Yarn Harlot

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Updated: 1 day 15 hours ago


Sun, 08/06/2023 - 10:54

Well, here we are. Yesterday we packed all of our things into our bins and then put them on the trucks, and then we came home and had a little spa day for our bikes and a family dinner. At least Ken and I did, I’m pretty sure Cam worked. It was nice to work alongside Ken, I’ve missed him so much since he moved to Ottawa, it’s a pleasure just to be in the same house, do things together, have the family all in one spot. It’s something that I’m looking forward to over the next week for sure, as we all ride our bikes together, camp together… Team Knit isn’t just friends, we’re family.

I was reflecting on that last night getting ready for bed- have I ever told you about the idea of Bike Rally Family? This event is special that way, we’re not a very big group of people, only about 200 riders will ride the six days from Toronto to Montreal. We’ll be supported by about 90 crew, and we often say that we’re like a small travelling town. We pack up in the morning, and put everything on the trucks, and then road support gets out there to guide us, the rustlers move our stuff to the next stop, the food crew comes up with three meals a day (in three different locations, even) the wellness crew cares for people who are hurt or need support, and logistics pulls the whole thing together, somehow. Then we land in a new place about 100km from the first one, and take everything out of trucks and set up tents and do it all over again. That whole thing is run by a steering committee of volunteers who work a whole year to make these six days happen – and obviously we’re way too small to be a town, but over the course of the Rally together, something crazy happens, and it’s that you’re having such a wild experience, such a unique and bizarre thing, that you come to feel an intimacy and affection for the other people doing it that makes you feel closer to them than you imagined you would. By the end of it, we call it the “Bike Rally Family” and it’s something that persists all year.

Good thing too, because this tiny group of volunteers, giving up time, energy, vacation time, money… to make this happen? The Bike Rally raises most of the operating budget for an entire ASO. (AIDS Service Organization.) We – The Bike Rally Family – we are the reason that there is a PWA, and that it can support anyone.

This is the Bike Rally’s 25th Anniversary. 25 years ago a couple of friends, Danny Nashman and David Linton- heard about a funding crisis at PWA (People With Aids) and decided to have a fundraiser. They set out to ride to Montreal and supported by a few friends with pickups and BBQs – a handful of riders raised $45 000. David passed away several years ago, but today I packed up my bins next to Danny and loaned him duct tape to cover the holes in the bins so spiders don’t get in. (Also there is some concern about earwigs but I try not to think about it and just use the tape.)

25 years later, here’s Danny, here’s all of us, showing up to try and do the same thing they did that first time – fund the agency out of a crisis. This year donations are down, and as we all know, need is up. PWA has a lot of different services that they provide – some you would expect, some you wouldn’t – and one of them is the Essentials Market. (That’s the food bank, the only one in Ontario exclusively for people with HIV/AIDS and their dependents. I’ve spoken before about how shocked most people are at how many women and children it helps – the face of this virus has changed a lot over the years.) Thanks to the rising cost of living, inflation, the cost of food and ^$#%ing Covid, more people are coming for help. Thanks to those same things, the donations from suppliers used to be six pallets of food a week, and now it’s two.

That’s a big deal – and to try and keep people fed, PWA has been diverting funds from other programs to buy food for the market – and the situation is unsustainable. PWA is so much more than a food bank, what people need is so much more than a food bank – what they deserve is so much more than a food bank – but this year there is the very real risk that the Bike Rally won’t be able to raise what PWA needs. We’re about $400 000 short of the goal, and that’s a lot for a little family of 200 riders to come up with.

I think I’ve been pretty honest that I have a healthy respect for what the rally asks of a person – I won’t say that it usually scares me, but that’s only because I’ve always been worried enough that I over-prepare, over train, over pack…. by the time the Rally rolls around every year I’ve actually used that fear to get me ready. This year it’s different, thanks to ^$#%ing Covid – and its fallout. There is actually no way that I’m properly ready. None. I have a puffer now and maybe that helps? I don’t know. All I know for sure is that I’m properly scared. The guys keep saying that I can rely on my body’s experience doing this, muscle memory and all that, but I feel like I am at the age where my muscles are starting to forget things rather than remember them, if you know what I mean. This morning as I drink my coffee and think about what lies ahead of me for the next six days, I’m reflecting that this isn’t a job, this isn’t a vacation, this isn’t anything really except for a family trying to get something done.

