In my post the other day, I wrote that there would be 1600 rows in the edging, and Katie (who is surely a hopeful person, full of optimism) wrote and said “Surely that’s a typo.” Vickiebee even said “Maybe it’s 1600 stitches?”
No, my petals, not a typo, and not stitches – though maybe not as bad as you’re thinking. I am cleverly drawing pictures here, so as not to take detailed pictures of the blankie that would give it all away to Alex and Meg. (Plus it’s really scrunched up on a circular.) This is a pretty classic way of approaching this, if you’re thinking of Shetland Island shawls, which, like most normal people, I always am.
First, I cast on provisionally, and I knit the centre. (That’s a lie. First I knit a swatch, wash it, and block it. That tells me how many stitches to cast on, and how long to carry on for if I want it to be roughly square.)
When the centre is finished, I pick up stitches all the way around, and unpick the provisional cast-on, pick those up too, and now I’m equipped to work in the round. (Here, you will note, I make that sound like cake. It’s totally not – in the classic sense, this picking up business is pretty easy. The Shetland Shawls are garter base lace, and so the ratio for picking up is 1 stitch for each ridge. I threw that simplicity and ease on the fire and tossed on a litre of gasoline, by knitting the centre in stockinette based lace. To pick up all the way around I took my gauge, and did the math. The number of stitches widthwise (let’s say it’s 20 to 10cm.) divided by the number of rows per 10cm. (Let’s call that 25.) Then it’s just a matter of representing that as a fraction (stay with me, I know that’s a math word) putting stitches over rows. 20/25. Then I reduce that fraction (cast your mind back to middle school, you’ll be fine) and it’s 4/5. (See that?) That means I have to pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows. In practice, that’s pick up 4, skip one, pick up 4, skip one…. You dig? Usually I practice this on the swatch, then do it on the blankie, marking the corners as I go.
Then I choose my stitch patterns (or invent them, in many cases) write them up as charts, centre them along the sides, and start knitting. I increase one stitch either side of the marked corner stitches ever other row – so I’m increasing by 8 stitches every other round.
This makes fetching mitred corners, and means the blankie gets bigger all the way around, every round. When it’s big enough (who really knows when that is) I choose or invent an edging (in this particular case, it’s a bit of both) and begin to apply the edging. I cast on (provisionally, again) however many stitches are in the edge (in this case, it will be about 20) and then start working back and forth making a long skinny edging. Every time I work a right side row, I knit the last stitch of the edge together with a stitch from the body of the blanket.
That means that every two rows, one stitch gets consumed. When I’m all done, the final row of the edging is grafted to the provisional cast on of the edging, and I’m done.
So, back to the point up at the top? 1600 rows? I was wrong. I’ve currently got 898 stitches on the needle (or will, when I’m done with this little garter band) and with 2 rows to consume each one? (Plus extras to get round the corners, but let’s not quibble.)
1796 rows to go, with an average of 20 stitches in each row, that’s 35 920 stitches left to knit.
And that, my brave friends, is not a typo. I counted. May the force be with me. The edging begins in 4 and a half rounds.
My friend Debbi has a great expression. When a task is daunting and spread out in front of you, and you’re getting that slightly crampy feeling in the pit of your stomach, she’ll look right at it and say “Don’t panic early.”
I find this a really lovely way of saying “don’t panic”, which I’ve always found dismissive and always makes me want to say something like “I’ll panic if I bloody well want to” or “WHAT IS YOUR OTHER PLAN.” When Debbi says “don’t panic early” I feel like she’s respecting my right to panic, isn’t taking anything from me, but wants to be sure that my timing is right, and I don’t waste any energy while we’re still in a phase that could have some solutions other than panicking.
On Friday, I took a look at the blanket, and I took a look at the date, and I took a look at Megan and something happened.
I panicked. Now, there is still some time to finish, I know that. I’ve got a few weeks I think, before there could be a baby, but I’m still on the last border pattern and after that there is another border pattern and then there is all the edging and… I felt sure that panicking was the right thing to do. I set about getting really hysterical about the whole thing, and then I channelled my inner Debbi, decided it wasn’t time, and set about knitting. That was my weekend. I’m happy to say it mostly panned out. I’m six rows from being finished that border, and then there’s just the second border and then there’s the edging and….
It was time to panic. I felt sure of it that time. I went on a search for my inner Debbi, couldn’t find her and called the actual Debbi instead. (Sometimes only the real thing works.) Debbi listened carefully while I explained what needed doing, and she looked carefully at the picture of Meg, and then she said something very real, and very accurate.
That’s what she said. Panic. She also said things like “*%#%&^ how many rows are in that edging? 1600? IS IT SIXTEEN HUNDRED?” and she said things like “IT IS BIG ENOUGH DON’T MAKE IT BIGGER DO THE EDGING” and she also said “holy (*&%$#^, you need to panic. Do it now.”
“It’s not too early?” I asked her, hopefully… wondering if maybe Debbi had just come unglued for a minute and didn’t have her wits about her. It happens to the best of us, especially in the face of laceweight baby blankets, they’re pretty discombobulating. “Debbi, isn’t it too early to panic?”
Debbi thought about it, and then very calmly, she said:
“No. I think you’re late.”
I’m going to get right on it.
I sat down yesterday morning with a cup of coffee and the intention of writing a post to you, and then realized that though I don’t believe in jinxes, and I didn’t really think I could make myself fall down by typing about what a great ski trip we had, I do really hate revising writing and so I put it off until now, simply in the interest of not needing to delete a post about how awesome it was and instead write about how charming the Ski Patrol is and how sweet the doctors in the emergency room in Banff are, and how much less scary it was to be airlifted out of the Rocky Mountains than I thought it would be. Turns out that I’m out the other end of the thing, totally intact.
We skiied during the daytime, with me taking lessons and Joe off doing wild man things, flinging himself off the top of mountains and doing double blacks, while I timidly made the transition from green runs to blue ones. I had a very nice instructor named George, who consistently told me that I’m a much better skier than I think I am, I’m just too nervous. “Relax” he told me over and over. “You just need to relax.” I’m not sure I have the trick of it yet, because all I did then was really concentrate on relaxing, and I don’t think that’s what George meant, and there were moments (more than one, I’m afraid to report) where I stood a the top of a slope George wanted me to ski down, looked at his intentions, the steepness of the thing, how far you would fall to the bottom with a misplaced ski, and cordially looked him in the eye to say “What the actual f**k, George.”
