My joy is green

Dudes, I could not be freakin happier. It is my pleasure to announce that as of 10:35am today, I am done the damn step outs for Knitty Gritty.

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Step outs, for anybody who missed it the first time around, are a TV thing. (I just learned that. I had no idea what they were until I had to make some.) Since I will only have 30 minutes to show how to knit a sock (and that’s impossible) through the magic of “step outs” I can show the whole thing. It’s like a cooking show, you know, where Martha puts batter in the oven and pulls out the baked cake next to it? For Knitty Gritty, each place where you change technique or do something interesting has to have it’s own “step out”. Understandably, in order for this magic to work and the viewing audience to be sucked into our deceit, they all need to be the same yarn. (I actually think this would not have worn on me so if I was able to mix it up a bit.) Here’s the steps.

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1. Needles and Yarn for demonstrating cast on.

2. Ribbed cuff, ready to begin leg.

3. Leg done, ready for heel flap.

4. Heel flap done, ready for short rows.

5. Short rows done, ready for picking up gusset stitches.

6. Gusset stitches picked up, ready for gusset decreases.

7. Decreases done, ready to do foot.

8. Foot done, ready to decrease for the toe.

9. Toe done, ready to be grafted.

10 Finished sock.

Even though I have a few socks-a-day left to knit for this, they are not green. This has filled me with a glee I have previously reserved for successfully putting together IKEA furniture. I am knitter. Hear me roar.

Get as much as you need.

I go to the store almost every day. I’ve adapted to this, it’s a peril and a perk of city living. Back when I lived in a suburb of Toronto I did one major shop a week, along with popping out for a refill of milk, bread and veggies in between. Now that I live right in the city I’ve got a whole other thing going on. The bakery, grocery store, fruit and vegetable store….they are all minutes away from my door and I pop out for what I need as I go along. The perks are that I don’t have to be organized enough to commit to a plan early in the week and that everything we eat is lovely and fresh, and the peril is the loss of efficiency in shopping for 30 minutes a day. Downside, we rarely have enough in the house to pull a meal together without walking out. (The romance of popping into the bakery each day is largely evaporated by rain or snow.) Upside, my lettuce is never wilty and we eat warm bread.

This jaunt in and out also lets me say Hi to my neighbours, get a little air and forces me to fight my perennial urge to sit in my house all the time knitting and writing. (I would make an excellent hermit.) Since I walk by all of the homes near me on an almost daily basis, I knew that the house on my street next to the alley I take to the grocery store had new occupants. My natural curiosity has had me trying to check them out for a while. All I’ve been able to divine is that he/she/ they are likely a household of one or two people, since their green bin is almost always empty and they have only one small bag of rubbish. They don’t subscribe to a paper, and they put up new blinds. They also fixed the siding where that car hit it. So far, he/she/they seem like nice neighbours. I considered taking them “welcome to the neighbourhood” cookies or something.

Last night as I was walking past their front door to go to the shop and get greens, black beans and some yellow peppers I think I met them…or her. Or possibly a friend that they shouldn’t invite back.

As I passed by their door (the doors in this neighbourhood sit only about two metres from the sidewalk) the door exploded open and this woman came out. Well, came out may be a bit of a misleading statement. Sauntered. Maybe Sauntering with a smidge of stomping…it’s hard to say, but the woman was definitely moving with a great deal of aggression and assertiveness. Her chin was up, her shoulders were back, her arms pumped back and forth with each step. She stormed the six or seven strides to the sidewalk, ending up right in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, slapped her hands on her hips and screamed “What are you looking at?”

I was stunned. What I was looking at was a woman of ample curve, perhaps a hard living 50 years old, about my height (5′) or perhaps a little taller. She was one of those women who’s age is hard to figure. Her hair was yellowy bleach blonde, her dark brown roots were perhaps an inch or two long and she had a leathery face that looks like it’s been outside a whole lot and not washed much. She had sort of skinny legs and a small “upstairs”, a double chin and a very big belly. If she had been a younger woman I would have suspected for a moment that she was pregnant. Her skin was sallow and loose and she didn’t look well at all. Her panties were…..