In a family, you show up and do your best, and your family gets your back and helps you, and you make sure that all of you are okay, as best you can, so I’m going to get on my bike and keep bugging you for donations, so that the Bike Rally Family can take care of the clients who need the PWA family, and I’m going to count on my family to take care of me.

If you’d like to help- the Team Knit Family is still out there representing knitters, and working to get to our goals.




See you in a week, and thank you for all your help taking care of people. You’re legends.

(PS: I can’t post to the blog while we’re riding, but you can see what we’re up to on instagram, you don’t have to sign up to follow us on the ride. I’m @yarnharlot, Ken is @five12plus, and Cameron is @thesilverboy)

Categories: Knitting Feeds

I’ll pack in a minute

Fri, 08/04/2023 - 22:40

Today is the day before packing day. Ken arrives tonight, and The Bike Rally leaves on Sunday morning, but tomorrow we take everything we need for the next week and pack it into two bins. The “rustlers” take the two bins and put them on a truck, and that truck goes ahead of us to where we’ll be stopping the first night. When you finish riding for the day (one presumes here you have made it to camp) you find your bins, and set up camp. Tomorrow I’ll give them my tent, sleeping bag, clothes – everything I’ll need to cycle the six days to Montreal.

This always causes me a ton of anxiety. All the riders really- it’s a little more complicated that it sounds – for starters there’s all the regular packing, plus camping packing, but also anything I give them tomorrow morning, I won’t have access to for 36 hours. This raises all sorts of regular person questions (like what does that mean for your toothbrush? Shoes? Wallet? What if you want to wear those shorts on packing day and day five?) but for a knitter, it seems extra complicated, doesn’t it? I can’t work on anything I decide to pack in my bins, but there’s still a whole day and night of knitting before I leave, and anything I work on tomorrow has to be left behind, and then there’s a whole day where I have to ride 100km to get to any knitting at all. (That happens every day, it’s a decent incentive.) I’m not a particularly monogamous knitter (okay not at all) but it still seems funny to leave something behind for a whole week. Won’t it be lonely for me?

Obviously I need yarn to knit on the Rally – while there’s not much time to knit there is evenings after dinner and a few rounds in the morning in my tent, just to centre myself. Once we’re in Montreal there’s more time to knit and then a long train ride home. My inner knitter says that means I need two sweaters worth and at least four balls of sock yarn, but I’ve been carrying around her stuff forever and she’s a terrible packer. I’m going ignore her and just take enough to make two pairs of socks – half of my stash of this years bike rally yarn from Indigodragonfly. (I’ve linked it there, if you want some, Kim, Ron and Victoria donate 25% of the proceeds to knitters riding, also it is gorgeous.) My urge is to take more, but I don’t think a sock a day is a realistic expectation under these circumstances. There’s that little voice that says “but what if?” but I’m going to try and be reasonable.

I’ve not wound the yarn, nor decided what pattern(s) I’ll make and I haven’t found needles yet, but what the hell, I have 14 hours so it’s cool. I’m only going to sleep for 8 of those. It will be fine. I haven’t packed anything else either. I still need to find all my stuff, the clothes on the line need to dry, there’s a toothpaste crisis I need to solve – I’m nervous about all of it and it’s making me procrastinate. I can’t pack incorrectly if I don’t pack, right? Yeah. I know.

In the meantime, let’s do some Karmic Balancing gifts, shall we? It’s a good distraction, at least for me. (If you missed the explanation of how this works, you can check it out at the bottom of this post.) Here we go!

First -something a little bit different, a little less random than our Karmic Balancing magic usually is. Abigail knit this beautiful Short Rose shawl out of the  Indigodragonfly 2020 Pedal Pushers colorway and she’s willing to send it away to it’s forever home. It’s too beautiful to choose a name at random – it should be with someone who really loves it. If that’s you, think up the donation you’d like to make for it, and email me at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca I’ll look over all the offers and be in touch.