Still, at the end of the three days, George presented me with a certificate outlining my skills, and confidently decreed that I could ski any groomed run. “Any” he said, as long as I managed this elusive relaxation. I looked at my card, and immediately noted an error. Muttering, I approached George, and explained that I wanted him to tick off the box that said I could manage small jumps. He looked at me a little confused, and I reminded him that he’s been on lifts with me, surely he’s noticed that I’m five feet tall, and that means that getting off a lift isn’t a simple matter of standing up. I have to jump. (This made for a dramatic first dismount from a lift last year, by the way, when the instructor told me to wait until my skis touched the ground, then stand up. Never happened. I almost went right round the thing.) “George,” I proclaimed. “You’ve seen me. You know I’m jumping. I want that box. That’s a jump. Tick it off.”
George agreed, though even now I’m unclear on whether or he truth thought it was right, or was just a little frightened of me. He sat down, put a proper checkmark in the box for small jumps – and added a little note. “On lifts.” He also told me that skiing with me had been a lot of fun, but in the comments on my report card, I noted that it just said “Been a lot skiing with you this week” and at first I thought the “fun” was just missing (he had several to fill out) but I’ve been told before that I’m rather “a lot” and I wonder if George is breathing a little easier now that I’m headed off his mountain.
In between death defying runs down the slopes, I knit. I had lots of time in the mornings, and in the car on the way places, and at dinner, and in the evenings,
and I’m happy to report that the first little border on the baby blanket is done, as is the second larger one, and today on the way to the airport I’ll finish charting the third, big one, and by the time I get home tonight, it should be well started. I’ve big plans to apply myself diligently to that thing over the next week, try to really break the back of it. There’s more than 680 stitches to a round now, so progress feels like it’s slowing down all the time, but it’s still a lot easier than skiing.
I sat down, all ready and organized, to tell you pretty much nothing. The blanket is going fine, I’m passed the first little border and I’m ready to move on to the next one. I have it charted and swatched and it all seems to be ticking along just fine. A little slowly, I admit, but I’m almost ready to start the second ball of yarn, and there’s more than 700m per ball, so clearly I’m making some sort of progress, no matter how daunting the whole thing feels. I was sitting here, trying to find something to say to you, something remotely interesting, and couldn’t come up with anything at all, so I went to organize some yarn and think about it.
Joe and I are leaving for a ski trip in the morning, and I’d gone upstairs to grab a skein of yarn for socks from upstairs. It was a special skein, part of the little yarn club I joined this year and I know that I should be working on the blanket only, but it’s fussy, and there’s a chart, and while I’m certain that I’ll get lots done on the flight tomorrow – I need something with me to amuse me when it’s dark, or when I don’t want to ignore Joe by gluing my eyes to the thing. So, socks it is. I’m upstairs, and I have the skein of yarn in my hand, and then I realize I should throw in a load of laundry – so I grab a basket, toss a load of whites in, and trot directly to the basement get it started and come back upstairs to wind the yarn.
On my way back up though, I get a text from my sister-in-law who needs a little babysitting help, and I tell her sure, and start organizing myself to leave. Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that mornings aren’t really my jam, but they’re not – so I get another cup of coffee so I stand a chance of keeping up with a toddler and a five year old, and then I go to wind the yarn, except it’s not where I left it on the table by the winder. I look around, realize I’ve probably put it somewhere stupid, and then Katie’s here and I have to leave, so I do. I’m in the car before something terrible occurs to me. I didn’t… put it in the washing machine, did I? I start reconstructing the morning in my mind – all while convincing Luis that we’re going to go to the park and it’s going to be a blast, and I decide that there’s no way I did that. None. I had it in my hand, and then I put it down on the bed – I think, while I got that laundry together. There’s nothing for it anyway, and Luis and Frankie and I go to the park (where I remember that most of taking a toddler to the park in the winter is trying to keep them from licking metal things) and then I go buy a new bra (really intense morning, thanks for asking) and then I grab the streetcar back here, and go directly upstairs to fetch my yarn – but it’s not on the bed. It’s not on the kitchen counter either, nor is it on my dresser, where I could have put it down. It’s not anywhere, and with a sinking heart, I go to the basement.
I can see it through the window of the washer. It’s there. A sprawled out tangle of handpainted ramen, exploded through the washing machine. I curse, and I open the washer, knowing two things for sure. 1. I’m an idiot and 2. A skein of yarn can’t come back from that. You can’t put a skein of yarn in the washing machine. I’ve wrecked this fantastic skein of yarn. I take the laundry out, and I carry it upstairs and it looks like a nightmare. It’s tangled, it’s a disaster, and start untangling it from tee shirts and underpants and I’m just heartbroken. (I’m also pretty grateful that the dye didn’t bleed, because that was a load of whites and it’s a brightly coloured skein.) I extract the yarn – and I stand there, with this shredded disaster in my hands, and it occurs to me that it’s not felted. It’s superwash – so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, but I am – and it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, if I dry it, I can untangle it. (It does occur to me that this will take hours and hours, but I really like the yarn and I’m feeling optimistic.)
I grab the yarn by one of the ties, and give it a snap, and this happens.
Yup. Perfect. Completely, astoundingly, amazingly and unpredictably perfect. It’s not tangled – there’s not a strand out of place and that, my friends, is a straight up supernatural event.
I thought you’d want to know. The world is a mysterious, beautiful place, and my yarn is almost dry.
(PS. It’s from Gauge Dye Works (That used to be CaterpillarGreen) and I’d like to personally thank them for tying it in three places. I bet some days that feels like overkill, but it’s not. You’re awesome.
No time. Only pictures.
Luis listens to Megan’s baby.
I made a million cookies, and piping icing is hard. (But I win, because they’re still cute.)
Ken is 51.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time with a peeler and made this tart. I thought I was crazy then Meg said “Oh Mum, I love pretty food!” and then it was all worth it.
Jen (knitter, cyclist, student midwife) brought her fetoscope. Best baby shower favour ever.
This picture is okay, but it’s not as good as the one I should have taken, which was 2 minutes later, when the baby moved, and Pato pretty much fell off a chair.
We are excited. I am knitting.