Sorry did I neglect to mention that? This woman, our new neighbour or an associate of my neighbour had stomped out of her home (or the home of her friend) onto my busy metro street aggressive and unwashed in the chill November air of Toronto wearing only the skankiest of used-to-be pink panties and a completely done in bra to go with.

I was stunned. Stunned enough that I was actually unable to fully answer the “What are you looking at?” question that she had posed to me by evening light on the sidewalk…Stunned enough by this sudden public almost-nudity that I stammered for a minute…helplessly trying to both avert my eyes and sum up the situation, searching for a position that was both polite and….well. Frankly got me the hell out of there. As I stood there with my mouth open, trying desperately not to look at her victim-of gravity bra and wondering what the protocol on this one was, the woman looked me up and down, gave me a sneer exactly like I was the near-naked woman on the sidewalk and yelled “Get a good look Honey….Get as much as you need!”

…and with that she was gone. Not back into the house, which was where I would have gone as directly as possible, were I she…but down the street, boldly and brashly and straight as an arrow. Completely purposeful. She had gold shoes.

I continued to the store then (sort of crooked and shaky-like) got my groceries and came walking tentatively back about 15 minutes later…approaching her house with trepidation and extreme caution, this time with a plan in place. If she was still there (and still lacking the appropriate clothing) then this time I could bolt for my door. I rounded the corner and looked.

Standing at her front door was a clean cut young man with a clipboard, behind him another guy with a huge video camera mounted on his shoulder. They were knocking on the door, looking for all the world like they had arrived to interview her.

I bustled past the camera man, glancing at the door as I went by and saw through the un-curtained windows that she was coming (still not well clad) to answer their knock.

I went home and I wondered. Was it news? Was it an indie film? Was it art? What the hell was going on four doors down? I pondered these things as I started dinner and I realized I only knew two things for sure.

I need to go to the store less often… and a tray of “welcome to the neighbourhood” cookies is right out.

R is for Router.

I swear that I am a woman on the edge. I swear it. Other than a trip to Knit Night at Lettuce Knit….Oh, wait. I have got to show you pictures. We have the best knit night in North America. I’m sure of it.

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That’s Denny. What’s she doing? I don’t know. Something with a half knit sleeve. (It’s totally cracking Ken up.)

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That’s Julia, the Julia from Vesper Sock Yarn. She brought her mum and her sister (good cookies) and a box of her yarn and she was freakin’ mobbed. I was only about 10 minutes late and the colourway I was most hoping for was gone. It was really good fun watching it walk out the door at a million miles an hour. (See the arm reaching for yarn in front of her? Wild crowd.)

Julia is holding a green sock, because all I have done for the last nine days is knit socks and for the last three days it’s knit green socks and now Joe has upgraded the router and I think I might really be losing my cool.

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Aren’t they starting to get to you?

As many of you will know, Joe and I share our house/home offices now…and for as long as Joe is “between opportunities”. We’ve been learning how to (with rather limited success) share space, coffee, air and phone time. Joe gets about 22 phone calls a day. There is no point in me answering it. I have three teenaged girls and a work from home husband. I assure you that that phone call is really not for me. Likewise, if your phone is ringing, I can assure you that it is not me calling you, since I would have to either have to have drugged every member of my family into passive, drooling unconsciousness to obtain said implement of communication, or be alone in my house…which is likely going to happen again sometime in 2011 when everyone has gone to University and I take a small, secret apartment across town where I sit, alone and talk on the phone uninterrupted and take baths uninterrupted and I make meals for one person and then I eat them uninterrupted… but now I’m losing track of the router story. Ahem.

So everybody is on the phone all the time and the router (which provides me with the internet, the only form of communication I have left to me) isn’t working. The thing is ass. It only routes when it wants to and it doesn’t want to much. I keep trying to get on the internet with my laptop and the router keeps laughing in the face of my attempts. Everything was tried and eventually, yesterday, the router was summarily replaced with a new box of wonder which promises to route the daylights out of the internet and direct glorious uninterrupted bandwidth right to my lap and lo – it is good.

Joe hooked the thing up and damn, it routes. Routes good. Routes so well that I am forced to admit that Joe was right, that upgrades can be good and that I am very happy with the routers routeing. The Router continues to fulfill my every wish and routes real good until 9am this morning when it stopped.

