Yarn Harlot

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I had to carry it in a ziplock

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 03:20

Did I ever tell you, that in the wild mess that followed my mothers death, my phone was run over by an Uber?  Perhaps not, that time was really a scene – but in any case, I was on my way to Megan’s house for a family dinner, and as I stepped from the car, laden with dinner, knitting and containers, my phone slipped from my pocket and fell on the ground, awkwardly between the car and the door.

I gathered my things, and then realized I couldn’t reach my phone without closing the car door, and so did that. Naturally, closing the door was the a signal to the driver that I was done, and he rolled forward toward the rest of his life, and over my phone.

I don’t want to get into too many details about what followed so let’s just say that there is no phone that stands up properly to the weight of a Toyota Camry, but the important thing is that when I took it to the Apple store the next day, the dude assigned to solve my  problems said he had only ever seen one phone more destroyed than my phone, and that was dropped down an elevator shaft. He gave me a new one, and the whole thing would have been a non-event, except I am a jerk who cannot learn to sync my phone to my laptop, and so it turns out that it had been a little bit since that had happened.

As the car rolled over my phone, it wiped out the last four months of photos, and with it, the last three months of my mother’s life in pictures. I didn’t have a ton of pictures of her to lose because she was really ridiculously averse to having her picture taken* but I did lose the last birthday we had together.

I know now that It doesn’t matter that much. At the time I was goddamn gutted, and had the hardest time with it, but it turns out that I loved her and she loved me and four months isn’t really that much in the context of a lifetime, but it means that the last picture I have of us sharing a birthday is this one from the year before.

And here it is from the other side.  My brother Ian’s birthday is the 11th. Jen’s is the 12th, Mum’s is today – the 13th, and mine is tomorrow – June the 14th. Gemini babies, and we always had a cake with a lot of candles, and I don’t hardly remember the birthday song without so many names in it.

It is hard to describe what it is like to have her birthday the day before mine, and I’m not going to try. It’s just…hard.  We have always been birthday buddies, and now we’re not and…

Listen, let’s skip the rest.  I’ve heard from so many of you who are grieving, who’ve lost someone, who are forging your own path forward, and I’m going to tell you this on the off chance that it helps even one of you – this year is easier than the last. It doesn’t hurt less, not even a little bit. The pain of her death remains a sharp thing in my life, but I am… getting used to it. The pain knocks me down less, I see it coming more, and it is a predicable hurt that I’m learning how to navigate. Do I miss her less? Oh no. Not a little bit.  I dream of her voice, her hands, her laugh, and I long daily for her strength, insight and guidance. I wish for two more minutes with her, to walk on a beach with her again, and I would be embarrassed to admit what I would trade to have a cup of tea with her, but the reality that it will never happen is starting to feel more like the way the world works than a raging loss. I miss her, but oh, almost everyone loses their mum. It’s the way things are.

So, another birthday of hers, on the eve of another birthday of mine, and I am here to tell you that I miss  her, but that it is probably going to be okay, and that you should go back up your phone right now, in case things get strange with an Uber.

*To my darling girls, take my picture. I’m sorry I said no before now. Take it.  As much and as often as you want. Selfie? I’m up for it. A picture where I look fat? DO IT.  An odd angle where my eyes look strange? KEEP IT. That thing my hair does that looks like the Queen Mum that I try to fix and make worse?  SNAP IT. Anything you want my sweeties. I know now that I’ll never care, and you’ll care a lot. Have at it, and I won’t say a word, thanks to your Gram.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

When I get my life back

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 23:53

Warning: I have tried to make this shorter. It didn’t work.  Hi. It’s me.

Over the last two years, I’ve made a commitment to PWA and the Bike Rally, that amongst other things, has meant that I was the Co-Chair last year, and (in a stunning turn of events) made me the sole Chair this year.  There’s been a lot of fallout from that – not the least of which is that my house has never been more trashed, my blog never more neglected, my friends and family have never needed to be more steadfast in their support as I’ve needed more handholding (both literal and figurative) as I’ve tried so hard to move forward through this challenge. It’s been difficult for everyone – especially Joe, as he’s needed to work extra hard to make up for the shortfall in my income as I’ve essentially taken a leave of absence to direct my energy towards the Rally and its success, and dude has done more dishes than he really bargained for. (Thanks buddy. You’re the best.)

I couldn’t have predicted that it would be like this. I knew a lot about what challenges lay ahead when I decided to take it on, but I didn’t know that destiny had a few curve balls to throw my way – who could have guessed, for example, that my Mum, my biggest help, supporter and longtime lightpost would be forced out of existence just a few days after I took it on, and that I’d navigate this whole thing while trying to manage my grief, the grief of my family, that it would be compounded by the loss of Susan shortly after, or the reconfiguration of everything that followed.  It has been complicated.

I will no longer be the Chair of the Bike Rally in 80 days. Increasingly, I find myself doubling down, working even harder, saying to myself that if you’re going to make a commitment, a sacrifice, that it should be absolutely worth it,  and that if this hard thing was worth doing, it is worth doing well, and so every day I send emails and wrangle a hardworking Steering Committee and navigate the Board and volunteers and worry about training rides for everyone else and worry about my own 50 year old body making it through training and I am consumed with concern about whether or not  everyone is safe and worry that this effort- investing in the sustaining fundraiser for PWA will fail to sustain them if I don’t get and keep my s**t together… and Blog, I feel like I can say this to you because we are so close… it has been scary and hard and I hope I am the right person to be in charge because so many people are counting on me for their very lives and worse….