You know, I try to have a can-do attitude. I’m reasonably clever, I know how to read, I’ve got access to the internet, and that means that most of the time, I look at a task ahead of me and I think “Well. How hard can it be?” This usually works. I’ve changed the brake pads on a mini-van with just a library book and some borrowed tools, I’ve ridden my bike really far, and I can make all sorts of things. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in over my head – but it usually works out. The problem is that since I usually feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I don’t recognize it when I actually am. I’ll be chugging along, feeling a wild and vague sense of panic and hysteria, and then think, well, that’s not too bad – and the next thing I know voila. I’m actually underwater. Examples? You betcha.
I sat down last night to pick up all of the stitches around the edge of the shawl, and two things happened. First, it turned out that I’d counted hopefully rather than actually, and as a result, I had six rows to go before I was really done. (No problem. Will only take a minute.) The second thing was that it turns out that I’d tried a new provisional cast on (How hard can it be?) and I didn’t do it right. How do I know?
It took about an hour to unpick the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, snipping it into little pieces as a went along, punctuating every sixth or seventh one with unladylike language of a pretty creative nature. The sides didn’t go much better, and I finished the one stinking round that it took to get everything sorted at 1:40am. (How hard can it be? THAT HARD.)
Then, I decided that I’d do something special for Meg’s baby shower on Sunday (yes, yes it’s that soon, yes I know, knit faster) and after cruising Pinterest (MEGAN LOOK AWAY) I bought some special cookie cutters and signed up to make some fancy cookies. Like this. Or this. Or those. Up until about 10 minutes ago it hadn’t really occurred to me that I don’t actually know how to do that, and my general sense of “How hard can it be?” was dashed when a friend said that if I got “color flow mix” that would really be good and I realized that I don’t know what that is, and now I feel nervous. Also? I think maybe it takes longer to make them than I thought. I’ll let you know.
Finally, I kept meaning to post and say that Debbi and I have good news and bad news for Strung Along. Good news? We unexpectedly have some spots free at the Strung Along April Retreat, but the June and November retreats have waiting lists. Usually things move around and open up on the lists (that’s what happened with this April one) and there’s a chance that we’ll have some spots, but – particularly for November the list is long, and it’s not looking great, and the truth is that if you were hoping to get to a retreat with us this year, we think April is going to be your chance. We don’t have many spots, but we’ve love it if you could come, and I know you have questions.
Question: Hey, there’s like… 8 million retreats. Why would I go to yours?
Well, ours is different in a few ways. There’s three full days of classes, and everybody goes to all three classes. It’s two days of knitting, and one day of spinning, and some relaxed, fun, optional stuff in the evenings. You’re in a tiny class (only 10-15 people) and you move with that group through the three days. Some retreats have more time for socializing, but we’re all about the classes. To our way of thinking, a fibre arts retreat should be all about the learning. If that’s what you think too, you’re probably going to love it.
Question: Who are the teachers? What are the classes?
This time, the teachers are me, Debbi Stone, and Judith MacKenzie. (She’s the spinning part.) Our theme is “Around the world in three days” and it’s going to be all about techniques and materials from the world over. We’ll talk about the history and traditions of knitters and spinners worldwide, and what they use, and how they use it. It’s going to be pretty great. We’re excited. (Can you say Latvian Braid? Oh yes, you can.)
Question: I’m a brand new spinner, and I’m not that experienced a knitter… am I going to be okay?
Yes. Absolutely. We’ve got artists of every range coming, and you’ll fit right in, no matter what your skill level is. The classes are tiny enough that we can really personalize. You’ll be fine. We promise. (Also, if you don’t have a wheel, we can loan you one for the weekend. Don’t panic. We’ve got ya.)
Question: If I’m going to go away for a treat, I want it to be nice. Is is nice?
Dudes, it’s super nice. We’re ridiculously proud of the wonderful food, and there’s optional paired wine flights with dinner. There’s a fireplace and Jacuzzi bathtub in all the rooms, and the staff at the resort is fantastic. It’s nice. It’s so nice you won’t want to go home.
Question: I’m sort of an introvert and I would be coming by myself and I won’t know anyone. Do people come by themselves? Will it be weird? Will I be lonely?
You’ll be fine. From one introvert to another, it will be fine. Lots of people come alone – most people, actually, at least at first. We’ve got lots of knitters who came by themselves and made friends with other knitters, and now they look forward to seeing them at the retreats. It’s a welcoming, open place, and there’s lots of time to yourself, if that’s how you like it, and I promise you won’t feel weird.
Question: I have other questions. What do I do?
Write to us at email@example.com and Debbi or I will answer you. There’s lots of information here on our retreat page too.
Last Question: I’m not able to come, but I hear you guys have goodie bags, and I wondered if I could put my stuff in it?
We do have goodie bags, and we’d love it if you put stuff in it. We’re happy to showcase anything you’d like knitters or spinners to see. Your product goes in the bags, and on our social media feeds, and we’re as grateful as you can imagine. If you’d like to talk about it, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you the details.
I am going to be knitting this blanket forever. I see that now, as plainly as I understand that I am destined to never catch up on the laundry, and that email can never be truly finished. I also see that a large blanket knit from laceweight might have been a bit of an overshoot, if you catch my meaning. I have only about a month left, and this blanket pretty much refuses to get done, despite much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Today, I have gleefully and delightedly finished the centre. It’s a small centre, as planned, and now I’ve got to make a move to get this thing sorted to be knit in the round. Tonight I’ll leave the stitches at the top live, and then pick up stitches down the first side, then unpick the provisional cast on along the bottom, and pick up more stitches along the second side. I don’t have time to make a mistake, so I’ve spent a little time today picking up stitches along the side of my swatch.
Obviously, one side had too many (you can see it flare out, there on the right) and the other one looks pretty good. That’s the rate I’ll be going with.
Forever. And ever. Send wine.
2. I am home from Madrona, and it was, as always, the event that fills my cup for the year to come. Wonderful moments with teachers I love, students I miss, and vendors that make me give them all my money.
3. I gave them lots of money. (Hello Creative with Clay, I’m looking right at you and my new salt and pepper shakers.)
4. A big chunk of my hair is purple. I can’t talk about why, because it has to do with the Teacher Talent Show for Charity that I host, together with Lucy Neatby, and mutiny. On the upside, the show raised more than $12 000 for the Global Fund for Women, MSF, and Heifer International. That’s worth purple hair. (Also, Lucy? It’s not washing out like you said it would.)