Then it started. Then it stopped. I don’t know if you could say that it quit really, since Joe’s computer still had internet, and the family computer still had internet. Just me. Just my laptop. The bulk of today has been spent with me trying to convince Joe that the router isn’t routing (which is not his experience, since the plugged in people keep having internet while only I – who has the only wireless connection in the house, has none.) Joe doesn’t want to hear this because (at least it seems to me) that he is on the phone every time I’m trying to tell him that the wireless is out. By the time he’s off the phone and comes back upstairs, the wireless is back.

It’s like when your kid’s really, really sick so you get an emergency appointment and take them to the doctor and their fever goes away in the cab and by the time you get there they’ve pinked right up and are playing tag with their sister while demanding a nine course meal while you try to explain to the doctor that you really aren’t a psychotic parent and you swear that the kid was half dead 16 minutes ago? The router is like that. Joe goes downstairs to make a phone call….router stops working. Joe gets off the phone and comes back upstairs to see what’s wrong with the router, router starts working. Infuriating….and I’m an idiot. It took way more phone calls than it should have for me to catch on that it isn’t a cruel coincidence that Joe is on the phone while the router isn’t routing….

The router isn’t routing because Joe is on the phone! The phone and the new router are incompatible. Completely incompatible. Something about the phone’s signal messes with the routers signal and the phone wins. If the phone is on, the router wireless part of the router is off.

Clearly, since I have a work from home husband and three teenaged daughters, The phone screwing up the router is a really big problem. Investigations are being made. Channels and antennae are being changed, nothing is working so far.

I suspect, as I reel from the apex of situational irony in which we discover that the router was purchased because I need it to communicate because I can’t get on the phone, only to discover that the very thing which was purchased to fix the phone problem is now a victim of the phone problem itself… and I know you suspect as well that if enduring this were not enough, that to add insult to injury, I am about to discover that the first principle of interior decorating now applies to home electronics.

You know the first law, where you buy a new chesterfield and your curtains are suddenly crap, so you buy new curtains and now the carpet doesn’t match and…….

I have a new router and my phone doesn’t match. Any bets on where this ends?

And so on.

Hey look. A sock.

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and a half…I’m behind a little bit. It’s starting to be a little monotonous. (Really Steph? You don’t say…) I’m beginning to get the urge to knit this, or this, or this or this or……Never mind. Socks are us. All socks. All the time. Sigh. I’m trying to take comfort in wee things. Like a really beautiful heel.

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More Q&A? (Has anyone caught on yet that I’m using this Q&A thing to add interest to the blog when I’ve got nothing to say? Is it completely transparent.?) Tracy wrote:

I’m curious about what order you will do your step outs in. You know, each stage is further along in progress and takes longer. Will you do longest to shortest, so it gets easier and easier to get each one done, or shortest to longest, to count completed ones faster? Or will you do them at random to keep it interesting? Dumb question, but I am curious, it tells something about one’s personality and way of thinking, you know?

I have decided, in my infinite wisdom (stop that laughing. You, in the back. Get up off the floor.) to do the longest ones first. I labour under the delusion if I do the biggest job first that then, as my interest wanes, I shall have less and less to do with each sock. The folly here of course, is that my interest waned about midway through that first sock. I have now developed a couple of strategies to take the edge off of the rest of the identical socks.

First line of defense: A series of rentals from the local video joint. I have watched every episode of every season of Six Feet Under, I have seen Mission Impossible one, two and three and I am stalking the place waiting for season one of Deadwood to turn up. (I want this one really badly. So far my rental guy has refused to tell me who has had it for weeks, perhaps suspecting my plan to “procure” it from their private home. I am not through with him.) I have knit my way through Pride and Prejudice (the BBC one) Other suggestions for entertainment during my internment are appreciated. I hear good things about Firefly.

Second line of defense: I have reserved a few of the “example of a variation on a theme” socks to break up the monotony. Admittedly, they are still socks, but at least they are socks of another colour or style. There are only a few of these left to knit – since I did the lace one and the cable one and the small one while I was waiting for my yarn to arrive, but the option to knit a pastel sock when the green ones begin to erode my tenuous grasp on everything I believe to be real this process is a lifeline I’m looking forward to.

