I’ll wait to go to the store

Yesterday, after getting together the shocking list of all that is unknit and must be knit, I discovered that I have no yarn. Well, that’s not true, obviously… I mean, I have rather a lot of yarn. It turns out though, that when I went into the stash with the list of things that I wanted to make, to see what I had to make it out of, everything was unacceptable. Here’s a great example.  I decided that I’d start the parade of Christmas knits with one of the little sweaters that needs making. I chose a pattern – it’s the Baby and Child Sophisticate, all I needed was a little bit of worsted weight yarn, and surely that’s in the stash, right?

I went into the stash, and found about 10 yarns that could work, and rejected them all for some reason or another, and then started making a list of what I needed to go to the yarn shop for.  I put “500m of worsted” at the top of the list.  Since I was stuck without that, I decided I’d start the cowl.  I went into the stash for that… and about 20 minutes later I’d rejected everything I had and added yarn for that to the list. This continued for a while, until essentially speaking, I’d decided that none of the yarn I have now would work for anything and I’d need to buy more for everything, which totally defeats the purpose of a stash.  It’s not supposed to be an untouchable collection… it’s supposed to be my own private yarn store. A pre-planned smorgasbord of yarns that I love, and it turns out that’s the problem.

It turns out that mostly I love this stuff, that’s why I bought it,  and I don’t want it to be gone, and I think that if I knit it it will be gone, which it will be, but the point was to use it to make things, not to hug it and kiss it and call it George. There will be, I said to myself, as I stood in the stash, and thought things over, other yarns. Yarns I love as much as these yarns.  So, I didn’t go to the yarn store today. I stood there in the stash, and I looked for some proper freakin’ generosity in my heart, and lo and behold, the yarn I needed was there after all, as long as I was willing to part with it.

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Two skeins of Longmeadow Farm merino, in a gorgeous colour called “Brick and Mortar” (that I totally would look great in) that is soft, and lovely and will suit my little nephew to a tee.  I started knitting straight away so that I couldn’t change my mind, and I love how it feels, and I’m trying to remember that knitting it up is more than half of the pleasure of having it. I’m still having pangs as I go along, but yarn is for using, and for keeping people warm and this yarn was doing none of that in the stash, and now it’s meeting a noble destiny. It’s not supposed to be there so I can stand in the middle of it all and say “Mine, Mine, nobody else’s.”

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Besides. Maybe there will be enough left over to make me a hat.

Don’t panic early

When I first decided to open the Christmas spreadsheet today, I thought it was going to be pretty bad. I carry over the spreadsheet from one year to the next, and I do a little work on it before I put it away in the new year. I change the deadline on things that were too tight (the whole thing, essentially) and carry over anything that people really loved (ice lanterns! Advent calendars!) and take away anything that wasn’t a hit. (Jars of pickled beets. Turns out that only I really loved those.) It’s intended to make it so that I can learn from the year before, and not… you know, do something like make 22 jars of pickled beets two years in a row when they weren’t beloved by all. Then when I open the thing in early November, I know just where to start.

Well, I appear to be missing most of November, I think I misplaced it in an airport somewhere, and so I knew I was getting a late start. I was prepared for it to be pretty ugly in there. I thought I would open it, take a look at the things that I had to do, go upstairs to The Long Range Planning Box (where I put things that I make all year) see what I was missing, and then make up a knitting list, and try to get a grip.

Turns out that things are not bad. They are terrible.  Horrific. What-the-hell-did-I-do-all-year-and-what-was-I-thinking kind of bad. All the socks (except for one pair, I am a lunatic) in The Long Range Planning Box are one size, and it’s the wrong size. (Upside, they fit me – they’re just no good for gifts for anybody else in the family, except my mum, who ironically, has asked for slippers.) I would have sworn there was a pair of mittens in there (looks like I gave those away) although there’s a few hats – one of which I don’t recall knitting at all. After the heart pounding adventure of comparing the box to the list, I ended up with a pretty intense list. I need:

3 hats. Four pairs of socks (3 of them size large) two little sweaters, one small shawl, a cowl, and a pair of dress mittens. Oh. And slippers.