5. The blanket proceeds apace. I’m halfway through the centre. I need to get a move on.
6. I accidentally gave a whack of money to Habu Textiles, which is both unavoidable and normal. I also accidentally started knitting the kit I bought, but I’m putting it down. (It’s silk and paper. I can’t even.)
7. I’ve got to knit that blanket.
8. I leave for the West Coast Knitters Guild on Friday. (I think there are still a few spots.)
9. There’s no point in trying to fix the jet lag. If I stay messed up, I’ll be bang on for Friday.
I’m at the airport, getting ready to head to Madrona, and because the universe is out to get me of a problem with my flight, I’m going Toronto to LA, then LA to Seattle. It means that from the time that I leave my house until the moment I fall helplessly into a hotel bed will be about 13 hours of travel. I’m trying to see the upside of that, which is a pretty awesome chunk of knitting time, which is great, because you wouldn’t believe the crappy knitting I did I had a few knitting problems over the last few days. I knit the daylights out of a cowl that I’m making (no pattern yet, stand by) and was feeling pretty good about how things were going. A nice big cowl, and I had about 5cm of the ribbing done, when I was forced to admit that my gauge was complete bollocks a little off, and had to rip the whole thing out and start over.
I’m not so sure that would have completely broken my spirit bothered me, except that at the same time I discovered a nupp that was disintegrating completely and threatening to destroy the integrity of the entire blanket not quite right, and had to rip back several rows of that work too.
(Pictured here, the bag of travel knitting I’ll be trying to fix so that it looks like I can knit better than a drunk ferret how to knit enjoying today.)
So, there you have it, and in case you ever wondered, there are times when I spend hours knitting and am further behind than when I started and completely waste two days of precious knitting time and my one wild and beautiful life make little mistakes. I’m hoping to get my &%#@@% together today will be a little better.
I suppose what I’m living right now could be considered a failure to learn from my past, but I like to think of it as a terminal sort of optimism. Every time I book trips really close together, I look at the calendar, do the math and then think “Oh, it’ll be just fine.” It’s like I think that everything that was difficult about it every time before this is a problem that’s entirely gone away – or that I’ve suddenly become a completely different sort of person. Then my plane lands, and I start the process of a two day turnaround, and realize that I’m still me, and this is still a problem, and this is all a long way of saying I’m rushing to get out the door early in the morning for Madrona after returning home late Sunday night, so here’s a short blog post, just to show you a finished thing.
Pattern: Bermuda (but I faked it at the end and made it bigger so that I’d use up every inch of my yarn.)
Yarn: The January Shipment of the CaterpillarGreen yarn club. It was an extra large skein (170g) of shawl striping, MCN fingering.
I finished it the last day we were in Scottsdale, and it looked so at home there that it was almost a shame to bring it home to the snow. (But I did.)
Voila! Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go and continue semi-hysterically unpacking and re-packing a suitcase, while making a mental note that I’ll do this again next week. I expect it will go better then.
Ah, here we are… this post comes to you from Scottsdale, Arizona, where I am working poolside in the sunshine, while Joe does likewise. We made our way here from the Grand Canyon, a quick stopover between Vegas and here, and I gotta tell you, I’ve felt ridiculously lucky these last several days. Joe’s relationships have really worked out for me. I’ve managed to fit in work and (most of) the things I need to do as we go from event to event and place to place, and every day I’ve seen something amazing. I saw The Valley of Fire again (still a favourite, and the only hiking we had time to do in Vegas) and I saw Elton John live (just as amazing as you’re imagining right now.) I watched the sun set and rise during 20 glorious hours at the Grand Canyon. I walked on the top of the Bright Angel Trail that leads to the bottom, and I hiked seven kilometres around the southern rim.
I saw elk, I had lunch in Sedona, I saw cactus in the desert, and we looked longingly at San Francisco Peaks as we drove by. We took the scenic route every time we could. We’ve eaten good food, we’ve enjoyed the company of great people, and I have knit, and knit, and knit. I’ve knit in the car, at dinner, during social events, at concerts… I finished a pair of socks…
Yarn: Muststash Kama Sutra. (Well look at that. I looked it up to get you a link, and it’s actually a colourway you can order. it’s a miracle! Usually stuff’s been kicking around the stash so long that’s not a thing.) Pattern: I faked it, but Smooth Operator is really similar. Needles: 2.25mm.
They fit like a dream, and I adore them. I’m so glad that I recognized up front that I wanted these to be mine and knit them in my size. I’d be really hard pressed to give them up.
I finished my Bermuda shawl, and it’s drying in the sun right this very minute – pictures of that beauty when it’s dry – but best yet, I made my swatch for the beginning of Impending Grandson’s blanket.
I took a few of the suggestions in the comments – though I’m keeping most of the symbolism quiet until the right time. I went down a needle size after a few rows, finding the work too open – and I did my best to block it, considering how limited my resources were in the hotel room (I’ll be adding a wee container of pins to my travel kit) but I’m pretty sure I like what I’ve got now. The yarn is Juniper Moon Findley – 50/50 merino/silk, and it’s a perfect choice. I did the math for the middle part, cast on provisionally yesterday (in the car, somewhere around Flagstaff) and this afternoon when it’s quiet, I’ll get my first few rows in. It’s full speed ahead to blankieville and I’m practically giddy with excitement.*
*Thanks for being the people that I can say that to. I’m here with non-knitters, and while they’re quite lovely about it, it would be safe to say that if I told them that I was giddy with excitement about a blanket centre, I’d certainly be misunderstood as an artist.
Through a pretty amazing set of events in October, I wound up in in Las Vegas, and realized about 46 seconds later that it really wasn’t my bag. It’s very interesting, and everyone should see it once (if only to believe it) but I’m not a Vegas strip kinda gal. The flashing lights and mobs of people drive me wild, we don’t gamble, and Joe and I quickly discovered that though the strip was not built for us, the area around Las Vegas is absolutely ridiculously gorgeous and totally our bag, and we’d visit that a thousand times. That’s what I was thinking about when I found out that Joe’s trip was planned for here and yesterday I got my wish. We straggled out of our hotel and drove an hour away, and really had a good hike through Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a really amazing place, with petroglyphs and rocks all the colours of the rainbow, and we saw a big horn sheep, which got me so excited that I’m reasonably sure that the couple that we brought along with us now think that I’m a complete lunatic. We liked it even better than we did last time, and I think that’s because it wasn’t as hot as Satan’s armpit outside. It’s winter here, which is a term I feel this part of Nevada shouldn’t even be allowed to use, considering that we hiked very comfortably in jeans and tee shirts.
