me, and that this is just some sort of bizarre state brought about by intensity and exhaustion.

Have I ever told you that the Bike Rally scares the snot out of me? I love it, but so many parts of it are frightening. The fundraising – well – let’s be honest. I am surrounded by knitters, arguably the best fundraisers in the world. There’s none that can compete with the way they give, and other than the fear that we won’t be able to raise what PWA needs, the money part is the only part that doesn’t leave me with a nervous tummy.  (It does contribute to the crying though. Did you guys see what you did? There’s no words for that. Just no words. I’ll try again tomorrow to thank everyone for that, because short of posting a video of me snivelling at my desk, I’m just not going to be able to do it. Let me get through one emotional thing at a time.)  Aside from that part, there’s nothing I’m comfortable with. I am afraid to be alone, I am afraid to be with strangers, I am afraid I will fall off my bike or get hurt, I’m afraid someone else will get hurt, I’m afraid… well. You get the drift. The Bike Rally pushes all my buttons, and this year, it was worse.

I guess I didn’t talk about it much, because I didn’t want to make any of it real. I didn’t want to acknowledge the things I was really worried about, because I thought it would either be a lousy thing to be caught thinking, or because I’ve really always believed that you get more of what you pay attention to, and I didn’t want to create anything lousy – to bring the things I was afraid of into being by thinking about them too much.  I can tell you now though, because it’s over, and I lived.

I joined the Steering Committee for the Rally this year. It was a lot of work, and I loved it, and I loved the people I got to work with, and it brought people into my life that I wouldn’t have ever met otherwise. It was good work – and it felt valuable, and important, and… risky.  The Bike Rally makes its own magic every year. Something happens, everyone comes together, and the thing is greater than the sum of its parts, and you spend the week boggling that such a thing could exist in the world.  I was worried, very deeply worried, actually, about spoiling that. I worried that the work I was doing would be like seeing the man behind the curtain, finding out how an illusion actually works, or giving into the urge to unwrap a present while your parents aren’t looking and ruining your own birthday. I comforted myself by thinking that there was sure to be joy in making the magic for everyone else, even if it couldn’t happen for me this year, but I was still afraid that the loss of the magic wouldn’t be enough to get me through the hard parts.

Then, Jen had to withdraw. That was the second thing. I didn’t want to say much, because I knew that she already felt like complete crap about it, and I didn’t want to make her feel any worse. She was right to do what she did, and I knew that, but in the smaller, darker corners of my heart I felt a little abandoned, and scared about being alone, and between that and the Steering Committee, by the time it was departure day, I was already pretty upset. I said brave things.  I reassured lots of people. I did my best to look like someone who was brushing it off, soldiering on and being good with change. I wasn’t actually doing any of those things.

luishelps 2015-08-03

Carlos and Luis drove me over in the morning (Joe had gone to Edmonton for work) and it was a good distraction. Luis helped us all pump our tires, and my sister came down, and we took photos all together and I signed in and we got all organized, and I went to the bathroom for the sixty-ninth time (I have a nervous bladder) and it was almost time to go, and it was rally time, but there was no Rally Magic, and then something happened.  I looked up, and Jen was there. She’d texted saying she was coming, and then just “Have a great ride” which was totally her saying that she couldn’t face it, and I knew that and had already forgiven her, and then there she was. She was dressed in cycling gear, and she was crying, and then I was too – and then we hugged and said we were sorry.   I don’t even know for what, because we’re both just doing what we had to do, but we were sorry anyway, and it was the way things are with friends, when things are right… you know?  It was time to go a few minutes later, and the whole Rally got on their bikes and started to ring their bells and Jen hopped on her bike and rode with us as far as she could, then peeled off and was gone, and suddenly, something shifted.

jenwithme 2015-08-03

Every year, the Rally has a theme. Not officially, but it’s something I always discover. I never know what it is until I’m there, but at some point I always see it. Last year it was challenge. Rising above great difficulty, being stronger than I thought I could be. In a previous year it was generosity – I was asked to give more of myself than I expected, and meet more people with kindness and patience than I am usually good at. This year, as I hugged Jen, and then she left, and the Rally started to fall in around me, it was revealed. This year the theme was friendship, in all its exquisite forms, and with all its edges and soft places, and that profound force worked its way into every moment of the Rally, and the magic arrived.

