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Dear Maeve

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 18:55

Dear Maeve,

Welcome (a little belatedly) to the family. Ordinarily, your introduction to me, and the blanket that comes with me would come at the same time, but your slightly early arrival (and the broken wrist I had – don’t worry about that, you’ll learn about bikes later) mean that your blanket followed our meeting rather significantly. Indeed, you’re the first baby in the family to get your blanket by post. You’re still very, very little, so you may not remember when we met. Usually, I’d point out that I’m the one who comes with all the knitted stuff – to help you place me in your mind, but you’ve got so many knitters around you, that it isn’t really going to help you sort out who I am.  Instead, you may remember me as the lady who helped your mum with nursing you – I’m the one who kept talking about latch, and insisting your mummy aim for your nose. (I know, it sounds crazy, but you and I both know it works.) As an aside, I’d like to thank you for being born right before Knit City – It was so nice to be in the right part of Canada so we could have that time together. Good thinking, Sweetpea.

You are the second baby born into this family that tripped me right out – your cousin Elliot was the first – his mum is my daughter Meg, and your Mum is Savannah – she and Meg played together as littles, because they are cousins. Your grandmother is my sister-in-law Kelly and she’s the one you probably think of, when you think of knitting.  Kelly and I went out for dinner just after you were born, and we talked about what you are – who you are really. You aren’t just Kosti and Savannah’s daughter, you are the amazing and miraculous person who made Kelly a grandmother, and Ben a grandfather.

We talked about the feeling of it. Ben said that he had always loved your mother, and your Auntie Kamilah, but how he feels now is different, and I knew just what he meant – I see it in your Great Uncle Joe too. (You’ve met him as well. He’s the big loud one who cries with joy when he looks at you. I know your Grandfather does that too, but Joe’s the one with more hair.) We learned about this special love when Elliot was born. It’s a shocking, powerful thing, and you should know it means that there is nothing he won’t do for you, and I mean nothing. The love your grandfather’s oozing is a fierce and mighty thing, and he is unfettered by the restraints and rules of parenthood. If, my little Maeve, you knew how to ask for a pony, there is no doubt in my mind that Ben would have one tied up in your bedroom later today.

Your Grandmother Kelly – oh, it’s a little different. We talked about the confusing feelings that come with transitioning into being a Grammy. See, in her heart, she can tell you are her baby. It’s the only thing that makes sense really, you are tiny and new, and made of the same stuff that your mummy was, and all your grandmother can think when she takes you in her arms is that you are hers, entirely.  This makes it very difficult to understand why she is not allowed to do with you as she pleases – to ask your Mum for permission to dress or change you, and why inexplicably, you sleep with your Mum at night.  I’m proud of her (as I was of myself) for the respect she’s shown your parents in not making off with you. This love is not as fierce as your grandfathers, but it is the most enduring, determined and patient love you will ever know.

I understand, my little Maeve, about your grandparents, because Elliot took me to school on that, but I have to say that I am properly freaked out by your parents. On some level, I remain confused that my baby has a baby, and similarly boggled that your Mum has become a mother as well. I know it happened, intellectually I believe that she is indeed your parent, but it just seems so impossible.  I watched her nurse you, and snuggle you, and the way she looked at you… oh Maeve, that’s your mother for sure, and a fine one. I knew your mother when she had trouble being responsible for a hamster, and I’m happy to report that she’s grown infinitely as a person. You’re going to do just fine with her.

Let me tell you this too, ma petite, I have been around a lot of families at the beginning of their parenting journeys, and there is much you can tell about the character of a partner from how they begin the trip. It can be a difficult time – so much of those first days is about you and your mum. Really, mummies and their babies are still one person for the first little while, not yet separate from each other, and for some partners it is difficult to find a role. I took a great deal of pleasure in watching your father Maeve. Kosti is gentle and kind and clever, and while he was so good with you, he seemed to grasp from the beginning that caring for your mother was also caring for you, and the love and support he gave her while they were both learning how to do this thing was a very good thing to watch. You’ve got a good team on your side, I can see that.

Now, about your blanket.  It’s big, I know, but I have a theory about these blankets and it isn’t just that they are meant to be your baby blanket, but something you can cuddle up with your whole life- and as little as you are now, your parents are both tall, and I don’t think I’ve overshot. I chose special stitches for you Maeve – just like the ones for Hank, Luis, Frankie, Myrie, Emmett and Elliot –  your blanket is unlike any other.

In the centre is a pattern of Fir Cones – for the forests your parents love to hike all over the world. I’ve no doubt that you’re going to be a kid with a favourite tree, and enjoy the woods and the out of doors, the way your mum and dad do.

Surrounding that centre, just as you are surrounded in life – a border of ring lace, meant to signify the family that encircles you.  This, my darling girl, is the only element of the blanket appears on every one that I’ve knit. You have the great good fortune to be born into a strong, vibrant, loving family, and though so many of us live far away, never doubt that we are all around you. The blankets have it in common, because we all do.