I even finished my cowl in the car on the way there.
Pattern: Grus Yarn: Woolfolk Far (colours are as suggested, #01, 02, 03, 04 and 05) Needle: 6mm.
I’m as in love with this project now as I was when I started, and despite wanting off the needles so I could start something else, I’m a little sad to see it go. The yarn is spectacularly elastic, soft, and entertaining, so much so that It was a pleasure to weave in all the ends, and that’s not my normal feeling about the task. It’s a shame that this thing is done just in time for it to be not needed. (Hang in there a few days though, there’s a change of venue planned – this trip has three legs.)
Today’s been a work day, Joe’s busy with his stuff, and I’ve been in the hotel room, busy with mine – but the yarn for the baby blanket arrived, and tomorrow, my petals, is swatching day – though I’m still trying to figure out what stitches I’ll swatch. Let’s think about it tomorrow.
In the meantime, we’ve just opened registration for the April Retreat at Port Ludlow. Our theme this time is “Around the world in three days” and it’s a retreat for knitters and spinners (you don’t need to be good at either.) There’s details on the retreat page, and we’d love to have you. If you wanna talk about it, you can email us at email@example.com
Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to tidy up. Not the house, that’s madness – I mean, I worked out a long time ago that most housework is pointless. I tidy up, someone (usually me, which is really disappointing) trashes it, and I do it again. Now that I’m a woman of mature years, I’ve largely consigned my hopes for a pristine house to the abyss. No, I’ve been trying to tidy up the knitting. The time draws near for me to start a baby blanket, and so I’m looking to get a few projects off the needles, so that not so much is lurking about. There’s a pair of socks to finish – though I’m not really fussed about that. The blanket will be tricksy, and so I’ll need something simple with me so that I can knit dark places, or places where people need to think I’m listening, and the Bermuda Shawl is pretty simple too, but I’d still like to finish it before I start the blanket. Mostly, I want this one off the needles:
It’s the Grus Cowl, Knit from Woolfolk Far (colours are as suggested, #01, 02, 03, 04 and 05 – one skein of each.) There’s not much left to go, and the next few days should be perfect for getting lots of knitting done. In what I would like noted as a serious display of Marital Goodwill, I’ve agreed to go with Joe on a work trip over the next while – and I’m having the blanket yarn meet me at our hotel – I aim to get this (and maybe the shawl and maybe the socks) done before that. Joe leaves tomorrow, but I’m staying behind for a day – Most of you will recall that Ken had a cycling accident quite some time ago, and his shoulder didn’t heal properly. He’s having it fixed tomorrow, and this family sticks together for stuff like that, so I’ll have hours tomorrow while I wait at hospital for him, and see him safely home, where Amanda will take over Ken care, and I’ll jump on a plane the next morning to join Joe. Between hospital waiting and the plane, there should be buckets of time. It’s just one of the many benefits of being a knitter. What other people might see as wait time… we see as opportunity.
Tonight I’m perusing all my stitch dictionaries (doing a little actual tidying) packing my bag, and getting together all I need for a blanket epic. 10 weeks till impending Grandson, and he deserves a blanket designed to be all his own. I like these blankets to have stories, to use stitch patterns that reflect who they are, and where they come from, to be specific to the child. Myrie’s had pines, for the camping her parents love, and waves, because they both come from islands, and Luis’ had snowflakes for his Canadian mum, and Spanish lace for his Spanish dad… and my grandson? No ideas yet. I’ve got until Saturday (or Monday, if the mail is its usually jerk to me) to come up with a plan.
I’m totally open to suggestions. The yarn is a laceweight, and I have A. Lot. There’s no way I’m running out this time.
Well, it turns out that I could indeed take knitting into the courthouse, and it turns out that I was not even the only one. I thought that I’d been so proper and good, bringing in a project on wooden circulars, and I passed through security with no trouble at all, only to settle myself in the courtroom, heave a sigh of relief, and look over to see the lady in front of me beavering away on a green sweater back (front?) with nice big, straight metal needles, not a care in the world. She made good progress too, by the time the judge came in and we had to put everything away to “give the judge our complete attention”, she had at least 10cm of rib and a chunk of garter. Me, I had this:
A goodly piece of a simple top down shawl, knit with January’s installment of the CaterpillarGreen Yarn club. (I joined two short term clubs this year – I swear I’m committed to knitting them both up as soon as they arrive. I’ve already fallen behind on the other one, so this has to get done.) I grabbed a needle I thought would work, and headed out the door. By the end of the day I had this, which is… well. It’s nothing, because it took a swift trip to the frog pond. I knew right away that the gauge wasn’t right, but I didn’t have any other knitting with me, so I just kept on going, hoping that it was going to improve. (Shocking bit of knitterly delusion, that.) It didn’t. (It never does.)
Now, somewhere, a knitter reading this just thought “Balls to that. It’s a shawl. The gauge isn’t that important. I’d have never ripped back. You’re a lunatic.” To them I say that they may have a point with the latter, but not the former. Gauge always matters. It’s not just how big something comes out – it’s got to do with the quality of the fabric, and see this?
It failed my number one test. If I put my finger beneath, and wiggle it upwards, the strands of yarn move out of the way to let my finger poke through. It’s not being able to get your finger through that’s bad though (but it ain’t good) it’s that when the fabric is mobile like that, when it’s knit loosely enough that you can move everything around, then I know that everything is going to move around in the finished piece. It won’t keep it shape, it will look bedraggled sooner. Gauge matters to how things hold up, and it matters to quality. I’m a very tidy knitter and I knit pretty evenly, but at that gauge, everyone’s work looks uneven and a little shoddy, and I’m not going to work that hard to produce something that doesn’t look as good as my work is. So, to the frogpond it went.
