Birthdays

Warning: The sentimental ramblings of a sleep deprived mother lie ahead. (I’m not joking, sleep deprivation is not pretty. I cried about eggs this morning) The knitting content follows. Scroll down if you hate this stuff.
amandaYesterday, my charming and accomplished daughter Amanda celebrated her 15th birthday. She had cake, and presents and the adoring throngs. Or I think she did, I was at a birth. I am beside myself about missing her birthday, but if it is any consolation to her…I thought about her all day.
As my client M. became a mother, I remembered becoming a mother myself. I remember being so tired, and so happy…and so completely freaking terrified that it’s a wonder I was capable of being anything at all. My client had a baby boy, and I told her about nursing, diapers, crying (hers and his) and swaddling.
When M. had a little cry over it all, I almost told her this is only the beginning, she is going to cry about colic, and diaper rash and first smiles and big messes. That she will dissolve over laundry, and dinner and why toddlers only eat yellow beans and toast fingers for weeks at at time. She will weep for lost teeth, the first day of school, chicken pox and that kid who isn’t nice. There will be rivers wept for walking alone to school, getting phone calls from boys, failing math and the first time this kid says “No thanks Mom, I don’t need any help”.
I told M. that now she was a mother. That now things would be different.
I didn’t tell her:
That now…now everything she ever thought she cared about, her job, her garden, her knitting? All that is nothing.
That the whole world just shrunk down to the size of about seven pounds, fifteen ounces.
That this is going to be so hard.
That Motherhood is the end of quitting when it isn’t fun.
That there are no words for how much you will love this person.
That someday…oh someday so soon, this tiny baby with the damp curls will be the most incredible almost grown up person…
Happy birthday Manda.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting blog…
When last we saw our adventurous Harlot, she was boarding the subway to journey downtown and meet Laurie (of the comments) who was visiting from Maine.
I adore her. We had an awesome lunch and embarked on a yarn crawl. There was much shopping, and talking and the exchange of gifts. (I totally scored here…I’m not even going to show you everything that Laurie gave me. I’m afraid that the envy would corrupt you all if I don’t pace it.) For today we will only admire the extremely cool sock yarn that Laurie dyes and spins.
lauriesyarn
Pretty yarn…yes? HA! You like it already and you don’t even know what it does. Note: I am not at all ashamed to admit that I got home from meeting Laurie and within about..say, 9 seconds, had cast on this sock. Tank? Dublin Bay socks? What was that? Cast aside like rags, and you know what? Didn’t even flinch. Not a second thought, not a moment of regret. I don’t even hear their little woolly voices calling out to me.
Lauriesockdone
(You can’t see me…but I am dancing. I am wearing a ratty orange tee-shirt, plaid pants and that sock) I love it. Love, love, love. Laurie dyes the the roving, then spins it up, (Her spinning is perfection by the way. So perfect that if you hadn’t had lunch with her and found out that she is so nice that you couldn’t hate her for it, you probably would) then she navajo plies it so that she can have a three ply without disturbing the colours.
Laurie explained all of this to me, and as a spinner I understand what she’s telling me, I mean, I speak English…I heard the words, I understand the concepts individually but somehow, doesn’t this yarn seem like only a very cool magic trick could conjure it up?
There are so many variables that I just don’t get. How much roving? When to change colours? I’d think that Laurie just got lucky but she was wearing a pair in another colourway, so she’s pulled this off at least twice.
With my wool as my witness, I will learn how to make this.

It’s cold and rainy here

It’s cold and rainy here again, and I’m starting to feel like some kind of an idiot for knitting all these tank tops. Really, if you figure it from May 24th and count until school goes back at Labour day, we here in Toronto really only have about 16 weekends to sit on a patio having a pint with our knitting. (Ok, so I’ve only ever seen me or Ken sitting on a patio knitting in the sunshine with a pint, but we’re trend setters) Things are not looking good. Given the forecast, there are only 14 chances left. Is Toronto being punished for something? Have we somehow angered the planet? What happened to Global Warming? (Am I the only one who has thought that they were going to have a hard time convincing Canadians that global warming is a bad thing?) I’m going to go buy something aerosol. I swear it. Global warming my arse.
The pointless tank knitting continues apace. The back of the Freudian slip tank being mere rows from completion.
fstankb
and I finished the first bastardized Dublin Bay sock. What do you think Ryan?
dublinbay1st
Now I’m off, heading downtown to meet Laurie of the comments, who is visiting Toronto. We are going to lunch, then a little bit of a yarn shop crawl, going definitely to the wonder that is Romni wool, and possibly to the charm that is Lettuce Knit, in the market. I’m going to go now and get Laurie’s present ready. See? Presents. A 6000 square foot yarn store, lunch and presents. Why wouldn’t you come?