Beyond that, suns and moons – round and whole and bright, meant to remind you that though some of your family is far away – and though you have been born into a family of travellers, and that may even take you farther, we are all under the same sky, all the time. We all see the same moon, the same sun every day, no matter where we are.

After that, snow. With a Russian father and a Canadian mother – how could snowflakes not be a theme for you? It is something your parents have in common, though they are from different places, you are a child of the North.

Finally, around the edges, some Orenberg lace, a little something for your Russian father and his family, and it is very pretty – but it has a garter stitch base so it isn’t just beautiful, it’s strong and enduring, a trait I wish for you.

Welcome, sweet Maeve. You are loved beyond all measure.

Ever yours,

Great Aunt Stephanie

(PS. Thanks for going to sleep long enough for your mum to take those last few pictures. Very thoughtful.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

And there were robots

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 20:09

Well, there. Youngest daughter is not only married, but the occasion’s now been properly feted, and I can’t even tell you how trashed our house is.  Not the kind of trashed that comes from not cleaning up for a few days because you’re busy, I mean the kind of deep trashing that comes from three sisters doing their nails while searching for just the right earrings (everything from my scant collection was rejected, and in the end Megan gave Sam the ones she was wearing) while a father tries to find his cuff links and tune his guitar while another installs fairy lights all over a venue, while people drop things off, and pick things up and Pato and Ken cut signs out and Megan arranged props for the photo booth and Amanda’s trying to secretly tune a violin and there was rehearsal and sound check and all of my pairs of tights had holes and my hair was trying to come out funny and we cut and arranged all the flowers and made three kinds of salad for sixty people while there’s glitter goddamn everywhere and there’s a hairdresser doing Sam’s hair in the living room and auntie’s are being picked up and dropped off and another one is bringing over the favours and who did we think was picking up the samosas, and I baked six batches of brownies and then we had to figure out how to get a brownie tower and all the flowers to the venue and then it started to rain.   That’s what put us over the top, I think.

(A few quick shots of her shawl, what with you all caring about the knitting, I think. Pattern is Timeless, and the yarn is Shibui Lunar, beads are silver lined crystals.)

It was worth it. Every minute of it. Just look at that Bride shine.

I think it’s pretty clear, from the way I’ve chosen to live my life, that making and doing things for others is a love language for me, and it’s a value I know Joe and Ken share, and one that we’ve worked hard to instill in our children and those we’ve chosen to make our family.

I have never been more confident that I’m surrounded now by people who feel the value in it. From Sam, agreeing to have this party – one I’m not sure she wanted (hence eloping to Vegas) but going along so cheerfully to show us she loves us, and feels the love we have for her… to watching her siblings bust a move so hard to fill the day with things and people that she loves… to the gifts of music and time and energy and hand made things that were special for Sam, and for each other.

 

It was good for my heart too, to see her new husband Mike working to learn this language. He’s a good guy, that Mike, and I can tell his family shares a lot of these values, though the scale of our escapades might be a surprise to him. (Quite possibly, it was the flashmob that got him – when Joe brought out the guitar, and the gathered masses all broke into “You’ve really got me” with a lot more enthusiasm and less skill than The Kinks.)

It is in these moments that I am so proud of this little family – and I my only wish now is that we could learn to do it without trashing the house so completely. (I have washed the kitchen floor twice and I think the silver glitter may be permanent.)

PS. Amanda has been instructed to not even think about dating for a while. Or at least until I get the house clean.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Imperfection for the win

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 20:56

You know, earlier this year, when I turned 50, I wondered if this was going to be the year I finally learned a lesson or two.  (This is a separate wish than the sort I make every night, when I go to bed swearing that in the morning when I wake up it will be the start of a whole new me. The sort of me that finally cleans closets and streamlines her life and never, ever opens the fridge and thinks holy crap what is that smell, or the sort of me who always has a salad for lunch. I like to think that’s normal – as is my inability to wake up as that other person (she says, munching peanut butter toast, again.) I speak here of my failure to learn what I’ve come to think of as The French Lesson.

It’s possible I’ve told you this before, because it’s something I still struggle with (despite it being a really powerful lesson.)  When I was in grade nine, the first year with classes in different rooms of the school – something came over me, and I skipped French. I just didn’t go. Looking back I can’t even remember what I did instead of going to french, although at the time it all seemed important. It probably involved the boy next door. I was pretty deeply in love with him and everything he said seemed right. Anyway, love and complications aside, I skipped the class, and it was the first time I’d ever done it, and I knew instantly that it was the wrong thing. I felt horrible, and guilty, and that feeling stuck.  I had no idea how I was going to face the teacher after doing that, and so… I skipped the next class too.

Now the problem was huge.  I’d skipped two french classes.  Two in a row.  That was just too horrible to face, and so I skipped a third one while I tried to figure some elegant way out. You see where this is going. The whole thing, and this is still just unbelievable to me, even though I was really, really young and stupid, the whole thing culminated in my mum going to the end of term parent-teacher interviews, and the teacher had no idea who I was.  I still remember my mum asking me not just why the hell I’d skipped an entire term of french, but why on earth hadn’t I told her before she walked into the interview.  She was going to find out – in mere moments. I could have come clean, taken a minute and been all “Hey, mum. I kinda screwed up here, you’re going to find out in 39 seconds what I’ve done, so I might as well not make it worse.” Instead, I let her walk in there and knowing it was certainly all blowing up just a few metres away from me, I sat in the hall thinking “I really could have handled this better.”