Luckily, I was called back for a second day, and I was just going to start over with a smaller needle, until I was cruising Ravelry and decided to copy someone else’s better idea. (jtremblay74’s to be precise. Thanks for the good thinking.)
So now I have something else. A decent start at the Bermuda Scarf (though I think it will be properly shawl-ified by the time I’m done.) Knit on a 3.5mm needle, and looking much nicer than the first.
I think it looks like water and wind and everything the yarn reminds me of, and Jury duty is over.
Tomorrow’s a day I’ve been thinking about for a while. A month ago I got a summons to appear for Jury Duty selection. My first thought was that it was sort of cool – it’s my first time and I sort of like the idea of doing my civic duty. My second thought was that it was going to be a pain in the arse, but it is for everyone, so I let that go. My third thought was the one that we concern ourselves with here today.
There are no knitting needles allowed in the courthouse.
Well, let me clarify, there are no knitting needles allowed past security, and I admit that I’m not sure if this first part, the choosing of jurors, is past security or not, but I have a very bad feeling that it does. I went to court for a traffic ticket I got on my bike (don’t ask, it got thrown out) and when I arrived there, the very nice people at security told me that my sock in progress couldn’t accompany me. I must have looked stricken, because one of them offered to hold it for me and return it at the end of my visit, and she said it was a very nice sock, but I wasn’t there long, and the other agent didn’t like it much, so I get the feeling that relying on finding a knitting sympathizer on the other side of the desk isn’t my best bet.
I’ve been thinking it over, because a whole day without knitting, especially a day without knitting that involves mostly waiting, and an hour each way on the bus and subway isn’t something that I think is going to bring out the best in me. The idea of it actually gives me a cramp in the pit of my stomach – though I’m sure I can do it if I have to. A friend suggested that I bring a book, and of course I will, but she’s forgotten that I knit while I read. I’ll tuck a paperback in my bag as insurance, but I’m not totally ready to give up on the knitting thing. The way I see it, there’s a few ways that tomorrow could go down.
My knitting isn’t allowed in, because it looks dangerous, and they’re sticklers for the rules.
This is the worst case scenario, because it means that I’ll lose my knitting – there’s nowhere to put it if it’s declared a danger to the masses. If I were driving I could run out and put it in the car, but that’s not an option with a subway arrival. If worse comes to worse I’ll leave it under a bush outside and hope that it’s there when I come out, but really I think that my best bet is to take yarn and needles that I won’t cry over – should we be parted forever. So, that means my current project is out, because I love it and it was expensive and in the name of all that is woollen and good I will not be parted from it, and cannot predict my behaviour should that be the case. I don’t think the needles look particularly dangerous – they’re blunt and 5mm, and… well, sometimes we knitters are misunderstood as artists, so I’m not counting on common sense to prevail.
It turns out they are slaves to their metal detector.
That means my current sock project is right out. I love both the yarn and the needles and even I (sporting several 2.25mm puncture scars on my body) can agree that they pose a tiny risk, should I turn out to be some sort of maniac.
That means that whatever I choose should be on wooden needles, something that won’t upset anyone, something breakable, blunt, and benign looking. Maybe wooden circulars? 8mm? I’m thinking that a ball of yarn and two pencils might not be the worst thing I could tuck in the bottom of my bag.* Part of me wants to educate, to try and tell them that knitters are so much more dangerous without this stuff than we are with it, but I have a feeling that won’t work.
What’s the most innocent looking knitting you can think of?
*As a public service, I can point out here that a standard pencil is about 7.5mm, as are chopsticks.
(PS. I just tried to sharpen said pencils, and discovered that the family pencil sharpener is full of what I am pretty sure is black eyeliner. Thanks Sam.)
Thirteen years ago, I sat down at an enormous computer in our dining room (we kept it there so we could supervise the kids internet access) with an HTML cheat sheet ( <oldschool>) and sat there for hours trying to figure out how to get a blog post up. Ken had set the whole thing up as a gift, and I was determined to get the hang of it. It took hours. Hours and hours, and there wasn’t even a picture.
This afternoon, I sat down at a tiny laptop in an airport lounge to write to you for what is the 2337th time (that is the actual number) and it’s taking a long time, but mostly because this day always makes me feel sappy and sentimental and grateful and that’s so much to put into words. A very great deal has changed over the last 13 years – through all of it, no matter how weird it’s gotten, you’ve been a constant. You know that we call you The Blog. I’ve written about that before – how we’ll say “oh, have you told The Blog” or “What did The Blog say?” or even “I can’t wait to tell The Blog about this.” You are a constant presence in our lives, a large and undefined mass that influences and encourages me and this family. When I started doing this, our children were young, young enough that I decided what their internet presence would be, what i would tell you about them, when I would tell it. I sat down at this computer often with a story or an idea in mind, something that had happened inside our family or our home, and I’d type the whole thing up, and then hover my finger over the “post” button as I re-read it, imagining myself as my child, years down the road, reading their follies laid out. Would they want it there? Would they want it shared with the world? I deleted whole entries some days. Ones that were finished with (incriminating) pictures and opinions and maternal grief or strife. Just typed them up, realized that the fight I had with my teenager – or whatever, that while we all fight with our teenagers and it’s normal and lonely and horrible, but didn’t need to be anywhere near the internet, no matter how ridiculous it had been and then posted something about socks instead.
Back then, I was the final arbiter of how much our family’s face was public, and I hope I got it right. I think I did, because there are still conversations about interacting with The Blog, and what we’ll share with The Blog and nobody’s ever demanded that I take down a post. (Not even when they were completely demented teenagers and demanded just about everything else.) Instead, you all remain welcome in our lives and in our family and one of the most lovely conversations I’ve ever had in my life was when Megan professed that she couldn’t wait for The Blog to find out that she was expecting and I was going to be a grandmother. Now that you’ve been around so long, we all think of The Blog.
All of that has been remarkable, and fantastic, and epic – the part of you that is always here, inside what Joe cheerfully refers to as “The Interknit”, but there is another side to The Blog that I don’t know you all realize. The Blog sometimes happens (as my young friend likes to say) IN REAL LIFE. It happened this weekend, as I skiied down the bottom of a mountain in Alberta, and heard my name called from behind, and lo- a friendly knitter bore down on me. (Hi Kim!) It happened last night at a concert in Calgary, when we walked up to someone who worked there, and she was all “Stephanie? Joe?” (Hi Jocelyn!) It has happened in airports, at baseball games, in restaurants, and while it’s occasionally surprising, it’s always amazing.