I have started a countdown. Any minute of any day you can ask me how long it is until the Bike Rally safely arrives in Montreal, and I can tell you how many days, hours and minutes it is until that happens, and WORSE I have begun thinking of that moment, the minute that the responsibility for this transfers to some other brave soul, as the moment that I get my life back.

Today I had an epiphany (which is a word that sounds like Stephanie and I have always liked it for that.)

This is my life.

I am not waiting to get it back. This is my one wild and precious trip around the earth, and I know that when my Mum died, nobody could have been more surprised than she was. I know for a fact that she thought she had more time. That she was going to clean out her junk drawer, get the basement sorted, make a more time for more people, do even better in contributing to charities, and that when she left me, she was not done. Not by a long shot- and I realized that I don’t want to keep thinking about the days that I spend on this as a weird period I’m going through that will result in my real-life coming back. This is real life.

This is a world where every day you have just that day to make a difference, and here’s what I’ve learned about the Bike Rally, and the people who take part in it – They have all decided to give a voice to those that can’t be heard loudly enough.  Increasingly, as we get a grip on HIV/AIDS, it is those that are privileged that reap the greatest benefits. Those with access to healthcare, money, homes and support are living longer and better lives. On the other side, people who don’t have those things (women, children, immigrants, indigenous people, refugees, those struggling with mental illness and addiction) fall farther under the wheel, and need our defence.  (I will quietly state that much of the current political climate does little to help these people and families and leave it there.)

So- here I am, late (because the state of my inbox means that I am late to everything right now) asking for your help. Once again, Team Knit will ride for the Rally, and for people who need us, and we’re going to ask you to do what you can. This year Team Knit is:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

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,  we’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again, because I think I can answer that many emails. (I hope I am not wrong.) As often as I can 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. (If you’ve already given this year, obviously you should send an email.)

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 the smallest gifts make a big difference.)

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier -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!

Finally, I know that many of you will lovingly speak of self-care to me right now. Know that I hear you, and that I’m doing it, while knowing that self-care isn’t anything without community care, and that we all have a responsibility to create the world we want. This last weekend I didn’t just ride my bike 80km, answer a million emails and try to be a good mother and grandmother, I also gratefully watched while Joe made dinner, told Ken all about everything hard and lay helplessly on Cameron’s couch after a marathon meeting while he plied me with wine and told me what a great job I’m doing, and we worked on his knitting, and mine, and I thought about how this is my one trip. I can’t wait for when I get my life back. This is my life.

I’d love your help.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

There is a tiny button in the back

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 18:15

Another pair of socks finished. I tell you, this phase where I’m working all the time and on the go so much means that it’s sock-o-rama in these parts. Easy to pick up and put down, easy to plow through in meetings, no patterns, easy to knit and walk… wait, hold on, I have to make sure the baby is still asleep…

Yes. He’s still out like a light. I’ve got to keep an eye out, he’s my responsibility for a while today, and I’ve got a perfect safety record I don’t want to screw up when some flighty toddler rolls himself off a chesterfield. Anyway, as I  was saying…

All done, one pair of plain vanilla socks, another contribution to the long-range-planning box.  These ones are Gauge Dye Works again (I swear I’m only a little obsessed with that yarn) in a colourway called Azurite B. (Naturally sold out, since I’ve had this one in the stash for a bit.)

I love this style of sock yarn- it’s cabled. Not the kind of cabled knitters think of but spinner-cabled, which means that if you peer at the yarn,  it looks like a tightly plied 4-ply yarn.  Upon closer inspection, each ply is actually a 2-ply which is very exciting indeed (if you are a yarn person. I admit – after conducting several experiments that ordinary people seem less into this.) When it comes to yarn, twist is glue. In cabled yarns, the fact that each ply has two contributors to the twist pile means these yarns are stronger than you’d expect and handle abrasion really, really well.  A tightly plied 4-ply cabled yarn holds up far better than 4 tightly plied singles. (Which again, is a very interesting sentence to most of us, and I assure you isn’t anything you should bring up at neighbourhood barbecues, even if someone seems to be interested in your knitting at the outset.)  Short story – it’s a good formula for sock yarn.

In related news, there were leftovers,

so now Bunny has a skirt and sweater set, and I am only slightly concerned that this latest bunny outfit charmed me as much as the first.

There is no end in sight with the bunny stuff. I couldn’t stop if I tried.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Truth and Lies

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 22:00

My May socks are done, done last week, actually, and it makes me feel pretty heroic that this little plan of mine is coming together so well.  I’ve been so busy lately that I’m surprised anything is working out, but I had a bunch of travel time and voila! The Self-Imposed Sock Club – May installment.  (This, of course, is not a finished sock.  I just love this picture a lot.)