I also need to go through my stash and patterns and figure out what, er, those projects will be and what I’ll knit them out of, and then I’ll have to sit down, add up how many hours of knitting that is, and see…. Let’s not go there. I’m not going to panic early. The whole point of the spreadsheet is to increase happiness and relaxation, and freaking out about the thing is not who I’m going to be, and besides, maybe it’s not that bad. (I just laughed out loud in a slightly hysterical way that I’m glad you couldn’t hear.)

Mark my words knitters, in 2016, I’m doing one Christmas present a month, or something like that. I heard of a knitter once who arranged two gifts per year for every person on her list – and had them both ready by their birthday. One for then, and one for Christmas and maybe that’s the answer.  For this year, all I can do is knit like the wind, prune the list, and I’d cross my fingers and hope for the best, but it’s really hard to knit that way.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, enjoy your day, and if you need me, I’ll be the lady deep in the stash, clutching a crumpled spreadsheet and a half knit sock, and trying to make a Christmas out of it all.

Crap. I think I better buy a tree.

I can fill in one box

I am not sure yet if I have the nerve to open the Christmas Spreadsheet. You know, the one that I swore I’d open way sooner than this last year.  Last year I was going to get on this way sooner. Last year, I said that this year would be the year that I got out ahead of the thing.  Last year, I knew that this year was going to be the pinnacle of my Christmas success. The least amount of work and stress, the biggest amount of organization and relaxation… it was going to be a poem.  I was going to have stuff wrapped by now.

I know what’s on that spreadsheet – or at least I know enough of it that I can continue to procrastinate for a little longer, long enough that I can do some of the stuff that I know is on there, and then when I finally open it, I’ll have the satisfaction of filling in a bunch of the boxes all at once, which I think will probably be encouraging. This is one box that I will be able to fill in, a little sweater, done and dusted.

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It’s the Princess Smocked Cardigan, and I knit it out of Brooks Farms Mas Acero – the colourway is Taste of Berries, I think. This one came along quietly, in the background over the last few weeks, as my hotel room knitting.

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I blocked all the pieces the other night, then seamed them up, and I’m pretty happy with it, considering what a quick knit it was. Perfect little buttons were found in the button bin, and voila.

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There will be at least one more little sweater to knit before Christmas, and I can feel some other significant projects lurking in the spreadsheet, but this is a nice big chunk to take off. I think I’ll wrap it.

And there was debris everywhere

Well. After such a long break my poppets, I owe you some sort of explanation, but the only thing I’ve got that make sense comes from Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

To say that I landed hard here at home last week would be an understatment of an epic nature. I didn’t just land, I crash landed. I knew when I committed to two weeks away that when I walked in the door I’d be somewhat A) Behind and B) In demand. I was down with that. (When I say I was down with it, I mean more that I’d accepted it in the general way that you accept that someday you’ll have to clean the basement. You know it’s going to be crappy, but there’s no way out of it.) Coming home after a long trip is always rough – people and messes to catch up on, figuring out everything you’ve missed, finding out all that went on (putting the coffee cups right way around in the cupboard for the love of all things woolly can we not agree on this after this many years) unpacking all your scrambled stuff… reentry’s always a crap scene, and over the years I’ve gotten way, way better at it. Part of it is acceptance, and part of it is taking it easy on the way home so that I arrive well rested, and ready to fork over whatever’s needed. (Speaking of forks, what sort of person changes the order you keep the cutlery while his wife is away? A wild man. He’s a lunatic.)

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(I’m just randomly going to show you some finished knitted stuff from the last few weeks. Here pictured a finished pair of sock for yours truly, knit from a skein of Must Stash perfect sock self-striping in “Chocolate Bunny Cake #2”)

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This time though, that didn’t work out.  The Strung Along November Retreat (was lovely, thanks for asking) wrapped up Monday night, and Debbi and I had a day of meetings and tidying up to do on Tuesday, and then we’d both get home on Wednesday. That’s not really what happened though.  What happened was that the weather turned foul, a huge storm started to blow through, things got a little complicated for knitters heading home, and Debbi and I were extra busy that evening after everything was over, and I went to bed extra early feeling totally wiped out – with a half glass of wine undrunk on the table. (That should have been the first sign things weren’t right.)

