The Podium

I think I’ve mentioned before that some of the most remarkable things that have ever happened to me have been proceeded by the phrase “You know what would be fun?” (This is how I got children, wrote books, started a blog and learned that I am not someone who is intended to ever, ever have liquor that comes in tiny glasses.) and the Knitting Olympics is no different. (Does anyone but me remember that I was going to list the names of the participants in the sidebar? My bad.)

Never in my wildest imagination (and for the record, my imagination is pretty wild) did I imagine thousands upon thousands of knitters sending me an email, thousands leaving comments, thousands latched on to the simple idea of striving to meet a personal challenge. I never imagined that the media would catch on to it, that knitters all over the world would be interviewed, that there would be spots on virtually all major networks, that it would be mentioned on the news, that there would be articles in so many magazines and newspapers, or that Denny would go on the National. (Ok. Denny on the National was probably predictable. She’s a remarkable woman.)

In short, I didn’t see it coming, and I’d like to thank my backup team who totally bailed me out of a situation in which I was seriously overwhelmed.

I’d like to thank Kat, for being the official librarian of the Knitting Olympics. If you haven’t been to Kat’s page and read all of the teams and seen all of the links, you are seriously missing out. Go now and get a sense of scale about it. We’ll wait. Kat’s a clever, clever woman, and I’m not just saying that because it’s in alphabetical order.

I’d like to thank S.Kate (sadly…blogless) for rescuing me when there were more than 4000 emails in my inbox and I was coding all of the html by hand. I still don’t know how that excel spreadsheet works, but man…do I like it. S.Kate’s hours of work are appreciated.

Emma goes on the list too….she spent hours and hours and hours handling all of the emails that were too much for Kate and I, and she entered so many of the names that I will never be able to make it up to her. (Yes Emma. I know a pair of socks would be a start.)

Ken. Dude. Ken totally rocked the technology, completely preventing my brain from running out of my ears when moveable type freaked out because I was trying to post the equivalent of a hundred page blog post of names and links. I still don’t know what a FTP thingie is, but I’m so grateful that Ken does. Thanks for keeping the whole thing online.

Please show your the Knitting Olympics IOC a little love. They made my crazy idea work. This would never have worked without them.

Without further ado…

I know why you’re all here. Ladies and gentleman, the gold medal of the 2006 Knitting Olympics.

Medal-Web-Large

Medal-Web-Small

Gold medal finishers may step up and take their medal.

The beautiful medal was provided for us by Franklin, genius, nice man and good knitter. (Thanks buddy. It’s awesome.)

(I hate that I have to say this, but there are thousands of you. Please don’t hotlink, save the medals to your own server.)

The big one is for printing and stapling all over the kitchen walls, or you can glue it to cardboard, add a ribbon and wear it to the grocery store. The smaller version is for your blog. Go nuts.

Prizes and a list

To get your name entered on a list for prizes (and this is for everyone who took part. Even if you didn’t finish, even if you never had your name entered on the list – everyone’s a winner in Harlotville) and to get a certificate of participation you can print out..

(Laurie J. made it. It has very cool i-cord rings. Thank you!) send an email to

gold2006@yarnharlot.ca

this is an address set to auto-respond, so no live human will read your email. (Sorry) but every olympian (finisher or not) who sends an email will be placed in the draw for the donated prizes. If you are part of a team, please send an individual email for each member of your team. I’ll be drawing the prizes on Friday, so get your name in before then.

There were so many incredible moments in this olympiad.

Linda had arranged to borrow a sewing machine on Saturday to do her first steeks. When the friend cancelled, Linda did the only thing she could do. She bought one.

Monica wrote “This is my first time spinning cashmere, the 5th thing I’ve spun on the wheel, my first intention dyeing (where I’m trying to get particular results), first time dyeing handspun, and second time knitting with it.” Her work is incredible.

Visa Lisa knit the biggest birch I’ve ever seen. (Seriously. Look at that. It’s like a beautiful, enormous sail.)

Lene finished, and learned something.

Erin suffered olympic tragedy, the deeply feared equipment failure of running out of yarn. (That hurts. It really hurts.)

For those of you who finished, congratulations. You are the olympic elite. The brave, the few…the stark raving mad. I’m proud of you. There is strengthening magic in personal victories.