I’m not worthy

My mail is giving me whiplash. The letter carrier has been to my door several times in the last few days, and what he brings is swinging wildly from soul crushing and frightening work contracts, and fabulous presents from afar!
Yesterday morning this arrived, from the lovely (how could she not be?) and generous Cynthia. (Uh…Claudia? Look away…it’s more blue)
fromcynthia
Cynthia says that she sent the yarn to avoid having the yarn continue to look “accusingly” at her. As much as she claims that mailing the yarn was self-motivated, I know that anytime you mail off yarn it hurts. (That’s not just me, right?) Even if you don’t like the yarn, even if the yarn and you are through with each other, even if the yarn and you have reached an amicable divorce agreement, and you have forgiven it for not being all that it promised….It’s still hard to let go. Very generous Cynthia. (Look to the postman)
This yarn is Meg’s favourite in the world, (you will remember that a scarf knit of this generated the “wool-pig” comment) I wonder what cosmic effect a sweater would have? (Joe’s request that less foul language is used when knitting the snowflake this time is duly noted)
Then, this morning a very scary work thing came and while I was sitting there, holding the papers, thinking “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into“, and wondering, really…how many hours do I think there are in a day? When the postman came and gave me THIS.
frombeth
All hail the goddess Beth. Seriously, look at this stuff. I wish you could feel it, it is moments like this where the internet is woefully inadequate.
bethfibre
There is Honey Mohair (the honey coloured one), a wool/silk/angora blend (grey//blue bottom right) Something very soft and brown/camel coloured (Hey Beth? What is that?) and the pièce de résistance a very soft, very beautiful pale grey that comes (I think) from Beth’s own sheep, fine white blended with grey and alpaca. The sheep have names like Autumn, Grace, Faith and Onyx, and they make me want to trash my stupid urban life and go…have sheep and do….well I don’t know what Beth does with her time, but the way I see it, if you get wool like this at the end of it, I’m in.
Thanks so much Beth!
Now, I’m off to the grocery store to buy coffee. For the first time in about 15 years I have somehow allowed myself to run out. ( I can’t tell you what a bad sign this is. It either means that I am drinking way too much coffee, so much, in fact that it has thrown off a “shopping for coffee” pattern that has worked for me for over a decade, OR I have so much work to do that I have forgotten to buy coffee. Either way, it’s a sign that the end is near for me.)
I am temporarily “making do” with espresso, but since it only took me 37 seconds to type this entry I may be hitting overload with that strategy.

