It’s purple all right

The big purple thing is still marching along. It’s Purless, and I really like it, and it’s going well except for one thing.  I was standing in the Loopy Ewe last Thursday and Prince had just died and I was all freaked out and I was right in front of a yarn that was the perfect shade of purple (Shalimar Yarn’s Breathless in Byzantium) and I was looking at the pattern, and I was looking at the yarn, and I was looking at the pattern, and it only called for one skein, and so I was holding one skein, and I took it to the cash register to pay. While I was standing there, I realized two things. First, that pattern is easy to embiggen. Really easy. Second, I realized that I was not one skein of purple wool/cashmere/silk sad about Prince.  I was definitely at least two skeins sad, and that sadness wasn’t going to be abated by a small shawl.  It was going to need more.

I trotted back over to the yarn, got another skein and then started, and now that I’m feeling a little better (and really sort of over the purple) I find myself committed to this plan, and …

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It turns out that I was only one skein sad about Prince, and now I’m living that thing again where I’m done before the shawl is. Yesterday I went to a yarn shop and tried to buy new yarn to knit instead of this – yarn for a big project I need to start really, really soon, and after a ridiculous hunt, I couldn’t get what I needed at all.  The Knitter’s Frolic is this weekend (so unbelievably excited about a job I can ride my bike to) and I’ll be there and I should be able to get the stuff, so now it feels like a moral question.  Am I the sort of person who finishes this before I start something else? Does it have to be as big as I thought? Does anyone need a ball of Breathless?

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So, the last time we did the Knit Play Cook Retreat I got all these questions and I wrote the answers down and made a note to keep it handy for this year, when I’d undoubtedly have to answer them again. I was really proud of the plan, right up until I forgot to post it because ironically, the first time I said all of this I called the post “I can be taught” and apparently I can’t at all.  In any event, here’s what you need to know – if you’ve been wondering.  (If you haven’t, just scroll back up and look at the purple yarn. It’s pretty.)

The next Strung Along retreat is begins the evening of June the 3rd, and runs until the evening of June the 6th.  (Question #1: Yes. Most people stay through until the morning of the 7th, and go home then. It’s in Port Ludlow, which is in Washington, and the closest airport is Seattle/Tacoma and yup, there’s a shuttle from the airport to the hotel.)

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The theme for this retreat is Knit, play, cook, and the teachers are me, Judith MacKenzie, and Dan Ratigan. I’m me, Judith is most decidedly “that Judith” and Dan is the Executive Chef at Port Ludlow, and an all round fun guy. (When you see him, ask him how many children he has. The man is practically made of joy.) I’m teaching a class called “Nicer Knitting” and it’s going to be about taking your knitting from an 8 to a 10. Dan and his team are going to host a day of cooking classes. (In the evenings, we’re going to work on Knitting for Speed and Efficiency and some other stuff – if you want to.)

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Judith was assigned the topic of “Play” and this time she’s taking it in the direction of her noble dyepots. She’s going to take you on a lovely romp through all things dye-based. Natural, not natural, weird and wonderful.   If you know Judith though, you know it almost doesn’t matter what she’s teaching. She’s amazing.

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(Question #2: Wait, Judith MacKenzie is a spinning teacher, how come she’s not teaching spinning? Good question. Judith isn’t just a spinning teacher, she’s a textile artist, and has worked and learned all the way from the Arctic to Peru and Turkey, and she’s simply one of the best teachers that I’ve ever met in my whole life, and I bet if you read the comments, there will be more than a few people who agree with me.  She’s so good that it’s always broken my heart a little bit that at our retreats, you only get to know her and work with her, and be inspired by her if you are a spinner.  We decided to try this approach to give the rest of you a chance to see what everyone else is on about.  Trust us. (Plus, she’s going to retire someday, and we feel like we have an obligation to spread as much of her knowledge as we can before that happens.)  Question #3: I don’t know how to do any of those things.  I don’t know how to cook, or dye anything, and I’m kinda a beginning knitter. Is this for me? Yup. That’s the point of classes.  You don’t need to know how to do things when you come. You can’t be unqualified for a class where you’re coming to learn. If you’re worried about the cooking part, don’t be. Dan will have a variety of stations to work at, and you can start with something as basic as knife skills (I bet you always wanted to be able to chop things the way they do on Top Chef) and moves up to tasks as complex as you want. It’s fun, and the same goes for the other classes. You’ll be fine.  If you can cast on, cast off, knit, purl, increase and decrease, you’re more than equipped for everything that will go on that weekend. You come to learn stuff, not because you already know it – and because our classes are small and awesome, we can personalize stuff quite a bit – which means that if you’re expert at all that? You’re still going to learn stuff.