For those of you who finished very quickly…let this be a lesson to you. You are more remarkable than you think you are. Aim high.

Finally, for my chosen knitters, those who did not finish…

My deepest thanks and greatest satisfaction in the knitting olympics comes from you. Without trying there is no improvement or learning, without difficulty there is no striving. It was the sheer volume of knitters that gave this the incredible momentum, velocity and significance it has had for all knitters (and quite a few non-knitters who really were stunned.) More than anything else this ended up being about an international community of knitters…and there are no losers at the Olympics. Even if you dropped the pattern in a puddle the first day…even if you grossly overestimated your available time, or if you got to rock a baby instead of knit…you still made the Olympics memorable. It takes a village to freak out non-knitters…and there is strength in numbers.

Thanks for everything, you guys really know how to throw a party.

The glory and the pain

In the grand spirit of “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”….I came as close to not making it as is truly possible. (This will be a short post, since I feel like those speed skaters who collapse on the ice right after the skate. I’m spending today doing the knitters version of lying on the ice sucking air. Admittedly, this looks more like drinking coffee and slowly knitting a sock, but you know what I mean.)

I stayed up knitting until 4am Saturday, sewing steeks in the dead of night hopped up on so much coffee that I could hear dust falling. I made an executive decision that nobody is qualified to hack up a Norwegian sweater in the dead of night and went to bed for a bit. (I iced my left hand first.)

Cuttinglatnight

I got up at 8am Sunday and knit the plackets while I drank my coffee. (I was badly hampered by my hand at this point. It’s not a repetitive strain injury or a return of the claw that I suffered from 2 years ago, just the burn of serious overuse…like feeling sore the day after the gym. I deliberately slowed down to avoid injuring it.)

Placketwire

Fortified by placket success (there’s two words you don’t think you’ll write together) I took the scissors to the steeks.

(Approximate time 10:45am. Very little time left. Still…never rush a steek.)

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I had a little lie down (just 4 or 5 minutes face down on the hardwood floor) because seeing a cut up sweater always makes the blood rush out of my head…

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From there it was a driving sprint….I put in the sleeves (11:30) and began weaving in the ends, sewing down the facings, steam blocking the joins, and was sewing up the hems of the sweater in a cab on the way to the closing ceremonies.

Hemsinthecab

I was still sewing and weaving in ends when I got to the bar… and even I didn’t know if I was getting it done before the torch was going to go out. (I really wish they would publish the exact time that thing is going to be extinguished instead of just the time the closing ceremonies start. There’s a huge window of aching uncertainty in there.) In the end, at the last possible moment, as my left hand began to seize into a knitterly deathgrip…

I finished.

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This picture taken as I triumphantly leapt to my feet at the Team Canada celebrations and rammed the sweater on. (Ignore the beer. It was a difficult few days.) It’s really hard to take a picture of yourself.

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Done.

I can’t hardly believe it. I feel really, really good.

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Tune in tomorrow, when we will have the medal ceremonies, tell your stories of defeat and glory and learn what to do to qualify for the draw for prizes. (The prizes are really, really good.)

Congratulations to everyone who finished, everyone who tried, and thanks to the fans who cheered us on. I’m so proud of everyone who dared to be a better knitter. Cheers!

Down to the wire.

I have no idea if I’m going to finish. None.

In a moment of glory (spoiled only by the almost immediate realization that it doesn’t help much) I have finished the body.

Bodydangerdone

There was some general weepiness last night (not really over the top sobbing though, since it was the wee hours and I couldn’t spare the energy to sob, since it was already taking remarkable physical control to remain upright and give a crap) when I noticed that I had misread the instructions and the end of the chart was followed by 15 rows of ribbing at the shoulder. (I know, how weird is that? My brain apparently is so disconcerted by the idea of ribbing at the shoulder that the instructions didn’t even register on the first read through.)

The second sleeve is, um….

