The Rules as I see them

I know that from the outside looking in, I probably appear to be a pretty structured person, but the truth is that I’m always right on the edge of slipping into total chaos over here, and only the rigorous controls I impose on myself keep me from a life of wearing stretchy pants while bra-less, eating chips and watching the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy more or less beginning to end while churning out socks that don’t fit anyone, you feel me?

Lucky for me, I’m usually pretty darned busy, and that keeps me on the straight and narrow. Unluckily for me, that means that being holed up unemployed and family-less in a pandemic has let things start to degrade a bit, if by degrade you understand that I mean that Dr Callie Torres is still my favourite and Kepner just gets on my nerves and always has.

In attempt to at least fill up my time and start giving me some structure to a day (I will eventually have to solve the job thing, I cannot believe that the career I started after SARS ended my last one has just been this badly upended by a second *&^%$ing virus) I’ve made some rules.  Mostly they have to do with sitting at my desk (hi!), but I’m also trying to talk to one person who isn’t Joe once a day, and clean one thing every day, and not watch the news so much because it’s really stressing me out and things honestly are (unfortunately) not changing fast enough to justify that sort of vigilance, but I’ve also made some fibre arts rules to try and shake things up a bit and inject an element of fun and surprise into my own life. (I know. It sounds bananas but I really am just trying to cope here. It’s going to be at least another month.  Work with me.)

We can talk about the other rules another time but the first one I made was that if it rains, I’m going to spin. I have always hated rain and loved spinning, so my thinking was that maybe this would be a way to…make rain fun? (I told you I am really trying.) So.. 10 days ago, it rained and I went to the stash and chose something great.

It’s a batt from Upstream Alpaca’s called Black Rainbow, 80% natural baby alpaca (that’s the black) and 20% silk, dyed in all the colours of the rainbow. I got it from Christine at one of the retreats at Port Ludlow, and it felt like a nice way to connect.

I decided I’d like to make it a gradient- and I supposed the easiest thing to do would have been to start at one end of the batt and start spinning, working my way to the other end, and bingo, done. I am not such a huge fan of single yarn though, so instead I split the batt lengthwise so I could make a two-ply.

There’s a risk in this I know – the possibility that I wouldn’t spit the batt evenly, or that I wouldn’t be consistent in my spinning from one half to the other and then things wouldn’t match up when I ply,  but I had a good feeling and what the hell there’s a pandemic on, let’s live on the edge.

For a few days there, I sat at the wheel when I had time (which was sort of a lot of the time) and it was pretty captivating stuff.  I admit, the most exciting thing that had happened around here since Meg, Alex and Elliot went home was that I painted a door, so I get the feeling I was particularly easy to amuse.

I didn’t worry too much about integrating the silk and alpaca, just let them do their own thing, so the singles ran back and forth, sometimes silk and alpaca together, sometimes just alpaca, sometimes just the silk.  I was lovely and freeing to just let it happen.

The fun didn’t stop when I plied it and received no punishment whatsoever for my recklessness.  None. I didn’t even take the small step of weighing both halves to see if they were the same before I spun or plied, and do you know, it still worked out – I had one metre left over on one of the bobbins, and that was it. (I know someone will ask, so my Kate (I flatly refuse to refer to it as Lazy) is from Clemes & Clemes and is the nicest one I’ve ever owned.)

It was like a miracle.

When all was said and done, I had just about 400m of a pretty nice fingering-ish weight yarn, and decided to apply another rule I’ve recently invented which is something like “use your damn handspun” and so as soon as it was dry and wound, I started.  A little investigation (and suggestions on instagram, thanks for that) and I had Wavedeck on the needles.

Wavedeck is perfect for this mission – I wanted something that would use up all of the yarn, so I wanted a pattern a little flexible, one where stopping a little early or going on for a little longer wouldn’t matter. Kate’s pattern also thoughtfully includes an estimate of how much yarn it will take to do the lower border so when I started to get in the neighbourhood of done, I went to the end of my ball and counted out how much I need, and marked that spot with a pin. Now I could happily go back to knitting without thinking too much, and simply start the lower border when I got to the pin…

Which is now. I’ll be blocking tonight, I think.

And there’s rain in the forecast for Sunday.