I don’t know why I had thought for a minute that I would be alone.

teamdinner 2015-08-03

There is an intimacy that happens on the Rally, and it happens right away. There is no way that this many people, all moving toward a common goal, all hurting for the same thing, all in the same place, eating together, riding together, putting up tents together – can avoid feeling a togetherness that’s remarkable. You become each others world very quickly, you’re the only people who really understand what’s happening, and friendship is the thing that makes it so – and friendship in all its forms. The sort that springs up when you brush your teeth with someone you just met, together at 6am, all squeezed into spandex and about to do something epic. Another sort thrives as you see old friends revealed in new ways or discover new depths and build on a friendship you thought was at its fullness.

allofus 2015-08-03

I know this sounds ridiculous. I know it does. It sounds trite and saccharine, and like maybe I spent a little too much time in the sun – and maybe it is, and maybe I did, but I can tell you that everything I was afraid of was exactly wrong. Everything. Seeing the man behind the curtain didn’t ruin the magic, it made it more magic. As I watched the Steering Committee and the Team Leads do what it takes to make this thing work behind the scenes, nothing was spoiled. If anything, it made it more magic. The concern, the caring, the steps taken to make sure that the threads of friendship grew through the whole Rally, the selfless efforts to make a travelling town work the way it did – problems being quietly solved, love extending to people who were overextended – generous offers of help to each other- knowing that those people weren’t just doing the ride, which is bloody hard enough, but that they were using any energy left over to make it easier for others? I’m ashamed I didn’t have enough words to tell them how they made me feel.

mikeme 2015-08-03

Past it all, past the deeply personal friendships, past the friendships driven of respect for the people who choose to be part of building this, past the friendships growing out of shared time, was the real miracle.

The last night, we stayed up late, as a team, and the night grew around us, and the rest of the rally started to quiet down. The conversation turned slowly toward how we’d all found ourselves here. What had motivated these people to do this much work for PWA. Gently, the stories were told. There were stories of fear, of pride, of love, of terrible loss. There were stories of joining up on a fancy, and getting so much more out than they had put in that now, there was no way to stop, no way to imagine a summer without the Rally.  It was a kind of friendship that was a gift. Not to any one person, or bound to any one relationship, but something extended to ones community and world, saying that we’ll build a better thing together, for each other.

I cried in the tent a little that night. I cried every time someone wasn’t looking the whole rally, actually – and that’s not like me at all.  I’m not a hard-hearted person, but I am deeply practical, and horrifically sensible, and crying on my bike because the world is such a beautiful place isn’t something I have a lot of experience with, but there I was.

alltogether 2015-08-03

I got up the next morning, and I looked around at my team. Not just the one I was camping with, but all the riders, all the crew, the Steering Committee, PWA and I was so overwhelmed that I had to go back in my tent. I got a grip on myself, and went out and we all packed up our tents for the last time, and got on our bikes for the last day, and we started the last leg of the epic.  That whole day I had no words. That whole day I laughed, and tried not to cry and finally  just after we arrived in Montreal, I found what I wanted to say.

alldone 2015-08-03

I looked at Ken, who’s been doing this just forever, and is the whole reason that our family is in this deep.  I looked at Pato, only 23 years old, and this is what he’s done with his summers since he was 17.  I looked at the people I know who cycled to Montreal with big burdens that only friendship revealed, and people who were doing it for the very first time, and looked so stunned by what they’d achieved that I laughed out loud, and then I found the words.

I’m so proud of you.

That’s what it was the whole time. Jen, Ken, the Rally, the fundraising, the cycling, the rain, the heat, the personal obstacles, the tremendous efforts, the patience, the hard work, the meetings, the deep breaths, the speadsheets, the tears, the accidents, the laughing, the everything.  Bike Rally, I’m just so proud of you.



(PS. I signed up for next year you jerks.  I just can’t quit you.)