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(Look! Another pair. These are the cool watermelon pair – all done. Opal Sweet and Spicy in “Wassermelone”. My classic top down pattern.)

Things got rapidly not right after that. I woke up around midnight feeling very poorly indeed, and minutes later had installed myself in the hotel bathroom, living through the beginning of the most epic round of a stomach bug I’ve ever had. I spent the next 20 hours… well. Let’s just say that I never again want to live through the indignity of viral gastroenteritis in a shared hotel room. It was nothing short of dreadful, and I’m sure Debbi never wants to live through it either. She made it to the meetings on my behalf, and helped Judith pack up and get gone, all while a crazy storm raged outside.   Judith didn’t get very far – about 20 minutes into her drive home, the roads were closing, trees were falling, and back she came. As soon as she arrived at the hotel, the power went out – and candlelight did nothing to add romance to my stomach bug. (By way of illustration, I was so sick that for that 24 hours, I neither drank coffee nor knit. i can’t remember the last time that happened.)


All of us went to bed at 8:30 that night, and my last thoughts were that I hoped I was well enough to navigate a 3 hour car trip followed by two flights. (Neither are places that have readily accessible bathrooms, and I didn’t want to be Typhoid Mary either.) I  woke up feeling fragile, but okay – and decided to give it a go.  I slept most of the way home, waking up just long enough to take the antibiotics for this stupid infection I have in my foot (What… I didn’t mention that? It’s fine – but added a layer of misery to the whole thing) and arrived gratefully home at midnight on Wednesday.

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(Another pair, these are in my favourite yarn “I can’t remember” in the colourway “I lost the ball band.)

Thursday was a blur, Friday was much better, but I never did make it to my desk, and then… well here we are. Monday. I spent the weekend finally getting caught up, and doing laundry, blocking a little sweater I finished (I’ll show you tomorrow) and now the rest of the week can be spent pulling the pieces back together. As the fog clears, I had just the briefest thought about how close I was to Christmas, and how I should really be doing something about that, but then I knit until the feeling went away. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

There’s lots of time. Lots.

As it goes by

For the last three days I’ve been in the most beautiful places. Places without internet, or mobile coverage, but beautiful none-the-less.  As I travel, my phone will suddenly get 19 texts, and 48 notifications, and I’ll snatch it out of my pocket, text everyone back, post a picture to instagram and hit send on nine emails. It’s so weird –  and makes it all seem urgent and strange, and then eleven seconds later I have no coverage at all, and it stays that way for hours and hours.  Connect, disconnect, all at the whim of the wind.

I left the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival on Monday with my friend Judith.  (It was a terrific event, by the way, so if you’re ever in the area…) I’d decided, since I had to be in the country until Monday for that event, and then back today, that it would be sheer lunatic nonsense to fly home, all the way across the continent, only to fly back two days later. As homesick as I am right now, I know I’d just be so tired if I’d done it the other way.  So I made a decision that I’d stay, I’d see things with Judith, we’d have a little time together – we’d work, I’d get some stuff done… it would be great. Now – we’re not the sort of women who don’t make things nice, so we decided there was no need for that work time not to be as beautiful as we could make it, so as we travelled from The Dalles to where Judith lives in Forks (yeah, that Forks) that we would take the best route we could.

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We meandered up the Columbia Gorge, following the river, and it was ridiculous. I mean, it was beautiful to the point that at some points the feeling that you were driving through an impossible postcard was overwhelming. At one point I stood on the edge of a cliff, looking out across the river and thought “oh, C’MON OREGON. Get a hold of yourself.”

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We saw waterfalls, and camels and zebras (I know. I don’t know why they’re there either) and a volcano and it was amazing. Nothing short of amazing.  I could barely knit in the car, that’s how lovely it was. I was too busy shouting LOOK AT THAT DO YOU SEE THAT OH MAN.