(PS The shelf paper I ordered finally turned up so it is non-stop excitement around here.)

107 thoughts on “The Rules as I see them

  1. Wheras I’ve been ripping out and reskeining miles and miles so I can reknit them. See your shelf paper and raise you one. (The lace is great)

    • me too – I’m calling it the Ultimate Recycling Project. So far, four sweaters I made back when I weighed twice what I do now have been remade to fit the present me, and there are two yet to go. The yarns are far too nice to just give away….

    • I’ll bet you anything she cuts the shelf paper into little strips with sharp scissors, winds the strips into balls, and knits fabulous things with them.

    • So funny. I ordered shelf paper and scented drawer liners for the first time in probably 40 years and they arrived this week. What is this virus doing to us?! Non stop excitement indeed

  2. Okay, so you made the rules. I can get that far. But, what I want to know is what you use to get your arse in gear to actually abide by the rule?? I have made so many rules, but it is the second part that has me stumped. Great yarn, and shawl, by the way.

  3. For a moment there it was like you were inside my head. I too would totally give up the bra, adorn the stretchy pants, and marathon Grey’s Anatomy with sock knitting and chips. Frankly, that’s kind of what I do on a day off when I’ve finished all my errands. Dr. Callie Torres is also my favorite character! Although I was up to an episode on Netflix where everyone is spreading the flu around the hospital, and I had to stop watching. It was too close to our reality right now, you know?

    • A modest suggestion relevant to needing to replenish the money making part of your life, I bet that many of us would contribute to a Patreon for you to get you over the hump. 🙂

  4. You could almost tempt me to learn to spin, except I have so much yarn already. The shawl is beautiful, I can’t wait to see the finished pictures.

    I’ve been moping around the last couple of weeks while my house has gone from dirty to filthy, and all my many projects have been abandoned. I think I’ve finally figured out I cannot handle a lack of deadlines. So I think I have to come up with something like your system, or deadlines, maybe a godforsaken list, something. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one floundering a little.

  5. Your yarn turned out beautifully! I’m having about as exciting a life here too. 🙂 Although I don’t have shelf paper to enjoy. I’m working on a very large striped garter stitch project that is very relaxing. No shaping so far, so hugely difficult. That was sarcasm, just in case you didn’t notice. Hoping to see the finished shawl soon!

      • You can just put “/s” after your comment.

        I, however, need the far more rare “/ns” meaning “not sarcastic,” in order to distinguish from my default state of snark.

  6. This pandemic looks like going on for a while longer so thank you for your handy hints on how to cope, especially doing a little cleaning. Rain is forecast for tomorrow so it’s time to choose a batt at random and turn it into yarn.

    Lucky Canada to have you as a national treasure.

    Oh heck, I’ve got to touch the graph so maybe it’s time to tackle the bookkeeping.

  7. Oooooo….that is pretty.
    I’m spinning too ….on a little electric spinning wheel that I got after I was inspired by all the e-spinners at the retreat in Port Ludlow. My colors aren’t as exciting…but the fiber is 50% baby camel/50%merino and so lovely to play with.

    I cleaned out the garden shed last weekend. Spare cupboard in the kitchen tomorrow….Now if only I had shelf paper to line it with when I finish.

      • I didn’t want to spend a lot of money until I knew I liked eSpinning. So I went with one of Maurice Ribble’s Electric Eel Wheels. The Nano which is really small was something like $80. I think there are other, more sturdy, more beautiful ones. But this was a way to try it without breaking the bank.

  8. It’s so pretty! I can’t wait to see the post-blocking photos.

    And I can’t wait to see what you’re going to spin next.

  9. Talk to one person each day other than husband; clean one thing each day. Those seem like pretty sound and sane rules to me. Maybe I should adopt them.

    I can’t do the one about handspun, alas, since I haven’t yet learned to spin, but maybe my rule could be “work at least a little each day on one of your horde of UFOs, you chronic beginner!”

    Said UFOs presently include knitting (x3), crochet (x2), tatting (x1), quilting (x1), dressmaking (x1), yarn-winding (x several) and mending (don’t even ask).

