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Updated: 54 min 39 sec ago

It’s still a thing

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 19:39

A few weeks ago, it was PWA‘s 30th anniversary. This is charity I hold near and dear to my heart, as you’ve probably gathered.  I sit on the steering committee, and I’ve ridden my bike from Toronto to Montreal several years in a row to support them. The Bike Rally (It’s actually The Friends for Life Bike Rally, but we shorten it) is the sustaining fundraiser for this charity – the money we raise provides just about half of their funding each year, which is a rather amazing thing to consider, when you think about the fact that it’s a bunch of regular people getting it done, just because they care.  To celebrate the charity, the Bike Rally organized something we called 30 for 30, and we went and rode on stationary bikes (in shifts) for thirty hours straight, down at City Hall.  It wasn’t meant as a fundraiser – just an opportunity to raise awareness for what we do, and what the charity does – which is provide real, tangible, practical help for people living with HIV/AIDS.  (This help varies – from helping people with money, to providing an essentials market (that’s their dignity based food bank) to helping access medication and services, to haircuts and help with their children when they’re sick, or need to go to the doctor. They also help train medical students, and reduce stigma in the community. It’s important stuff.)

So we all went down, a bunch of us – and we each did a few hours on bikes, talking to people as they passed by, and suggesting that they consider riding with us – or finding out more about PWA.  Now, Toronto’s a big, busy diverse city – and if you’re going to hang out in front of City Hall for 30 straight hours, you’re going to meet all sorts of people – and we did. There were people interested in riding, people to cheer us on, City Councillors looking to know more. and even a few people who will end up accessing services through PWA. I want to talk about one particular moment though – one person I met.

I was spinning on the bike (well, and knitting, let’s be honest here) when a gentleman approached me, and asked what we were doing. I told him, giving him a pretty standard set of lines, and at some point he stopped me and he looked at me, and he said “Wait – People with AIDS?”

Now, there is still a lot of stigma out there. People still have all sorts of crazy ideas about HIV/AIDS, and some of them are pretty negative. A lot of people still think it’s a virus that only gay men get, or that you’ve got to be pretty stupid to get it, or that it’s a punishment, or… well. You get the idea. I braced myself, ready to counter whatever he came up with, or, I thought I was ready, but what he said just about knocked me off my bike.

“Hold on,” he said, and paused, looking sort of shocked… “Are there still people with AIDS around? I mean… ” and here he paused again, and looked around like he expected them to be descending upon him… “Is that still a thing?”

I got a hold of myself quickly, and I explained nicely that it was indeed,  still a thing, and that there were still people with AIDS around, and gave him a couple of facts, and off he went, as surprised as he could be. I rode my bike for another few hours, thinking about that, and wondering how any right minded person could feel the way that this guy did, and then I came home and I had a conversation with a friend about how wild and crazy that was. How could he feel that way? How was that possible?  My friend is a thoughtful person, and very clever and good with people and they were far, far more forgiving and understanding than I am, and they made some really good points in the guys defence.

My friend noted (correctly) that this is a cause that’s been downgraded. There are excellent drugs now, and people with HIV/AIDS are no longer receiving a death sentence with their diagnosis – provided they have access to that care.  It still claims lives, probably more than most people think, but for the most part, with good management, people live a long time. That makes this all seem less important, my friend stressed. It no longer seems like a crisis, and nobody understands how we got here, what’s still going on, and what it takes to make it this way.

They were right. Years ago, this was an easy cause to get attention for. The situation demanded attention – the depth of the crisis couldn’t be ignored, it was everywhere. The response was terrific. Drugs were developed, systems of support put in place, education programs begun, a lot of people worked hard to reduce ignorance and stigma around it, and organizations like PWA were at the forefront. In many ways, this all worked, and did a lot of good. That’s how we got where we are now – which is a place where an ordinary person could think “AIDS? Is that still a thing?”

(Ken and me yesterday, completing about 60km. In the everlasting rain.)

The problem is this – now it doesn’t seem important, it all seems like maybe it’s coming together and it’s going go be okay (as long as we don’t look at Africa or other places where people don’t have access to this stuff, because things definitely aren’t okay there) and now the natural response is to cut funding, quit supporting these programs and charities, and dust off our hands and say “Thank goodness we got that under control” without stopping to think that these programs we’re all backing away from? They’re the things keeping this okay. They’re the things saving lives. They’re the thin barrier standing between the way things are now and the way things used to be. The virus has not changed. It is as dangerous as ever – only the forces allied against it hold our gains.

We see this everywhere. Funding cuts, cuts to education, drops in fundraising… even the Bike Rally was smaller and raised less money last year – and yeah – that resulted in cuts in personnel and programs at the agency. There’s less help now. Less access to the things that save lives now, and fewer people trying to make things better. That would mean we’re going to go backwards, and the crisis is still there – it just has a very good bandaid on it, and that bandaid is threatened.