Curve ball

Before I tell you about the cruel blow I took this morning at 5:13, remember the Fleece Artist kid mohair roving I got? Yesterday (what with Tuesdays being for spinning) I was diligent and spun the rest of it up. I plied it, and look at this…
FA-mohair
I understand if you need a moment. It’s a profound thing of beauty, and at the risk of incurring some sort of spinning based revenge from the planet, I have to say that the spinning is pretty darned good. Overall, I think this may be 180 metres of the nicest yarn I’ve ever made. (By “nicest” I mean that I expect that this yarn will, by simply existing in the universe, lead us all a little closer to wiping out crime and leading lives of quiet fulfillment and simple joy.) A closer look?
laceweightFA
Moving, isn’t it? The urge to drape the skein around my neck and go waltzing around the kitchen while blasting The Brandenburg Concertos and weeping for the beauty of it all is almost more than I can resist.
I when that was done, I grounded myself by knitting the amhole armseye armscye of the Freudian slip.
armedgebt
I know that this pales in comparison to the excitement of the very beautiful laceweight, but what can I say. The universe seeks balance.
Every stinking school day morning for the last 9 years has been the same. My alarm goes off and I stagger into the children’s rooms to begin the process of convincing them to get up. I will confess that they come by their reluctance quite honestly, since every single morning that I get up in time for school is a triumph of the human spirit. At least once a week I fail to respond to my alarm and leap up at 8:15 to ricochet around the house putting together sandwiches and screeching things while finding lost library books and the form for the choir thing. I can get the girls up, the lunches made, the books and forms found and shoes found and everyone out the door with breakfast in them in 14 minutes. This is the record. (It is bad that I know this. Since we have to leave at 8:30, every morning at 7:30 when the alarm goes off I have this argument with myself about how if I *can* do it in 14 minutes…why don’t I get up at 8:16?)
When my alarm goes off, I go and try to wake the girls. I start with nice mommy talk. “Good morning little dollies, rise and shine, mornings are nicer if you don’t have to rush” and work my way though the full line of interventions until I’m yanking the blankets off of them and whipping their clothes for the day around like I’ve lost my mind. (Which, I suppose I have) For their part, they run the gamut of potential responses in a traditional order. Play dead – ignore – moan – cry – claim illness – claim exhaustion – refuse – get up -be foul tempered to the crazy lady whipping your clothes around.
This is every school day morning.
Yesterday morning I inexplicably woke at 6:30. It took me a moment to work out what I was hearing. All three of the ladies up, making breakfast, brushing teeth and speaking to each other in lovely voices. Stuff like “Samantha, I found your spelling book for you, shall I put it in your backpack?” and the unbelievable reply “Yes please…your waffles are ready”. It was like waking up in a Surrealist painting. Was I dreaming? Was this real? Had I finally slipped away in my sleep, killed by housework and unmanageable deadlines? No, no…it was real, the mountain of laundry a sherpa would find daunting still stood by the door.
Turns out the girls have decided that it would be a nice change to start their days early so that there is no rushing. they plan to get up even earlier tomorrow.
I am speechless. It is a testimony to parenting. See that? All these years of saying that and it finally sunk in. I feel overwhelmed. You know, you dream and you dream…you hope that your children are going to learn what you are trying to teach them and then one day, it all comes together. I feel badly for all you mothers out there who haven’t had it happen for them.
Then this morning at 5:13 I wake up because all three of their alarm clocks are blasting and they are all sleeping like the dead. I go round and shut them off, and return to bed. Joe (appropriately) quizzes me on “what the (*&^%$!!! ” is going on.
Human frailty Joe. Human frailty.

The meaning of Blue

This morning, as I staggered out of bed, some things occurred to me. This by itself was rather remarkable, since I am generally incapable of thought until I’ve had a fair bit of coffee. More things have occurred to me since getting my coffee…so let’s get a little introspective, shall we?
1. Claudia threw down the gauntlet yesterday in the comments, surmising that her lime tank is better than my blue tank. As I prepared to go to war to defend my blueness and say vile and defiling things about Claudia’s lime tank, and go make a comment on her blog about how sucky the lime is anyway, and why doesn’t she….like…knit blue stuff when it hit me.
I like lime better than blue. (I am especially envious of Claudia’s lime, which is much better than my blue) I like orange better than blue too. I also like green better than blue. This revelation begs the question “Why is everything I’m knitting for myself blue?” Pathetic Fallacy perhaps? Does this mean that I’m expressing something? Is the blue symbolic in some way? Do I own too many pairs of jeans? Am I wimping out? What would Freud say?
freud
(Vell now, let us konsider vat you are sayink. You prefer zee ozer colourz but you deliberately deprive yourzelf of zees tings dat give you pleasure. You are angry wiz your fazer? You need punish yourself for somtink? What does your mozer tink of blue? Let us examine also why your laundry is undone.)
2. This tank is boring me to death. Ok, fine, near death. I can feel my life force slipping away as I work each monotonous ribby endless row…it is only my deep belief that I will win the ongoing war with the splitty yarn that keeps me hanging in there. (It is an interesting twist of fate that the needles appear pink in this photo, when they are, in fact…you guessed it, blue)
tankback1
I can’t wait to get to the front, at least then the cables will prop up my will to live. This brings us to the second question. Anybody else notice that I’m knitting pretty simple stuff these days? Is it just me? I feel like my knitting lacks…zip or something.
What I need is Daredevil knitting. Something wild and dangerous, something with real hazard, like huge gaping steeks, or reams of lace knit from the finest wool I can find…or maybe a sweater with an insane chart, screw that, how about like Four charts, yeah! Four charts with tiny little squares and parts where the instructions are vague and it’s do or die baby. Some pattern that takes real gumption, something I can get behind. A pattern that takes guts.
It may be (gak) time for another Starmore, or something like THIS. (I got woozy when I looked at that. I’ve wanted it for so long).
Suggestions for breaking out of my knitting blue funk are graciously accepted.
vmag
Samina asks which mag my new cabled tank is in, why it’s Vogue Knitting spring/summer ’02, (you know, the one with the blue sweater on the front.) but do me a favour, knit it out of something orange, will ya?