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Question #4: I don’t know anyone, and I’d be coming alone. Will this still be fun?  Yes. You’ll get to know people very quickly. There’s lots of people (almost all of them) who come by themselves.  You won’t be lonely, or alone. Some people who came alone have ended up with new best friends, or a group of them.  It’s a great thing to do by yourself. The classes are very small, and there’s lots of opportunity to get sorted, besides, you sort of know me. (Also, if you have a friend or spouse or Mum who knits too and you wanted to come together? We can make sure you’re in the same group.)

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Question #5: How is this different or better than other retreats? Well, that’s hard to say.  I go to a lot of retreats, and they all have their own personality, and so does this one. Some are wacky (ours is not so wacky) some are rustic (ours is not at all rustic) some are big (ours is small) and some are more about being social (ours is a little less so.)  I can’t say ours is best, or that it’s totally your thing, I can tell you what we’re proud of, and what we like about our retreat.   We are proud of our class sizes (small – only about 13-15 per class) we’re very proud of the calibre of teachers we bring in, and we like that our focus is on teaching and learning. It’s three full days of classes, and evening events that are about learning too.  We think the resort is pretty nice, and we have fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs in every room. (See? Not at all rustic.) We also think that we’ve got some of the best food you’re ever going to eat at a group event like this. It’s over the top – local, fresh, amazing.  A shocking amount of our budget goes on food. SHOCKING.

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Question #6: (Speaking of money.) How much is it? The retreat is $875, and that gets you all of your food, classes, teaching, materials, and evening events. The accommodations are separate, and yours to arrange with the Resort. (They have a special room rate for our retreats, usually around $159 a night, and several rooms can have two beds so you can split with someone. If that’s what you decide to do, you two work it out. The rate stays the same.)

 Question #7: What’s up with all the retreats? I mean, you and everybody are doing them?

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Well. They’re awesome. That’s all. A retreat is a floating island of knitters. For the few days that the retreat runs (and especially at ours, where we fill the resort) the world is only knitters. Nobody thinks you’re nuts. Nobody thinks you’re strange, and we all support and agree with your passion.  It turns out that feels great.

Any more questions?

(PS. I just thought of another question. How do I sign up?  Read more details here, and send us an email at  Me or Debbi will write you back. There’s still some spots, but not very many.) 

This then that

I love babies. I know I’ve told you that before – I think everything around them is brilliant.  First you have a woman, then a bigger woman and then she unbelievably becomes two people, and then one of those people changes from a baby into someone who can do algebra, play the violin and scream “you don’t know my life”.  (It is very loud magic.)  I feel the same way about knitting. First you have some string and a plan, and then you wave your hands around (a million times) with some sticks, and poof. A sweater appears. it’s the same with spinning – it’s a fantastic act of transformation. Watch this:

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Nerd Girl Yarns roving, 100% Cheviot, in the colourway “I will not eat them Sam I am.”

Then I waved my hands around a wheel a little bit:

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Then I waved those together with the wheel the opposite way:

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Whammo.  From baby to adult in the blink of an eye. (Okay. It took several hours, but compared to something like pregnancy, it was super fast.) Now that little roving can go on to be something else. What? I don’t know. It’s made it’s trip with me. It’s about 275m of fingering weight, something so pretty and now it’s up to someone else. I’ve done my part of the magic. This is destined to make something else happen, it’s going to turn into services for a client (or clients) at PWA. I’m going to kick off this years fundraising with it. If you want it to be yours, send me an email (stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca (replace the AT and DOT with the right things, and notice the .ca, not .com) with what it’s worth to ya. I’ll email you if you’re the highest offer, and you can make the donation, and I’ll send it to your house.

Boom. Transformation.