This is heartbreaking for me.  I know several people who are HIV+, and I bet you do too, whether you know it or not. (For lots of reasons, we still live in a world where there’s so much stigma around this that a very many people choose not to disclose their status.) I don’t like it- I don’t like what this trend means for their health and lifetime of well-being, and I don’t like what it says about our culture, and so.. this is all a long way around saying that Team Knit (despite 4/5 of us being rather desperately middle-aged) is getting on their bikes again this year, fundraising again this year, and that we would really, really like your help making the magic happen again, if it’s possible for you to do it.

Team Knit is:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

Jen

That means that in 9 weeks and 5 days (yikes) we’ll get on our bikes, and ride about 660km from Toronto to Montreal. (For my American friends, that’s about 410 miles.) We’ll give up our weekends and some of our weekdays between now and then to train, we’ll dedicate hours to fundraising, and that’s how a week of holidays will be spent. We’re trying to make the world a place we like better, and sturdy up that bandaid.

Our decision to ride our bikes to Montreal helps nobody, and makes no difference, not without you – as a matter of fact, you’re the important part.  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and like last year, I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do things the same way as last year, because knitters, you were amazing.  We’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again. Once a week (or so- maybe a little more or less) between now and the Rally, I’ll choose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*

It’s going to be all about the Karma – just like we try to make it every year. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little family team then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.

Now, we know not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, that counts.  Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can forward the email to people in your family who will give…  There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did. No money needed. (Of course, money is always good too, and even small gifts make a big difference.)

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are, like they always do?  Ken, Pato, Cameron, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. We keep telling you that they’re awesome.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easy -It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions –  I’ll keep track.) I’ll try to get through them all, though it can be overwhelming. Thank you!

Now, please find attached a completely gratuitous baby picture, because sometimes when I’m riding my bike it helps to think of someone I’m trying to change the world for, and it can’t hurt you either.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Mummy’s Little Sweatshop

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 20:13

The paper and silk jacket continues to trudge along, though I’m feeling better and as my energy and will to go on returns, I’m trying to get a bunch of stuff done. I cleaned up around here,  zipped out to get a new bank card (I lost mine over a week ago and somehow decided I didn’t need or want money until now) and then Samantha and I went to the fabric store, because the other yarn still isn’t here, and we decided that the two of us could probably churn out two skirts, a pair of pants and some shorts in…

(Obviously, the Power Rangers fabric is not for me. I think.)

Well, fine. We think we can do it in about 24 hours. This is likely a bit of a dream, and we’re making all summer clothes and it’s freaking freezing so it wouldn’t matter too much if we didn’t finish, but it would be nice to have them done before the next blanket yarn arrives and I go in deep.  (The baby is due very, very soon.)  Both Sam and I know how to sew, so with the two of us cutting, pinning, ironing and using the machine, we should make good time. The first batch of fabric is in the washer, and as soon as it’s clean and dry, we’re off.

(PS. Sam is clearly my kid. Today in the fabric store she pretty much shrugged off the fact that we don’t really have a pattern for the skirts. Or the shorts. “How hard can it be?” she said.  I smiled to myself, because really, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that right before all hell broke loose.)

(PPS. Being an infrequent sewer, I don’t really know what’s out there. Anybody bi-craftual want to point me to some of your favourite sewing blogs? I can’t see myself sewing any more than I do, but I’d still like to see what’s going on out there.)

(PPPS. My heart lies with yarn.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Turns out those two words are a thing

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 20:14

The quickest trip to my computer today (actually, if I tell the truth I wrote most of this on my phone and then texted it to myself) as I’ve been felled by that most ignoble of all ailments, the dastardly UTI. I’m clearly going to make it, although there was a patch in there where I didn’t really care to, but now that the antibiotics are starting to work, there’s a chance I’ll decide to carry on. I haven’t even been knitting much, so great was the horrors bestowed upon my by this fierce foe, but when I have, it’s been the little Habu Jacket that I’m trying to finish before the next round of blanket yarn arrives in the mail. (Yes, on Monday when there was no sign of it I did indeed freak out and order it from somewhere else. A knitter can only live with the unknown for so long. A fresh batch is now wending its way here from WEBS – and their shipping is so great that only the border will slow it down.)

A funny story about that little jacket – the astute among you will notice, if you clicked the link for the pattern and then glanced at my photo, that they don’t exactly look the same. When I tried this on at that Habu booth at Madrona, it was a perfect, fetching post-apocolyptic-my-clothes-are-all-rags-but-like-the-matrix jacket, knit in garter stitch, out of paper and silk.  I have a thing for all of those things, so I bought the kit, and brought it home to hang out with all other other Habu stuff I buy and then don’t knit. (I love it all, I really do, but without exception the projects are all simple, gorgeous, and as annoying to knit as a three year old who tells you they have to pee right after you get them in their snowsuit – but I digress.  This time, I actually decided to knit it, and I got out the stuff, and sat down to interpret the pattern, and that’s when I realized that the thing is written for stockinette. I called Debbi (’cause she was with me when I tried it on) and asked her if it was definitely garter stitch, and she confirmed that it was, and said she remembered specifically because that was one of the things we liked about it.