Here are finished socks.  The pattern’s Saxe Point

The yarn’s one of the amazing schemes dreamed up by Catherine at Gauge Dye Works.  (I have spoken at length for my weakness for both this person and her yarn, and this remains unchanged. She’s lovely.) The colourway was called French Beach, though it looks like it’s sold out – but it has been for ages. Things come, things go- though I wish this one would come back. It’s possible to make these socks without that yarn so I guess it’s not really tragic, just not the world as I would have it. (Catherine if you are listening I want the Saxe Point one back more if I get to choose but any of them would be good and I don’t want to seem picky ok cool.)  I knit these as written except for two things – first, I prefer to knit my socks top down, so I reversed the pattern, and mine match, because while Andrea Rangel is very nice and obviously clever, I can’t handle her wild mismatching scene. While I have grown as a person and can now tolerate mismatching socks (for other people mostly) I still love the deep satisfaction of matching socks up to the very stitch. Mine do.

I had leftovers this time, so like last time, the bunny (still genderless, still nameless, preferred pronouns, Megan has informed me are them and they) has another outfit.

I pulled out the colours I needed from the self-striping leftovers. There were more ends to weave in, but it was pretty damned satisfying.

The sweater? I can give you an update.  You know that voice you hear when there’s something wrong with your knitting, and you can feel it? It starts to tell you that something’s not right, and then we all keep knitting for another few days (or a week) while we try to ignore the voice, even though we all know the voice is right. The voice is almost always right.  Usually the voice I hear whispers about the size of things, and this time was no exception. For a few days (okay a week) the voice has told me the sweater is too small, though my washed swatch said it would be okay. “LIES” the voice screamed. “Keep the faith” the swatch told me.

This morning I couldn’t stand it anymore and washed and blocked the sweater in progress, and compared it to a sweater I like for fit, and guess what?

Plot twist, it’s completely fine. This time the voice was a skanky liar, and the swatch was telling the truth.  I tell you, I could live to be a hundred and knitting will never make total sense to me.

I’ll finish it when it’s  dry.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

There’s one in every crowd

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 00:49

This year’s winter was long. Long and cold and snowy, and spring feels like it hasn’t bothered to arrive. Sure, the flowers are starting to bloom, there’s crocus up in my garden (though it’s snowed on the poor little things a few times) and my neighbours have scilla and in a few glorious and sheltered spots there is evan a daffodil or two, but they are blooming in chilly temperatures and grey weather, barely above freezing. Spring isn’t a warm and lovely thing this year, at least not yet. (I hear from Torontonians that the weather changed the minute I left. That feels a bit personal.)

As I was waiting for the bus last week, freezing my arse off because I’d done that spring thing where you put on a spring jacket because you can’t stand to wear a winter coat for one more day even though it’s only three degrees out… I snapped. It suddenly seemed to me that if it was still going to be cold and maybe snowing and definitely not spring or warm, that we (Joe and I, he was the willing victim of this last plan) should give up and dive in. If it is going to be winter still, then dammit, winter it shall be, so we got on a plane and headed to Banff.

It is definitely still winter here – complete with a snowstorm and perfect skiing conditions and Joe and I are working in the evenings and early mornings, but spending our days on the slopes, and maybe when we get back home, it will be *(%$^&&ing spring, but that’s not what I came to tell you. I thought you’d care more about the knitting I packed, so here’s a quick tour. I brought four (4) projects for a six (6) day trip. (Two of them are travel days though, so you know. Reasonable.)

  1. My May socks. They’re Saxe Point, knit in French River from Gauge Dye Works – the yarn’s dyed just for the pattern. I knit the first one on the way here, casting off as we left the house, and grafting the toe shut as we sat down to dinner here in Banff. I’ll knit the other on the way home, I think. (I documented that knitter trip on Instagram, if anybody wants to see the blow by blow.) We leave in the morning, and I’ll cast on then and see if I can repeat the trick.

2. We’re taking the bus to the hill everyday, and I needed some plain knitting for kicking around the ski hill, so here’s another one: Just a plain vanilla pair of socks the basic pattern I keep in my head, yarn is Gauge DyeWorks again (huh, just realized I grabbed two of those) in Azurite B.

I don’t think I’ll finish these on this trip, they’ll probably kick around my bag for a few more weeks, being the socks I knit when I’ve only got a minute, or it’s dark out.

3. When I was at the Knitter’s Frolic last week, I had the strangest experience. You know, I really like to knit and wear pretty plain clothes. I like classics, my taste runs in the direction of Amish, and I like tame colours like brown so much I need to occasionally check that I’m not dressing like I work for UPS. You could have knocked me over with a feather then, when I was at the Fair at the Feisty Fibres booth, and she had some yarn that she’d worked up in collaboration with The Yarn Therapist.

Neat, right? The self-striping yokes come from The Yarn Therapist, and then Feisty Fibres makes the co-ordinating solids, and voila. They’re a lot like the self-striping sweater yarn from Gauge Dyeworks, except separate, so I really am rocking a theme this week.) I picked up those skeins there, and then was absolutely stunned when someone next to me asked who I was making a sweater for, and I said “Me.” The colours are a bit bright for me (if by “a bit” you understand that that these are a bit bright the way that Pepe Le Pew is a little bit of a poster child for sexual harassment) and I’m not sure I can wear the resulting sweater, but I’m going to try. I really love it. Since the yarn is bold, the pattern is very plain. Knitting Pure and Simple’s Neckdown Cardigan for Women. Nothing to it.