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We kept on trucking, and night time came, and we were still driving, and we arrived really late, and after a debacle or two, I got myself tucked into a little room on the Quileute Nation, at La Push. (Yes. Those Quileutes. But the real people.) It was dark, and though Judith told me the ocean was there, there really wasn’t a ton of evidence. (There was the sound. I grant you that, but it could just as easily been a constant, enormous train.)

In the morning I woke up so early, about 5:30 in the morning, and I lay in bed, looking out the window and watching the stars wink out as the sky began to brighten. I was excited for dawn to come, and to see the ocean, and all of a sudden something came together in my mind.

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How often, I wondered, will I wake before dawn in what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth? I got up, I made coffee, threw myself and and out of the bathtub, swaddled myself in wool, grabbed my knitting and my camera, and threaded my way down through vast rafts of driftwood, down to the beach.

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La Push is gorgeous. It is wild and huge and the waves are bigger than me, and there is driftwood the size of houses. Whole centuries old trees flung up on the beach, where they will sit and weather for centuries until another storm takes them away, keeps them in the sea for years and years, and then flings them up on another beach somewhere else in the world.

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(Bonus points if you can find my coffeecup in that one.)

When you stand on the beach at La Push, and look out to sea, and take a step towards the waves, you are moving in the direction of Japan. There is nothing between you and Japan. Not an island, not a peninsula… nothing.  Just the sea, and then the sea, and then then sea, and then Japan.  The sun rose while I thought about that.

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I looked at it all, and I took a thousand pictures of waves, and I watched the light change, and the beach and water re-make itself a thousand times. It was so beautiful that even though I am not really the mushy type, I may have had a little cry.

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The waves rushed in like horses, and it was spectacular.

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I’ve seen a lot of really incredible things over the last few days, but I think that dawn on the beach at La Push was something I’ll remember for a long, long time.


When I was getting ready to leave, I had the hardest time getting it all together. Going away on long trips is tricky. Not just because of the clothes and creature comforts, but the yarn situation. This being my life, I am travelling some superlatively yarny places, and if there was truly a shortage of yarn I could indeed buy as I go, but that always involves also buying tools, or packing a million needles, or not being teaching while the market is open, and space is at a premium this go round. I have one large suitcase for all my teaching stuff, and then all my personal things (for two weeks!) fit into a single carry on.  I though it over, I tried to get realistic, and managed to fight off the way that I usually pack yarn. Usually, I pack not like I’m travelling across the country, but to an different dimension, where time, space and knitting work differently. Usually I pack like:

a) I am going to have more time to knit while I am working than I do when I am at home. (This, is lunatic. There is no knitting during a teaching day. There is talking about knitting, and looking at knitting and discussing knitting, and all the students knit, but I – do not.)

b) Like if I do knit, I will suddenly an miraculously knit faster than I ever have before, thus requiring massive amounts of yarn that I should have on my person. Example: I can knit about a sock a day. Three balls of sock yarn with me on a plane is not “insurance” or “optimistic.” It’s delusional. Even if my flight were delayed, I would not be delayed for six days.

c) Like I have tons of free time – because I’m not at home. This too, is completely bananapants.  Today’s a great example. I got up at 5:30, had a bath, organized my teaching stuff, then sat down and did Bike Rally emails, and started this blog post, and now I’ll go teach from 8:30 til 4:30, and then there’s a booksigning from 5-7 (you should come. Say hi.) and then a quick dinner, and then it’s bedtime. How do I think that’s got a ton of spare time in it? At home I’d at least be knitting before and after work, but when I’m on the road I’m doing my regular job before and after work.  This does not up the yarn requirements.

All of these things together, usually mean that I’ve put a small yarn store into my suitcase by the time I leave for a trip.  Way, way, way more than I need – and this time I was determined not to freak out and over-pack.  So, I packed:

1. A pair of half finished socks.

2. Two balls of yarn for a toddler sized sweater.

3. Two balls of sock yarn.

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I am two days into my trip, and I think I have a problem. The pair of half finished socks became socks on the way here. The first ball of sock yarn is 1/4 the way done, the two balls for a sweater are cast on and going. I have one ball untouched, and 12 days to go,

I, am rather possibly,  underyarned.  I swung too far the other way. There’s not enough yarn on that hotel room bed to see me through, and I can see that now.

