Yarn Harlot

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Updated: 5 days 8 hours ago

One Knitter to Another

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 23:59

It is one of my favourite things to knit for other knitters.  I know that seems counter intuitive, I suppose on some level you think that if they already have a pathway to knitted stuff that they aren’t going to want to get a gift of knitting. I mean, if you already had a blender, or in our case it’s more like you own a blender factory,  then a blender is going to be a pretty crappy gift.

It turns out though, that at least in my experience, knitters love getting knitted gifts. (Admittedly they also like yarn as a gift, but that’s to be expected.) In my knitting career it hasn’t been unheard of for the recipient of a knitted gift to not meet said gift with the enthusiasm that I’d like them too.  I hand them the box, they open it up, take out the pair of socks or scarf or whatever it is and say “Oh wow. Nice socks. Thank you, I love them.” That may seem like the right thing to say and non-knitters, it is enough gratitude, I assure you, but it is nothing compared to what happens if you give a knitter a pair of socks, which is that they totally get what has just happened. They know what you’re giving them, they know how long it took to make it, they know that you just took however many hours of your life that you could have given to anyone on this earth and gave it to them. That you couldn’t think of anyone else that you would love to give this container of love and time to, and furthermore, they are usually pretty damned impressed that this love-vessel fits.

Over the years I’ve trained most of my common victims in the mighty ways of knitters. They know now when I give them a knitted thing what they’re really worth, and they know how to take care of them (or return them for care) and they appreciate knitting properly. Still, there is no joy like bestowing a piece of knitting on someone who’s going to notice… well, everything.  So it is with this sweater for Ken.  I finished it the other day and after it was done I left my house (how weird is that eh?) and I went over to Ken’s house (he lives very close by) and I put this sweater on his porch, and then texted him, and backed up onto the path so we would be distanced when he came out to get it.  (I cannot &^%$ing wait until I don’t have to treat the people I love like they are potential poison. It is so hard on the heart.)

He came out and was delighted to see it, and tried it on right away, and noticed all the things that he was meant to.

I took that woefully inadequate physically distanced picture of him, and asked him to selfie a few shots of the thing for all of you, and I waved to him (what a nightmare this is) and took myself off back home.  Ken did take some great self portraits (or it is possible a housemate helped him)  and because he’s a knitter, he took pictures he thought that other knitters would like.

Pattern: Rift.  Yarn: Good old Cascade 220, in 8400 – charcoal.

He’s showing you the details of the seams, how it looks under the arms – he’s commented on how beautifully it fits, and it should. I took his measurements back in March before I wasn’t allowed to touch him.* He loves the details on the side, he’s made an appropriate amount of fuss about the tubular cast-on at the bottom and sleeves, and he’s asked how the neck is right, why it’s not stretching out of shape… did I reinforce it? (I did not. I just always pick up stitches at a bound off edge so that it’s nice and strong, which was 100% an answer he cared about.)

The point is, Ken knows exactly how big and nice the love container I knit for him is, and that means that when pulls it on, it should feel like the full breadth of my love is there. Only another knitter could feel the sentiment behind a tubular cast on. Only a knitter.

Until we’re together again Ken.  Wear the sweater.

*There is some hope on the horizon here in Ontario. We’ve had low/declining cases for a while now, and we’re going to Stage 1 of easing restrictions on Tuesday after the holiday. It means certain kinds of businesses will be able to open if they can meet the strict public health rules, though the rules mean that open isn’t really open, they can take so few customers.  No restaurants yet, and no schools or daycares, certainly, and it’s been made clear to us that we’re ages off of being able to get a haircut. We are hoping that there’s some easing of the distancing rules and group size rules (we’re at no more than 5), and that you’ll start being able to have contact with people outside your household bubble.  We’ve got our fingers crossed that the coveted “double bubble” might not be far off for this province, though Canada’s commitment to letting the science lead the response might mean we all have to be apart a little longer. I can’t wait to hug Meg and Elliot. (Ken it will be you right after. Triple bubble.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Like watching paint dry (exactly)

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 22:34

Ken’s sweater is all done, but for the making up, and the neckband. Honestly, I can point at a million projects of my youth and tell you that the number one thing that stood between me and greatness back then was laziness and a lack of patience.  Everything I’ve ever made that was just exactly as I’d hoped, everything that’s a 10/10 is that way because I resisted some urge to take a short cut, and so as is proper, all the parts of Ken’s sweater have been blocked before the making up. Everything goes together so much nicer when this step happens first, so I’ve been walking by them since yesterday morning. I keep walking by and giving them a pat and waiting for them to be dry. They are not, and I’m not sure the constant patting is making a difference but I intend to keep it up. At best it’s got to be helping the air circulate.

While I’m waiting I’ve been pounding out a pair of mittens from the handspun – I settled on Signal Hill because it was so well suited to four colours and because I’ve knit on top of that hill more than once, and it’s nice to remember. (If we are ever travellers again, you should go there directly.) I’ve got one done, it’s a pretty fast knit, and I am grooving pretty hard on the 70s vibe these have.  I really like them…

they remind me of tile in my grammy’s bathroom when I was growing up. (They went perfectly with the avocado green bathtub and I don’t care what you say, that was cool.)

One to go- though I thought I might wind up spinning today, but after a few minutes of reflection I can tell you that I am hereby reaffirming that the rule is that I will spin when it rains – not when it (*&%Cing SNOWS.  (Let us pause and reflect here that while May snow is technically legal in Canada, it seems like a bloody insult when we’ve already got a pandemic and murder hornets. This plot is overwritten.) I decided to ignore the snow, which is the way that my mother taught me to handle rudeness.

Moving along, I also fixed a pair of Cameron’s socks – he’s got a pretty good sock drawer rocking these days, and he and I can’t be the only ones who think so, because he went into his sock drawer a while ago and found that three pairs of handknit socks had been thoroughly munched. He returned them to me for rehab, and I’ve started making my way through the repairs. (What the hell there is still snow.)

The first pair I tackled had the simplest damage – just the heels had been chomped, so I picked up stitches round the heel –

Snipped it off.. (relax, it’s not that bad)

and knit new heels,

then dumped them off on Cameron’s porch.  Many thanks to the gentleman for helping me out with finished object photos – who knew that physical distancing would mean that he’d have to rise to the challenge of photographing his own feet. He did really well for a rookie.  (There are two more pairs to go, I expect him to get better with each.)

I’ve fixed the next pair, and this time I took videos of how I was doing it – talking a bit about the process, and that brings me to the next thing, and it’s a thing I feel a bit awkward about, though as I talk it through with Joe and friends (mostly friends who are also textile teachers) I’m starting to come around.   I have figured out (although my natural optimism really did slow this process down a lot) that it is going to be a long time before I can go back to work – before most knitting teachers and public speakers can go back to work. Starting with the problem at it’s most basic, the border is closed, and any way you slice it I think it will be a long time before the it opens again, and even if it does, I think it’s going to be quite a few months before travel based teaching to groups is safe, easy or fun.

I thought about “virtual” teaching, I know some other teachers are trying it, but it doesn’t seem like my jam, and so I’m going to try my own thing, even though I am not completely sure what that thing will be. To that end, I’ve started a Patreon. If you’re not familiar, it’s a platform where artists (that’s me) connect with people who like what they do (maybe that’s you) and you pay X money per month (man the Canadian in me hates this money talk) and I provide some of what I make for you. (So awkward.) The traditional set-up is that some people pay $, and they get a certain amount of content, and then other people pay $$ and they get more, and then other people pay $$$ and they get even more.

I don’t know about you, but inequity feels super wrong to me right now (ok most of the time) when some people have money just because they’re lucky and other people are broke because they happened to have the wrong job at the start of this and I don’t think that if a roll of the dice happened to mean that you’ve got more than someone else you should necessarily get more than someone else and yes, my little socialist Canadian heart is beating hard here) so I’ve decided that while I will do a Patreon, there is only going to be one tier, and that everyone gets all the same content at that tier.  There is an option to pay more if you feel like it or you’re Bill Gates (in which case lay it on me sir I will spread it around) but I’ve settled on a price low enough that I hope it’s as accessible as it can be while still being worth my work. It’s $6 a month. I’ve decided to keep the price low so that I can keep production values… um, similar. (I have a lot to learn about video editing, for a start.)