  10. And the problem with binge watching Grey’s Anatomy is??? We started at the beginning in early January and we are half way through season 9. I too love Callie Torres, but Bailey is my favourite.

  11. The really funny thing here is that I’m in the process of doing the exact same thing. Mine is merino silk blend and I also split them and I’m still working on the first batch. I got a cute little espinner that I’m still trying to figure out and may have to ply on the big wheel. I hope it turns out as nice as yours..

  12. I look forward to learning your additional self-employed rules! Query: if rainy means spinning, what do snow and sleet signify? I’m near St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, just a bit farther both than Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We might still, reluctantly, receive frozen precipitation. Maybe that will be a day for the 4 inch pin loom….

  13. The batt was so gorgeous that I would have been tempted to just frame it, but the yarn is lovely, too! Can’t wait to see you modeling the finished Wavedeck.

    Pro tip: Plain white shelf paper isn’t just for shelves. Preschoolers love to draw on the stuff.

  14. Kepner gets better, I promise, I can say after spending the past 3 months catching up on the last 10 years of Grey’s. Whilst often wearing stretchy pants (but most often also wearing a bra).
    For the past 7 weeks I’ve also been watching – and doing nearly everything else – with a newborn attached to me, which means very little knitting (or anything else textile related) gets done, but the memory of your beautiful Charlotte is a constant reminder to give thanks for *why* I can do little else but hold and cuddle and care for this babe (and the 4 other kids in the house), there will be time for the neddies and yarn/thread later.

  15. I need rules, too. It’s like I have to be my own mother or something. The first weeks were anxiety plus depression, which is a dangerous cocktail but then I decided to post a song every day so that I would sing everyday, so I got a new email and a new YouTube channel and that has been my rudder! Along with almost daily yoga, a walk with my husband and a lot of baking.

  16. At least you’re keeping it in the textile genre!
    I just bought a ukulele (that I have no reason to own) to keep my mind occupied outside of all the dish cloths I’m churning out. I figured it’s good for the hands and heart, but honestly, my birthday is coming up quick and there’s no one to celebrate with and This Pandemic has made me justify more expensive things.

    That’s perfectly natural, don’t you think?

    • My birthday was April 7th. I whined some but also felt lucky that I was breathing effortlessly through my own mouth and nose and not a endotracheal tube and that I could work from home. Still…pandemic birthdays do suck. Enjoy the uke. Lots of free lessons on the internet. I was going to buy one but my interest evolved into buying a keyboard.

  17. That’s awesome! I think it’s good to have a goal and a plan (yes, I’ve been watching the news too much as well, and playing Fortnite too much) (yes, I’m a granny now, and I play Fortnite. Badly.) I just finished a sweater, which I’ve worn non-stop since it came off the needles. Now figuring out what my next project would be. I should get out my wheel, but I’m horrible at spinning. (oh, well, I’m horrible at Fortnite, too, but that doesn’t stop me. Just gets me mocked by the teenage boy in my house)… We press ever onward.

  18. Thanks for the sitting at your desk part. We Blog appreciate it!
    I finished a pair of mittens, except for thumbs… ran out of yarn. So I took a deep breath and got out hubby’s Aran cabled sweater. The twelve centimetres that I started in 2012.

  19. Beautiful yarn! You inspired me with your rainy days are for spinning rule (even if not on tuesdays). My wheel sat idle for many years as it developed a terrible squawk with each revolution of the treadle. I couldn’t take it. And I couldn’t figure out what its deal was! Last week I roped my husband into taking it apart with me to figure it out once and for all, and thank goodness for engineers who know why certain parts are shaped like that and that the wool washer needs plumping and that there should be an oiling hole somewhere… after only 10 minutes of “work” and poking around with the end of a paper clip, the hole was uncovered, the mechanism oiled, and now it works like a dream. Thanks for providing the impetus! I’ll report back later on progress… lol

    • This is great!! I’m pretty sure many, many of the improvements in the tools spinners use have been developed by the spouses of spinners witnessing their beloved’s frustration or distress!!! Plus what guy doesn’t like a ‘machine’ where all of the parts are visible and accessible–which really is what a spinning wheel is!?