May two-four

This weekend marks the traditional beginning of the Canadian summer. Victoria Day is the traditional open your cottage, bbq in the backyard and drink beer in the garden weekend. It is also Toronto’s safe planting date, the risk of frost is past. (This celebratory weekend was of course the planets opportunity to have a good laugh by besetting us with rain of biblical proportions and coming as close as possible to frost without actually having a frost.) Despite the nasty weather today is a National Holiday, and we are celebrating with a new tank top.
ribbon-tank
What you can see in this picture is that it’s just about exactly what I wanted. The armholes armseye armscye armholes are perfection, and the decolletage is good. My bra straps don’t show (as an aside, I want you all to know that I went on a special hunt for it, just for this picture) and it fits really nicely. The only thing that I wish I had done differently was to put a little more shaping in the waist. I don’t know why I persist in thinking I’m shaped like a tree trunk. Admittedly, my 30-something, post-3-baby body isn’t what it used to be, but I could take a waist measurement instead of somehow assuming that I go straight from hip to bust.
What you can’t see in this picture is that I am wearing an uncomfortably clammy, damp tank top, (in the cold) since I couldn’t wait for it to dry to get a blog picture. (Must feed the blog…must not come empty to the blog) This could have something to do with why I look so miserable despite my sincere and enduring love for the tank top. Oh..and for those of you who asked why my stitches are so lovely and even despite knitting with a foul ribbon yarn, I give you these choices, you can pick which you think it is:
1. Miami is not the flattest of ribbons. This slight roundishness may improve stitch evenness.
2. I am knitting at a slightly tighter gauge than suggested. This firm fabric leaves stitches less room to screw around.
3. These are pretty crappy pictures. The stitches are just as twisty and annoying as any other ribbon.
4. I am a knitting goddess. I have magic powers of non-twistyness over ribbon yarn and never suffer as other knitters do.
Despite having a bizarre amount of work to do (really…like 50 hour weeks) plus the kids and the house (and my blog mistress) as well as having promised two sweaters for gifts, I somehow decided that what I should really do with my evening last night was start a new tank.
cottontwisttank1
This yarn (cotton twist) is driving me nuts. It’s a pretty thing, but it’s beauty may not be enough to convince me to look the other way about it’s evil splitting ways.
This yarn and I may be splitsville.