I think I know what happened though, the pattern is written in the Japanese style, which is to say that it’s charted like this:

That’s about all the instruction you get, which is cool, because once you know how those patterns work, that’s all the instruction you need, but like all Japanese patterns, the only instructions you get about knit or purl, or right side vs wrong side is one line at the very beginning of the pattern, which reads “Stitch: Stockinette.” Then all the other instructions (when there are some) read “knit this many rows” or “knit direction”. You’re supposed to interpret the instructions in the light of that first note – Stitch: Stockinette.

I think that the sample knitter missed that one line, and nobody noticed and it turns out I like it better that way so… It’s going to be a variation. If I ever finish.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Knit Faster

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 22:00

Our little man Elliot is bigger by the moment.  I see him every few days, and every time I pick up his little body it has a greater heft. He’s gaining so well, absolutely thriving on his mother’s milk.  I suppose you would expect nothing less from a babe who’s grandmother was an IBCLC, and from a mum who went to La Leche League meetings in my arms. I was a Leader back then, and it all seems to have come together nicely. They got off to a grand start, and with very little trouble or fanfare, have stepped neatly around the pitfalls that make it so hard for so many mums and wee ones. (As an aside, it helps that parental/maternity leave in Canada is one year – paid. It’s so hard to nurse a little sweetie if you’re gearing up to be parted out of financial necessity.) He is fat, and glorious and his cheeks are a thing to behold.

Here, I assure you he is smiling – you just can’t tell because his cheeks are a bit much to heft.  He was born just about five weeks ago at 7lbs 3oz,  and now tops the scales at a spectacular 9lbs 10oz.  He is brilliant, and his mum is too. He is probably smiling in that picture because he is about to spit up on his brand new sweater.

Nice – right? He looks right fetching – and we haven’t even begun with his wee feet.  I made him a pair of booties before he was born, but they’re too big (unbelievably) so I whipped out another pair – but those were seeing hard duty. It’s still very cool here in Toronto and a little guy needs his woolies. So…

Voila.  Pirate booties.  Knit from bits and pieces of fingering weight hanging around the house – which downsized them nicely from the 3-6 month size they’re written for.  I did them on 2.25mm needles, and they suit just fine.

For the moment. though the little fatty will likely have outgrown them by Monday.

It’s all a grandmother can do to keep up, I tell you. I’ve called a brief hiatus to the baby knitting while I wait for some yarn to come in the mail – we’ve another family baby due here shortly, I’ll be an auntie again, as Joe’s brother Chris and his wife Robyn get ready to welcome their second. The blanket yarn is back-ordered though, so I’m back to knitting for me – until Monday. Then if it still hasn’t shipped, I’m going to freak out. If needed. I don’t want to waste any energy.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Surprise!

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 20:02

That’s what a friend said when I texted them this picture:

It’s a sweet little BSJ, knit out of my handspun, seen here doing the manta ray impression this sweater always does, right before it’s folded like origami, and presto-chango, you have a sweater.

It’s a trick I’ve always rather liked, and beyond being a fancy party trick for a knitter, they fit pretty well too.  My copy of the pattern is from The Opinionated Knitter (there’s a title that’s always resonated rather well – and there’s so much to love in that one) but there’s a new book out  – The Complete Surprise, that gives me mixed feelings.

I’ve always been completely been entirely satisfied by this pattern in its original incarnation (I love working from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s handwriting. It makes me feel proper as a knitter) and I’ve never felt the need to alter a single stitch from the way she wrote it (except that’s a lie, I only do the buttonholes on one side, no matter what flavour baby presents – on account of my feelings about buttonholes) but this new book?

An urge to knit a baby surprise suit is suddenly born within me.

After I finish these booties. (I swear they are booties. There’s just a lot of sewing to be done. Then he’ll be a perfect wee pirate.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Something had to give

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 23:05

This morning I got up and went downstairs to make the coffee, and I stood there looking around at the complete chaos, and decided that today is the day I am getting it together. Now, this isn’t an unfamiliar thing to say to myself. My trigger threshold for cleaning the house isn’t super high – I like a tidy house, and I like to be organized, but I’m still me, and that means that mostly I wish it was tidy, and knit while I think about that and things slip farther out of control,  but today I realized that I’ve got to get a grip.  This happens all the time. I go to bed pretty regularly having decided that when the sun shines again in the morning I’ll be a completely different person. One who manages her time well, and cleans up messes as soon as they happen and throws in loads of laundry a long time before they’re wearing weird outfits because they didn’t, and is miraculously able to answer all her email and never runs out of tea, and I’m used to the disappointment of still being me at the end of the next day, but this time I really meant it.

Then I went and knit for a while.  Then I went to snuggle the baby and (rather ironically) wash Meg’s dishes and fold her laundry.

I know what’s happened here. I’m spending about 15 hours a week “grandmothering” (as my own mother so lovingly calls it.) it involves buying nursing pads and dropping off dinners and holding the baby and answering texts about his tiny fingernails and the way he likes to suck in his bottom lip when he nurses, and going to and fro from our house to his, and there is absolutely zero chance I am not doing even one of those things. He’s only going to be tiny for a little while, and I can see no universe in which me wearing a shirt that doesn’t have baby puke on it is worth missing any of that.