I want to be totally transparent here – I don’t know what is going to happen over there.  I know I’ll do some tutorials, convert what of my class material works in that video format, which means that at least once a month I’ll teach you something (or try to, most of you are pretty skilled) and I think that $6 is pretty reasonable for a mini-class or tutorial. I’m also thinking about some audio stuff – I’ve got an unemployed audio guy sitting right here (pantless) so maybe some story telling would be cool, or maybe I’ll take advantage of how many very neat people I know, and try introducing you to them. Maybe I’ll do something else – I don’t know. I can’t promise I’ll do anything in particular but I will produce some forms of entertainment overt there on the regular, and more than that, I promise that if I include another maker in an offering, I’ll compensate them properly. There’s lots of teachers hurting, and there’s got to be a way to help some of them with my platform, so I’ll try to do that.

What I can promise is that this blog is going nowhere. This is blog is my home life, who I am and my connection to the broader community and I can’t live without it.  The Patreon is work – a replacement for what I did when I was on the road, and so you can expect things to stay pretty much the same here – you don’t have to sign up for the Patreon to stay in touch with me any more than you had to sign up for a class before.

I don’t know if this is the right thing to do. It’s been a hard slog over the last several weeks figuring out what my work is going to look like, how I’ll make ends meet, and I’m just so grateful that Joe and I have savings and resources to pad things while we get through this, I know some of you don’t, and my heart is so with you.  This is a hard time for so many, even if it is not snowing where you are.

I love all of you, and I hope you’re safe.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Less like a slog

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 21:52

Yesterday was dreadful. I was a misery case for much of the day – no need to go into any details, I’m pretty sure we’d all have no trouble thinking up a few good reasons to feel crappy at present, if you wanted to sit down and make a list. I did all the right things, went for a walk and a run and got some sunshine on my face, and I made a nice dinner and I knit myself silly, and took lots of deep breaths, remembering that for better or worse, all states are temporary. I got a good night’s sleep and this morning I feel more like myself – more hopeful, more optimistic and with a clearer ability to see that it’s all not as bad as it could be, and the up side of being capable of not much more than knitting yesterday?

I’m almost done the sleeves of Ken’s sweater. I’ve got about 14cm to go on one of them, and only maybe about 5cm on the other, and then I’ll start the shaping and they’re as good as done. Yesterday I was convinced that Ken had long and stupid arms, but today his arm length seems completely reasonable.  I don’t know if it’s because my mood is better today or that I’m just so close to done, but I’ve almost entirely stopped mumbling about him being built like an orangutan. (He’s not. I think I was just crabby.)

(Someone always asks what the strands of yarn are, weaving in and out of my knitting – they’re running markers, how I keep track of rows or compound instructions. I flip a piece of yarn back and forth between my needles every so many rounds and it counts where I’m at for me. I’ll show you sometime, but it’s how I make sure things that come in twos are the same.)

Moreover, it rained on the weekend and so all four of those little skeins are finished, and now I’ve just got to figure out what they want to be. There were lots of good suggestions on instagram yesterday, and I think they want to be mittens. Which mittens? Too soon to tell, since nothing is singing my name too loudly at the moment, but maybe I’m just not listening. If you’re in the suggestion business, each of those little skeins is about 75m (for a grand total of about 300m, if you don’t feel like adding) and the yarn is rustic and sturdy, so I think the mittens should be too. Maybe something like the ones from Saltwater Mittens? Rigged for four colours? Who knows. It will come to me, I hope.

In the meantime, that sweater is going down. This is no time for grey, but it’s definitely a good time for the joy of a finished thing, and an even better time to put a friend in a new sweater. There’s still plenty of chilly left in Canada.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Knitter, know thyself

Sat, 05/02/2020 - 17:30

Years ago I saw this thing – I think it was a dogs alleged diary contrasted with a cats. The dog is all “8:45, eating breakfast, my favourite thing! 9:15, going in the backyard, my favourite thing! 9:30, I see a bird, my favourite thing!” and the cat’s begins with “Day 887 of my captivity….”

This, essentially, sums up how Joe and I are making our way through this lockdown thing. Joe is (except for how much he misses our family and the unending stress of trying to keep the studio from going under while it’s closed) living his best damn life.  He into this. He’s home all day with me and we have unlimited time together,  he hasn’t had to put on pants in forever, when he does have to do a zoom meeting or something he can still do them pantless, three meals a day just sort of arrive and he doesn’t have to be traffic or navigate the busy city, and he could not possibly be happier not to have to deal with humanity en masse and in person. I’m serious, he’s the dog in this.

Me, I am definitely, absolutely 100% the cat, and as I watch other places start to have more flexibility in who can see who and what can be open, I’m fighting bitterness along with my captivity.  Last night on the news there was a film clip of a Nana in Newfoundland embracing her little grands for the first time since this thing started, and while most of me was so happy for her and her grandchildren, a tiny little part of me wanted her to fall off her porch. I can’t wait until we can “double-bubble”. We’re all still restricted to just seeing the people you live with, and so it’s me and Joe. All the time. The two of us. Every day, all day.  I can’t tell you how much I miss the family and my friends and working and knitters and back when Joe used to wear pants and I went… well, anywhere.  I’m sure lots of you can identify with the fight to stave off a foul mood settling like a black cloud during this thing.  I’m walking and running and watching too much TV (I think maybe I have seen everything) and consuming way to many audio-books and baking more bread than anyone needs and contemplating what comes next – since it looks like this is the way things will be for a while yet. So far mostly so good this week – and even the spinning plan worked to keep my spirits up when it rained. Before it rained I had this:

That’s 200g of Abundant Earth Fiber signature blend – wool from the fine state of Washington.  Usually I’d have been out that way a few times this year already, and I miss my friends there, and how green it is, and those weird skunk cabbages and the way that foxglove grows wild in all the ditches – and I miss the retreats at Port Ludlow (and Debbi and Judith) especially. Spinning a bit of wool from that part of the world felt nice.

It rained two days, so that was enough to get three of the four colours done – and it’s looking a bit cloudy today, so we’ll see.  I’ll have to figure out what to do with it when it’s finished. Each little skein is working out to be about 75m of worsted-ish weight yarn and I think those four colours go well together. (Clearly, I’ve thought that for a while, since they perfectly match some pillows from the living room.)

When not spinning (or running, or walking, or inexplicably cleaning something that’s already clean) I’m working on Ken’s sweater.  It’s Rift, in a colour that I truly regret right now. Remember Denny’s rule? The one that says that you don’t want to knit something grey during the wintertime because it’s just too hard on the heart? I’d like to amend that rule to include not knitting miles of grey stockinette in a pandemic.

I have no idea how I’m doing it, considering the layer of recent bereavement on top of it, I feel that right now I would be much better off knitting more rainbows and bright pink and maybe a little yellow, ya feel me?  I really love Ken though, and it’s hard for this family to soldier on separately like this, so I’m committed to finishing it as a show of my affection. I’m done the body, and am now (as if this project could be any more of a test) settling in on Sleeve Island.

As I cast on the first one, I felt something come over me.  Something that is a bit of my normal reaction to sleeves – a gentle wish to put the project down and start something more fun, and also a feeling a perhaps a little more pandemic induced, which was a rather strong urge to take it into the back garden and have a smallish bonfire. I realized suddenly that this feeling was only likely going to become more pronounced as I got to the second sleeve, and I realized that this project is in serious peril. If I can get through the first sleeve I am not at all sure I can rise above all that and knit a second one, love or no love.

Therefore, in a move that reflects great self-awareness, I am doing something with the sleeves that I have never done before.

I’m knitting both the sleeves at once.  I can’t be trusted right now.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Yeah that’s nice

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 20:03

Once up on a time, back when we all took buses, I would see people sitting on the bus and I would boggle at how they were doing it. I don’t mean riding the bus, I was riding the bus too and I absolutely understand how that is done, I mean how they were riding the bus without doing something… else. Not reading a book, not listening to a podcast, not bopping along to their own private soundtrack, not knitting or crocheting.  Just… sitting there.

It has been suggested to me that perhaps these people have a rich inner life. That they are as occupied on the inside as I am on the outside, beavering along on my sock, and I’ve tried to consider this, but since it implies that anyone who needs to knit a shawl or a sock on the bus for the safety of others isn’t *&^%$#ing thinking as much, I’ve rejected it wholesale.  It is them, I consider, as another something grows on my needles, it is them that must have the poorer life, to be deprived of knitting.