Anyway, it’s turned out that some things, some approaches are thematic. They crop up over and over again in your life – and for me, this is a big one. Getting in too deep, and then getting in deeper while I try to get out is one of them,  and it turns out that turning 50 didn’t improve it at all… so here I’ve sat for the last while trying to figure out how to write to you when it’s been so long, and it’s not that I don’t have anything to tell you, it’s that I’ve let it go on for so long that now I have too much to tell you.  I have to tell you about Spain and the baby blanket and Sam’s wedding shawl and Sam’s wedding and I knit a cowl and had a retreat and I think I might be knitting more tiny things for Christmas and I need to take a million pictures and…. I’d wake up every morning and try to think about the worlds longest blog post to dig out, and then there wouldn’t be time for that post and then… The French Lesson all over again.

Then I woke up this morning and thought “$%*^ it. Maybe I just won’t be perfect.  (This is the great message of the French Lesson.  I’m still working on it.) So, here goes. Imperfection for the win.

1. I went to Spain with Joe to celebrate his 50th birthday and my 50th birthday. Together we have a century of experience. That seemed like something worth going big for.

2. It was totally worth it, except for the part where I had 9 hours at home before flying off to the November Strung Along Retreat. I had real regrets at 4am when I was back in the airport.

3. That feeling went away pretty fast when I got to the retreat and it was great.

4. I knit a bunch of stuff I haven’t taken pictures of, and I totally finished that baby blanket, and Joe mailed it for me while I was getting on and off planes, and the recipient allegedly loves it, and when I get a snap or two I’ll post about it here. Promise.

5. I’m furiously knitting Sam’s wedding shawl – her “wedding” is on Saturday. I’ve got that in quotes because it’s not really her wedding, because (in a very Sam-like move) the kid woman already took off to Vegas and got hitched. We’re just celebrating on Saturday because if you’re going to freakin’ elope, then you have to throw you family some kind of bone.

6. I think I’m going to make it. I have one row left to go and then a rather ridiculous bind off, but it still seems doable as long as I don’t buy a new dress, get my hair done or clean the house.

7. Luckily,  I don’t care much about any of those things.

8. There’s a chance Sam comes by her temperament honestly.

9. I am thinking about knitting 25 tiny things before December 1st. I have three.

10.  Yeah.

How are you?

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Just get in the car

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 09:55

If there is one thing that Joe and I have worked out over the last year, it’s that we don’t know what’s going on, or what the future holds. We’ve been waiting forever for it to be “a good time” for us to take some trips, see a bit of the world, but it’s always been that the girls were too young, or it wasn’t a good time to leave work, or we didn’t have time or… a million reasons.  Since Joe’s Mum had her stroke, and my Mum died, we’ve slowly come to realize that saving this all up for when there’s a better time is probably dumb. (We’re also, a year and change into being Grandparents, working out that this idea we had that our family will need us less and we wouldn’t mind being away as time goes on was pretty laughable. That day’s simply not coming.) Therefore…

Hola!  We’re in Spain.  Less than 20 hours after coming home from the Columbia Gorge and Knot Another Fiber Festival, I got back on a plane and we travelled to Zurich, and then Barcelona, Spain.  (This is the biggest barrier to holidays, we’re both still self-employed full time. There just aren’t many days we aren’t working. We fit this in between two of my work trips. I bet that when I get home next week and have to leave the next day for Port Ludlow I am going to have a few regrets.) In knitting news, I brought three projects with me, and have already worked out where the local yarn shop is. (Just in case.)  I finished the baby blanket (and I’ll tell you all about it once it arrives at it’s final destination. Joe mailed it to the baby in question while I was out of town – so it should get there any minute now. The eagle is flying.) I’ve happily moved onto the next big white thing…

Samantha’s wedding shawl.  The pattern’s Timeless, and the yarn is Shibui Lunar, and the beads are silver lined crystals.

While I’m about as brave as a knitter comes, even I have to admit that beads and white laceweight aren’t the best travel knitting, so in my purse I’ve got a kit from Canon Hand Dyes to make the Graduated Stripes Cowl.  Round and round, perfect for a site seeing tourist on the town.