Third line of defense: Cleaning. That’s right, there’s nothing like scrubbing out a bathroom or taking a swing at whatever that sludge behind Sir Washie may be to make you think that sitting on your arse knitting green socks is really not such a bad job. It’s all about perspective my friends.

Fourth and final line of defense: Lay’s baked chips, Strong drink and cookies. I’ll be drunk and fat (and likely that mother the other mums whisper about at the parent council)…but I’ll have the damned socks done.

Wool pig

Megan called, I flew.

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The Fleece Artist box had arrived, and I dug in. (Megan pretended not to be appalled as I rooted through the wool in the box in the exact same manner that a pig roots for truffles.) I chose this:

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That’s five skeins of the same colourway, headed to be identical socks for the step outs. Identical. Socks. Lots.

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and so it begins. Again.

To keep from snapping from the all-sock-all-the-time monotony, I observed “Tuesdays are for spinning” for a whole 20 minutes.

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Baby camel/silk (50/50) spinning on my wee Spindlecat spindle. The stuff on the bobbin is what I’ve finished, I transfer it from the spindle when it fills. the stuff on the spindle is 20 minutes worth. This is, much like knitting…very slow magic.

Luckily, I have a 12 year old daughter to entertain me with interpretive dance. (I swear it. It was a 4 minute program.)

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Ever get the feeling that it might not be dull over here?

(PS. Since it is hard to find I wanted to tell you that Megan has Sea Silk back in stock.

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I freely admit that I have known this for a some time, but there was one that I was saving up for and I didn’t want anyone to buy it before I could. I’m going to do the one-skein seasilk shawl thing with it. I was briefly ashamed that I was keeping this information to myself, but then I remembered who I was.)

It’s coming.

Hey look. A sock.

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Hey look. Another sock.

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Good Grief. (Is this getting old yet?) Both socks are Fleece Artist. Both socks are patterns in my head (I’ll write them down after the Knitty Gritty thing) and both are variations on the basic pattern that I’ll be knitting until the delivery of Fleece Artist that has the yarn for my step-outs in it arrives.

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I spoke with the producer on Friday and yes, she would far prefer that the step-outs all match. (Note “far prefer”. If I had been truly upset or off the deep-end about it I think they would have let me do as I please. I was however, completely helpless in the face of a polite well reasoned request backed up with intelligent discourse and….I agreed. I hate it when people cloud issues with facts and logic.) The producer did say that my metal needles were fine…the issue apparently is noise. Wooden and plastic needles make less noise than metal ones do, and it’s easier for the sound guy to contend with. Instead of either them replacing all my needles or me replacing all my needles (both of which are entirely inane) I shall do my level best to knit quietly.

In the meantime, I need to procure several matching skeins and it’s Fleece Artist to the rescue, with a shipment to Lettuce Knit arriving any minute. Embedded in this shipment is the yarn that I need. I can’t wait. (Megan assures me that coming down to the shop and waiting with her for the box to come for as many days as it takes would not be the best use of my time. I am not sure I agree.)

Special thanks here go to shops and suppliers who supported me in my faithfulness to this project and attempted yarn rescue missions. Jo-Anne at Four Seasons Knitting here in Toronto offered, Nancy at Colorsong went through her inventory to see what she could find…Sheri at the Loopy Ewe offered too. It reaffirmed everything that I have ever thought about yarn store owners that they would take the time to do that. Decent folk, the whole bunch of them. (If Megan had not had the order coming already I would have been all over them like sequins on Cher.)

Special thanks too, to Pick Up Sticks (a new Canadian mail order joint I didn’t know about.) for choosing this exact week to mail me some really fantastic new sock yarn that I can’t knit right now. You’re killing me.

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Spinning Bunny hand dyed by Susan “Roses for you” colourway

and a skein of
Painted Yarns Merino 2 ply (this lady is Canadian too..) in “Spring Greens”

It’s the dark side of yarn stores. Temptation. I’m going to have to bury this yarn in the back garden for a while just to stick with my mission.