I realized this morning, as I hung Wavedeck on the line for a photoshoot, that for the most part – while I’ve never understood the non-knitting very well (though am am fond of many of them) I think I actually pity them a little bit. I know that to the vastest number of non-knitting folk, I will never be able to explain the feeling that leaps in me as I touch and hold something that I made this way.  “That’s beautiful” a friend said yesterday, when I sent them a picture of this thing. “Really nice” they said, and I took the compliment, they really did like it, but their darling empathetic, well-functioning yet non-knitting heart cannot grasp the wonder of this, I fear.

This, while it is really nice, is really nice in a way that I know you’ll understand. This – I want to tell them, when something gets made this way, when you imagine it, and then you build it, making choices and taking steps to get it just the way you want, when you choose tools and reject and audition ideas and try on gauges to see if you can get the idea in your head to leap from imagination to reality –

and then spend hours and hours of your one wild and precious life moving fibre from one state to the other, from batt, to singles, to plied yarn to knitted thing and it actually works?

That is not “really nice”. This is really exactly what I wanted it to be, created by slow transformation, of slow magic, it is like when it is thirty degrees below zero and you go outside and throw water in the air and it instantly turns into snow.  It is exactly like that.

Well, it is exactly like that if you are both the earth that made it thirty below, and the person throwing the water and if you understand that the instantly bit was thirteen days, but you catch my meaning.

I’m completely happy with this project, I adore it.  (I love it so much that I contemplated leaving it on the line in the back garden for a few hours after I took its picture, just so the neighbourhood could maybe see it and be enriched.) I love everything from the batt I started with (I bought that from Chris at Upstream Alpacas, she’s the genius who dyed that silk and put it with the black baby alpaca) and I love the pattern, Kate Atherley’s very clever Wavedeck. (I love too that it’s named for one of my favourite places in this city.) I love that it’s the size I wanted and the colours fell the way I wanted them too and I love, love, love and adore the way that the pattern miraculously took all but 9 centimetres of the yarn (I kid you not, it was a yarn chicken triumph) and I love that it’s a gift for a friend…

and I love that they’re a knitter, of course. They’ll know what it is when they see it. Really nice.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

The Rules as I see them

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 22:03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was like a miracle.

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

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

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

And there’s rain in the forecast for Sunday.

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

Categories: Knitting Feeds

The bunny gets around, yo.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 23:55

It was predictable, I suppose that I would be challenged by this time. Not just working my way through grief- but the challenge so many of us are dealing with – where all of a sudden you’re locked in your freakin’ house and can’t see anyone and can’t go anywhere and you’re swinging back and forth between resolving that you’re going to emerge from this a whole new sort of person – one with clean closets, tidy drawers, a revived yoga habit and a new career… and being the you who can hardly handle it, eating cake with your hands standing over the sink. You know what I mean?

None of the restrictions here in Toronto have started to lift, and frankly it sounds like we’ll be in this for a while yet. We’re still only to go outside for essential purposes like to seek medical attention or get groceries, and even then only one person from the household is supposed to go shopping no more than once a week. Joe’s that person here (and the designated shopper for his parents, Meg and Amanda, a few others, just so that it’s even fewer trips out for anyone) so he still goes out into the world in a limited way, but me… I’ve been in the house for weeks now, and there are moments where I’m a little wild around the edges.  The City’s said it’s okay to go out for exercise if you can keep your distance from others, and so I’ve taken full advantage of that, walking and running through the neighbourhood for my allotted time per day, and at least letting the sun shine on my face (when it is not goddamn snowing and yes I know I live in Canada and late April snow is technically legal, but the stuff seems unfair this year, all things considered) and I look out the window a lot, though there’s not much to see out there.

The separation from the family continues to make us all crazy. It is clear to me now that being a close and loving family that spends heaps of time together has worked against us here. We are all far too attached to each other – and I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but we are not just emotionally close – we’re close.  I can walk to the homes of most people I love, and the remaining ones are just a quick bike ride or drive. (Here in the city, those two modes of transit often take about the same amount of time.)  There is something about knowing how near they all are that seems to make me wilder. To know Elliot is a stone’s throw away but I can’t see him?

When my mum was alive, she used to remind me, in terms I won’t use here because I try not to swear on the blog, that when I am unhappy or challenged, I need to get out. Not just out of the house (though she thought that was good too) but right out of your head. Stop thinking so much. Stop worrying so much, get out of yourself and focus on other people. It’s terrific advice – it is very hard to dwell on your own problems when you’ve decided to think about other people’s, so as Easter headed our way and the family was sad and separated, I started to come up with a plan.

First, I knitted some stuff. Mostly stuff for Elliot… and for Bunny. It seemed to me that a new spring frock was in order.

Just leftovers of course, but it made for a charming addition to their wardrobe. (A reminder that Bunny is gender fluid and their pronouns are they/them/their. Elliot has felt no need to fence Bunny in. Bunny is being all the bunny they can be.)

I also knit him a sweet little toy – three is a good age for being obsessed with things that go in other things – pockets, boxes, envelopes… so I knit Susan B. Anderson’s little Flower Fairy and Leaf Sprite – though I left off the wings.

Mine are just little garden people. Then I started to knit an egg. (Pattern here, I knit mine in the round, fun and easy.) I thought it would be a sweet thing to tuck in a basket for him. I have to say though, that egg was pretty damned satisfying- so I knit a few more.

Those felt great too, and so I knit some more –

and then I came up with a system for blocking them.

And then I decided… well, I think I decided to go big or go home and the next thing I knew I had a houseful of eggs, Joe had been instructed to add a whack of chocolate to our weekly shop, I was baking my face off, and there was a spreadsheet and a very big plan. I went to bed early on the Saturday night before Easter, and set an alarm for…5:15am. (What. It’s not like I have anything else to do.)

(Pictured here, fewer than half of the eventual eggs. It got right out of hand.)

Sunday morning I got up, printed my spreadsheet, moved to the staging area (that used to be the dining room) and started to load up the car. Joe was a slightly less than cheerful accomplice at this point, but as always staggered on, mumbling things like “happy wife, happy life” and moving yet another chocolate bunny or knitted egg out of his way.

By 6:15 we were in the car. Moments later we made our first stop. I had the spreadsheet organized by both geography and predicted time of awakening for the recipients – so our first stop was Joe’s mum and dad’s back garden.  We snuck in and hid (not very well) a knitted egg, a chocolate bunny and a little tray of freshly baked cinnamon buns, then back out to the car and a quick text “There’s an Easter hunt in your back garden” and we were off.  The next stop was Katie and Carlos’s back garden where we hid bunnies for Luis and Frankie, lots of eggs, a big tray of cinnamon buns and a bottle of wine. (They are locked down with two little kids. You gotta help where you can.) We hit some friends after that…

We set up a hunt for Elliot down the back path by their walk-up, and then Amanda’s front porch, then a drive to Sam’s – she was our farthest stop and has a big backyard, so she got a proper hunt too. Then it was Ken’s turn, treats hidden on his porch, then Cameron, and Pato and Jen … Oh, and our friend Billy.  He’s a nurse and deserves all the love we can show him right now.

The whole thing was like the opposite of a heist, and we were even caught on security footage –

which Katie and Carlos texted to us after the fact.

We made the rounds, trying to do something loving for every person on our list and you know, mum was right. Still. Again, like she always was and is. We got out of our heads and into the feelings of the people around us, tried to make some serious deposits in the love bank that we’ll certainly need to make withdrawals from in the future,  and it was pretty great. I think we’re probably going to get through.

Chin up gang.  This too shall pass. Go eat some cake with your hands.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Birthday Boy

Wed, 04/15/2020 - 01:45

I’m running a little behind, I know.  I should have shown you Elliot’s Sweater last week, and then yesterday we could have talked about Easter (what a weird one, eh?) and then today I should be showing you some spinning that I’m about to get to, plus I’m fixing a pair of socks for Cam and I finished a pair for Joe and Ken’s sweater continues apace – though progress on everything is slower than you’d expect from me. If there is one thing I’ve learned about grief over the last couple of years is that it’s actually quite time consuming.  I don’t know why, but working through so many feelings just… slows everything down around it, and I have such a smorgasbord of things to fret about.  I’m slogging on best I can, and I think I’m doing okay – a lot better than I was three weeks ago, when it felt like all the bombs were landing.