I’ve also got a sock, but I’ll tell you more about that later. Joe’s waiting patiently by the door (read tapping his foot at me) and today’s his 50th birthday, so off I go.  The two of us are bound for adventure.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

But Without the Fever

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 20:44

I have suffered, over the last week or so, what I’ve come to think of as a “grief relapse”.  It feels like having malaria, the initial illness was terrible, but over time I’ve gotten better, and then once in a while, out of the blue, here it is – surfacing again as I try to go about my business.  Sometimes I don’t know what causes it – and sometimes I have a pretty good idea. This time, I know the exact moment.  I have loads of my mum’s clothes. We were almost the same size, and when Erin and I went through her things, I took home a lot. Some of them I will never wear, I know that, and others I’ve been starting to put on from time to time. Easy things – the occasional pair of shoes, a tee shirt… I’ve been wearing her summer robe, I feel like her when I wrap it around me, and I see how my body is a bit like hers, and it has been a comforting connection. Then there are the big ticket items – things I took not just because they remind me of her, but because they’re lovely intersections between the style she loved and the style I like. Mostly we had different styles, mum and me. Mum loved interesting and bold clothes, and I’m a little more restrained, but I think she would like that I’ve tried to be nervier since she died. Tried to take some of the advice she gave me all my life.  (A little colour by your face wouldn’t kill you dear.)

From time to time, I go into the closet where I’ve got her things, (the things of hers that aren’t mine yet) and I look at them and see if I’m yet in a place where I can put them on. Last week, as the weather turned, and fall set in, and it got to be cooler, I went back to the closet, and I looked at her stuff, and I saw a shirt I really loved, one that’s mostly her, but a little me, and I actually smiled thinking of her. (This is, by the way, big news. Feeling the grief give way to happy remembrance in moments has been a tremendous relief. Everybody said it would happen eventually, but I thought you were all liars.) I reached out, and took the hanger down, and as I brought it towards me, the smell of her hit me. In that moment, I can’t describe my feelings, except to say that I missed her terribly.  It still seems impossible to me in those moments that I won’t ever see her again. I pressed that cloth to my face and inhaled her, wishing desperately for the real thing, and I wanted her back. For one wild moment, I wanted to call out to her, and I think I even said “Oh Mum come back” as I dissolved.  Then I hung the shirt up, pulled myself together and blew my nose, and the moment of crisis was over, but it was just the moment that I relapsed.

It’s lingered – the feeling of simply missing her. We’ve staggered through another holiday without her, this Thanksgiving a little easier than the last one, when we were still so shocked and freshly wounded, with no practice at filling in the mum shaped hole in our worlds. Our Anniversary came and went, without my mum dropping off a gift or calling, and in a terrible blow – two of the plants I moved from her garden to mine dropped dead without so much as a warning.  (I blame the raccoons, which is sort of fitting. My mother hated the damn raccoons.)

These relapses, when they come, are hard on my productivity. it’s like moving through mud (which is a big improvement from trying to move through cement, which is what it was like in the beginning, so I guess I’m hopeful that things will keep changing.) Everything takes a little more energy, like something’s been added to my to-do list every day.  Put in laundry, send email, miss mum, organize retreat, pick up groceries, miss mum, pack for Rhinebeck, go to Bike Rally meeting, miss mum, drop off mail, buy Elliot shoes, miss mum…. it just takes up so much time, like having a whole other job.

The fog is receding now, the work of it, anyway, and I’m settling back down. (Not ready to open that closet again though. Think I’ll give it a miss for a while.) The blanket (man is it ever taking forever) is still on the needles…

I can show you the finished shawl I knit while I was in my cast though – I think of this as my broken wrist shawl, though it’s properly called “Love and Darkness” which is appropriate I think, since it’s a present for Christmas for someone I love, and I knit it while working through a personal bit of darkness.

It’s normally the sort of thing I’d be able to bang out in no time at all, but one handed, even on big needles (5mm) and out of big yarn (the very delicious Fleece Artist BFL Aran) it took the whole time I was in the cast – one very, very tedious month.

I’ve come to think of this shawl as the thing that put me behind on two deadline driven things – the blanket and the shawl I’m starting this weekend, more about that tomorrow.) And despite it being linked with a period of real frustration, I absolutely love it.

I hope you’re all well, and sorry for the radio silence. It was kinda like I had malaria.

(PS. I continue to waffle around writing about missing mum.  I feel like I’m always going on about it, and even “in real life” I edit much of my talk about her. Last night, speaking with a friend, I mentioned it briefly, scanning his face the whole time for signs that he’s sick of it, or that I’m not fun, that it won’t be nice. I didn’t see that, but I worry about it so much that I keep it to myself, as much as I am able.  I’m a person who’s pretty good at sorting things out on my insides anyway. That said, several times over the last year – when I’ve been somewhere, like Knit City or a class, one of you will approach me, and say that it’s been helpful to you to hear about what this process is like. That you lost someone around when I did, and that you feel less alone and more hopeful when I write about it.  So, I’m trying to set aside those other feelings sometimes, and give in to the urge to write about it when I am able, and I want those of you must surely be sick to damn death of… well, death… that I’m sorry, but those of us in the mud have to stick together a bit. I’ll try to balance it with yarn. Peace out.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Pin Problem

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 20:08

Once again, things have not gone to plan, and the blanket is not done. I was pretty sure I would be finished it while I was at Knit City – sure enough that I brought Soak to wash it with, and pins to block it in my hotel room. I even brought another big project that needs starting (and finishing, technically, but let’s not get too defeatist) and I am positive now that the only thing that went wrong with that plan was that there remain a meagre 24 hours in a day.