I’m going to go sit on the porch now. Megan has my phone number and I have my shoes on. The minute she calls I’m out the door to raid the box and get my yarn. Maybe I’ll go to the bus stop. Maybe I’ll go to the coffee shop near Lettuce Knit. If you live in Toronto and you’re thinking about racing me there because you’ve worked out that a Fleece Artist shipment is arriving? I wouldn’t. I’m highly motivated.

Some socks, some answers.

I think the worst thing about knitting a sock a day is going to be the complete lack of blog fodder. I mean, there’s really only so long that you can type “Hey look, another sock” before things get sort of boring for all parties concerned. This time next week you’re all going to be hoping for one of them to spontaneously burst into flame and singe my hair or for a stampede of ravenous goats to break into the living room and buffet-lunch on my stash, just for the interest.

By the way…hey look, another sock.

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and, while I’m at it…Hey look, another sock.

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I’ll distract you from my incredible monotony of the sock-a-day quest with questions from yesterdays intriguing set of comments. (I really feel the commenting on this blog is top notch. Clever, respectful of others, intelligent and yet a little bit smart-assed. Really top-notch.)

Jennie and Carina had the same thought, and Carina writes:

I do have to ask, though: What did they do with all those socks? Were people so rough on their handknit socks that they needed a new pair that frequently? What about darning them? Odd. It sounds like there should be mounds of socks hidden somewhere.



They sold ‘em. One of the reasons that these knitters of yore produced so darned much was because they sold them for money to support their families. Knitting stockings wasn’t something you did if you were well off. You bought them (likely at a fraction of what they were worth) from people who knit them to supplement their incomes. I bet it really lights a fire under your knitting fingers if you’re going to starve your kids if you don’t finish a sock.

Amy writes:

Weren’t all those stockings knit with heavier gauge yarn? So the number of stitches per inch were less than the 8 or 9 you’re getting? If you’re going to compare, it’s got to be apples-to-apples….

Clever knitter, that Amy. Sadly, this only further damns me to the fires of slothful, shiftless indolence since while it is true that the stockings that the knitters made for their own families were often of heavier gauge, the stockings that they were selling were of much finer yarns, and often knit at a gauge that would finish you and I. A staggering 10-20 stitches to the inch or (take a deep breath) even greater. They knit on steel knitting “pins” and these were frequently the equivalent of US size 0000 or smaller. (That’s about 1mm everywhere else.)

Liz notes:

“Children as young as four were being taught to knit at this time in England, and certainly by the time that they were seven or eight they were expected to be making stockings in a way that contributed to the families income.”

This may explain why my friend in Dublin has a dicken of a time finding decent yarn and why the present day population finds her interest in knitting “quaint”.



Yup, in the Sad but True category, there’s lots of people walking around who have a negative relationship with knitting because they associate it with work. These cultures have often dropped knitting faster than Michael Jackson going into a cosmetic surgeon the minute it wasn’t necessary. “Why don’t you knit a sock?” sounds, to these people like “Why don’t you chop logs for fireword?” Knitting as an industry, particularly a low-class industry is a persistent belief in many places. When Joe was on tour in China a couple of years ago he went with a knitting rock’n roller (hi Colleen!) who pulled out her knitting during sound check once or twice. She was immediately asked to stop by the locals in charge of the concert, since they didn’t want her to look bad. They didn’t want her to look low class. She was supposed to be a better class of person than that. Here, knitting is mostly a relaxing pursuit of the idle rich (remembering of course, that comparatively speaking, you’re rich if you’re not knitting for food money) and that’s certainly not the case in many parts of the world.

Jan asks: asks:

I don’t think you’re crazy, I can do a sock a day. It’s just the why so many socks for Knitty Gritty that I don’t get.

Excellent question. Knitty Gritty apparently (I’ve never seen it…we don’t get it on TV up here in Canada.) works like a cooking show. I can’t knit a whole sock in 30 minutes, (I still have some connection to the real world and what is possible in it) so for the purposes of illustration I need to knit a whole bunch of socks at various stages. They call these “step-outs”. (The things I’m learning…)

I need a just cast on sock, a sock with the ribbing, a sock ready to begin the heel, a sock with the flap knit ready for short rows, one with the short rows done ready to pick up for the gussets, one with the gussets picked up ready to do decreases, one ready to begin the toe and one ready to be grafted. (I think. Like I said. Still learning.) Then, for the purposes of inspiration and illustration, I need a bunch of socks that are a variation on the same pattern.