Also, I have a job, and I like to knit, and I’m pretty committed to the Bike Rally Steering Committee and Joe’s working long hours and should be able to snuggle a baby if he has a minute and … so something had to give and it was cleaning up, or doing laundry, or organizing anything at all, and now we live in a pit. There is not a single room that is acceptable. My entire nod to cleanliness has been to hang up towels after we use them so that we can go a week without laundry, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher yesterday – and I think Joe gave the toilet a swipe and took out the compost. He must have, because it’s gone.  (I suppose it’s possible the cat ate it as a signal of neglect.) You would struggle to find a clear spot on the coffee table to put down a coffee, there’s yarn everywhere, and the house is littered with post-it notes that say things like “BUY SOAP” or “10 MINUTES LAUNDRY.” (They have had little effect.)

I thought about all of that while I worked on another sweater for Elliot.  Not that one pictured above, that one didn’t work out. I wanted to knit him a little Baby Surprise Jacket out of the leftovers from my cowl because it’s super soft and cozy, but the gauge was wrong and I don’t have enough and I was lying to myself for about 12 rows before I had to accept the truth.  I swished through the stash and found some stripey handspun I’ve been waiting to use, and now that’s on the needles.

Working out fine, I still might not have enough, but I’m going to worry about that later. Much later, because something’s got to give, and it’s me. I’m going to start with the kitchen. Maybe after one more row.

 

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Mr Excitement

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 22:26

It would seem that Elliot has taken to modelling knitwear as a duck takes to water. He’s absolutely a natural.

He remains sweet tempered and easygoing, thus making him more like his father than any McPhee alive.  He’s seen here wearing a simple little garter sweater I banged out for him, because it’s still very chilly here in Toronto, and I am helpless not to swath him in great bales of wool for fear that he’s ever even a little bit cool for even one moment.  You would think that I didn’t know about central heat, the way I’m acting.

Yarn: One yummy little skein of Meadowcroft Dyeworks Rockshelter worsted in a colour ironically named Skinny Dipping, which is the only thing that Elliot doesn’t like.  Knit up on 4mm needles (I faked the pattern) and embellished with three little porcelain buttons from Round Rabbit. They’re perfect.

When I finished that, I got out a Habu Jacket that I’ve been meaning to knit myself, but I’m not sure it’s going to take.  I think Elliot needs more bootees. Or a hat. Or maybe another sweater. He’s bigger every day, and I’m going to have trouble keeping up with him.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Dateline – Toronto

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 18:19

Reports are emerging from Toronto this afternoon regarding a prolific local knitter who used to really get sh*t done, but in recent weeks has finally come to realize that no matter what approach she takes, how many lists she writes, or how precisely her schedule is organized, there inexplicably remain only 24 hours in a day, and each of them only have the standard sixty minutes, no matter how many post-it notes she sticks to the wall above her desk.

Witnesses claim that the complete dissolution of a system that was barely working began two weeks ago when the knitter became a grandmother.  “I don’t know what she was thinking” said a source close to the knitter. “I mean, you can’t just add a whole other person to your life and not take a couple of the post-it notes down, you know what I mean? She just kept saying it she could fix it with organization, but I think that she’s in over her head. The baby, the Bike Rally, the Retreats, The Knitter’s Frolic thing… She’s going to lose it.”  The source went on to report that the knitter had snapped the evening prior while serving bagged salad and dry toast for dinner,  claiming tersely that it still counted as a meal and mumbling that the source was lucky to get anything, and to hang up his towel after he uses it because they are  (*&^%ing out of clean ones.

This trouble has spread to mostl areas of the knitter’s life. A “friend” of hers reports that yesterday she proudly turned up to an 11am appointment at 11:30, absolutely confident she was on time. “That’s just not like her.” He said. “Steph’s really not late often, she’s pretty together, you know? I know she put this in her calendar. I can’t figure out what’s going on. Plus she made me look at pictures of that baby again. The kid’s cute and all, but I think she’s already texted me all of them.”  He reports that when confronted with the reality that she was 30 minutes late for their appointment, she took out her phone, looked at that day’s date,  incredulously tapped on the calendar, then stared incomprehensibly at the booking for 11am. “That’s really not…. ” she stammered, and then was overcome by wave of apologies while simultaneously answering a text about a missing help number for a training ride this weekend and making a mental note to eat lunch at some point while writing a talk for The Frolic this weekend and composing a reply to Megan addressing her query about burping and if you should wake a baby up to do it. (For the record, no.)

As we have come to expect from previous encounters with this knitter under stress, housekeeping went first, and the knitting has been the last thing to go. While dust bison roam the knitters home, everyone is out of clean clothes and a smell that has gone past “weird” and into “disturbing” continues to emanate from the fridge, itty-bitty knitted things  pour forth unabated.