That’s it. I did not (for once) underestimate how much I would be able to knit in a day – somehow imagining that I would be able to teach knitting all day while knitting. (Doesn’t work.) I did not imagine that I’d be able to knit all the way somewhere on a plane and then fall asleep, wasting all that time. Nope. Not this knitter. This time, I knit in all my spare time, I knit on the plane, I knit for an hour each morning while I drank coffee and planned my day. I knit in the evenings at events, and I didn’t ditch the project for something more fun the minute new yarn waggle it’s little label at me. I knit at lunch,  on the bus, at dinner, in between classes, while I was walking…. I was on it, and it’s still. Not. Done.

I think I know the exact moment it went sideways too. I was finished the first border I’d picked, and I was at a crossroads. I could have started the edging, right then and there, but instead I decided to do another border. I sat there, holding this thing and thinking about my brand new great-niece (yup, she’s born and here, healthy and hale) and then I realized that it was no time to shirk. She’ll have this blanket her whole life, she barely weighs seven pounds and can’t possibly care whether she gets it this week or next, and I realized that having it just how I wanted it was more important than having it just when I wanted it, and so I decided to do one more little bit before going on. (I admit, the fact that this baby’s mum, auntie and grandmother all knit inspired me to greater heights. Only other knitters can really love this stuff.)

Unfortunately, that little bit… isn’t. It’s a lot more, and despite diligent knitting, I am only today starting the edging.  Each repeat consumes 17 stitches of the border, and there are… You know what? I don’t know how many stitches there are.  I’m feeling like it’s around 800 (likely a little more) and that means I’ve got to settle in for about 47 repeats, plus a few more to get around the corners, and….

And I’m stopping just shy of doing the math on how long that means I’ll be at this. It’s going to be lovely though, and I just keep telling myself that it will be enjoyed for far longer than I spend knitting it, and that’s what matters, no matter how crazy I am by the end of it.  It also means that I was nuts when I thought I’d finish even without the edging, another episode of knitterly delusion, and I’ve taken the pins back out of my suitcase, and put them back on the shelf.  It’s really nowhere near pin time.

I’ll pound out a bunch of it this weekend – though it’s Thanksgiving here in Canada, so there will be time lost to cooking, eating and cleaning up from cooking and eating, but let’s see what Monday brings.

PS. Thanks to a few cancellations, there are a few spots open for the Strung Along November Retreat. We’re reprising our Silk retreat (oh, so much fun) and  this is a retreat for Knitters and Spinners. (You don’t need to be very good at either.) There’s a few more details here, let us know if you’d like to join us. (Info@Strungalong.ca)

(PPS I am really thinking about turning on the heat.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Packing Pins

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 11:19

Somewhere – there are some knitters who have wondered how interesting this baby blanket drama is going to get. There have been some doozies over the years, so I can see how at this point, the news that a baby blanket was underway would be chum in the knitterly waters for you lot, but here it is – other than not being as far along as I’d like, everything is just fine. The pattern I figured for myself is working well, I’ve made no major mistakes,  I miscalculated on the yarn but I found more, and – get this, those of you who were wondering in which way this thing would get interesting…. that yarn was shipped to me from the US, and in a remarkably efficient display by both the American and Canadian Postal services,  it spent forty-six seconds at customs, and arrived yesterday – well in time for me to wind and put it in my suitcase so that I could take it with me to Vancouver this weekend.  In fact, here I sit, in the airport lounge, headed for Knit City, working away on the thing, and it looks to me like it’s going to come down to a good old fashioned sprint.

The deadline for this thing is Tuesday – and honestly, I’m not sure I can make it, and for a while there, I wondered how I’d miscalculated so badly.  It is unlike me to a) have a drama-free baby blanket, or b) not start one of these things in enough time to finish, and then I remembered.  I broke my wrist! I was in a cast! There was drama – heaps of it.  It was just quiet, horrible drama rather than entertaining, exciting drama.  It explained everything. It’s not that this hasn’t had it’s problems – they were just on the front end.  Refreshing, really. Now it’s down to a push to the end – today’s a travel day, and I’m hoping to get through the border, because the edging is enormous. With a little luck, if I apply myself and stay on it, I might maybe, possibly be able to block this thing in my hotel room.

I packed pins.

(PS. Deadline knitting can still be dramatic. Don’t lose hope. Something terrible could happen at any moment. )

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Nothing to see here

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 21:54

Well, that sorted itself out rather nicely, didn’t it? I’m not feeling at all doomed at present. (This should be said cheerfully, so that the foreshadowing of another crisis I don’t see coming is as entertaining as possible.) A lovely knitter who had the yarn (Hi Brenda!) has sold me her big fat skein, and it is en route from her house to mine. She got it in the mail straightaway, and I’m still knitting what I’ve got, so unless there’s a customs thing as the yarn tries to cross the border… I should be okay. (We will recall that last time, I believe it was customs that exploded my whole plan, so I think that’s a good sign. Usually it’s a new emergency each time, and I’ve already done that one, so either this will be smooth sailing, or the fates are going to have to start getting really creative.)