Armseye

I love having a blog. Up until yesterday when I got Vicki’s comment I was just an ordinary knitter having trouble with a lowly armhole. Now, I am engineering an “Armseye”
This was motivating. How hard are you going to work to make a mundane, pedestrian armhole? Now an armseye, that’s an accomplishment. How sophisticated, how chic, how clever is a woman who knits an armseye?
I followed the smart and funny directions given to me by Vicki (go read ‘em if you didn’t, the woman knows her way around an armhole armseye), combined it with Rana and Anne’s suggestions to use a garment that I like already and came up with this.
armhole
There is no way of knowing if this is right, but it looks like an armhole armseye to me, and that’s half the battle. (Bonus points to Rams for reminding me that “attitude is everything”) It’s only knitting right? I mean, if it doesn’t cover my..er..”foreground”, I’ll just do it over. (I’ll still be bitter about it though)
..and Jon? The Harlot does not use lifelines. Ever. I take my knitting destiny in my hands. I live on the edge. I frog, tink and pick up stitches with wild abandon and no concern for the consequences. Lifelines are for the meek. (For the record, I’ve also given up cable needles and stitch markers. What’s life without a little danger?)
Finally, Kathy mentions that the dairy Queen here in Ontario sells Poutine. Diana asks “What’s Poutine?” Poutine (peau-tin) is a Quebecois heart-stopping culinary masterpiece.
poutine
French fries topped with fresh cheddar cheese curds and gravy. If is a little known fact that if you pay very close attention while you are eating it, you can actually feel your heart slow down.
Poutine has spread far from Quebec and can now be purchased not just in Dairy Queen but McDonalds, Burger King, and Harveys and can be found from Vancouver to Nunavut to St. Johns. Poutine has (on average) 60 g of fat and 700 calories.
It is a National Identity food for Canadians.
(Note for my fellow Canadians: Remember when Rick Mercer convinced George W. Bush to accept the endorsement of our Prime Minister “Jean Poutine”?)
(Note to Americans: Our Prime Ministers name was “Jean Chrétien”)
(Note to Everybody: What made it so funny was that George accepted the endorsement)

A little stuck

This is a classic Stephaniesque moment. I’ve reached the armhole of the tank, and as I was about to begin it, I realized that I have no idea what I’m doing. None.
tankarm
I thought that I would simply cast off the right number of stitches in the correct place then decrease in an appropriate curve until the armhole was deep enough and wide enough. Good plan eh? What was I thinking? The “right” number? The “correct” place? What did I think? That this mystic information would come to me in a dream? That upon reaching the armhole I would be suddenly filled with the cosmic armhole knowledge that I lack? I have sat very quietly with the tank in my hands for some time, but the answer hasn’t come to me. This can’t be how design works. I bet this never happens to Bonne Marie, I bet she was born knowing. I bet that when she gets to an armhole it all just feels right.
The options as I see them are as follows.
1. Just try it. (I don’t know what “it” is, but maybe the vague armhole voodoo will spring fully formed into my mind as I knit.) This plan also involves me reaching deeply within myself for the acceptance that this will include a lot of frogging.
2. Scrounge around the house for a pattern that has an armhole like the one that exists in the recesses of my mind and try to somehow extrapolate that into something that would work on my tank. (To make this one work I have to forget the fact that there was no tank pattern with the right thing going on or I would have knit that and avoided this whole thing.)
3. Go drive around in Ken’s zippy new car that he loaned me while he’s away. (This might not help, but it would be fun)
4. Appeal to the knitters who read this blog to impart the principles of armhole enlightenment.
5. Shove the tank into the bottom of the knitting basket and spin this. (More fleece artist. You didn’t think I just got what I showed you yesterday, did you?)
purpleroving