Three weeks ago when I decided that Elliot should have a birthday sweater, I logged into Ravelry, looked at my queue to see what I’d had in mind, was immediately buried in the million things I had planned for Charlotte, and realized it was far, far too soon for it, and opted for an alternate approach.  I shut my laptop and grabbed a book of my shelf,  looked for the simplest sweater in it, and got to work. I know! A BOOK. Can you believe it? Not even a pdf, or a Kindle version but an actual I swear to in the name of all things woolly book. Made of paper.

The closest book I had to hand was Strange Brew– and I’ve knit Tin Can Knits sweaters before and the directions are always clear and easy to follow – the perfect thing for the grief addled mind.  Meg was here then, and together we chose Mountain MIst, and I foraged some Cascade 220 out of the lower stash.

Here you must imagine a picture of that sweater in progress, though I just checked my phone and camera and there are none. (Sorry, it’s been a weird few weeks.)

I finished in plenty of time for his birthday, and Joe took it over to his house along with all his other gifts, and left them outside for his Daddy to collect. You all know how the rest of this goes – I think we’re all in some form of lockdown or another, so at that point Joe left for home, and the task of making a beautiful birthday fell to Meg and Alex alone. (I feel not a bit bad about the trip Joe made to their house, I know it’s essential travel only, but they live so close and doesn’t a birthday seem essential? He dropped some groceries at the same time so that the total number of trips up wasn’t greater.)

After that it was all FaceTime and videos, Joe and I got to watch him open his sweater in the morning and wish him a Happy Birthday, and I helped Meg make his favourite dinner over video too. (Pasta and chickpeas, in case anyone is keeping track)

and then that evening the whole family got on and were able to sing to him and watch him open his presents.

His sweater fits, but barely, even though this grandmother made it what looked to me like miles too big and that makes me feel like maybe he’s growing while I’m not with him – getting taller – will it be a shock when I finally get to hold him again, whenever that is?

(By the way, that is a number three, not a backwards E.  It took me a minute.)

Best not to think of it, and just keep plugging on.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that he’s so little that his birthday was a complete wonder to him, and the rest of us are old enough to handle it. I think. I am incredibly proud of his parents for pulling this off, in the most difficult of all possible circumstances.  They are simply the best.

PS He got a scooter.  His life is aces.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Back in the Saddle

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 21:24

Who am I kidding.  Not only am I not back in the saddle, I am unclear on where the horse I am supposed to put the saddle on might have got to.  I try really hard not to be the kind of person who wallows, who feels bad for too long, who gets in the deep end and swims loads of laps in the self-pity pool. While I’m not sure that I’m super successful at it every time,  I try hard to be someone who only sits on the edge of that thing and swishes my feet around for a bit, and then towels off and goes to work, so a few days ago I dried some of my tears, put on clothes slightly less stretchy than the ones I’ve been wearing (I almost put on a bra but that seemed like overkill, considering our positions) and I thought “Right Stephanie, let’s get to work.”

That’s about how far I got – see above comment re: missing horse. In my life, like in a lot of yours, a whole bunch of stuff disappeared at the same time. I admit, the grandchild was a a very big deal and really what I had intended to keep me busy in the next little bit (along with being Elliot’s best friend so he wouldn’t mind the presence of the usurper) but besides that all the work I had booked for the next bit (read – this whole year until June) also evaporated, leaving me wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do with myself.  I’ve only been unemployed once before (ironically, it was the last time there was a pandemic) and it is possible that I’m terrible at it. I love to be busy and have a lot on the go, so usually if I find myself in a lull for work I throw that time into the family – but I can’t be with them either, and similarly it’s not like I can go find a friend to amuse myself with.  No, it’s me and Joe – here in the house 23.5/7 and amidst my grief and anxiety over all that’s going on, I have made rather unending attempts to be… busy.

My house has never been cleaner – the drawers more organized, the laundry more up to date… and I even lost my *&$%#$%ing mind and bought shelf paper on Amazon.  I’m not even totally sure what the hell I’m supposed to do with it, but in the moment it seemed important and like it was going to be helpful.  I have been cleaning like mad, and if you are right now feeling bad that you haven’t been tidying your way through quarantine and feeling like maybe you should be, rest assured… it’s not nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped and I can wholeheartedly assure you that you shouldn’t bother unless you’re absolutely possessed of an urge to do so. I did repaint the kitchen door that’s been a mess for 17 years, and that felt pretty good but only took two hours. I’ve also been meal planning and cooking a lot- and that’s at least managed to keep us out of the grocery store except for the once a week per family we’re to keep to, so there’s that. (I admit that I’m finding it a little challenging to plan a week or ten days of meals based on how long salad lasts but I’m getting the hang now.  One word. Slaw.)

In the end though, as my ability to manage comes creeping back, as I get some footing on all that’s happened, It is my same old friend that’s here for me. The one that’s always there no matter what.

When my mum died, my urge to knit went with her, and so it was with Charlotte as well.  I think now as I did then, that for me knitting is so positive, so constructive, such a powerful way to move onward that it is a terrible match for my first intense wave of grief. For days Meg and I both held our knitting, moved it from room to room, looked at it and thought about it, but very little knitting happened.  Then all of a sudden as the fog started to lift, as we started to feel the possibility that the world was going to keep on turning, both of us picked up steam and now we’re unstoppable. (Joe had to drop off more yarn when he took Meg and Alex their groceries, so she’s making great time.) I knit a sweater for Elliot over the last 10 days of so – I’ll show it to you tomorrow I think, but now I’m onto a proper full-size man sweater for Ken, and it’s all I can think about.  (Not totally true, still trying to figure out the shelf paper thing.)

It’s Rift, which has lots of plain knitting but just enough details to amuse a knitter, and begins with a fabulous tubular cast on that’s just the bees knees.

I’ve spent ages patting it and stretching it and admiring it, and I’m pretty sure that Joe’s tired of talking about it. (While he feigns knitting interest pretty well, his ability apparently falls off sharply when I ask him to enjoy cast-on minutia.)

Thank goodness then that in all that it feels like I’ve lost over that last few weeks, I’ve still got you, my blog – and I can ask you and know that you’re there to answer with honesty and sincerity…

Isn’t that a really great cast on?

(PS there is also a sock.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Perfect

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:48

This has been one of the hardest things of my life to write about. To find the words that match the experience we have just had, that Meg and Alex have had… I have thought so much about it. I have thought that perhaps I would simply not write about it at all, or perhaps write about it, but keep it private for just us. In the end though, there is no person in this family can change what happened, which is that we had the most wonderful thing happen, and then the most terrible, but one does not erase the other. Charlotte’s birth was a most welcome, happy, beautiful time for us, full of emotions and moments we would never want to forget. She was our little Charlotte, my most darling wee granddaughter, and though we feel robbed, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate having her at all. Meg and I spoke about writing this, and Meg said she was looking forward to reading Charlotte’s birth story, I said that I was having trouble writing about her birth because I felt it had a sad ending. Meg, showing far more wisdom than I could have ever hoped for in a daughter, reminded me that the birth did not have a sad ending. What happened 48 hours later was sad, but not the birth- and that event deserves to be remembered and celebrated as much as we are able, just like when Elliot was born. She’s right, so I’ll write.

Even while Meg was pregnant this time, I wondered how I would end up telling the story of this child’s birth. I am constantly surprised in my life by what ends up being important and what doesn’t, and my spectacularly crappy ability to predict it. Before Elliot was born, I thought that when I was at his birth, it was him that I would be most interested in – him that I would adore and delight in, and I did – no doubt, but it was the strength of my daughter that ended up rocking my world.  Her strength was the defining thing about that birth, and I was so proud watching her become a mother. So graceful and gentle and strong. In the hours that it took to move her son from one plane to another, she was amazing to me.

So it was this time, that I got another big surprise. We had high hopes for this birth. Meg and Alex had planned for it, arranged for it as best as people can, considering that you’re trying to plan for something that you can’t predict, and they had weighed and chosen their options carefully. Everyone has their own ideas and dreams and realities about what constitutes a perfect birth, and in my not insignificant experience as a birth worker, not very many of us get it.  Labour and birth involves the powers, passenger, passage, and psyche, and there are so many times that the fates conspire outside the influence of the dancers that it can be a pretty serious mistake to hope for a perfect birth. Meg knew this – and had absorbed all my messages about having a birth philosophy, not a birth plan. To hope for as few interventions as possible, not to say that there would be no interventions. To know that saying she didn’t want medication was a hope that could be shifted if they were needed, to know that (at least here in Canada) home birth with a provider is the safest place for healthy low risk mums and babies to do this, but to understand that risk is an ever evolving thing. You can hope and prepare all you like, but birth is complicated. You have to be prepared to roll with it.