I’ll take a swing through the marketplace tomorrow at the The Dalles Fiber Festival Marketplace, and see if things are better. Right now? Me vs 14 days? I’m seriously underyarned. I went way too far the other way.  I need 500m of a man coloured sock yarn, and rather possibly, a bottle of wine.  We’ll see what gets solved in the marketplace tomorrow.


Randomly on a Wednesday:

1. I took the morning off today to watch the swearing in ceremony for our new Prime Minister. I don’t regret it at all. The best moment for me was seeing that he had made good on his promise to achieve gender parity in the Cabinet. Half men, half women, for the first time in Canadian history.

2. Best moment of the whole thing? When a reporter asked him why gender parity was important to him, and he said “Because it’s 2015.” Just like that.

3. I leave in the morning for 14 days.

4. I have no idea how to pack for that. I really don’t own that many pairs of acceptable underpants. Or shirts. Or pants.

5. Fourteen days is a long time to pack knitting for. I know I’ll be in woolly places, so I don’t need to fear running out, but I do think I should leave with some sort of a knitting plan.

6. I should make one soon.

7. I opened the Christmas spreadsheet to help make me a plan.

8. I wish I hadn’t done that.

9. Maybe I’ll just take socks.

10. Or not.

Up one notch

A few months ago… or maybe a little longer than that, I had dinner with my mum, sister, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. We took a few pictures, and they all looked great, and I looked… less great. I’ve never been good at that whole scene – outfits, hair, makeup. I do okay in the shoe department, thanks to a tiny little fetish for well made, totally comfortable shoes that look as good as they feel, but when it comes to the rest of it, I tend to be the lady wearing old jeans, a tee-shirt with a hole in it and mismatched (but very well made) knitted stuff.

I mentioned it to Joe, who usually looks similarly scruffy, and we decided somehow that we were going to take it up a notch. Joe bought three new shirts, and a jacket that doesn’t look like he got it at a thrift shop (but he did) and I started to think over how I could dress a little better. I’m a textile artist. That’s how I think of myself (and most of you) rather than simply a knitter. I’m interested in the fabrics I make, the shapes I construct with knitting… The more I thought it over, the more I thought that I should look like that – like a textile artist and writer, rather than like someone who rolled out of bed, grabbed enough clothing to stay warm and covered, and launched a day- Which is totally what I do, and I don’t see that changing, so the answer was to have better stuff to grab.  I’ve been working on it, little by little. Every time I need a new shirt, I spend a little more time choosing it, give a little more thought into how it all could eventually pull together into a wardrobe, instead of just a collection of stuff.

It turns out that the onset of winter is a really, really good time to start thinking about all of this, because mostly the “outfits” that I wear for the next six or seven months will all involve a coat. Pulling together a wardrobe that looks ok in public is a lot easier, if you only need to worry about coats. They delightfully cover the rest of what I’m wearing, so I have lots of time to think it over. I own three (almost four – I’m about to buy a new one) coats. This is a pretty low number for a Canadian, I think, considering that you’ll wear one every day for about 200 days a year. I have a light, waterproof coat, a warmish dress coat, and a warmer parka. (I’m saving up to buy a super-warm coat. I’ve been missing one for a year.) They are respectively lime green, autumn orange, and brown. (I’m thinking about black for the new one, but know that my mum disapproves of black on me, on account of my fair skin. She says it makes me look dead. I’m almost 50. I’m thinking about letting her opinion go a little. Sorry mum. I’ll wear a scarf- put a little colour by my face like you keep saying.) So last week when I realized that I had no mittens for this year and decided to do something about that, I did something radical. Instead of choosing yarn that I love and making mittens, I chose yarn that I loved that went with all my coats, and made mittens.

Behold! A pair of Cloisonee that match all my things. (Except possibly the hypothetical black coat. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.)

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I love them on their own, but I love them with my coats even more.

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See that? One step closer to sort of well-dressed.  Then I needed a new cowl. (That is a total and absolute lie. I have about nine scarves and cowls. I am in no danger of freezing to death anytime soon, but only… um… all of them totally match my coats, so I needed a new one.) I wanted a specific colour, and while I was at Rhinebeck I went on a hunt, and came up with Watershed in Eastview. (God, I love those Harrisville Yarns.) Then I found a pattern I loved – Winterlong, and started knitting.