This tiny hat followed the realization that the new baby was indeed too tiny to fit the things knit for him during his gestation, but that the weather had not yet turned, and he would need something on his head.

(Yarn is Madeleine Tosh Tosh Sock in an old colour called “Happiness.” Pattern an old favourite from the Original “Homespun Handknit“)

A pair of bootees followed immediately thereafter, because his feet looked cold, and he didn’t match, and despite the absolutely impossible level of chaos in the knitter’s inbox and on her desk, that seemed like a priority.

Pattern is Baby Moc-a-soc (downsized slightly, and knit in the round.) Yarn’s the Mad Tosh from the hat,  along with a wee bit of the same yarn in “Antler”, and this reporter can attest that while we are all pretty damn sick of the baby pictures, these are only sweeter on his widdle feetsies.  (Ahem.)

Despite all of these challenges, the knitter has so far, with the help of caffeine and crying alone in the bathtub, managed to meet all deadlines, spend lots of time cuddling the baby and continued to mostly do her job(s), as long as you take her at her word that she does not now, nor has she ever considered cleaning anything her “job”. She has appeared in public several times over the last few days and on the surface, appears to be holding up well. (There are sporadic reports that she texted a friend something like “oh man what was I thinking I’m not going to make it” but no actual proof.) The only outward crack in the facade has been a shocking tendency toward spelling errors in emails written in haste, the fact that she ate celery for breakfast twice because it was all that was in the house, and yesterday – left a freshly knit baby sweater outside to dry, immediately before a torrential downpour, where it stayed until it was completely sodden and in need of re-washing. Of this lapse, the knitter would only say “For (*$^%s sakes.”

(Photo procured after evidence was removed from the scene.)

When last heard from the knitter in question was typing frantically at her laptop, with her life in tatters all around her, softly mumbling “next week I’m going to get all this together” while her family stood nearby, shaking their heads gently.   We attempted to reach the knitter for comment, but all we received was a reply was an email that read “Isn’t he the most darling thing ever?” and the attached baby picture.

This would have been more annoying, did this news outlet not agree that he is freakin’ adorable. We will continue to follow this story closely.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Dear Elliot

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 18:41

I did not know, my sweetness, what it would feel like to be a grandmother. I tried to imagine it, and I wasn’t able to, not the whole time that you were on your way. I knew I would love you, that was certain – but the rest of it was a secret I’m only just now figuring out. My own mother has turned out to be such a wonderful grandmother, that I felt a lot of pressure, so I hope I do okay. It has started like this – you are so beautiful that I have shown your picture to every person I have encountered in the last 10 days. (The lady at the wine store agrees that you are perfect, and the guy who does our taxes (your Poppy Joe sent that one) agrees. Several taxi drivers have concurred, and I like to think that the lady at the grocery store can’t wait for an update.)  I have not been so besotted of a human since your Mum and Aunties were in my arms. I cannot get enough of you, your tiny fingernails are miraculous, your little mouth, so like your mother’s, I could look at it all day. In this way, my Elliot, becoming a grandmother was like becoming a mother. You are like sunshine, I can watch you for hours, and holding your small body in my arms almost hurts, it is so divine.

It’s different than being a mother though, because I am not afraid.  I don’t worry you’ll stop breathing, I am unconcerned by your snuffles and sneezes, I am not anxious about hypothermia if your hands feel cool, and I don’t fear for your future when you sleep through a feeding. I felt that fear for your mum, and it was all used up on her. I’ve seen how it goes now, and I know you’re not as tenuously here as it seems. When your mum asks me if you’re okay, it’s with an easy heart that I can reply that your are not just okay, you’re perfect. You changed that – promoting me from fretting, over-concerned mother, to confident, unworried grandmother, and it’s a change I’m enjoying. it is no longer my responsibility to make what feel like crushing, all important decisions about life and death matters, like whether or not you should have socks on. That is for your mum and dad, and the part of me that remembers the feeling enjoys watching them fuss over you. (The present debate centres around your fingernails. Do they need cutting? Are they too long? What if you scratch yourself? How should they cut them if they are too long? They are beautifully finding their feet as parents, and seeing them take on the role and the responsibility so well is almost as compelling and satisfying as your eyebrows.)

You’ve rippled through our whole little family, reminding me that babies are huge that way. Though you’re tiny, you’ve had an impact on all of our lives. Our whole dynamic has changed and we’re all looking forward, and dreaming, and imagining who you’re going to be, and what you’ll be like. So far, you’re easygoing, thoughtful, and worried – a lot like (me) and your Great Uncle Tupper, who’s name you bear. I’ve been thinking a lot about him this week, and I thought a lot about my own grandparents too,  as I did with your mother and aunties, wishing that they were here, wishing they could see you. I was blessed Elliot, with the most wonderful grandparents in the world, and though I only had them until I was in my teens, they remain two of the most powerful people of my life.  It was this that was in my mind when I started your blanket. The centre panel is Lily-of-the-Valley. It was an easy choice – for it reminds me of my own grandmother. It was a favourite of hers, and at her house a long bed of it bloomed every spring, and smelled like heaven. Your mother is named for my grandmother, and you’re the child who makes me a grandmother, and so Lilly-of-the-Valley it was.