Meg was ready for that, but as things unfolded everything just kept going their way. From the way that labour began before the pandemic limited the number of people who could gather and I was able to attend her as we’d hoped, to the way that it started at night, and ended before morning, so that Elliot was asleep. The timing of my arrival and the midwives was perfect – and music Meg has loved since she was little played in the background while she was supported by candlelight and people who love her best. Alex was confident and comforting, present and grounded, and as Meg had hoped, the midwives played lifeguard – keeping to the background and letting the family do their thing except when they were needed – which wasn’t much. The labour didn’t take long at all, but never felt rushed or surprising for a minute. Sometimes when a labour is quick it’s a little like getting hit by a truck, but this one felt like it was perfectly timed. Not so fast that Meg couldn’t keep up with its rhythm, learning to cope as she went, and never so slowly that we wished it would be over. Every time I looked up, someone was smiling, and a lot of the time, that was Meg. It was difficult to be sure, I think that no matter how a baby comes no person has ever described whatever shape it takes as easy, but I could tell that not for a single moment did she feel fear that she wasn’t able to do it. Her confidence was inspiring.

Gently and joyfully, her daughter crept closer, moved by the miracle that was her mother, and as she came closer, Meg concentrated more fully, relaxed more intently, softening, opening and welcoming and slowly, slowly, Charlotte found her way to us, until at last she was lifted from the water by the hands of her own parents, and the room dissolved into the purest form of happiness. She took her first breaths in her mother’s arms, holding her father’s hand, listening to voices of welcome that she’d come to know as she grew. It could not, and I do not say this lightly… have been a more perfect birth.


Meg stepped strong and unhurt from the water with her babe in her arms, that wee mite so beautifully built and delivered that she was ready to nurse, ready to know all of us, ready for anything. Meg settled on the couch and got cozy, and we set about tidying up. As I passed one of the worlds most charming midwives something she wanted, we caught eyes for a moment, and I saw that she felt what I did. This – what had just happened, almost never, ever happens in a birth. “This is the nicest birth you’ll attend this year” I smiled. “Maybe ever” she grinned, and I could see that it had been magic for her too.

The sun began to peek up, the sky lighten just a tiny bit, and things continued to be… perfect. The babe nursed, Meg and Alex celebrated, the midwives wrote things in the chart like “beautiful water birth” and Charlotte continued to shine with radiant health. Alex weighed his own baby (7’14”!)  Alex’s mother held her, and I did, and then we heard a little stirring in the other room as Elliot woke up. I crept into the room and darkness, and swept him into my arms. “Ellie” I whispered. “Guess what happened in the nighttime.”

I had worried that Megan’s son would be a replay of Meg herself, for when she met her little sister Sam the same way, at home in the living room… she took one look at the little interloper and the first words out of her mouth were “put her down and pick me up.” Not Elliot though, I shouldn’t ever have doubted our sweet guy. He was captivated. He smiled, and wanted her in his arms, and commented on all the right things. That she was tiny, that she was nice, that she was soft and beautiful. That she was his sister.


Meg got tucked up in bed and the grandfathers (anxiously parked in a car outside, waiting for the moment when they could meet their bairn) were finally welcomed by the grandmothers and trouped joyfully in, bearing food and pride and more happiness than that apartment could contain. “Is she okay?” Joe asked me, with Ken right behind him. I wasn’t sure if he meant Charlotte or Meg, but it didn’t matter. The answer was the same. “She’s perfect” I said.

Blog, I can’t tell you this enough. It was perfect. It kept being perfect. Charlotte was the picture of health, Alex was delighted and taking such good care of them all, and Ellie was adoring in a way that usually only appears in children’s books about being nice to the new baby in the family. He called her “my baby” and seemed to be charmed. All well, the midwives left for home, and Joe, Ken and I looked at our girl and her little family and baby in bed, had the presence of mind to take a perfect family photo, and then took our grandson home with us so that his Mum and Dad could get a little sleep. We even baked Charlotte a birthday cake to have with supper when we took him home.

I don’t know how many of you have been to a birth, be it your own or someone else’s, but I have been to lots and I find myself unable to describe the sacred rarity of what happened that night. It was not a good birth. It was not even a great birth. It was a perfect birth, and I’m not saying that because it was at home, or gentle or attended by midwives or any of that. Those things were what Meg and Alex wanted and values our family embraces but they’re not the point, we’re all going to have different ideas of what a perfect birth looks like. We’re all unique, shaped by our own experiences, beliefs, fears and choices. What makes something perfect for me isn’t at all what you may dream of, and what I’m trying to tell you is that what happened that night was perfect because it was such a good match for all Meg and Alex wanted, for the way Meg’s body worked, for how Charlotte arrived. It was a very special thing, and one that was amazing to witness, and amazing too in how long we were carried on that wave of perfection.

Charlotte glowed with perfect health, nursed perfectly, cried perfectly, was soothed perfectly, scored perfect on every test, was given an exam on the morning of her second day when the midwife smilingly pronounced her perfect, again. She seemed to enjoy her knitwear, and I tell you this, the smell of her head, the warm heaviness of her in my arms, the beauty of her in her parents arms… it was all so perfect. We kept saying it like we all couldn’t believe it. “She’s perfect, this is perfect.” She slept perfectly, and she woke up perfectly right as she should have until she was just forty-eight hours old and then….she didn’t.

This of course, is the part where this story becomes unbearably sad. I don’t want to speak to grief right now because I feel like it goes without saying that it hurts, so I’ll tell you in so many ways, we were lucky that even in this terrible moment… things were as perfect as possible. Despite their shock, Meg and Alex took instant action that was perfect. The response by emergency services was perfect. The responders that transported the whole little family to the hospital were perfect, that they live so close to the best Children’s Hospital in all of Canada was perfect, the screening agent who let Joe and I into the hospital so we could be with Meg despite Covid-19 was perfect, and perfect was what the doctor said Charlotte was, when she came to tell us that she had died. “I am so sorry” she said. “She was perfect.” We’ve learned since then that Charlotte was indeed perfect, and that she is dead for no reason except that sometimes little babies simply die, and there is nothing that anyone could have done to change it.


Nothing has been perfect since. This hard time has been compounded by the escalation in the pandemic response, and after spending a week together here to recover, Meg, Alex and Elliot are at home now, taking care of each other. A service for Charlotte will have to wait until this is all over, and we are able to make it as perfect as we can, since things are obviously pretty far from that now. It is a terrible time for our whole family to be parted from each other, but we are doing our best.

I can’t think of anything else to say about this. It is so far in so many ways from the hopes and dreams we all had, so I will just tell you what I think. I think that if a baby must die, and I freely admit that I cannot understand or condone any system where they must, let it be as this was. Having only known love, having never known hurt, sadness, pain or disappointment, a tiny little life of absolute happiness and amidst a family who could not have wished for any experience or any little person more perfect.

Thanks for stopping by sweet Charlotte. We miss you.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Charlotte Bonnie

Thu, 03/19/2020 - 17:31

It is with broken hearts that our family tells you that our darling Charlotte Bonnie died suddenly yesterday morning. Though we only had two days with our beautiful girl, she has left the mark of a lifetime. We ask for your patience while we take some time to privately care for each other.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Things I thought

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 20:55

An incomplete list of things i have not been correct about lately.

1. I thought the baby would be here by now.  She is not. Clearly she’s on a timetable all her own, and is well and happy on the inside and I guess we just keep waiting.

2. I thought that since the baby was not here by now, that the mystical power of the knitted baby blanket was prevailing, and that as soon as i finished, she would arrive. I finished. She did not arrive.

3. I decided then that it must be that it didn’t work was because I hadn’t blocked the thing, and that the knitting force is so strong within this young one that she was calling bull on her grammy, and so I blocked it. She did not arrive.

4. When that didn’t work, I thought – fair enough. it’s not dry, and folded and I haven’t snipped off the last two ends.

The child noped that too. She remains unmoved. (Meg had high hopes for that moment, let me tell you. I’m going to wait to show you the whole thing until she produces the worlds next great knitwear model.)