Next! Jennifer has a copy of Sequence Knitting to send out – this is a fascinating book, and it will be going to live with Kristen S. Thanks Jennifer!

Allison went into her stash and came out with this, a beautiful kit from the Unique Sheep for the Guernsey Garden Cowl.

Allison will be sending that off to Jaemi F, and I hope they love it.

Allyson has one for the spinners! 100% merino from Koigu,

she’ll be popping that in the mail to LeAnn S.

Kate has not one but three gifts of sock yarn to send to their new and happy homes:

This skein of Regia Premium Merino Yak is for Paula F.

This beautifully watery skein of Lisa Souza deluxe sock is for Vicky H.

and last but not least, this beautiful skein of Cascade Heritage sock will be socks on the needles of Eva D.

Two pretty skeins from Eliza! One of Red Sock Blue Sock Yarn Co’s sock yarns in “Queenie” for Latifa D,

and this skein of SweetGeorgias Tough Love Sock will be winging their way to Chris I.

Linda is somehow finding a way to part with this skein from Gauge Dye Works – she’ll be sending it to Madelyn.

Meanwhile Sandie has two skeins to be gifts as well. They’re both from Farmer’s Daughter Sock Squad – this pretty one is for Grace T.

and this glorious skein is going to Katie D.

Finally – last but certainly not least, Amy Snell (talented designer and friend of the show) would like to give away TEN patterns. Knitter will choose from her whole independent library and let Amy know which one they would love. You can see all her patterns here on Payhip, or here on Ravelry . Carol G, Karen B, Ruth Ann H, Michelle C, Esther R, Jessica N, Ruth V, Victoria P, Spring D, Susan G, and Ashley A will have a very hard time deciding!

That’s it for today, there’s more in the hopper but I have to bring the laundry in and really make a start on packing. I’ve emailed all the lucky knitters who’s names were drawn, so check your inboxes. As always, thank you for all each of you does to support the Bike Rally. We are so grateful for you.

Team Knit is:




Categories: Knitting Feeds

Rookie Move

Sat, 07/29/2023 - 00:25

We’re a few hundred kilometres from home, enjoying the same cottage we pack off to every summer. Usually the way it works is that Joe and I move into the place, and then assorted family comes and goes as their schedule allows. This year we’re lucky enough that Meg, Alex and the grandkids can be with us the whole time, and Amanda too. Everyone else has managed a little time here and there, and it’s been lovely.

I packed lots of knitting. Two sweaters, the yarn for a little dress for Abby (for when I finished the two sweaters naturally) and then three pairs of socks with none of them even past the heel turn. I can assure you as I packed all this, that I was pretty sure I wasn’t underyarned. The dress is lace, the sweaters are big – I have lots. Even if I gave up cooking, organizing, training for the rally and playing with my little grandchildren and did nothing but knit, I would be just fine.

So, I plowed through the first sweater – The Vibes Tee. Nice, right?

The yarn is Trio, and it was a fast, fun summer knit that has inexplicable pink/coral stripes that I adore. I have no idea what possessed me when I saw that colour since I’m usually pretty anti-pink, but something about that particular colour reminded me of roses, and my mum’s favourite shade of toenail polish and it was named “Radish” and I love radishes so suddenly I had a sweater with pink stripes on the needles and I couldn’t have been happier. That shade stayed charming the whole way through too. I LOVE it.

Weird thing though – I went to knit the ribbing on the bottom, and I came up to the bedroom where I have the bag of knitting stuff I brought with me on this trip and I shuffled through the surprisingly small pile of needles and couldn’t find the right one for the ribbing. “Odd as fish” I thought to myself, since I have a really, really clear memory of going to my office with a needle gauge and a list of all my projects and pulling down all the needles I would need and making a pile of them all. Turned out Meg had a spare needle in the right size, so I borrowed from her and kept on trucking.