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The thing took almost no time at all, and I love the result. I wanted something a great colour, sculptural… interesting to knit, but would reliably lie flat. A big cozy thing to wrap round my neck and keep out the wind and snow, and this project was perfect.

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The thing knit up in a flash. It seems to me that it took longer to dry after it’s bath than it did to work it.

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I’m totally in love. It matches all of my coats perfectly, and about 3/4 of my wardrobe (if you can call tee-shirts and jeans a wardrobe, which I am)

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and the best part? It matches the mittens.

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I’m one step closer to being someone in an outfit – not just clothes. As long as I have a coat on, I’m good.


A silly little trick

On Thursday of last week, two things happened. First, Joe left for a conference in NYC, and I woke up feeling awful. I’m leaving soon for a two week trip out of town, working two gigs (the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival then a few days off, then the November Strung Along Retreat – at last count, by the way, we had a tiny few spots left. Email if you’re in) and I can’t afford to be sick right now, so I did something drastic and amazing.

I took the weekend off.  I know – lots of people take the weekends off, but what’s that joke about owning your own business? It’s awesome because of the flexibility. You can work any 14 hours a day you like.  Both Joe and I have recently lapsed (out of necessity, mostly) into a wild schedule where we work all the time, and Thursday I woke up feeling it, and I promptly cancelled all but two of my weekend plans. One was a bike rally meeting with my Co-Lead – Cameron, you’ll meet him soon enough – if you’re on instagram you might have seen him go by already, and the other was a plea from a friend who desperately wanted to learn to knit. Turns out he’s recently learned he’ll be an uncle, and wants to knit a blanket.

He came over, I drew him a picture, gave him needles and yarn, taught him the premise of knitting (pull loop through loop using stick) the knit stitch, the purl, increasing, decreasing, placing markers, casting on and casting off, and he left three hours later with a top down baby sweater on the needles.  (I’m very good with beginners.)

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Other than that, I slept, knit, and tidied. The whole thing was very restorative, and there’s an amazing amount of knitting to show you, but it’s all blocking right now. Tomorrow we’ll have a festival of finished things. Today though, let me show you a little sneak I do to make sure my socks match exactly – or rather, that it’s possible for my socks to match exactly.  (Sort of.)

I’m knitting a pair of socks headed for the Long Range Planning Box (although Christmas is so shockingly soon I don’t know if we can call it long range) using Opal #8610 that I snagged at the Knit East marketplace from Cricket Cove. It’s supposed to look like a watermelon, and I suppose it does, if you have a wide way of thinking about watermelon. (All that yellow, doesn’t seem right.) I knit the first sock, and I rigged the colourway so it worked out the way I liked.  I knit to the end of the heel, then ripped out a chunk of the colourway so that the pattern would progress undisturbed along the top of the foot. I rip out parts of colourways all the time to get what I want… and usually things work out just fine, but before I do the second sock, I always double check that it’s going to work.

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I knit that first sock, and then before I start the second one, I break out the ball winder. I lay the finished sock nearby, and I start winding. I wind to the place where the first sock began, and then I start following along. As I wind, I count off sections of the first sock – a section of pink on the ball, a section of pink on the sock, now yellow, now green…. I wind and watch, making sure that subtracting a section of yarn from the first sock didn’t leave me with a wrong order for the second.

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In this case, I have more than enough – and enough in the right order.

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(I always weigh the remaining yarn after the first sock, and compare it to the weight of the sock to make sure I have enough- but with long repeats, that’s not always enough to get you a match.) Especially when I plunder a colourway while making a sock for a big man. If it turns out that I don’t have enough, I’ll choose to use the gutted bit from the first sock to start the second, because I think that mostly, the legs of socks are covered by pants, and it’s the feet we really look at. In any contest between matching legs or matching feet, I’ll take feet every time. It’s what you see when they’re poking out the bottom, or propped up on the coffee table. Feet over legs. That’s how I do it.