5. I also thought that there was going to be a way for our Strung Along March retreat to go forward next week, but after looking at the situation realistically, realizing how many of the attending knitters are in the high risk group and having a chat with public health out Port Ludlow way… there wasn’t.  Our retreat thus joins the ranks of so many other knitting events that are cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19.  I don’t know a single knitting teacher or event organizer who doesn’t feel like they did the right thing when they cancelled, and isn’t committed foremost to the health and well being of our communities,  and to slowing the roll of this thing, so as not to strain health resources any more than they have to be…  but I’m not going to pretend it isn’t difficult.  Lots of people are going to have a hard time economically over the next little bit in all sorts of industries, but today I raise my glass to all the knitting teachers, vendors and event organizers out there who’d already written cheques and signed contracts and are wondering what comes next for their businesses.  Lets hang in there together.

6. I thought people might be upset or angry when the retreat postponed, but I was overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of everyone involved, including The Resort at Port Ludlow. I think it’s that spirit that will mean that these events will still be around when this is over.

7. I thought I was mostly over the urge to embroider on knitting.

Turns out I’m not even a little bit over it.  I finished a little sweater for the baby, and then something came over me and I put a rosebud on it, and the next thing I knew I had seven colours of embroidery floss and whammo.

I am in love with it more than I can say.  I really hope this baby isn’t one of those spitting up kinds. I haven’t given the sweater or blanket to Meg yet, I have decided to withhold all knitwear deliveries until she makes good on her part of the deal. She gives me a baby and I give her the goods. No exceptions.

7. I thought I was done knitting for the baby, but it turns out that I am helpless in the face of this kind of expectation and so now I’ve started something else.

8. I thought it would be finished today but it’s not. A wee vest thing – it’s the handspun merino from a few weeks ago.

9. I thought I could promise that maybe I would knit something for someone who weighs more than 10lbs.  I can’t.  I think I’m just going to keep racking it up over here. Maybe another bonnet.

10. I thought being a grandmother for the second time would be a bit more chill.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Not even a pair of socks

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 16:20

Still no baby here, and still no blanket, and while Elliot didn’t care that his blanket wasn’t done and came anyway, I have begun to have concerns that this wee one may be more rule abiding. Meg herself is quite a lawful creature, and she was born two weeks early – the day I finished her blanket.  Meg’s currently so pregnant and uncomfortable that I’m starting to feel a bit of guilt, so  I’m trying to pour as much time as I can into the blanket, hoping that it won’t occur to Meg to hold me accountable for her discomfort.

I’m past halfway – only about 300 stitches left to work into the edging, which is about 17  repeats to go, which is about 612 rows of lace left to knit.  Just typing that makes it seem to me like I should be cancelling all plans that are not blanket related (like social engagements and sleeping and eating) but I’m trying not to get weird about it.  (As an aside, I am pretty sure that Meg would be fine with me getting as weird about it as I need to.)

Thus far, I have declared myself monogamous to this project, and I have made the incredibly brave choice to give up cleaning and laundry. We will see what further sacrifice is required.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

A small rescue

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 18:14

This morning as we made waffles and chatted about our business, Elliot and I discussed the weather.  There is a big snowstorm coming, I explained to him. It is snowing now, and it is going to snow all day, and all night.  Elliot looked at me, then looked out the window at the bleak landscape, and rather seriously said “and all summer” with the exact kind of pessimism that settles into a Canadian heart at this time of year.  We learn it young, here in the frozen North.

We are all also on high alert today, because as any birth worker can tell you, this is exactly the sort of weather that babies prefer to arrive in.  Not now, not while the roads are still pretty clear and it’s not too terrible to drive around in, but later – at 2am, when everyone is tired and there’s 20cm of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down hard.  If there is a moment of lowest possible visibility, and you’re looking out the window thinking “mercy I hope I do not have to travel in this” that is when they are possessed of a sense of urgency. I have it on pretty good authority that every midwife in the city woke up this morning, looked at the weather and thought “Right then” and went straight away to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and they still have that shovel in their trunk.

I have my bag packed and ready to go (and there is already a shovel in my trunk) and I’m going to spend the whole afternoon working on the blanket (as soon as I can skip out on the rest of my work.)  Last night Elliot did not go down early (thanks dude) and it took me a little longer than expected to get around the corner of the edging (if by a little longer you understand I mean about 90 minutes) so the blanket is almost the same as when I showed it to you last.  I’m officially only about 1/4 of the way through the edging.  In short -weather and blanket status combined,  it is a perfect day for a baby to arrive, if you have a neonate’s sense of humour.

I promised to distract us all from Baby Watch 2020 with a little show and tell about an old sweater, so here goes.  I save things. Not a lot, you understand – I  part with objects fairly easily and (yarn and patterns aside) have few hoarding tendencies.  My mum was the same, and she saved very little from when we were babies, but she did have the good sense to tuck away a few bits, and I’ve been able to pass them on to Meg – along with some stuff that she and her sisters wore as bairns. My mum didn’t knit, and neither did my maternal grandmother, but my great-grandmother did, and she was really pretty good at it. When I was born, she knit me a tiny little layette set in a newborn size, despite the fact that I was born in June. (See above comments re: Frozen North. All babies get woollies.)

Considering that it is a 52 year old sweater set worn by six babies, it is in pretty good shape.  It’s a soft baby wool, slightly yellowed by age and felted by washing, and  it was white (or natural) when it was new. (I can tell because the ribbons don’t match.)  I took it out to pass it on to this baby, and found that in the almost three decades since it graced a little one, something’s had a bit of a snack on it.  It looks to me like carpet beetles, rather than a M**h – the holes are clean and look like they were drilled through – and the damage is localized. Three distinct spots, two on the bonnet and one on the sleeve of the sweater. Apparently this beastie cares not for bootees. I gave it a good wash and a little dose of sunshine, and started.

When I make a repair, usually I have some of the old yarn, or can salvage some from the garment. Unpick a cast off and pull back a row or two… then cast off again, but this is a little felted so that wasn’t going to work.  I needed a fine, softly spun wool in a matching colour.  I knew I had nothing like that in the stash (rather unbelievably) but I did have a yarn that was the right colour, though not the right weight.

Undaunted, I took just one ply of the worsted weight I found, and it worked just fine. There was a tiny hole in the brim of the hat – that took just a stitch or two to fix, I simply worked duplicate stitch over the missing bit.  The larger hole in the bonnet was a little harder, a combination of darning and duplicate stitch made that one go away.

The hole in the sleeve was another matter.  One whole column of stitches was absent – it’s missing all the ladders in that column- so I couldn’t just ladder it back up like a dropped stitch, it was too wide to just sew up, and it wouldn’t look right if I darned it.

I thought about knitting a patch, a little heart or something, and sewing it over the hole, but then I had another idea. I used a technique that I teach in my Fix is in Class.  *

Working back and forth, I gave myself the ladders that I needed, one for each missing row, then inserted my tiny crochet hook in the intact stitch at the bottom of that section, and laddered it up like it simply was a dropped stitch, anchoring it at the top with a single stitch of grafting to the intact stitch at the top.  Voila!

You can’t even tell it was ever munched.  When I was done I took the ribbons out and thought about replacing them, but though they’re a little ragged, they’re the originals, and silk, and serviceable enough that I didn’t want to swap them out. They got a little pressing, and I put them back in. The whole things looks almost as good as new, or as good as a 52 year old sweater set can.

Now my little grandchild can wear something I did, and that their mother did, and it was lovely to work on something my great-grandmother made with her own two hands.  It felt really good to be able to be responsible for restoring her good work like that, and I think it will feel even better to dress a babe in something her great, great, great grandmother knit. I know it’s a wish of mine that the things I make will last this long and be this loved.

That’s her – Dorothy, in the back next to my Great Grandfather Archibald. My Grandmother Kathleen is on the left, and there’s my mum Bonnie, holding me.

(PS. At the Spring Retreat I’m going to teach this sort of repair, our theme is the letter E, and that covers “Errors” and this comes up in that section. All the workshop spots are filled up, but we still have a few spots for textile artists who’re able to spin and knit. For the record, and because people always write to us and ask, you do not need to be a very experienced knitter or spinner for these retreats. They’re learning experiences, and it’s just fine to be a beginner in both departments.  Everyone always says “maybe when I’m good enough” and there’s no reason to wait. This sort of thing is supposed to help you become that good. More info here if you’re into it.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Am I winning yet

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 18:24

There is not yet a baby, which is a good thing in the knitting department and I’m quite pleased by it, though Meg less so, to be truthful.