A little while later it was time for the sleeves, and back I went to the bag of needles for the DPNs I needed for the sleeves and sleeve ribbing. I searched through the bag in disbelief when I couldn’t find them, and then painstakingly went through every other bag I’d brought in case I’d taken all leave of my senses and jammed them into some strange and infrequently visited pocket of my purse or mysteriously slid them down a section of my backpack. I had not. Meg to the rescue again – she didn’t have DPNs the size I needed, but she did have a set of interchangables with almost long enough cables for me to do the magic loop, so I just awkwardly powered through. The needle thing was really bugging me though. That night I checked all the bags again.

I washed the Tee in the lake and blocked it on the dock and while it was drying I went and fetched the Paul Klee sweater I’m working on. The needles are in that, so nothing could go wrong for a bit. I motored along, then measured last night and thought well isn’t this a pretty amazing moment, I’m ready for the ribbing. I went back to the bag AND YES YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED DON’T YOU. The needle for the ribbing was not there. This, I thought to myself, this has gone way too far. Meg was using her needle that size, so I pulled myself together and moved along. I’d knit the sleeves! Nope- those needles aren’t in the bag either. Here we shall not speak of the rage that I felt. It’s unbecoming to a knitter and I may have thrown things around a little in a way that doesn’t reflect my usual level of maturity. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this petals, is why you simply must bring a lot of knitting on holiday. You never know what will come up.

I calmly (ok I slammed it) put aside the sweater, and went to fetch the dress for Abigail.

This is going to be the Holly Dress, and that’s just a little bit of silk to make it out of. I rummaged the bag almost expecting not to find the 3mm needle I needed, and when I didn’t, I had a brainwave. The body of the Paul Klee sweater was on a 3mm and I was at the ribbing! I could use that one. I put the sweater on a barber cord, and pulled out the 3mm, only realizing as I did it that it was way too long. Not so long that I could do magic loop and start the dress anyway, but too long to cast on. I swore, and pivoted again- feeling very proud of my ability to change tack without a tantrum so many times.

Now, in the course of this story you may be wondering what in the name of alpaca was I riffling through in that bag if it was not needles? It was needles. Lots of needles. A trove of needles – all wrong. Here’s what I just figured out. In the days leading up to leaving for this trip, I did two things. I tidied the house and put all recently rejected or discarded needles in a pile on my desk, ready to put away. Then I made a pile (also on my desk do you see this coming) of the needles I needed for this trip. Then I simply picked up the wrong pile and left. I don’t know how I couldn’t have noticed, but I am certain that the moment I arrive home I will find a very nice and tidy pile of exactly what I need sitting on my desk and looking smug. In the meantime, I am reduced to a few days of just socks before I get home, so thanks goodness I brought so much yarn that Joe looked at me funny.

When not trying to knit up here, I’ve been doing my best to train for the Rally – things are still not great but they are better – Exercise makes me wheeze now, which doesn’t seem to hold me back or make me short of breath, but does make my post-covid lungs sound exactly like an accordion you found in someone’s basement. (It’s much better than two weeks ago though.) The fatigue is improved, so is my stamina, but it’s still me on the strugglebus out there. My Dr said that as long as I’m not trying to push through extreme fatigue or shortness of breath, I’m cool. Exercise sucks, but then I recover just fine and am only as wiped out as I should be considering everything.

All this is a green light to keep trying, and try I have. I’ve been running about every other day, and I brought my bike with me so I could try and get some rides in. Running is pretty rough here – it’s hot and the local insect population waits at the end of the lane to attack people on who venture onto their territory with the accuracy and deadliness of a military flight wing. I’m covered in so many bites I look like I was tied to a tree and left there for a week. (Before you suggest it, know that I am covered in DEET. They mock it. ) The riding has been something else too – There is not a single inch of this area that is flat. It’s hills, all hills and I’ve been out there getting my arse handed to me like never before. I’m reminding myself that the rally isn’t that hilly – no part of it is, so failure here could still mean success there. We leave in 9 days.

I’ve got some Karmic Balancing gifts to give away and I’ll do that as soon as we’re home in a day or two (the internet here leaves something to be desired) and I’m all over it as soon as I unpack and bathe somewhere other than a lake. If anyone wanted a part of Karmic Balancing gifts – here’s how it works. If you help Team Knit fundraise for the Rally, then you can send an email to me (stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and make the subject line “I helped”. You should include your name, address and if you knit and spin, or just knit, or just spin. There are LOTS of ways to help. You can donate to anyone on Team Knit, we’re all still working towards our goals.