  20. …the whole concept, the mind-bending reality of ALL the world’s knitters (and spinners!) functionally being locked-in with their own stashes is…well, I’m not sure what sort of fantasy storyline we’re living here!!? I’m tickled to see you’ve gone with Drama/Action! My own stash is large enough, and contains enough “I DID have a great plan for that…” that I’ve gotta classify it in the Unlikely Dream-Fulfillment genre; but what about those mythical creatures, the knitters who do not actually have any stash to draw from during these long days?? Horror and Deprivation motif?!

    (Actually I have also been focusing on spinning, a breed-sampler-extravaganza that’s been fun and intriguing, any my chain plying is looking much better!!) =)

  21. the effects of a pandemic eh? I’m almost done the body of a sweater and I’m thinking even though I measured that it might be too big…..normally I’d be horrified but I’m actually considering ripping it all out and my first thought was that it would give me more to do. what has happened to me?

  22. I love the wavedeck pattern! I made it about a year ago and it’s so pretty 🙂 great work on the spinning too, I hope I’ll someday be as good as you!

  23. This is so, so beautiful. Funnily enough, I looked at the same pattern today, and wondered whether I should move it up in my ravelry queue (I didn’t, because I am working on two shawls right now).

    The yarn is incredibly beautiful. WOW. I really have to dust off my wheel and spin again – or rather, learn how to spin on it properly. And it will look amazing with that pattern! Downright gorgeous.

  24. My hours at work have been reduced (I work at a water utility so I’m essential, who knew!). I’ve finished 2 projects in the last 2 weeks and I’m onto a third. I’m alternating between yarn in the stash and yarn purchased from my LYS. Thanks to Debbie at Serial Knitters (Kirkland Wa). I call and let her know what I was looking for and she sent pictures. Then mailed the yarn. I should adopt “clean one thing a day”. I’ll dust the living room right now……

  25. In my art group we are having a sketch-along. Every day we have to draw something and submit it to the group by email. And I learned how to do Elizabeth Zimmerman’s afterthought heel. That is as exciting as my life gets right now. I love your spinning. I’m going to go look at the Wavedeck pattern; it looks beautiful. I should be cleaning my very dusty house, but who’s going to see it? So I’ll just go look at the shawl.

  26. I read every comment. That’s how you exciting my life is. I am finishing a semester of teaching from home. At the end of the day my eyes are exhausted from the computer screen. I am grateful for employment and for the family that is always around all the time!!!! Beautiful spinning. Take care.

  27. Absolutely, Stephanie, do the Patreon thing! – And your rainbow shawl is breathtaking, thanks so much for showing us the whole process of getting there!

  28. <3 <3 <3 love the hand spun yarn and project, you should feel pretty magical good luck with the shelves and cabinets! ; )

  29. Thanks so much for your blog today. I needed a good laugh and you provided it.The yarn you spun is beautiful and the shawl gorgeous.

  30. Stephanie, you should really think about doing some YouTube instructional videos, I know I’d love it, and I’m sure many of others would too!

  31. Borrowing your thoughts in random order: I need to add your clean one thing to my rules. The shawl is a-fucking-mazing. Curious about prior career, midwifery? I would also take a video class with you right now if you do one. Loved the sneak attack Easter Bunny! Thanks for blogging during this dreary and anxious time. It’s hard to do anything right now. Rules are good.

  32. That homespun is beautiful!

    Not sure what contract stuff is in place for your books of essays not on audio, but if Joe had a safe studio, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could talk your publishers into doing recordings/putting them up on Audible? (Again, no idea what the contractual stuff looks like there.) But would keep you working, and goodness, knitters would snap them up. I would love to have more of your work on audio, and you are a wonderful reader to listen to.

    Could your agent pitch that? I mean c’mon, you are a NYT best-selling author…

    • *But it wouldn’t

      Also meant to say it would be comforting to have them on audio during shelter in place, if that doesn’t sound too odd. I am working from home, and when not on the phone helping my employees problem solve, I am on email, helping employees problem solve. It would be really nice to have more of your books in the background.

  33. I have a goal of making my daughter and granddaughter matching sweaters in my handspun for their birthdays in December. I have 7 pounds of processed long lock wool in a wonderful charcoal grey. I think I need to get to spinning and I love the rainy days to spin on. I am also not a fan of the rainy days as I can’t get out to walk and it floods our driveway. I might as well get some lovely homespun out of the flooding.