Surrounding that centre is a wee border of ring lace. Tiny, perfect circles, meant as a symbol of the whole family that surrounds you. We are a small family, but we are tight, and we know how to operate as a team. it’s been said that we’re a hard family to break into – but you, little boy, are in, and the force of the wee and fierce McPhee army stands round you.

That motif gives way to a pattern of dog paws, meant to acknowledge your dog Penny. (She’s the border collie who keeps trying to lick your face, and comes over every time you fuss to make sure that someone is taking care of her people-puppy.)  I am not a dog person, but Penny is a very good dog, and I suspect she’s going to be your first and fiercest friend.

The largest border on your blanket is your heritage – where you come from, in the context of the great big world. Your mother is Canadian, so snowflakes for her – and your father is Nicaraguan, so the little flowers are Nicaragua’s national flower, the sacuanjoche. (It is hard to knit one, but I think it’s close. Maybe when I teach you to knit you’ll come up with something better.)

Finally, the edging I choose for you is an old one – unlike the dog paws, snowflakes or the flowers, I didn’t have to make it up. It’s a variation of Print O’ the Wave, and besides being beautiful, it’s a symbol of much. The water we all love to be near and in,  and the water you were born from and into, the wave of love that carried you here, and it isn’t lost on me that it looks a lot like the climbing plant in your living room that your parents both love.

All together, your blanket is just over 2 and a half kilometres of silk and wool, soft and strong, like I hope you and life will be. It is a great thing to be resilient, and gentle.  It took me months to make it, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever made. I shudder to think how many stitches are in it, but know that I didn’t resent a one of them. They all hold my hope and joy, and there is so much of that – I couldn’t have knit a stitch less.

I know that right now, we don’t know each other very well. You’re young, and you’re perfect and you sleep a lot, and so much about you is yet to be revealed. Will you play the piano, like me? The guitar like Joe? Will you be tenderhearted, like Erin and your mum, or dangerously witted, like your Great Grandmother Bonnie or your Great Uncle Tupp? Will you be able to write like your Grammy or my Grampa, will you love crosswords and languages and travelling like Ian? Will you be fierce like your Aunt Amanda? Resilient like Samantha? Are you the child who is finally curly-haired, like me? Will you be tall? What will come from your father and his family? What will be all yours – the things that make you your own self, that we all come to think of as your gifts? We can’t wait to find out, and I am weepy and overwhelmed thinking of a lifetime of learning you.

You will go on to do a great many things, but know that even though you are so little, you have already changed the world. Though I will do my best to stand between you and sadness, you are going to have bad days. It is my fondest wish that on those days, you remember this.  You are a wanted, longed for, and deeply loved person, and you are everything we ever hoped would happen. You are my grandson.

Welcome, and I love you.

Grammy

Categories: Knitting Feeds

On the Outside

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 01:39

I have started and deleted this post about twenty times. Editing, deleting, re-writing, deleting, trying to say the right things about Elliot’s arrival, and what it was like. This time I’m just going to write straight through, and whatever happens, happens, because like all the times I try to write about big things, it never seems right, but now that I’ve realized I was writing about the wrong thing, maybe it just will be.

Elizabeth Stone wrote “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” I’ve always felt this, as most mothers do, to be absolutely true, and wonderful, and horrible and risky in its truth.  Motherhood for me has been all of those things. Fabulous and heartbreaking and easy and hard and dangerous and frightening and glorious. Usually all at the same time, and while you are doing laundry.  I tell you this, because it perhaps explains what happened to me when Megan told me she was pregnant. I knew it was coming. I’d even suspected it for a while, and I thought that when they made the decision to get married a baby was what they were really after, but somehow – when Megan said that she was expecting, I did something horrible. I congratulated her and Alex, and then I excused myself, and I went to the bathroom and cried. Not happy tears either, not “I’m so happy for you” tears, but some sort of heartbreak that took me by surprise. Everyone knew I was crying, and it was days before I knew why, or could even start to explain myself. I think that people thought that I didn’t want to be a grandmother, or that I thought she was too young (she’s not) or that I’m bad with transitions (I am) or that I was too young (I’m not.) It wasn’t that at all – I was fine with me being a grandmother.  I was heartbroken that Meg was going to be a mother. That her fine, young, happy heart was going to start going round around outside her body, and that with that, she would get all the joy, and also all the pain and work and risk that motherhood brings.

It was a maternal reaction, I see that now. Some wild urge to protect my daughter from… well. Let’s be frank. I wanted to protect her from everything she’d ever done to me, and it took me a few months to settle down, but I did. (As an aside, this trait must run in the family, because I think my mum went through the same thing.) As the months went on I started looking forward to it, and as a retired birth worker, I was over the moon when Meg asked me if I’d come to her birth. She was planning a home birth with midwives – a practice I wholeheartedly support, and the way I had my girls, and she set about preparing herself, and her husband Alex did the same. (A little note here, let’s not debate home birth in the comments. I know it is not the case in much of North America, but here in Ontario we have educated, licensed midwives who are registered primary care attendants, and they are covered in our provincial health care plan. The research where we live is clear. Low-risk healthy women and babies are more likely to stay that way if they give birth at home.) I (eventually) became beyond excited.