Or you can share the links with friends or family you think might help, spread the word, use your social media to let people know, all of that counts as helping.

If you would like, you can be a Karmic Contributor – if you’ve got a knitter/spinner thing in your stash that you’d like to pass along to someone else as a dose of good vibes for helping this year, you can take a picture of it and send it to me at that same email (stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca). You can describe what it is, and let me know where you’re willing to ship it. (International, Canada, the US, only Portugal, whatever) and then I’ll open the list of helpers, draw a name at random, and send it to you. You’ll ship it to them, and whammo. Karmic Balancing. The helpers never know what they’ll get except it will be yarnish (or patternish) and it will be something nice they didn’t have before, and that’s exactly how Karma works.

I’m off now, so I’ll give you this picture of Abby enjoying the singular pleasure of being in a lake for the first time. She loved it.

Categories: Knitting Feeds


Sun, 07/09/2023 - 19:27

Well, that ride didn’t kill me. I so appreciate all the comments that are so kind as to suggest not pushing myself, not taking risks… I hear you, and I feel really touched by how much you want me to be careful and to keep myself well. Rest assured that I am a reasonable adult who has got this far, and I have professional advice (not just internet advice, as much as I love you all) and there’s actually loads of research showing that for reasonably fit people who are more than 10 days post-covid (that’s me!) exercise can be preventive for long covid, and helpful in its healing. I acknowledge that there’s also some research that says that resting may be protective, but it’s a total mixed bag, and the best advice I’ve got right now is that exercise isn’t damaging, ignoring messages from your body is, so I’m not planning on doing that. Not ignoring messages isn’t the same as not trying though, it’s more about knowing when to quit, so Wednesday when I struck out for a 50km bike ride I was prepared to be flexible. My ride wound out fairly far, but then the last 15km were close to home-ish, so that I could bail if I needed to, when I needed to. This differs a great deal from what I’d usually do, which is ride away from home until I’m halfway, then ride back so that the only way to get back to the house is to do the full distance. I didn’t want to play too much with forcing myself to do anything right now, and good job because at the 44km mark got a nice clear message from my body that it was absolutely finished with bike riding, and I quit. This was a very unStephanie thing to do, but if there’s going to be any hope that I ride the Rally then setting myself back isn’t going to help. I rode the 44km and then I came home and knit, and rested and ordered dinner in.

That’s pretty much what I did for the next day, and the day after. It was scorchingly hot and I told myself that resting a few days was smart. That’s what I said Friday too. (I hope you see a theme developing.) I walked with Elliot to camp, I walked him back. I did some squats and lunges and other things I hate that should help me get some of the strength back that I had before this, and then I wound some yarn because I didn’t see how that couldn’t be helpful.

Paul Klee sweater, yarn from Tanis FiberArts

I should be working on this sweater, I love it and I really want it done, but predictably I’m struggling with the long tea-time of the soul that is the plain grey of the body after the excitement of the yoke. I’ve coped so far by not taking anything else with me when I go places, but I am feeling waves of discontent that are getting harder and harder to ignore.

The first idea I had was that I should use the leftovers from the yoke of this sweater to start a tiny one for Abigail, but I realized that in a day or two then I would have two plain sweater bodies to knit, and I must be maturing because I actually realized before I cast it on that I would be compounding rather than resolving a problem. (I know. I can’t believe me either.)

Then I thought about maybe making a pair of socks, because I have this skein of Barstow that Jill Draper sent to the retreat as an appetizer, and I am all about this yarn. Barstow is 100% Dorset, and I’m thinking about making a fabulous pair of socks, because I’m pretty excited about a non-superwash sock yarn. Dorset is a down breed – so it has a fibre that’s pretty fine, but also tightly and irregularly crimped. Each individual little hair goes back and forth in a wave and spirals at the same time, and that makes it very, very hard to felt – right off the sheep.