Adds up to a lot of socks. Turns out I’ve likely sunk myself too….since I just got an email from them saying that I shouldn’t be using metal needles (That’s a big deal. I don’t own any dpn’s…never mind 10 pairs (each step out stays on the needles) that aren’t metal. I only like metal for socks.) and that all the step-outs all have to be the same colour. (That , my gentle knitters, is the sort of thing that would have been far more useful to know before I knit the first two out of a colourway I can’t get more of…but c’est la vie.) I don’t even know if I can get enough Fleece Artist in one colourway in time to pull this off. I’ll be calling the producer of the show now, and suggesting to her that I am at my very best when I am a charming renegade making my own rules….you’ll know she didn’t buy it if you see me lying in the road surrounded by half knit socks waiting for a Mack Truck to end it all. A sock a day is one thing. A soul crushing do-over is another.

Rachel H writes:

Ok, so you’ve got the production timeline crazy covered. Good for you. But what about the attention span crazy, I ask you? The fact that yours is, well, short and skittish and a sock is a sock is a sock no matter how many beautiful colours of Fleece Artist you get to knit it in? How long till the call of the Sea Silk or that Kate Gilbert sweater in the new IK wails to you so loudly you think you’ll go mad from the strain of Just Knitting Socks. Or spinning, now that you know you can spin cashmere and Claudia and I both know you have cashmere in your stash just begging to be brought out and fondled and loved and made to flow gently and softly and sublimely through your fingers on its way to becoming beautiful yarn that won’t want to be a sock…

I’m only thinking of you, dear. Really.



You know, I really love Rachel, both in real life and in her career as a professional commenter, and that’s why I’m sure she’s going to understand completely when I come over to her house and smack her a little. Right after I knit another sock.

A sock a day?

I gathered, as I read some of the comments yesterday about my intention to knit a sock a day for some time to come, that there were those among you, my esteemed colleagues, who felt that this statement spoke to a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the area of my sanity.

There were also those of you that came right out and called me nuts, a few who wondered how many hours were in my days now that I can warp the time space continuum, and one person who felt compelled to send me a charming private note asking me to kindly seek help for my knitting addiction before I hurt myself.

The writer, whom I feel absolutely certain is not a knitter (and must really not read this blog at all), urged me to (and I quote) “try and get out a little more”. When I got up off the floor – where luckily, my as yet unpacked suitcase cushioned my fall (get out a little more indeed.) I got to thinking about this sock a day plan. When I was younger my grandfather used to say that if one person told you that you were wrong, you could safely ignore them. If two people mentioned it, then you had to check, and that if three people brought something to your attention then, no matter how convinced you were of your correctness…you were likely wrong. This was more than three people, so I did a little research.

The first thing I did was stop and notice that I didn’t need a whole lot of research. I knew a sock a day was possible. I did it.

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(Admittely, this pair is a cheat…it’s only kids socks.)

Then I did it again.

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Full size adult socks (Fleece Artist Merino Sock yarn, my pattern, not theirs) A full one knit yesterday and a half one for today, which is only half over so I think I’m on target there.

Moreover, while I definitely spent a good chunk of my time over the last couple of days knitting and/or thinking about knitting (which is sort of my job as well as what I do anyway) I didn’t think that was a problem, since I also fed my kids, went to the grocery store, made a nice dinner, did two loads of laundry, spoke to the other people who live here and went to Knit Night with my buddies. In short, I had a pretty normal day…except that whenever possible, if my hands were free for even a moment…

I knit. I multi-tasked.

Granted, I’ve got 34 years of knitting experience and I’m on the quick side of normal, but I still didn’t think that this whole sock a day thing was so crazy. I looked to history for a little support.

I totally found it. How about this from the Icelandic Knitting Website:

By the eighteenth century, an Icelandic servant girl was expected to be able to produce one long stocking, or to card. spin. and knit a pair of short socks each day.