I’m at the bottom of the body, just about to do the ribbing (or maybe garter stitch, I’m a wild animal, it could be anything) and I think I’ll likely finish this sweater pretty fast. It’s all coming together. (It remains to be seen if I can wear something this bright, but it turns out I can knit it, so that’s step one.)

4. This one’s a bit of sad story. I had every intention of knitting Sea Tangles (that’s Habu’s stainless steel/wool thread) but it’s not working out. I still love it, the pattern is great and I’m still going to knit it, but I have to admit (after knitting the whole front and part of the back – knitter optimism is a terrible thing) that I am definitely not knitting the right size, and I need to start over. I brought this one along just to rip it out, but there’s one project on every trip that I never touch, and this one is it. All the attention it has had is this photo, poor thing.

Maybe next week Habu. Maybe next week.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

A Theme

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 16:25

Here we are, the first of May, and last night I squeaked my April socks in under the wire.  The Self-Imposed-Sock-Club continues to go really pretty well – I stuck the landing in January, February, March and now – boom. April’s socks were finished on time too. A small confession though – I didn’t pull a bag from the Sock Club for these ones.  I’d done that, gone and gotten a bag – I wound the yarn and everything, and then I was at the DFW Fiber Fest and I was in the Must Stash Yarn Booth and I saw the Ready Player One yarn and then…

Yup. Lost it. I dropped that first yarn like it was moth-ridden trash, and these babies simply fell off the needles. I adore them, and they match my current favourite (store bought) sweater perfectly – which upsets me to no end, because I didn’t knit them in my size.  They’re too big – I have really tiny feet, and as much as I wanted these to be for me, I knew that it wasn’t a good fit. That colourway has 32 stripes, and I know I don’t have enough foot length to showcase it. They’re in the long-range planning box now, and someone will be rather happy come Christmas, I predict.

I didn’t use a pattern, just banged them out as a plain tube, with a half round of waste yarn knit in where I wanted the heel to be.  When I was done knitting the foot, I went back, unpicked the yarn, and knit a heel in. (Well, technically I knit in a toe. They’re the same.) I’d call it an Afterthought Heel, but I feel like if you plan one then maybe you can’t say that. I did rig the heels and toes a little bit, pulling out a bit of yarn here and there to keep the stripes equidistant as the number of stitches in a round changed, because I can be picky like that, and I’d rather weave in extra ends than not have them stripe perfectly, all the way to the ends.

Also, I knit the leftovers into a frock for the bunny and I love it almost as much as the socks. I don’t see this bunny clothes thing really wearing off.

That will be all.

(PS. It took almost as long to take those pictures – dashing from the camera to the chesterfield while trying to keep things in focus -as it did to knit the dress, except for the collar. That was %$&ing fiddly.)

(PPS. There’s a few spots suddenly free at our Strung Along June Retreat.  June is the one we call “Knit, Play, Cook” and it’s a day of knitting classes with me and Debbi Stone, a day of dyeing with Judith MacKenzie, and a day of cooking classes with Chef Dan and his team. There’s details here – drop us a line if you’d like to join us. This is, by the way, the only retreat we do each year that’s for knitters – no spinning skills required, and knitters (and cooks) of all levels will do just fine.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Maybe it’s the tail

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 18:48

I like to think of myself as some sort of higher-order knitter.  I know, as I type it, that this is quite vain. I can feel that – the little tingle in the back of my mind urging humility and saying “Oh, well now, don’t you think you’re all that and a bag of chips.” Understandably, that voice sounds exactly like my mother, though I don’t think she ever said that to me, I’ve just posthumously assigned her the role of judge and jury. Like I said, I know that it’s vanity, but as a woman who is perfectly well aware that she is neither stunningly beautiful, nor smokin’ hot, I am perfectly willing to invest my personal dose of egotism in this one area and say that I am a good and proper knitter – top notch really.

As this sort of knitter, I am occasionally surprised by what captivates me. Enter – the bunny. As Elliot’s second Easter approached and I realized it was the first Easter he would really care about or maybe remember, I decided I would knit him a bunny.

Let me be clear. Things were normal at this point. It was Easter, I have a grandbaby, I would knit him a bunny… super normal. I proceeded to search for same (it was not hard, this bunny was already in my queue.)

Halfway through the knitting of the bunny, I realized that I wanted the bunny gender neutral. Elliot should decide if the rabbit in question was a boy or a girl, so I swapped out the legs and feet with this boy bunny.  When I was done, the bunny was neutral. Not a boy or a girl, but decidedly bunny (see attached photo of bunny bum.)

Now here’s where it got odd. I decided I should knit the bunny some clothes, so he/she/it may cover itself in the manner of its (or Elliot’s) choosing, and as I decided what clothes I should knit, I felt an odd bit of knitterly obsession take hold.  As I cast on for a pair of bunny short pants, it happened.  You would think that this sort of knitting would be captivating, would you? It should be entrelac that gets me, intricate lace, cables that twist and turn all over a pair of socks, but instead here I was, obsessing over the hem of a tiny skirt and only wanting more. Should the bunny have pants? Should it have a sweater? Should there be a dress? A skirt? A CAPE? I rooted through the stash for appropriately tiny buttons. I cackled as a I finished the wee sweater.  I BLOCKED IT.

I started equipping a bunny for all possible life choices.  Is the bunny a girl in a dress? A boy in a sweater and short pants? A boy in a dress? A girl in trousers? The bunny needed options. The bunny craved choices.