I’ve been quietly sending “not quite yet sweetie” messages out into the universe, and so far it’s working.  I did decide, after the last blog post to add another repeat of the lace – it seemed silly to make a short term knitting decision when this will be a long term grandchild, and I knew I’d be happier in a year with this choice than I was with it in the moment – so my nine rounds to go turned into 25 rounds to go, and I poured on the burn.

(I know, that is such an incredibly hip thing to say that you can hardly stand it.)  I dedicated a few days of really intense knitting to the thing, and I’m happy to announce that the body is done, and I, gentle readers, have made it all the way to the edging.

This blanket has almost a thousand stitches in a round now – and that means I have to work around two thousand rows of the edging to get around the thing and have it cast off. It’s about 55 repeats of the edging pattern, plus a little more to get around the corners. I’m almost to the first corner now, which means I am at the exact point in the process where it feels completely hopeless.  Elliot’s coming for a sleepover tonight and that’s always good for a chunk of knitting time – he goes to bed early and easily, bless him. (He remains the sweetest child to ever walk the earth, I tell you. It makes me wonder if this next babe will be the end of all peace, but let’s worry about that when we see what sort of vibe the kid is rocking.)

I took a little blanket break earlier in the week, partly because I was bored to the point of chewing my own arm off, and also because almost everyone I know who’s ever had a knitting injury can point to a wicked knitting jag that did it. I think it’s pretty important for your hand health to keep mixing it up.  (Do you know what makes it hard to get a repetitive strain injury? Not repeating things. It’s not like I’m going to knit less, but I can keep knitting with variety. That wee break meant that I finished the sweetest little onesie.  So darling I can hardly stand it. Soft and warm, perfect for the first few weeks or so.

Pattern:Tiriltunge Newborn Onesie Yarn: Rosy Green Wool Merino d’Arles in Mistral. It took about 1.5 skeins, and I used a 3mm needle.

It is just about  perfect.  I loved this yarn a lot, and the result is charming, cozy, was pretty easy to knit if you keep your wits about you (and I do.)  I think it’s going to fit too – and may be a hair big, which is perfect, because new humans grow so quickly.

I also spent a little time restoring some old knits, ones that were mine when I was a baby, of all things – but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.  Trust me, we’re going to need something to break up the blanket monotony.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 19:24

On the weekend, I was feeling pretty good about the blanket situation. I’d completed the centre, picked up the stitches all the way around it, worked the first garter border, the ring lace, the second garter border, the first big border, the third garter border and was just a few rounds away from finishing the second big border. That just left the final garter border and that’s just eight rounds, and I’d be staring the edging.  Sure, the edging takes a while to knit, a million years or so, but it was seeming all so possible.  So possible in fact that I worked on some other stuff. I worked on a little onesie I’m knitting, and I even contemplated starting something else – a little merino shirt for the baby to wear in the early days.  I went on a dive into the stash and didn’t come up with just the yarn I wanted but I did find some hand combed merino top (a gift from MamaCate more than a decade ago, combed with her own two little hands) and It seemed like just the right thing. I didn’t have the yarn I wanted, but I could make the yarn I wanted, and I gave the blanket a little glance, told it to essentially knit itself for a bit, and pulled out my wheel.

It’s been a while since I sat at it, and it was such a pleasure that the next thing I knew I’d spun all my singles, and plied, and voila –

By yesterday afternoon I had the sweetest little skein of two-ply merino, about 200m of a light fingering weight, just the right thing for the idea I had. I thought about getting out the needles right then, but the blanket was lurking, and I thought to myself that since I only had about ten rounds to go before the edging, I should just put in few rounds.

Now, the blanket has, at this point- about 900 stitches per round, and that increases by 8 every other round. Sitting down to do “a few rounds” isn’t a small chunk of time. It’s lace, too, so the idea of getting this bit done and moving on to the edging/casting off phase is pretty motivating. Of course, I have no real idea when the baby will come, but I do know that I should get a move on, and I did.  Last night as I was hanging out with the family, chatting after Sam’s birthday dinner (she turned 26 yesterday!) finishing the last lace round, (JUST NINE ROUNDS LEFT) I spread the work out on my knee for a minute, and had a thought. The thought was not good. The thought was that the border I was looking a wasn’t tall enough.

I turned to Sam and asked her what she thought.  Could I stop? Did I need another repeat?  Sam looked at it and said that she thought another repeat wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but that if I wanted to be done with it, she thought I could stop if I wanted to.

Wanted to be done with it? Yes. That is what I wanted, so I celebrated, called it done, and went to bed, happy to be waking up today in a world where there are just NINE ROUNDS LEFT.

This morning, well rested but with a proper sense of panic around the blanket, anxious to finish those NINE ROUNDS, I pulled the behemoth onto my lap and started to work.  As I started, I thought about what Sam had said.  “If you wanted to be done with it” and then I wondered about having asked her at all.  Are those the actions of a confident knitter? Does a someone who’s sure they’re right ask for help getting out of knitting a bit more? I drank my coffee, and thought about revisiting my blanket math.  I’ve got a sketch with measurements and a plan in a drawer in my office, a sheet of paper with the measurements from Elliot’s blanket on it, and equivalent calculations for this one – because I have this crazy idea that they should be about the same size. I didn’t go get the paper, because I know what it says on it, and I know what it’s going to tell me. I know that math. It’s my math – and although my mathematics skills are total crap, my memory is just fine. I looked at my measuring tape, and I thought about measuring, knowing full well that if I did, it wouldn’t be nine more rounds.  It would be TWENTY FIVE MORE ROUNDS, and well – have a look at Meg.

Exactly.  You see the situation.  So, here I sit, measuring tape in one hand, the truth in the other and I’m trying to bring myself to accept the whole thing.  I do not think, if I decide to go the long way, that I will outrun this baby.  I do think that I might be happier with it in the end though, and this child will have the blanket a lot longer than it’s going to take to knit those rounds, and while do I want to be “done with it” I also want it to be perfect.

Maybe I’ll just look at that little skein of merino for a bit.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 03:13

I wasn’t going to blog today because I didn’t have much time, but a short post is better than no post so I’m going to write this, but I’m not even going to try to make it coherent.  Let’s do a list, shall we? Here’s some things.

1. We had Megan’s baby shower on Saturday here at the house.  I thought that you were only supposed to have a shower for your first, but the girls said I was being old-fashioned and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to celebrate getting a baby, so we did.

2. I made cookies.

3. I also made a romper (the pattern is this one) and then I hadn’t run out of yarn so I made a bonnet (no pattern I just know what babies look like) and the I still had yarn so I made shoes.

I am out of yarn now. All that from one skein of Rosy Green Cheeky Merino Joy – which made it a very good deal indeed.  (Colour was 62, Isar Pebble.)

4. The shoes are from 50 Baby bootees to knit, which is a book I love now and always have. It’s paid for itself a thousand times.

5. Elliot is staying here for 3 days and two nights while his parents celebrate the last gasp of relative freedom they have before the new baby thows them back into lockdown.  I admit, I’m a little nervous – we’ve been doing sleepovers to practice for this – and so that he can have people to hang out with when the little usurper arrives, but two nights is a long time for a boy not yet three.  I hope it goes well. Today was the first and it went just fine. We cooked dinner together, and he went to bed like warm butter on hot toast, so let’s just see if it lasts.  (I have purchased treats and are willing to use them.)

6. I have their dog too.  See above re: treats.

7. I taught Elliot how to peel a carrot. Together with the potty training (he is better at that then the carrot) he is just about employable.

8. I do not care to discuss the blanket (or lack thereof) today.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

All that I survey

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 21:47

This morning, before I packed my bags and got ready to head for the airport, I spread out my knitting and had a little sigh about it. I brought three projects with me on this trip – and I didn’t meet my goals on any of them.  I forgot how completely exhausted I am after skiing, and what it’s like to try and juggle my other responsibilities with that.  Joe always says that the great thing about being self employed is the flexibility.  You can work any 14 hours a day you want, and both of us were feeling that.  If we were in the hotel room we were on our laptops, trying to get stuff accomplished and pretend to the people we had commitments to that we weren’t playing on the slopes, and I only managed to carve out about an hour of serious knitting each evening.  I did manage to get a few hours of non-serious knitting in each day as we travelled back and forth to the ski hill.  We like taking the bus once we’re there, and it gives you some pretty good knitting time, although I couldn’t bring myself to bring the blanket on the bus and then stuff it in my ski bag.  I’m too far along for it to get dirty or what if someone stole my ski bag? There would be no coming back from it.  I kept it in the hotel room – resisting the urge to put it in the safe.