Sleevecwrk3

Well. I’m working on it. This much progress was made possible by the genius of my friend/ blog commenter extraordinaire, Rachel H., who dropped off a cassarole, chocolate and a bottle of wine….and freed me up to continue to knit my evening away while never changing out of my ratty grey yoga pants. (It’s really all about the support team at the Olympic level.) There remains sewing the steeks, cutting the steeks, sewing in the sleeves, cutting and sewing the front steek opening – (whoops, I mean Sewing and cutting, not cutting and sewing. There’s a steek mistake that you don’t want to make.) Knitting the placket and neckband (oh…this is starting to sound bad.) and sewing in the zipper.

I would be more bummed out that it’s still dicey at this point (less than 24 hours to go, and I plan on sleeping for at least 3 of them.) but I’m feeling really proud of myself for doing this well, and besides…

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my team-mate Ken’s not done either. We’re sprinting as fast as we can.

Aw…Crap.

This time I’ve done it. I was feeling pretty good about my progress. Pretty good indeed. I knit while I watched Canada win gold in Curling… (and yes. Canadian men embrace. You wanna make something of it?)

Curlinggoldf

(I’m in love with Newfoundlander Brad Gushue, youngest man to skip a Canadian rink at the Olympics. I think that’s really normal.)

I knit while Joe drove me around on errands…

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I knit while I waited in the bank…

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I knit while I picked out a zipper for this beast…

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I knit while I popped into the LCBO for reinforcements…

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Then I got home and lay the new sleeve on top of the old sleeve so I could feel good about my progress and noticed that they looked sort of different. “That’s odd”, I thought, sort of innocently…and then it hit me.

I never changed needles after the sleeve cuff. I was supposed to go down from a 3.5mm to a 3mm. (Aw…CRAP.) “Hold up” I thought (see that? Not freaking out until there’s a reason to freak out? That’s a small measure of personal growth.) “Maybe they aren’t all that different. It’s only a half millimetre out on the needle size, maybe all this needle changing is just a Norwegian joke and it’s fine. Yeah…maybe it’s fine.”

Crap4

Not fine. Say it with me…

Aw….CRAP. (Yes. That’s nail polish stuck to the coffee table. I’ll clean it up Monday.) This could be it. This could have been the mistake that finishes it all. CRAP.

To further add insult to injury, I had the following conversation in the bank today.

Me: (Waiting in line and knitting on the now piece of CRAP sleeve)

Teller: Hey! You’re knitting.

Me: Yup. (Note that I made absolutely no smart-assed remark about the obvious.)

Teller: You must be pretty obsessive about that eh?

Me: Yup. (Again..decent understatement of events.)

Teller: You know what? I saw this thing on the news about “The Knitting Olympics”

Me: (About to confess everything. Tell her that I’m in the Olympics, that I’m knitting my Olympic sweater right now. To puff out my chest and tell her that it was all my idea and isn’t it freakin’ cool?)

Teller: (Voice low and stunned) Isn’t that crazy? Aren’t those people nuts? Can you imagine?

Me: (Suddenly realizing that this isn’t the moment of glory recognizing my genius that I thought I was headed for)

“Oh….ummm…..Yeah. Crazy. Those knitters are whacked. I gotta go. ”

If anyone needs me I’ll be over there with the ripped up piece of CRAP sleeve, a mangled chart, half a bottle of cheap red wine and what’s left of my dignity. I’ll post tomorrow. I know the suspense is killing you. Hell…It’s killing me.

Dust Buffalo

The house is falling apart, the laundry is standing in mountains, and we have surpassed dust bunnies so long ago that “Dust Buffalo” now roam the floors. I may not have totally thought this Olympic knitting thing through. (Ha! There’s a candidate for the understatement of the year award) I keep thinking that I’m going to catch up, that things are going to improve…that today will be my day, and then real life happens and I’m sunk.

Last night my real life happened, as I gave a wee talk at The Flying Dragon Bookshop here in Toronto.

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Nice knitters and so much fun that for the 3 hours that I was there I almost totally forgot that I was not knitting for the Olympics. Absolutely fabulous bookstore (I can’t stress that enough. If you live in Toronto and need to buy a book, especially a kids book, you should go there and give them your money. Nice women running a beautiful business.) Unfortunately my total knitting amounted to….

Hsesleeve1

30 rounds on the second sleeve (this makes it really just an elaborate cuff.)

Hsebody2

and only 8 rounds on the body, executed before I realized I was knitting mostly while I was asleep on the chesterfield with my eyes closed and was no longer knitting the chart, but just plain green stitches. (I quit then.)