In the end, Elliot was the one to decide.  It is a bunny.  It wears clothes. It is genderless, and simply likes to go for walks, and to look good while doing it.

He was clear, I think, though he’s still not much for wordy communication.

Me? Here I am, a knitter proud of my skills and abilities, and I’m trying not to knit a bunny a bear costume.*

*Only difficulties with the ears are holding me back.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Ok Fine

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 12:51

Today is the first training ride for the Bike Rally.  I’ve been watching this date creep up on me, trying to get my head around it.  I’ve even been at the meetings where we talk about when training will start, and what the schedule will be, and yay verily it was even me who approved the schedule, and I did so super calmly, and like I thought it was a good idea – which I do, intellectually.

Emotionally? Well, here’s the thing.  I have not been back on my bike since the accident last fall when I broke my wrist.

I can feel now, as I look at my bike in the hall, pump up my tires (wipe the dust off the bike) that I have made a mistake.  What I should have done was get back on my bike the exact moment that I was allowed to. Instead, when my allotted time was up, I told myself that the weather was too cold, that I was too busy…  I even kitted up a few times – putting on my cycling gear and telling people I was leaving, then standing there, not quite able to go.  I should have forced myself, because now here I am and I have given nervousness time and fertile ground to turn all the way into fear and dread.

Ken reminded me that I have ridden thousands of kilometres, and never hurt myself, except for that once. (Ken has a very analytical mind.)  Those are good odds, he reminds me.  He’s right too, getting hurt once doesn’t make it more likely I’ll fall again, that’s not how odds work, or learning, or luck.  I am, in fact – less likely to get hurt this time, and last night at a party, a cycling friend said that it would take “two strokes on the bike” and I’d remember everything that’s great about it. (I am hoping he’s right, but think that maybe he underestimates my ability to be properly neurotic.)

In any case, now I’ve got no choice.  I’m the Chair of the rally, I am simply going to have to ride my bike, and today is the day I have to start, so in 15 minutes I am going to *&^%$#ing leave here, and ride my bike and it is going to be fine and then I’ll be over it.

Right?

Anyway, if you want to- it’s a good day to send me a ding.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Dear Elliot

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 22:21

My darling Elliot, you are two now, and though I did not think it possible, we all love you even more than we did on your first Birthday – which is really saying something, because several of us cried that day out of sheer joy.

While I could wax poetic about your many fine qualities, and you are indeed one of the most charming people I have ever met, allow me to state here that you posses a miraculous trait, one we haven’t seen in our family for three generations – you are not picky in any way. You will try almost anything, if you can be reassured that it is safe. You will eat almost any food, if a royal taster eats it first, you will try any game, if someone else looks like they’re having fun before you, and you will go anywhere, if someone is going with you.

This isn’t to say that you don’t have preferences and opinions – you would, for example, rather die than eat mashed potatoes, and this is a position that I can respect. A reasonable amount of suspicion is warranted. You will learn as you grow older that mashed potatoes are a very fickle food often not worth eating, but other than that, you’ll happily give almost anything else a try, and this has led to some wonderful discoveries, like that your favourite vegetable at present is radishes.

You are in fact so adventuresome, such a little keener – so unlike so many other two year olds, we have dubbed you “The Yes Man.” Would you like to read a book? Yes. Would you like to go for a walk? Yes. Would you like to try this dinner? Yes. Would you like to go with Poppy to the store? Yes. Would you like to have a cuddle with Grammy? Yes. Would you like to taste this tofu? Yes. Yes, the answer is almost always yes.  Even when it’s bedtime and you’re decidedly not into that scene, your protests are pretty weak, for a two year old. If the heartless tyrants trying to make you lie down sweeten the pot with a story, you’re in.

You are patient, not just for a two year old, but a human, and you have a wonderful (if somewhat un-evolved) sense of humour. (We are still getting a lot of mileage out of bonking trains together.) You are a very, very good listener, and it boggles my mind that a simple “no thank you” is enough to redirect your mistakes, most of the time. You are sensitive, and very kind, even if you still wake your mother to nurse through the night. (She is very patient too, still – I don’t know how much longer she wants to party through the night with you. Think over your choices, will you? I know she appreciates your success in the potty department, but it might not buy you that much time.)

You are the absolute light of our lives, the best thing that’s happened around here in a long time, and I would do anything for you, even kill a spider, and I don’t think I’d do that for anyone else.

It is all this, my darling boy, that means I can forgive you this week’s one transgression, which was your absolute refusal to put on your Birthday sweater at your party. I’m no fool, I understand that a sweater can’t compete with a train, but note for next year, it’s good form to pretend.

Thanks for modelling it the next day – and thanks to your Mama for the snaps.

Pattern: Dog Star.  Yarn: Alpha B Yarn Bluefaced Leicester DK. Colours: Candygram (grey) Hey , Sailor (the blue) and Two Olives, Please. (The olive.) Size: a slightly shrunken version of the 2-4.

We love you, and I wasn’t serious about the night nursing. You do it as long as you want. Your Mama will miss it someday.