Dudes… card spin and knit? Remember too that these people had other stuff going on. Totally. They couldn’t order pizza to get it done, their husbands didn’t do any laundry to help free up knitting time, they couldn’t buy butter already churned to save time….The servant girl wasn’t employed for the purpose of turning out stockings. She was doing her knitting in her idle “extra” moments, like me and you. She multitasked.

In Folk Socks (one of my most favourite knitting books of all time) Nancy Bush writes:

In 1595 the collectors of Aulnage (excise duty for woolen cloth) reasoned that one knitter made two pairs of stockings per week.

For this to be the average…and remembering that a stocking goes to the knee (or better) and is therefore probably three socks to a stocking – knitting wise, this means that most knitters would easily have been turning out the modern equivalent of a sock a day while meeting their other responsibilities.

How about Richard Rutt in A History of Hand Knitting:

Moreover, it is a mistake to think that the early knitting -frame quickly speeded up the bulk production of stockings. A framework knitter working hard might produce ten pairs a week, while a good hand knitter could make six.

Six pairs of stockings in a week? Twelve stockings? Admittedly, Bishop Rutt is here speaking of professional knitters working at it for a living, but seriously…If I lifted all burdens from you for eight hours a day and let you work at stocking knitting for a living…would you be producing six pair a week? I’d be gibbering in a corner.

How the hell did they do it?

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Image from Folk Socks

This is the chief employment of the women. The dexterity and expedition with which they dispatch a pair of stockings are almost incredible. To them light and darkness are indifferent. A woman seen walking without a stocking in her hand is stigmatized with idleness.

Richard Valpy 1754-1836

(Describing Jersey, in Richard Rutt’s History of Handknitting)

It’s incredible to think of. Children as young as four were being taught to knit at this time in England, and certainly by the time that they were seven or eight they were expected to be making stockings in a way that contributed to the families income. Women, men, children…all knitting away at stockings, producing certainly far greater than my measly sock a day while chopping wood for the fire, baking bread, sewing and mending clothes, knitting all the other items that the family needed to keep warm, caring for their children and in general leading an extraordinarily difficult life with far less leisure time.

Contrasting that with my trifling idea to knit a sock a day while watching Lost on DVDs and I’m not sure you have a knitting obsessed manic on her way to a mental breakdown or that I’m even perhaps headed for some sort of vague incident concerning the men with the huggy coats and a sedative blowdart….

As a matter of fact, historically speaking? I might be a slacker.

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Seriously, I think I may have overshot. To get everything ready for the Knitty Gritty thing (I promise that when I know when it’s on, you’ll know when it’s on…I wouldn’t dream of all of you missing the opportunity to mock me severely) I need to knit….well. About a sock a day. I thought this was reasonable.

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Apparently my relationship with reality is loose, at best. I’m about a sock (and a day) behind. I have decided to not think about it (if by “not think about it” you understand that I am thinking about it all the time) …and distract myself with tales of Montréal knitters.

After a stay in the best B&B in Ottawa (technically Manotick) with uncle Tupper and his charming paramour Susan…

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(Forgive the computer-cam shot. It was late and I couldn’t find my camera. The dog is Boogie. He’s like….the best dog ever.) Tupp drove me to the train and I rode along to Montréal where I was taken under the lovely wing of our dear Lee Ann.

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(Lee Ann seen here winding wool off her knees in a coffee shop. Camera still AWOL at that point and Lee Ann is really so beautiful that she looks that good with a crappy web cam.) We drank coffee – a skill that we both excel at, wound wool in the shop to freak out the natives and then trundled off to Radio Canada for a phone in thing.

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Yes, that is the sock strapped to the rear wiper of a Radio-Canada truck, and no, we did not feel that this was an odd thing to do in a parking lot. We stood there, in the warm beer scented steam of the Molson factory….

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and then we did the interview. Here’s Meredith Dellandrea from Radio Noon, and she did a bang up job of walking me through an hour long phone in show. Live. You just gotta know that was brave of her. Me, live…for an hour? Could have gone very wrong, but Meredith is a knitter, actually part of the Montreal Knits group, and she not only is working to make Radio-Canada Canada’s knitting station (all knitters all the time!) but she (and the Montréal Knitters) are also helping pull together a project for Dans La Rue (in the street) to bring blankets to street kids.