I got the Barstow out, I wound it, and I looked at patterns for an hour, and then I went to get a set of sock needles, and I reached up to the little ceramic pot on my shelf I keep them in (so they are handy for emergencies) and none were there. Now, this doesn’t mean that I am out of sock needles. It just means that I am out of sock needles in my office. There are still the living room sock needles and the stash room sock needles and the bedroom sock needles, as well as the ones I keep in my notions kit for when I am not home – but if I reach for some sock needles in the office and they’re not there, that does mean that I must have rather a lot of socks on the go. I put down the Barstow, slowed my roll and took a quick stroll through the WIP department where I found, well… let’s not discuss the number but simply note that I have absolutely no business starting another pair of socks until I finish a pair. Or seven.

I had a proper pout then, the sort that a knitter can really pull off when startitis is denied, and then I realized that today is Sunday, and tomorrow is Monday, and I’m doing a knit-a-long that starts Monday. Knitters from the last retreat are all knitting the Vibes tee- so I’m going to knit my swatch for that, and tomorrow I’ll get to start something new even though I clearly do not deserve it, which is pretty much my favourite way to get things.

Also tomorrow morning, I’m getting back on my bike and giving it another go. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll make it farther than I did last week, but don’t worry, I promise to be a total quitter if I need to be.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Ok Do it Now

Wed, 07/05/2023 - 13:41

My friend Debbi – she’s pretty great in general, but there’s a few gifts she’s given me over the years that are shining stars of enrichment in my life and one of them is the phrase “Don’t panic early” usually followed by “I’ll tell you when to panic.” Well, I haven’t exactly explained my circumstances to Debbi, but for a few days I’ve had this sneaking suspicion that if I did, she wouldn’t tell me not to panic. I think she’d raise a single eyebrow, then whip out a notebook for planning purposes and say “Ok. Let’s panic as constructively as possible.”

That’s what I’m going to try and do – panic really constructively. This year is the Bike Rally’s 25th Anniversary, a big milestone for the scrappy little fundraiser that’s grown to be the sustaining fundraiser for the whole of PWA – an amazing accomplishment considering that it was started by a couple of people with bikes and a barbecue that they moved around on a pickup. In my head, this year wasn’t just the anniversary, it was also the year that it was all going to come together. The last few years have been full of compromises and people doing their best and rising above, and I felt like this year it was more important that ever to get out there. Without being an epic downer- it’s been a really crappy year for the people who are most vulnerable. At a time when it can feel like many human rights are moving backwards, it seemed like a great time to go as boldly forward as we can, and the Rally is such an amazing metaphor for that.

So, I was excited, and Team Knit set a big fundraising goal, and then… well then things started to go a little bit wrong. First, heartbreak those of you who’re Team Pato, he’s had surgery – Don’t panic, he’s going to be just fine, but Team Knit will be down a member for this year.

Then I had a torn biceps tendon (it’s better now, thanks) and I kept saying that I was going to get out there and train and I did, but definitely not as much as I should have. When that was healed enough to ride I gave myself a stern talking to, and then the wildfires happened and the air quality wasn’t something you could train in. I got out there on a few days that the air was good enough, but it wasn’t enough training – and not only that, it wasn’t enough fundraising. I struggled with Ken being far away – usually we train together quite a bit, and I lay awake the night before I was going to fly to Port Ludlow for the Strung Along Retreat and I thought about it being so close to the Rally – and I went over the whole thing top to bottom in my mind. I kept telling myself it was going to be okay, but was it? We’re short a rider, none of us have met our fundraising goals, and the Ride is just weeks away – is that okay? The answer was a firm maybe, if I got my scene together. The next day I flew to work, planned a post like this one, and the day after was my 55th Birthday. I ran 5.5km on the hotel treadmill to celebrate and to try and keep a bit of training going on. I told myself that if I ran every other day while I was away, and then got into the big training rides right away when I returned I’d be okay – it would be a bit of a stretch, but it would be okay, and I’d get on the fundraising too – it’s hard to fund raise when you’re not riding, but I would be riding so … okay. It was going to be okay.