PS. Your hair is coming along nicely. Don’t listen to your grandfather. He’s just jealous.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 01:20

I tried really hard to write a post where I was all La-dee-da about something that happened today, but I just can’t gaslight you all that way. I’ve got to be honest, it’s just not fair otherwise. Last night I took a guess at a needle size, and knit a swatch for Elliot’s sweater. Then I washed it (because unwashed swatches are total lying arseholes) and because it’s colourwork. (Remember from a post or two ago? I want to see dye problems now, not in the finished sweater.) Then I laid it tidily out to dry, and went about my life.  I returned, not too much later and measured it.

Knitters, I have both stitch and row gauge on the first try.  Like I said, I was going to try and pretend to be all casual about that BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE IT IS LIKE FINDING A FRIENDLY SPARKLE UNICORN IN YOUR BATHTUB.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

That’s a Week Excuse

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 18:01

It snowed again last night, which is not at all unusual for March/April, and is still inexplicably heartbreaking. I got up, took one look at it, thought about what this all means to spring and hope and then I thought “What do I care. I am going to Texas.”  In three days I will get on a plane and I will go somewhere that the sun is shining and it is warm and flowers are blooming (maybe even the bluebonnets which is very exciting) and I will walk outside and not once while I am there, will I think of knitted accessories in their capacity to prevent frostbite.

I thought this, gleefully and happily, as I drank coffee – cheerfully raising my cup to the snow in as much of a of “screw you” gesture as one can manage with coffee in one hand and knitting in the other. (I have been practicing this particular gesture with those exact items in my hands for some decades now, and it’s actually pretty solid.) I thought about how nice it will be to see my Texas friends and some of my colleagues, and reflected that this event is one of my favourites every year, only made more perfect by the fact that this year, I’m home in time for Elliot’s 2nd birthday, which is the Monday after DFW.

In that exact moment -two things happened.  I imagined how cute he was going to look opening his presents and wearing his new birthday sweater, and suddenly realized that if I was looking forward to seeing him when I got back and that I was also looking forward to DFW in just a few days, that this actually meant whatever idea I had about there being buckets of time to get his sweater knit might be crazier than a bag of wet weasels.

I have been looking at the yarn for his sweater for about three weeks now – and I keep thinking about what a little sweater it is, and how it’s going to be so fast and I don’t have to worry, and now, suddenly, I think I have to worry, or at least start knitting. I’ve got seven days to whack together a sweater.

I should at least make a swatch today.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

And then she said

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 19:54

I don’t know if all of you know this, but the comments on blog posts (at least here) are, generally speaking- better than the post itself.  I don’t know how it happened, but there’s a lot of cleverness and entertainment going on in there. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that if one person types it, at least 20 people were thinking it, so let’s see what’s happening down there, shall we?

Elizabeth wrote: I confess that even though I teach stranded knitting, I’ve never knitted a pair of stranded socks. I guess I’m concerned that they won’t have the necessary elasticity.

I think lots of sock knitters (me included sometimes) more than occasionally rely on stretch in a knit to achieve fit, and get used to that. For example, short row heeled socks are often a poor fit for people with a high instep, simply because there’s less fabric present than with a flap heel. That’s just a fact. When I say that though, a whole bunch of knitters line up and say “nuh-uh. I have a high instep and I ONLY knit short row heels and they fit bloody great actually.” Then I look at those (very nice) socks, and low and behold, they’re knit at a looseish gauge that allows for heaps of stretch and that’s how they’re getting fit in the instep – the fabric is often quite stretched through that section. Nothing wrong with this as a strategy, except it stops working when you’re knitting stranded socks. Elizabeth is right – there is less stretch in a pair of colourwork socks like these, so you have to make sure that they actually fit – and it helps to consider a flap heel. (Insert lecture here about gauge. I won’t type it, you already know.)

Jeremy writes: I am going to get that pattern. I always sweat out the amount of yarn I have when I knit socks because I have US size 12 feet. (11.5 inches). 

Smart -I’ve got loads left, so this is totally a good big foot strategy. Ken’s feet aren’t quite as bit as yours, but I have 68/100g left of the grey, 60/100g of the white and 25/50g of the red.  I could make a whole other pair out of my leftovers.

Tracy B (and Charissa echoed her) said ” I’m just wondering though – would the decreases on the bottom of the heel bother a person? It’s almost like a seam right there.”

I don’t think so.  It’s not big at all, and after a wear or two will fade into the work – plus it falls right into the little arch of your foot, so it’s not like you’re really standing on it.  I freakin’ love it.  Plus, we’re all not as princess-and-the-pea as we think we are.  All commercial socks/hose/tights have a seam or two, and most of us wear them every day. (Well, not me.) Ken’s as fussy as they come that way, he’s the type of guy who’s had to excuse himself from a meeting to cut the tag off a shirt because he simply can’t go on, and I’m not worried this will bother him in the slightest.  I’ll let you know though.

Victoria (and Bridget) and probably a bunch of you because knitters are obsessed with this say: ” I just wish you had posted a picture of the inside of the socks so we could see how you stranded them.”