This means that there are 105 ever-increasing rounds left to go on the sleeve, and (it makes me woozy to write this) 31 (big) rounds left to go on the body. Then I need to block it, cut the steeks, knit in the placket, sew in the sleeves and the zipper (holy crap the zipper, I forgot about the stupid zipper, I need to go BUY the zipper.) sew up the hems, weave in the ends and go lie down in the road and I’m done. All before the Closing ceremonies party being held by Team Canada at my sisters restaurant on Sunday. (The fact that the party is at my sisters place only makes me more anxious. She’s my little sister. There is nothing she enjoys more than my humiliation. It’s natural, but unfortunate.)

I decided to write it down so that I would have a full grip on the gravity of the situation and could no longer dwell in my own private land of denial and sunshine. For the first time, I am ready to almost but not quite because it could still work out admit that I might not make it.

I am going to go marshall all the forces of the universe known to me, take the phone off the hook, make a huge pot of coffee (but not too big, ’cause, you know, a caffeine tremor can really slow you down) warp the time space continuum (that’s such a pain in the arse) and knit now. Hope springs eternal. Today is my day.

What was I thinking?

Don’t just stand there. Make coffee.

Tips for Olympian knitters near the end…or edge. Your choice.

1. Choose a pattern that does not have you knitting for invisible progress. See this?

Wretchedhoij

Oh, wretched little hems of injustice, how I loathe and admire thee…

I adore the way that Dale of Norway has these wonderful details. Hems that fold up, facings to cover bare edges, it’s all so brilliant and beautiful. Sadly, this means that a chunk of knitting (12 rounds on each of the sleeves and the body) are knit, then turned up to the inside so that you have gained no length.

Foldwhoij

This is a tactical error, and at the olympic level, small choices matter. Look for ribbing. Not hems. (Note: whatever you do, do not do a sweater with hems AND ribbing. This way lies madness.)

2. Food that can be delivered is a good thing. Pizza is our favourite, and I would steer you off of Chinese. It comes with chopsticks which resemble knitting needles and offers no psychic relief.

3. Do not accept offers of “massages” or “rubdowns” from your mate, no matter how well intentioned. This is not a time saver, but an attempt to get you to do something other than knit. Something you don’t have time for. Mumble “see you Monday” at them and keep on going.

4. Cast on all remaining parts of your project right now. It won’t help you get done any faster, but it makes it look like it.

Allpartsco2

5. Be smart. If say, you had to take a bus and give a talk tonight, and you are a pretty good knitter but not so good that you can juggle a talk, the public transportation system and a freakin’ chart… Cast on the sleeve and stay up half the night getting to the part where it is knit plain so that you don’t have to give up Olympic knitting time to earn a living.

6. About earning a living…two words. Sick days.

Use ‘em. (Note: this works less well if your work is knitting related and your office is in your living room.)

7. Rent a series from the video store and lock yourself in the house. I recommend Drama. Lots of talking, no reason to look up.

(Note: arrange childcare first.)

8. Don’t laugh when your husband tells you that the kids are getting really “Fair Isle”. It’s your fault that he’s using knitting lingo instead of real words like “Feral“. You’re the one who made his life all about the wool and stopped contributing to the parenting team. Besides, angry men do less housework.

9. Take a break if your hands hurt. You don’t want a knitting career ending injury. Spend some time surfing the sites of some of the other Olympians and live to fight another day.

10. Don’t take it too seriously. No one will die and you will not lose your home, funding or job if you don’t finish. It’s about learning something about knitting and rising to a challenge. Not all olympians win gold. They are still Olympians.

Contest:

The correct answer is that Cassie Campbell and I both come from the same hometown...Brampton Ontario. (There are going to be some people from Brampton who protest this. They are going to claim that I come from “Bramalea”. (Which is true.) This is a bone of huge contention, tricky because technically speaking Bramalea does not exist, having been absorbed by the city of Brampton in 1974. Old habits die hard however, and most of the folks who live in that part of town still say they live in Bramalea (Even though it doesn’t exist.) and write it on their return address.