Let’s fast forward to last Thursday, when I was about to get on a plane and leave my daughter to work at the DFW Fiber Fest. I’d booked the work before Meg was even pregnant, and although it was a tiny bit of a risk, I felt sure that it would be okay. First babies are seldom early, and almost never that early, and so with Meg’s blessing, I got on that plane and left. Friday morning I texted her and said something like “Whew! We got through the first night without you having a baby!” and two minutes later the text came back… “About that…”

Meg was (maybe) in labour. She’d started having contractions about every ten minutes that morning. I swore, and then I went to breakfast.  Sometimes labours start and stop. Contractions didn’t mean a baby was coming – so I went to work. I taught the morning, and then at lunch, Meg texted that they hadn’t stopped, and I spent the next 15 minutes having a complete nervous breakdown. I tried to find the part of me that could stay at work and miss the birth. I tried to imagine the part of me that did that, the part of me that has been to so many births for clients, but misses my own daughters, – and then I called my friend Jen (student midwife) and she told me what I already knew. “Go home.” She said. “I’m supposed to work two more days” I said. “Imagine that it’s twenty years from now” she said. “Where will you wish you had been?”

Right around then, a representative of the DFW Guild walked into the room, and I told her everything. I might even have almost cried. I told her I was trying to be the sort of person who stayed and taught while her grandchild was being born, but that I was failing. Then I stood there, and looked at her, and… Blog, I will be eternally grateful for this…She said “Family first. What do you need to get home?”  (Here I must note: my eternal thanks go out to the executive of the DFW Guild, and the knitters who were booked to have a class with me and missed out. Your generosity and kindness was a tremendous gift, One that I will never be able to repay, though this time next year, I’ll try.) A quick call to Joe, and I was tentatively booked on the 7:30pm flight to Toronto. (It was the soonest one.) I taught the rest of the day, then checked in with Meg to see if things were still underway (they were) then Joni (the spectacular teacher liaison for the guild) drove me to my hotel, I bugged out faster than a MASH unit, and she drove me to the airport like James Bond. I was at the airport about 45 minutes after class ended.

The whole flight home, I was wild. What if the baby is born before I get there? What if I go home and the baby is born in three weeks and I left for nothing? How mad will the knitters be? I was my dear blog, a mess.  (Photo below of the guy who sat next to me on the plane, and upon learning that I was flying home for the birth of a grandchild, showed me 837364557 pictures of his granddaughter, born just months before. He was reassuring.)

Joe picked me up from the airport at 1am, the baby not born yet, and he was so excited that when he got out of the car to put my case in the trunk, he forgot to put the car in park and had to chase it. The family text group was on fire. No baby yet, contractions continuing… Meg was going to try and rest. By 5am her contractions were at 5 minutes apart, and we all knew it was showtime. I spent the day knitting on the blanket, checking my phone to make sure the volume was on, and trying to deal with Joe, who was (still) so excited, that when he got on the phone with Air Canada to cancel his flight to Calgary that day, as he explained to the agent that his daughter was having a baby, cried from joy enough that she didn’t charge him a change fee. By late afternoon, I was crazy. I’d been texting with Alex, who kept assuring me that Meg was doing beautifully, but knowing Meg, and knowing how my labours had been, I had the feeling that she was farther along that she was letting on. I had a sneaking suspicion that her ability to cope so beautifully was making it look like her labour wasn’t intense, when really, she was about to bomb drop a baby on us. (I know this, because it’s pretty much what I did with her and her sisters. McPhee women specialize in having a grip, often to our own detriment. We are stealth. You never know when we need help.) Alex, who was doing a spectacularly wonderful job and knows this about his wife, snapped and called me and the midwife around suppertime.

I arrived, walked in the door, and Meg fell into my arms. It was very, very clear to me that there would be a baby soon, and she settled into the birth pool, and then… oh Blog. She proceeded to break my heart into a million pieces, over and over, and over again. She was graceful. She was gorgeous. She was strong and she was gentle and she was… she was perfect. Her labour with her babe was just like my labour with her, and I was carried on waves of remembrance and of pride and while on the outside, I helped her and Alex and the midwife set up. While she breathed her baby out and let it carry her, on the outside of me, I held a cool cloth to her brow and held her hand, and laid out towels and birth supplies, and on the inside, there were no words. Never, in my life has my heart walked round more outside my body, never have I felt more keenly the cord that connects me forever to a person I gave birth to.  There are no words for her strength. She was absolutely perfect. Absolutely beautiful, and absolutely something I had always hoped she would be.