What, I ask you, is with knitters wanting to see the inside of stuff. I mean – I always want to see the inside too, but why do you think we are so weird about it? I’m not convinced it’s about construction – how we stranded them, or whatever, because I’ve heard knitters judge their work by the inside as well as the outside – like whatever amazing thing they’ve wrought on the public side doesn’t count unless it’s just as nice in secret.  We are an odd bunch, I tell you that, but I am with you – so here:

This should answer the question from Jan who said “I’m wondering about what you did about the floats? Did you catch every single stitch? I could see catching every 3 or so stitches on a hat, but in a sock , especially at the foot, it seems even short floats would catch toes and add to the general discomfort–”

As you can see, I certainly didn’t catch every one – that’s a recipe for a lack of stretch,  and a dimpled, inflexible fabric.  I only caught the floats once in the repeat – there’s a spot where the float goes seven stitches, and I caught it in the centre of that – and at the time I knew I didn’t have to do that either, but felt compelled.  You’d need freakishly tiny toes to worry about catching them.  The floats lie flat, and aren’t loops at all.

Pamela says “Do you block your socks in sock blockers or just smooth them out?”

I just smooth them out. They get a nice bath in the sink with slightly warm water and the wool wash currently in rotation. (Usually Soak or Eucalan.) When it’s been in there about 20 minutes, I give them a gentle tug in all directions to encourage things to even out, and then I gently squeeze them, roll them up in a towel and step on it a few times, then lay them flat to dry, pushing them into shape. Usually I come back once or twice while they’re drying to move them around a bit and rearrange things so that I don’t get fold lines. (This is almost always a failure, and doesn’t matter.)

Everyone in the whole world “Warm water holy crap Steph what the hell is wrong with you and I would be totally worried those socks would turn pink when you soak them in water especially warm, what the ^%&^%$# is wrong with you risking socks that way?”

Here’s the thing – before I do any colourwork of any kind, even if I have absolutely no concerns about gauge – I always, every time, I swear…. knit a swatch. At the very least I do a little stripey one, with all the colours in it, and then (always, every time, without fail) I wash that swatch.  I treat it exactly like it’s going to be treated in the warm, damp environment of shoes or boots.  The thing is this:  Before I give it this much of my one wild and precious life to a project, I want to know ahead of time if that dye bleeds. If the swatch can’t handle life, then the socks won’t – and they won’t get knit, at least, not out of that yarn.  I can treat the socks the way I do, because I treated the swatch the way I did. I’ve got confidence, or at least what passes for the knitters version of it.

So there you have it, a little Q&A – now if you’ll excuse me, it’s Taco Thursday (I know, wrong day of the week, we do things our own way here) and I’ve got an almost two year old grandson waiting for me. (And the tacos.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Three for Three or Four

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 22:22

This year’s self-imposed-sock-club continues to be a big fat win.  I finished January’s on time, as unlikely as that seemed, and then February’s were done before February was too. (Though I didn’t manage either time to post about them within the right month, so I’m giving myself two extra points for this one.)

March’s socks have slid along rather quietly under the radar. I didn’t post about them because they were Ken’s Birthday socks – though I’ve only just finished them now. (Two points deducted.) I was hoping to surprise him, but snapped on his birthday and gave him an unfinished sock – just before the toe.  I’d been knitting along at a pretty good pace, but as I got closer to the end of the sock I started to worry that they weren’t going to fit. This is an ongoing problem I have with socks for people with large feet. I’ve got small ones myself, and I’m accustomed to knitting for me, so when I cast on the appropriate number for a big guy, I spend the whole knitting trip spreading the work out on my leg every hour or so and saying “Really? That can’t be right.” I decided not to take any chances with Ken’s, and stopped knitting a day or two before his birthday so he could try them (it) on before I went any farther.

They (it) fit beautifully, so I pressed on.  The pattern for this elegant pair is Vägvarda (I had to google how to do the umlaut.) The yarn’s West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (again, I’m working through a stash of it I bought to do Cameron’s socks and some of Elliot’s ornaments.  It’s really nice, so I don’t mind) for the grey (Poppy Seed) and white (Milk Bottle.) The red’s Drops Fabel #106 (super sexy name) because WYS didn’t quite have the red I wanted.  For anybody keeping score – I used a 2.25mm needle, which is my standard for socks.

I loved knitting these.  What do you think it is that makes colourwork knitting seem to go so much faster than regular knitting? It can’t actually be faster, I know that’s not possible. I’m pretty comfortable knitting with one strand in each hand, so I do power through pretty quickly, but it seems to me that it comes of the needles faster than anything else. Is it because you’re following a chart? Ticking off one row after the other, with a concrete way to see how far you’ve come, and how far you have to go? And if that’s true, how come it doesn’t work for lace?

One last picture of this charming pair, this time of the clever and tidy gusset decreases, here positioned on the bottom of the foot. (A standard sock decreases by two stitches every other row on the gusset. Those decreases, as this sock proves, can go anywhere, as long as the sock gets smaller in circumference where the foot does.)

I lied, here’s one more –  this one that I snapped with my phone yesterday, before I finished. I’m posting it because here, one sock’s been blocked and the other – not. (That was so Ken could try on the first one.)  I hear so many knitters say that their colourwork looks shabby, and I’ve even seen people rip it out for looking shabby, and I just wanted to show you the difference a little swim and tidy up makes.  See? More than any other kind of knitting, blocking is important for colourwork. You really can’t tell if you suck before it hits the water.

Another bonus today – more socks, bringing this year’s total to four. I keep a pair of simple socks in my bag, knitting from the pattern I keep in my head. Yarn: Land Jawoll Color “Aktion” in the colourway fetchingly named 132.0265. Pattern: my own plain vanilla sock from Knitting Rules. (The only truly useful book I’ve ever written.)