(If you’re looking forward to this years Karmic Balancing Gifts, don’t worry. They’re coming. I’ll explain more about them in the coming weeks – but basically, anyone who helps, with a donation, with spreading the word, with social media, with good thoughts and wishes… you all qualify. Help the Bike Rally somehow, and send me an email at that same address with the subject line “I helped” and you’re in. Same goes if you help any knitter doing the ride. That’s MeKenPatoCameron or Heather (she’s blog reader, and a new knitter on our team.  Let’s get this party started.)

In my house

In my house there is:

1. A lot of laundry. Most of it clean, since my charming husband uncharacteristically and delightfully hauled off and did a whack of it. (Thanks buddy, you’re a team player.)

2. A pair of finished socks.

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Agatha socks, knit from West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply in “Cardamom” , I love them. I put them on to take a few pictures, and haven’t taken them off yet. I guess they’re not going in the Christmas box after all.  Whoops.

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4. A drying skein of yarn that I spun with my own two little hands. It’s gorgeous. I’ll show you tomorrow.

5. All of the handouts and prep for the Knitter’s Frolic this weekend. If you’re in town, you should come.

6. 4895 emails to do with the rather awful death of Prince. Thanks for sending them. When I landed in Denver last week and turned on my phone, I had 57 texts waiting. It was so powerful that by the time I got a message telling me it was Prince and I could open the rest,  I was almost relieved it wasn’t about my Mum. (Who is well and fine and fit and I don’t know why I thought that.)  I was completely shocked as I read through them, and went straight to the Loopy Ewe and bought purple yarn out of some sense of mourning, even though I don’t much like purple.

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It’s remarkable how much the death of someone you didn’t know can matter to you. Prince was the soundtrack for so much of my life. I remember fighting with my Mum to be allowed to take the train downtown when I was a teenager, just so I could see him – I remember the wild conversations with my sister about how much was reasonable to spend on a ticket to see him – and I regret none of it, including that I got grounded for coming in late that first time.  It was worth it. There’s few words to describe the loss. It’s not like the loss of someone who was in my life, I’m a big, grown up woman, and it’s not like I thought we had a relationship on any level, but almost all amazing moments in my life were punctuated by the music he made, and he was of my generation, and so young (therefore) and on top of David Bowie, I just don’t know what to make of it all.

Somehow, despite the fact that our love never came to fruition, and we weren’t friends, and I know that, I’m grateful for what he was in my life, and even more remarkable,  I’m going to miss him – but maybe a little less if I have a purple shawl. I bet you get it.

While the sun shines

This morning when I got up and looked upon my domain, I realized that I was screwed, and started in on the hopeless list of things I can’t possibly accomplish in one day. I began with Item #1. Drink Coffee.  (Sometimes I put things on my list that I know I’m going to do, just so that I can cross them off. #2 was “Cross off drinking coffee”. See that? I got to cross out two tasks in one.) While I was drinking coffee, I was sort of gazing wistfully at my wheel and feeling bad about how long it’s been since I sat at it. Truth be told, we moved it to our bedroom to make room for the Christmas tree, and it didn’t come back down until yesterday. (I’d feel worse about that, but at least I don’t still have the tree up.) It occurred to me that if I wasn’t going to get everything done anyway, then maybe it didn’t matter if one more thing didn’t get done, and I took my coffee, my roving, and my phone over to the wheel, plunked myself in the sunbeam that was shining in through amazingly dirty windows (that’s what I took off the list. Clean windows) and listened to an audiobook and had a little bit of a spin.

nerdroving 2016-04-20

Nerd Girl Yarns roving, 100% Cheviot, in the colourway “I will not eat them Sam I am.”

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Looks nice, right? Sure it does. It looks like a nice normal person sitting there, listening to a book and having a really relaxed morning, which I absolutely did, for just about an hour before I let all the stuff I have to do start creeping in around the edges again. Then I worked, and packed (I’m flying out tomorrow, and those of you I’ll be teaching wouldn’t appreciate a whole day at the wheel) and then this afternoon I had another twenty minutes where I neglected important things (I decided I could write emails in the airport in the morning instead – likely a tactical error, considering that I’ll be there before 5am, but it was a nice thing to say to myself) and I feel amazingly sane, undeservedly organized, and pretty happy.