  34. This post (including the comments) is really inspirational.

    When the semester ends and I’m not teaching from home, I want to finish a project. I don’t know which one, but I’m going to get something done. Spinning, knitting, sewing, I don’t care — I just want to get one WIP out of the basket.

    • Don’t wait til the end of the semester, start now! Do one row a day, on any project. Just one small bit of time put aside for yourself each day. See what you can accomplish.

  35. So pretty! You are once again tempting me to take up spinning, which would cause my husband to kill me for taking up YET ANOTHER hobby. I am sewing masks, which is using up some of the immense fabric stash I have accumulated, except it is also enabling me to buy MORE fabric because of course I need to make more masks. No, do not try to apply logic, there is none. Knitting is sadly languishing because I should be sewing, though I’m spending too much time on the internet of course. Housework? Pshaw.

  36. Thanks. I needed this post. Off to make some much needed rules for myself. If there wasn’t already a Feral Knitter, I’d declare my quarantined self one. I checked the thesaurus, and I think Undomesticated Knitter is spot on.

  37. If I were going to spin every day it rained, it would be a non stop spin fest around here!

    As it is, I have decided to start wearing my work pants again and not just stretchy pants (for obvious reasons). I figure eventually this wfh stuff will end and I will have to wear these clothes again and go outside of the house. It would be nice if they fit.

  38. Your shawl is really beautiful! Is it for you? Or a secret gift?

    You are so quick! It would be weeks before I finished, if ever. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take your quick knitting class. : )

  39. I decided that at least one day a week I should feed a hobby besides knitting and do at least one organization task. So I’ve been sewing one day a week. I have sewn many a mask for family, neighbors, friends, and people who are providing a service for me that I greatly appreciate. I still have a ton of scraps, which is what I’ve been using. Now I’m going to start making shorts and other summer staples. I don’t have a huge stash of fabric but I have enough to get me started and the fabric stores are pretty much all shipping so I should be good. Today for the organization portion of the program, I will be cleaning out my dresser drawers while watching Vanity Fair on Amazon video on the bedroom TV.

  40. No, you are NOT bananas. So many of us are at home and having to make little rules for ourselves. Mine are: no sleeping late. Shower. Fully dressed, including socks and shoes. At work (dining room table) by 9am. There should be a rule against getting up to make chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the work day, but I can’t quite bring myself to outlaw it just yet. We need to do what we can to have some structure. And I knit a stole in the evenings last week. Thank goodness technology allows us to talk to and see each other, otherwise I would have chewed off my arm by now.

  41. Saw the finished shawl on Instagram and am gobsmacked at how lovely it is. The yarn is beautiful and the color changes in the shawl perfect. And that tiny bit left at the end. Your rules definitely rule!

  42. I have to be really careful here, since we’re fortunate to have our regular incomes and then some coming in, and our family is healthy so far…but could everyone who complains of boredom please stop first and remember how lucky they are to be forced to stay home and play with their toys? My husband and I are Tier 1 nonprofit workers, and we come home exhausted every night. We firmly believe in our work, but there are days I so deeply envy the nonessential. Rested, in a clean house, eating real food, knitting, gardening, having the opportunity to be awake with one’s spouse (we’re out cold pretty much when the last swallow of dinner is down our necks)…Some days I pet my fabric and fondly recall what it was like when I was a person.

    • Thank you, truly, for this wakeup call and changing my perspective. Also, thank you and your husband for the essential work that you do to help others. I hope that support and assistance are on the horizon to provide both of you some relief so that you can soon recover.