Saturday morning I was sicker than I’ve ever been. After three years of dodging the thing like a ninja, I finally had covid. I spent the whole retreat with a raging fever and wicked cough, feeling absolutely horrible about not being able to teach. I still had my fingers crossed for the Rally though. Most vaccinated people are only sick for a few days, right? Wrong. Not this one. I was too sick to go home for more than a week, and when I got home it was another week in bed, and even now I’m just recovered enough to look in the general direction of my bike. In 31 days the Rally starts and I’m supposed to be one of a few hundred people who will ride their bikes 660km from Toronto to Montreal, and this morning I’m aiming to ride for 50km which is way, way, way too short, but possibly way longer than I can manage. I’ll pop back tomorrow and tell you if I live. In the meantime, while I’m out there trying to train, I know Cam and Ken have their fingers crossed for me, and all of us would love some help making our goals for this year.

This year’s Team Knit is:




I’m thanking you in advance for anything you’re able to do to make this possible. I’m worried about the riding but really it’s the fundraising that changes people’s lives and makes the ride worth it. If you’re able, please give generously.

I’ve also decided on a return to Karmic Balancing Gifts -they’re a lot of work, to be sure, but I feel like with time so short I need to pull out all the stops. If you donate to anyone on our little family team and you’d like to be in the offing for a gift, then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. I’ll choose names at random.

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!

I’m off to panic as constructively as possible.

Categories: Knitting Feeds

Dear Abigail

Thu, 06/08/2023 - 23:38

My apologies sweet child, that it has taken so long for me to write your blanket letter, though I suppose it’s your grownups who have really been waiting for me to do it. Your mum in particular has been wrapping you in a blanket she knows nothing about for months now. I’m grateful to her for the patience she’s shown me as I struggled, who knew it would be this hard? I will spare you the details and just say that I’m glad I got it worked out before you were old enough to pester me yourself.

You – dear light, are a special beast. I know you’ll grow up with a sense of that, as all children should, but in your case it seems ridiculous not to acknowledge that you have arrived after a time of crisis. You are the baby born to us after we learned that not all babies live. I have worried that this could come to be the most important thing about you – that none of us would be able to separate our fear and loss from the experience of being with you, that there could be no joy or happiness that weren’t edged with an anxiety that spoiled it – but it turns out that it works in a way that I wasn’t expecting. (I will spare you too much foreshadowing of the life you are about to live sweet Abby, but spoiler alert: almost none of your time here is going to work in a way you are expecting. Wait until Elliot tells you about escalators.)

You are one of the most supervised, guarded and protected babies who has ever lived, and we appear helpless not to do this – I’m sure that I owe you a personal apology for the number of times I’ve poked you while you were peacefully sleeping, but I don’t regret a one. We have tried to counter our paralyzing and oftentimes illogical fears with with careful thinking, planning, conversations. Not in a single moment with you my darling Abigail, has anything been taken for granted. We rock and hold and take a million pictures of you while we understand completely that there is an another reality possible. Each person in the family is so thoughtful about your existence, so aware that we could have empty arms, that each choice is lovely, intentional and deliberate, and centres on who you are as an individual. I worried that you would live in the shadow of Charlotte, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. We remain grateful for the glimpse we had of her, and simply grateful for all the time we have with you.

First things first, your blanket is to the others as you are to Elliot and Charlotte, a sibling. It is the same size and made from the same yarn – so that they belong together as a family. Like families (and siblings) some of the elements are about you, and some are about the family together and your connection to them.

The centre of your blanket is a beautiful pattern called Candlelight. I chose it because of what lighting a candle symbolizes to us. In our family we light candles to celebrate, to remember, to spark beauty and hope and brighten dark moments. Sweet Abigail, this is what I knew you would be before I even knew you were you. After your great-grandmother died it was your brother Elliot that taught me what a balm babies are for broken hearts, and in some very dark moments the wee spark of you was enough to to be our candle burning in the dark. You were promise, and with every little flame I knit I knew you would be light – and like Elliot, you are.