I’m charging along at a good pace over here too, I spent the weekend teaching this past weekend at The Stitchery in Rhode Island, and had just the loveliest time, with the bonus of lots of time on planes and in the airport, and now I’ve just about got the middle of the blanket done, which means it’s time to start planning the border.  Someone asked me the other day how much planning of these blankets I do before I start knitting, and the answer is “rather less than you would hope.”  I do knit a swatch, and I do choose the stitch patterns I’m pretty sure I’ll use, or improvise them, if I can’t find what I like, and I do make charts (I use Stitchmastery these days.) I don’t come up with the exact way that those elements are going to go together – that part’s more… let’s call it loose.  When it comes to picking up the stitches all the way around the centre part, I don’t fake it. It’s way too important to get right, so I use the standard formula for figuring out how many to pick up.

I take my (washed and blocked) swatch, and measure my stitch and row gauge.

In this case, I’ve got six stitches to the inch, and 9 rows. To figure out how many stitches I’m going to pick up along the side, I turn that into a fraction (stitches/rows) which is 6/9, and then reduce the fraction, the simplest I can make this one is 2/3. That means that I’ll pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows. Got it? I know the regular advice is to pick up 3/4 or 4/5 or 2/3, but my stitch and row gauge are different with every blanket and stitch pattern, and so I do the math. I get a much tidier result and it only takes a minute.  Then I give it a go along the side of the swatch to see if it works, before I pick up hundreds of them.**

Lo and behold, it did work.  That’s the perfect ratio, that edge lies there as flat as my first catastrophic go at vegan pancakes.  I don’t need to do any stitches along the cast on and bound off edges, because I’ll pick up stitches at a 1:1 ratio there – like always. (That’s the rule. 1:1 for stitches on top of stitches, and stitches/rows for along the sides.) Sometime when it comes up we’ll talk about what I do with a diagonal, but in the meantime, voila.

This blanket is going just fine.*

**Stop it. Don’t be superstitious.

**Please note that this system, diligently measuring, trying it on the swatch… all of that, is a system that I’ve settled on after a few blankets where I picked up 47465 stitches around the edges of the thing, and then realized after a few heartrendingly long rounds that it wasn’t right, and had to rip the whole thing out amid a flood of tears and whiskey while missing a deadline.  I’m pretty proud that I’ve given up and started doing the swatch and math after only 45 years of knitting, disappointment and sloth.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Slow Learner

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 15:00

I think I was just excited.  That’s the only explanation for where I find myself – a few days after the cast came off, and in some knitting trouble. After struggling with knitting for weeks, and only being able to manage big needles and yarn, not only was I really looking forward to pounding out some fine gauge knits, I was behind on an important project. My niece Savannah’s baby will be here soon, and so of course there should be a blanket – although there has already been a sweater, and as I’ve mentioned, this baby’s Grammy will be my sister-in-law Kelly, who is a fine knitter herself. Care must be taken not to bury this wee one in wool, though we can scarcely contain our excitement.  Not just a new baby, but a fall/winter baby! While the cast was on, I was planning, choosing stitch patterns, and getting yarn together. I went into the stash and flung yarn around with one hand until I came up with this.

It’s gorgeous, and I love it, and I thought to myself that it must be enough wool for a blanket. I mean, it’s a Ton of Wool.  I glanced at the yardage, saw that it had four digits, and felt great about it. (300g/1056 meters) I swatched,

I washed the swatch,

I loved it, I cast on…. I knit.  Now I’m about halfway through the body, the yarn is being eaten up at a shocking rate and it is rather completely clear to me that I don’t have nearly enough of this yarn to do what I want. Wait. Let me type that sentence again so that the problem is clearer.  I don’t have nearly enough of this discontinued yarn to do what I want.

I’m not really, really panic stricken (I mean, this happens with almost every blanket, I’m clearly not bright) because I’m knitting this blanket in the Shetland style, so the body is worked back and forth, the borders are picked up and knit around, and the edging is applied – that means that there’s a few points where I can change colour/yarn if I want to, so it I can see a way out. Still…

Anybody have some of this yarn kicking around?

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Cast off

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 20:13

Happily, the title of this post is both a knitting situation, and the current situation of my left hand!

I was at the fracture clinic this afternoon, and the Doctor (who I now find far less annoying than I did a few weeks ago) said that I could do without the cast, and that my hand is now cleared for “light duty”.  I asked a few questions about what that meant, and while there are definitely still some limits, the big things I’ve been missing are back – typing, and KNITTING.

In fact, when I asked him if I could knit (rather “a lot”) he said “please do, as much as you can, it’s good for you.” Knitting is wondrously, finally, as I have always dreamed – doctor’s orders. (We will, for the moment, gloss over the difference between what he surely thinks is a lot of knitting, and what I think is a lot of knitting. I feel like if there were limits he would have said something.) I am going to knit, and type and holy cats I think I will eat something you need a knife and fork to manage, and right after that I’m going to wash my hair with two hands, and then I’m going to tie my shoes. Repeatedly.