I hope that you all feel what I do when you come to this page. A sense of camaraderie, of belonging, a sense of community that is reassuring and normalizing, a place where the ethics and values that we hold dear – that making things is important, that creation is human, that love can be contained and transferred in handmade things, that knitting and creating and transforming are important parts of who we are… all those things are vital. I feel them and I feel like you do and I feel less lonely because you are here. I feel better because you are also IN REAL LIFE, and I love it when the things we do and make ripples outside of our little Interknit.
This last weekend, knitting played a very visible role in the March for Women – and someone said to me that it was amazing to see how important knitters were in it. That the hats they knit were visible – obvious. There weren’t three of them, there were hundreds of thousands of hats and they were in every shot and no matter what your political stripe, I find it hard to believe that any knitter can look at those pictures, with all those hats (it was so many) and not feel a pang of knitterly pride. It is our community – it is the thing that we all feel, writ large for the world to see. Someone told me that, and then she added “for once” like it was the first time that our community could make a change like that.
I didn’t say anything, because she was having an awesome moment, but I want you to know that I didn’t believe her for a moment that “for once” applied. She must have not seen what you guys did for Knitters without Borders. She must have not been here to see how amazing that was. She must have not seen what you’ve done for the Bike Rally. Maybe she wasn’t here last year when so many of you donated $12 dollars for my 12th anniversary – a dollar for every year of The Blog. (If you wanted to go for $13 this year, the link is here. It was loads of fun to watch PWA try to figure out the significance of $12 and I think that $13 is even weirder.) I know that the hat thing was big, and it was amazing, and I was impressed but I want you to know that I’ve known this about you for a long time. You’ve shown it to me so many times over the last 13 years.
You are amazing. You matter. You make a difference in my life, and in the world around you. You are an important person, and you are legion.
Thank you for every moment of the last 13 years. Thank you for the comments you leave, thank you for the mail you send me. Thank you for sending me tiny sock garland, or bitty hats knit for my Christmas tree. Thank you for calling out to me on the ski slopes, thank you for greeting me warmly in a city that’s not my own. Thank you for grieving with our family when things have been bad, and for celebrating with us when things are beautiful. Thanks for bringing me an apple or a beer when I’m on the road. Thank you for knowing who Tupper was. Thank you for wanting to show me who your Tupper was. Thanks for wondering if I’ll ever finish the gansey. Thanks for caring about my kids, for saying hi to them in person when you see them. It connects them with a bigger world that we all need reminding is there.
In short, thank you for everything, and I can’t wait for the next thirteen.
I love you Blog. Happy Blogiversary.
This post comes to you from another airport lounge, as I get ready to fly out for the weekend. Joe’s working out west today, and I’ve got some work to do there Monday, so it made sense for me to join him today and maybe sneak in a little skiing over the weekend. (The skiing has stuck, it would appear. Joe remains more enthusiastic about it than I am, but I’m coming to like it better as the terror fades. Toddlers still ski faster than I do, though.) I have this whole theory about how travel this much without being crazy or mean, and it’s all about organization, so yesterday I packed everything I wanted to take with me. I laid it all out, tidy and organized, and wrote myself little lists, and thought carefully about the knitting I wanted to take with me, and I got that into project bags, and lined it up on the table. About two minutes after that, I glanced at the clock, realized I had to be downtown for a meeting in an hour, surveyed everything that I’d pulled together gave myself a nice little pat on the back for having it so together, grabbed my bag and headed for the bus. The bus came, I had to run – you don’t care about that part, the important thing is that as I settled myself on the bus for the short ride to the subway, I reached into my bag to get my knitting, and before my hand was even all the way in there, I knew it. No knitting. None. In my organizational zeal I’d taken it from my regular bag and put in by my travel bag and then instead of doing what I usually do (which is go to the airport with the travel bag) I’d left with my regular bag and … and it’s hard to describe the sense of panic I had. Organization might be how I travel without being crazy and mean, but knitting is how I exist without being crazy or mean and without it I really wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I thought about it – it was going to be about three hours without knitting.
I reasoned with myself. really, I’d be taking notes part of the time, I’d be eating part of the time, I’d be talking part of the time…I could do three hours without knitting if I was going to be busy, right?
36 minutes later I was in the door of the yarn shop closest to the meeting, and 4 minutes after that I was back out the door with a ball of red Galway, a pack of DPNs and the knowledge that I can knit a pair of mittens without a pattern, and 6 minutes after that I was at the meeting looking for all the world like a normal (if slightly sweaty and rushed) human being. *
Having started, it only makes sense to finish them I guess, though I had no intention of knitting mittens at all, but emergencies are emergencies.
*PS “normal human being” isn’t exactly how people look at you if you take a picture of your half knit mitten on your hand in the airport lounge, but whatever.
I was going to post yesterday, but truth be told, I spent most of my blogging time reading comments. You guys really know how to go to town, don’t you? I’ve read all of them now (I think, there are really a lot) and I want to say how much I appreciate that for the very largest part, that there can be respectful disagreement, and that it can be handled decently. You guys are awesome in the kindness department. While I was reading, it turns out that I didn’t really get off the rainbow train, because another wee thing fell off my needles. It doesn’t exactly match the bootees, because it was made from the leftover Dream in Color passed on to me by a generous knitting buddy, but it’s darned nice – it’s a little bigger too, not a newborn size, which is a good thing. Impending Grandson arrives at the tail end of April, and as much as it doesn’t feel like it right now, winter will be over. This one should fit him in the fall – when the winter (sigh) comes back.
Pattern: Tulips (size 6-9m) Yarn: Dream in Color Classy, and I don’t know the colours because the labels are long ago gone. They’re darling though – and yes, I know this is probably the 6th time I’ve knit this sweater, and no, I’m not even a little sick of it.
I cast on some bright socks too, as antidote for the next thing on my needles, which is a big squishy warm and cozy cowl for me, knit out of my new yarn crush, Får, from Woolfolk. (I actually like it so much that I came a hair’s breadth from ordering a sweaters worth ten minutes after I finished my swatch. It’s freakin’ delicious.)