Around the flickering centre field, ring lace. This is the only element that has been on every blanket I’ve made for babies in our family. It’s on your brother’s, your sisters, on Frankie, Luis, Maeve, Emmet, Myrie and Sasha’s. I knit it on all of them because I want you to know that like them you are part of something bigger than yourself – the ring of this family encircles you with love and support. We are your home.

Past that – something just for you. I swore that I even though your mum tells me you are a rainbow baby (a child born after a loss) I wasn’t going to lean too hard into the whole rainbow thing, not get caught up in a whole cutsie scene and besides… well, you know how I feel about it. Still there is no denying that you are indeed the rainbow that comes after a storm, and so…a panel of rainbows just for you and your mum. Those rainbows are made of curved branches of Lily of the Valley – a nod to my own Grammy. She was wild and fierce and powerful, beautiful and strong and (I thought) maybe a little dangerous. Kay McPhee made me feel so loved that even now, on the cusp of my 55th birthday, more than forty years since she last stroked my hair behind my ear, I still wish for her and aspire to be one little bit of a Grammy like her.

The border before the edging is roses on a trellis, and this is an element your blanket shares with Charlotte’s. It is for my mum, your mother’s grandmother, the indomitable Bonnie McPhee and a nod to the matriarchy that runs this scene. I was torn about repeating something, but you and your sister are the first babies in this family who didn’t have the privilege of meeting my mum, or each other. We have pictures of my mum and Elliot together, and Elliot and Charlotte together, but you are on this side of the great divide, you come after your sister and after the reign of the mighty McPhees. Tupper always said that we are very good at keeping people alive in this family, with storytelling, legends, and pictures and so this motif for my mother appears on your blanket to draw a connection with her, and with your sister. I hope you’ll see it there when you are a bit bigger, and ask me to tell you the story of your blanket, and when you do I will tell you about Charlotte’s perfect day, and my mum, her roses and her magnificent thorns.

The edging lies beyond my mother’s rose garden, and it is something else that you share with your siblings. Like a last name, you all have the same one. It is a very old pattern called Print ‘o The Wave. I put it on your brother’s blanket to symbolize the water we all love to be in and on, and the wave of love that carried him to us. On Charlotte’s blanket I put it on there for those same reasons, and for the water that she and Elliot were born from and into – beautiful soft waterbirths. For you my Abigail, it is on there for all those thing you have in common with them, and because of all the things in the world, water is the softest and strongest, and a beautiful metaphor for overcoming difficulty. The hardest rock can be carved by water in time, and the largest obstacles swept away. Water is powerful, water is enduring, and water seeks level over time. I don’t want to get too mushy, but it is the perfect symbol for your parents love for you, the journey that it took for them to be able to welcome you, and the gentle, brave way they have found to parent you despite their fears. Wee child, you are carried on a wave.

Finally, two things you cannot see, but are in your blanket anyway. First – there are mistakes that I didn’t fix – and that’s new. In the past I have worked hard to make blankets and other things (like life) as perfect as I possibly can, believing that perfection is equivalent to beauty, and mistakes anathema to joy. After the last few years I want you to know that I am really, really sure that they are not related at all. Sometimes bad things happen and everything is (eventually) beautiful anyway. While I can’t see it in you at all right now when every inch of you appears to be faultless, I am sure that you are imperfect. I know you will make mistakes. When they happen, my sweet one, look at your blanket and remember that the things that go wrong, that you get wrong, those things can still be part of a beautiful whole.

Second – invisible but there – every hope, every fear, every wish, every dream I hold for you is in this blanket and all the stitches you can see. I often tell people that I truly believe that knitting is a love container, and in this case it is not just love that I have knit in. I want you to think of it more like a talisman and a shield I have brought into being. As I knit it, I thought about you, and ran my hands over your Mama’s belly. As I knit it, I looped an incantation for protection and saw you whole and here. As I knit it, I worked a charm for safety and wished you into our arms. As I I knit it, I cast my own yarn spell for happiness and waited.

As I knit it I imagined you small but strong, growing, laughing, being with us always, our Abigail, here just as you should be, where you belong, and where you are wanted.

You are loved beyond measure, welcome beyond belief, and you are magic beyond knowing



Categories: Knitting Feeds