This news couldn’t come at a better time, since this morning I got just about to the end of Love and Darkness, and was (really ironically) finding it really difficult to cast off with a cast on.

Cast off!

Let the wild knitting rumpus begin!

Categories: Knitting Feeds

I’m going to make it

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 21:52

Sitting across from Jen in the restaurant, she admired the glorious colours of my arm.  The bruising is starting to fade, but still impressive. Then Jen looked at me, leaned back and she asked if I could knit. This is a full week after the accident -I think she was afraid to ask me before that, and I get it, I’m a little edgy. I pulled my knitting out of my bag  (I’m still dutifully carrying it around, though I can only manage a row or two before I get a weird cramp from holding it strangely) and spread it on the table in front of her.

She took it all in. Big needles, big yarn, it’s actually very pretty (pattern – Love and Darkness) and then a look of horror slowly dawned on her face, and she said “Is this it? In a week? Is this all you’ve knit in a week?” I nodded, and Jen slumped back in her chair. “Wow.” She looked at the knitting again. “Two more weeks?”

Two more weeks.  Back at the fracture clinic on Monday, I’d stomped in with an attitude that I’d hoped would be convincing. I’d tried to sit there looking exactly like someone who should have their cast off immediately, and during the x-ray I’d confidently said “I think it’s going to look great.”  When the doctor said that he wanted to leave the cast on two more weeks, I realized my bravado had been a failure.  Two. More. Weeks.

Sigh. On the upside, today I tied my shoes, and figured out I can drive a car.

Two. More. Weeks.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Four Lists

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 19:04

A list of things it is easy to do with only one hand:

  • Drink coffee.
  • Drink wine. (Assuming someone else has opened the bottle for you.)
  • Presumably, drink other beverages, although I have not confirmed this.
  • Eat things that are small.
  • Text – I got Gboard, and in the one-handed mode I can manage just fine.
  • Take pictures of socks you finished right before you went for a bike ride and cast your life into a dark place where you’re making lists about things because you can’t knit socks.

(Pattern, my basic usual from Knitting Rules, with a picot top.  Yarn: MustStash in Practically Perfect.)

A list of things that it is possible to do with one hand if you are willing to be really patient and accept compromises in speed, quality, satisfaction or most likely, a combination of all three.  (Pro-tip, I am bad at those things.)

  • Knit (Who knew? Only on big needles,  with lots of patience, and it’s giving me a tiny weird blister on the front of my left index finger and I’ve got and the speed of a snail, but it can be done and is possibly the only thing keeping me from going on a murderous rampage the likes of which the world has never seen, and instead limiting my frustration to exchanges with my loved ones that are largely just awful. Nobody is going to love me at the end of this, I can tell. Turns out that it takes a lot of knitting to modify what may be a disastrous personality.)

Pattern is Love and Darkness, yarn is Fleece Artist BFL Aran.

  • Clean up. (But you have to carry things one by one and it’s hardly worth it. I’m not doing it again.)
  • Laundry. (If you kick the basket down the stairs, which absolutely works, and is satisfyingly destructive and loud. Our laundry is in the basement, so I get to heave it down two flights.  It’s totally worth picking it all up again.
  • Typing. (As long as you do it in bursts. This post took all day.)
  • Washing your hair. (As long as you do it lying down in the bathtub, and avoid squirting the shampoo in your face. Twice. Don’t bother with conditioner, it’s not worth it.)
  • Hand wind a ball of yarn.

Things that are surprisingly difficult to do with just one hand:

  • Put on jeans or a bra. (Unsurprisingly, I am currently wearing neither, luckily, at least the bra part is not much of a departure.)
  • Pull up underpants. (See above for solution.)
  • Wash my hands.
  • Enter a password on a keyboard
  • Get ice cubes out of a tray.
  • Spin. (Who knew?)
  • Open the ibuprofen
  • Sleep.
  • Not take every single little problem or slight incredibly personally and use it to reach broad, sweeping conclusions about the people who (allegedly) love me.  (This one may possibly be related to the two before it.)

Things that are absolutely (&%$#$%&ing impossible:

  • Chop *&%#ing anything.
  • Open a damn jar.
  • Use a can opener.
  • Put deodorant on my right armpit. (I can’t wash it either. I expect this to present problems longer term.)
  • Use a pepper grinder or a salt mill.
  • Warp a loom. (I really tried.)
  • Open a zip lock bag.
  • Refrain from near constant foul language.
  • Do anything I want to.
Categories: Knitting Feeds

That was unexpected

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 19:26

I’ve been dreading these 10 days for a year. I’ve been planning lots of distractions, lots of good things to keep my mind off of all that went on this time last August. I did what I’ve done all year when things were hard – I tried to make good healthy choices designed to generate feelings that would be the opposite of what I expected to feel. If I thought I would be especially lonely, I made plans to have company. If I expected to be sad, I deliberately set about doing things that make me happy. It was a real “fake it until you make it” approach to getting around the things I thought might swamp me with sadness. Distract, divert – deflect.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day that I took my Mum to the hospital and she never came home again. I got up that morning and feeling upset and out of sorts, I decided to go for a long bike ride to clear my mind. It turns out that I like riding my bike. I don’t just do it for the Rally, I do it to be fit, to feel strong, to feel fast. I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but it’s hard to be sad on a bike, so I left the house and set a route that I really love – one that ends with a gorgeous stretch along a trail by a river. I was 25km in, it was a beautiful day, and I was heading for home and cruising along the bike path – not going too fast because it was downhill, and I’m still kind of cautious cyclist. (That’s a lie. I’m a really cautious cyclist.)