I had three knitting goals this trip.  I wanted to finish the romper.

This did not happen.  It might happen today as I make my way home – my flight’s been delayed twice thanks to a snowstorm in Toronto, and it’s farther along than it is in that picture since I knit on it on the way to the airport, but mostly I’m behind.

I brought this little white sweater (pictured in the corner above) It’s a plain white cardigan knit on 2.25mm needles which is, rather predictably, taking forever.  I aimed to finish the body and start the sleeves. Even brought needles for the sleeves, but it was a total bust. While I thought about it a lot, it’s had the audacity to stay about the same, only a few centimetres longer than it was when I left Toronto. I suppose that I would have made better progress if I’d knit it instead of thinking about it, but I was so demoralized this failure that I didn’t even pack it in my carry on. It can think about what it’s done while it’s squashed in my suitcase.

The blanket…. that was the big fail.  My goal was to finish the border I’m on now, accomplish the little garter band before the next border, and be finished the next border, which is smaller than the first.  Sadly, not only did I not get this done, I fell way short.  I’m on the last round of the first border.  I think I forgot to take into account that this blanket is growing rapidly. Right now there are about 712 stitches in a round – but that grows by 8 stitches every other round.  Predictably, those rounds are taking longer and longer.  Still, I’m on to 8 rounds of garter now, and then 20 of a lace pattern much simpler than the last, so maybe there is some hope.  I’m going to work on it all the way home today, and it’s a 4.5 hour flight, so maybe?  It’s making me anxious, I’d like to make some real progress, but I’m going to avoid setting a crazy goal that just generates more knitting deadline anxiety.

Whew! almost done, which is good because I’m off to stand in the Standby line and see if I can get myself anywhere close to Toronto, but one last thing.  Debbi and Judith and I have had lots of questions about the retreat, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that if a couple of people write to ask us, then a lot of people are wondering about it, so we thought that we’d take a few minutes a few days in a row to answer questions. (We’re speaking here of the Strung Along Spring Retreat. It’s March 20-23rd, and there are details on this page.  There’s also details about the June and November retreats there, but please note that those two are full, with a wait list. We can put you on that wait list, but for November in particular, those odds are not good.  If you were hoping for a retreat this year, March is your baby.)

I’m answering today- because this is a question we get that could be sung from my own little heart.

I would love to come and I wish I was the sort of person who could, but I feel really anxious about going alone and not knowing anyone and I’m not sure I can do it without a wingknitter.  Does anyone come alone? What’s it like if they do?

Knitter, my little cowardly, introverted, nervous self hears you.  There was a birthday party for someone really like last week and I had trouble going because I wasn’t sure I was going to know anyone there. It turned out absolutely fine, but I hear you. I actually AM you.  I can tell you a few things about the retreat that might make you feel better.  First, yup.  About half of the retreat is brand spanking new to the experience, and coming alone.  You wouldn’t be the only one, for sure.  Second, almost everyone else who’s coming is a repeat retreat who came alone the first time that they did, so they understand how you feel.

Next, this retreat was set up by someone who’s as nervous as you are (that would be me) and someone who’s pretty normal socially.  (That would be Debbi.) We’ve got it arranged so that it’s pretty cozy.  On the first evening you meet everyone in a big room, but you don’t have to talk to them or do anything, Debbi and I take the heat.  From then on, you’re in a small group with 10-14 other knitters, and they’re the same ones every day.  The whole retreat gathers for meals and evening activities, but you’ve always got that little group that you’re with every day, and almost everybody makes buddies in that group.

Last, I can tell you two things- there is lots of time to go to your room, regroup, knit quietly and gather yourself before you return to the fray. On the other hand, if you’ve made a friend or twelve, there’s lots of cozy living room style space to hang out and knit together.  We’ve got a little lounge that we hang out in.

The other thing of those two? We have knitters who have been coming for years, because it is the one time of the year that they see the friends that they make at Strung Along –  it is a point of pride for Debbi and Judith and I that the retreat is a ship that has launched a thousand friendships.  It is a beautiful thing.

If all else fails, you know me. I’ll be there.

If you want to come, email info@strungalong.ca and we can talk about it.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

The Voice

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 15:42

This post comes to you from Banff, Alberta. Joe’s been working out this way a bit, and so I flew down to meet him, and we’ll have a quick ski before I go home and he goes back to work, and then the two of us are grounded soon as we enter the “On Call” phase for Megan and the impending grandbaby.  The on call phase is quite long. I had that crazy mad dash to make it home when Elliot decided to make an early appearance, so we’re not taking any chances with this baby.  Could be as shifty as her brother.

I think this pressure, this worry that the baby will be here soon and I’ll run out of time and nothing will be done contributed to a fairly disastrous knitting week.  I’ve got the blanket underway of course, and a romper and I sort of think I could finish a onsie (if I started a onsie) and they were both going really well, if by really well you understand that there was progress, but I was having some sort of dis-associative episode where The Voice tried to deal with me.

This is one of my best tricks – ignoring The Voice. When I was a younger knitter it was easy to ignore the voice.  I’d be knitting along, and The Voice would say something like “This looks a little big” and I’d say “what the hell do you know?  You are The Voice of insecurity, of doubt, of low self-esteem. Get off me.” Then The Voice would say “You know what? You’re right, either one of us could be correct here. Good luck.”  At some point it dawned on me that The Voice was almost always right. The Voice was actually helpful.  It would whisper tips, like “that gauge looks a little funky are you sure you want to skip washing the swatch?”  Or it would humbly offer something like  “Hey, can we take a minute and connect our knowledge of the size of your bust and the size of this sweater and see if we’re still both onside with this?” Or “That increase looks like crap and you know it.”

Over time The Voice has proven that while it seems like a pain in the arse, its prime directive is really nice knitting and it doesn’t need to shush up and not talk to me. It is me. It is not my low self esteem, it isn’t interfering with me, it’s not trying to wreak my fun, it is yay verily the voice of my experience and it is trying to run quality control on my knitting.  I am interested in making things that are nice, so now I try to listen to The Voice.

(Someone will ask, the romper is the Spring into Summer Romper)

I can only assume then, that when earlier this week The Voice said “Hey wow. You’ve chosen the wrong border for this blanket, it’s going to be way too tall.” And “Yo, Steph, the gauge on that romper is bananapants that’s the size of a toddler not a newborn what the hell.” (The Voice has poor punctuation skills. Always has.) When The Voice said that – I blame the stress of the impending baby for what I said to it, which was “No, no, we’re good.”  The Voice (which counts persistence among its skills) said “No Steph, that border is wrong and the romper is huge.” And I’m pretty sure that I replied with something like “HEY C’MON VOICE DON’T PULL THIS I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME”.

This might have worked.  I might have been able to bully The Voice, but The Voice (which is, after all, me) has a rather amazing secret weapon.  Truth.  The Voice simply replied with “Oh.  Cool.  I wouldn’t want you to run out of time for to knit substandard junk for your grandkid. Peace out.  Mwah.”

With that, I went and got a tiny skinny knitting needle, counted all the rounds back to the beginning of the border, picked up the last round of stitches before I started it, and then attached the whole shebang to the ball winder.*  When I was done, I went and got the romper (which I had charmingly blocked to try and make it smaller – protip, nope) and ran that through the ballwinder too, and pulled out the whole thing.  I even let Elliot have a go.  He must have been bothered by the whole thing.  He had a very serious face on, like he was part of some sort of sad event, and towards the end as he turned the handle at the romper funeral, looked up at me and said “Why Grammy? Why winder?”

I told him the truth.  I had made some mistakes and the knitting was no good. I didn’t do it properly. It hadn’t worked.   Elliot looked at me, patted my arm and said “It’s okay Grammy.  You can just try again.” **

Thanks buddy. Tell it to The Voice.

*I know this seems a little funny, but it is the fastest, easiest way to pull back a project with a million complicated stitches.  It’s sort of like a lifeline after the fact.  If you’d run a lifeline, this would be even easier.  Run the super skinny (like 2mm) needle through all the stitches of the lifeline, then rip back. Voila, the round is on the needles, with no chance of messing up the lace. I pull out the upper, working needle as I pick up the round below. 

**I complimented Meg and Alex for this, for working on raising a nice resilient kid, and Meg gave all the credit to MagnaTiles. 

(PS. We still have room for the Spring Retreat – details here, though I’ll talk more about it soon.)

Categories: Knitting Feeds