The winner of the Fleece Artist sock yarn, chosen randomly from among all of the correct answers is Imbrium. Send your snail mail to me cookie, and I’ll get it in the mail. (Monday.)

Commitment, focus and…and what was that last one?

Thursday, before I put my behind on a plane to Boston to catch up with the carpool crowd to SPA I had a little talk with myself. I reminded myself that I had written of commitment, of focus, of 16 days of a knitting epic and that if I was going to win gold, I was going to have to pull it together a little bit. Stop talking with Joe about our lives screwing around, stop eating and sleeping wasting time, and start living and breathing this *&^%$#!!!ing sweater directing my energy toward my goal in an Olympic way.

So I did. (Sort of.)

I drank wine and laughed myself silly into the wee hours got quite a bit done Thursday night.

I knit all the way from Boston to Portland Maine, and so did Julia (right on target with her olympic knitting)

Juliamholm

I knit while Wendy made her very first yarn. (Show our girl some love. The fist yarn you ever make is sacred. Crap….but sacred. Note the look of glee and contentment? She has no idea that she’s just fallen down and won’t be able to get up.)

Wendysfrstyrn2

I knit while Wendy (Yes. Same Wendy. Wendy charmed the daylights out of me, Can you tell?) showed me her unbelievably cool Knitting Olympics spreadsheet. It calculates how many stitches she needs to do per day, how many she has done, percent of total stitches knit….it’s enough to make me delirious with joy. I may actually have fallen hard for Wendy when she showed me this.

Wendysspdsht

It’s exactly the kind of anxious anal-retentive obsessive compulsive twitch organization that I can really get behind.

I think Juno liked it too. Hard to tell for sure, it’s so hard to tell what she’s thinking. The woman is expressionless.

Junowendylkt

I knit while everybody spun late at night…

Olkntspinall

I knit while I spun late at night.

(Ok. That’s a lie.)

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(Anybody else notice that my camera gets fuzzy when I drink wine? Odd, that.)

I knit while Cate put together her brand new Alden (gasp) Amos (gasp) wheel.

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Look how captivating a new wheel is. This is how you can tell that your new wheel is really good. When everyone in the room stops what they are doing (even though they are spinning too) and stares, transfixed at your new wheel with a vaguely turned on happy expression? Good wheel.

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I knit all the way home on the plane. At the end of it all…I was here.

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Some of you may not recognise this exact part of the process. It’s the black hole. I knit and knit and knit and nothing happens. Nothing. Yarn goes in but no sweater comes out. This exact spot is also referred to occasionally as “SCREWED”.

5 days left. Yup. Screwed. I have today to knit, and then tomorrow night is a little tight. (If “by a little tight” you understand that I mean “What the hell was I thinking?”)

I’ll be speaking tomorrow evening at the Flying Dragon Bookshop (1721 Bayview Avenue…here in Toronto) at 7:00. Come one, come all, but do them a favour and let them know you are coming (tel: 416-481-7721) so they can save you a seat. I’ll be talking about the knitting olympics. (And knitting. Bring yours.) If you don’t think you’ll recognize me, I’ll be the lady knitting and clutching a whack of green wool wet with my tears.

Olympic Quiz:

To celebrate the Canadian Women’s Hockey team bringing home gold yesterday, I’m going to run a tiny contest. (By the way? I love Women’s Olympic hockey. It seems so much more real than the mens. They are ordinary women, not NHL superstars with 8 million dollar paychecks. Way more moving to see them do well. What every happened to the Olympics excluding professionals?) I’ll draw a name from among those who correctly answer the question below and send them this:

A fine upstanding Canadian sock yarn. (Fleece Artist, colourway “I lost the label”)

What do I and Cassie Campbell, the Captain of the Canadian Women’s Hockey team have in common?

Leave your answer in the comments.

(PS. This is a hard one, and Ken can’t answer.)

Well Bob…

Jim, Welcome to Coverage of the Knitting Olympics. This weekend our spotlight athlete travelled…



Whoa there Bob! Did you say “travelled”? This athlete has been on the road a lot for someone trying to knit a ridiculously busy sweater in 16 days.



That’s true Jim, she has been. It certainly adds an element of difficulty that we’re sure she hadn’t anticipated.

Are you sure she didn’t anticipate it?