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They collected squares until Oct 31st, and now they are going to be sewing them up forever. From there we went back to Lee Ann’s for a lovely lunch (try and get Lee Ann to cook for you sometime. She’s really good at it and can be bribed with a pittance of fibre) and then hustled ourselves (along with her daughter, the charming Twinkletoes) down to the McGill Bookstore café for a talk and a signing put on in conjunction with the People’s Liberated Knitting Front. (Quite possibly the best name for a knitting group ever. Big thanks to El Comandante for helping me so much.) I was worried no-one would come because it’s an english language book.

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Apparently I’m ok. Dudes, the coolest knitters were there. Seriously. Before I was even done talking there was Jennifer.

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Do you see her socks? Do you? They’re bowling socks man! They’ve got bowling pins and a bowling ball on em! Do you see how they make my socks look stupid? They’re freakin’ awesome.

It’s Jae!

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Relocated to Montréal from my own beloved Lettuce Knit S&B. Babe, I thought I’d never see you again. (Sniff.)

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Barbara…showing signs of an entrelac outbreak in Montréal (must have spread from Kingston.)

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Patricia, who comes from the same town as me and went to the same High School as me. (Bramalea Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario.) Different years, I am sure.

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Kathy who came from Alaska (not just for the talk, because, you know, that would be creepy) but happened to be in the right city at the right time.

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Maria-Michele, who’s name proved to be an intelligence test for me. (I mangled her name and she still gave me that pretty yarn from her trip to Italy. I am not worthy.)

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Anny and her husband Stephen. Anny, we all know and love, but Stephen has his own claim to fame, being the cheerful and clever originator of that most threatening of Knitting Olympic gizmos….the countdown timer. Remember that? It started out friendly green, then turned a warning orange, then finally a ominous and looming red as the timer ticked down and you ran out of time, knitting until wee hours of the night while you wept? Good times.

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Kate, aka Miss Ewe, who drove from Kingston to see me, even though I had just been in Kingston two days before. (Don’t ask. It’s complicated.) She was as much fun as I had been hoping. It’s nice not to have to lie about her. Charming, funny…everything you’d hope for in a knitter.

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Kate Gilbert, designer extraordinaire…(Have you seen her stuff in the latest Interweave Knits? The Equestrian Blazer is So. Going. To. Be. Mine.) Kate captured my heart forever when we were at dinner in Rhinebeck and she and Juno were sharing something that had an ice cream and cider sauce. When the guy came to clear the plates, Kate noted that there was melted ice cream remaining, stopped him, picked up the cup and shot the melted ice cream like so much tequila. My kinda gal.

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The lovely Brainylady, another expat Ontarian….There was Deawn, Kadi, Mona, Witchy-knits, Molly Ann, The fabulous Nadine Fenton (Ok. She wasn’t there, but she really wanted to be so I’m mentioning her anyway. It’s my blog, I make the rules.) Sam la tricoteuse… so many. It was fantastique. I went for a beer with the Montréal knitters (plus a few random Ontario ones) and then retired to my hotel room where I remembered something I truly love about this place.

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Nice. The next morning I got up and planned to walk around the city, but it rained, and rained and rained. I ate bagels and cream cheese in my hotel room with fresh hot café.

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(A really big shout-out to whomever left the Montréal bagels at McGill for me. They were wonderful. I ate two and shared the rest when I got home. Thank you!) Thus fortified, I went out for a little on a mission to find what I really love about Montréal, squeaky cheese curds. I lasted about 15 minutes in the cold and the rain before retreating, heartbroken. I gathered my stuff, grabbed a taxi to the train station and comforted myself with my bagels. At the train station I sat, deeply regretting my painful dairy loss until I remembered that there is little chocolate can’t heal and headed for the dépanneur de la gare. It was there, among the chips and the chocolate, near the Pepsi and beside the milk that I saw them. Snuggled near smoked pepperoni, looking for all the world like they were waiting for me.

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One package.

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squeaky cheese curds at last. I ate them all. Je ne regrette rien.

À la prochaine Montréal. Je t’adore.