I’d forgotten that spinning can be like that. It’s so tidy, and orderly, and such an efficient act of transformation- like dusting something with a lot of dust on it. Big change, easily had. No waiting. Very, very good for the soul, if bad for the windows.

PS. The details about the June Knit-Play-Cook Retreat are up, and it’s so funny that today – the day I’m talking about spinning, I’m opening a retreat just for knitters. (Well, I mean, spinners can come and all, but you don’t have to be one. This is the one retreat a year we do without a spinning component.) We’ve had some cancellations on our “hold me a spot list” so there’s some places wide open.


Hello Pets, and sorry for the absence. Life right now has a strange feel – all chaos and disorder, and to be completely honest, it’s my least favourite kind of chaos and disorder – which is to say that it’s mostly other peoples. I’m pretty okay with the monkey wrenches I throw into my own life, with work, family, travel and commitments, and I love having a busy, fast paced life – but apparently only when I choose it. The last week or so I wake up in the morning, imagine a tidy little plan, mentally make a list of all the things that will be accomplished or set to rights that day, and then watch it all come undone as the needs of others come to bear. Nothing is terrible – no great tragedy has befallen anyone, we are all well – but there have been a lot of surprises- some good, some great, some no-so-great and all destined to shake the ever-loving daylights out of any plans I had.

In the face of all that I retreated, trying to settle things down and restore a little order. I haven’t found that sense of order yet, but somewhere in there I remembered that floating through the wildness untethered isn’t my best thing either – so I’m back. If you’re one of the lovelies who’s emailed to make sure I’m not dead in a ditch, thank you. It’s sweet of you to worry, and here I am, a little the worse for wear, sure to be more present.

So, what I have I been up to? Well, we had a lovely retreat at Port Ludlow (and it turns out there’s room for the June one, if you’re interested, details to follow- or send an email) and then I came home, and then I went to several events for Joe, and then I did some stuff for my kids, and then I tried and failed to find a tidy house under the layer of “I’ll get to that later” that has settled over the place, and then I got on my bike and rode the first training ride of the season. Well, it wasn’t technically the first one, it was the third, but I was away for the first two, and so it was my first. It went okay, but my arse apparently remembers nothing from last year, and I cursed my way up all the hills, and have been reminded of my flaws each time I’ve sat down since then. (Luckily, I haven’t been sitting much, which has reduced the amount of secondary swearing.)

This week began with an intention to get it all together, and here I am on Tuesday and together, it is not. (It turns out that my ability to get other people’s scenes together is much less than the skills I have around my own stuff. Who knew?) The roving I was going to spin today sits on a chair waiting for me patiently…

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The almost finished pair of socks I’m knitting are tossed on a table…

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Although I did finish a cowl, and I do love it…

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and it does match my spring coat – and it is indeed spring… So that’s something… isn’t it?

Yours from the wild side,


Randomly, on a Thursday

1. I got home on Monday night from Knitting in the Heartland.

2. I am writing this to you from the airport again because I’m leaving for the Strung Along Retreat.

3. Knitting in the Heartland was terrific.  Like so many guild hosted events it was charming, friendly,

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and hosted by really, really lovely people who truly love knitting and the community it creates. People like my new bestie Stacey. (Thanks for all your hard work Stacey.)

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4. The Marketplace was pretty awesome, and there was lots of new-to-me vendors.

5. What happened after that re-enforces the idea I’ve had for a long time that a knitters ability to withstand the siren call of yarn has a lot to do with immunity – just like with the flu or something. I’m pretty sure it all has to do with if you’re in a weakened state or are running into a virus you’ve never had before.

6. So, I bought some yarn. (And some fibre. And maybe a bag. And maybe that is not a picture of all the yarn.)

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7. I bought this yellow coat a while ago (someone has to buy all the yellow and orange coats, it might as well be me) and I realized today that not only do I not really have a knitted thing that goes well with it, I also bought exactly the right yarn for it at the Marketplace.

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That’s Stone Soup Fibers Elements/Skinny Skeins.

8. Somewhere between here and Seattle I am going to figure out what to do with it. (Well, that and and maybe all the other mini-skein kits I keep buying because they’ve got crack in them or something.)

9. I got to use an overhead projector and I remembered how much fun it is.

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10. What’s the neatest thing that happened to you this week?