Lunching ladies

Yesterday, after publicly humiliating myself on this blog, I walked the green (doesn’t “green” seem like to mild a word?) sweater to the donation box, got myself on the bus and went downtown to meet Kathy (of the comments) and her friend Nadine while they were in town for a visit to Koigu.
I didn’t tell you all ahead of time because I figured that if we hated each other, we could just forget that it had ever happened and nobody would ever have to know. Turns out, Kathy and Nadine are a whole lot of fun. Clever, nice, funny…these ladies had it going on. We lunched downtown, then jumped in a cab and went to Romni. Romni is a huge wool store and they have tons of stuff. (Really, tons. I mean if you aren’t prepared for it you can be a little overwhelmed. Me, I have a high resistance to wool, so I do ok…but some new knitters might get a little woozy. Just put your head between your knees and don’t look at the cashmere and you’ll be ok) We made a beeline for the Fleece Artist stuff, and in the interest of leaving you with the impression that Kathy and Nadine are women of restraint and decorum, we shall not discuss any further details of that trip. Suffice it to say that they have excellent taste, lovely manners, wickedly sharp senses of humour and I’d spend time with them any way I could get it. (They went to Koigu today and they said I could go with them but I have a stupid *job*. I cannot tell you of the deep and bitter pain that I feel when I think of them being there without me.
I may have bought a little fibre at Romni, but stuck exclusively to the Canadian wools theme that Kathy had going on and just got me a little fleece artist.
rainbow-sock
This is their sock yarn. Hand dyed merino. I have no idea why my camera is refusing to recognize the actual colours present in this yarn, but for starters, the actual orange in the yarn is a lovely burnt orange sort of colour, with olive undertones. Not Day-glo/tang/preventing hunting accidents in the woods/ orange.
rainbowmohair
This is kid mohair roving. Be still my heart.
I tried really, really hard to demonstrate some sort of fidelity to the socks, or the tank, or the cardie (oh…yeah. I started another cardie. It’s boring, you don’t care) but I sort of accidentally spun up some of the roving.
spunmohair1
I think it’s sort of interesting that I bought such colourful stuff, I’m usually a little more restrained. (Green sweater from yesterday duly noted, but you can’t hold that against me. I was young, I was foolish, I was clearly not getting enough of some kind of vitamin.) I think it’s the by-product of shopping with Kathy, who has great taste in colour and isn’t afraid to go nuts with it. Who knew that I was this suggestible? (Shut up Ken.)
I love every single inch of it all.
Do you know that for weeks now, I’ve been traipsing out to my front garden each morning with an armload of knitting, fibre and yarn, then carefully positioning it all in amongst my plants, crawling around in the garden for good vantage points, and taking pictures of it, and not one of my neighbours (I’m in the garden right against the sidewalk. People are literally passing within inches of me and my sweaters in the bushes…inches. I live in a busy urban neighbourhood too, lots of people passing by.) not one person has asked me what the hell I’m doing? Just thought I’d mention that.

Before I show you anything

Before I show you anything today, I feel like I should direct a personal note of explanation to Ryan.
Ryan, I want you to know that I’m very much enjoying your Dublin Bay sock pattern. I really love it. It is perfection in and of itself. I have no idea then, why I was compelled to bastardize, modify, personalize the design a little. I have a disease. I am incapable of knitting a pattern all the way through without changing something. Even if, and I stress this, even if there is absolutely nothing lacking in the pattern. I have modified the likes of Alice Starmore (who’s sweaters tend to be a little wide…no offence intended) and The Dale of Norway Team (who had me confused with some knitter who does duplicate stitch). I am an equal opportunity despoiler and I am sorry. I would tell you that I’ll try to stop, but I’d be lying. Let’s not have that between us.
Now, on to todays picture of the corrupted sock.
dublinbastard
As you can (probably not) see, I have decided that the pattern should continue down either side of the foot from the leg pattern. Since I’ve accepted that I was out of my mind when I planned these for my brother and have consequently adapted my recipient plan, I see no reason to minimize what I can now freely refer to as “lace” rather than the more masculine “openwork”. I like the continuity of keeping the pattern going down the foot, not that (and again I stress this) not that the pattern was not indefectible, masterful and sublime before I ruined it.
Speaking of my remarkable ability to ruin a piece of knitting. Beth asked yesterday for a picture of the Michelin Man sweater. I have decided to go along with this, but only because Claudia did. (Here, April 7th)
Without further ado I give you the Michelin sweater. Is this not the most attractive sweater in the world?
michelinsteph
You will note that while my actual bust is 36″, I have inexplicably chosen a 52″ bust for this sweater (oversize was in…what can I tell you). Similarly, the hips far exceed my own. The colour is..well, it was on sale. The sweater is so heavy that I am shorter when I wear it. I have no excuse. What was I thinking? In my defence I can only tell you that my children were very little and I was badly sleep deprived. The real mystery would be why it is still in my closet when it possess no redeeming qualities. (Well, it’s warm actually. If there is ever a blizzard and the heat goes out I could gather my entire family under it’s bulletproof, huge, green wardship.)
Finally, I have not been cowardly and cut off my head in the photo, but I do want you to know that this picture was taken early, and by a child, and I had not done any er…”improvements”. (Like, say…brushing my hair, drinking coffee or putting on a smidge of lipstick). I am, in reality far more attractive than I appear here, and way taller and thinner than I look. Also, in my real life I am not wearing that sweater. That should help.