 

I keep this knitting – plain socks, in my bag all the time – pulling it out when I’m on the subway, in a queue, at dinner, in meetings, walking down the street (when it’s not winter.) I beaver away at them here and there, and then every so often, when I’m least expecting it, a pair of socks falls off of me.

Peace out, see you in a day or two, and know that while knitting improves with practice, it remains really freakin’ tricky to take pictures of your own feet even after years of yoga and  trying.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Analepsis Is Not a Disease

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 15:26

Here I am, sitting at my desk, about to go properly deep into my inboxes. While I worked a little bit every day that we were away in Lake Louise it wasn’t enough to stop the inbox glacier from creeping ever larger, and today I’ve made coffee, set everything to “ignore” (including the house, which looks like a stampede of bison went through) and put my phone in a drawer.  Me and this inbox are going to tango till one of us drops, and it’s not going to be me. Before that particular dance starts though, a quick waltz with you lot. I keep saying to myself that I’ll blog as soon as I’m done with (insert absolutely unfinishable task here) so today I’m reversing it. You first, then once more into the breach, dear friends.

When last we saw our heroine, she was sitting in a hotel room, tapping out a blog post surrounded by skis and mohair, a combination that isn’t nearly as odd as it sounds, despite the infrequency of the mix.

My complete inability to demonstrate any sort of monogamy to a knitting project continues unabated, and so I’d taken five (5) projects with us for a seven (7) day holiday. Just think about that for a minute.  That means I thought I’d finish almost a project a day, while skiing six hours a day. I took two pairs of socks, a sweater (adult, only half way through the front) a cowl and a shawl. (The shawl and sweater never even made it out of the suitcase.) Both pairs of socks saw active duty (still in progress please stand by) and the cowl sort of turned into two cowls and I finished one on the flight on the way there, and almost the other.

Yarn: Canon Hand Dyes, Ombre Cowl Kit in Agatha Lace (70% mohair, 30% silk) Pattern, Ombre Cowl Hood.

Other than the part where I left a muppet’s worth of mohair fuzz everywhere I went, I loved making that cowl so much that the minute I finished (and despite having another two projects with me on the plane) I started another smaller one with the leftovers from the first one. It won’t be as big as the first, but still a proper cowl, I think.

It was bliss. Plain knitting, round and round, no pattern no fuss, 2 strands held together… It was knitting as comforting and cozy as a cup of hot soup.  I breezed through it completely, and it turns out it was perfect ski knitting.  The needles were big and blunt, and the yarn light as a cloud, so I felt fine about asking Joe to carry it in his pocket so that I had it to knit during skiing.  I worked on it at lunch, on the gondola, the lifts (if it was warm enough to take my hands out of my mittens.)

Upon reflection, it was this knitting/skiing combination that made it possible for me to finish any knitting at all, and I feel sure that if I cared less about the well-being of my husband, and worried less about the catastrophic consequences of him taking a spill down a mountain with Signature stiletto needles in his pocket, I probably could have finished the socks too.

Feel the love, Joe.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Where to?

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 14:23

Whoosh, I’m back on other side of the continent, for the third time in four weeks though I didn’t make it as far as I have the other two times.  First there was Madrona in Seattle, and then I was back for the Strung Along Retreat and now – hold on. Let’s back up. I’ve known for a while that if I’m not careful to keep a firm grip on my schedule these few weeks it will all turn into a nightmare rather than an intense phase, so let me try to keep it all in order, and let’s do it on the basis of what I was knitting when.  We’re all really knit-centric anyway, it probably matters more than location.

So, first I was knitting gnome socks – that was Madrona, and I was knitting them because it was Cameron’s birthday, and he’d been gone for several months, working far away. He got this idea to combine his birthday with a homecoming party, and somewhere along there it became a Gnomecoming party (don’t ask, the man appreciates a pun more than I do, and that’s saying something.) The minute I heard Gnome I was on it, thanks to this pattern.

Well, you’ll notice that mine is quite different than that one, so maybe it’s more like thanks to the inspiration of that pattern.  It comes in a women’s medium, and Cam’s a men’s large, so there was some upsizing involved. Also (and here’s sentence I never thought I would type) there was a few too many gnomes on those other socks for my liking, so I reduced the gnome intensity. Also, Cam likes stripes.

The yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply (a favourite of mine, especially for nice solids.) Most impressive about these socks is that not only did I trot them all over Madrona -but I managed to finish them before the party, and I had a few minutes to make appropriate wrapping arrangements. (Full disclosure. I finished at 1am the night before, which is technically the day of, but I don’t think so because then I went to bed.)

It turns out gnome wrapping paper to put your gnome socks in is harder than you think, so I drew some.  I feel like leaping on a theme is always best – and these count as my February socks, so I’m two months into my own little sock club, and doing fine.

Next, I was off to the retreat and so I wound some…

Actually – I can’t tell you that now.  Joe and I are on holiday in Lake Louise, and I just bugged him to get ready to go ski, and now he’s ready and I’m typing, and that doesn’t seem totally fair – so off we go. We had such a gorgeous day yesterday, and today we’re both pretty excited to get to the mountains.  Stand by.

(Or sit by, it’s easier to knit that way.)

 

Categories: Knitting Feeds