  43. Ooooh, that is beautiful yarn. I have also been considering making a spinning rule. Thank you for sharing yours & adding to the encouragement. 🙂

    Would this be a good time to write another book? (Please note that I don’t know how much that impacts the income – it just seems like you often want uninterrupted time when writing, and, well, here we are. 🙂 )

  44. Hi just caught up with your post. The yarn and knitting is beautiful, seen the result blocking on instagram. I was just thinking how stressful my life is at the moment dealing with lockdown, virus fear, mentally Ill granddaughter going off the rails with all this with police call outs etc. I was thinking how your blog and others help me so much at the moment. How much I turn to the knitting the talk about it the pictures the having friends I have never met visit via the Internet how this is all somehow helping me to not come apart at the seams more than I am already. So thank you for taking the time in your grief and uncertainty. It helps me here. I just needed to tell you that. My thoughts and prayers have been with you and others. Stay home, stay safe. Hugs from NZ

    • Sending you a big hug and virtual cup of tea and piece of coffee cake from Seattle. It sounds like you are dealing with a lot. I hope your days have rays of sunshine and your knitting is a charm and secret transport to happier times. Kindest regards.

  45. That yarn is gorgeous – it makes me once again wonder if I should seriously take up spinning, but I know from past experience that I knit better than I spin, and enjoy it more, too. Plus, I have all this yarn already….. I am working from home (managing virtual library services) and it is so much harder than working from work. I’m working longer hours, sitting on my butt all day (I never realized how much I walk around at work!), and I miss my co-workers — zooming with them is great, but it’s not the same as the chat while making coffee. And I’m a stress baker, so am baking even more than usual, with no co-workers to eat the results — although said co-workers are looking forward to me bringing the contents of my freezer to work, once we are back. Although your Easter adventure is making me think about dropping packages of cookies off at their homes…..

  46. The blog is good. The article takes a look at the gravel of a family. The images added along with the article are awesome. The images itself shows what is intending to narrate right through the article. The images are really good and it portrays the happy faces of the members of the family.

  47. When you wrote that you didn’t weigh the split batt and hoped the colors would line up, I was expecting the Knitting Goddesses to send you a reality check. Instead, it seems even they are sheltering in place. Personally, I wouldn’t push my luck on the next project.

  48. Are you telling me that you’re hoarding all the knitting and spinning expertise the fiber fairies have beaten into you?

    I get that you’re trying to make up for those of us who are failing in keeping the cosmic knitting bag full because we have keyboards stuck to our hands. Thank you. From the ends of my empty needles.

    But, how about a new book? Or Zoom knit-alongs? Or virtual retreats hosted with your favorite co-instructors? There’s a world of knitters and spinners who need you more than ever!

  49. I’ve been stymied, knitting wise… I have a dozen or so projects going and nothing that I really want to work on… Then I found out that a niece AND a nephew are getting married next summer. So now I have 2 shawls to knit. I am making an Estonian wedding shawl for the nephew’s fiancee, I don’t know her well, but she always exclaims over anything knit I give her. (Not a sentiment shared by people who’ve been in my family for decades and are now like “Oh… thanks… yet another scarf…”) I’ve had the yarn for it for a while, and seem to have lost about 4 skeins of it… and of course it isn’t being made anymore… so now I have a half dozen skeins coming to see if I can nearly match it. (Knitpicks Bare Gloss Lace)
    My niece is always warm… she was out shoveling snow in her flip flops and shorts not long ago. And she’s getting married in August. So the yarn coming for her shawl is bamboo and silk, and the shawl is Rosemary For Remembrance, which I think I’m going to love. I am looking forward to knitting these… First time in a long time I’m looking forward to a project…

    • And I went into the laundry room/stash room to change the laundry around and a stack of bins fell over and there, on the top of the bottom bin… 7 skeins of Knitpicks Bare Gloss Lace. Apparently putting it out in the universe got the attention of the house fairy and she threw the yarn under my feet.

  50. “a life of wearing stretchy pants while bra-less, eating chips and watching the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy more or less beginning to end while churning out socks that don’t fit anyone” I’m feeling a little judged by this. I would care more if it wasn’t so entirely true, I’m now eating crisp sandwiches (salt and vinegar flavour are the best) and re-watching every Agatha Christie movie ever made.

  51. I laughed about Greys Anatomy. I had never seen an episode and then one day it was the next thing I clicked on. Now on season 7. I find Kepner entirely annoying and I am completely sucked in. I am knitting brioche during this pandemic and I am thinking it’s a bit bold of me and the frogging and reknitting I have done would seem to prove that theory out! But as I soldier on, I tell myself when this is done I will be a brioche ninja – that of an alcoholic . Thank you for your blog! I love it!

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