At 8:17pm, her baby slid from her, and the midwife gave him a little push, forward between Meg’s legs, and he rose up, right in front of her in the water. She sat back on her knees, looked at him swimming there, and then reached down, and lifted him up to her, up out of the water, and into the world of air, and wild things, and love.

I had expected, Blog, that in that moment, I would be possessed with my grandchild. That his small self would be the star of the moment. That I would see him, and he would be my moon and my stars and the focus of all of my heart. I thought he would sweep me entirely… and he was lovely. He was perfect and tiny and early and his ears are like little shells, and his small hands are everything I have ever needed or loved or found beautiful, to be sure, but Blog… I was all eyes for my sweet Meg.

My grandson is beautiful, for sure, but he was not my star.  Friends,  have you seen the glory that is my girl?

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Categories: Knitting Feeds

He’s new here

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 13:52

Blog, please meet my grandson.

We’d like to introduce Elliot Tupper, and he was born yesterday in the evening, two weeks ahead of schedule. He is 7lbs 3oz, and just about the most perfect human being I have ever seen, with the exception of his amazing mother.  We are all beside ourselves with utter joy. I’ll tell the story his trip, but right now I have to go smell his head again.

(PS He is only an hour old in that picture can’t you tell how smart he is already.)

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Categories: Knitting Feeds

Bomb

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 15:51

I’m back in the airport after almost exactly 34 hours at home, and they weren’t totally all at home, because I had a Bike Rally Steering Committee meeting last night – and I felt pretty noble for turning up for it, let me tell you.  I arrived home at midnight Tuesday, slept, woke up, did laundry, checked in with my husband, did a bunch of work, wiped off the kitchen (I still can’t explain what happens to it while I’m gone) went to the meeting, repacked, slept, and now I’m an hour from boarding my plane to Texas and I’m such a knot of anxiety I can hardly cope. The blanket isn’t done, but I wasn’t planning to be done by now – just in case the superstition is real, just in case babies don’t arrive until after I’ve finished their blankets, I have made the decision not to finish until I’m safely home, and can be with Meg. The thought of missing my grandchild’s birth is a little heartbreaking, and so I’ll stack the deck in my favour any way I can.  I was planning to be a little farther along though – I was thinking that I’d get it wrapped up over this weekend but for the blocking and ends, and I’ve made myself a little visual aid so that I can see how it’s going, and it doesn’t feel hopeless.

See that? 54 repeats around is done, and I colour in a square when I finish a repeat. Dots and stars mark progress off in quarters. I know it’s dorky, but it’s making me either feel better (when I get a lot done) or very worried (when I don’t.) I got a lot done on the flight to the retreat, and a lot done on the way home, and almost nothing while I was there. I’ll have the flight today, and then spare time while I’m teaching at DFW Fiber Fest (not counting on a lot there) and then the flight home. That’s Monday. This wee soul just needs to wait until Monday evening, which might be a lot to ask. Technically, it would make him a smidge early, and wish Meg could have given me more than 9 months of notice so that I could have booked time off,

because look at that.  I’ll be back as soon as I can. Stay put, you two. Don’t do anything without me.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Whoosh

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 22:08

That’s the sound that the last week made. If you were anywhere near me you would have heard it, along with my desperate scribbling on to-do lists, as well as the gentle rustling of crumpled post-it notes scurrying in my wake. I had one of those weeks where every morning you get up and think “All Right. This might be possible if you just stay focussed.” and then by lunch you’re thinking “Holy cats I think I smoke” and by dinner you’ve resigned yourself to the whole plan being ON FIRE and by bedtime you’re swearing tomorrow will be better, full of hope and promise.  In the last week I have:

-Helped Hank make a garment for a fashion project he was doing to get ahead on his University credits.

Yes. I just typed that sentence. Yes, he is as tall as he looks. Yes, he is turning out to be pretty good at this sewing thing.  Yes, he made this, and he got an excellent grade.

(He even went to the fabric store by himself – and he worked in stretch fabrics and faux fur, and if you sew, you know that’s not easy. I only ripped one seam for him.)

-Worked on the baby blanket everywhere I went, and I went all over.

-Worked hard on getting some Bike Rally stuff ready for the first training ride of the year, which I missed (but will make up for later) and thanked Cameron for showing up for both of us.

–  Hosted and taught at a fantastic retreat in Port Ludlow together with Debbi and Judith.

-Discovered that they’d put a pair of flamingo statues in our hotel room, and did the only reasonable thing – which was to knit them a pair of leg warmers each, and then graft them onto their legs.

-Imagined the resort staff trying to figure out how to get them off.

-Laughed all the way home, where I’ll be for one day before heading to Texas. (While hoping impending grandson continues to stay put until I’m home (Monday) and his blanket is done. (Hopefully that’s Monday too.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

I would like a typo better

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 20:02

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

It’s Not Early

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 20:42

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.

Panic.

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Proof of Life

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 17:03

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

The Hand of Destiny

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 22:10

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Blur

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:20

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Attitude is most of it – Right?

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 19:47

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 info@strungalong.ca 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 info@strungalong.ca, and we’ll get you the details.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Forever

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:44

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.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

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