Sure am Jim. I think that was clear to all of the spectators who watched her lose her s**t in Pearson International Airport ripping up her luggage and throwing underpants and balls of green yarn around in front of the check-in at Peason International airport looking for a 3.5mm neeedle that she didn’t think she would need until the next day.

That’s true Bob, she clearly wasn’t anticipating the ice storm that delayed her flight and gave her extra knitting time. Good thing that she realized that she was about to have an equipment failure before she checked that bag! Real Olympic success relies on careful attention to detail. The smallest error can ruin an Athletes chances.



Right you are Bob. It’s pretty clear that the strain is starting to wear on her. She may have had all of the knitting stuff with her at SPA, but it really means something that she didn’t pack a hairbrush, a single pair of socks…and that while she was crouching on the floor de-packing and scattering everything she owned while disentangling the circular needle in question from her underpants in the middle of the Airport….that when that spectator in line behind her at the airport was staring at her she looked him dead in the eye and said “What? WHAT?”

Very true Jim. She’s pretty edgy. She’s gone into seclusion in her Toronto home, following the rigours of the SPA weekend in Maine, and we’ll have a full report on her performance tomorrow. Let’s hope she gets it together.

Samantha is 12!

Dear Sam,

I’m very far away, over on the left side of the continent in a city called Portland in the state of Maine at the SPA knit and spin. (It’s under Quebec I think.)

I’m very sorry to be away for your birthday. I love you, I miss you and I’m going to bake you a really cool cake when I come home.

Juno, Julia and Laurie say Happy Birthday!

Anyone else want to wish Sam a happy 12th Birthday?

How about that.

Last night I learned something interesting about my knitting. (Well, I learned that I really suck and that I can’t count to seven reliably, but that’s for another day.)

I always thought that I had a lot of knitting projects on the go because I was weak, flighty, not particularly monogamous in this particular area.

I thought that I just lacked focus. (Joe just spit coffee. Having endured marital debate with me I am sure he would like you to know that I have endless focus for other things. Like, say…the lesson that if I go away for five (5) days, NOTHING that I cooked before I left should still be in the fridge when I come back, or that cucumbers have truly lost all of their nutritional usefulness once they are a vague brown liquid in the bottom of the crisper and that if you have to POUR a vegetable out of the fridge you probably should have gotten to it a little sooner. (Sorry. Turns out that I’m not quite over yesterdays talking points. I’ll try to lose focus on that.)

Turns out that I have several projects on the go at once for reasons that actually make sense and aren’t just a sign of my lack of knitterly integrity.

1. If you have several projects on the go then you don’t have to tell your family that you can’t go to the movies during the Olympics because you are at a chart part. You just go get your sock.

2. If you had (hypothetically speaking of course) a manuscript that you needed to finish looking over

Manustdl

you wouldn’t need to choose between doing that and doing your olympic knitting. You could just choose something that would go around and around nicely while you read and nobody would have to resent anything.

3. If you had lots to choose from then at the exact moment that you thought “Double pointed needles are dumbass” when you (for the third time in 24 hours) pulled a needle free of your work while taking the thing in and out of your purse, that exact moment you could go and get a project on straights and glare viciously at the dpns until you felt better.

4. Finally, if for reasons that you cannot explain, having successfully knit stuff exactly like this before, and despite having used an entire collection of post-it-notes to mark your spots on the chart and counted and counted and tinked and swore and pulled the work out a grand total of six (6) times before you got the establishing row right on the top of the sleeve, you could pretend to your blog readers that you had abandoned it out of boredom instead of having to admit that a row of 119 stitches had kicked your arse.

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I’m starting to get a little twitchy, and it isn’t just the knitting monogamy that’s getting to me. Astute readers will have noticed the presence of a new ticker on the sidebar, a gift from the clever husband of Anny (I think you can get the code from her – assuming that she can look up from her Olympic knitting long enough – remember to keep the demands on Olympians low right now. They need their focus.) and I LOVE it, but I’m torn. I think I might have to start only looking at it once a day, instead of knitting in front of it, watching it tick nauseatingly ever closer to the finish line.

Dudes. I have so got to finish this sleeve.

(PS. What do you think the odds are that I’ll laugh if someone tells me they see a mistake in that?)