That’s when it happened. After 660 km on the Raleigh without so much as a glitch, I was heading downhill and starting a little turn when I hit a small patch of sand. (I even slowed down for it, which in retrospect probably kept things from being much worse.) Suddenly, my bike wouldn’t went sideways under me, and unable to unclip my left foot in time (I did unclip the right, for what seems now to have been no other reason than reflex.)  I let go of my bike  (big mistake) and stretched my hands out to break my fall. (Second mistake.) My hands hit the ground hard, absorbed most of the force,  and then my chin came down and smacked off the asphalt. My phone skittered out of my bra (yes, I keep it there sometimes) and into the bushes, and I lay there for a second, absolutely stunned. There hadn’t even been time to swear – which trust me, I don’t need a lot of time to pull off.

It’s clear to me now that I watched way too much of the Tour de France, because my first thought was getting my bike off the path before someone else came along and ran me or the bike over, and I scrambled up, hauling the bike off me, retrieving my phone (phone’s don’t heal, so I was worried about that before myself) and then I started to take stock. My hand was really banged up and it hurt, but it wasn’t bleeding too badly, so I got out my water bottle and started washing it off – I had time to curse now – and did.  In that moment, I thought I was okay.  It didn’t last. A lady who’d just come around the corner came rushing up to me, asking if I was okay and rubbing me on the back. I said I thought I was, and then she said “oh my God your face.”  I noticed then that some of the blood I was trying to wash off my hand and arm wasn’t coming from the bad scrape on my hand – I’d cut my chin when it banged off the pavement, and it was bleeding badly. “Do you have ice?” she asked me, and I remember thinking “Geez Lady, where would I be keeping that?”

I got my cycling gloves out of my jersey pocket (hadn’t been wearing them, mistake number 3) and used that to put pressure on my chin.  It didn’t really stop bleeding, and the lady was making me feel embarrassed and self-conscious, so I sent her away with assurances that I was just fine. Long story short, I tried to ride my bike home, and with every minute that passed I realized that I needed help. Even if i could make it back to the road, I wasn’t going to feel much like cycling back up the hill to my house. (This, by the way was the first sign that I wasn’t okay, that I thought I could get home by way of bike.) I texted Joe, no answer, then another person or two – also no answer, and then managed to walk my bike back to the road (about 30 minutes) bleeding and feeling more upset and hurt by the moment.

By the time I got to the road, I’d managed to reach Joe and he understood that he had to come get me – by the time he had, I’d realized that I needed the hospital. Joe dropped me off, I went inside and presented myself, still wearing cycling gear (“Cycling accident?” the nurse queried, receiving the stupid question of the day award.) I staggered away from the desk to sit down and wait my turn, and realized a second later, clutching gauze to my chin, with my non-smashed hand, that I was sitting in the exact same seat I had exactly a year before, at just about the same time of day.  The only difference was that my mother wasn’t with me. Distraught, divert, deflect …indeed.

Even longer story short – they glued my chin (it’s a tiny cut, it turns out, just bleeding for the drama of it) and x-rayed my hand, and it looks like a possible scaphoid fracture. Totally common for what they called a FOOSH.  (Fall On Out Stretched Hand.) I’ll be wearing it for at least a week, until a bone scan can reveal if there’s a fracture or not. (Oddly, they have to wait – they’re looking for signs of healing to see if the break is there.) In the meantime, I’m navigating one handed – knitting, but very slowly and awkwardly, with little satisfaction, and typing this pathetically slowly.  (I tried dictation, but it’s like my laptop doesn’t think I speak English.)

I’m okay, but can’t help but wonder what the lesson I’m supposed to be getting is.  Is this the universe’s way of saying you can’t run from your feelings? Am I supposed to be learning to deal with things, rather than trying to distract myself from them? Am I being told to settle down, to let the grief wash over me, to acknowledge that I’m supposed to feel bad, and just … live it? Is this just another phase of the year in which I’m doing a wicked imitation of being a cat toy for some divine joker?

Or maybe, maybe  I simply fell off my bike, and I should have been wearing my gloves.

Peace out. I’ll try and type more tomorrow.

PS. No pictures today. I’ve hit my limit for the number of things I can do with one  *&^%$ing hand.

PPS: I forgot to mention that I’ll be at The Stitchery in Rhode Island on the 14th and 15th of September. With two functioning hands. I’m sure of it.

Categories: Knitting Feeds