I decided to knit Grus, and I swatched, then merrily cast on for the larger version. 8 (rather long) rounds later, I realized that things weren’t lining up right, thought about tinking back to figure out where it had gone wrong, realized that I’d failed counting to 4 really early on (and more than once) vowed for the 2824745th time in my knitting career not to establish patterns when I wasn’t concentrating (or when I was chatting with Jen and having a glass of wine – rookie move, that)
and ripped it back –
and started again. This time, free of the distractions of anything fun or charming, it turns out that I can count to four as many times as I would like, as long as nobody interrupts, me.
If I am ever the sort of person who has a gagillion dollars, I am going to fund a study to discover what it is about knitting that destroys an otherwise clever person’s ability to count, while still leaving their other skills intact. Say it with me. 1. 2. 3. 4. Repeat.
Right now, Luis’ favourite book at our house is The Rainbow Bear. My girls loved it too, and I took it out from the book bin just before Christmas because I though that Lou was ready for the sad story of a bear who just wanted to be colourful, and lived out the downside of trying to be something you’re not, learning that each of us is supposed to be exactly as we are for things to work right. Maybe that was in my mind, or maybe it’s the winter grey that’s getting to me, but this weekend I sat myself down, and made my impending grandson a pair of bootees. I’d saved the leftovers from a pair of Rainbow socks a while back, with this exactly in mind. (Well, bootees in mind, but not bootees for my grandson. He was a sparkle in his mother’s eye when I saved it.)
I was totally right about the book. Luis loves it, and I was knitting the bootees on the subway a few days ago, feeling cheerful and happy about the whole thing, when a very nice lady sat down beside me and asked what I was making. I told her my daughter was expecting a baby, and that I was making bootees. “Oh, it’s a girl!” she chirped, and I paused for a second, and then said that it was a boy.
She looked at me for a minute, and I could tell that we were entering a fragile moment, one that we were going to disagree on, and this being Canada we’re good at disagreeing politely in public, and so she said “Goodness. Aren’t those a little… girly, for a boy?”
Now, since we are good at disagreeing in public, I did tell her what I thought, and I was gentle. “No” I said. “I don’t think it matters.” She looked at me for a minute, and she said “You’re right. He’ll be tiny. It won’t matter.” I looked at her for a second, and I said “Oh, I think it’s fine in general” and then she said this. “Of course – though when he’s bigger, you won’t want someone taking him for a girl.”
We didn’t go any further than that, it was the subway, after all. Here’s the thing though – I think what happened there was pretty sexist. Not the overt sort of sexism that’s wound up with women having a significant pay gap, or men still owning most of the property and having most of the money (despite women having most of the education, but that’s a fight for another post.) I mean – and let me be perfectly, absolutely, fantastically clear… I think that if you’re worried about what would happen if a boy is taken for a girl, then you’re sexist. It means that you have a plan – whether you’re aware of it or not. It means that you treat boys one way, and girls another, and that you think you need to know if a baby is a boy or a girl, and that there would be consequences of some kind if you got it wrong.
When someone says “What if they were taken for a girl?” It tells me right that minute that you think that would be a problem. You can say all you like, lady on the subway, that you think boys and girls are equal, but you’ve just revealed that you don’t think the same systems apply – and I’ll ask you this… What if? What if someone took my grandson for a girl? What if they absolutely took a look at this wee human with his gorgeous rainbow feet, and got his gender wrong, and treated him like a girl? What would happen then? What were you planning on doing differently?
If the answer is nothing, my commuting compatriot, then why do you need to know? I understand that there are problems here. That there are things that we think of as manly, and things that are feminine, and that there’s a whole great big system at work and it’s complicated, and hard to buck against, and I’m not saying that there aren’t families and parents where boys have to wear boy clothes, and girls have to wear girl clothes (and live with the fact that there are no goddamn pockets in the garb of the latter) and I am totally copping to the fact that from time to time, I feel the pressures of all of those things, but here we speak of bootees. Tiny socks for a tiny person, and wouldn’t it be so nice if we could just begin their time on this earth truly thinking for one little minute that the sort of socks that they wear won’t have a huge impact on what happens, and how people treat them?
On the other hand, we live in a world where girls make less money (globally, 60-75% less) hold less power, do a disproportionate amount of caregiving, and have a 1 in 4 chance (and that’s in North America) of being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and where someone who is about to be the President of the United States can talk about grabbing women’s privates because he’s powerful – and it will be dismissed by enough people as unimportant (or the way that men talk) that he will still win. So maybe, if I’m being kind… maybe the lady on the subway was just trying to keep our little human safe, because there are very real consequences to being a girl.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting, rather apologetically.
The Christmas is coming off the house. The tree is down, an epic struggle to gather up all the needles begun. I keep finding them all over the house. I’ll vacuum, sweep, and heave a sigh of relief that it’s all done, and then there will be more. Stuck to the bottom of socks, down the side of a chair that was by the thing, two in the curtains by the window, and as I wrestled it out the front door, it appears to have shed the equivalent of a small shrub into the shoes on the shoe rack. The decorations are all put away, stocking stuffers are making their way into drawers and coming into use. The cookies are all eaten, and in a desperate attempt to end it all, I threw away three candy canes yesterday. I don’t even know how they got here. It’s starting to be the end of Christmas for knitting too…
Only a half a sock (and two heels -I’ll do afterthought ones) stand between me and being totally finished – it’s another big man sock, so it’s going on forever, and I’m thinking about having a party when this pair is done. I have this wild fantasy that as soon I finish it I’ll immediately cast on something for me, but some sensible part of me wonders if I shouldn’t begin a huge pair for next year straight off. At least it couldn’t come down to big man socks again. (It is worth noting that I don’t think I have it in me to do this, but surely I can be awarded points for considering it.) Joe’s socks were blocked and dry this morning, and he put them on for a test wear.
Yarn: Alisha Goes Around, Descent of Woodpeckers – fingering weight. Needles: 2.25mm Pattern: Barrel Riders.
They fit, he loves them, and I am ready to knit something bright, colourful and… small. There’s a reason that my friend Denny says that this time of year isn’t for neutral stuff. The world outside is drab, to say the least. Bright and sunny days are few and far between, the days still short, the nights still long. As lovely as that colourway is, it has too much in common with my frozen garden and the bare trees all around me, and I’m glad it’s over. Now is the time to knit a rainbow.